PBS Critic Bill McCuddy Dives into Your 2022 Oscars Pool and Shares His Picks

Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons in "The Power of the Dog"
Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog”
Kirsty Griffin/Netflix © 2021

Our favorite movie critic Bill McCuddy offers his 2022 Oscars picks. Find out if he’s right when the 94th Academy Awards ceremony airs live on ABC (with hosts Wanda Sykes, Regina Hall and Amy Schumer) this Sunday, March 27 at 8 p.m.

I make a lousy martini. I have witnesses to prove I can’t play golf. But at Oscar pools, I have a pretty decent track record. As a cohost of a PBS film review series and a contributor to the industry-read GoldDerby.com, I have a little more inside information than the bagel lady at Breadzilla. Not much, but a little. So, the envelope please, and don’t hold me to these. Because here’s a stunner: Hollywood is fickle.

Best Picture

At Gold Derby we had The Power of the Dog at the top for most of the awards season. I saw it at the Hamptons Film Festival and was wildly under-impressed. But plenty of people liked New Zealand subbing for Montana. And CODA winning the Producer’s Guild now puts it in the lead because they use the same wacky preferential ballot — voters get to rank their own top 10 instead of picking just one. But for that reason I’m hoping King Richard sneaks in for point, set and match. (Spoiler Alert: Will Smith is winning Best Actor.) I’m also hearing a lot of chatter from voters about the Oscars zigging where everything else is zagging, so despite a lackluster box office, East Hampton’s own Steven Spielberg could be the upset with West Side Story. That kid has a future. Remember, in a 10-horse field with this kind of voting, you only need 11% to win. It won’t spread out quite like that, but Tonight, Tonight, could be its night. Still, if I’m betting, I’m putting CODA in my pool.

Director Steven Spielberg and Rita Moreno as Valentina on the set of "West Side Story"
Director Steven Spielberg and Rita Moreno as Valentina on the set of “West Side Story”Niko Tavernise, © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Best Director

Ever since the Academy allowed 10 films and five directors, things started to “uncouple,” as some have called it. Picture and director now routinely go to different projects. And this year should be no exception. Despite a few goofy speeches and a dust-up with Sam Elliott, my shot of whiskey is on Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog. It got 12 nominations. And most importantly, almost all the actors in it are nominated. She clearly knows where to point a camera and what’s supposed to happen in front of it. If there’s an upset it will be for Kenneth Branagh and Belfast, or even Spielberg, neither of which would upset me at all.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in "Spencer"
Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer”Pablo Larrain

Best Actress

The Oscars are a reality TV show when it comes to performances. Portrayals of real people generally have an edge. Nicole played Lucy (Being the Ricardos). And I like that movie. Kristen Stewart was Lady Di (Spencer). I counted seven walkouts for that at the HIFF screening. I didn’t blame them. Great performance, royally disappointing movie. Sag Harbor’s Maggie Gyllenhaal got a great performance out of Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter, but she just won in 2019. So I will join the rest of the critics at Gold Derby and say Jessica Chastain wins here for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, as she did for the SAGs and Critic’s Choice Awards — where I’m a voting member but picked Lady Gaga (House of Gucci) for whom the Oscars did not go “gaga.”

Andrew Garfield as "Jim Bakker" and Jessica Chastain as "Tammy Faye Bakker" in "The Eyes of Tammy Faye"
Andrew Garfield as “Jim Bakker” and Jessica Chastain as “Tammy Faye Bakker” in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Best Actor

I said four months ago when I saw King Richard that this was Will Smith’s to lose. He’s a big star, super nice (it IS a popularity contest no matter what anyone tells you) and has never won. This is his third nomination and it will be the charm. Buy a farm, bet it. If there is ANY conceivable upset here it is Andrew Garfield for tick, tick…BOOM, but he can leave the dancing shoes at home because that ain’t happening.

Best Supporting Actress

This is where Little Stevie gets to smile. Sixty years ago Rita Moreno made history as the first Hispanic actress to win an Oscar. This year for the same role — Anita (West Side Story) — Ariana DeBose is the top choice at Gold Derby. SAGs, BAFTAs and Critics Choice agree. But…this category can be squirrelly. I was at the Oscars the year Juliette Binoche robbed the great Lauren Bacall. If that happens this year it will be Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog) or Aunjune Ellis (King Richard). Of the two, I’m pulling for the Williams sisters’ mom.

(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as "Ma", Judi Dench as "Granny", Jude Hill as "Buddy", and Ciarán Hinds as "Pop" in director Kenneth Branagh's "Belfast"
(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as “Ma”, Judi Dench as “Granny”, Jude Hill as “Buddy”, and Ciarán Hinds as “Pop” in director Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast”Rob Youngson / Focus Features / EPK.TV

Best Supporting Actor

Everyone at Gold Derby likes CODA‘s Troy Kostur. He’s the first deaf male actor ever nominated and that’s important. If he loses it will be a very big deal. But if I were choosing? One of my favorite films of the year is Belfast and Ciarán Hinds is one of the reasons. Someone named McCuddy is a likely sucker for a great Irish performance, and he gave one.

The Rest

Here’s the shallow end of your pool. Foreign Film: Drive My Car. Animated Feature: Encanto. Adapted Screenplay: The Lost Daughter (I’m on a limb here, everyone else likes CODA). Original Screenplay: Belfast. Cinematography: Dune. Editing: Dune. Hair and Makeup: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (everyone else can stay home). Best Song: No Time to Die (A Bond movie gets an Oscar!). Documentary: Summer of Soul, but MAYBE an upset here for Attica.

Amy Schumer
Amy Schumer. Photo credit: Paul Bruinooge/PatrickMcMullen.com

Enjoy the show. Expect lots of Amy Schumer jokes about Disney not initially inviting Rachel Zegler. And remember, when I’m wrong, there’s always next year.

Billy McCuddy with his fickle friend Oscar
Billy McCuddy with his fickle friend Oscar

Bill McCuddy is a frequent Dan’s contributor. He co-hosts two podcasts Sitting Around Talking Movies and The Accutron Show. He is also a cohost of Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen and Lisa Rosman on PBS/AllArts.  

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