On Set: Sunday’s Oscars Ceremony to Highlight the Best Films of 2021

The Academy Awards are here. KHOL film critic Jeff Counts shares his personal winners in six important categories.
"The Power of the Dog"
Benedict Cumberbatch stars in "The Power of the Dog," KHOL's film critic's choice for Best Picture. (Kirsty Griffin/Netflix)

by | Mar 24, 2022 | Film & TV


The 94th Academy Awards Ceremony is taking place slightly earlier than it did in 2021, but still late enough in the year that it can be hard to remember much about the nominated films. Don’t worry—that’s where I come in.

As usual, I’ve decided to focus on the Best Acting, Best Supporting Acting, Best Directing and Best Picture awards. Here are my picks in those six prestigious categories.

My choice for Best Male Supporting Actor is J. K. Simmons for “Being the Ricardos.” This is no big stretch. The Academy loves Simmons, and I do too. As one of Hollywood’s most accomplished scene stealers, Simmons wrings every drop out the scripts he gets. Mix in the writing of Aaron Sorkin, my controversial guilty pleasure, and the character William Frawley is brought to life as a quippy, grumpy buddha who anchors some of the film’s most important moments.


My pick for Best Female Supporting Actor goes to Jessie Buckley in “The Lost Daughter.” I honestly think she should be splitting the Best Actor award with Olivia Coleman (I’ll come back to her in a moment). Buckley plays opposite Coleman as the younger iteration of Leda in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s adaptation of the Elena Ferrante story, and she navigates the character’s bafflingly unpleasant choices with so much naked honesty, you are forced to sympathize. It’s no small feat.

The Best Male Actor was Denzel Washington. This category is loaded with can’t-miss contenders, but I found Washington’s performance in “The Tragedy of Macbeth” to be the best of the lot. Unless your name is Lawrence Olivier, it’s really hard to get an Oscar nomination for a Shakespeare role, let alone a win. Denzel is one of those iconic performers who never fully disappears into a part, which is why his Macbeth is so personal and entirely new. Great artists and great characters rarely combine so potently.

The Best Female Actor category is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned, and I kind of already gave it away. Olivia Coleman is one of our greatest living actors and her turn as the older Leda in “The Lost Daughter” confirms this fact with ease. Only someone of her skill and stature could have withstood the withering power of Jessie Buckley’s performance. I’m starting to think Coleman will be on this list every year going forward.

Best Director seems like the category where some of the worst snubs happen. I think Denis Villeneuve should have at least gotten a nomination. And you might remember how mad I was about Regina King last year. Of the strong 2022 class that did get noticed, I’m putting my support behind Jane Campion. Her vision for the twisty contemporary Western “The Power of the Dog” got the absolute best out of the all-star cast and presented a physically daring view of toxic masculinity that challenges the conventions and expectations of genre filmmaking.

It may come as no surprise then, that my Best Picture of 2022 is, yes, “The Power of the Dog.” This film was an Oscar lock as soon as the trailer dropped, and it did not disappoint when it hit screens last December. The perfectly concentrated directness of the performances. The sharp expansiveness of the visual language. The gripping secretiveness of Jonny Greenwood’s score. Everything required to win is there. It’s a thrill to watch it come together so perfectly.

Focusing on movies feels like a luxury right now, I know. But even if I have once again misjudged the whims of the Academy, the escapes offered by these five stories are worth the emotional calories. See as many of them as you can.

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About Jeff Counts

Before moving to Jackson in 2019, Jeff spent five years reviewing movies as co-host of the public access television program "Big Movie Mouth-Off." When not focused on film, Jeff writes about opera and co-hosts the classical music interview podcast "Ghost Light."

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