While I find the telecast and background discourse surrounding it all to be tiring, I can’t get enough of the Oscars as it relates to the outcomes of the actual awards. This past day randomly at 5:00PM, I lied down trying to recall the five nominees for Best Actress from last year. I was even blanking on the winner, which is usually money in the bank. I thought I could pull it off by asking “did they make a comment attempting to relieve the tension in the post-Will Smith slap environment?” Ten minutes of mental deliberation later, Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye leaped into my consciousness, which can’t be said about anyone else on Earth, even by those who watched the movie. When I start to catch others losing interest in me, I ask them to rattle off random years so I can give them the corresponding Best Picture winner of that year. So far this skill (let’s call it that) hasn’t gotten me a free round of drinks or anything.
I very recently got the itch to start delving into Oscars season, now about a month into festivals where most of the potential contenders first premiered. While the field is always so scattered in the fall and continues to be through the announcement of the nominees, I ought to finally walk the talk and stand by predictions of the Best Picture nominees for the 2022 Academy Awards. (P.S. Can we stop referring to Oscar shows by their calendar year? Last year was the 2021 Oscars, and the 2021 BP winner was CODA.)
- The Fabelmans – The easiest lock of all time. No doubt about it. It’s Spielberg. It’s sentimental. It’s about the love of da moviesh. While we suspect it’s not his last joint, this could be the perfect swansong treatment for the iconic director, and the Academy would gladly vault him into the club with Frank Capra, William Wyler, and John Ford as the only directors with more than two Best Director awards. To top it all off, this could be John Williams’ last score of his luxurious career. I have to be hesitant about The Fabelmans winning it all though, as the early fall favorite (Belfast, The Irishman) that checks all the boxes as Best Picture friendly has been doomed.
- Babylon – This one seemed like just as much of a lock as The Fabelmans a month ago. Once again, we have a film about Hollywood, and no one is more obsessed with themselves than the awards body. 2016 Best Director winner Damien Chazelle is a mainstay for the awards circle and leads a cast of big stars. Where I think this could get tripped up is that the film is simply too brash and unflattering in its depiction of golden age Hollywood. And if the lack of major consideration of First Man showed anything, it’s that Chazelle’s seemingly Oscar-friendly projects (portrait of a Great Man) might be slightly off-kilter for voters.
- Top Gun: Maverick – This Tom Cruise guy may have saved movies. The best thing to ever happen to this movie was COVID-19 and shitty Marvel VFX. There was so much anticipation for this movie after numerous delays and from desperation of a satisfying Hollywood blockbuster in the midst of MCU movies that look more and more like they were completed at the last minute of post-production. While I enjoy it very much, I still stand by that most of the overwhelming praise of the film stems from the general moviegoing population being stranded on a desert and dying of thirst, and Cruise and Joseph Kosinski emerged from the clouds and gave us a cold bottle of water. As it’s been said to death, the Academy loves the da moviesh, and Maverick vitalizes the spirit and magic of the art form enough to disguise it from being a familiar but effective action movie sequel to a cheesy 80s movie.
- TAR – Mark this as this year’s Power of the Dog. Without seeing it myself, I see this as a highly divisive, visually stunning, bold arthouse film that picks up front runner status in January but slowly loses enthusiasm. Todd Field had success picking up nominations for BP and acting going back to 2001 with In the Bedroom.
- Armageddon Time – I see this listed as missing the cut in many articles I read, but I think this will hit the spot for voters. James Gray will finally get his due in the BP pool, with the help of the presence of Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway, and a coming of age story set in New York. This appears to have a take on the American Dream and its myths and realities, and if not, it sure ought to demonstrate the story of a family, an Academy staple favorite.
- Avatar: The Way of Water – James Cameron returning to Pandora after 13 long awaited years. It doesn’t get much more “MOVIES!” than this. I hope this gets the nod more than anything just to see the naysayers mad. Just admit it, Jim Cameron is your king. This won’t reinvent the wheel story-wise, but just like its predecessor, it will be a big, sweeping tale with a limitless scope.
- The Banshees of Inisherin – I initially was going to have this miss the cut, thinking it would be too small and leave too quiet of an impact at the box office, but I have to imagine that the overwhelming critical approval of this will translate to a nomination.
- Women Talking – Ditto from above.
- Everything Everywhere All at Once – This is the kind of movie I immediately shut down from Oscar contention time and time again. A surprise genre hit released in April? Stop talking yourself into it. But of course, there’s always a Get Out. And this idiosyncratic film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert embodies the same kind of magic of the movies as Top Gun and Avatar. This was a throwback word-of-mouth success that the Academy would love to embrace.
- Triangle of Sadness – So all of these picks aren’t really that bold. If anything, it’s what I’m leaving out that is more noteworthy (Wakanda Forever will be met with muted enthusiasm and thus miss out on a BP nod). We seem to be guaranteed a foreign film nomination every year, and this NEON release will sneak up on everyone, even if the critical reception is muted. Perhaps this is the 2022 CODA?
Do we notice a theme between all these films? Allow this to be the first time I write the names Netflix, Amazon, and Apple. No streaming, all required to see in a theater. Da moviesh, baby. 2022, at the end of it all, will be the year of how we stopped worrying and loved the movies. Streaming for new original films has gotten such a bad rap that I’m hesitant to admit that sometimes there’s nothing better than waking up on a lazy Saturday morning and firing up Blonde with a cup of joe and a runny egg sandwich. Nonetheless, when we reached the nadir of streaming, with The Gray Man being a $200 million spy thriller with big stars going straight to Netflix, everyone being me, the Academy, and the public at large decided enough was enough. I believe the Academy is going to announce themselves this season as the protectors of cinema, with the likes of Top Gun and Avatar headlining the movie-going experience sentiment.
I’m sure everyone knows this, but Will Smith getting upset at a hacky G.I. Jane joke was the best thing to happen for the Oscars. If Jada Pinkett had the flu and couldn’t make it to the ceremony, there would be so much bad press for the awards body and telecast. Refusing to hire hosts, perfunctory montages, a general dismissiveness of movies (that Last Duel joke still pisses me off), another safe but forgettable Best Picture winner, and not to mention, ratings that continue to decline (23.6M viewers in 2020 to 16.6M in 2022. The COVID ceremony in between doesn’t exist). The Slap gave them a mulligan, and now the 95th Academy Awards this March is their chance to get it together.