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Oscars 2022 Predictions: Who will win Best Picture, Actor and Actress?

Kyle Buchanan, our Projectionist columnist, predicts who will take home Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards on Sunday night. (Warning: He’s been wrong before.)

“The Power of the Dog” has the inside track for the best picture award, and Will Smith, the star of “King Richard,” is a heavy favorite to win best actor honors. Here is a very educated guess on what the opened envelopes will reveal.




“Don’t Look Up”

“Drive My Car”


“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog”

“West Side Story”

In a novel twist, this race has become a face-off between the best picture candidate with the most Oscar nominations (“The Power of the Dog,” with 12) and the one tied for the least (“CODA,” with just three). Still, “CODA” has recently surged after key wins with the actors, writers and producers guilds, the sort of bounty that almost always points the way to best picture victory. Though it’s awfully rare for a film to win Hollywood’s top prize without nominations for editing and directing — in fact, it hasn’t happened since 1932’s “Grand Hotel” — “CODA” can bypass those statistical precedents with an appeal that goes straight to the heart. In a year when I think voters are desperate to crown a crowd-pleaser, “CODA” is the clear favorite.

Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin in a scene from CODA. (Apple TV+ via AP)

Still, “The Power of the Dog” shouldn’t be counted out: Netflix has spent heavily to try to earn the streamer’s first best picture win, and the film’s 12 nominations indicate broad strength across several different branches of the academy. The tricky part is that the Oscars use a preferential ballot, which asks voters to rank the 10 nominees and tends to produce a winner that consistently shows up in the No. 1 and No. 2 slots. That favors a likable consensus choice like “CODA” instead of the more polarizing “Power of the Dog,” which will have to net a whole lot of No. 1 votes to offset the ballots cast by voters who found Campion’s film a little too austere.


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”

Campion is the first woman to be nominated for best director twice, and her win could make even more Oscar history, since it would follow Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” victory and mark the first time this Oscar has gone to women two years in a row. It’s true that Campion stepped into a controversy of her own making at the Critics Choice Awards, where she compared herself to Venus and Serena Williams but said the tennis superstars had never had to compete against men like Campion had. That diminishment of the sisters’ accomplishments caused an internet furor, but the older-skewing academy rarely pays attention to social-media conflagrations, and Campion remains the prohibitive favorite.


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”

The best actor Oscar rarely goes to young men, and bankable movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey were only able to win it once they were on the other side of 40 and had paid an appropriate amount of dues. That’s why Smith is so perfectly situated: His two other nominations, for “Ali” and “The Pursuit of Happyness,” came when he was a superstar in his 30s, and now that he is a lightly grizzled 53-year-old who has proved himself over four decades, the timing is right for his first Academy Award win. All the better that in playing the father of the tennis phenoms Venus and Serena Williams in “King Richard,” Smith has found a character-actor role that he can animate with every ounce of his movie-star charisma.

Will Smith in a scene from King Richard. (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)


✓Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”

Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Last year’s best actress winner, Frances McDormand, had a leg up on her competition by hailing from the best picture winner, “Nomadland.” This year, none of the best actress nominees come from movies in the best picture race at all, which gives you a sense of just how wide-open this field is. Chastain won the Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as the disgraced evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, but this could really go to any of the five nominees: Chastain, Stewart and Kidman all gave the kind of transformative biopic performances that Oscar voters love, while Colman and Cruz are critical favorites from much better-reviewed films. I’m going to play it safe by picking Chastain, but feel free to live dangerously in your own Oscar pool.

Jessica Chastain in a still from The Eyes of Tammy Faye.


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”

Smit-McPhee was recognized by year-end critics’ groups for his performance as Kirsten Dunst’s crafty son in “The Power of the Dog,” but once the televised awards shows began to weigh in, Kotsur cleaned up at SAG, the Indie Spirits and BAFTA. With his warm and funny acceptance speeches at those ceremonies, Kotsur has become this season’s breakout performer, and the Oscars can surely count on him for a winning moment that is both heartfelt and historic, since Kotsur would be the first deaf man to earn an acting Oscar. He is instrumental to the tear-jerking third act of “CODA,” and he has a personal narrative every bit as compelling as what you see on the screen. This is Kotsur’s to lose.

