oscars 2022

Can Anyone Beat Power of the Dog in Best Picture?

Clockwise from top-left: The Power of the Dog, West Side Story, Dune, and Belfast. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Netflix, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros. and Focus Features

For the first time in a decade, the Oscars are back to ten Best Picture nominees, though that doesn’t mean that each of them is equally assured of winning. After last week’s nominations, The Power of the Dog has jumped into pole position in the Best Picture race, showing up in every major category and ending the day with a field-leading 13 noms. However, with six weeks left before the big night, and all of Hollywood’s guilds yet to weigh in, there’s plenty of time left for some shakeups. Right now, though, here’s my back-of-the-envelope calculation as to where things stand as we enter award season’s second phase, ranked from the least to the most likely contenders.

10. Nightmare Alley

Our “just happy to be here” nominee. A disappointing opening both critically and commercially landed Guillermo del Toro’s noir remake on the Oscar bubble, so the film’s surprise Best Picture berth is its own reward. That’s also its only above-the-line nomination, as Nightmare Alley joins Ford v Ferrari, Black Panther, Selma, and War Horse in the ranks of Best Picture nominees without any recognition in the acting, directing, or writing categories. A craft trophy or two is possible, but the big prize is likely out of reach.

In the running at: WGA

9. Drive My Car

The four categories Drive My Car is nominated in happen to be the same basic quartet Parasite won two years ago: Picture, Director, Screenplay (Adapted, not Original) and International Film. Before you start either planning a raucous celebration at Film Forum/moaning that the Oscars are abandoning Hollywood, remember that Parasite was also nominated in races like Editing and Production Design and had been a major factor at the guilds’ precursor awards. Drive My Car doesn’t share those advantages. Without the ability to pick up momentum-boosting trophies from the guilds, Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film will have to get by with a little help from its cinephile friends.

In the running at: No top nominations, but it did get Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Not in the English Language nods at the BAFTAs


CODA is a throwback to the Oscar races of an earlier age, when heartwarming Sundance dramedies were as regular a sight as Anthony Minghella and the Miramax logo. It’s also another instance where the Best Picture nomination is the big accomplishment, though at least Troy Kotsur retains an outside shot at upsetting Power of the Dog’s Kodi Smit-McPhee for Supporting Actor. (Adapted Screenplay will be a tougher battle.) The grain of hope for this little indie is that it’s a feel-good movie that should play well on the preferential ballot.

In the running at: SAG, PGA, WGA

7. Don’t Look Up

Usually, when I disagree with those who think a given movie is the Best Picture frontrunner, it’s because they are superfans and I am not. Not so with Don’t Look Up — the people who are most bullish about its Oscar chances are people who hate the movie and see its inevitable win as divine punishment for our fallen world. Let me offer this small piece of consolation to my colleague Alison Willmore: If Adam McKay’s star-studded satire was truly going to usher in the apocalypse by winning, it probably would have shown up in Best Actor or Best Director. (That said, when Don’t Look Up runs the table at the guilds, I’ll meet you under the couch.)

In the running at: SAG, BAFTA, PGA, WGA

6. Licorice Pizza

While Licorice Pizza was one of only four films to get into Picture, Director, and Screenplay, its nomination morning was muted, since neither Bradley Cooper nor Alana Haim managed to score an acting nod. A rush of excitement that slowly turns bittersweet? That’s Paul Thomas Anderson, baby!

In the running at: DGA, BAFTA, PGA, WGA

5. King Richard

Best Actor looks like Will Smith’s to lose, but can King Richard compete anywhere else? The sports biopic didn’t miss anywhere it was supposed to, and even got into the Editing category, which has been a key Best Picture bellwether in the past. Like CODA, its broadly accessible nature should help it on the preferential ballot, and Team Richard has saved the big guns for phase two, putting Venus and Serena front and center on the campaign trail.

In the running at: SAG, PGA, WGA

4. West Side Story

I confess I have a hard time grokking just how strong a contender the new West Side Story is. Steven Spielberg made the grade in Best Director … but his collaborator Tony Kushner got snubbed in Adapted Screenplay. Ariana DeBose is widely considered the Supporting Actress front-runner … but the only lineup anyone else in the cast cracked was at BAFTA, where a few WSS fans on the juries could have swung it. There are pockets of passionate support out there, but the industry as a whole hasn’t embraced the musical as warmly as I thought it would. The film hits HBO Max and Disney+ on March 2 — will that be enough to grow the cult?

In the running at: DGA, PGA, WGA

3. Dune

Denis Villeneuve’s Best Director miss was the most surprising Oscar snub this side of Patrizia Reggiani. Even so, Dune still wound up second in total nominations to Power of the Dog. Could that Director snub rally support around Dune, as we previously saw with Argo and Green Book? It’s possible, but the more plausible Oscar precedent is Lord of the Rings, which didn’t haul until its final installment. Warner’s toughest task will be to convince voters that the time to reward Villeneuve’s blockbuster is now, not two years in the future.

In the running at: DGA, BAFTA, PGA, WGA

2. Belfast

Belfast and Power of the Dog had been running neck-and-neck since Telluride. The Oscar nominations finally broke the deadlock, as POTD led the field while Belfast received two notable snubs in Editing and Cinematography. (Not to mention the weirdness of Catríona Balfe missing a Supporting Actress nod in favor of her costar Judi Dench.) Kenneth Branagh’s memory piece made it into all the big categories, though, and if you’re imagining that the austere, slow-paced Dog could prove too polarizing for the preferential ballot, the cozy domesticity of Belfast makes it an appealing alternative.

In the running at: SAG, DGA, BAFTA, PGA

1. The Power of the Dog

Bow WOW! If you didn’t buy that Jane Campion’s Western was the Best Picture front-runner before, you certainly did after the nominations, where Dog pulled in 13 nods, among them an out-of-nowhere Supporting Actor bid for Jesse Plemons. Its rivals will cling for hope to these facts. (1) The anti-Netflix factor could be real. (2) Since POTD wasn’t nominated for the top prize at SAG and was ineligible at the WGA, there’s plenty of room for another challenger to catch up. And (3), vibes-wise, Dog just feels like one of those technical accomplishments that wins Best Director but loses Picture to a warmer contender. Of course, you could have said that about Parasite and Nomadland, too, and look how that ended.

In the running at: DGA, BAFTA, PGA

More on the 2022 Oscar Race

See All
Can Anyone Beat Power of the Dog in Best Picture?