Oscar Predictions 2022: ‘The Power of the Dog’ and ‘CODA’ Go Down to the Wire for Top Prize

In a messy year, here are TheWrap awards editor Steve Pond’s picks — including that ‘CODA’ vs. ‘The Power of the Dog’ showdown

oscar predictions

In between the canceled events, the COVID tests and the controversy over presenting eight awards before the Oscars live broadcast begins, a real battle has broken out at this year’s Academy Awards.  

In a race that will be up in the air until the final envelope is opened on March 27, two films by female directors are the likeliest Best Picture winners, with Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” and Sian Heder’s “CODA” separated by the narrowest of margins.

I might change my mind two or three times between now and Sunday, but at the moment here’s how I think it’ll play out: Campion wins Best Director and “CODA” takes the big one. Oh, and “Dune” wins the most awards overall – in fact, it might win more before the Oscars go on the air than anything wins during the live show.

Best Picture
“Don’t Look Up”
“Drive My Car”
“King Richard”
“Licorice Pizza”
“Nightmare Alley”
“The Power of the Dog”
“West Side Story”

“The Power of the Dog” has won at the Directors Guild and BAFTA and Critics Choice and Golden Globes – but all season long, I’ve had a feeling that “Power” would prove to be too austere and arty, that it wouldn’t have the broad support it needed to win under the preferential system that’s used to count votes in this category. But for months, nothing else showed that it could craft the consensus needed to beat “Power.”

In the homestretch, though, a legitimate challenger emerged: not “Belfast” or “King Richard,” both of which once seemed capable of amassing the kind of widespread support needed to win, but “CODA,” a surprise hit at Sundance in 2021 that was acquired by Apple and won the SAG ensemble award, the key Producers Guild Award and a Writers Guild Award.

“The Power of the Dog” will probably get a big boost from the international voters who may make up as much as a quarter of the Academy, while “CODA” is less divisive and can point to being a landmark in the depiction of deaf people on screen. (“Belfast” remains a outside possibility because it could be international votes and the support of older U.S. voters.)

The race seems almost too close to call, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that “Power” is closer to the films the Academy has crowned the last two years, “Parasite” and “Nomadland.” Still, “CODA” stayed under the radar for a full year after Sundance and now may be peaking at the right time.

Predicted winner: “CODA”

Jane Campion
Jane Campion with Benedict Cumberbatch on the set of “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

Even as the Best Picture category has sometimes remained a question mark, Best Director has had a clear front runner in most recent years. This year, the obvious favorite is Jane Campion, who seems likely to follow “Nomadland” director Chloé  Zhao and give the Oscars its first back-to-back female winners in a category that took 66 years to have its second female nominee (which, coincidentally, was Campion for “The Piano” in 1994). 

If there’s an upset brewing here, it would probably be Steven Spielberg, who hasn’t won since “Schindler’s List” in 1994 and is treated with near-adoration at every event. But even if “The Power of the Dog” doesn’t win Best Picture, there’s no real reason to look for an upset.

Predicted winner: Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”

Best Actor
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”

At one point, you could have made a case for Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Garfield or Will Smith as potential winners. But since Smith won at the SAG Awards, he’s been on a seemingly unstoppable run. If anybody is capable of a shocker like the one last year when Anthony Hopkins beat the late Chadwick Boseman, it’s Garfield — but the Hopkins victory was tipped off by his BAFTA win, and there’s nothing like that to suggest that Smith could lose.

Predicted winner: Will Smith

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”
Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers”
Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”
Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

After she received back-to-back nominations for 2011’s “The Help” and 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” it was clearly only a matter of time until Jessica Chastain won an Oscar — so it’s a shock to realize that “Tammy Faye” is her first nomination since then. The category seemed to be wide open until it got to the homestretch, but Chastain’s SAG and Critics Choice wins give her an edge. Still, Stewart has a good redemption story after being snubbed by SAG and BAFTA and you can’t discount the possibility of international voters rallying behind Cruz.