Troy Kotsur in a still from CODA.


Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”

✓Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”

Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”

Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”

It’s Anita’s America, and we’re just living in it. The key supporting role in “West Side Story” has proved to be catnip for Oscar voters across decades: Rita Moreno won the Oscar for her Anita in the 1961 film, and DeBose is well-positioned to repeat for playing the part in Steven Spielberg’s reimagining. Musical performances often do quite well in this category, as previous winners Anne Hathaway (“Les Misérables”) and Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) can attest, but if there’s a dark horse in the race, I’d look to Dunst: She’s worked with a lot of academy members who can appreciate the hard-earned awards breakthrough she managed with “The Power of the Dog.”

Ariana DeBose in a still from West Side Story.



✓“Don’t Look Up”

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“The Worst Person in the World”

This is one of the night’s toughest races. Many of my fellow pundits are picking Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” but if it couldn’t win in this category at the BAFTAs despite being a box-office hit in Britain, I don’t expect a sudden reversal from the academy. Besides, Oscar voters tend to take the “original” part of this category very seriously, voting for films that feel sui generis. To my mind, that leaves “Licorice Pizza” (which won the BAFTA), “Don’t Look Up” (which won the WGA Award) and “The Worst Person in the World,” which could earn votes here in a race where it doesn’t face “Drive My Car.” Ultimately, I think that the environmental satire “Don’t Look Up” prevails because of its topical, urgent subject matter.



“Drive My Car”


“The Lost Daughter”

“The Power of the Dog”

The path to best picture almost always cuts through the screenplay categories, so this race could provide a crucial sneak preview of the night’s ultimate winner, especially because it contains another face-off between “The Power of the Dog” and “CODA.” The latter film won at the Writers Guild, where “The Power of the Dog” wasn’t eligible for a nomination — but at BAFTA, where both films competed, “CODA” still pulled out a victory. If “CODA” (adapted from the French film “La Famille Bélier”) can win over a snobby bunch of British voters, there’s no reason to think it will fall short with the academy.

Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, in a scene from the animated film Encanto. (Disney via AP)





“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”

“Raya and the Last Dragon”

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” has won most of the awards doled out by the animation industry, and it shares an innovative elan — as well as producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller — with “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which previously triumphed in this category. Still, it will be tough for any film to beat “Encanto,” which has the year’s most viral song, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” as well as a popular pitchman in songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda. The Mitchells may have triumphed in their battle against the Machines, but “Encanto” boasts even heavier artillery.





✓“Summer of Soul”

“Writing With Fire”

This race is filled with worthy contenders, including the animated refugee story “Flee,” which made Oscar history when it was nominated in the documentary, animated and international categories. But “Flee” is up against juggernaut front-runners in all of those races, and here, that No. 1 pick has got to be “Summer of Soul,” the Questlove-directed documentary about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. Oscar voters often fall for music docs — past winners include “Searching for Sugar Man” and “20 Feet From Stardom” — and the previously lost concert footage of artists like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and Mahalia Jackson is catch-your-breath, stomp-your-feet wonderful.


“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” Bhutan

“Flee,” Denmark

“The Hand of God,” Italy

✓“Drive My Car,” Japan

“The Worst Person in the World,” Norway

This should be a no-brainer, since voters gravitate to films in this category that have also made the best picture and best director lineups. (Think “Amour,” “Roma” and “Parasite.”) Therefore, the odds favor “Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s insightful three-hour drama about grief and art, which swept the major critics’ groups and kept amassing momentum as awards season continued. Still, I’d keep a watchful eye on the wonderful romantic dramedy “The Worst Person in the World,” which came out awfully late this season and has been winning a healthy share of Hollywood admirers. If enough voters gravitate to that Norwegian film because they think “Drive My Car” is taken care of, Hamaguchi’s breakthrough may run out of gas before reaching its destination.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog. (Photo: Netflix)



“Nightmare Alley”

✓“The Power of the Dog”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth”

“West Side Story”

“Dune” won at BAFTA and with the cinematographers guild, and it’s probably the safer choice. But there have been several recent profiles of the “Power of the Dog” cinematographer Ari Wegner, who would become the first woman to win this Oscar. In a squeaker, that’s who I’m picking.


