Oscars 2022: Best Director Could Be a Rematch Nearly 30 Years Later

The 2022 Academy Awards season is about to get into high gear. The previous year was a wild one for cinema. The continuing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic accelerated the dominance of streaming, leaving the future of movie theaters more uncertain than ever. Going into the nominations, The Power of the Dog seems well-positioned for some major recognition. But its director, Jane Campion, could face the same competitor who defeated her nearly 30 years ago.

An Academy Award stands next to a gold curtain
An Academy Award stands next to a gold curtain | Rich Fury

‘The Power of the Dog’ will likely help Jane Campion at the Oscars

Even during its time on the festival circuit, The Power of the Dog garnered nearly universal praise from critics. That advance buzz no doubt gave the film a huge running start as awards season kicked off. And its subsequent release on Netflix on December 1, 2022 made it accessible to anyone who wanted to see it. Now it looks likely The Power of the Dog could be the first Netflix release to claim Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

The Western drama is almost guaranteed nods for actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee too. All three stars are strong contenders in their respective categories. In fact, according to Gold Derby — which tracks awards season odds and predictions — Smit-McPhee currently leads the Best Supporting Actor race. With all that praise, Campion herself is also closing in on her first Best Director statue. But there’s one major stumbling block.

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But a blast from Academy Awards past could prevent her win

Gold Derby currently has Campion ahead for Best Director. But the filmmaker faces tough competition from several directors who are critical darlings. Chief among them are Denis Villeneuve (Dune), Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), and Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), all of whom are previous nominees with zero Oscar wins. Beyond them, however, is the iconic director who beat Campion for the Best Director statue back at the 1994 Academy Awards.

That year, Campion became only the second female filmmaker nominated in the category, thanks to her work on The Piano. But Steven Spielberg won instead for Schindler’s List. At the 2022 Oscars, Spielberg’s West Side Story will likely receive a ton of love. And many pundits speculate he could be coming for his third Best Director trophy (Spielberg also won in 1999 for Saving Private Ryan). If he does, he could stop Campion from winning (again).

Could another director come out of nowhere and defeat both?

Although he’s currently behind in the odds, Spielberg is exactly the kind of filmmaker who could get a last-minute surge. His West Side Story has been widely praised as his best work in years. Still, perhaps Oscar voters will opt to reward a different director instead. In that case, let’s take a look at Campion’s chief competition.

Branagh’s Belfast was more of an Academy Awards frontrunner earlier in the season. With some critics’ enthusiasm having cooled, either Villeneuve or Anderson could sneak ahead of Campion and Spielberg. Villeneuve’s Dune could be viewed as more of a technical achievement. But Anderson is among the most critically acclaimed filmmakers working today. Could Licorice Pizza be the movie to make him an Oscar winner? Fans will know soon enough.

The 94th Academy Awards nominations will be announced on February 8, 2022.

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