Predicted winner: Jessica Chastain

Best Supporting Actor
Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Both supporting categories once seemed competitive but now appear to have prohibitive favorites. Kodi Smit-McPhee started out as the presumed front runner for most of awards season, but Troy Kotsur has run up a string of wins that point toward him becoming the second deaf performer to ever win. “CODA is a widely admired and very likable film surging at the right time, and Kotsur is its surest winner.

Predicted winner: Troy Kotsur

Best Supporting Actress
Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”
Judi Dench, “Belfast”
Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”
Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”

Once thought to be a race between Kirsten Dunst for “Power of the Dog” and Caitriona Balfe for “Belfast,” this race took an unexpected turn when Balfe failed to land a nomination. And it began to shift dramatically at the SAG Awards, when Ariana DeBose won the first of what became a string of wins that has also included BAFTA and the Critics Choice Awards. She’s now the clear front runner, and most likely the sole “West Side Story” winner — although you shouldn’t rule out Aunjanue Ellis for the upset.

Predicted winner: Ariana DeBose

“CODA” (Apple)

Best Adapted Screenplay
“CODA,” Sian Heder
“Drive My Car,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
“Dune,” Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
“The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion

With three of the screenplays written by women, this is the most female-dominated lineup the category has seen since 1991. One of the three will almost certainly win – and while the winner once seemed likely to be Jane Campion, this is now a mirror of the Best Picture race between Campion and Sian Heder. On the heels of wins at BAFTA and the WGA (where Campion wasn’t eligible), Heder and “CODA” may have a slight edge in a category that could give an early clue as to who the night’s big winner will be.  

Predicted winner: “CODA”

Best Original Screenplay
“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh
“Don’t Look Up,” Adam McKay, David Sirota
“King Richard,” Zach Baylin
“Licorice Pizza,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Worst Person in the World,” Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

While a “King Richard” surge isn’t out of the question, this category appears to be a showdown between stories set in the areas where their two writer-directors grew up: Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” PTA’s film has more critical cachet and is more in keeping with edgier recent winners, but it suffered a surprising loss at the WGA, where “Belfast” wasn’t eligible. Anderson has now been nominated 11 times in four different categories, Branagh eight times in a record seven categories — and since this feels as if it’s a year in which the writing categories will be tied to the Best Picture race, we’ll give “Belfast” the slight edge.   

Predicted winner: “Belfast”

Best Cinematography
“Dune,” Greig Fraser
“Nightmare Alley,” Dan Laustsen
“The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner
“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Bruno Delbonnel
“West Side Story,” Janusz Kaminski

In a category full of astonishing work, the race seems to be between the beauty of “The Power of the Dog,” the most sweeping of the nominees, and the scale of “Dune,” the biggest. The American Society of Cinematographers went for “Dune” – but it’s hard to imagine that Best Director could end up being the only win out of the 12 nominations for “The Power of the Dog,” and Oscars voters could make history if “Power” cinematographer Ari Wegner becomes the first woman ever to win in the category.

Predicted winner: “The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner

Dune - Timothee Chalamet
“Dune” (Warner Bros.)

Best Film Editing
“Don’t Look Up”
“King Richard”
“The Power of the Dog”
“tick, tick…BOOM!”

Something strange happened in this category at the precursor awards: “Dune” didn’t always win. The sci-fi epic took this category at BAFTA, but it lost to “West Side Story” (which wasn’t even Oscar nominated!) at the Critics Choice Awards — and, most importantly, it was beaten by “King Richard” at the American Cinema Editors ACE Eddie Awards. “King Richard” is suddenly a very strong competitor, but “Dune” will probably win more awards than any other film on Oscar night, and this will be one of them.

Predicted winner: “Dune”

Best Costume Design
“Nightmare Alley”
“West Side Story”

Period dramas with lavish costumes have won about half the time in recent years, but fantasy and futuristic sci-fi have also taken home statues — in other words, just about every nominee can claim precedent. “Dune” will likely dominate the below-the-line categories, but in recent years voters have preferred to spread the love in those categories rather than give one film a sweep. And most of the precursor awards in this category have gone to “Cruella,” a movie that is all about fashion design.

