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Academy Awards
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Oscars predictions 2022: What will win at Sunday’s Academy Awards

Don’t fill in your ballot card without checking our experts’ tips first

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Helen O’Hara
Written by
Phil de Semlyen
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The red carpet is being rolled out, the big cheeses of Tinseltown have ordered their couture, and the spotlights and cameras are ready to fire up again. After last year’s socially-distanced and, it has to be said, fairly weird Academy Awards, the Oscars are officially back, baby. No more train station concourses, no more Zoom acceptance speeches and no more random twerking. Actually, let’s keep the twerking.

It’s relatively easy to predict the vibe of the night: celebratory and self-congratulatory, with just enough respectful sobriety not to appear gross while there’s a war going on. We trust Hollywood to read the room and get that bit right. But will it get the winners right? As is usually the case, red-hot favourites cool to room temperature over the duration of awards season and surprise outsiders gain momentum. CODA – this year’s Little Miss Sunshine – falls into the latter bracket; Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is in the tepid category. But anything can happen on the night. Here’s what we think will. 

Time Out Oscar Predictions

Best Picture
Photograph: Netflix

Best Picture

It’s not the most horseshoe-nail-biting year, with Jane Campion’s western The Power Of The Dog an early leader in the race and still the clear frontrunner. It’s the film with the most nominations, often a good sign, and has Best Director and Best Editing nods, which Best Picture winners almost always possess. The heat on Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast has cooled in comparison, while the other strong contender is generally considered to be CODA, which is immensely likeable but misses out on those two other key nods.

Alas, Dune has not been able to overcome the Academy’s science-fiction snobbery, and the box-office underperformance of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story makes it unlikely to repeat its predecessor’s Best Picture win. In the battle to discover which newly resurrected classic genre will be revived by this year’s Oscars, it looks like it’s westerns rather than musicals this year. 

Prediction: The Power of the Dog

Best Director
Photograph: Netflix

Best Director

Famously, only two women have ever won Best Directorin the 90-odd years of Oscar history: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker and Chloé Zhao for Nomadland. On Sunday, we’re pretty certain that it will be three – still dismal, but another step in the right direct​ion​ – with The Power of the Dog’s Jane Campion winning the gong she missed out for The Piano in 1994. That year, she was pipped by Steven Spielberg and Schindler’s List, and Señor Spielbergo looks like being the unlucky one this time out. We still reckon that West Side Story is among his very best, but Academy voters look set to go ahead and disagree, with its weak box-office showing counting against it.

Kenneth Branagh, whose cine-memoir Belfast was an early frontrunner, is the kind of popular figure Hollywood likes to reward, but there’s a perception that, despite all the black and white, he’s made more of an actors’ showcase than a piece of directorial greatness. Paul Thomas Anderson, meanwhile, looks like a stronger candidate in the screenplay category and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s presence among the nominees is a coup in itself. Expect enough voters to be deterred by Drive My Car’s subtitles to make it a very, very long shot. 

Prediction: Jane Campion

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Best Actress
Photograph: Searchlight Pictures © 2021 20th Century Studios

Best Actress

Welcome to the ‘Toss Up’ category of the major awards this year. The nominees have no overlap with the Best Picture nominees to guide us, nor with Best Actress at the BAFTAs, and only 60 percent overlap with the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Jessica Chastain won the influential Screen Actors Guild award for The Eyes of Tammy Faye and must therefore be considered the frontrunner, but that’s a shaky foundation on which to build a prediction.

Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter is great as always; Nicole Kidman made a film about Hollywood, Being the Ricardos, which the voters usually love; Kristen Stewart played an icon in Spencer, which, ditto. Penélope Cruz gave probably the best performance of the bunch in Parallel Mothers, but that’s not in English so consider her an outside chance. Best to content ourselves with the fact that BAFTA nailed it when they chose Joanna Scanlan for the extraordinary After Love, and choose one of these at random.

Prediction: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Best Actor
©DR

Best Actor

Third time lucky for Will Smith? After nominations for Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness (he lost out to Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker) the Fresh Prince of Showbusiness is the favourite at last to win his crown with King Richard, and reports that his speech will have enough energy to replace all the world’s coal-fired power plants cannot be discounted.

But this is an exceptionally strong field. Benedict Cumberbatch was the early leader for The Power Of The Dog and gets points for training in cowboy skills. Washington is back again for The Tragedy Of Macbeth, as is Javier Bardem for Being The Ricardos, but neither has any buzz. The internet’s latest boyfriend, Andrew Garfield, is up for Tick, Tick… Boom! but seems content that he’s not going to win. He’ll be there to wear a great suit and have the best hair of any nominee.

Prediction: Will Smith, King Richard

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Best Supporting Actress
Photo by Niko Tavernise.

