After a resurgent year for the film industry, this year’s Oscar nominations will be revealed this week (Tuesday February 8th). Due to the depletion of The Golden Globes and the postponement of other precursor ceremonies like The Critics’ Choice Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards and BAFTAs, this year’s race is refreshingly hard to predict.
Over 300 films are eligible for awards this year, here are the 10 most likely films in contention for top honours, ranked in order of – by our reckoning – likelihood to win Best Picture.
Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical directorial triumph appears to be the safest option for voters who have historically been swayed by emotion; of which, Belfast has plenty.
The sentimental family drama which recounts Branagh’s childhood growing up in the 60s has been a critical favourite since its initial screening at the Toronto Film Festival-where it won the coveted People’s Choice Award. In comparison, TIFF’s top prize has been awarded to 9 Best Picture nominees in the past 10 years.
Indication of Oscar glory for Branagh’s passion project was bolstered through precursor success, the film has 11 Critics Choice nominations, is currently nominated for the important SAG ensemble award, and has won a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. It appears the luck of the Irish is strong this awards season.
The Power of The Dog
Marking a return for previous Oscar Winner Jane Campion, The Power of The Dog has been this year’s strongest player in critics circles. With good reason, it is an impeccably crafted period drama which tackles the difficult topics of internal homophobia and toxic masculinity.
Campion’s expert direction and sensitive screenplay, paired with the stirring performances of Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi-Smit McPhee have also proven a hit within the nomination fields of other big award shows; scoring 11 Critics Choice Award nominations, 8 BAFTA nods, and 3 SAG shoutouts.
In addition, it’s three Golden Globe wins, including one for Best Picture-Drama indicates that the western may very well be the first Netflix release to win Best Picture on Oscars Sunday.
West Side Story
Despite a rapturous critical response, West Side Story’s unfortunate fate as a box office flop will inevitably hurt its chances within the competitive Best Picture race. The late breaking musical has made just over half of its budget nearly 2 months after release. Historically, Academy voters have refrained from voting Box Office failures.
Still, Steven Spielberg’s reimagination of the Hollywood classic has proven to be a big hit with critics, likely reliant on the similar nostalgia driven emotion as Belfast. So far, it has racked up an impressive 11 Critics Choice nominations, 5 BAFTA nods and 3 Golden Globe wins.
Interestingly, Spielberg could duke it out against Jane Campion in the Best Director category. Academy stalwart Spielberg previously beat Campion to the honours in 1994 when they were both nominated for Schindler’s List and The Piano respectively.
Unlike the above, Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi epic is loved by both critics and audiences. So far, the film has pulled close to £350 million at the worldwide box office and has an impressive 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dune is a technical marvel which will likely rack up the most nominations at this year’s Oscars thanks to its inclusion in many of the technical categories such as Best Cinematography and Best Production Design. Further mentions in ‘above the line’ categories such as Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture are also expected.
However, as part of a trilogy, it is more likely that Academy voters will preserve top billing for when Villeneuve completes his adaptation; that is of course providing the sequel and prequel are just as impressive.
Shamefully, King Richard has significantly faltered in the Best Picture race, where it was once seen as a frontrunner. Like West Side Story, the sports drama, based upon the rise of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, has seen a paltry box office return; £22 million on a £37 million budget.
King Richard’s best chance at Oscar glory will be in the uncompetitive Best Actor category, where Will Smith, who plays the Williams’ family patriarch, is long overdue a win. Smith won the Golden Globe for his performance and is a frontrunner at the BAFTA and Critic’s Choice Awards.
The feel-good film will also likely compete in Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song for Beyonce’s Be Alive, and Best Supporting Actress for the illuminous Aunjanue Ellis who is also competing at the Critics’ Choice Awards and BAFTAs.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s work has been lauded by critics for decades now, but unanimous praise has yet to translate to Academy Award triumph for the 8-time nominee. It is this exact narrative which should work directly in Licorice Pizza’s favour this awards season. Instead, it looks more probable that PTA will extend his nominations tally than walk away with the gold statue come Oscar’s Sunday.
The unconventional pacing and edgy aesthetic of Licorice Pizza will likely muster up enough votes to compete in Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director. Unfortunately, it will likely divide Academy voters who are more attuned to mainstream filmmaking and therefore, likely won’t secure a win anywhere.
Sian Heder’s intimate tearjerker, CODA, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival to initial praise. Since then, it has quietly surged throughout the 2022 awards season. The AppleTV+ coming of age drama about a young woman finding herself as the daughter of deaf parents has consistently scored nominations at every Oscars pre-cursor ceremony and even secured a nomination for Outstanding Ensemble at the SAG awards.
CODA’s journey to the Oscars stage bears resemblance to The Father, an emotional family drama which premiered at Sundance in January 2020, then went on to nab six Oscar nominations at last year’s ceremony. CODA will likely compete in similar categories this year; Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Marlee Matlin and Best Picture.
Don’t Look Up
Adam McKay’s satirical comedy, Don’t Look Up, is this year’s most divisive awards’ player. Fronted by an all-star cast, McKay’s ninth directorial output has been a hit with audiences, breaking Netflix records and trending number 1 on Twitter.
Critics haven’t responded in the same way, indicated by the film’s 56% Rotten Tomatoes score. In the face of this discord, Don’t Look Up has resiliently proven a hit amongst awards bodies, showing up in the nomination lists of all four important Oscar precursor ceremonies.
Alongside its possible best picture nomination, McKay’s savvy writing will fittingly compete in the Best Original Screenplay category and Leonardo DiCaprio is a dark horse for Best Actor after showing up at the BAFTAs and Golden Globes.
Tick, Tick… Boom!
Tick, Tick…Boom! is the directorial debut for Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-award winner Lin Manuel Miranda, famed for creating Hamilton and writing the chart-topping music for Encanto.
Based on the autobiographical musical by famed playwright Jonathan Larson, the Netflix release marks a career highlight for Manuel-Miranda. However, it’s Andrew Garfield’s haunting portrayal of Larson that has proven the biggest draw at other award ceremonies; the previous Oscar nominee won a Golden Globe for his performance and is currently competing at the SAG and Critics Choice Awards.
Academy voters may want to award Garfield’s career defining 2021, the previous Oscar nominee has been omnipresent as of late, thanks to his supporting performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye and his return to the Spider verse in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Tick, Tick… Boom! may also compete in the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories this year.
Spider-Man-No Way Home
Spider-Man’s latest outing is 2021’s best reviewed and highest grossing film. One may assume this distinction is enough to consider it as a sure-fire Best Picture nominee, but Academy voters tend to shy away from superhero movies (Black Panther is Marvel’s sole Best Picture nominee).
Anyhow, it will be hard for the Academy to totally ignore a film as globally ubiquitous as Spider-Man: No Way Home, not to mention its hand in preserving worldwide box offices. While on the bubble for a Best Picture nom thanks to Disney’s rigorous campaign, Marvel’s most recent triumph is a shoo-in for a Best Special Effects mention on nominations morning.
Outsiders in the running: The Lost Daughter, Being the Ricardo’s, Spencer, House of Gucci, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Nightmare Alley, Drive My Car.
Academy Award nominations will be revealed on Tuesday, 7th February 2022 at 1.18pm GMT, you can watch the reveal at the link below. The 94th Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, 27th March 2022.