Oscars 2022: Jezebel's Guide to the Best Picture Race

Oscars 2022: Jezebel's Guide to the Best Picture Race

Only a dedicated few manages to watch all ten nominees and follow the awards season horse race—so here's a guide for the rest of us.

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The Oscars have always been high stakes, but these days—with dire Covid-era box office returns and dwindling viewership numbers—each award show feels pretty existential. Hence, Tony Hawk. And Kelly Slater, Shaun White, and DJ Khaled, all of whom, despite being pro athletes and a music producer, will be presenters, in the Oscars’ latest desperate attempt to keep viewership numbers from circling the drain. (Hawk jokingly pointed out on Twitter that, as an alum of Sharknado 5 and Police Academy 4, among other cinematic classics, he’s technically qualified for the gig.)

One reason that they’re pulling out all the stunts is fear that the movies themselves may not draw the audience the Academy is looking for. According to one poll of “general entertainment consumers,” a majority of respondents said they weren’t aware of 9 out of 10 of the Best Picture nominees—West Side Story, with 55 percent awareness, was the exception.

So, if you don’t really know your CODA from your Belfast, you’re far from alone. Here’s a guide to the Best Picture nominees, their chances at winning the top prize, and how angry everyone will be if they snatch the crown, as determined by a highly scientific formula (prior award wins + vibes).

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The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog

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Who’s Who: Written and directed by Jane Campion, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (all of whom are up for Academy Awards).

The Basics: Tensions erupt within a wealthy farming family when a sweet and stoic rancher (Jesse Plemons) marries a nice single mom (Kirsten Dunst), much to the dismay of his grouchy brother (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Its Chances: This is the clear frontrunner. It’s nominated right down to the rafters—with 12 nods, it’s up for more awards than every other film—and it’s been on a pretty clean sweep all awards season, winning top prizes at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice Awards, and nearly every other event that gives out trophies.

How pissed would people be if it wins? Pretty much everyone not named Sam Elliott would be cool with this Best Picture pick.

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Coda

Coda

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Who’s Who: Written and directed by Sian Heder, starring Emilia Jones, Troy Korsur, Marlee Matlin, and Daniel Durant.

The Basics: The film’s title is an acronym that stands for “child of deaf adults,” which is also a pretty good summary of the movie. It’s about a young woman who’s the only hearing person in her family, and her struggle between love for and responsibilities to her deaf mom, dad, and brother, and her passion for singing.

Its Chances: CODA’s odds got a big boost from its best film win at the Producer’s Guild Awards, which is considered to be the best predictor of Oscars outcomes. But with only three nominations total, CODA’s still trailing the Power of the Dog when it comes to basking in Academy love.

How pissed would people be if it wins? CODA’s BP-worthiness has been the subject of increasing debate as its stock has risen, with some deeming the feel-good coming-of-age film artistically unworthy of the top prize and fans of the movie deeming its critics meanies and snobs. So yes, folks could get pretty pissed off.

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West Side Story

West Side Story

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Who’s Who: Directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Tony Kushner and starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, and Ariana DeBose.

The Basics: It’s only the hotly-anticipated remake of one of the most beloved musicals of all time.

Its Chances: Looking relatively slim, though it did snag the Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy. The film was beloved by critics, but its disappointing box office performance didn’t do much for its momentum.

How pissed would people be? This is a movie that lives squarely at the Best Picture sweet spot of artistry and popularity. Few would be pissed.

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Drive My Car

Drive My Car

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Who’s Who: Directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, written by Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe, starring Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tōko Miura.

The Basics: It’s based on a Haruki Murakami short story, and is about a mournful theater actor who develops a bond with his young driver.

Its Chances: Drive My Car is almost universally considered to be among the very finest films of the year, but the Academy’s historic bias against non-English language movies (Parasite, the 2020 Best Picture winner, was the first ever to take the top prize) means that it would still be a long shot winner.

How pissed would people be? The very worst people—like those who were mad when Parasite won—would likely be mad all over again.

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Belfast

Belfast

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Who’s Who: Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, and starring Jude Hill, Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, and Ciarán Hinds.

The Basics: Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film is a coming of age tale set in Troubles-era Belfast.

Its chances: Not good. Still, it’s won a couple top prizes, so can’t be entirely counted out just yet.

How pissed would people be? Probably kinda pissed, as there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of Belfast love out there compared to some of the other nominees.

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Dune

Dune

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Who’s Who: Directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Jon Spaihts, Villeneuve, and Eric Roth, starring Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya.

The Basics: This adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic tells the story of a moody princeling who must confront his heroic destiny amid interplanetary conflict.

Its Chances: It hasn’t won any major top prizes so far, and isn’t seen as a strong contender.

How pissed would people be? Dune was well-reviewed and popular, so people probably wouldn’t be pissed.

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Licorice Pizza

Licorice Pizza

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Who’s Who: Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim.

The Basics: It’s an ode to early ‘70s Southern California and an intimate, freewheeling coming-of-age story of romance and get-rich schemes.

Its Chances: Beloved though the film is, it doesn’t seem to have gained a ton of traction in the Best Picture discussion.

How pissed would people be? It’s not the most watched film on the list, but neither are the frontrunners, and it’s got a dedicated, movie-lover fanbase. There’s also the question of the film’s anti-Asian racism, however, which would make it a controversial Best Picture winner.

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King Richard

King Richard

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Who’s Who: Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, written by Zach Baylin, starring Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis.

The Basics The film is about Richard Williams’ efforts to nurture the burgeoning careers of his daughters, Venus and Serena, as outsiders facing the rich, white tennis establishment.

Its Chances: Slim! This one doesn’t really seem to be in the conversation for the top prize, though Will Smith, who won a Golden Globe, BAFTA, and a SAG award for his performance, is a strong best actor contender.

How pissed would people be? Much like CODA, this is a sentimental family picture, so those who’d rather see a more artistically accomplished film get the win would probably be ticked off.

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Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley

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Who’s Who: Directed by Guillermo del Toro, written by del Toro and Kim Morgan, starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, and Willem Dafoe.

The Basics: Cooper stars as a mysterious schemer in this noir-ish thriller of World War II-era carnies and con-artists.

Its Chances: Low—the reviews weren’t that great for a Best Picture contender, and it feels like a lot of the love this movie gets is residual affection for the stacked cast and GDT himself.

How pissed would people be? Probably fairly pissed.

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Don’t Look Up

Don’t Look Up

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Who’s Who: Written and directed by Adam McKay, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, and featuring just about every other famous person on earth.

The Basics: DiCaprio and Lawrence play astronomers attempting to warn humanity about a comet strike that will destroy the earth in this subtle and not at all smug climate change parable.

Its Chances: This movie was so roundly criticized that Academy voters would have to be trolling to crown it best picture.

How pissed would people be? No outcome could start more drama than this very bad movie winning best picture. Am I awful for almost wanting to see it happen?

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