Predicted winner: “Cruella”

Nightmare Alley
“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Production Design
“Nightmare Alley”
“The Power of the Dog”
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”
“West Side Story”

Once again, the world-building of “Dune” might be considered the favorite here, but voters in these sweep-averse days may settle for saluting that film in noisier categories like sound and visual effects. If they opt to go in a different direction here, they could easily turn to the noir pleasures of “Nightmare Alley,” which would be the third victory in this category for a Guillermo del Toro movie, after “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Shape of Water.”

Predicted winner: “Nightmare Alley”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“Coming 2 America”
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
“House of Gucci”

Three of the last four awards in this category have gone to artists who’ve turned an actor into another famous person, which this year means “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” (Or does it mean “House of Gucci,” even though the guy that Jared Leto plays isn’t all that famous?) While “Dune” casts a giant shadow over the below-the-line categories, the transformation of Jessica Chastain in “Tammy Faye” has taken most precursors, including the Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Awards.

Predicted winner: “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”

Best Original Score
“Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell
“Dune,” Hans Zimmer
“Encanto,” Germaine Franco
“Parallel Mothers,” Alberto Iglesias
“The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood

All season long, the two standouts have been Hans Zimmer’s massive “Dune” score and Jonny Greenwood’s unnerving one for “The Power of the Dog.” Zimmer has won almost all the early awards — but the big exception has been from the Society of Composers and Lyricists, who gave their award to Germaine Franco for “Encanto.” SCL has correctly predicted the winners in this category in both of its previous years – and while that win isn’t enough to make “Encanto” the front runner, it probably does make Franco the biggest competitor to Zimmer.

Predicted winner: “Dune,” Hans Zimmer

“No Time to Die” (MGM)

Best Original Song
“Be Alive” from “King Richard”
“Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto”
“Down to Joy” from “Belfast”
“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die”
“Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days”

If Sam Smith can win an Oscar for a very bad James Bond song, shouldn’t Billie Eilish be able to win one for a very good Bond song? Probably, although it doesn’t help that the single for “No Time to Die” was released more than two years ago (while the film’s release was being delayed because of COVID) and won a Grammy a year ago. And you definitely can’t discount some of that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” mojo rubbing off on “Dos Oruguitas,” the song that was nominated from the inescapable “Encanto” and the one that could complete the EGOT for the very well-liked Lin-Manuel Miranda. Beyoncé’s in the running, too, for her song from “King Richard,” but this feels like a battle between the Bond song (the last two of which have won) and the Disney song (many of which have won).

As for 13-time nominee Diane Warren, still looking for her first win, maybe she needs to write the next Bond or Disney song.

Predicted winner: “No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die”

Best Sound
“No Time to Die”
“The Power of the Dog”
“West Side Story”

There’s no nominee here with the word sound in its title, a sure path to victory. And in the absence of any contenders whose names suggest sound (“A Quiet Place Part II,” “tick, tick…BOOM!”), this seems a pretty safe bet for “Dune” — unless voters want to give Daniel Craig’s Bond films a nice parting gift or salute Andy Nelson and Gary Rydstrom, the two sound legends who worked on “West Side Story” (but whose names are not on the ballot).

Predicted winner: “Dune”

Best Visual Effects
“Free Guy”
“No Time to Die”
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”
“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

It’s pretty much a given that if there’s a Best Picture nominee in this category, it will win. Exception: 2015, when the (relatively) low-budget “Ex Machina” somehow beat “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian” and “The Revenant.” But that was really the only recent surprise here, and there’s no reason to think that “Dune” won’t uphold the status quo with ease — unless Oscar voters decide they simply must give something to the year’s only true blockbuster, “Spider-Man.”

Predicted winner: “Dune”

Drive My Car
“Drive My Car” (Sideshow/Janus Films)

Best International Feature Film
Bhutan, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”
Denmark, “Flee”
Italy, “The Hand of God”
Japan, “Drive My Car”
Norway, “The Worst Person in the World”

Under the old rules in this category, where voters had to see all five nominees in a theater in order to cast a ballot, there would have been a chance for “The Worst Person in the World” or even the ultimate sleeper, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom,” to score an upset. But under current, honor-system rules, and with “Drive My Car” also landing Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations, the suspense has seemingly gone out of this particular race. No doubt the most widely seen nominee despite its three-hour running time, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s adaptation of a Hayao Murakami short story has assumed the air of near-invincibility that “Parasite” and “Roma” have had in recent years.

