Oscars 2022: Hollywood’s Big Night Returns

From Coda to West Side Story, we explore the Best Picture contenders at the 94th Academy Awards

From Coda to West Side Story, we explore the Best Picture contenders at the 94th Academy Awards

For the first time since 2020, this annual tribute to film’s finest achievements feels like a true, glamour-packed celebration again. After a year off-site, the Academy Awards are back home at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre. And while Regina King did a great job hosting the more intimate, pandemic-era Oscars at Union Station in Los Angeles last year, having not one, but three comedic hosts—Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes—promises to bring some much-needed levity to the most prestigious of Tinsel Town galas. “I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea,” quipped Schumer when the news was announced mid-February. “I better go watch some movies.”

Indeed, it’s time to catch up on the 10 best films of the year (at least, if you trust the nominations of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—a group made up of more than 10,000 industry insiders). This year, those movies form quite an eclectic group, from Adam McKay’s apocalyptic satire Don’t Look Up to Steven Spielberg’s remake of the iconic West Side Story.

An emerging favourite, to the surprise of many, is Apple TV+’s “little film that could,” CODA, an American take on 2014 French comedy La Famille Belier. Sian Heder’s reinterpretation focuses on Ruby Rossi (Locke & Key‘s Emilia Jones), a hearing child of deaf adults, who is torn between pursuing her love of music and staying in the fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, where she’s spent her entire life supporting the family business. The film swept Sundance when it debuted in 2021 and has gone on to win accolades throughout the spring, including Best Film Ensemble at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, along with the SAG for Best Supporting Actor for Rossi family patriarch Troy Kotsur—who became the first deaf actor to win an individual Screen Actors Guild Award. What initially seemed like a long shot and a courtesy inclusion for the heartwarming film, may now knock The Power of the Dog out of its frontrunner position; director Jane Campion’s period drama, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a bitter, closeted cowboy who goes out of his way to terrorize his brother and sister-in-law (played by real-life couple Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst) was long seen as the film most likely to nab the grand prize at this year’s Oscars. The western is still unlikely to go home empty-handed, as many hope that The Piano director takes the statue for Best Director—now that she’s the first woman in Oscar history to be nominated twice for that particular award.

Campion is in a duel for gold in both the Best Picture and Best Director category, with Kenneth Branagh and his semi-autobiographical family drama Belfast, about a young boy growing up in the tumult of late-1960s Northern Ireland. Although Campion and Branagh will be going toe-to-toe in most categories, they are each likely to win an award, sans combat, for Best Screenplay; Campion for adapting Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, and Branagh for his original script.

There are few who believe Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story will win the biggest prize of the night, like Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise’s version did back in 1962, but history has a great chance of repeating itself in the Best Supporting Actress category. Following in the footsteps of Rita Moreno, who won the award for portraying the original Anita, Ariana DeBose appears to be on a solid track to bring home the golden boy for the same role in 2022.

King Richard, the biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’ father and his efforts to raise/coach two of the world’s greatest tennis players, is also unlikely to score the big win on Oscar night. In the Best Actor category, however, Will Smith’s third Oscar nomination may take him from (Fresh) prince to king on Sunday.

In the spirit of “everybody gets a trophy,” Canadian Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi spectacle Dune is likely to sweep the below-the-line categories, for its masterful creation of a futuristic world. And while Japanese grief drama Drive My Car may not be able to pull a Parasite-like coup in the top category, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s emotional film has a good chance of coming out on top among the Best International Features.

While there aren’t enough Oscars to go around for everyone, what the Academy always manages to do is lift up films that may otherwise have gone unnoticed by a larger audience. Neither Guillermo del Toro’s elaborate remake of noir classic Nightmare Alley nor the Jennifer Lawrence- and Leonardo DiCaprio-led Don’t Look Up are one of those (if you missed the latter, the superstar-studded comedy about the end of the world streams globally on Netflix); but director Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age drama Licorice Pizza has, thanks to an unusually long and somewhat odd awards season, been plucked from relative obscurity to a must-see in 2022.

Regardless of who you’re rooting for (and is that really why we’re watching, anyway?) the evening is guaranteed to provide at least one watercooler moment for the ages. Will another actor’s name be mispronounced as epically as when John Travolta introduced us to “Adele Dazeem?” Could any host combo be as disastrous as Anne Hathaway and James Franco? With the Oscars, you just never know. And that’s entertainment!

The Oscars airs Sunday, March 27th at 5 p.m. on CTV and ABC