“Don’t Look Up”



“Parallel Mothers

“The Power of the Dog”

Even more than the powerhouse visuals, the rumbling, uneasy score of “Dune” makes the best case for watching the movie in a theater.


“Be Alive” (“King Richard”)

“Dos Oruguitas” (“Encanto”)

“Down to Joy” (“Belfast”)

✓“No Time to Die” (“No Time to Die”)

“Somehow You Do” (“Four Good Days”)

If “Encanto” had submitted “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” instead of “Dos Oruguitas,” or if Beyoncé had done any campaigning for her rousing “King Richard” song, things might be different. But since they didn’t, expect a victory for Billie Eilish and Finneas for “No Time to Die,” the third James Bond theme to win in a row.




“No Time to Die”

“The Power of the Dog”

“West Side Story”

The sounds of “Dune” are designed to hit you in the solar plexus, and they bleed into the score and the edit in all sorts of memorable ways. Plus, the story behind crafting those sounds is fascinating: Who knew it involved Rice Krispies?


“Don’t Look Up”


“King Richard”

“The Power of the Dog”

“Tick, Tick … Boom!”

“King Richard,” “Tick, Tick … Boom!” and “Don’t Look Up” have a lot of flash, but this Oscar usually goes to the contender with an edge in the sound category, where none of those three movies are even nominated. That’s why I’m ultimately going with “Dune” instead.

Dune is nominated in 10 categories at the Oscars.



“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth”

“West Side Story”

There’s a lot of maximal design on display in this category, but it hardly gets bigger than dreaming up new planets and spacecraft, as “Dune” did with such great impact.





“Nightmare Alley”

“West Side Story”

“Cruella” is a film about fashion, and it contains the category’s most striking garment, the garbage-truck dress that trails our antiheroine as she makes a public mockery of her rival. Score another earnest Oscar for the film’s costume designer, Jenny Beavan, who previously won in this category for “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Emma Stone in Cruella.


“Coming 2 America”



✓“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

“House of Gucci”

The past four winners in this category — “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Bombshell,” “Vice” and “Darkest Hour” — had the special edge of aiding in the physical transformation of a nominated actor. This year, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is the only contender with a nominated star, which ought to push it to the top of the heap.



“Free Guy”

“No Time to Die”

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”

“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

Marvel films like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Shang-Chi” are soaked in visual effects, but some of the CGI is ropy and unconvincing. The polished, stunning “Dune” has no such problem and should cruise to victory.


“Affairs of the Art”



✓“Robin Robin”

“The Windshield Wiper”

The cheerful stop-motion musical “Robin Robin” boasts the voice talents of Richard E. Grant and Gillian Anderson, and stands out all the more opposite some very adult-themed competition.


✓ “Audible”

“Lead Me Home”

“The Queen of Basketball”

“Three Songs for Benazir”

“When We Were Bullies”

This cinematic short about the football team at a high school for the deaf is a grittier “CODA” but every bit as emotional.


“The Dress”

“The Long Goodbye”

“On My Mind”

✓“Please Hold”

“Ala Kachuu — Take and Run”

This award often goes to a short with star power, so you’d be wise to pick Riz Ahmed’s “The Long Goodbye.” But two other entries pack a more complete punch: the dystopian satire “Please Hold” and “The Dress,” about a woman with dwarfism considering a potential romance. Though I’ve been vacillating between the two, I’ll predict “Please Hold,” which offers more social commentary.

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