The 2022 Oscar Race Has Begun. Here’s Who Is Already Ahead.

After the fall film festivals, several major contenders have emerged, including “Belfast,” “King Richard” and “The Power of the Dog.”

Can it still be called Oscar season if it goes on all year?

The Covid-19 pandemic extended the final awards race to the end of April 2021, with the longest Oscar season in recent memory followed by the shortest off-season ever. Suffice it to say that as the cards change colors and talk of the prizes begins anew, your loyal projectionist is a little less than refreshed, though at least he’s got to see another season held primarily on Zoom. No need to sit through. (Okay, let’s hope so.)

In any case, July has already seen a solid majority of films and performances at Cannes, as well as a pass of Fall Fest in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York. Which claimants have people spoken to? Here are my guesses for the major races so far.

Best Picture and Best Director

Coming out of the fall film festivals, three films have established themselves as significant contenders. Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” is one of the best, winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, a populist bellwether previously hailed by best-pictures such as “Nomadland,” “Green Book” and “12 Years a Slave.” was taken. “Belfast,” the black-and-white story of an Irish family trying to stay together amid the troubles of the 1960s, is a crowd-pleaser of your parents as well as a swarm of Oscar voters.

Telluride launched another major contender with “King Richard,” which stars Will Smith as the larger-than-life father to Venus and Serena Williams. It’s a stellar performance that leverages every aspect of the charisma and ambition that made him a superstar. He’ll be a formidable best-actor front-runner, but the film should struggle across the board: Expect awards for its supporting performances as well as a powerful original song from Beyoncé.

And then there’s “The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion’s first film in more than a decade and the potential to be an Oscar player on the level of 1993’s success, “The Piano.” No woman has been nominated for best director more than once, but Campion seems like a sure shot with this psychological drama about a ruthless rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is his brother’s new wife (Kirsten). Dunst) tries to destroy.

With 10 best-picture nominees guaranteed, we should see an eclectic run. The science-fiction adaptation “Dune” is a craft achievement of the highest order, but can it break into the top two Oscar categories? After this past season was dominated by smaller budget contenders, voters may be eager to include a blockbuster, though there are still plenty of intimate films in the mix, like Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama “A Hero,” by Peter Dinklage. “Cyrano” and “Spencer” with Kristen Stewart as the musical Princess Diana.

As always, expect streaming services to spend a sizable amount. In addition to “The Power of the Dog,” Netflix will feature Italian coming-of-age drama “The Hand of God,” while Apple has Joel Coen’s rag-roaring “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and “CODA” a Sundance release. The sensation that will need to be relaunched on stage after a low-ranging summer start.

Still to be seen: Three year-end films are helmed by previous Best-Director winners, so a big shake-up may be in store: Steven Spielberg, with a new take on ‘West Side Story’ , Guillermo del Toro, is directing the shiny noir “Nightmare Alley,” and Chloe Zhao, who makes the leap from “Nomad” to “Eternal” in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s a very powerful trio, about a group of other Oscar-nominated stalwarts like Paul Thomas Anderson (with the coming-of-age drama “Licorice Pizza”), Ridley Scott (with twice thanks to the medieval drama) Nothing to say. Last Duel” and the upcoming “House of Gucci”), Adam McKay (with the environmental satire “Don’t Look Up”) and Aaron Sorkin (a writing winner who could run for Best-Director for “Being the Ricardos”) About Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz).
best Actor

Will Smith and Denzel Washington went toe-to-toe at the Oscars once, when Smith’s performance in “Ali” lost to Volcano Washington in “Training Day”. This season offers plenty of rematches, as Washington’s expert work in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” may be the only real threat to Smith to win his first Academy Award for “King Richard.”

Cumberbatch and Dinklage could occupy two other places here, but I’m curious whether Joaquin Phoenix will nominate for the charming “Let’s Walk,” in which he plays a normal man taking care of his nephew. It’s Phoenix’s follow-up to the Oscar-winning “Joker,” but the last time he played someone this warm and grounded in Spike Jonze’s “Everybody,” voters ignored him. (They like their phoenix with bright feathers.)

Additional best-actor nominees include child star Jude Hill in “Belfast”, Nicolas Cage for an acclaimed turn in “Pig”, the Lin-Manuel Miranda musical “Tick, Tick… Boom!” Andrew Garfield in an all-in. And many indie leading men are hoping to catch the Oscars eye, including Simon Rex as the washed-up porn star in Sean Baker’s “Red Rocket,” Cannes Best Actor winner Caleb Landry Jones in the gun-genocide drama “Nitram.” And longtime support player Clifton Collins Jr., playing the lead role in the horse racing movie “Jockey”.

