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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Who will be nominated for the Oscars? Here are our projections.

Unlike previous years, no other awards will have been handed out before the Oscar nominations are unveiled next week.

By Kyle Buchanan

This year’s Oscar nominations, set to be announced Tuesday, feel unusually up for grabs: With the diminished Golden Globes off the air and the Critics Choice Awards pushed back to March because of the omicron variant, no televised awards show has had the chance to dominate the run-up to these selections, and Oscar voters may gravitate toward some surprising picks as a result.

At least, I hope so. Even though I’m your Projectionist and duty-bound to give you the best Oscar predictions, a small part of me is thrilled when my guesses go wrong, because it means that something unexpected has happened. With that attitude in mind, here are my projections for who and what will be nominated in the Oscars’ top six races, informed by industry scuttlebutt as well as recent nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America.

And may the things I miss be delicious.

Best Picture

“Belfast”“CODA”“Don’t Look Up”“Dune”“King Richard”“Licorice Pizza”“The Power of the Dog”“Tick, Tick ... Boom!”“The Tragedy of Macbeth”“West Side Story”

Let’s start with the locks. The five films nominated by the Directors Guild — “Belfast,” “Dune,” “Licorice Pizza,” “The Power of the Dog” and “West Side Story” — should all be considered sure things; in fact, in the years since the academy expanded its best picture lineup, only one DGA Award nominee (David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) failed to crack the Oscars’ top race. “CODA,” “King Richard” and “Don’t Look Up” all earned best cast nominations from the actors guild in addition to PGA Award nods, so those three films are sitting pretty, too.

In the end, I’m projecting nominations for “Tick, Tick ... Boom!” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” since there’s often a strong correlation between the best picture lineup and the best actor race. Still, this is the first year in a while that the category has a guaranteed 10 nominees, so let’s hope that wider net snags a surprise.

Best Director

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”Denis Villeneuve, “Dune”

It’s tempting to go with the DGA Awards’ lineup of Anderson, Branagh, Campion, Spielberg and Villeneuve, but the Oscars rarely match them five-for-five. So who will be the curveball?

In recent years, the academy’s directors branch has shown a willingness to nominate international filmmakers like Paweł Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) and Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”), whose movies didn’t even make the best picture lineup. This, then, is where I expect major recognition for Hamaguchi’s thoughtful drama “Drive My Car,” which has already netted best film prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the National Society of Film Critics.

And this is also where I think we could get the snub of the year: Spielberg feels vulnerable after “West Side Story” underperformed at the box office, registered minimally with SAG voters, and missed out on key nominations from Hollywood’s editing and cinematographers guilds. Could Hamaguchi really knock out the biggest filmmaker in the bunch? Count on the directors branch for some sort of twist.

Best Actor

Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick ... Boom!”Will Smith, “King Richard”Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Smith hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar in 15 years, but he’s a lock to be recognized for his dominant performance in “King Richard.” Cumberbatch leads one of the most awarded movies of the season; he’s in, too. And Garfield and Washington show off two special talents — for singing and Shakespeare, respectively — that will be catnip for Oscar voters.

Could Leonardo DiCaprio nab the fifth slot for leading the safe-bet best picture nominee “Don’t Look Up”? He’s got a great breakdown scene, but SAG didn’t nominate any of the film’s individual actors. (Perhaps the film is so star-packed that no one had any room to emerge as the MVP.) In the end, I project that SAG nominee Bardem will stay ahead of DiCaprio and dark horse contenders like Peter Dinklage (“Cyrano”), Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”) and Nicolas Cage (“Pig”). But it will be close.

Best Actress

Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter”Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci”Jennifer Hudson, “Respect”Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos”Kristen Stewart, “Spencer”

Ask me about the best actress race in an hour, and I might have an entirely different lineup for you. I feel fairly bullish on Kidman, Colman and Gaga, but there are so many feasible contenders vying for those last two spots that I keep tearing up my projections and starting anew.

Hudson and Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”) were both nominated by SAG, but their biopics haven’t shown a lot of staying power. Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”) and Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”) are leading more acclaimed movies, but a winter compromised by the coronavirus hasn’t given Oscar voters a lot of face time with either ingénue. And if I had my way, there would be two certain slots for Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) and Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”), but they never quite built the momentum they needed this season.

People were shocked when Stewart was snubbed by SAG, but I have a hunch she’ll still make it in: The 31-year-old actress is due for her first nomination, and she’s been hustling hard, showing up to almost every roundtable interview and Q&A for “Spencer.” Of the remaining contenders, I’ll play it safe and predict SAG nominee Hudson, who delivers her most sophisticated performance yet in “Respect.”

Best Supporting Actor

Bradley Cooper, “Licorice Pizza”Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”Troy Kotsur, “CODA”Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”

Smit-McPhee’s performance as Kirsten Dunst’s crafty son is a shoo-in, since by the end of “The Power of the Dog,” he’s emerged as the movie’s stealth protagonist. A prosthetics-laden Leto does the sort of high-voltage transformation in “House of Gucci” that voters love, even if critics are tempted to sneer. And Kotsur’s reaction shots power the emotional third act of “CODA”: His daughter is pulling away, yet now he understands her more than ever.

Some thought Cooper’s two-scene role in “Licorice Pizza” might be too small for Oscar recognition, but he made the SAG lineup, and it’s enormously flashy work from a frequent nominee. Ben Affleck also snagged a SAG nod, but it was for “The Tender Bar,” which is not considered a major Oscar contender. I’d drop Affleck for a supporting performance from the upper tier of best picture nominees, and of that pool — which includes Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”) as well as Hinds and Jamie Dornan (“Belfast”) — I’m picking Hinds, a veteran actor due for his first nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

Caitriona Balfe, “Belfast”Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”Judi Dench, “Belfast”Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog”Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Dunst, DeBose, and Balfe have shown up in all the places you’d expect them, nabbing nominations from SAG, the Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes. Negga feels a bit more vulnerable: She’s simply incredible in one of the trickiest roles of the year, but she missed a Critics Choice nod and her film has been mostly overlooked this season. Still, I don’t want to imagine a world where Negga’s career-best work isn’t lauded, so let’s instead focus on who might be the fifth woman in this lineup.

SAG went for Cate Blanchett in “Nightmare Alley,” a nomination I’m sure even Blanchett wasn’t expecting. Although Frances McDormand has been positioned as a lead actress candidate in the for-your-consideration ads touting “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” her somewhat limited screen time may instead draw more votes in this category. Aunjanue Ellis is very good in “King Richard,” but SAG snubbed her; ditto Rita Moreno in “West Side Story,” who’d have a formidable winning narrative if she can manage to get nominated.

So here’s my shot in the dark: If voters truly love “Belfast,” I think Dench — the last face we see in the movie, and an awfully affecting one at that — can make it in as a coattail nominee.

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