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Oscars 2022: First Blind Predictions Include the Return of Big Studios and Streamers Seeking Gold

Variety logo Variety 4/29/2021 Clayton Davis
Adam Driver standing on top of a snow covered mountain © Courtesy of Fabio Lovino/MGM

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With the 2021 Oscars in the rearview, Variety looks ahead to what could be a very packed and condensed year with the Awards Circuit Draft for Oscars 2022.

A tradition for the past 16 years, I’ve always thrown shots in the dark in the week immediately following the Academy Awards. For the first time, my year-in-advance top pick, Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland,” won picture and director. Can lightning strike twice?

The last two years have included thoughts that 2019’s “Harriet” from Kasi Lemmons would have a big Academy debut, with top spots for eventual nominee Cynthia Erivo, but the love ending there. In 2018, I suspected “The Irishman” from Martin Scorsese would arrive in time, but alas, it was pushed to 2019.

Other past choices have included 2017’s “Phantom Thread” (then untitled), 2016’s “Silence” (although I did have “Moonlight” in the predicted 10), 2015’s “The Good Dinosaur” (Pixar has to be inching toward a moment, right?), 2014’s “Inherent Vice” (why not another try for Paul Thomas Anderson?), 2013’s “The Counselor” (always circling the Ridley Scott overdue narrative), 2012’s “Lincoln” (probably the runner-up to “Argo,” which was also predicted) and 2011’s “War Horse” (Steven Spielberg is never a bad choice).

While it’s thrilling to be a promising awards contender, no one likes to be the frontrunner this early, so I should preface this with: we don’t know anything yet.

When creating predictions such as this, I tend to choose overdue veterans the Academy has yet to reward. Scott has carried that title for far too long with two high-profile projects this year, both starring the magnificent Adam Driver. The first is the delayed “The Last Duel,” from 20th Century Studios with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, that we’re hoping is more in line with the Oscar-winning “Gladiator” than “Kingdom of Heaven.” It’s the still-shooting “House of Gucci” from United Artists with Lady Gaga, Al Pacino and Jared Leto that takes the golden spot. Besides the cast and story, which focuses on Patrizia Reggiani — who plotted to kill her husband Maurizio Gucci — a talented artisan team, including cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and editor Claire Simpson, has cinephiles giddy.

So what else is ahead? Plenty of contenders from last year that were moved off the calendar (and could still potentially be bumped out of 2021), including titles like Spielberg’s “West Side Story” from 20th Century Studios and Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” from Warner Bros.

Joel Coen is making his first big outing without brother Ethan with A24’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Oscar winners Frances McDormand and Denzel Washington (also in the director’s chair this year with “A Journal for Jordan”).

The streamers have a robust and promising slate as well.

Leos Carax’s “Annette” might be my most anticipated film of the year at Amazon Studios. Still, anyone who has experienced the greatness of his last film, “Holy Motors,” knows he’s not a “mainstream” filmmaker. They could have better luck with Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” with its all-star cast that includes Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem and J.K. Simmons.

Netflix will be plenty busy with Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep. I have faith in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” with Andrew Garfield, Vanessa Hudgens and Bradley Whitford.

Apple TV Plus spent quite a penny on Siân Heder’s “Coda” from the Sundance Film Festival, and it could easily be the feel-good film that hits the sweet spot, with Marlee Matlin potentially in the running.

The good thing about going this early is you can tell any story you’d like in an awards narrative, which includes potential historic inclusions across the board. Why not predict a foreign language animated documentary to be the first of its kind to be nominated for best picture? That could be “Flee,” which was a hit at Sundance and in the hands of Neon, which already made history with “Parasite” winning in 2020.

Focus Features could have fun and exciting projects that capture the zeitgeist, like “Promising Young Woman,” which won original screenplay this year. I’m most excited for “The Northman” from Robert Eggers (“The Witch”) that has a dynamic ensemble that includes Ethan Hawke and Anya Taylor-Joy (who will also be in Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho”). Justin Chon’s upcoming “Blue Bayou” has been rumored to be very strong for quite some time and could be the next big breakout for Asian filmmakers.

Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate are two studios that will be roaring for comebacks this year with potential blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise and “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” with Zachary Levi.

There’s always the “smaller” studios that could make some noise like Kino Lorber (with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Wife of a Spy”), Bleecker Street (with Maria Schrader’s “I’m Your Man”), Gravitas Ventures (with Alex Noyer’s “Sound of Violence”), Magnolia Pictures (with Dash Shaw’s “Cryptozoo”), Music Box Films (with Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Perfect Candidate”), Roadside Attractions (with “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It”), Shout! Studios (with Natalie Morales’ “Language Lessons”) and STXfilms (with Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly’s “Queenpins”).

Big studios are hoping to make their marks, like Universal Pictures with the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” from Stephen Chbosky, Walt Disney Pictures with the animated “Encanto,” Warner Bros. with the sports biopic “King Richard” and Sony Pictures with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ debut, “65.”

New Line Cinema has to be excited for Olivia Wilde’s “Don’t Worry Darling,” which may be an explosion of greatness if it lives up to the narrative rumblings. Who can expect less with a cast that includes Florence Pugh, Harry Styles and Chris Pine?

The independent studios will maneuver through a loud and rowdy year as well. Sony Pictures Classics has films like Clint Bentley’s “Jockey” with Clifton Collins Jr., and Pedro Almodóvar’s next film, “Madres Paralelas.”

Searchlight Pictures, the reigning best picture champ, will come to the table with Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” and its dream cast of actors, with the likes of Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe and Toni Collette. They also have Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” follow-up, the comedy “Next Goal Wins” with Michael Fassbender.

Let’s not forget, there are hundreds of films still seeking distribution that could enter at any time, like Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave,” Claire Denis’ “Fire” or Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter.”

Lastly, I’ve included predictions for stunts and casting — two potential categories that should be added that could be an easy fix to the Academy’s problems with connecting to general audiences. In the case of the former, besides being long overdue, it’s a more practical solution to the terribly presented “best popular film.” The latter should have happened ages ago.

Here are the first set of predictions. The Oscars 2022 pages will be launched over the next week with the full rankings.

Best Picture

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) – Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch

“Blue Bayou” (Focus Features) – Poppy Hanks, Charles D. King, Kim Roth

“Coda” (Apple TV Plus) – Fabrice Gianfermi, Philippe Rousselet, Patrick Wachsberger

“Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema) – Roy Lee, Olivia Wilde, Miri Yoon

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Yvett Merino Flores, Clark Spencer

“Flee” (Neon) – Natalie Farrery, Signe Byrge

“The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) – Lawrence Bender, Jay-Z, James Lassiter, Jeymes Samuel

“House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Giannina Facio, Mark Huffam, Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh – PREDICTED WINNER

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures) – J. Miles Dale, Guillermo del Toro

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix) – Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Julie Oh

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

Jeymes Samuel, “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix)

Ridley Scott, “House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – PREDICTED WINNER

Olivia Wilde, “Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema)

Best Actor

Clifton Collins, Jr, “Jockey” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Peter Dinklage, “Cyrano” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

Michael B. Jordan, “A Journal for Jordan” (Sony Pictures)

Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros) – PREDICTED WINNER

Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24)

Best Actress

Ana de Armas, “Blonde” (Netflix) – PREDICTED WINNER

Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Florence Pugh, “Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema)

Tessa Thompson, “Passing” (Netflix)

Best Supporting Actor

Colman Domingo, “Zola” (A24)

Idris Elba, “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) – PREDICTED WINNER

Corey Hawkins, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24)

Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Bradley Whitford, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

Best Supporting Actress

Nina Arianda, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Toni Collette, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Vanessa Hudgens, “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

Olga Merediz, “In the Heights” (Warner Bros) – PREDICTED WINNER

Best Original Screenplay

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) – Aaron Sorkin

“Blue Bayou” (Focus Features) – Justin Chon – PREDICTED WINNER

“Coda” (Apple TV Plus) – Sian Heder

“Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema) – Katie Silberman, Carey Van Dyke, Shane Van Dyke

