Karen Peterson’s Final Predictions Ahead of the 94th Oscar Nominations

Can you believe the time has come? Tomorrow morning, phones will ring around the world as dozens of Oscar hopefuls receive the news that they have been nominated for an Academy Award. It’s always a long journey, and the road to the 94th Oscars has been particularly strange and winding. In a regular year, by this stage we’ve enjoyed key precursors and turned acceptance speeches into gifs and debated what it all means. But this time around, we haven’t had a single televised awards ceremony and the Golden Globes are the only major precursor to announce their winners as all the guilds have shifted due to the omicron surge.

There is a lot of debate and disagreement over what constitutes precursors. Some pundits and awards fans like to tally up raw numbers and say “this film has already been nominated for more than 100 awards” and “if this person isn’t nominated, they’ll be the first person to miss Oscar with the most precursor wins.” I’m sorry to have to remind you, but we simply can’t factor all the many regional critics’ organizations in like that. Especially when new crops of them pop up every year like a sea of wildflowers. They’re fun to look at, and occasionally a local group will make some inspired and interesting selections, but in general, most are not truly precursors.

This year has also been particularly strange because people just aren’t going out to the movies in big numbers and it’s hard to know (apart from Spider-Man: No Way Home) what is really connecting with audiences. There’s also been strong support for Daniel Craig’s final Bond film, No Time to Die. At least in terms of popular films. Looking down the list, some patterns have certainly emerged as they always do. We can expect a strong showing for films like Dune, The Power of the Dog, and Belfast, all of which have been projected contenders all season long. They will likely miss out in some important places too, though, as the aforementioned popular movies find themselves picking up nods in places no one might have expected three months ago.

Listed below are my final predictions in all categories. Unlike the usual ranked list, these will be in alphabetical order, either by nominee or film, along with one or two alternate picks. After the nominations are announced tomorrow, we’ll take a look at where we went right, where we went wrong, and return to the ranked lists as we continue to ponder, guess, and predict what the Academy will do next month.

As a reminder, predictions are not preferences, so in some categories I’ve also listed a nominee I would have liked to see but that most likely will not happen. And a special thanks to my friend, mentor, and sounding board, Variety’s Clayton Davis, for helping convince me that some of these guesses really aren’t crazy. If I get them all wrong, it’s his fault.

Best Picture

(L-R) Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemmons star in THE POWER OF THE DOG — Courtesy of Netflix

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  • “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  • “Licorice Pizza” (United Artists Releasing/MGM)
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Alternate: “Tick, tick…Boom!” (Netflix)

In a perfect world: “Flee” (Neon)

Best Director

KIRSTY GRIFFIN/COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Predicted Nominees:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza” (United Artists Releasing/MGM)
  • Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Adam McKay, “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • Denis Villeneuve, “Dune” (Warner Bros)

Alternate: Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios) or Guillermo del Toro, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Would love to see: Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)

Best Actor

KING RICHARD — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Predicted Nominees:

  • Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  • Andrew Garfield, “tick, tick…Boom!” (Netflix)
  • Will Smith, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  • Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple)

Alternate: Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)

Still dreaming of what could have been: Nicolas Cage, “Pig” (Neon)

Best Actress

Nicole Kidman is “Lucille Ball” in BEING THE RICARDOS — Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Predicted Nominees:

  • Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix)
  • Penélope Cruz, “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci” (United Artists Releasing/MGM)
  • Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon Studios)
  • Kristen Stewart, “Spencer” (Neon)

Alternate: Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/United Artists)

Would love to see: Tessa Thompson, “Passing” (Netflix)

Best Supporting Actor

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars in THE POWER OF THE DOG — Courtesy of Netflix

Predicted Nominees:

  • Ben Affleck, “The Tender Bar” (Amazon Studios)
  • Jamie Dornan, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Troy Kotsur, “CODA” (Apple Original Films)
  • Jared Leto, “House of Gucci” (UA/MGM)
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Alternate: Bradley Cooper, “Licorice Pizza” (MGM/UA)

A truly inspired choice: Colman Domingo, “Zola” (A24)

Best Supporting Actress

THE POWER OF THE DOG : KIRSTEN DUNST as ROSE GORDON in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Predicted Nominees:

  • Caitríona Balfe, “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • Cate Blanchett, “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)
  • Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard” (Warner Bros)

Alternate: Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix) or Ruth Negga, “Passing” (Netflix)

Would be amazing: Martha Plimpton, “Mass” (Bleecker Street)

Best Original Screenplay

Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim star in LICORICE PIZZA — Courtesy of MGM/United Artists Releasing

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Being the Ricardos” (Amazon); Aaron Sorkin
  • “Belfast” (Focus Features); Kenneth Branagh
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix); Adam McKay, David Sirota
  • “King Richard” (Warner Bros); Zach Baylin
  • “Licorice Pizza” (UA Releasing/MGM); Paul Thomas Anderson

Alternate: “Parallel Mothers” (Sony Pictures Classics); Pedro Almodóvar

Would love to see it: “Pig” (Neon); Michael Sarnoski

Best Adapted Screenplay

THE POWER OF THE DOG | Netflix

Predicted Nominees:

  • “CODA” (Apple); Siân Heder
  • “The Lost Daughter” (Netflix); Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures); Guillermo del Toro, Kim Morgan
  • “Passing” (Netflix); Rebecca Hall
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix); Jane Campion

Alternate: “Drive My Car” (Janus Films); Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe

