Skip to content

Johnny’s Awards Radar: The Pre-Festival 2022 Oscar Predictions

Last awards season was the longest, most exhausting in history, so naturally it feels like just yesterday as the film festivals in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York now bear down on us. Some of this year’s contenders have already come and gone, but the vast majority will be premiering in the coming days, and I’m here to take a look at what the Oscar field could look like in all the major categories.

Now, this isn’t my absolute best set of predictions, per se. My goal with this isn’t necessarily accuracy but an attempt to cast a wide net and highlight as many contenders as possible, placing attention on films that I can most easily see getting nominated as things currently stand. There are no doubt going to be some major contenders that emerge throughout the festival circuit that are perhaps not on anyone’s radar right now, but that’s what makes awards season so fun, right? Additionally, I am omitting some categories for practicality’s sake: Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, Animated Short, Animated Feature, Live Action Short, International Feature Film and Original Song.

BEST SOUND

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

This is a category that, despite some smaller, prestige outliers, is dominated by big-budget films, and this year is shaping up to be no different. Nearly all of them were originally 2020 releases, and their prospects are largely just as promising this year as they would have been last season, although one has to wonder if any would have toppled the sensational work in “Sound of Metal.” “Dune” brings in the big guns with sound mixer Mac Ruth, who has been nominated three times in the last six years for “The Martian,” “13 Hours” and Denis Villeneuve’s previous nominee, “Blade Runner 2049.” Supervising sound editors Mark A. Mangini and Theo Green have six nominations between them, with Mangini winning for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” 

“No Time to Die” has sound editor Oliver Tarney, who just received his fourth Oscar nomination for “News of the World,” and Oscar-winning mixer Simon Hayes (“Les Misérables”), while “A Quiet Place Part II” brings back three-time nominee Erik Aadahl and two-time winner Ethan Van der Ryn as sound editors. Outside of sand worms, secret agents and silent thrillers, we have some musical offerings (“In the Heights,” “tick, tick…Boom!” and “West Side Story”) and comic book movies galore (“The Suicide Squad,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and more). The biggest sleeper contender? “The Matrix Resurrections” – the original film took home both Oscars for Sound back in 2000.

Nominees:

  • “Dune” (WINNER)
  • “No Time to Die”
  • “The Power of the Dog”
  • “A Quiet Place Part II”
  • “West Side Story”

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Adam Driver stars as Maurizio Gucci and Lady Gaga stars as Patrizia Reggiani in “House of Gucci.” (Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures)

Makeup and hairstyling has always been about transformations, big and small, but the flashy, overtly transformative work has reigned supreme in recent years. The Oscar went to “Darkest Hour” in 2018, “Vice” in 2019, “Bombshell” in 2020 and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” this year. All four are notable for their full-body transformations, including weight suits and other prosthetics, which will be something to keep in mind.

“Dune” and Donald Mowat’s eight hours of work turning Stellan Skarsgård into Baron Harkonnen immediately jumps to mind, not to mention the countless extras transformed into pale, bald Harkonnens and scarred Sardaukar. It’s all enough to almost make you forget about Timothée Chalamet’s luscious locks or Oscar Isaac’s regal beard. In the same realm of prosthetics and total transformations, we have Jared Leto as Paolo Gucci in “House of Gucci,” Ralph Ineson in the titular role of “The Green Knight,” Kristen Stewart in “Spencer” and Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” While the rest of the field features some impressive veterans, including Oscar-winner Frances Hannon (“The French Dispatch”), this could be a majority of first-time nominees getting nominated for genre films. “The Suicide Squad,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and “Nightmare Alley” are all ones to keep an eye on.

Nominees:

  • “Dune”
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
  • “House of Gucci” (WINNER)
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “Spencer”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Emma Stone as Cruella de Vil in “Cruella.” (Walt Disney Studios)

Hail to the queens. Costume design is one of the few categories where the Academy has typically allowed women to flourish, but this year is going to be an embarrassment of riches. At the head of the pack is legendary nine-time nominee and four-time winner Milena Canonero (“Barry Lyndon,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”) for “The French Dispatch.” We also have six-time nominee and two-time winner Jacqueline Durran (“Atonement,” “Little Women”) working on “Spencer,” and the images we’ve seen so far of Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana are stunners.

