2022 Oscar predictions: ‘CODA’ to land underdog knockout, Will Smith finally wins

WTOP's Jason Fraley predicts the Oscars (Part 1)

Break out the red carpet! The 94th annual Academy Awards are Sunday night.

It’s been a long awards season filled with twists and turns, sparking bizarre social media tribalism around the various films in a horse race to the finish line.

It looks like it will be a photo finish, so who will leave the Oscars victorious?

Time for some predictions:

Best Picture

Prediction: “CODA”

This entire awards season, pundits have deemed “The Power of the Dog” the frontrunner after wins at the BAFTAs, Directors Guild Awards, Critics Choice Awards and non-televised Golden Globes. All the while, I’ve kept pulling for the Sundance underdog “CODA,” giving it a 5-star rave review in August and naming it my No. 1 movie of the year in late December.

So you can imagine my joy at seeing “CODA” land three upsets over the past month, first at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, then at the Producers Guild Awards and Writers Guild Awards. Twitter “experts” called me crazy, but I felt a surge for a feel-good film during a pandemic. It’s the one movie I can recommend to folks where they come back raving.

The win would be historic for the streaming service Apple TV+. Voters may rather embrace “CODA,” which was independently made, premiered traditionally at a film festival and was purchased for distribution on a streamer, rather than “The Power of the Dog,” which was originally produced by Netflix. “CODA” will be the first Sundance champ to go the distance.

Best Director

Prediction: Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)

The Academy loves Best Picture vs. Best Director splits (“12 Years a Slave” vs. “Gravity,” “Spotlight” vs. “The Revenant,” “Moonlight” vs. “La La Land”), so it may happen again this year. Best Director is the place to reward Campion’s visual foreshadowing, showing ropes and saddles that appear to mean one thing but mean something else on second viewing.

Jane Campion has already made history as the first woman to earn two Best Director nominations, previously nominated for “The Piano” (1993), which lost to Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List.” This time, Campion will beat Spielberg (“West Side Story”) to win her Oscar, making history with back-to-back female winners (Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland”).

It would be wild for “The Power of the Dog” to enter with the most nominations (12) and only emerge with Best Director, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented. George Stevens’ masterpiece “Giant” (1956) landed 10 nominations but only won Best Director. Everyone should stop right now and go rewatch “Giant” to see exactly how movies should be made.


Best Actor

Prediction: Will Smith (“King Richard”)

Since his screen debut in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” Will Smith has become a beloved blockbuster favorite, from popcorn flicks like “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” to acclaimed roles in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Ali,” for which he would have won an Oscar if it weren’t for Denzel Washington’s harrowing performance in “Training Day.”

This year, Smith will finally top Denzel (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”), as well as previous winner Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”), musical powerhouse Andrew Garfield (“Tick…Tick…Boom!”) and acting genius Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), whose role has drawn comparisons to Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood.”

Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, is the type of feel-good sports role that won Sandra Bullock an Oscar for “The Blind Side.” Last year, Chadwick Boseman was upset by Anthony Hopkins, but this year the Black icon wins to become the fifth Black Best Actor: Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker and Will Smith.


Best Actress

Prediction: Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)

This is the hardest category to predict because there has been no real consensus across the other award ceremonies and none of the films were nominated for Best Picture, making it hard to judge momentum behind any of these roles. I also can’t get over the fact that Tessa Thompson (“Passing”) and Martha Plimpton (“Mass”) were both snubbed here.

Kristen Stewart appeared to be the early frontrunner as Princess Diana in “Spencer,” but that narrative shifted when Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”) won at the non-televised Golden Globes. Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) could land another upset like she did for “The Favourite,” but Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) is the most likely shocker.

Still, I predict Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), who won at the SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards, then announced that she’ll skip the red carpet to support her hair and makeup team in the #PresentAll23 controversy. It also marks 10 years since she should have won for “Zero Dark Thirty” as “the mother [bleeper] who found Bin Laden.”


Best Supporting Actor

Prediction: Troy Kotsur (“CODA”)

Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee delivered acclaimed performances in “The Power of the Dog,” but they may cancel each other out on the ballot. J.K Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”) has already won an Oscar for “Whiplash,” so I doubt he wins again, while veteran Ciarán Hinds is a deserving nominee as Buddy’s charming grandpa in “Belfast.”

However, this category is a lock for Troy Kotsur (“CODA”), who has cleaned up at the SAG Awards, BAFTAs, Critics Choice Awards, Gotham Awards and Independent Spirit Awards. His role as the deaf father of a hearing daughter was simultaneously hilarious and heartwarming, particularly that scene with Emilia Jones on the tailgate of his truck.

His Oscar win will be the culmination of a feel-good story for an actor who slept in his car trying to make it in Hollywood with hardly any deaf roles to play. He will now become the first deaf actor to win Best Actor, fittingly playing the husband of Marlee Matlin, who became the first deaf actress to win Best Actress for her role in “Children of a Lesser God.”

Best Supporting Actress

Prediction: Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)

Finally, this is the category with the most snubs. Ruth Negga and Ann Dowd should have been here for their roles in “Passing” and “Mass.” Instead, the nominations went to Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”), Judi Dench (“Belfast”), Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”), Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”) and Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”).

Ellis is the only potential upset winner here, but I’m going with DeBose, who has dominated at SAG, BAFTAs, Critics Choice and the non-televised Golden Globes. Her role as Anita was a revelation, particularly during the reimagined dance number “America.”

DeBose will make history as the first openly LGBTQ star to win and just the second Latin American actress to win after Rita Moreno in “West Side Story” (1961). Anita will thus become the third character to have two stars win for the same role, joining Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro) and The Joker (Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix).

WTOP's Jason Fraley predicts the Oscars (Part 2)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up