Still to watch: Leonardo DiCaprio is going full schtick as an out-of-depth astronomer in “Don’t Look Up” at Netflix, while Apple has a slew of plays starring two-time Oscar winners. The pair is accompanied by Tom Hanks sci-fi vehicle “Finch” and Mahershala Ali in the cloning parable “Swan Song”.

Best Actress

Two of the previous three Best-Actress winners are back in the race, replacing Olivia Colman as a conflicted mother in “The Lost Daughter” and Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth in “The Tragedy of Macbeth”. Considered. (Although if you want to get technical, they are two of the final four best-actress winners, as McDormand took that trophy twice in the last four games.)

Her competition included two other Oscar winners, Jennifer Hudson (“The Honor”) and Penelope Cruz (a Best-Actress winner in Venice for Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers”), as well as two-time nominee Jessica Chastain, who was nominated for a Best Actress Award in Venice. will be interrupted. By so much reception of her biopic “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”. But there are many more women who could get their first nominations, including Kristen Stewart for “Spencer,” Caitriona Balfe as the matriarch of “Belfast,” Tessa Thompson in the race drama “Passing,” and Cannes best-actress winner Renate Reinsway. can. “Worst person in the world” in a totally engaging relationship.
Still to watch: Watch out for some of the Oscar-winning heavyweights who could make this category a real race, including Jennifer Lawrence (A Disappointed Astronomer in “Don’t Look Up”), Nicole Kidman (Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos”) as) are included. ), Sandra Bullock (in the ex-con drama “The Unforgivable”), Halle Berry (as a mixed martial arts fighter in “Bruised”, which she also directed), and Cate Blanchett, co-head of “Nightmare Alley” .

After winning the Best-Song Oscar for “A Star Is Born”, Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”) may also run for the award, but she has to stop fellow songwriter Rachel Ziegler in “West Side Story”. Will happen. ” and “Licorice Pizza” lead by Alana Haim, better known as a trio of sister band Haim.

Best Supporting Actor

Who wants this? The category is currently devoid of a heavyweight contender, meaning it could remain wide open throughout the season unless there’s a year-end performance to crash the party.

But even if no one in this group has a role that automatically sucks up trophies, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The biggest best-picture vehicles of the year include Jon Bernthal as a tennis coach in “King Richard,” Cody Smit-McPhee and Jamie Dornan and Ciaran Hinds as Dunst’s crafty son in “The Power of the Dog.” As does the great supporting performance. The men of the family in “Belfast”.

If Apple manages to revive “CODA” as a competitor, don’t count Troy Kotsur, whose performance as a deaf fisherman gives the film all its emotional wallop. And speaking of resurgence, in the year that gave us another round of the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez romance, Affleck won the Oscar for his delicious work in Good Grace as an arrogant count in “The Last Duel” and a thoughtful bartender. as can come back. In “The Tender Bar” directed by George Clooney.

There’s still more to see: Oscar favorites Sean Penn and Bradley Cooper have supporting roles in “Licorice Pizza,” and Cooper may be the most spectacular, based on the trailer. But the supporting parts don’t get much more appealing than those of Jared Leto in “House of Gucci”: As in Paolo Gucci, he’s buried in prosthetics that make him bald, overweight, and spotty. Oscar voters love a transformative performance, though the bald, overweight, and spotty character actor may be annoyed by Leto’s handsome-boy addition to his ranks.

Best Supporting Actress

I saw “Passing” at the Sundance Film Festival in January, but I’m still thinking about Ruth Negga’s sly, sly work of a black woman passing as white. She’s sensational, and five years after Negga won her Oscar nomination for “Loving,” she’s ready to turn voters’ heads once again.

Expect long-overdue awards for a heartwarming Kirsten Dunst in “The Power of the Dog” who will be pitted against the likes of Ajnew Ellis as Will Smith’s wife in “King Richard,” The Tragedy. Witch Catherine Hunter in “Of the Tragedy”. Macbeth,” the school-shooting drama “Mass,” and “In the Heights” for “In the Heights” (if that musical manages to catch a second wind). But the two prized Oscar winners also have to be totally in the running. Should: Judi Dench as the attentive grandmother in “Belfast” and Marlee Matlin as an unconventional mom in “Coda.”

Still to watch: Anita’s role in “West Side Story” won Rita Moreno an Oscar. Could it do the same for Ariana DeBos, who takes part in Spielberg’s version, or will Moreno, 89, struggle again, this time with a new supporting role in the story as shopkeeper Valentina?

Two former supporting-actress nominees are in the all-star cast of “Nightmare Alley,” Toni Collette and Rooney Mara. But there’s an even more star-studded ensemble in “Don’t Look Up” with Meryl Streep playing the president. After 21 nominations, it’s clear the Academy has no desire to put term limits on Streep, so if she scores in the role, expect a spirited primary to come.

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