On the epic side of things, we have three-time nominee Jacqueline West on “Dune” and Oscar-winner Janty Yates pulling double duty on “The Last Duel” and “House of Gucci.” An all-star crop of designers looking for their third win includes Jenny Beavan (“Cruella”) and Mark Bridges (“Soggy Bottom”). We’ll also see if voters remember Oscar-winner Ruth E. Carter (“Coming 2 America”) at the end of the year or if three-time nominees Judianna Makovsky (“The Suicide Squad”) and Mary Zophres (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) will capture their first wins.

Nominees:

  • “Cruella” (WINNER)
  • “Dune”
  • “The French Dispatch”
  • “House of Gucci”
  • “Spencer”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Wally Wolodarsky, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson in “The French Dispatch.” (Searchlight Pictures)

Production design nominees are typically divided between the imagined worlds of sci-fi/fantasy and the historical accuracy of period pieces. On the genre front over the last decade, we’ve seen nominations for “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part Two,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Black Panther,” with the latter two actually taking home the prize. 

Two-time nominee Patrice Vermette has re-teamed with Denis Villeneuve on “Dune.” Vermette’s second nomination came for Villeneuve’s “Arrival,” while Villeneuve’s last film (“Blade Runner 2049”) was also nominated in this category. With all the talk of massive, practical sets and props on the sci-fi epic, it feels like a strong contender here. Of course we also have “Eternals” from Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao and four-time nominee Eve Stewart (“The King’s Speech,” “Les Misérables”). 

On the side of the period piece, Oscar-winner Adam Stockhausen is teaming up with both Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg on their respective films: “The French Dispatch” and “West Side Story.” We’ll also be visiting 14th-century France in “The Last Duel” from three-time nominee Arthur Max and 17th-century France in Joe Wright’s “Cyrano” musical from six-time nominee Sarah Greenwood. Finally, there are rumblings of a German Expressionist-inspired take for Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” from Stefan Dechant, two-time nominee Guy Hendrix Dyas is spearheading design on “Spencer” and four-time nominee and Oscar-winner Grant Major (“The Lord of the Rings”) is taking us to 1920s Montana in “The Power of the Dog.”

Nominees:

  • “Cyrano”
  • “Dune”
  • “The French Dispatch” (WINNER)
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Power of the Dog”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Zendaya as Chani in “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Maybe more than any other Oscar category, this one comes down to big names and general popularity, which is music to the ears of 11-time nominees Hans Zimmer (“Dune,” “No Time to Die,” “Top Gun: Maverick”) and Alexandre Desplat (“The French Dispatch,” “Nightmare Alley”). Zimmer gave up the chance to work with his long-time collaborator Christopher Nolan on “Tenet” in order to pursue his childhood dream of scoring “Dune,” which is an encouraging note for a living legend who feels overdue for his second win. Desplat, meanwhile, has scored an Oscar nomination on three of his four collabs with Wes Anderson – winning for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” – and won his second Oscar for his previous work with Guillermo del Toro on “The Shape of Water.” 

Some other heavyweights include Oscar-nominee Jonny Greenwood (“The Power of the Dog,” “Spencer”), two-time nominees Nicholas Britell (“Cruella,” “Don’t Look Up”) and Carter Burwell (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”), as well as “Game of Thrones” icon Ramin Djawadi (“Reminiscence,” “Eternals”).

Nominees:

  • “Dune” (WINNER)
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Power of the Dog”
  • “Spencer”
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

BEST FILM EDITING

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Film editing is always the most difficult to predict well in advance because it’s hard to know what the pacing and edits of a film actually look or feel like until you see the entire thing for yourself. It’s not like you can just take a look at the sets or costumes in a still image and go from there! However, we do have several big names in this category and a few early hints at what could catch people’s attention.

