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​It’s Oscars 2022 Prediction Season, and We’re Naming Names​

Get excited for these big movies — with grownup stars — that are coming to your theater soon​

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson star in Dune while Kristen Stewart stars in Spencer

Chiabella James/Warner Bros.; Pablo Larrain/Neon

(Left to right) Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides and Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides in “Dune”; Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer.”

​If it’s pumpkin spice latte season in August, you know it’s Oscar prediction season in September! Why? The heavy-hitter film festivals that set the table for the rest of the year’s award-seeking movies are in our rear-view mirror (now that Denzel Washington, 66, has brought his Macbeth from Broadway to screen at the New York Film Festival). Which means it’s time to name names, get the office pools buzzing and get excited for catching these big films and performances as they hit theaters this fall. Here’s our early predictions on who’ll be nominated next February and take home the gold (statues) in March.​

Best Actor: Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth​ ​

In the stark black-and-white adaptation from Joel Coen, 66, Washington portrays the tragic warrior with every wrinkle in his face, his iambic pentameter delivery a master class in speaking Shakespeare. This is the performance that will haunt high school English classes for the next decade — and could take the best actor crown, although a challenge from Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog (see below) may divide the vote.

The prediction: Will be nominated, should win​

Handicapper’s notes: Washington won a best actor for Flight, and a best supporting actor for Malcolm X.​

Check it out: The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actor: Will Smith in King Richard

Will Smith, 53, knocked out festival audiences (and AARP critics) as Richard Williams, the father and coach of power tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams. Can he go match, set, game against Washington's Macbeth?

The prediction: Will be nominated, long odds to win

Handicapper’s notes: Twice nominated for best actor (Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness), he lost first to Washington in 2002, and then Forest Whitaker in 2007.

Check it out: King Richard

Olivia Colman stars in the film The Lost Daughter

Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix

Best Actress: Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter

The prediction: The awards tornado Colman, 47, riding high on The Crown, will lead this year's British wave as the distraught empty nester on a solo holiday in Maggie Gyllenhaal's directorial debut adapted from the fierce novel of the same name by Elena Ferrante, 78 (My Brilliant Friend). But this is a rich field already, with Oscar powerhouse Frances McDormand in the awards house as Lady Macbeth, not to mention Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin and Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana, so maybe hedge your bets on this category.

Handicapper's notes: Colman won best actress in 2019 for The Favourite and received a best actress nomination in 2021 for playing the daughter in The Father.​

Check it out: The Lost Daughter


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Best Actress: Penelope Cruz in Parallel Mothers

Maternal figures have long been an obsession for the vibrant Pedro Almodovar, 72, and star Penelope Cruz, 47, has played his mother in the past. Here, she’s the elder of two single moms who meet, and bond, on the maternity ward. ​

The prediction: Will be nominated, long odds to win ​

Handicapper’s notes: Cruz won best supporting actress for Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2009, and was nominated in the same category for the 2007 Nine, and for best actress in Almodovar’s 2007 Volver. Overdue for a best director Oscar, Almodovar has taken the best foreign language feature film in 2000 for the fittingly titled All About My Mother, and best original screenplay for Talk to Her in 2003. ​

Check it out: Parallel Mothers

Best Actress: Jennifer Hudson in Respect

The actress sings her heart out as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, in a song-studded biopic. While the overstuffed movie seems to be fading in the best picture race, Hudson’s still belting to the rafters for best actress.

The prediction: Will be nominated, might win.

Handicapper’s notes: Hudson won the best supporting actress for Dreamgirls in 2007.

Check it out: Respect 

Best Actress: Kristen Stewart in Spencer

Another one of Pablo Larrain’s dreamy biopics about famous female figures, Spencer follows Jackie, Larrain's take on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (which won the 2017 AARP Movies for Grownups Awards for best time capsule). All the buzz is on hipster Stewart’s amazing transformation to the proper pretty princess — and mum to Harry and William — who’d never be queen.

The prediction: Will be nominated, long odds to win

Handicapper’s notes: Jackie earned Natalie Portman an Oscar nomination — and that’s the least Stewart can expect.

Check it out: Spencer

Best Picture: Belfast

Irish-born Sir Kenneth Branagh, 60, digs deep into his past for his black-and-white coming-of-age saga. It scored the coveted People’s Choice Award of the Toronto International Film Festival, an indicator that this crowd pleaser, like Green Book and Moonlighting before it, is bound for the winner’s circle — and could also carry best director, and a slew of nominations. But he’ll have serious contenders on his flanks, including Jane Campion (see below).

The prediction: Will be nominated, long odds to win

Handicapper’s notes: Five-time Oscar nominee Branagh — in acting, directing and writing categories — is ready for his win.

Check it out: Belfast 

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand star in the film The Tragedy of Macbeth

Alison Cohen Rosa/A24

Denzel Washington (left) and Frances McDormand in "The Tragedy of Macbeth."

Best Picture: The Tragedy of Macbeth

With the power of the Academy in its acting branch, the strength of Washington’s performance will drive the adaptation into the Oscar short list. But will it take the top spot? We’ll find out! The drama faces stiff competition from The Power of the Dog, Belfast and the as-yet-unseen Nightmare Alley from Guillermo del Toro, 56. 

The prediction: Will be nominated, might win

Handicapper’s notes: Coen, while he’s shared four Oscars with his brother Ethan, including a 2008 best director for No Country for Old Men, hasn’t been nominated for a solo best director since Fargo in 1997, and never for his own best picture.​

Check it out: The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Picture: West Side Story

As yet largely unseen, this long touted revival of an American classic could bring a bonanza for director Steven Spielberg. Or it might take a cancel-culture hit like Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights. If it dodges the cultural bullet and sings its way into audience’s hearts, this could mean a best picture nomination and another notch on Spielberg’s belt.

The prediction: Should be nominated, long odds to win

Handicapper’s notes: Spielberg has won best director twice, for 1999’s Saving Private Ryan and 1994’s Schindler’s List, which also won him a best picture statuette. In 2012, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his body of work.

Check it out: West Side Story

Best Director: Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog 

The first film from Jane Campion, 67, since 2009, is a True Grit Montana-set Western centered on a tense romantic triangle. Benedict Cumberbatch is always good for an Oscar nomination, here for his portrait of masculinity, sexuality and the single rancher.

The prediction: Will be nominated, might win​

Handicapper’s notes: In 1994, Campion won best screenplay for The Piano, but only a nomination for her masterly directing. That’s gonna change. And Cumberbatch has never won despite a nomination for The Imitation Game, and he’ll land on the best actor shortlist.​

Check it out: The Power of the Dog

Best Cinematography (and more): Dune

Embraced by critics, lauded at festivals, Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s beloved space novel is poised to sweep the tech awards — cinematography, visual effects, sound and production design. Villeneuve, snubbed in the best director category for Blade Runner 2049, now launches a space race to the top of that category.

The prediction: Will be nominated, will sweep the tech awards

Handicapper’s notes: While David Lynch’s 1984 Dune adaptation underperformed, early buzz suggests this epic sci-fi adventure may follow in the awards path carved by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Check it out: Dune

Plan your watch party now! The 94th Academy Awards will be held on March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Thelma M. Adams, the former film critic for Us Weekly and the New York Post, is a novelist who writes on film for AARP, The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter and Variety.

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