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Awards Season / Oscar Predictions Update: The State of the Race as 2021 Ends


We’ve done it, ladies and gentlemen. Congrats. We’ve gotten to the end of the year, surviving another tough one. 2021 was again a bitch of a time, even if it’s a far cry from last year. As tough as it was, it wasn’t 2020, so at least there’s that. Now, all eyes point to 2022 and the hope for better days. To that end, instead of just posting slightly new Oscar predictions, I thought it would be a better idea to ponder the season instead. So, this is more a musing about what the Academy could be poised to honor when nominations are announced next month.

To cap off 2021, I want to look at some of the main races. Last week, I updated predictions. Today, it’s more a state of the race type of a situation. Essentially, it’s a quick look at where we are as the calendar turns to 2022. Some factors have stayed pretty steady for a few months now, while others have fluctuated greatly. If nothing else, look at this as a snapshot of where we are in the season at the conclusion of the year.

Warner Bros.

Below the line, Dune seems poised to dominate. Denis Villeneuve‘s science fiction epic may well pull a near sweep, considering the lack of other pic films in the running. Some may challenge it in a category or two, but the safe bet is that this movie just cleans up with the technical categories. At worst, it should walk away with a plurality of the techs.

The screenplay races seem rather unclear at the moment. Adapted could be Jane Campion‘s for the taking with The Power of the Dog, though Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Lost Daughter) and Sian Heder (CODA) have upset potential. Nothing else feels like a winner, so the final spots are almost filler, likely to be taken by Best Picture nominees. As for Original, there it’s quite the competitive race. Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza) and Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) have excellent cases to make for Academy Awards. Then, there’s Aaron Sorkin (Being the Ricardos), who is always a threat here. The rest of the category’s available openings include opportunities for presumed Best Picture nominees (King Richard), fringe Picture nominees (Don’t Look Up), and a range of smaller flicks hoping to break through, like C’mon C’mon, Parallel Mothers, Red Rocket, and Spencer.


Best Director has a chance to change quite a bit, especially pending DGA, but right now, frontrunners seem clear. Branagh and Campion are basically locks, with the former seeming like a smart bet to win. Anderson and Villeneuve also appear to be in good positions, with either able to jump up. So, the question centers on if the final slot goes to a former winner like Guillermo del Toro (Nightmare Alley) or Steven Spielberg (West Side Story), which seems like a fair bet, or someone from an international effort again crashes the party. This one bears watching.

The four acting categories tell a pair of different tales. Two have definite frontrunners, who may be unstoppable, while two have potential leaders in the clubhouse, but wide open races. The Supporting categories are obviously the latter, though Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) has a solid lead in Best Supporting Actress, while Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog) has the edge in Best Supporting Actor. SAG will do a lot to tell us if they’re legit or not. As for the Leads, well…we may be in for a boring season, once things truly heat up. Best Actor seems very likely to be Will Smith (King Richard), though Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!) are hoping to have something to say about that. As for Best Actress, there’s no clear alternative to Kristen Stewart (Spencer) yet, so while Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), and Lady Gaga (House of Gucci) have shots, the longer Stewart seems the clear number one, the likelier it is that the Spencer star wins. Once the Screen Actors Guild chimes in (and to a lesser extent, BAFTA), we’ll know more.

Focus Features

Finally, Best Picture. Belfast is still the early frontrunner, but a lack of any true momentum is keeping it from being an easy favorite. At the same time, it’s hard to see The Power of the Dog or other contenders like CODA, Dune, Licorice Pizza, or West Side Story overtaking it without some serious victories. When a lower end player like Drive My Car is winning so much, it does two things. One is make it more likely to crack the Picture lineup. The other is it prevents another contender from gaining traction. So, while Belfast is stuck in neutral, nothing else is passing it by, at least yet.

Oscar Predictions can be found here. They’re going to be updated sometime next week (I resisted the urge to say next year), so sit tight for that. We have a ton still to figure out, even if the season feels like it’s pretty far along. Truly, we’re only approaching the midway point. So, hold on to your butts. In the mean time, enjoy New Year’s Eve and here’s to a great 2022, since 2021 was another tough one…

Let us know what you think of my predictions stay tuned for another update very soon, and have a Happy New Year!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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