Here is a rundown of all the main Oscars 2022 categories, with my predictions for who will win and who actually should win.
2021 was a strong year for cinema despite stop-start theatrical runs and multiple COVID-19 waves. As always, clear and not-so-clear favourites have emerged in the run-up to the Oscars.
If nothing, the 2022 Oscars might be worth the trouble just to see Anthony Hopkins take the stage to hand out the Best Actress trophy. He was in his hometown in Wales when he pulled off an upset for The Father last year – yes, that was a full year ago – and he is due a standing ovation or three on Sunday night.
Which means this is a good time to behave like an all-knowing pundit of the prizes. Here is a rundown of all the main award categories, with my predictions for who will win and who actually should win:
International Feature Film
Nominees: Drive My Car (Japan), Flee (Denmark), The Hand Of God (Italy), Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom (Bhutan), The Worst Person in the World (Norway)
Notes: Tough category, though it is a bit disappointing to see Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers, Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero, and Julia Ducournou’s Titane snubbed.
Will Win: Drive My Car
Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s three-hour road film is the odds-on favourite to take back Japan’s first Oscar since Departures in 2008. It is a no brainer, chiefly because this is also Japan’s first ever nomination for Best Picture – the mother of all categories – which implies that this is already the strongest international film in the list.
Should Win: The Worst Person In The World
I am a little biased here, largely because Joachim Trier’s millennial masterpiece is catered towards newer generations of urban living. But I believe the film reveals all the complexities of being young and growing old at once, without an ounce of condescension or satire. It may not be better “cinema” than Drive My Car, but it is equally compelling filmmaking. Sometimes, lending gravitas to what is considered a lightweight genre is the most difficult task in modern storytelling.
Nominees: Ascension, Attica, Flee, Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Writing with Fire
Notes: As usual, much of the narrative non-fiction list comes from the Sundance Film Festival. And as usual, this is one of the strongest categories around – which says as much about the world we live in as the art at hand. Writing with Fire is India’s first documentary nomination, but certainly not its last. I expect Shaunak Sen’s Sundance winner All That Breathes to go all the way next year.
Will Win: Flee
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s documentary is the first ever to be nominated in three separate categories (Documentary feature, International feature, Animated feature), which in itself is the answer to its chances at the Oscars. Make no mistake, ‘documentary’ is its primary identity.
Should Win: Flee
The animated story of a gay Afghan refugee is everything one should expect from the marriage of artists and cutting-edge modern technology. It is true, pure, passionate, and almost perfect in its fusion of mediums and worlds. Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas’ Writing With Fire – though a stunning documentary in its own right – is at best the dark horse behind Summer of Soul.
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Nominees: CODA, Drive My Car, Dune, The Lost Daughter, The Power of the Dog
Notes: CODA won this category at the recent BAFTA awards, The Power of the Dog won at the Critics’ Choice, and The Lost Daughter won at the Indie Spirit awards. This is not an open-and-shut case.
Will Win: The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion’s noir Western is based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel of the same name. The searing Netflix drama is on a hot streak, and is the overwhelming frontrunner for most categories (except for acting) it is nominated in. A screenplay win early in the night could only confirm its status as a history maker, especially because the film itself does feel like literature coming alive on screen.
Should Win: The Lost Daughter
Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut – which is based on an Elena Ferrante novel – is almost unfilmable, with its Greek island almost becoming an anti-script for Olivia Colman’s unnatural mother. The narrative-building is deceptively clever, with the transitions and flashbacks weaved into a story that morphs into a feeling. In an ideal universe, this film would be shorn off its “first-time director” disclaimers, and be acknowledged for the incredible craft of adaptation at play.
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Nominees: Belfast, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, The Worst Person in the World
Notes: This category is a decent mix of heavyweights and underdogs, though it is often the left-of-field genre breaker that has taken this award in recent years. Ambition equals victory here, with the more daring and innovative ‘social’ titles – Parasite, Promising Young Woman, Get Out – often ending up as the favourites.
Will Win: Licorice Pizza
This is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s third screenplay nomination after Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood, and ironically, it is sort of his The Departed – where an acclaimed director finally wins that elusive Oscar for possibly his least accomplished work. That is not to say Licorice Pizza is a lesser film; it is wonderfully realised, fluidly penned, and the warmest ray of sunshine in a notoriously complex director’s filmography. But nostalgia and legacy are seductive beasts.
Should Win: Belfast
Don’t Look Up is inventive and would usually be the frontrunner if not for its giant parody vibes, while King Richard is too simple and straightforward (though still very effective), and perhaps The Worst Person in the World is considered too “European,” whatever that means. But Kenneth Branagh’s bracingly personal ode to the troubled history of Northern Ireland – particularly in these times of nearly-war and fascist hostility – is the right (or “left”) film in the right place at the right time.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Judi Dench (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
Notes: One of the more clear-cut categories this year.
