A sense of nostalgia will likely be up for grabs when the 2022 Oscar nominations are revealed tomorrow. Most of the notable directors behind the likely 10 Best Picture picks are all at the top of their game. There are also multiple black-and-white movies in the running, including Rebecca Hall’s “Passing,” Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” and Mike Mills’ “C’mon, C’mon.” The last time that a black-and-white title won Best Picture was 2011’s “The Artist.”
Musicals are also back in vogue, including Steven Spielberg’s remake of the 1961’s Best Picture “West Side Story,” Jon M. Chu’s “In the Heights,” and Joe Wright’s ”Cyrano.” Meanwhile, the song-filled “tick, tick…Boom!” has allowed Lin-Manuel Miranda to make his directorial debut on the big screen. Then there’s Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” a Western driven by ugly toxic masculinity that also beguiles, thanks to its outdoor scenery and haunting performances. It’s been a while since an oater has lassoed a spot in the Best Picture line-up—namely, 2016’s “Hell or High Water.” The last time a Western actually won? That was 2007’s “No Country for Old Men,” which was just the fourth horse opera to ever win the trophy.
There’s even room for a film noir in the form of Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” although it might be too soon to reward the filmmaker again after his wins for the 2017 Cold War fantasy “The Shape of Water.”
Sadly, with the Golden Globes in disrepair and off the air and the Critics Choice Awards being pushed from its usual January spot to March 13 because of the Omicron variant, audiences likely won’t have seen many clips of the contending crop this year. But the Oscar show will go on, and it’s time for me to put my Oscar expert cred on the line by sharing each of my ten Best Picture choices, as part of my predictions for the top six races. I, like many others, have been seesawing between “The Power of the Dog” and “Belfast” as the ultimate winner. Actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan will host on Tuesday starting at 8:18 a.m. ET when the contenders are revealed. The televised award ceremony airs this year on March 27 and will once again be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
“Don’t Look Up”
“The Power of the Dog”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”
“West Side Story”
Given the powerhouse line-up above, it’s unlikely that the voters would allow such blockbusters like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “No Time to Die” to wiggle their way into the top 10.
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Denis Villeneuve, “Dune”
Campion and Branagh are behind the two of the films most talked-about since they premiered at various festivals in early fall. “Dune” seems to be the designated effects-heavy blockbuster to be invited to the Oscar dance. Most likely “Dune” will be handed a large bouquet of below-the-line craft wins. Alas, Steven Spielberg—who has won Best Director twice before, for 1993’s “Schindler’s List” and 1999’s “Saving Private Ryan”—might be hurt from the lack of box-office sales for his first stab at a musical.
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”
I have an inkling that this is Will Smith’s turn to finally be crowned Best Actor for his role as the ambitious father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, after being passed over for his nominated work on the 2002 biopic “Ali” and 2007’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Meanwhile, Andrew Garfield had two major roles this movie year: he played the disgraced TV evangelist Jim Bakker opposite his co-star Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” though he didn’t have much of an impact. In “tick, tick…Boom!”, however, his role as “Rent” playwright Jonathan Larson allows Garfield to show off both his singing talents and swimming prowess in an indoor pool.
Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci”
Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza”
Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”
Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”
Showbiz-types love to bestow Olivia Colman with honors. She won her first Oscar for her lead role as England’s ditzy rabbit-loving Queen Anne in the wry biopic “The Favourite.” She also was nominated last year in a supporting role as a daughter coping with her dad’s dementia in “The Father,” and earned an Emmy for her lead role as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s “The Crown.” Colman’s closest rival this year is likely Nicole Kidman, who hasn’t claimed a little gold man since she won for her role as author Virginia Woolf in 2002’s “The Hours.” Previously, she was up for Best Actress in the 2001 musical “Moulin Rouge” and 2010 drama “Rabbit Hole.” And in 2016, Kidman was up for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an adoptive mother in “Lion.” Oscar voters tend to revel in showbiz sagas and it helps that Kidman brings Lucille Ball, an iconic female comedian, to life.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Bradley Cooper, “Licorice Pizza”
Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”
Kodi Smit-McPhee’s supporting role as Kirsten Dunst’s son in “The Power of the Dog” eventually allows his character to go from underdog to being the main catalyst of the Western’s action. As for Jared Leto, he gets to transform himself behind a middle-aged masculine façade as Paolo Gucci, sporting a hefty chrome dome of a naked forehead, a thick cascade of gray hair covering the back of his neck, and a burly mustache. Voters tend to love this kind of performance art.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Caitriona Balfe, “Belfast”
Ariana Debose, “West Side Story”
Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”
Marlee Matlin, “CODA”
Ruth Negga, “Passing”
This is a hard one since each performer is a true standout on screen. Matlin, a sentimental fave, won a Best Actress Oscar at the age of 21 for her film debut in the 1986 romantic drama “Children of a Lesser God.” She still holds the record of being the youngest female to win a lead Academy Award. Now in her 50s, she follows it up with the role of a feisty matriarch in a fishing family of four, who relies on their hearing daughter to translate their signing when communicating with customers.
As for Ariana DeBose’s electrifying performance in “West Side Story,” she has been considered the stand-out in the musical revival as she takes over key role of Anita. Meanwhile Caitriona Balfe is part of a dazzling romantic couple on-screen in Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast.”
And Ruth Negga is quite good in “Passing,” playing a tricky role as a Black woman who passes as white while being married to a hateful bigot. But “Passing” hasn’t received as much attention as other titles.
I am rooting for Kirsten Dunst to finally collect her dues for a career that has ranged from the cheerleading comedy “Bring It On” to being the original Manic Pixie Dream Girl in Cameron Crowe’s 2005 “Elizabethtown” to portraying the title character in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 “Marie Antoinette.” Dunst still hasn’t been to the Oscar rodeo yet, but she should have received more recognition for 1994’s “Interview with a Vampire” when she played a 10-year-old blood-sucking vampire; she upstaged both Tom Cruise as Lestat and Brad Pitt as Louis quite handily as a kid.