Legendary Spielberg collaborator and three-time winner Michael Kahn is coming back to work on “West Side Story” with Spielberg’s new editor Sarah Broshar (“The Post,” “Ready Player One”). Two-time nominee Alan Baumgarten was just nominated for “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and will re-team with Aaron Sorkin on “Being the Ricardos,” while Oscar-nominee Andrew Weisblum will be responsible for balancing the collection of narratives within “The French Dispatch.” Hank Corwin (“Don’t Look Up”), Joe Walker (“Dune”) and Joel Coen (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”) will all be looking for their third nominations in this category. Finally, “The Matrix Resurrections” is a wildcard on the action front, following the legacy of the original film’s win here in 2000. Historically, though, this category is almost always Best Picture nominees.

Nominees:

  • “Don’t Look Up”
  • “Dune” (WINNER)
  • “The Power of the Dog”
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
  • “West Side Story”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

A battle scene from Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ “Dune.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Just like in the sound category, the team behind Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049” have returned for the effects on “Dune,” and they lead a pack of impressive contenders. Special effects supervisor Gerd Nezer won for his work on “2049,” while VFX supervisor Paul Lambert won back-to-back for “2049” and “First Man.” Tristan Myles – who won an Oscar with Lambert for “First Man” – is also on the squad.

Comic book movies have averaged roughly one VFX nom per year over the last decade, with the exception being 2015’s trio of ”Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” This year looks likely to include at least a couple, with “The Suicide Squad” and “Eternals” being the obvious choices. SFX legend Daniel Sudick is a 10-time nominee, and eight of those were for MCU movies, including James Gunn’s own “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The real kicker? “He thinks he did more special effects (on ‘The Suicide Squad’) than all the MCU movies combined,” Gunn says Sudnick told him, prior to an interview with Empire Magazine. Three-time nominee Guy Williams is also teaming with Gunn once again as VFX supervisor.

Speaking of the MCU, “Eternals” brings back VFX supervisor and two-time nominee Stephane Ceretti, while two-time winner Neil Corbould leads the SFX department. My other two picks here include “No Time to Die” (which has five-time nominee Chris Corbould as SFX supervisor and two-time nominees Jeff White and Jonathan Fawkner supervising the VFX) and “The Matrix Resurrections.” The original “Matrix” flick is an all-time great winner in this category, and the SFX are being supervised this time around by Oscar-winner J.D. Schwalm. 

Nominees:

  • “Dune” (WINNER)
  • “Eternals”
  • “The Suicide Squad”
  • “The Matrix Resurrections”
  • “No Time to Die”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” (A24 / Apple TV+)

In a year full of technical marvels, cinematography might be the most difficult category to pare down. 2021 brings us a host of Oscar-winners and nominees all looking to push the envelope and produce their best work ever. Chief among them is Oscar-nominee Greig Fraser whose first collaboration with Denis Villeneuve on “Dune” could’ve easily gotten into this category had the film been released last year. Villeneuve is known for his stunning visuals, with his last three films picking up cinematography nominations, including a win for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Long-time collaborators will also be making their marks here, with the likes of Oscar-nominee Robert D. Yeoman re-teaming with Wes Anderson on “The French Dispatch,” two-time winner Janusz Kaminski lensing Steven Spielberg’s take on “West Side Story” and recent Oscar-nominee Dariusz Wolski working with Ridley Scott for the seventh and eighth times on “The Last Duel” and “House of Gucci.” Finally, Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” reimagining has been shot by Dan Laustsen, whose sole nomination came for del Toro’s “The Shape of Water.”

However, the biggest player here is Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” lensed by Bruno Delbonnel. It will deliver a black-and-white take on the Scottish tragedy and is set to become the fifth black-and-white nominee in four years. It would also be the third winner in those four years, following “Roma” in 2019 and “Mank” this year.

It is no doubt worth mentioning that this category has been historically limited to almost entirely men, with the first woman nominee being Rachel Morrison for “Mudbound” in 2018. That stat makes it all the more exciting that women look poised to make noise this season with Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”), Daria D’Antonio (“The Hand of God”) and Claire Mathon (“Spencer”).

