Best Picture and Best Director are usually the most linked Oscar categories as the latter often really tells us what the top 5 films are in an era of more than five Best Picture nominees.
But even in this expanded era, the directing branch has thrown us multiple curves. The days of yore of the ‘lone director’ nominee continues as the last decade has given us three directors who have made the cut without their films doing so: Bennett Miller for 2014’s Foxcatcher, Paweł Pawłowski for 2018’s Cold War and just last year, Thomas Vinterberg for Another Round. What used to be the riskiest and most unpredictable prediction has now become almost a trend. Which director will get in without their film? As the two most recent examples show, it’s due to the ever-expanding membership of the directing branch and its inclusion of more international members over the last five years (by percentage) than any other branch. At this point, we’re now all actively looking for who could fit that slot.
This year it’s very clearly Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car, the 3-hour Japanese masterpiece that stormed the critics’ trifecta of LAFCA, NYFCC and NSFC for their top film category. While no one has been able to come close to Jane Campion’s demolition of critics’ director wins this year, Hamaguchi has three wins of his own (tied for second most with Denis Villeneuve) plus a BAFTA nom and while the film will definitely earn an International Feature Film nomination and seems primed for Adapted Screenplay too, it makes sense to think the directing branch will eat it up.
But who is out from the DGA five? Not Jane Campion. Not Villeneuve. Will the directing branch snub Steven Spielberg with seven nominations and two wins under his belt? He got DGA but he missed BAFTA and the film made a poor showing there overall, even missing out on Best Film. West Side Story is getting at least one acting nomination but screenplay is on the cusp. With one exception (1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark), he’s never gotten into directing with Best Picture without a writing nomination. Only once has he gotten into directing (without Best Picture) with no writing and only an acting nomination (1978’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind). He’s gotten in when his film is a top 5 contender and missed when it has been, but he’s never gotten in when both he and his film missed at BAFTA, new voting be damned, outside of 2005’s Munich, which was totally blanked by BAFTA that year. Is Kenneth Branagh vulnerable a la Peter Farrelly? Can Paul Thomas Anderson go all the way? The answer to all of those is yes and no, because outside of Campion (and probably Villeneuve although, what was that BAFTA snub?) no one is really that safe. Your film may be ‘top 5’ but it doesn’t mean you are.
Speaking of, with the Academy going back to a straight 10 Best Picture nominees it should make predictions easier, right? Wrong. In years past, we could look at the PGA 10 (they went to a straight 10 in 2009 when the Oscars did and just stayed there) it was almost easy to pick out the PGA-only films that weren’t going to make the Oscar cut. This year, it’s truly a head-scratcher and a nail-biter as the PGA list makes sense as a Best Picture list but I think one film will be missing.
I’m sticking with my same top 3 I’ve had since summer: Belfast, The Power of the Dog and King Richard. All three premiered or played at Telluride, the best festival launching pad we have for Best Picture. Since 2007, only one film, Green Book, has sidestepped there and still won. Throughout the season people tried very hard to convince themselves and others that we’d see a late December release (hasn’t happened since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby) or a film without any festival run (hasn’t happened since 2006’s The Departed) shake things up but here are, days before Oscar nominations with the same two frontrunners we’ve had since September: Belfast and The Power of the Dog.
PGA really had some fun with us when it named its nominees, essentially the same 8 that we all had. Some, myself included, expected to see some box office hits like House of Gucci and Spider-Man: No Way Home or No Time to Die show up. But none did and instead it was…Being the Ricardos. It was tough to make sense of this one, not a typical PGA pick for a movie that didn’t hit SAG Cast, Critics Choice or the Golden Globe picture categories. Not even the AFI or NBR top 10 lists. Only PGA. That’s a pretty big outlier and while I can see why some would predict it, I can’t do it.
Remember, even in 2009 and 2010, the first two years of the expanded Best Picture and PGA lineup of 10 nominees, they never went 10/10.
There’s one big caveat to my list here: I’m predicting Netflix to become the first studio in 61 years to earn three Best Picture spots. They’ve been trying hard, got real close last year. Can they finally do it with The Power of the Dog, Don’t Look Up and tick, tick…BOOM!?
Here are my final 2022 Oscar nomination predictions for Best Director and Best Picture.
1. Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, DGA
2. Kenneth Branagh – Belfast (Focus Features) – GG, CCA, DGA
3. Denis Villeneuve – Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA, DGA
4. Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza (MGM/UAR) – CCA, BAFTA, DGA
5. Ryusuke Hamaguchi – Drive My Car (Sideshow/Janus Films) – BAFTA
6. Steven Spielberg – West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG, CCA, DGA
7. Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up (Netflix)
8. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter (Netflix) – GG
9. Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – CCA
10. Reinaldo Marcus Green – King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
1. Belfast (Focus Features) – GG, CCA, SAG, BAFTA, PGA
2. The Power of the Dog (Netflix) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, PGA
3. King Richard (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA, SAG, PGA
4. Dune (Warner Bros/HBO Max) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, PGA
5. Licorice Pizza (MGM/UAR) – GG, CCA, BAFTA, PGA
6. Don’t Look Up (Netflix) – GG, CCA, SAG, BAFTA, PGA
7. West Side Story (20th Century Studios) – GG, CCA, PGA
8. CODA (Apple Original Films) – GG, CCA, SAG, PGA
9. tick, tick…BOOM! (Netflix) – GG, CCA, PGA
10. House of Gucci (MGM/UAR) – SAG
Spoilers: Being the Ricardos (Amazon Studios) – PGA, Nightmare Alley (Searchlight Pictures) – CCA, The Tragedy of Macbeth (A24/Apple Original Films)