In Depth

Oscar predictions 2022: who will win the biggest awards?

Supporting actress set to be ‘most competitive’ category at next year's ceremony

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 first 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

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

“The best actor Oscar is Will Smith’s to lose,” said Forbes. 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 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:

  • Clifton Collins, Cyrano
  • Adam Driver, House of Gucci
  • Clifton Collins Jr., Jockey
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
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 of the supporting men in Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, Corey Hawkins - who plays Macduff - is “the most feasible possibility” for award success, said Variety

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”. 

Other contenders include:

  • Marlee Matlin, Coda
  • Ann Dowd, Mass

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.

Guillermo del Toro, “one of the most exciting filmmakers in the landscape of modern cinema”, has a film out next month, said Far Out Magazine. Nightmare Alley may well be a contender but so far it “remains shrouded in mystery” as “virtually no one” has seen it yet, said Vanity Fair.

Other contenders include:

  • Denis Villeneuve, Dune 
  • Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
  • Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza


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