Who’s up and who’s down in the Oscar race for Best Picture?

The 2022 Oscar nominations were announced on February 8, and they were full of surprises: expected nominees who missed and underdogs who ended up in the top fives (or in the case of Best Picture, the top 10). So who’s up and who’s down in the race? Here’s how I think the competition has changed, if at all, for each of the 10 films up for the top prize. I’ll be keeping an eye on the guild awards that will be announcing in the coming weeks for more clues about where the wind is blowing.


The Power of the Dog — It was already the front-runner for Best Picture in our odds, and yet it still got a bigger boost than any other film on Oscar noms morning. It didn’t miss a single predicted nomination, and then it got a few extra. It has a leading 12 bids (two more than technical powerhouse “Dune”), including surprise bids for Best Supporting Actor (Jesse Plemons, joining his expected co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee), Best Production Design, and Best Sound. The bid for Plemons meant that all four central cast members from the film made the cut, making this the first film since “American Hustle” (2013) to receive four acting noms. And it’s the only movie in contention for directing, writing, and editing; it’s rare to win Best Picture if you miss any of those. Nothing is set in stone just yet, but on paper, this is your Best Picture winner.

“King Richard” — This sports biopic didn’t miss anywhere it was expected to get in, and it received noms in categories that could have gone either way. Best Picture and Best Actor (Will Smith) were pretty safe bets. But Best Supporting Actress for Aunjanue Ellis looked like a close call after her snub at the SAG Awards; she got in over SAG and BAFTA nominees Caitriona Balfe (“Belfast”) and Ruth Negga (“Passing”). It also made the Best Original Screenplay race over “Being the Ricardos.” And perhaps most surprisingly it was nominated for Best Film Editing over “Belfast” and “West Side Story.” Only one film in the past 40 years has won Best Picture without a corresponding editing nom: “Birdman” (2014).

Drive My Car — A three-hour Japanese movie about grief isn’t necessarily an easy sell for Oscars, but this film turned out to be an industry darling as well as a critics’ darling (it is the first film not in English to be named Best Picture by the New York, L.A. and National Society of Critics). It was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Ryusuke Hamaguchi), and Best Adapted Screenplay, all of which our odds were predicting, but it was on the bubble in each case. It’s up for Best International Feature too, but that seemed like a foregone conclusion from the get go.


“Belfast” — It was a turbulent morning for the period film, with several ups and downs as the nominations were read out. Caitriona Balfe was snubbed for Best Supporting Actress while Judi Dench reaped a bid despite; Balfe had been nominated at the Critics Choice, SAG, and BAFTA Awards. Ciaran Hinds made it into Best Supporting Actor, but not Jamie Dornan. Kenneth Branagh picked up Best Director and Best Original Screenplay noms, but the film was passed over for Best Cinematography despite its memorable black-and-white visuals. What makes me ultimately put it in the “Down” column on balance is its snub for Best Film Editing. Yes, “Birdman” won without it a few years ago, but “Belfast” is going to need big wins at the SAG Awards, Producers Guild Awards, and BAFTAs to revive its momentum with “The Power of the Dog” running the board here.

“Dune” — If you’d told me that this sci-fi epic would be nominated for either writing or directing, but not both, I would have predicted it would have missed out for its script. Instead, Denis Villeneuve was snubbed for Best Director. These days that’s not a fatal blow for a Best Picture contender — “Argo” and “Green Book” won without it this past decade — but when a technical powerhouse with 10 total nominations is not considered one of the best directed movies of the year, that’s not a good sign.

“Licorice Pizza” — This movie got the big three: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay … but that’s it. Alana Haim missed Best Actress despite her noms at the BAFTAs and Critics Choice Awards. Bradley Cooper missed Best Supporting Actor despite his bid at the SAG Awards. And it missed Best Film Editing despite a nomination from the American Cinema Editors. It looks like the film’s best bet for a win is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s script.

“West Side Story” — The film is nominated for Best Picture, and Steven Spielberg was nominated for Best Director even though he recently fell out of the top five in our odds in favor of Ryusuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”). But the musical ran into trouble elsewhere. It was snubbed for Best Adapted Screenplay despite the pedigree of writer Tony Kushner. It was snubbed for Best Film Editing even though another movie musical, “Tick, Tick… Boom!” did get in there. And the only acting nomination is for Ariana DeBose. It did well below the line with bids for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Sound, but those misses will be hard to recover from.


“CODA” — It got the three nominations we expected, no more, no less: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Troy Kotsur), and Best Adapted Screenplay. I would have put it in the “Up” column had it eked out surprise nominations for Best Actress (Emilia Jones), Best Supporting Actress (Marlee Matlin), or Best Film Editing, but without those it’s in about the same position it was before nominations were announced. It’s definitely an underdog for Best Picture, but I still think Kotsur is a threat to Smit-McPhee for the Supporting Actor win.

“Don’t Look Up” — This divisive satire could have gone either way. None of its actors were nominated despite Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Best Actor bid at the BAFTAs. Adam McKay didn’t sneak into Best Director. And the original song “Just Look Up” missed out. But the film earned key bids for its script and its editing, along with Best Original Score for Nicholas Britell. So you could see the glass as half empty or half full.

“Nightmare Alley” — Just getting into Best Picture was an achievement — it had dropped to 13th place in our odds — but its only three other nominations are Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Cinematography. It has no acting noms even though Cate Blanchett was singled out by the SAG Awards. And even more importantly, it was left out for writing, directing, and editing. So this nomination might be its reward.

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