Oscar predictions 2022
Best Lead Actor
I’ve always been pretty relaxed about Will Smith’s acting career. His presence in a film neither entices nor deters me from seeing it. I’ve enjoyed his charismatic turns in films like Men in Black. I think he gave his all in Ali in trying to capture the essence of a colossal figure like Muhammad Ali. I like that at the height of his fame he kept his fans happy with crowd pleasing blockbusters but also quietly sought to expand his repertoire with more challenging roles.
But it is with his extraordinary performance in King Richard that Smith has finally blown me away. He will, I predict, win his first best actor Oscar for the role on Sunday and it will be very well deserved. His nearest rival is Benedict Cumberbatch for The power of the dog. Cumberbatch is hugely impressive in the role of a sexually and emotionally repressed cowboy and thoroughly deserves his nomination. However, he hasn’t won any of the big awards in the lead up to the Oscars and he is unlikely to spring a surprise at the last minute.
Will Smith has made a lot of money for Hollywood and this win will be as much a stellar career award, as for King Richard. But, on this one performance, you can forget the ebullient rapper shake, shaking the room, the fresh Prince of Bel air, the man in black sunglasses, the wisecracking leading man who was always bigger than the characters he portrayed.
This is middle-aged Will Smith embodying a lifetime of hurt, pathos, dreams and ambitions of a man (Richard Williams, the father of tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams)who was only ever meant to be one of life’s also-rans. He gives Williams dignity, grit and a never give up swagger that is utterly convincing.
Otherwise, Javier Bardem is the also ran in this category, Andrew Garfield would be a fan favourite to win but won’t and Denzel Washington phoned in his performance as Macbeth, in my opinion.
Best Lead Actress
Jessica Chastain is an actress in the vein of Julianne Moore. Hard-working, well regarded in the industry, always seeking to challenge herself with demanding roles and while a glamorous presence on the red carpet when she needs to be, generally a low key figure in the Hollywood world. And like Julianne Moore she is likely to win her first best actress Oscar for a small film, in this case The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
Chastain has done stellar work in big films like Interstellar and The Martian but is best known for compelling performances in smaller, critically acclaimed fare such as Zero Dark Thirty and Molly’s Game.
The eyes of Tammy Faye will mean more to American audiences than others, since Tammy Faye Bakker was one half of a television evangelist couple who held great sway with the christian Bible Belt areas of the USA until scandal and ill health finished them.
It’s a transformative performance; Chastain’s elegant bone structure becomes the canvas for the gaudy, extravagantly eye-lashed and tinny ‘glamour’ of Tammy who had a dream to sell her audience. But the greater transformation is in the subtle humanity Chastain gives Faye, making her a childlike innocent caught up in a deceptive and exploitative world that ultimately engulfed her.
A Kristen Stewart win, in this category, would blow up social media! Her fans, already in a frenzy over the nomination, would surely fall off the edge of sanity in the event of a win.
However, the fact that Stewart did not even get a SAG or Bafta nomination, coupled with the fact that many people dislike Spencer intensely, as a film, probably rules out Oscar success.
Some see Penelope Cruz as a dark horse potential winner but I can’t see it happening. Olivia Colman is always impressive but she’s a recent winner and this role doesn’t warrant a second Oscar while Nicole Kidman is keeping herself firmly in the running as the actress to watch for awards season no matter how small or badly received her film is.
Best supporting actress
Kirsten Dunst made one of the most remarkable debuts of any child actor when she played the devious and cruel vampire Claudia opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire. Since then she has worked steadily and effectively in a range of widely differing films from Spider-Man to Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
In The power of the dog, she is the quiet but compelling heart of a film that focuses on masculinity and male emotion. Her inclusion in awards season is long overdue and I would be very pleased if she won. I don’t think that will happen but I’m not ruling her out.
Similarly, I’d be pleased to see Aunjanue Ellis who plays Oracene Williams in King Richard win. Even when she is a quiet, supporting presence in the first half of the film, you can see the simmering tension building up in her. When it explodes in the second half, it’s a crowd cheering moment. I predicted Ellis to be in the running for best supporting actress awards, months ago. However, I don’t expect her to win.
Much as everyone loves Dame Judi Dench, her small role in Belfast did not warrant an Oscar nomination. Caitriona Balfe from the same film was robbed.
The momentum is very much with Ariana DeBose from West Side Story. I haven’t yet seen Spielberg’s new take on this classic, groundbreaking musical, so I can’t comment on her performance. But she has been winning the big awards so far and will probably take Oscar too.
Best supporting actor
Troy Kotsur took the Bafta and SAG for his work in Coda. He is the first deaf male actor to win either award and is probably on his way to his first Oscar too. If he does it, it will be a popular win for what has been a very popular film on the festival circuit.
Kodie Smit-McPhee and Jessie Plemons, both excellent in their respective roles, are likely to split the Power of the Dog vote. But don’t be shocked if Smit-McPhee scrapes a win. The depth and range he brought to his role has not gone unnoticed. It could be a Mark Rylance winning over Stallone moment. Ciaran Hinds would be a popular winner too but I can’t see it happening. Likewise, JK Simmonds is unlikely to take it for the divisive Being the Ricardos.
Two members of my family are putting their money on Kenneth Branagh to take best director for Belfast. So, I have to be careful here and whisper that it will go to Jane Campion. She won the DGA, which is pretty much a stepping stone to the Oscar, on the same night she won the BAFTA and there is a sense of, ‘it’s time’.
Her film The power of the dog has been extravagantly praised by superstar directors such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola’s and Ang Lee, so it’s hard to see Branagh overcoming that. In the current climate the Academy will be happy to recognise a female director for the second year running, a mature woman and frankly, one who has paid her dues. They are likely to feel that Branagh will produce something worthy of awards again in the future, maybe aShakespearean epic. Meanwhile, Campion has capped her signature visual style and big vista aesthetic with this sobering reflection on manhood and delicate, unobtrusive directing that only someone with her experience can manage.
Belfast would be the crowd-pleasing winner but the Oscar is likely to go to The Power of the Dog. The cinematography, the production design, the beautiful score, the outstanding performances, the subtle direction and the swelling, brooding, pent-up emotions of people living for the impression they can cast upon those around them, makes for an absorbing, if not thrilling epic. The film is outstandingly well crafted and will be a worthy winner if it takes the ultimate prize. However, never underestimate the power of a feel good ending. Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, his love letter to his parents, his childhood and his home city speaks to the hearts of many. If they vote en masse there could be a small upset.
A quick glance at a few other categories would show:
Best International feature film must be a tight run race between Drive my car and The worst person on the world. Drive my car, by a whisker.
Best Documentary feature: another tight race between Flee and Summer of soul with the latter prevailing.
Documentary (short subject) I predict a deserved win for Three songs for Benazir, a taut, coiled up spring of a film that tells the blighted history of Afghanistan in just 18 minutes through song, sparse but sobering dialogue, heart wrenching imagery and a story of a family that would make a powerful feature film.