Nominees:

  • “Dune”
  • “The Hand of God”
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Power of the Dog”
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (WINNER)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in “The Power of the Dog.” (Netflix)

When predicting the screenplay categories, you have to strike the right balance between material and talent. A prolific screenwriter might be involved, but the material may not be Academy-friendly, or the material might be perfect Oscar-bait, but the talent may have an unproven or even shaky track record. Jane Campion and “The Power of the Dog” is a prime example of the perfect balance. Campion won an Oscar for Original Screenplay in 1994, and this is her first film in 12 years, making it a huge get for Netflix. Also, Thomas Savage’s source material is a period family drama, ripe for adaptation.

Speaking of family drama, “House of Gucci” seems like a no-brainer, although the inexperience is a little worrisome. The nearly 500-page exposé is being translated to the screen by Roberto Bentivegna, who has never written a feature-film before. Fortunately, he seems to be getting help from Oscar-nominee Becky Johnston (“The Prince of Tides”). On the stage-play side of things, and on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding experience, we have Joel Coen and “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Coen has been nominated four times and won once in this category, perhaps making him the safest bet of any here. It would be a historic nomination as only the second Shakespeare adaptation nominated in this category, with the first being Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” 25 years ago. What could hurt it? Coen says that he has maintained nearly all of Shakespeare’s original dialogue for the film, which may be seen as too low a degree of difficulty by Academy voters.

With regards to genre films, we have a number of gems to choose from, including Guillermo del Toro’s take on “Nightmare Alley” and Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of “Dune.” Del Toro has two Original Screenplay nominations to his name and also brought in newcomer Kim Morgan to help punch it up. “Dune,” on the other hand, has a mini dream team of veterans, including five-time nominee Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts and Villeneuve himself. The novel’s notorious history of being unadaptable – just ask David Lynch – could earn the script some extra admiration if the film is deemed a success. Other notable contenders include “West Side Story” from two-time nominee Tony Kushner, “The Humans” from Tony Award-winner Stephen Karam and “The Last Duel” from Oscar-winners Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and Oscar-nominee Nicole Holofcener (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”).

Nominees:

  • “Dune”
  • “House of Gucci”
  • “The Humans”
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Power of the Dog” (WINNER)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Soggy Bottom” writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson. (Getty Images)

Aaron Sorkin. Adam McKay. Wes Anderson. Paul Thomas Anderson. All flashy penmen who have produced some of the most memorable dialogues and characters in Western cinema over the last couple decades, and all contenders for the same statue this year. Oscar-winner and four-time nominated writer Aaron Sorkin looks to collect his second after narrowly losing this year to Emerald Fennell and “Promising Young Woman.” While I think Sorkin is at his best when adapting source material (see: his sole win for “The Social Network”), he’s an Academy darling and would really have to flop hard in order to miss here.

Meanwhile, three-time nominated scribe Wes Anderson and two-time nominated writer P.T. Anderson are each looking for their first Oscar wins, not just in this category, but in general. Wes Anderson is returning to 20th century Europe with “The French Dispatch,” which appears to have shades of his Oscar-nominated script for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” while P.T.A. is returning to the San Fernando Valley in “Soggy Bottom,” which is where he earned his two previous nominations in this category for “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.”

Less certain but historically reliable is two-time nominated screenwriter Adam McKay, who won Adapted Screenplay in 2016 for “The Big Short.” While early word on “Don’t Look Up” and its satirical nature is a little worrisome, McKay received a… questionable nomination in this category for “Vice” in 2019, so he is clearly liked. Lastly, there are still a good number of newcomers looking to make their mark in this category, with most notable among them being Sian Heder, the writer/director who won three awards at Sundance for “CODA.” Others include Fran Kranz’s “Mass” and Zach Baylin’s “King Richard.”

Nominees:

  • “Being the Ricardos”
  • “Don’t Look Up”
  • “The Hand of God”
  • “Mass”
  • “Soggy Bottom” (WINNER)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Bradley Cooper as Jon Peters on the set of “Soggy Bottom.” (The Image Direct)

While I feel this is shaping up to be the thinnest of the four acting categories this year, it might just be the most top-heavy. Oscar-nominee Adam Driver is playing the morally ambiguous squire who is accused of raping his knight’s wife in “The Last Duel.” Four-time acting nominee Bradley Cooper looks to finally win for what looks like a scene-stealing supporting turn in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Soggy Bottom.”

