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Oscar predictions 2022: who is tipped to win the biggest awards?

Oscar nominations won’t be announced until February, but the chatter around the hopefuls for next year’s biggest prizes is already growing.

The 94th Academy Awards will be held at the Dolby Theatre on 27 March 2022. “This is the first time since 2008 that the ceremony will take place in March,” said Screen Daily, “having moved to avoid conflicting with the Winter Olympics.” 

The submissions are underway, and Hollywood pundits are offering their tips on the most likely winners.

Best Picture

“We have seen next year’s big Oscar winner, and it is Belfast,” declared Rolling Stone, after Kenneth Branagh’s sentimental memory piece about growing up in Ireland received a “rapturous” screening at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. It’s at least a “particularly strong candidate”, said the magazine, “if not the outright winner”. 

The first reactions to another coming-of-age drama, Licorice Pizza, suggest it too could be a contender. Germain Lusssier, entertainment editor for Gizmodo, described the LA-based screenplay as “perfection”, while IndieWire’s chief film critic David Ehrlich said it reaches “god-tier” heights. After eight Oscar nominations and no wins for director Paul Thomas Anderson, this movie could finally be the one that gets him an award, said Vanity Fair

Others think the Best Picture might go to a musical. “Few films have ever won more Oscars than the 1961 musical West Side Story,” said pop culture writer Kyle Buchanan at The New York Times. Now nods in the picture and director categories are all but certain for Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake. Though other contenders “fit the bill, they can’t hold a candle to the scale and grandeur” of this musical retelling. 

Other contenders include:

  • Dune
  • The Power of the Dog
  • King Richard
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • House of Gucci

Actor in a Leading Role

Forbes said in October that “the best actor Oscar is Will Smith’s to lose”. His portrayal of Richard Williams, father of tennis stars Venus and Serena, has been described as one of the year’s great screen performances, but “of course, being the first frontrunner of the season is a dangerous game”, said Forbes

Meanwhile, Western epic The Power of the Dog should “well and truly silence Benedict Cumberbatch critics for good”, said the Metro, calling it “unquestionably” the performance of his career. The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw has already deemed it “the year’s best film”, and the Academy would “save time” by giving him the best actor title now, said the Evening Standard

But The Tragedy of Macbeth may well return Denzel Washington “to his rightful place on the throne”, said Observer. Joel Coen’s take on the Shakespeare play will remind audiences why two-time Oscar-winner Washington “is the true king of Hollywood”.

Other contenders include:

  • Peter Dinklage, Cyrano
  • Andrew Garfield, tick, tick… Boom!
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up

Actress in a Leading Role

Kristen Stewart is a “luminous Lady Di” in Spencer, an imagining of “three agonizing days in the reluctant royal’s life” over a Christmas holiday spent at Sandringham, said USA Today. The film could finally be her “ticket to the Oscars” – after all, “the Academy loves a British royal”, it adds. 

But Lady Gaga’s take on fashion royalty Patrizia Reggiani in House of Gucci could pip her to the prize. Her performance as the famed murderess will “cement Mother Monster herself as one of the leading contenders” at this year’s awards, said Variety.

Others are backing Jennifer Hudson for her portrayal of Aretha Franklin in Respect. Her performance of And I am telling you I’m not going in Dreamgirls was enough to “almost single-handedly” fuel her best supporting actress win 15 years ago, so “don’t underestimate the power of an entire evening’s worth of show-stoppers”, said Vanity Fair.

Other contenders include:

  • Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
  • Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
  • Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
  • Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Actor in a Supporting Role

Bradley Cooper’s Licorice Pizza cameo might just be “a scene or two short for supporting actor glory”, said Variety. Belfast, on the other hand, “glows brightest” when Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench are on screen, said The Independent. The 68-year-old “is not listening to rumours that he may be nominated for an Oscar”, but said it is “nice that people are really appreciating” the film, reported Belfast Live.

Richard Jenkins also delivers “career-best work” as father Erik in the Thanksgiving family drama The Humans, said Vanity Fair. And Troy Kotsur also “awed both audiences and critics” at the Sundance film festival with his performance in Coda, said NPR. The deaf actor and director has been a “pioneering star of stage and screen… despite the structural limitations of an industry that hasn’t always recognised his gifts”.

Other contenders include:

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog
  • Jared Leto, House of Gucci

Actress in a Supporting Role

“Of the four acting categories this awards season, supporting actress is the most competitive,” said Variety. Kirsten Dunst is “long overdue” an Academy accolade, and her performance as Rose, the wife of a rancher, in The Power of the Dog is “among her very best yet”. Caitriona Balfe also served up Oscar “catnip” as “the warm and unwavering” Ma in Belfast, said USA Today.

When it comes to tennis biopic King Richard, “no king would be complete without his queen”, said Backstage Magazine. Aunjanue Ellis’s performance as Will Smith’s on-screen “powerhouse” partner is “staggering”. King Richard “might just be her best work to date”. 

Rita Moreno took home the best supporting actress title in 1961 for her portrayal of Anita del Carmen in the original West Side Story. Sixty years on, Ariana DeBose is similarly tipped for success, “earning critical raves and awards chatter” for her performance as protagonist Maria’s best friend in Spielberg’s remake, said The New York Times.

Moreno herself is also among the names circulating in this category, as she makes an appearance in the 2021 version.

Other contenders include:

  • Marlee Matlin, Coda
  • Ann Dowd, Mass
  • Ruth Negga, Passing

Directing

The Power of the Dog, written and directed by Jane Campion, “received a four-minute standing ovation” at the Venice Film Festival in September and picked up the Silver Lion Award for best director. The film “shimmers with intelligence”, and offers “echoes” of Campion’s previous Oscar-winning “masterpiece” The Piano, says Nicholas Barber in his five-star BBC review.

The two-time Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro “is shaping up to be another buzzed about contender for his latest outing”, Nightmare Alley, said ABC7. The Los Angeles Times called it a “spectacularly grim neo-noir” adaptation of William Lindsay Greshams 1946 novel.

Other contenders include:

  • Denis Villeneuve, Dune 
  • Steven Spielberg, West Side Story
  • Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Original screenplay

Licorice Pizza is “a star-making affair” that captures “a freewheeling first love, and a blissful, conked-out vision of Americana that now feels like a fever dream”, said The Guardian. It’s one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “most charming and sentimental efforts” at the romantic coming-of-age comedy, said Cinema Blend. It is “almost certain” to be nominated for best original screenplay, and a “win may be within reach”.

Belfast and King Richard could too put up a fight in this category. As could Being the Ricardos, which sees Nicole Kidman play American TV star Lucille Ball, and Javier Bardem take on the role of her on and off-screen husband in Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. The “witty script is complex but it’s not complicated”, said Empire and “there’s plenty to love”. “Minimal prior knowledge of its subjects is required to enjoy it”, as the film opens “a door into an entire industry and a transformative time in history”.  

Other contenders include:

  • Don’t Look Up
  • Mass
  • Parallel Mothers
  • A Hero

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