No, I am not trying to guarantee this will help you win your Oscar party betting pool or whatever. This is just one film cricket’s best guesses, with a little hedging of the bets in the form of a second place guess in some categories, and highly tainted by emotion in others (such as any of the three nominations for The Tragedy of Macbeth, my personal favorite movie of 2022). For entertainment purposes only, people!
BEST PICTURE: It’s really down to two of the ten, most likely, the crowd-pleasing CODA or the infinitely more challenging and masterful The Power of the Dog. My preference is for Dog, obviously, my close second favorite of the year after Macbeth. CODA has some beautiful moments, and some very funny ones, but it is also full of cliches and mediocrity in nearly every scene that doesn’t feature Troy Kotsur. It is a pleasant and enjoyable time at the movies, but Dog is a masterpiece, and I have to root for it.
BEST DIRECTOR: Even if I am disappointed in my prediction for Best Picture, Power of the Dog director Jane Campion is a lock for this one, as CODA director Sian Heder is not nominated. It could, of course, always go to a wild card like Paul Thomas Anderson or Steven Spielberg (in what world is either of them a wild card for Best Director???), but my money is strongly on Campion for this one.
BEST ACTOR: Though this is the first of three nominations for my beloved Macbeth, Denzel has already won twice before and, for sheer intensity and emotional resonance, I would have to vote for Benedict Cumberbatch’s blistering turn as Phil in The Power of the Dog. This is not about how I would hypothetically vote, though, and Will Smith is the smart bet here for his excellent work in King Richard, which really helped to elevate that movie well beyond the average sports drama or biopic. If Smith doesn’t win this, I’ll eat Phil’s grimy old cowboy hat.
BEST ACTRESS: The Academy loves actors playing real-life famous people, and while there were few more famous in her time than Princess Diana, there were also few more grotesquely ubiquitous in the public eye than Tammy Faye Bakker, and the one thing Academy voters in the acting categories seem to love even better than actors playing famous people is actors going through grotesque physical transformations to play famous people (see also Charlize Theron in Monster, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, etc.) Jessica Chastain goes through decades worth of these grotesque transformations in The Eyes of Tammy Faye and is the surest bet for this category.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: On the other hand, sometimes a performance is just a goddamn undeniable delight, a real scene-stealer that elevates the whole movie, even beyond the scenes in which they appear. Troy Kotsur is that scene-stealer in CODA, a performance that is not only the funniest part of the movie but also helps to provide the most moving one as well, when Kotsur’s Frank Rossi finally “hears” his daughter sing. I’m choking up a bit just thinking about it, and I don’t even love the movie! Kotsur for the win, all the way.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: The movie musical has a strong showing this year, despite the surprising lack of nominations for In the Heights (don’t feel bad for Lin-Manuel “Encanto and tick, tick… BOOM! also came out in 2021″ Miranda, though, he’s doing just fine at the Oscars so far), and none was grander than Spielberg’s West Side Story. Ariana DeBose steps comfortably into the role of Anita, originated onscreen by previous winner Rita Moreno, and with the quadruple threat of singing, dancing, acting, and being a fresh new face absolutely crushing a Hollywood legacy role, she is the best bet here.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: This is the category where the strangest, most challenging movies up for Best Picture but highly unlikely to win that top prize often get a chance to shine (past examples ranging from Pulp Fiction to Get Out to last year’s Promising Young Woman come to mind). Paul Thomas Anderson has been nominated in this category twice before, for the modern classics Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and his Licorice Pizza screenplay, as wildly original and unique as it is, feels like a good bet here. Second most likely: Adam McKay’s critically reviled but crowd-pleasing Don’t Look Up.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Once again, this feels like a race between The Power of the Dog and CODA, and if it goes to the latter, that would be almost as big a shame as CODA winning Best Picture. I really don’t mean to shit all over CODA here, but man, if The Power of the Dog doesn’t get its due, Hollywood really isn’t ready for gay cowboys.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: While I personally prefer Flee and The Mitchells vs. the Machines (and Luca, too, really), Disney most likely has this one locked down with the colorful, imaginative, and emotionally resonant Encanto.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Even if it wasn’t one of the absolute best movies of the year, Summer of Soul would be the best bet for this one by virtue of being a music documentary alone. Seriously, check out a list of the winners in this category; music movies consistently kill it. Questlove’s debut film is so much more than a music movie, though, and much as I love Flee (which deserves some special recognition for being nominated for three different kinds of “Best Feature”), Summer of Soul is the one I would vote for, too.
BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE: If I could I would wholeheartedly give at least this award to Flee, but the smart money is on either the high-minded but accessible charms of The Worst Person in the World or the infinitely slower and more challenging Drive My Car. The latter is a testament to my inadequacies as a film cricket; sure, I’m cultured enough to watch the three-hour subtitled art film in which the most exciting scene is two people talking in the backseat of a car, but am I cultured enough to actually enjoy it? I am not, in this case. Still, actual film critics adore Drive My Car, and it is the only one nominated for the top prize of Best Picture, so I’d bet on it despite my personal preferences.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: More than anywhere else on this list, it is a smart move to ignore my pick here if you actually want to win money or whatever. Dune is probably the smart choice here, as in most of the upcoming technical categories, but I cannot bear to bet against the most gorgeous, stunningly well-photographed movie of the year (The Tragedy of Macbeth) on the off-chance it might actually win.
BEST SCORE: Jonny Greenwood has a real shot here for his wonderful, evocative work on The Power of the Dog, and I would not mind at all being proven wrong when I bet instead on Hans Zimmer’s Dune score.
BEST SOUND: It might be unwise to bet against West Side Story in this category, but I think the space opera is going to clean up in these “lesser” categories, so I’m betting on Dune.
BEST EDITING: As I stated above, I am making the perhaps wrongheaded choice to bet on Dune in most technical categories, and this is another one of those. Second most likely: tick, tick… BOOM!
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dune has the most extravagant production design, though that element is also crucial to the appeal of Nightmare Alley, albeit in a slightly more subtle way than the full-on otherworldly vistas of Dune. However, neither of these made me gasp for breath at the sheer beauty of the combined power of photography and elaborate sets the way The Tragedy of Macbeth did, and I must bet with my heart again here.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: As with P.T. Anderson’s Phantom Thread several years ago, if there is a movie actually about costume design in this category, it’s probably a no-brainer for the win. Disney’s Cruella is this year’s no-brainer.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: C’mon. It’s gotta be The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Hard to believe the only one up for Best Picture won’t get this one. Dune.
[Note: I have not seen any of the shorts yet, so I will just be making guesses for the next three, without comment.]
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Robin Robin
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Queen of Basketball
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT: The Long Goodbye