Oscars 2022: Best Picture nominees, predictions and potential upsets

By Lucas Casaletto and James Mackin

It’s awards season, and that can only mean one thing — the Oscars.

Ahead of the 94th Academy Awards set to air on Sunday, March 27, CityNews film buffs Lucas Casaletto and James Mackin share their predictions concentrating on all of the nominees for Best Picture.

Which acclaimed actors will take home major awards at the Oscars, which filmmaker will win the coveted Best Director, and what movie deserves to be crowned best of the year? Let’s take a look.

Lucas: Alright, James. You need no further introduction as our go-to film guy, the man behind the wildly entertaining Must Watch weekly series. It’s an honour to share the floor with you, sir.

James: Always an honour to talk films with you, Lucas! And we’ve got quite a crop this year, 10 films in total nominated for Best Picture. A wildly diverse bunch, from westerns to sci-fi epics to classic musicals.

Lucas: Let it be known that James and I have watched every Oscars’ Best Picture nominee this year. We have an idea of where we think this may be headed, but here is how we will proceed for clarity.

We’ll go through every nominee and predict which film we think will win Best Picture and which of the year’s best should ultimately prevail.

Let’s get started.

don't look up

This image released by Netflix shows Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky in a scene from “Don’t Look Up.” Photo courtesy: Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP)

Don’t Look Up 

Nominations: Four Oscars, including Best Picture, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Screenplay

James: Director Adam McKay’s hard right turn into drama and dramedy has been a fascinating experiment to watch, but I can’t say I’ve been a big fan. Unlike the Big Short and Vice, which felt educational and incredibly entertaining, this film just feels like a condemnation of the growing apathy in modern-day Western society. It’s funny but hates the viewer. Both DiCaprio and Lawrence deliver strong performances with the material, but the film ultimately feels like a boomer trying to show how woke he is.

Why it will win BP: This is the one film I feel 100 per cent confident that won’t win Best Picture.

Why it won’t win: There are nine other films that are more deserving of the award.

What awards could it win: Its best chance is for Best Original Screenplay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Nicholas Britell won the Oscar for Best Original Score. He’s done a lot of great work over the years (Succession, Moonlight), and it always ages like a fine wine.

Lucas: Oh, James. We’re coming in hot, just like Earth, due to climate change. It had so much promise going in with a stacked cast from top to bottom. McKay dares the audience to care about environmental impacts plaguing planet Earth, only to mock it. Satire, yes. It aggressively divided audiences and critics, with the former often enjoying the comedic approach to global disaster and the latter eye-rolling at the execution.

It was not for me and should have been much better.

Why it will win BP: It won’t, and if it does, I’ll be *shocked.*

Why it won’t win: While the Academy could throw a curveball based on the film’s attempt to bring climate change awareness and preparedness to the surface, a satirical comedy like this isn’t in the cards.

What awards could it win: I think its only chance at an Oscar is Original Screenplay.


Caitriona Balfe, from left, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Lewis McAskie appear in a scene from “Belfast.” Photo courtesy: Rob Youngson/Focus Features via AP)(Rob Youngson / Associated Press)


Nominations: Seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Supporting Actress (Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench), Best Director (Kenneth Branagh), Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Original Song

Lucas: Perhaps unsurprisingly, Belfast is coming off a big win at the BAFTA awards, taking home its version of Best Picture. A sign of things to come? Perhaps. Though very well made (shoutout to Branagh) with great performances from Hinds, Dench and Jamie Dornan, it isn’t my pick. James, as you have alluded to, I don’t think Belfast brought anything to the table in terms of unique storytelling.

Why it will win BP: The Academy *loves* movies like this, and it could very well surprise and win. It won Toronto International Film Festival film of the year, beating out the critically acclaimed and Oscars’ favourite, The Power of the Dog.

Why it won’t win: There are stronger, more memorable films in this year’s bracket of nominees. I am sticking with the prediction that Belfast will not win this award.

