Reel to Real

Dwight’s Oscar predictions 2022

Let’s be honest. With perhaps just one exception – the Best Actor category – most people are even less interested in this year’s Academy Awards than perhaps at any time in recent memory.

And had it not been for the Sunday night telecast’s first-ever three-female host combination and the anticipated irreverence of the trio of funny ladies – Regina Hall (“Girls Trip”, “Scary Movie”), stand-up comedian Wanda Sykes, and Amy Schumer (“Trainwreck”) – and this week’s announcement that some of the nominees for Best Original Song will be performing live, including Billie Eilish and the guaranteed audience-builder Beyoncé, this would very likely have been another record low-rated show. So, there’s likely to be an uptick this year, if ever so slight.

That would be on the heels of last year’s pandemic-influenced and lowest-rated ever broadcast.

The lack of real interest, though, is mainly because so many people are once again extremely unfamiliar with the 10 films nominated for Best Picture.

“Dune”, by far, is the only blockbuster among the lot. With more than $400 million grossed worldwide, it’s also the only one of the pictures to have made over $100 million ($108, 236,779 as of this week) in the US Domestic.

None of the others has even come close and none cracked the $100 million mark with their worldwide totals, with the “West Side Story” remake being the next best ($38million US Domestic, $75million worldwide).

As for nominations, “The Power of the Dog” leads with 12, followed by “Dune” with 10 and seven each for “Belfast” and “West Side Story”.

So, who will win on Sunday night?

As has become a tradition, I will pick my personal favorites or what/who should win in each of the major categories, but also what/who I believe is most likely to win, taking into account the politics of the Academy and the psyche of the Academy voters. Many times, these actually all align.

Unlike in some recent years, there won’t be too many surprises this year. Next week, we’ll see just how well I did with my picks. And you can email me your predictions at dwight@nasguard.com.

BEST PICTURE

“Belfast”

“CODA”

“Don’t Look Up”

“Drive My Car”

“Dune”

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog”

“West Side Story”

This is shaping up to be a two-horse race.

So far, “The Power of the Dog” has dominated this season, winning most of the equivalent competing awards like the BAFTA (British Academy Film Awards), Critics’ Choice and even the (disgraced) Golden Globe.

On the other hand, “CODA” won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Outstanding Cast, and momentum does seem to be growing for this touching family comedy/drama.

“The Power of the Dog” is a fine film, and it challenges many of long-standing tropes in the Western genre. For some, that’s been upsetting. But for others, that was exactly the plan.

Nevertheless, “CODA”, although not entirely groundbreaking, was perhaps the best film of 2021, and arguably the most likable of all these nominees.

My Personal Favorite and What Should Win: “CODA”

What Will Win (maybe): “The Power of the Dog”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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”)

This is the easiest category to predict.

Will Smith will win the Oscar. Period!

He’s won just about every single major award in this category.

Plus, Smith, a now three-time Best Actor nominee, has yet to win one, after decades of hard work, unlike Washington (who has two wins: “Glory” and “Training Day”) and Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”) – the latter being quite possibly the only actor whose presence here is questionable.

Meanwhile, the 38-year old Garfield has an incredibly bright future ahead of him and will likely have plentiful opportunities to win Oscars. And the same can be said for the 45-year old Cumberbatch. They each already have two nominations.

In any other year, this would have been Cumberbatch’s time. But this is the 53-year old Smith’s year, after delivering a powerful performance that showed grace and restraint.

And just two months since the death of Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a Lead Actor Oscar, Smith would be only the fifth black actor (along with Poitier, Washington, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker) to win in this category in 94 years.

My Personal Favorite: Will Smith (“King Richard”)

Who Will Win: Will Smith (“King Richard”

ACTOR IN A
SUPPORTING ROLE

Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”)

Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)

Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”)

J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”)

Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”)

This will likely be the first award of the night. That’s because there’s not one drop of suspense about who will win.

Troy Kotsur has been cleaning up, winning Supporting Actor awards, left, right and center. And he’s been making history in the process, becoming the first deaf male actor to win performing awards.

But this is also a fascinating category, as it features some of the most memorable performances of those five films.

So, to standout here, Kotsur clearly must really be a standout.