Wouldn’t it be nice?: “The Green Knight” (A24); David Lowery

Best Animated Feature Film

ENCANTO — Walt Disney Animation

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • “Flee” (Neon)
  • “Luca” (Disney/Pixar)
  • “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” (Netflix)
  • “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Walt Disney Pictures)

Alternate: “Sing 2” (Illumination/Universal Pictures)

Best Documentary Feature Film

FLEE — Courtesy of NEON

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Attica” (Showtime); dir. Traci Curry, Stanley Nelson
  • “Flee” (Neon); dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
  • “Procession” (Netflix); dir. Robert Greene
  • “The Rescue” (National Geographic); dir. Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
  • “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” (Searchlight Pictures); dir. Questlove

Alternate: “Simple as Water” (HBO Documentary Films); dir. Megan Mylan

Best International Feature Film

DRIVE MY CAR — Courtesy of Janus Films

Be sure to check out the official submissions from each country and territory here.

Predicted Nominees:

  • “A Hero” (Amazon Studios) — Iran, dir. Asghar Farhadi
  • “Drive My Car” (Janus Films) — Japan, dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • “Flee” (Neon/Participant) — Denmark, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen
  • “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (Samuel Goldwyn Films) — Bhutan, dir. Pawo Choyning Dorji
  • “The Worst Person in the World” (Neon) — Norway, dir. Joaquim Trier

Alternate: “The Hand of God” (Netflix) — Italy, dir. Paolo Sorrentino

Would be thrilled for: “Hive” (Zeitgeist/Kino Lorber) — Kosovo, dir. Blerta Basholli

Cinematography

THE POWER OF THE DOG | Netflix

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features); Haris Zambarloukos
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros); Greig Fraser
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures); Dan Laustsen
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix); Ari Wegner
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple); Bruno Delbonnel

Alternate: “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios); Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design

Emma Stone is CRUELLA — Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures); Jenny Beavan
  • “Cyrano” (United Artists/MGM); Massimo Cantini Parrini
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros); Jacqueline West, Bob Morgan
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures); Luis Sequeira
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios); Paul Tazewell

Alternate: “Belfast” (Focus Features); Charlotte Walter or “House of Gucci” (United Artists/MGM); Janty Yates

Film Editing

DUNE | Warner Bros.

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features); Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix); Hank Corwin
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros); Joe Walker
  • “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists); Tom Cross, Elliot Graham
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix); Peter Sciberras

Alternate: “King Richard” (Warner Bros); Pamela Martin

Makeup and Hairstyling

CRUELLA — Walt Disney Pictures

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Cruella” (Walt Disney Pictures); Carolyn Cousins, Nadia Stacey
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “House of Gucci” (United Artists/MGM)
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)

Alternate: “The Suicide Squad” (Warner Bros.)

Music – Original Score

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix) — Nicholas Britell
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros) — Hans Zimmer
  • “Encanto” (Walt Disney Pictures) — Germaine Franco
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix) — Jonny Greenwood
  • “Spencer” (Neon/Topic Studios) — Jonny Greenwood

Alternate: “King Richard” (Warner Bros) — Kris Bowers

Would never stop talking about it for the rest of my life: “Candyman” (Universal Pictures) — Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe

Music – Original Song

Predicted Nominees:

  1. “Just Look Up” from “Don’t Look Up” (Netflix)
  2. “Down to Joy” from “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  3. “No Time to Die” from “No Time to Die” (MGM)
  4. “Be Alive” from “King Richard” (Warner Bros)
  5. “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto” (Walt Disney Animation)

Alternate: “Guns Go Bang” from “The Harder They Fall” (Netflix) or “So May We Start” from “Annette” (Amazon Studios)

Production Design

Searchlight Pictures

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “The French Dispatch” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “Nightmare Alley” (Searchlight Pictures)
  • “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Alternate: “Cyrano” (United Artists/MGM)

Really deserves a nomination: “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (A24/Apple)

Sound

Timothée Chalamet stars as Paul Atreides in DUNE — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Belfast” (Focus Features)
  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony Pictures)
  • “West Side Story” (20th Century Studios)

Alternate: “The Power of the Dog” (Netflix)

Rooting for: “The Matrix: Resurrections” (Warner Bros)

Visual Effects

Image from DUNE — Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Dune” (Warner Bros)
  • “The Matrix: Resurrections” (Warner Bros)
  • “No Time to Die” (MGM/United Artists)
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Marvel)
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Sony Pictures)

Alternate: “Godzilla vs. Kong” (Warner Bros.) or “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Sony Pictures)

Best Animated Short Film

  • “Boxballet”
  • “Mum Is Pouring Rain”
  • “Robin Robin”
  • “Step into the River”
  • “Us Again”

Documentary Short Subject

  • “Audible”
  • “Lynching Postcards: ‘Token of a Great Day'”
  • “The Queen of Basketball”
  • “Terror Contagion”
  • “Three Songs for Benazir”

Short Film – Live Action

  • “Censor of Dreams”
  • “Les Grandes Claques”
  • “The Long Goodbye”
  • “Please Hold”
  • “You’re Dead Helen”

The 94th Academy Awards will be held Sunday, March 27, 2022.

Written by
Karen Peterson is the Awards Editor for We Live Entertainment. She previously worked as the Assistant Editor at Awards Circuit, now owned by Variety. Her work can also be found at Citizen Dame and at the Watch and Talk podcast. Her non-awards season hobbies include Angels baseball, taking pictures of other peoples' pets, and tweeting about The Bachelor franchise.

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