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Oscars 2022 Predictions: The Most Likely Winners In The Major Academy Awards Categories

Oscar statuettes
(Image credit: MPAA)

We’re just days away from the Oscars. After a really long awards season, some categories have seen a really clear frontrunner emerge, while others still have a few nominees with a respectable chance of winning. That’s typically the story most years at the 2022 Academy Awards. All the precursor shows collectively work together to forecast what’s ahead. A small number of really strong candidates dominate everything in certain categories, and in the rest, it’s a bunch of noise that may or may not seem to point more in one direction than the others.

So, let’s break down the major categories. Let’s talk about who is likely to win, and if there are any other candidates, who could play spoiler. I’ll just touch on the more famous categories, and I’ll leave the predictions in most of the below-the-line categories to people who do this professionally.

Best Picture

There are a lot of movies that are, in theory, still in play here. For awhile, it seemed like The Power Of The Dog would run away with things and be a clear frontrunner, but as often happens in Best Picture, people who weren’t content with that choice started amassing around an alternative. The strongest of those seems to be Coda. The Producers Guild and Writers Guild both recently honored it, and there’s a lot of good buzz and momentum. It could play spoiler, as could Belfast, which is still lingering as an early frontrunner that has many crowd-pleasing elements. 

I tend to think Power Of The Dog will hold on here and win, but I really have no idea. This is one of the closest categories, and anything can still happen. Forced to choose, though, I like Power Of The Dog in a close one over Belfast. We’ll see.

Best Director

Power Of The Dog’s Jane Campion has been the frontrunner for most of the awards season, but with her movie seemingly losing momentum and some backlash against her acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Awards, there may be space here for someone else to come in and play spoiler. The most likely spoilers would be either Steven Spielberg, given how much the Academy loves him and how much people liked some of the changes he made to West Side Story, and Kenneth Branagh, given how lovely and personal of a film Belfast is.

I don’t expect PT Anderson or Ryusuke Hamaguchi to play a huge role, as neither Licorice Pizza nor Drive My Car, seems to have connected with as wide of a range of voters, but both obviously made terrific movies and are still in play given there are only five nominees. In the end, I think Jane Campion holds on, but I would expect voting will be a lot closer than anyone would have thought a month or two ago.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain has definitely emerged as the frontrunner here. She won the SAG award, as well as the Critic’s Choice. Early in the season, there was a lot of good will and Twitter momentum around Kristen Stewart for her incredible work in Spencer, but for whatever reason, that never really translated into wins. She even missed out on a nomination entirely at the SAG Awards. You could certainly make a case that Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman as former Oscar winners are, of course, in play, but I think anyone other than Chastain would be a big surprise.

We’ll likely never know how close voting is in this category, but I expect this category, on the whole, won’t be super close or competitive. I like Chastain with a comfortable victory here.

Best Actor

Will Smith has been rolling for most of the awards season. He picked up the Critics Choice, the Golden Globe, the SAG trophy and even the BAFTA. He’s a heavy favorite to take home the Oscar, which would be his first win after two prior nominations for Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness. He’s also in a little bit of a better position than Chastain in that King Richard was more heralded across the board than The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, which has mostly gotten love just for Chastain and below the line categories. King Richard also picked up a Best Picture nomination, as well as ones for screenplay and supporting actress. 

I think there’s also just a lot of collective goodwill around Will Smith. Given how long he’s been topping popular movies and turning in good performances, I suspect many voters probably feel it’s his time. That doesn’t always mean someone is going to win. Plenty of great actors never got their moment, but given his strong performance in the precursors, I think this is his year.

Best Supporting Actress

Like the actors above, Ariana DeBose has been rolling throughout the awards season. She was honored at the BAFTAs, the SAG awards, the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards. I think she also represents a great way for voters to honor West Side Story who really liked the movie but perhaps not enough to give it a vote for Best Picture or Best Director. She’s definitely the prohibitive favorite here, and it would be, I think, the biggest shock of any acting category if she were to lose. 

Gold Derby has Kirsten Dunst in second place in their rankings. I think in order to see her win, it would need to be an incredibly strong night for Power Of The Dog. I think we would need to see that movie roll in almost every category it’s nominated for, but given that’s within the realm of possibilities, I think she is in play as an unlikely but still possible spoiler. Absent that, expect DeBose to win comfortably.

Best Supporting Actor

Coda star Troy Kotsur has definitely emerged as the frontrunner here, but he will likely see some competition from Kodi Smit-McPhee. Kotsur took home the BAFTA, the SAG and the Critic’s Choice, but he lost the Golden Globe to Smit-McPhee. Obviously that ceremony has lost a lot of its luster given all the recent scandals, but at the time, Smit-McPhee’s victory seemed like a potential harbinger of things to come. He looked really strong out of the gate and was considered a likely frontrunner.

As Power Of The Dog’s frontrunner status has become less pronounced, however, Kotsur has emerged to the surprise of many as the likely Supporting Actor winner. I think a Smit-McPhee victory would be less surprising than a Dunst win, as an example, but if it happens, it’ll still be a really good sign for Power Of The Dog’s Best Picture chances. 

Best Original Screenplay

I have no idea what’s going on in this category. For awhile, it seemed like a horse race between PT Anderson and Kenneth Branagh. The former won at the BAFTAs. The latter won at the Globes and the Critics Choice Awards. It was really kind of a pick your favorite situation, but then Adam McKay came out of nowhere and won for Don't Look Up at the WGAs in a pretty surprising upset over PT Anderson (Branagh wasn't nominated for complicated union reasons). So, who knows where we’re at? Both Branagh and Anderson have been nominated a ton of times without any victories; so, it would be nice to see either win, but that doesn’t mean voters will vote based on those feelings.

I think PT Anderson will probably take home the Oscar, but this is right up there with Best Picture in terms of the categories lacking a clear consensus.  That makes it a lot more fun, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Branagh won. I think McKay is a bit more of a longshot, but he’s certainly still in play too.

Best Adapted Screenplay

It’s hard to bet against Sian Heder for Coda here. She wasn’t nominated at the Golden Globes and lost at the Critics Choice Awards to Jane Campion, but Coda is just coming on so strong right now. She recently won at the WGAs and has emerged as a heavy favorite on Gold Derby. I wouldn’t count Campion out, even after her poorly received speech. There is still a lot of love and appreciation for Power Of The Dog. Her screenplay for The Piano won back in the '90s, and Oscar voters often like who they like.

Still though, I’ll pick Heder. I think this may be a category, other than Supporting Actor, where people who aren’t voting for Coda for Best Picture will want to honor the movie. I think the momentum is here. That being said, would I bet large sums of money? No. I really have no idea what’s going to happen in either screenplay category, and that’s very exciting. 

You can tune into the Academy Awards this Sunday at 8 ET. You can catch it on ABC, ABC's website or Hulu Live.

Mack Rawden
Mack Rawden

Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, the NBA and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.