My Personal Favorite: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)

Who Will Win: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”)

Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”)

Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)

Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”)

There’s less certainty in this category, but some patterns are emerging.

Chastain has already won the Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards, and this is now her third nomination, with no wins yet.

But watch out for Stewart and Cruz.

Stewart gives the best performance of her career as a mentally-strained Princess Diana. And Cruz proves why this is her fourth Oscar nomination (with one win for “Vicky Christina Barcelona”), and that whether she’s speaking English or Spanish, she has what it takes to deliver the goods.

The fact that “Spencer” is an extremely odd movie will likely hurt Stewart’s chances. However, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is also very far from perfect.

But primarily on the brilliance of Chastain’s performance (along with costar Andrew Garfield’s), “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” becomes something far greater than it would have been in the hands of almost any other actress working today.

My Personal Favorite: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

Who Will Win: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

ACTRESS IN A
SUPPORTING ROLE

Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”)

Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)

Judi Dench (“Belfast”)

Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)

Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)

For some, this one seems like a foregone conclusion.

The momentum is clearly behind DeBose, who will make history on a number of fronts if she wins. Principally, she would win for the exact same role that won the Oscar for Rita Moreno – the first Latina actress to ever win an Academy Award – in the original film version of “West Side Story”.

DeBose does a fine job. But there are some other standouts in this category.

Buckley has a Lead Actress performance playing the younger version of the character Olivia Coleman plays in her Oscar-nominated turn in “The Lost Daughter”.

But from the moment I saw it, it’s Ellis’ performance in “King Richard” that stood out most for me. This is the classic definition of a supporting role, delivering the powerhouse turning point in the film, just at the right time. Ellis is so good she almost steals the picture from star Will Smith.

My Personal Favorite: Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)

Who Will Win: Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)

DIRECTOR

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”)

Just like last year when Thomas Vinterberg’s inclusion here for his quirky Danish binge-drinking film made it all but assured that his “Another Round” would win the Oscar for Best International Feature Film (which it did), expect the same for Hamaguchi and the super long “Drive My Car”.

So no, Hamaguchi won’t win Best Director. Instead, look for the Oscars to make history – or should that be “herstory” – with the first-ever back-to-back female Best Director winner, with Campion to follow last year’s Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”) to become only the third woman in the 94 years of the Academy Awards to win in this category.

And perhaps a win here for Campion could possibly soften the blow should my pick for Best Picture “CODA” go on to win over “The Power of the Dog”.

My Personal Favorite: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)

Who Will Win: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)


CINEMATOGRAPHY

Grieg Fraser (“Dune”)

Dan Laustsen (“Nightmare Alley”)

Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”)

Bruno Delbonnel (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)

Janusz Kaminski (“West Side Story”)

These are five incredibly beautiful movies – stunning in fact.

Between the bright vibrancy of “West Side Story”, the sweeping scale and scope of “Dune”, the lush landscapes of “The Power of the Dog”, the mystical dreamscape of “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, and the intricate and elaborate design details of “Nightmare Alley”, picking a winner here could be one of the most difficult decisions of the night.

Personally, I think it will come down to “The Tragedy of Macbeth”, “Nightmare Alley” and possibly, “The Power of the Dog”.

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” is the most innovative of these five pictures. In my original review, I said the choice to film in primarily black-and-white made it “at once both elaborate yet bare and spare … spellbinding”.

But while “Nightmare Alley” is the weakest of the nominees narratively, it is visually remarkable – everything from the lighting to the composition of every single frame approaches master-class levels.

My Personal Favorite: Dan Laustsen (“Nightmare Alley”)

Who Will Win: Dan Laustsen (“Nightmare Alley”)

WRITING

The two writing categories are proving to be quite difficult to predict, and this year these may be the only spaces where there will be some real surprises.

I’m taking the easy way out and not making any official guesses here, except to say that I’d almost be willing to bet that whichever movies win here, these may likely be their only awards for the night.

But just for your information, here are the nominees:


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”)

Adam McKay and David Sirota (“Don’t Look Up”)

Zach Baylin (“King Richard”)

Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”)

Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier (“The Worst Person in the World”)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Victoria Bedos & Co. (“CODA”)

Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”)

Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth (“Dune”)

Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”)

Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)


• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter@morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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