Predicting Nominees and Winners for 2022

Will the Academy ever overcome its representation problem?

Oh mid-November … Our favorite season: AWARDS (as Moira Rose would say). Every year, November and December mark the release of several Oscar contenders in the top categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Actor. Fall film festivals and early critic reviews set the stage for these films to perform well on a grand scale throughout the awards season, culminating at the Academy Awards ceremony, or the Oscars, which is set to take place on March 27, 2022.

Predictions are based on past nomination and winner patterns, studio campaigns and Variety, Vogue, IndieWire and Los Angeles Times predictions. Before analyzing predictions in the Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Actor categories, it is important to acknowledge that, like most long-standing institutions, there are inherent biases and structures that exclude marginalized communities from winning and even being nominated. Although new rules have been put into place, the diversity of nominees is still lacking. This is an important context for the 2022 Oscar pre-season that is now in full force.

Best Picture

The Academy approved a rule in which 10 pictures will be nominated for this award by all 9,921 members in a preferential system to ensure the top film is one that most agree is a great film, if not their top pick.

As of right now, “Belfast,” a film written, produced and directed by Kenneth Branagh, seems to be taking the lead in most Best Picture conversations. It features the story of a young boy and his family living in Belfast in the tumultuous late 1960s. With Branagh at the helm channeling his own experiences growing up in Northern Ireland and the all-star cast including Dame Judi Dench and Jamie Dornan, “Belfast” is almost guaranteed to earn a nod in this category at next year’s Oscars.

Next up, “The Power of the Dog” is an intense Western set in the 1930s that deals with alcoholism, shame and lust. Its depth, powerful performances by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee and solid directing from veteran Jane Campion all but ensure “The Power of the Dog” to be a contender in the Best Picture race.

In third place, it is a tie between “King Richard”, a biopic starring Will Smith who plays Richard Williams, the father and coach of Venus and Serena Williams, and “Licorice Pizza,” a coming of age story set in the 1970s. Both represent genres that play well among voting members of the Academy.

The next contenders are difficult to rank, but films like blockbuster “Dune,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” veteran-acted “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and drama “The Lost Daughter” are being considered at the top of most prediction lists. Some films like “Being the Ricardos,” “Parallel Mothers,” “CODA,” “Spencer” and “Nightmare Alley” have been considered in Best Picture conversations, but it remains to be seen whether their campaigns will gain steam or stagnate before voting begins.

Of the top 14, only four feature a person of color in the lead role: “King Richard,” “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” “Being the Ricardos” and “Parallel Mothers.” Additionally, in keeping with patterns from the last couple of years, only one of these films, “Parallel Mothers,” is an international film (Spain).

It is still quite early in the season, as precursor awards like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards have yet to occur. However,a consensus has started to form among critics around these films and their potential to receive Best Picture nominations. Based on these predictions, it seems as though the Academy Awards will continue to predominantly focus on films with a lack of minority communities on screen.

Best Actress

Both the Best Actress and Best Actor awards are voted on by the Actors section of the Academy, which votes on all four acting categories, including Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

This year, at the front of the race, Kristen Stewart leads for her portrayal of Princess Diana of Wales as she struggles with mental health problems and marriage woes during a holiday season spent with the royal family. Her physical and emotional transformation, on top of the resurgence of love for Lady Di, makes her a strong favorite for Best Actress.

Coming in second, Nicole Kidman, despite initial apprehension from fans and critics alike, is looking for a chance at her second Best Actress Oscar win with her performance as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos” opposite Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz. Though she may not be the spitting image of Lucy, many, including Lucie Arnaz, daughter of the iconic duo, praise her dedication to the role.

Twice-nominated actress Jessica Chastain is being talked about for her role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” a biopic about flamboyant televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker over two decades of her life on screen and off. Like Stewart, her physical transformation in the film with the aid of prosthetics and makeup, along with her emotional range on full display, put her at the top of the Best Actress conversation.

Other prominent frontrunners include Penelope Cruz for her stunning role in “Parallel Mothers,” Olivia Colman for her dramatic part in “The Lost Daughter,” last year’s winner and three-time winner in this category Frances McDormand for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Jennifer Hudson for her embodiment of the legendary Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”

To give context to the diversity of Best Actress Oscar winners, only one person of color has won: Halle Berry in 2002 for her performance in “Monster’s Ball.” 2021 was only the second time (the first was in 1972) that two black actresses were nominated in the same year in this category: Viola Davis and Andra Day, neither of whom won. In keeping with this unfortunate pattern, only two of the seven actresses considered here are women of color, reaffirming the trend of a lack of racial representation on screen for women in leading roles (and beyond).

Best Actor

The frontrunner for Best Actor in a leading role is Will Smith for his role in “King Richard.” Smith’s depiction of Williams is potent and honest. Buzz surrounding a win in this category is supported by the fact that he has never won an Oscar and the increased interest in his personal life with the release of his new book.

Next is Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank in “The Power of the Dog.” This role, which contrasts his other prominent characters in genre and personality, is just meaty enough to garner support in the category, but it may not sustain over the course of the season to continue being considered.

Denzel Washington, a two-time Oscar winner and a one-time winner in this category, is likely to be nominated for his role in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” opposite Frances McDormand as his wife. Washington, a veteran actor, delivers a powerful performance that is well-known by many theatergoers but is deepened by his interpretation of the role. Though it isn’t impossible, only three other actors — Daniel Day-Lewis, Walter Brennan and Jack Nicholson — have won three Oscars.

Other notable performances in this category that may be nominated include Peter Dinklage as Cyrano de Bergerac in “Cyrano,” Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick… Boom!” Joaquin Phoenix in “C’mon C’mon” and Nicolas Cage in “Pig.”

Historically, the Best Actor category has been more racially diverse than the Best Actress category, but it does not exclude the fact that less than 15% of all winners have been of non-European descent.

Overall, this article addresses a small portion of the Oscar categories within the limited scope of racial diversity and Oscar history. There are many other marginalized groups that are also not presented proportionally on and off-screen in films in general and especially at the Oscars. The 2022 ceremony should be interesting as more information solidifies (or muddies) the final list of who will be nominated.