Will Win: Ariana DeBose
Ariana DeBose has won nearly every award leading up to the Oscars, and there is a good reason for that. Steven Spielberg’s dazzling musical may not be the frontrunner in most other categories, but DeBose’s beautifully alive performance – one that is both Broadway-ish and impulsive at once – is the shining light in a campaign that seems to have otherwise been derailed by grave MeToo allegations against cast member Ansel Elgort.
Should Win: Ariana DeBose
I feel for Kirsten Dunst, whose career-best performance in Jane Campion’s beguiling portrait of masculinity is only good for a first Oscar nomination in a 25-year-long career. Jessie Buckley was equally phenomenal as a younger Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter, though you can lock her in for plenty of awards in the future. Yet, it has been Ariana DeBose all the way. Apologies for sounding like a ‘90s Bollywood director – but she can sing, dance, and act.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominees: Ciaran Hinds (Belfast), Troy Kotsur (CODA), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog), JK Simmons (Being the Ricardos), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)
Notes: This is the feel-good category of the season. I will overlook the fact that Ben Affleck has been overlooked for his tender turn in The Tender Bar.
Will Win: Troy Kotsur
Only the second deaf actor to be nominated in Oscar history, Troy Kotsur is deservedly leading the pack in a very competitive bunch of nominees. There is one specific father-daughter moment in CODA that has Oscar written all over it – and Kotsur has been quite the story since then. Somewhere, I hope a documentary is being made on his journey through awards season.
Should Win: Troy Kotsur
Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee have every chance to upset the CODA applecart, but on merit alone, there has not been a more significant – if not rewarding – supporting turn in all of 2021.
Actress in a Leading Role
Nominees: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter), Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
Notes: A big miss in this star-studded category has been Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World. In fact, hers was arguably the best of the lost.
Will Win: Jessica Chastain
Hot off a Critics Award, Chastain’s Oscar-baity performance is for some reason the favourite in a category where she is probably fifth best. The film is the sort of middling biopic that is built on star turns and solid make-up, which means that voters might get swayed by the one striking glass shard in a trainwreck.
Should Win: Olivia Colman
In a fair world, Olivia Colman might have taken her second lead actress Oscar in four years. But she makes acting look so easy that, at times, it is hard to notice just how good she is. Hers was perhaps the least “likable” character in the lot along with Penelope Cruz – both of whom play imperfect mothers in brave movies about flawed women. Kristen Stewart’s is a showy but smart performance as Princess Diana, and even though we know of the Academy’s weakness for the British monarchy, it was never going to be enough in a fever dream of a movie. And if somehow Chastain does not win it, it is going to be Nicole Kidman.
Actor in a Leading Role
Nominees: Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog), Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick…Boom!), Will Smith (King Richard), Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth)
Notes: These were actually the five best lead male performances of the year. No snubs.
Will Win: Will Smith
It is easy to look at this award as perhaps a “career” prize for consistently being both an actor and a star in a three-decade-long career – a culmination of sorts – but make no mistake, this is Will Smith at his finest. A spiritual extension of his profound performance in The Pursuit of Happyness, his role as Richard Williams – better known as the eccentric and driven father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams – is all body language and suppressed history. He is not pretending to be someone else so much as manifesting the angst and ambition of a Black family into human form.
Should Win: Will Smith
Benedict Cumberbatch is a close second.
Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
Notes: This is a foregone conclusion.
Will Win: Jane Campion
Campion is all set to win her second Oscar – and first for directing. She will be only the third woman to win this category after Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao. The New Zealand filmmaker has been the toast of most award ceremonies, even when she is making tone-deaf jokes about womanhood in the time of the Williams sisters.
Should Win: Steven Spielberg
I know, I know. Of course he is, right? But West Side Story is a filmmaker’s film, and trust Spielberg to reinvent a classic so well that it is better than the original. In an age of musicals, this is the deepest cut of them all.
Nominees: Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, West Side Story
Notes: I would have liked to see a more daring musical – Annette – as part of this extended list. But the Academy went with safer choices. Also, where is Tick, Tick…Boom? Is it some unsaid rule that only one musical can be nominated?
Will Win: The Power of the Dog
It will not win any of its acting nominations so you can be sure that the main awards of the night will go to the dark noir-Western drama. Netflix has finally crashed the party.
Should Win: Drive My Car
All the Academy really has to do is overcome that six-inch subtitle barrier.
Oscars 2022 will take place on 28 March.
Rahul Desai is a film critic and programmer, who spends his spare time travelling to all the places from the movies he writes about.
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