What awards could it win: Two best-supporting actress nominees!? Never know. It’s my pick for Original Screenplay, as things stand. Maybe Branagh shocks and wins Best Director, though it’s unlikely.

James: It won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, which is always a strong predictor for Best Picture. It has a lot of moments of formal bliss, well-done sequences by a filmmaker who’s been in the business for several decades and honed his craft. And the Academy does love this type of schmaltz, tragedies seen from the perspective and understanding of a child. But I don’t see it taking the big award, not with such strong competition.

Why it will win BP: As you mentioned Lucas, the Academy goes crazy for movies like this. It’s a fun look into an infamous cultural moment.

Why it won’t win: It has many nominations in other categories, where it seems like Belfast will find its Oscar gold.

What awards could it win: While he’s not my pick, I think Branagh could win Best Director as a legacy award. The only award I think is a lock is Best Sound, specifically for its scenes of violence on the streets. The film’s strongest quality is showing the true fear of a child during explosive violence.

nightmare alley

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Cate Blanchett, left, and Bradley Cooper in a scene from “Nightmare Alley.” Photo: Searchlight Pictures via AP

Nightmare Alley

Nominations: Four Oscars, including Best Picture, Production Design, Costume Design, Cinematography

James: I love me some Guillermo del Toro, as well as film noir. I watched the original in preparation and was excited to see this contemporary take. I came away from this visually satisfied, as del Toro knows how to make a pretty scene background for Bradley Cooper to act sad in. But it didn’t feel like it added anything to the original, and it didn’t make a good argument for its own existence. That said, it’s one of the most beautiful-looking nominees this year.

Why it will win BP: It’s got everything a movie needs! Great visuals, good scares, and Cate Blanchett! Not to mention, it wouldn’t be the first Best Picture win for a Guillermo del Toro film.

Why it won’t win: It’s too unconventional to be a Best Picture winner. That said, people did say the same thing about the Shape of Water.

What awards could it win: I think this is a lock for Best Production Design, with the immaculate recreations of the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Lucas: I went into this movie with a decent amount of hype due to its source material, cast and director. Even though I knew what was coming, it did not disappoint — especially that final scene. It’s a neatly constructed story that stays true to its genre and time, with Cooper and director del Toro in control of their craft.

Why it will win BP: It’s a good movie! But is it a great movie? I prefer Edmund Goulding’s 1947 version, if just barely.

Why it won’t win: Barring a surprise, it doesn’t feel like a Best Picture film. It has some components; I can’t see it happening.

What awards could it win: It has a chance at winning two awards, besides Best Picture and Cinematography.



This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Timothee Chalamet, left, and Rebecca Ferguson in a scene from “Dune.” Photo: (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)


Nominations: 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Best Sound, Visual Effects

Lucas: Now we’re talking. Why Canadian director Denis Villeneuve wasn’t recognized is beyond me. An adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 science-fiction novel, the only real criticism is that it doesn’t rise to a climax — Part Two is on the way. Still, this marks yet another accomplishment for Villeneuve and company — particularly rising star Timothee Chalamet.

Why it will win BP: It has 10 nominations and won Movie of the Year at the AFI Awards but has come up short in other areas. It could take home a lot of hardware.

Why it won’t win: A Part One film winning Best Picture isn’t like the Academy — especially a science fiction remake.

What awards could it win: I have it winning Costume Design, Film Editing, Best Sound and Visual Effects.

James: What we have here is a sci-fi epic 60 years in the making. Unlike David Lynch’s version from 40 years ago, Dune Part One treats the material seriously and respectfully. It’s a complicated story, and the cast crew completely threw themselves into this work. Villeneuve made the biggest spectacle of his career, and the Academy recognized that with 10 nominations (even if Villeneuve didn’t get one).

Why it will win BP: It revolutionized special effects, turned a complicated story into a digestible format without sacrificing the material, and became a box office success in the pandemic.

Why it won’t win: It is the first half of a big story, so it doesn’t feel like a complete film. Not to mention, other than Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, it’s only scored technical nominations.