Jesse Plemons and Corey Hawkins continue to be rising stars in search of their first nominations. Plemons will play a man caught in a war against his brother in Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” while Hawkins as Macduff will go toe-to-toe with Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” The rest of the field is loaded with Oscar veterans starring in potential Best Picture nominees, including two-time nominee Richard Jenkins (“The Humans,” “Nightmare Alley”), Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro (“The French Dispatch”), four-time nominee Willem Dafoe (“The Card Counter,” “Nightmare Alley”) and the trio of Oscar-winners in “House of Gucci” – Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto.

Nominees:

  • Bradley Cooper (“Soggy Bottom”) WINNER
  • Corey Hawkins (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)
  • Richard Jenkins (“The Humans”)
  • Jared Leto (“House of Gucci”)
  • Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon in “The Power of the Dog.” (Netflix)

This stands out as the most fresh-faced acting category, with most of the contenders positioned as first-time nominees. Broadway star Juliana DeBose also looks to make her biggest film splash yet as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” which is the same role that won Rita Moreno her Oscar in 1962. Veteran Kirsten Dunst feels primed to earn her first nomination, playing the terrorized wife at the center of Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” and it wouldn’t surprise me if she wins the whole thing.

Other contenders include Oscar-nominee Toni Collette and two-time nominee Rooney Mara for “Nightmare Alley,” as well as 21-time nominee Meryl Streep as the goddamn President of the United States in “Don’t Look Now.” It’s unclear how much screen time she will have, but that sounds like a nom waiting to happen.

Nominees:

  • Toni Collette (“Nightmare Alley”)
  • Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
  • Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”) WINNER
  • Rooney Mara (“Nightmare Alley”)
  • Meryl Streep (“Don’t Look Up”)

BEST ACTOR

Will Smith (center) as Richard Williams in “King Richard.” (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Denzel. The two-time winner and eight-time acting nominee is prepared to bring down the house and join the very exclusive 3 Oscars Acting Club, just one year removed from Frances McDormand’s third win. The duo will lead Joel Coen’s visionary take on Macbeth, and I have no doubt Denzel will deliver one of his best performances to date. Standing in his way are two-time nominee Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Oscar-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”). Other heavyweights to keep an eye on here include four-time acting nominee Bradley Cooper (“Nightmare Alley”), Oscar-nominees Adam Driver (“House of Gucci”) and Timothée Chalamet (“Dune”), as well as Oscar-winners Leonardo DiCaprio (“Don’t Look Up”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“C’mon, C’mon”).

Nominees:

  • Bradley Cooper (“Nightmare Alley”)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (“Don’t Look Up”)
  • Will Smith (“King Richard”) WINNER
  • Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)

BEST ACTRESS

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer.” (Neon)

This is by far the most competitive and depthful acting category, at least at this point in the year. We’ve got Oscar-winners, Oscar-nominees and rising stars looking poised to net their first nominations and even wins. Frances McDormand looks for a back-to-back win with “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” while Lady Gaga returns to the big screen for the first time since her “A Star is Born” Oscar-nominated performance with Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci.”

Kristen Stewart continues her ascension through World Cinema by taking on Princess Diana in Pablo Lorraín’s “Spencer,” which looks likely to notch her the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at Venice. Other potential nominees include newcomer Rachel Zegler as Maria in “West Side Story,” Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in “Respect,” two-time nominee Jessica Chastain transformed for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and Emmy-winner Jodie Comer as the woman at the center of “The Last Duel.”

Nominees:

  • Jodie Comer (“The Last Duel”)
  • Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”)
  • Jennifer Hudson (“Respect”)
  • Frances McDormand (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”)
  • Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) WINNER

BEST DIRECTOR

Director, producer and writer Jane Campion (seated) on the set of “The Power of the Dog.” (Netflix)

Ah, Best Director. After a couple years of fresh blood in this category, 2021 sees the return of several legacy filmmakers, with no-brainer contenders including seven-time nominee Steve Spielberg (“West Side Story”) and three-time nominee Ridley Scott with his star-studded, true-crime drama “House of Gucci.” We also have three-time nominee Joel Coen and his take on the Scottish Play, which is undoubtedly going to include some of the best performances and craftwork of the last few years, and the same should be said for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Soggy Bottom.”