Best Supporting Actress

If, as expected, West Side Story misses out on Best Picture and Director, it’s still unlikely to go home empty-handed. Expect Ariana DeBose to take home a statuette for her role as the luminous, conflicted Anita. If she does, she’ll be following in the dancing footsteps of her predecessor in the same role, Rita Moreno, and making history as a queer Black and Puerto Rican winner. If not DeBose – and it’s totally gonna be DeBose – keep an eye on Kirsten Dunst for The Power Of The Dog. She has built an impeccable reputation as one of Hollywood’s most daring actresses, and she got well-deserved praise for this role. Not bad for a former child vampire.

Prediction: Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Best Supporting Actor
Photograph: Apple TV+

Best Supporting Actor

Every sign so far this awards season says that this will be a history-making award, going to the first deaf man to win an acting Oscar in CODA’s Troy Kotsur. His performance is funny, moving and hugely energetic. It doesn’t hurt that his speeches this award season have been some of the most eloquent ever spoken (or signed).

If he inexplicably loses his momentum between now and the awards, there’s only one choice. The two Power Of The Dog nominees, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, will split voters, and JK Simmons has won before. So we’re hoping for a Ciarán Hinds surge for Belfast. It’s about time someone won an Oscar for playing a character simply called ‘Pop’.

Prediction: Troy Kotsur, CODA

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Best Original Screenplay
Photograph: John Phillips/Getty Images for Universal

Best Original Screenplay

After a hiccup when it went to Green Book, this category has been stalwart in singling out some genuinely boundary-pushing work, like Parasite, Promising Young Woman and Get Out, in recent years. It’s also pretty cool when they scroll down a page of the nominated screenplays during the telecast in a way that says: Look at these are big, important words! The biggest, most important words this year look like belonging to Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza. While not boundary-pushing, it is incredibly effervescent and fun, probably won’t win in the bigger categories, and is about Hollywood – always a big plus around here. It’s also written by a highly respected filmmaker, who is currently 0 for 11 for Academy Awards nods and is probably due. If not Anderson, expect Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, another deeply personal film about young-manhood, to pick up the golden statue. 

Prediction: Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Best Adapted Screenplay
Photograph: KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX

Best Adapted Screenplay

It’s looking like a twofer in the screenplay category for Jane Campion, who won Best Original Screenplay for The Piano in 1993. The years have not diminished the edge of the Kiwi filmmaker’s keyboard/typewriter/quill pen, with her adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 western novel hotly tipped to win this year.

For all its feelgood vibes,
CODA still feels a little un-literary to win in this category, having been adapted from French film La Famille Bélier. After all, only one screenwriter has won with an adaptation of another film: William Monahan for turning Infernal Affairs into The Departed. The Lost Daughter, an expert reworking of Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel by Maggie Gyllenhaal, is another outside chance – but we’re backing the Dog here.

Prediction: Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

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Best International Film
Drive my car

Best International Film

Despite a record-breaking number of nominations, the last time a Japanese film won in this category was back in 2008 for Departures, a beautifully acted and touching drama about grief. Expect Drive My Car, another beautifully acted and touching drama about grief, to follow suit this year. If not quite a Parasite-level breakout, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s elegiac fusion of Chekhov and Murakami has been a word-of-mouth sensation. Seriously, forcing Hollywood types to sit through nearly three hours of subtitles and enjoy it is no mean feat. Norway’s The Worst Person in the World has its admirers too – especially for Renata Reinsve’s almost-nominated central performance – as does, again, Flee. Paolo Sorrentino will win an Oscar one day, though probably not for The Hand of God, while Bhutan’s first ever nomination is likely to be Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom’s landmark achievement here. Sorry, yak.

Prediction: Drive My Car

Best Animation
©DR

Best Animation

Saddle up, Encanto purists, because we’re talking about Bruno on Sunday night. The Disney animation did only moderately well at the box office but its cultural imprint, fuelled by a Dune-sized earworm of a soundtrack, has helped it to BAFTA, Golden Globe (still a thing) and PGA awards. An Oscar should follow, as magic follows the Madrigal family, and it will make the decision not to put ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ forward in the Best Song content look even stranger. In a strong category, where Flee deserves recognition but may not get it, The Mitchells vs the Machines is second favourite. If Pixar’s fishy fairy tale Luca wins, it’ll be a smash-and-crab. 

Prediction: Encanto

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Best Documentary
Photograph: Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Best Documentary

If you asked us to pick a personal favourite to win an Oscar on the night, aside from West Side Story’s Mike Faist, who won’t because he isn’t nominated (for shame), it’d be sui generis animated LGBTQ+ refugee doc Flee. Sadly, despite – or perhaps because of – its nominations in the Best Doc and Best International Feature categories (as well as Best Animation), it looks likely to walk away empty-handed. It’d be another victim of a split vote and the crowdpleasing popularity of Questlove’s effervescent Summer of Soul – and no shame in that. A timeless concert doc with a political undertow of its own, it’ll be a popular winner. Question is, who holds the Oscar while Questlove DJs at the afterparty?

Prediction: Summer of Soul

Oscars 2022: Everything you need to know

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