What awards could it win: This is my pick for Best Cinematography. Greig Fraser has been on a roll recently between this and The Batman, and it’s high time he was recognized for it.


CODA, 2022, Photo: Apple TV.


Nominations: Three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), Best Adapted Screenplay

James: This isn’t the film I would vote to win Best Picture, but I strongly think this is the winner this year. CODA (which stands for Child of Deaf Adults) is a simple story with a lot of power behind its basic emotional beats. By showing a common story from the perspective of a predominantly deaf family, it shows us that hearing people and deaf people really aren’t that different, merely perceived so. It also delivers one of the year’s strongest performances from Troy Kotsur. He’s taking Best Supporting Actor this year, easily.

Why it will win BP: CODA is a film you can relate to in several ways, even if you’re not deaf. It’s inclusive, heartwarming, and a powerful tale. You might not have heard of it before reading this article, but you’ll always remember it once you watch it. This will win Best Picture.

Why it won’t win: It’s a surprise nomination, with many more conventional choices up for Best Picture.

What awards could it win: Regardless of whether it wins Best Picture, Troy Kotsur is about to add an Academy Award to his resume.

Lucas: CODA is one of my favourite movies of the year. Though formulaic in its storytelling, the uplighting coming of age tale is brought to life by a trio of sensational actors who are deaf — Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Daniel Durant. CODA is a crowd-pleaser that expands on who is in “the crowd,” enlarging a movie world that seldom depicts deaf lives dynamically or authentically.

Why it will win BP: This could be a fantastic development. It’s coming off a win at BAFTA (screenplay and supporting actor) — not to mention being lauded at the Sundance Film Festival. It has a real chance.

Why it won’t win: It’s going up against some tight competition and isn’t the Academy’s style.

What awards could it win: It has a real shot in both other categories, particularly Kotsur winning supporting actor.

west side story

This image released by 20th Century Studios shows Rachel Zegler as Maria in “West Side Story.” Photo courtesy: Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios via AP)

West Side Story

Nominations: Seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose), Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Production Design, Best Sound, Costume Design, Cinematography

Lucas: There are so many reboots and remakes that it’s hard to keep track. West Side Story thrives as a rebirth, refining one of the 20th century’s most iconic musicals. Steven Spielberg’s first-ever musical, the acclaimed director navigates complexities with sheer context and authenticity. It’s a beautiful film and might be better than the original.

Why it will win BP: Spielberg at the helm almost guarantees serious consideration.

Why it won’t win: It’s been relatively quiet throughout awards season. It has a shot, but it would be a surprise.

What awards could it win: Spielberg for Best Director is the betting favourite. The same goes for DeBose, who just won the BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award in the category. She’s my pick. It stands a chance in costume and cinematography, too.

James: Definitely an improvement over the original, if only for the reason that it portrays the Puerto Rican characters with the same focus as the white characters. That means there’s a lot of unsubtitled Spanish in the film. That may be a turnoff for you, but it’s also a turnoff for people who can’t speak English to watch a movie in the English language. The only thing that really hampers West Side Story is Ansel Elgort. The numerous claims of sexual harassment against him make it hard for some to watch his performance, but please don’t let that hold you down. The rest of the film has more than enough beauty to make up for one unfortunate casting decision.

Why it will win BP: The Academy loves a good musical as well as Spielberg. Not to mention this stands a strong chance of taking several of the technical awards as well.

Why it won’t win: While this has won several awards, it hasn’t won many of the biggest awards. And it almost feels too conventional of a choice.

What awards could it win: Ariana DeBose is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actress, and I strongly believe she’ll take it. Her performance of A Boy Like That/I Have A Love with original Anita Rita Moreno is maybe the most emotional moment of the year. I have a feeling it will take Best Costume Design as well.

king richard

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Will Smith in a scene from “King Richard.” Photo: (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

King Richard

Nominations: Six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Will Smith), Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), Film Editing, Original Screenplay, Original Song

James: This is a fairly conventional biopic about a person in the sphere of two superstars. That doesn’t sound like it’d be a great film (why make a film about people near a superstar when you could make a film about a superstar?). Yet, Smith’s lead performance is a strong centre to base this film around. I’ve always thought of him as an actor constantly chasing Oscar gold, only for it to always evade his grasp. But he might have it this time around.

