Put out more flags. We are still on track for the most Irish Oscars since the famous annus mirabilis of 2016 when, thanks to Brooklyn and Room, the Irish Film Board (as it then still was) secured more nominations than Paramount and Universal Studios combined.
The juggernaut here is, of course, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast. Coming to the Telluride festival in September with only modest fanfare, the sentimental monochrome drama was, after that premiere, immediately anointed as an Oscar contender. Clayton Davis in Variety described it as “the first movie I’ve seen this year that can be a best picture winner”.
The film performed satisfactorily in the subsequent awards season and can expect multiple mentions when the Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday.
There is, nonetheless, a sense that a little momentum has been lost. Belfast failed to score some key nominations – notably best director – at last week’s Bafta announcement, but, as those shortlists are now largely chosen by a select jury, we cannot read too much into that. Branagh’s inclusion among the five names nominated by the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) for best feature keeps him at the front of the grid. Should he receive Oscar nods in director and picture (as producer), he will beat the current record for nominations in most categories over a career. The title, with six, is currently shared by Walt Disney, Alfonso Cuarón and George Clooney.
Early hopes that three or more actors from Belfast will receive nominations are fading. Nominated at Bafta, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the British Independent Film Awards, the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice, Caitríona Balfe seems safe in best supporting actress.
Ciarán Hinds, up at Bafta, the Globes and Critics Choice, should just about squeeze in to best supporting actor. But neither Jamie Dornan nor Judi Dench look to have the legs.
Meanwhile, Ruth Negga, first tipped over a year ago when Rebecca Hall’s Passing premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, has been quietly building up awards nominations and wins with critics groups. She has been seen as being “on the bubble” for a best supporting actress nomination, but the good will looks sufficient to see her safe.
Negga could well be the only former Oscar nominee in a competitive race. A nomination from Bafta gives Jessie Buckley, so strong in The Last Daughter, a psychological boost in the same category, but it feels as if the Oscar nod may just be out of reach. Her time will come.
The current race looks a little more like an average Oscar hooley than last year’s weird, deep-Covid competition. Box office matters again. But how much? One of things dragging Belfast back is its sluggish takings in the US (though it has done well in Ireland and the UK). That film, however, was never expected to be a smash.
The more conspicuous failure of West Side Story – a hugely budgeted, ecstatically reviewed Steven Spielberg entertainment – has attracted greater levels of furrowed debate. The musical should still score heavily in nominations, but that financial shadow may be of significance at the awards themselves.
Meanwhile, Netflix, yet to score a best picture win, carves out its own rules. Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog – the former critically divisive, the latter raved about everywhere – look set to score big on nominations day.
We think Don’t Look Up was watched by millions and that Power of the Dog had respectable home viewing. But who knows for sure?
We offer predictions in the main races. Contenders are arranged in descending order of likely inclusion. Technical nominations should take Denis Villeneuve’s Dune to the top of the charts with around 10 or 11.
PREDICTIONS FOR 2022 OSCAR NOMINATIONS
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story
Dune Part One
Don't Look Up
Tragedy of Macbeth
Tick, Tick… Boom!
Being the Ricardos
For the first time since 2011 there are a guaranteed 10 nominees. The first seven above look nailed down. Then it gets murky. Other contenders: Drive My Car, House of Gucci.
Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
Denis Villeneuve (Dune)
Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza)
Those are the five DGA nominations. But Branagh and Anderson are vulnerable. Other contenders: Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car), Adam McKay (Don’t Look Up).
Will Smith (King Richard)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Power of the Dog)
Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick… Boom!)
Denzel Washington (Tragedy of Macbeth)
Peter Dinklage (Cyrano)
Four near certainties and one place that could go any number of places. Other contenders: Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Leonardo DiCaprio (Don’t Look Up), Nicolas Cage (Pig), Joaquin Phoenix (C’mon, C’mon)
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter)
Lady Gaga (House of Gucci)
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
We’re saying Stewart is just about hanging on after that long post-Venice slide. Ignore that agreeably oddball Bafta list. Anyone’s to win. Other contenders: Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), Jennifer Hudson (Respect), Rachel Zegler (West Side Story), Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza).
Best supporting actor
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Power of the Dog)
Troy Kotsur (CODA)
Ciarán Hinds (Belfast)
Jared Leto (House of Gucci)
Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza)
Strange collection this year. Not as competitive as the best supporting actress race. Other contenders: Jamie Dornan (Belfast), Mike Faist (West Side Story), Jesse Plemons (Power of the Dog)
Best supporting actress
Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog)
Caitríona Balfe (Belfast)
Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
Ruth Negga (Passing)
Potentially five very strong candidates. But probably between Dunst and DeBose. Other contenders: Marlee Matlin (CODA), Rita Moreno (West Side Story), Ann Dowd (Mass), Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter).
Best original screenplay
Don't Look Up
Being the Ricardos
Four sure-fire best picture nominees and one place a little less certain. Other contenders: Parallel Mothers, Mass, C’mon, C’mon.
Best adapted screenplay
The Power of the Dog
West Side Stor
The Lost Daughter
Drive My Car
Very tricky array to predict. Power of the Dog should walk the win. Other contenders: The Tragedy of Macbeth, CODA, Passing.
Best animated feature
The Mitchells vs The Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon
Could Flee become the first film to land in best animated feature, documentary feature and foreign language feature? It will surely miss in at least one race. Other contenders: Belle, Sing 2.
Best documentary feature
Summer of Soul
Summer of Soul has been pleasing crowds all year. But Flee and The Rescue have fans. Other contenders: Attica, Julia, The First Wave.
Best international feature
Drive My Car
The Worst Person in the World
The Hand of God
Compartment No 6
We’re betting this is where Flee stumbles. Drive My Car looks close to unbeatable and could figure elsewhere. Other contenders: Flee, I’m Your Man, A Yak in the Classroom.