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The 94th Annual Academy Awards are Sunday, and that means it's time to name the best of the best of the past year in film. While not quite as chaotic as last year's pandemic-altered releases, this year still offered an interesting mix of theatrical blockbusters, acclaimed streamers and some combination of the two (thanks, HBO Max!).
The top films of the year span the cinematic spectrum as well, including a Western, a musical, a star-studded satire, a horror-noir, a Japanese road film and a handful of heartfelt family dramas, leaving voters with some big decisions to make when it comes to the Academy's biggest prizes.
So, who will win? Here are ET's predictions for the 2022 Oscars, based on who's been winning with the guilds, the BAFTAs and other precursor awards shows, as well as the ebb and flow of recent film trends. While awards season is doing its best to return to normal this year, there's no telling exactly how the ever-changing favors of Academy voters may shake out -- but here's some of our best guesses.
The nominees are:
Don't Look Up
Drive My Car
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Who should win: CODA
Who will win: The Power of the Dog
It's fitting that this year's Oscars ceremony -- once again delayed, though not as late as last year -- is taking place in the middle of the NCAA March Madness tournament, because the Best Picture category has turned into a bit of a Cinderella story. Jane Campion's tough-worn Western drama has seemed to be the one-seed from the start, with powerful acting, stunning cinematography, and a great story in Campion's triumphant return to the Oscars after nearly 30 years. The first woman ever to be nominated for Best Director twice, the New Zealand-born filmmaker is likely to secure several of the night's biggest prizes, including Best Picture, for her adaptation of Thomas Savage's 1967 novel about grief, jealousy and sexuality on an early 1900s Montana ranch, which has already been lauded by the BAFTAs, Critics Choice Awards and Golden Globes -- basically, everyone but Sam Elliott.
But if there's an upset brewing here, it's likely to be CODA. Director Sian Heder's Sundance darling -- a coming-of-age story about a child of deaf adults learning to balance her family's livelihood with her own aspirations -- has garnered big wins for supporting star Troy Kotsur and even a well-deserved trophy for Outstanding Cast at the recent SAG Awards. Ultimately, given the breakthrough performances and moving storytelling, I wouldn't be shocked to see the film make history on Hollywood's biggest night.
Actor in a Leading Role
The nominees are:
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
Who should win: Andrew Garfield
Who will win: Will Smith
Of the three deservedly-nominated biopic performances in the category this year -- the third, obviously, being Bardem, who deserves his own shine for his portrayal of Desi Arnaz -- it's Garfield who I think was tasked with the biggest challenge, and soared even higher above it with his portrayal of Rent scribe Jonathan Larson. (Not for nothing, it was his first professional singing performance ever.)
However, the category is likely game, set and match for Smith, who has already racked up the BAFTA, Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG Award wins for his performance as Richard Williams, the eminently determined father of tennis legends Venus and Serena. Smith's performance in King Richard makes it clear how much the role means to him, and he'll finally get his golden statuette for pulling off the near-impossible: making a moving sports film about the guy cheering from the stands.
Actress in a Leading Role
The nominees are:
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart, Spencer
Who should win: Kristen Stewart
Who will win: Jessica Chastain
Probably the acting category that's seen the biggest shift as awards season has progressed, Lead Actress seemed a lock for Nicole Kidman early on. (And I still wouldn't put it past the Academy members to award her again, on the 20th anniversary of her win for The Hours.) Then, the tide seemed to shift toward Stewart, who transformed every bit of her trademark nonchalance into the tremulous anxiety of Diana, Princess of Wales, for a career-making performance in Spencer that I still think is being underappreciated.
But now it's Chastain who has the momentum heading into Oscars night, fresh off wins at the SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards. If the Academy Awards play out in the same way, it would certainly be a deserved win, both for Chastain's blissfully committed portrayal, eye-popping transformation and passion for the performance -- the actress acquired Tammy Faye Bakker's life rights a decade ago, in preparation to play the controversial televangelist, and pulled it off with aplomb.
Actor in a Supporting Role
The nominees are:
Ciarán Hinds, Belfast
Troy Kostur, CODA
Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog
J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog
Who should win: Troy Kotsur
Who will win: Troy Kotsur
This is another category that saw some shifting at the start of awards season, but seems to have settled by Oscars week. Kodi Smit-McPhee's spellbinding turn as a devoted son in The Power of the Dog was the early frontrunner, earning the Aussie actor a Golden Globe Award, and Ciarán Hinds would be a worthy winner for his portrayal of Belfast's kindly, mischievous granddad.
The category seems to be Kotsur's to lose, however -- and I don't think he will. The Deaf West alum's performance as a struggling fisherman and devoted father in CODA has been an awards season revelation, and a groundbreaking moment for deaf performers. He's already made Oscars history as the first deaf man nominated for an Academy Award for acting, and it feels like all but a lock that Kotsur will make some more on Oscars night. In a bit of serendipity, he'll follow in co-star Marlee Matlin's footsteps as the second deaf actor to earn a win from the Academy.
Actress in a Supporting Role
The nominees are:
Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter
Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
Judi Dench, Belfast
Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard
Who should win: Ariana DeBose
Who will win: Ariana DeBose
It would be fun to be able to speculate on this category. To laud the way Kirsten Dunst has built a lifelong resume of stunningly complicated performances, to break down the way Aunjanue Ellis steals every one of her King Richard scenes with a controlled, compelling confidence, to reminisce about the way the legendary Dame Judi Dench breaks your heart at the end of Belfast or to praise the Academy for finally giving Jessie Buckley some of the shine she deserves.
However, this category belongs to DeBose, and it did the second Steven Spielberg named her as his Anita. With her dance background, there was no question that the triple-threat would be able to perform the role, but the comedic timing and magnitude of emotion she brings to every moment onscreen showcases once again why Anita is the beating heart of West Side Story. It was an award-winning role for Rita Moreno back in 1961 and it will be once again for DeBose come Oscars night.
The nominees are:
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
Who should win: Steven Spielberg
Who will win: Jane Campion
No one reading this article needs to be told that Spielberg is a great director. The celebrated filmmaker is already vying for a spot on the Mount Rushmore of American film, if not engraved there already, and he has eight Best Director nominations and two wins to prove it. However, West Side Story is like no Spielberg film we've seen before. The way the visionary director crafted complicated dance sequences and heartbreaking, moonlit moments for his handpicked cast of show-stopping talent deserves every bit of praise, even if it feels like overkill at this point in his career.
Of course, Campion "should" win, as well, and she will. The celebrated director and screenwriter constructed a visceral cinematic atmosphere in The Power of the Dog -- shooting mid-pandemic, no less, which Spielberg did not. From adapting the long-optioned novel herself to lengthy storyboarding sessions with cinematographer Ari Wegner, the director poured her heart into her film's complicated psychology, and it shows in the performances she got from her celebrated cast. Almost 30 years after The Piano, Campion will make her return to the Oscars, and this time, she'll leave with a Best Director statuette.
The 2022 Oscars -- hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer and Wanda Sykes -- air live on Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC. In the meantime, stay tuned to ETonline.com for complete Oscars coverage.