Why it will win BP: It’s a really strong biopic, which usually does well in this category.

Why it won’t win: It is a sports biopic, which rarely does well in this category.

What awards could it win: This is my prediction for Best Actor, Smith is finally ready to lock it down. Ellis seems like a strong possibility for Best Supporting Actress as well.

Lucas: Smith has a knack for sports biopics (Concussion and Ali), and he, once again, knocks it out of the park in what could be his best performance to date. The story of the father of tennis greats Venus Williams and Serena Williams, I know what you’re thinking, “ugh, another sports movie,” but this one is actually good. It doesn’t do too much glossy revisionism on behalf of its complicated and flawed central subject, allowing Smith the chance to shine.

Why it will win BP: It won Best Movie at the AFI Awards. It has an opportunity, perhaps not as good as CODA, West Side Story or Belfast, but it’s up there.

Why it won’t win: Sports biopics don’t scream Best Picture, regardless of the subjects.

What awards could it win: Smith is a favourite for Best Actor, and he likely wins. Original Song (Beyoncé) is a shoo-in.

drive my car

This image released by Janus Films and Sideshow shows Hidetoshi Nishijima, left, and Toko Miura in a scene from “Drive My Car.” Photo: (Janus Films and Sideshow via AP)

Drive My Car

Nominations: Four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi), Adapted Screenplay and International Feature

Lucas: Alright, James. Now we’re entering the final stretch. Drive My Car is, easily, one of my favourite films. An intimate three-hour epic and Haruki Murakami’s short story adaptation has been widely hailed since its debut earlier in the year at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won for best screenplay. It’s the first Japanese film ever nominated for Best Picture. It’s profoundly moving, despite its three-hour runtime.

Why it will win BP: It can. It’s been raved about in awards circles for some time now, winning several best foreign film categories — including a Golden Globe.

Why it won’t win: History isn’t in its favour, and while it’s critically acclaimed, it has gone relatively unrecognized among general audiences.

What awards could it win: Hamaguchi is a dark horse for Best Director and is my preference, but not my pick, to win. It should have no problem winning International Feature and has a real chance at being awarded best Adapted Screenplay.

James: I don’t think we’ll see the sweep that Parasite made a few years ago, but I do believe this is a strong contender for every award it’s been nominated for. Drive My Car is a powerful film about the healing power of art, especially in the face of trauma. That’s a theme a lot of creatives that make up the Academy have probably experienced in their lives. It’s got four nominations, and Best Picture is the only one I don’t think this film is a lock for.

Why it will win BP: It’s a powerful drama that the majority of the Academy can relate to, with incredibly affecting performances and a beautiful score.

Why it won’t win: Following years of allegations of elitism, the Academy might be afraid of giving the top award to a film most viewers probably haven’t seen.

What awards could it win: I see this easily taking Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s also got a good chance of winning Best International Feature Film despite some stiff competition (Flee, The Worst Person in the World).

licorice pizza

This image released by MGM shows Cooper Hoffman, left, and Alana Haim in a scene from “Licorice Pizza.” Photo: (Melinda Sue Gordon/MGM via AP)

Licorice Pizza 

Nominations: Three Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director (Paul Thomas Anderson), Best Original Screenplay

James: I don’t think this will win a lot of awards, but it is my favourite film of the year. I know it’s not Lucas’, but I love it. This is a film about a nostalgic feeling for the childhood of director Paul Thomas Anderson. It stars a musician he’s worked with frequently, Alana Haim, as well as Cooper Hoffman. That’s the son of PTA’s most frequent collaborator, Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.). This film has certainly had its controversies, but it’s a very fun romp that has already become a comfort movie for me. I love it with all of my heart.

Why it will win BP: It’s a nostalgic throwback, and films like that win very frequently. Plus, critics and artists alike love it dearly.

