Oscars 2022: Who will win and who should win

Will this year not disappoint for once? Maybe!

Brad Keefe
"CODA"

I have a long love-hate relationship with the Academy Awards that probably started when I was a young movie nerd, recently blown away by “Pulp Fiction.” It was, in my mindset at the time, one of the boldest, liveliest and best movies in years, if not decades. And then it got beat for the Best Picture Oscar by… “Forrest Gump.”

So, yes, the Academy Awards are voted on by members of the industry, and they’re often an exercise in self-congratulation that has frequently gotten things wrong.

But in a year when the moviegoing experience is still far from normal, the hype around the ceremony feels low. Plus, the Oscar boost didn’t seem to do much for nominated films, so what’s there to lose?

Here are my predictions for who will win the major categories on Sunday, along with who I think really should take home the Oscar.

Best Picture

“Belfast”

“CODA”

“Don’t Look Up”

“Drive My Car”

“Dune”

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“Nightmare Alley”

“The Power of the Dog”

“West Side Story”

Will win: If you’d asked me when the nominations came out, I would have considered this a pretty likely win for “The Power of the Dog,” a result with which I would be completely happy. Fantastic movie. But a funny thing has happened, and my favorite movie of 2021 is suddenly making a late surge? I may be listening to my heart more than my head, but I’m calling this for “CODA.”

Should win: The reason I wouldn’t have considered “CODA” a frontrunner? It’s just too good and too crowd-pleasing to feel like a stuffy, serious Oscar contender. It honestly would feel at home on the Hallmark Channel, but it’s so well acted, directed and executed that nothing will make me happier than it winning the highest honor. We need more movies like “CODA.”

Best Director

Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”

Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”

Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Will win: Campion is the first woman to receive two nominations in this category. Only seven have ever been nominated. Yes, that’s ridiculous. This is also probably the biggest lock of the night.

Should win: And even against this field, Campion absolutely deserves this one. “Dog” is a triumph all around, from the performances to the cinematography. But this is also a case where the person in the director’s chair is truly responsible for the vision on the screen.

Best Actor

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”

Will win: “King Richard” was a surprisingly effective sports movie, and the anchoring performance from Smith was also one of his best, even it wasn’t much of a stretch for him.

Should win: As another perpetual contender, I was genuinely shocked that Denzel didn’t wow more as Macbeth in a performance that seemed a bit phoned-in for his talent level. Cumberbatch, on the other hand, gave a career-best performance, and it wasn’t even close.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”

Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”

Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Will win: Here’s another category that felt wide-open when nominees were announced but now has a clear front-runner with Chastain’s performance as the wife of a fallen televangelist.

Should win: And if you know anything about Tammy Faye (seek out the excellent documentary the film was based on), you know it’s an amazing performance, spot-on but never a caricature. The movie itself has flaws, but it’s hard to find many in the performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”

Troy Kotsur, “CODA”

Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”

J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”

Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Will win: Koster was one of three deaf actors cast to portray the family at the heart of “CODA,” and he’s likely to join castmate Marlee Matlin (somehow not nominated) as an Oscar winner. Every award this movie wins is going to make me happy.

Should win: He’s not helped much by having a castmate nominated in the same category (both deserved), but Smit-McPhee was an impressive and integral part of the slow burning “Dog.”

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”

Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”

Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”

Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”

Will win: DeBose stepped into the role Rita Moreno owned in the original screen adaptation of “West Side Story” and didn’t miss a step. She wows every moment she’s onscreen, and the former “Hamilton” cast member will land an Oscar before a Tony.

Should win: I’ll say again, all four primary performances in “The Power of the Dog” deserve wins, but it’s hard to argue Dunst over DeBose here.

Original Screenplay

“Belfast”

“Don’t Look Up”

“King Richard”

“Licorice Pizza”

“The Worst Person in the World”

Will win: I often consider this category one of the true reflections of the best film in a given year (“Pulp Fiction” won, by the way). Slight edge to Paul Thomas Anderson for his wildly original “Licorice Pizza” (my favorite of these movies by far) over "Belfast." There’s also a chance that one of the worst (or at least most disappointing) movies of the year will win if the Academy wants to reward the awful and misguided smugness of “Don’t Look Up,” with its ham-fisted climate change allegory.

Should win: I would be thrilled with “Licorice Pizza” and disgusted with “Don’t Look Up,” but if it isn’t Anderson, I’d be pleasantly surprised to see “The Worst Person in the World” honored.

Adapted Screenplay

“CODA”

“Drive My Car”

“Dune”

“The Lost Daughter”

“The Power of the Dog”

Will win: This is another category likely to come down to the two Best Picture frontrunners, but it seems likely that the more traditionally serious “Dog” will have its day.

Should win: Once again, I think the big-hearted sweetness and humor of “CODA” should be lauded here.

Animated Feature

“Encanto”

“Flee”

“Luca”

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”

“Raya and the Last Dragon”

Will win: We don’t talk about Bruno, but we can talk about how tough it will be for any of these to upset the Disney powerhouse “Encanto.”

Should win: Against four traditional family animated films, it seems unlikely, but the animated documentary “Flee” (also nominated for Documentary Feature) would be the bold choice here.