Predicted winner: “Drive My Car”

Best Animated Feature
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines”
“Raya and the Last Dragon”

“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” has the most critics’ awards and “Flee” is something of a landmark, but every voter with kids is probably hearing “We Need to Talk About Bruno” and the other songs from “Encanto” every day. Plus, it’s a lot more common for voters in this category to go for Disney-style heart than for Lord-and-Miller frenzy, no matter how much fun the latter is. I’m not saying that “Mitchells” doesn’t have heart, and it was part of a (rather suspicious) Netflix sweep at the Annie Awards, but even that won’t make it the front runner.

Predicted winner: “Encanto”

Summer of Soul
“Summer of Soul” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Documentary Feature
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)”
“Writing With Fire”

If the early favorite in this category doesn’t get an early elimination the way “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” did in 2019, it usually wins — which is good news for “Summer of Soul,” which has been on a roll ever since it premiered last year at Sundance, won the audience and jury prizes and landed a record deal for a Sundance doc. This category may be the best chance for “Flee” to win one of its three nominations, and things can change quickly (hey, “My Octopus Teacher” came out of nowhere last year), but Questlove has a pretty good shot at taking us back to the early 2010s, when three music docs won in a four-year stretch.

Predicted winner: “Summer of Soul”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Lead Me Home”
“The Queen of Basketball”
“Three Songs for Benazir”
“When We Were Bullies”

Winners in this category typically feel both weighty and at least slightly redemptive, and “Three Songs for Benazir,” one of the three Netflix entries, has plenty of the former but not a lot of the latter. Still, that may fit the mood of these times, as could Netflix’s wrenching look at homelessness, “Lead Me Home.” The final Netflix film, “Audible,” could be seen as a way to join Troy Kotsur and “CODA” in celebrating deaf representation at this year’s Oscars through the story of a deaf football team. But you can’t rule out the other sports-themed movie, “The Queen of Basketball,” which is the most heartwarming entry and has NBA superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Steph Curry in its corner.

Predicted winner: “The Queen of Basketball”

Best Animated Short Film
“Affairs of the Art”
“Robin Robin”
“The Windshield Wiper”

For years, this award usually went to the most personal of the nominees, which was often a small movie – but with the last five winners being films distributed by Netflix, Sony Animation Studios and Pixar (twice), plus one produced by Kobe Bryant, a high profile is no longer a detriment in a category that was once a haven for indie animators. This year, “Robin Robin” could get Netflix its second win in the category and Aardman its fourth — if the drama and distinctive style of “The Windshield Wiper,” the self-deprecating humor of “Affairs of the Art” or the political import of “Bestia” don’t feel more personal to voters. In an unpredictable category, it feels like “Robin” vs. “Windshield,” and maybe a shift back to personal filmmaking.

Predicted winner: “The Windshield Wiper”

Best Live Action Short Film
“Ala Kachuu – Take and Run”
“The Dress”
“The Long Goodbye”
“On My Mind”
“Please Hold”

If there were an award for grimmest category, Best Live Action Short might be the undisputed champion: Year after year, voters fill this category with dark films, including a disturbingly large number whose central feature is children in peril. Kids don’t feature in this year’s race — but when the most uplifting entries deal with mass incarceration and saying goodbye to a dying partner, you know you’re in heavy territory. “On My Mind” is the most healing entry, which at one point would have made it the favorite; “The Long Goodbye” is the most incendiary, which could help in the current climate; and “Please Hold” is the only American nominee, with a setup designed to draw nods of recognition. The race feels as if it might come down to “Please Hold” (the most accessible) and “The Long Goodbye,” with a scorching final rap from Riz Ahmed tipping the scales slightly in favor of the latter.

Predicted winner: “The Long Goodbye”