Oscars 2022: Best Picture Predictions
The 2021-2022 season brought a feast, as studios (finally!) unleashed their best stuff for the big screen. But the new box office isn’t the old box office, and with less time in theaters, movies don’t have the same cultural impact. Movies with big budgets and established stars are adapting to the multi-platform universe: Studios and streamers spent heavily on costly spectacles that were often available online at the same time as theaters, or shortly after release. Did that make a day-and-date space epic like “Dune” feel less special? Apparently not: the movie scored ten Oscar nominations.
Denis Villeneuve’s visually spectacular $165-million “Dune” (Warner Bros./HBO Max), delivered over time, tallying a robust $398 million worldwide: “Dune” has powerful support from Academy voters, along with Venice Best Director-winner Jane Campion’s ’20s western “The Power of the Dog” (December 24, Netflix), starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a Montana rancher in conflict with his brother (Jesse Plemons) and his new wife (Kirsten Dunst), which led the field with 12 nominations.
But discovery and specialty titles found it harder to break through without longer theater play. More than ever, their distributors relied on festivals, media, and critics to play an enhanced role. When it comes to making it all the way to Best Picture, it’s all about creating a must-see event. And this year, voters were asked to choose 10 Best Pictures — which opened up the field to more adventurous choices. While ABC was rooting for a global blockbuster like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” or “No Time to Die” to gain a Best Picture slot, the preferential ballot allowed more smaller movies to move up in the rankings even if they weren’t ranked first. Popular Japanese Oscar entry “Drive My Car” (Janus Films), with four nominations, landed on the list along with another success d’estime , Paul Thomas Anderson’s ’70s comedy “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/UA), with three, starring newcomers Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman as mismatched kindred spirits.
Festivals and critics always boost would-be Oscar players. Sian Heder’s $25-million AppleTV+ Sundance pickup, heart-tugging deaf family drama “CODA” (three nominations) is gaining traction with its SAG ensemble and multiple Troy Kotsur Supporting Actor nods. Also launched on the fall festival circuit were SAG Ensemble nominees “King Richard” (Warner Bros./HBO Max), Reinaldo Marcus Green’s sports saga about the Williams sisters (sx nods), starring Golden Globe-winner Will Smith as their driven father, and Oscar-nominated multi-hyphenate Kenneth Branagh’s 1969 Northern Ireland drama “Belfast” (Focus), with seven nods, including veterans Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds as doting grandparents to the filmmaker’s nine-year-old alter ego (Jude Hill).
With the box-office disappointment of Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of the Lin-Manuel Miranda Broadway musical “In the Heights,” eyes were on Miranda’s directing debut, Jonathan Larson musical “Tick, Tick, Boom” (Netflix) starring Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield — as well as Steven Spielberg’s $100-million update of the theater and film classic “West Side Story” (Disney), starring breakout nominee Ariana DeBose, which disappointed at the box office with a total $60.5 million worldwide, but still scored seven nominations, including Picture and Director, but not Tony Kushner’s screenplay.
Back in the Oscar fray is “The Big Short” Oscar-winner Adam McKay’s hugely popular “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix), a scorching end-of-the-world satire starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as anxious scientists trying to prepare the planet for a comet strike, which landed four nods including Picture and Original Screenplay.
Another Oscar perennial, Guillermo del Toro (Best Picture-winner “The Shape of Water”), also landed four including Best Picture with well-mounted noir remake “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight), starring Bradley Cooper as a man with a murky past who falls in love with a fellow carney (Rooney Mara) and becomes a successful mind-reader — until a psychotherapist femme fatale (Cate Blanchett) and a ruthless powermonger (Richard Jenkins) change his luck for the worse. While Blanchett scored a SAG nod but no Oscar nomination, Oscar-friendly Searchlight should never be underestimated. But the hardboiled film’s strongest supporters are the crafts.
The ten nominees for Best Picture are listed in order of their likelihood to win.
“The Power of the Dog”
“West Side Story”
“Don’t Look Up”
“Drive My Car”