For the first time in more than a decade, there will be a guaranteed 10 movies nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. That means the Oscars 2022 Best Picture field has the chance to be the most comprehensive in years, a mix of art-house indies, streaming highlights, critical favorites, and perhaps even one of the biggest movies of all time, Marvel’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
But even if “Spider-Man” scores a longshot nomination in the Best Picture race, it won’t be among the favorites to win the top prize. In fact, at the moment, the consensus pick among Gold Derby users and experts is “The Power of the Dog.” Jane Campion’s film has stood as the critical choice since its debut at the Venice Film Festival last year, and with the chance to win multiple top awards on Oscars night – including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Best Supporting Actress for Kirsten Dunst – the expectation is that “The Power of the Dog” will become the first Netflix movie to win Best Picture.
But if “The Power of the Dog” fails to ride its awards season wave to the winners’ circle, there are a number of possibilities lurking as viable alternatives. Chief among those pictures is Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.” The musical has a legendary Oscars history, of course, as the 1961 adaptation won 10 awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Spielberg’s take on the material is likewise expected to be a nominee juggernaut, with predicted nominations in Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Ariana DeBose. “West Side Story” was pegged as the crowd-pleasing alternative to “The Power of the Dog,” but the coronavirus pandemic has slightly altered that narrative. With the theatrical business still struggling to support adult dramas, plus a massive spike in cases this winter due to the omicron variant of the disease, “West Side Story” has failed to generate the financial success it might have were this 2019.
Fortunately for the Spielberg film, but perhaps unfortunately for Hollywood in general, “West Side Story” is not alone in its box-office struggles. In fact, a number of films that were expected to find audience support throughout awards season – thus keeping those projects in the Best Picture conversation – have had difficulty luring ticket buyers to the theater. Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast” and Reinaldo Marcus Green’s “King Richard” both, in prior years, likely would have been hits. But in 2021, each struggled to overcome the obstacles facing awards contenders – adversity augmented by the lack of televised awards shows in January due to rising coronavirus cases. “For the box office — when there was a fully functioning box office — those award shows were everything,” Nancy Utley, the former co-chairman of Fox Searchlight, told the New York Times. “The recognition there became the reason to go see a smaller movie. How do you do that in the current climate? It’s hard.”
Still, since significant financial achievement isn’t a Best Picture requirement, “The Power of the Dog,” “Belfast,” “King Richard,” and “West Side Story” feel safe in their nominations. That leaves six films to fill out the remaining roster. By all accounts, “Dune” – one of the few box office hits in the race, with more than $100 million in North American grosses – will land a nomination as well. Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” is also pegged to become a Best Picture nominee. That’s six films.
From there, it could be a bit of a scrum. Streaming favorites “CODA” (on Apple TV+) and “tick, tick…boom!” (on Netflix) have strong passion among supporters – and seem likely to receive acting nominations as well. (“CODA” star Troy Kotsur has become a force in the Best Supporting Actor race, while “tick, tick…boom!” lead Andrew Garfield is a darkhorse favorite in the Best Actor field.) If each gets in, that leaves two spots for a number of films, including Netflix blockbuster “Don’t Look Up,” the aforementioned “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley” (another drama that got washed away at the box office due to the current climate for theatrical releases), Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter,” and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” which has won numerous major critical prizes and is one of the most awarded films on that front in the modern era.
Christopher Rosen Oscars 2022 Best Picture Predictions (as of Monday, January 10)
- “The Power of the Dog”
- “West Side Story”
- “King Richard”
- “Licorice Pizza”
- “tick, tick… Boom!”
- “Drive My Car”
- “Spider-Man: No Way Home”
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