“The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures) – Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness

Best Adapted Screenplay

“House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Roberto Bentivegna – PREDICTED WINNER

“A Journal for Jordan” (Sony Pictures) – Virgil Williams

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures) – Kim Morgan, Guillermo del Toro

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) – Jane Campion

“Zola” (A24) – Janicza Bravo, Jeremy O. Harris, A’Ziah King

Best Animated Feature

“Cryptozoo” (Magnolia Pictures) – Dash Shaw

“Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) – Jared Bush, Byron Howard – PREDICTED WINNER

“Flee” (Neon) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” (Netflix) – Mike Rianda

“Spirit Untamed” (DreamWorks Animation) – Elaine Bogan

Best Production Design

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) – Jon Hutman, Ellen Brill

“Belfast” (Focus Features) – Jim Clay, Claire Nia Richards

“Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema) – Katie Byron, Rachael Ferrara

“Dune” (Warner Bros) – Patrice Vermette, Richard Roberts, Zsuzsanna Sipos

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures) – Tamara Deverell, Shane Vieau – PREDICTED WINNER

Best Cinematography

“Dune” (Warner Bros) – Greig Fraser

“House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Dariusz Wolski – PREDICTED WINNER

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures) – Dan Laustsen

“Passing” (Netflix) – Eduard Grau

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix) – Alice Brooks

Best Costume Design

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) – Susan Lyall

“Belfast” (Amazon Studios) – Charlotte Walter

“Don’t Worry Darling” (New Line Cinema) – Arianne Phillips

“House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Janty Yates – PREDICTED WINNER

“Last Night in Soho” (Focus Features) – Odile Dicks-Mireaux

Best Film Editing

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios) – Alan Baumgarten – PREDICTED WINNER

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) – Hank Corwin

“Eternals” (Marvel Studios) – Dylan Tichenor, Craig Wood

“House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing) – Claire Simpson

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix) – Andrew Weisblum

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

“Cyrano” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

“Eternals” (Marvel Studios) – PREDICTED WINNER

“Last Night in Soho” (Focus Features)

“Old” (Universal Pictures)

“The Suicide Squad” (Warner Bros)

Best Sound

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)

“Dune” (Warner Bros)

“A Quiet Place Part II” (Paramount Pictures)

“Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix) – PREDICTED WINNER

“Top Gun: Maverick” (Paramount Pictures)

Best Visual Effects

“Dune” (Warner Bros)

“Eternals” (Marvel Studios) – PREDICTED WINNER

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Marvel Studios)

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony Pictures)

“Swan Song” (Apple TV Plus)

Best Original Score

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) – Nicholas Britell

“Dune” (Warner Bros) – Hans Zimmer

“Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures) – Alexandre Desplat

“The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) – Jonny Greenwood – PREDICTED WINNER

“Zola” (A24) – Mica Levi

Best Original Song

“Unknown possible song” from “Dear Evan Hansen” (Universal Pictures)

“Unknown possible song” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Unknown possible song” from “House of Gucci” (MGM/United Artists Releasing)

“No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (United Artists Releasing) – PREDICTED WINNER

“Unknown possible song” from “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

Best Documentary Feature

“Flee” (Neon) – Jonas Poher Rasmussen – PREDICTED WINNER

“Julia” (Sony Pictures Classics) – Julie Cohen, Betsy West

“My Name is Pauli Murray” (Amazon Studios) – Julie Cohen, Betsy West

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony” (Focus Features) – Morgan Neville

“Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” (Roadside Attractions) – Mariem Pérez Riera

Best International Feature

“A Hero” (Amazon Studios) – Asghar Farhadi – PREDICTED WINNER

Best Achievement in Stunts (not yet an official category)

“Dune” (Warner Bros)

“Eternals” (Marvel Studios)

“In the Heights” (Warner Bros)

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Marvel Studios) – PREDICTED WINNER

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony Pictures)

Best Achievement in Casting (not yet an official category)

“Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

“Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) – PREDICTED WINNER

“House of Gucci” (United Artists Releasing)

“The Humans” (A24)

“West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

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