Column: Film critic predicts the Oscar nominees for 2022

Dear Academy members:

Today, Jan. 27, is a big day! You can begin to choose your nominees for the 2021 Academy Awards! And, if you can’t decide who to select, here are some suggestions for your ballot.

Best Picture

This year, with ten films to be nominated, consider the range of strong movies that emerged during such an uncertain time. Meaningful stories about families should top your list, including Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” an illuminating study of intense relationships set against the breathtaking West; “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s facts-of-life tale about a family in 1960s Northern Ireland; and “CODA,” the look at a family nearing a turning point that was a smash at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. 

Don’t forget how good it felt to experience Maggie Gylenhaal’s moving study of a mother’s regret, “The Lost Daughter,” as well as the inspiring tale of the family behind the Williams sisters, “King Richard”. Think back to the New York Film Festival where Joel Coen captivated opening night with the power of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and how you were singing and dancing in the aisles after seeing Steven Spielberg’s remake of the musical “West Side Story.” To round out the top ten, remember Adam McKay’s outrageous “Don’t Look Up,” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s delightful “Licorice Pizza” and Denis Villeneuve's powerful rendition of “Dune.”

Best Actor

You can make this race a showdown between Benedict Cumberbatch — moving as a man trapped by denial in “The Power of the Dog” and Will Smith — riveting as a father determined to create a better life in “King Richard.” Add the strong work from Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and another thrilling turn from Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick, Boom.” For the fifth slot, take a close look at how Peter Dinklage breathes new life into the familiar story of “Cyrano.”

Best Actress

Olivia Colman, who won an Oscar for “The Favourite” and was nominated last year for “The Father," continues her on-screen reign with her powerful interpretation of a mother’s disappointments in “The Lost Daughter.” Joining her should be two recreations of the famous — Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana in “Spencer” — as well as Penélope Cruz in “Parallel Mothers.” For the fifth slot, look again at the subtlety of Nicole Kidman’s recreation of Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos.”

Best Supporting Actor

Don’t forget Kodi Smit-McPhee, who soars in this category as a young medical student searching for answers in “The Power of the Dog.” As you complete your ballot, think of Troy Kotsur’s caring father in “CODA,” Richard Jenkins’ gripped father in “The Humans,” and Ciarán Hinds wise grandfather in “Belfast.” For the fifth slot, remember the nuance in how J.K. Simmon’s portrayed William Frawley in “Being the Ricardos.”

Best Supporting Actress

Again, think “The Power of the Dog,” and Kirsten Dunst’s stunning portrayal of a woman searching for inner peace on the frontier. At the same time, remember two other memorable mothers, Ann Dowd’s portrayal of maternal pain in “Mass” and Aunjanue Ellis’ release of maternal hope in “King Richard.” And don’t forget how Ruth Negga broke our hearts in “Passing” and Ariana DeBose gave us joy in “West Side Story.”

Best Director

While you can choose ten nominees for picture, you can only nominate five directors, which means five films may have directed themselves. In this category, please include directors of the strongest picture contenders – Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog,” Kenneth Branagh for “Belfast,” Denis Villeneuve for “Dune,” Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza” and for the final slot, think about Maggie Gyllenhaal for her stunning directorial debut with “The Lost Daughter.”

So, Academy members, be sure to vote on time! We look forward to hearing your nominations on Feb. 8 and watching the Oscar presentation on March 27.