Wes Anderson and Denis Villeneuve are both looking for their second nominations, returning to the templates that earned them their first noms. “The French Dispatch” looks just as promising as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” with its stunning designs and unmatched ensemble, while Denis Villeneuve looks to captivate once again with a sci-fi epic whose only comparison is “The Lord of the Rings.” Other hot contenders to watch out for here include Guillermo del Toro with “Nightmare Alley” – his first film since winning for “The Shape of Water” – Oscar-nominee Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) and two-time nominee Adam McKay (“Don’t Look Up”). This branch also loves to recognize international filmmakers, so Asghar Farhadi (“A Hero”) and Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”) are worth keeping an eye on.

Nominees:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson (“Soggy Bottom”)
  • Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”) WINNER
  • Paolo Sorrentino (“The Hand of God”)
  • Guillermo del Toro (“Nightmare Alley”)
  • Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”)

BEST PICTURE

Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank and Jesse Plemons as George Burbank in “The Power of the Dog.” (Netflix)

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, 2021 is a truly fantastic year for film – which is much needed after a year when theaters worldwide shuttered and the awards season culminated in one of the worst Oscar ceremonies in recent memory. For Best Picture, allow me to break down each of my predicted nominees.

“Dune” is the long-awaited adaptation of Frank Herbert sci-fi magnum opus, which was initially brought to the big screen by David Lynch in 1984. That first film could be politely described as “dated” and played fast-and-loose with the source material, which is rooted in heavy political and ecological themes that tear down the “chosen one” narrative and white savior trope in favor of highlighting the evils of colonialism, as well as religious, political and corporate corruption. Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi pic “Arrival” earned eight nominations – including Best Picture – in 2017, and producer Mary Parent earned an Oscar nomination for “The Revenant” in 2016. I am predicting “Dune” to receive as many as 11 nominations.

“Don’t Look Up” is the third film from writer-director Adam McKay since he pivoted to more “prestige” dramedy films in the last decade with 2015’s “The Big Short” and 2018’s “Vice.” Both of those films received nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, with the former earning McKay his Oscar for Original Screenplay. The producer team on this one is anchored by McKay and Kevin J. Messick, who were both nominated for “Vice.” I am predicting “Don’t Look Up” to receive as many as seven Oscar nominations.

“The Hand of God” looks to combine the lush sights and sounds of 1980s Italy with the semi-autobiographical narrative of filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, and the final product looks nothing short of stunning. Sorrentino – who is a producer and the sole writer on the film – is no stranger to the Oscar stage. His pic “The Great Beauty” took home the award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2014. Now, with the expanded field of 10, a childhood story about falling in love with cinema seems likely to give him a chance to take home multiple statues. I am predicting “The Hand of God” to receive as many as five Oscar nominations.

“House of Gucci” is the latest prestige pic from legendary director Ridley Scott, who is no stranger to the Best Picture race. The Englishman has two Best Picture nominees to his name, including the 2001 winner “Gladiator.” This film will chronicle the plot to murder Guccio Gucci, heir to the Gucci fortune, by his wife Patrizia Reggiani. The Oscar-nominated lead duo are supported by a stunning cast that includes Oscar winners Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto. The producer team behind the project includes Oscar-nominees Mark Huffam (“The Martian”) and Kevin J. Walsh (“Manchester by the Sea”). I am predicting “House of Gucci” to receive as many as eight Oscar nominations 

“Nightmare Alley” is Guillermo del Toro’s first film since winning Best Director and Best Picture for “The Shape of Water” in 2018. This film will be closer to a psychological thriller than the romantic fantasy of del Toro’s last, which might make it less palatable, but the talent the Mexican filmmaker has assembled can not be denied. Four-time Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper and two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett lead the ensemble, which features five other Oscar-nominees in the form of Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins and David Strathairn. Oh, and Ron Perlman, Tim Blake Nelson and Oscar-winner Mary Steenburgen also feature. The film is produced by the duo of del Toro and Oscar-winner Miles Dale. I am predicting “Nightmare Alley” to receive as many as 11 Oscar nominations.