Why it won’t win: PTA doesn’t have a lot of luck with Best Picture at the Oscars, and I don’t think this is the film to change that.

What awards could it win: This has a strong chance of winning Best Original Screenplay. I have a high hope it will take Best Director, but of the five nominees I think PTA has the least likely chance this year.

Lucas: I think this is the only film where our opinions differ greatly, James. I itched in anticipation, only to feel underwhelmed at the execution. I struggled to find any tangible takeaways with no actual plot and simply an ode to 70s California. Maybe I am missing the point. Where it excels is the performances (Haim and Hoffman dazzle) and its style (PTA forever). But I found it easily forgettable and Thomas Anderson’s most aimless movie to date.

Why it will win BP: If the Academy wants to get cute and honour the arts, it will win. Critics LOVE this movie. Audiences are more lukewarm.

Why it won’t win: It hasn’t won any significant awards leading up to the Oscars, and it might not get recognized with only three this year. I hope I am right. It’s not my pick.

What awards could it win: I think it wins original screenplay. That’s my prediction. Thomas Anderson comes up short for Best Director, once again (How did he not win for There Will Be Blood!?)

power of the dog

This image released by Netflix shows Benedict Cumberbatch, left, and Jesse Plemons in a scene from “The Power of the Dog.” Photo: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix via AP)

The Power of the Dog 

Nominations: 12 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actor (Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee), Best Supporting Actress (Kirsten Dunst), Best Director (Jane Campion), Best Adapted Screenplay, Production Design, Best Sound, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score

Lucas: And then there was one. It’s been a privilege, James. I often hate caving to societal standards and going with the favourite, but I can’t look past the magnificence that was The Power of the Dog. It’s beautifully filmed, brilliantly executed and my favourite film of the year. It’s not the Western you might think it is — it fluctuates with evolving power dynamics that almost seize the movie itself.

It’s not often four actors captivate the screen, but that’s what happens here. Despite a slow build, the ending comes at you — an ‘A’ grade across the board.

Why it will win BP: It just feels right. It won Best Film at BAFTA despite coming short at TIFF. It also took home Best Drama at the Golden Globes and won a New York Film Critics award for Best Film.

Why it won’t win: It should, unless we get a surprise. The only other films I can see winning in an upset are Drive My Car, West Side Story, or Belfast. 

What awards could it win: For me, it’s Cumberbatch or Will Smith (King Richard) for Best Actor. Smit-McPhee will win Best Supporting Actor, and Campion takes home Best Director. It’s a strong favourite for Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Production, Film Editing and Original Score.

It should leave the Oscars with the most awards on the night.

James: And here we’ve come to the best film of the year. The Power of the Dog is the latest from Jane Campion — an underrated master of modern cinema. From her early work in New Zealand to her huge success with the Piano, and growing acclaim with In the Cut and Top of the Lake, Campion is adding to her oeuvre with one of her strongest films.

I had the good fortune of seeing it at TIFF, and it became my pick for Best Picture the moment the credits rolled. Cumberbatch delivers his best performance, complemented by several actors working at the top of their game. This is a slow burn about repression, toxic masculinity, and loneliness in the wild, wild west.

Lucas, it’s been an honour.

Why it will win BP: It is the favourite to win, with 12 nominations and tons of support from critics. It’s also arguably the only of these 10 films that will remain in the public consciousness for decades to come. After all, we’ve all wondered what Bronco Henry would’ve done.

Why it won’t win: CODA has been making strong wins at other awards ceremonies and could be the dark horse this year. I do believe CODA will provide an upset win, but I can’t see anything taking the top award from Campion’s masterpiece.

What awards could it win: If Smith doesn’t win Best Actor, Cumberbatch will. Campion is also a strong choice for Best Director, as is her screenplay for Best Adapted Screenplay. I see this taking Best Editing for Peter Sciberras, as well as potentially Best Original Score for Jonny Greenwood.

Photos courtesy of The Associated Press

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