“The Power of the Dog” is Netflix’s most obvious contender at the moment, powered by Oscar-winner Jane Campion’s return to the big screen after a 12-year hiatus. The adaptation of the acclaimed novel stars Oscar-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Thomasin McKenzie. The producer team is led by Oscar-winning partners Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (“The King’s Speech,” “Lion”). I am predicting “The Power of the Dog” to receive as many as nine Oscar nominations.

No one would ever accuse Paul Thomas Anderson of manufacturing Oscar-bait, but “Soggy Bottom” sounds like it could be his most Academy-friendly film in years. The film, set in the 1970s San Fernando Valley, focuses on a child actor and will feature the film debut of Cooper Hoffman, son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The producer team includes P.T.A., Daniel Lupi and JoAnne Sellar, all of whom have two nominations each for producing “There Will Be Blood” and “Phantom Thread.” I am predicting “Soggy Bottom” to receive as many as six Oscar nominations.

“Spencer” is NEON’s biggest potential awards player since they shocked the world with “Parasite” winning Best Picture in 2020. The film will capture the Christmas holiday that Princess Diana took with the royal family at the time that she decided to leave her marriage to Prince Charles. Director Pablo Larraín’s awards history is not prolific, but his biggest success was “Jackie,” another portrait of a famous, tragedy-stricken woman of the social elite. The producer team includes those behind “Jackie” and “Toni Erdmann,” as well as Oscar-nominee Paul Webster (“Atonement”). I am predicting “Spencer” to receive as many as eight Oscar nominations.

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” arguably has the most talented cast and crew of all the films listed here, which hopes to be enough to overcome any aversions to Shakespeare that Academy voters might have. Joel Coen has helmed four previous Best Picture nominees, including 2008’s winner “No Country for Old Men.” In addition to his chops as a director, he has been a producer on three of those four Best Picture nominees. “Macbeth” also has the benefit of being top priority this year for A24, the powerhouse studio that has pushed “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird” and “Minari” to Best Picture noms in recent years. I am predicting “The Tragedy of Macbeth” to receive as many as 11 Oscar nominations.

“West Side Story” in this category is giving some déjà vu. The 1961 film adaptation won an astonishing 10 Oscars in one of the biggest sweeps ever, including the top prize. No one expects Steven Spielberg’s take on the musical to surpass or even match the original, but the teaser trailer was a stunning look and stark contrast to the Technicolor of the ‘61 flick. Spielberg has a whopping 11 Best Picture nominees in his filmography, including three in the last decade, and his producing team on this one includes two-time nominee Kristie Macosko Krieger (“Bridge of Spies,” “The Post”). I am predicting “West Side Story” to receive as many as nine Oscar nominations.

Nominees:

  • “Don’t Look Up”
  • “Dune”
  • “The Hand of God”
  • “House of Gucci”
  • “Nightmare Alley”
  • “The Power of the Dog” (WINNER)
  • “Soggy Bottom”
  • “Spencer”
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” 
  • “West Side Story”

Final Tally

11 nominations: “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog”

10 nominations: “Nightmare Alley”

7 nominations: “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

6 nominations: “House of Gucci”

5 nominations: “Don’t Look Up,” “The Hand of God” (including Best International Feature Film), “Spencer”

4 nominations: “Soggy Bottom,” “West Side Story”

2 nominations: “The French Dispatch,” “The Humans,” “No Time to Die”

1 nomination: “Being the Ricardos,” “Cruella,” “Cyrano,” “Eternals,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” “King Richard,” “The Last Duel,” “Mass,” “The Matrix Resurrections,” “A Quiet Place Part II,” “The Suicide Squad”

Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, February 8, 2022.

Johnny Sobczak View All

Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."

One thought on “Johnny’s Awards Radar: The Pre-Festival 2022 Oscar Predictions Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: