It's hard to talk about film right now without mentioning Covid. The virus has had a significant impact on cinema audiences as well as release patterns.
But as always in showbiz, the award-giving must go on in some shape or form, and there is a crop of exceptional pieces of film-making in possible contention for this year's Oscars.
So here are 15 movies worth keeping an eye on in the run up to the Academy Awards at the end of March.
What's it about? – This semi-autobiographical film from Sir Kenneth Branagh is a story about a young boy's Belfast upbringing.
Who's in it? – Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, Caitriona Balfe.
What are its Oscar chances? – Strong across the board with best film, director, screenplay and acting nominations likely, as well as best song for a Van Morrison tune Down To Joy.
Sir Kenneth could also become the first person to be nominated in seven different categories throughout his career. He already has director, actor, supporting actor, adapted screenplay and live action short nominations. If he does get best film and original screenplay nominations for Belfast, he'll set a new record (not counting Walt Disney who was nominated at a time when the rules were somewhat different).
Where can I see it? – It'll be in cinemas on 21 January.
2. West Side Story
What's it about? – It's a new Steven Spielberg version of the classic musical about rival New York street gangs, and the love story of Tony and Maria.
Who's in it? – Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort.
What are its Oscar chances? – It should be singing and dancing its way to multiple major nominations for best film, director for Spielberg, and actress for relative newcomer Rachel Zegler. Plus 90-year-old Rita Moreno, who won best supporting actress in the original 1961 version, is probably the front runner to take that award again – this time for playing a new character called Valentina.
Where can I see it? – It's already in cinemas.
3. The Power of the Dog
What's it about? – It's a dark Western which sees a rancher cruelly tormenting his brother's new wife and her son.
Who's in it? – Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee,
What are its Oscar chances? – One of the year's best reviewed movies, it looks certain to score nominations for best film, adapted screenplay and in the acting categories. Only seven women have been nominated in the best director category but The Power of Dog's Jane Campion is likely to become the first woman to be nominated twice – her first nomination was for The Piano in 1993.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in November, and is now streaming on Netflix.
4. Licorice Pizza
What's it about? – It's a story of first love set in California's San Fernando Valley in the 1970s.
Who's in it? – Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper.
What are its Oscar chances? – It stands a good chance of nominations for best picture, and Paul Thomas Anderson is likely to get best director and best original screenplay nominations. Alana Haim, until now best known as the youngest member of the pop rock group Haim, might also be recognised in the best actress category.
Where can I see it? – It'll be in cinemas on 1 January.
5. King Richard
What's it about? – It's a biographical drama about Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams.
Who's in it? – Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney.
What are its Oscar chances? – Will Smith has never won but has been nominated twice before for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. This time it looks increasingly like it could be third time lucky, as many are predicting that it's already game, set and match to Smith for best actor. The film also looks likely to be nominated for best picture.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in November.
What's it about? – It's a new adaptation of Frank Herbert's science fantasy novel about the son of a noble family, and his role in safeguarding the galaxy's most valuable substance.
Who's in it? – Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya.
What are its Oscar chances? – It looks set to land nominations for best film and best director for Denis Villeneuve. Acting recognition seems unlikely. But it is possible that it will still be one of the most nominated films overall, thanks to recognition in many technical categories like cinematography, production design, score, and visual effects.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in October, and is also available on premium video on demand.
7. Tick, Tick… Boom!
What's it about? – As he approaches 30, a struggling theatre composer re-evaluates his life and future.
Who's in it? – Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp.
What are its Oscar chances? – Its strongest chances are probably Andrew Garfield in the best actor category and in the best film category, which has been expanded to a guaranteed 10 nominations for 2022.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in November and is currently streaming on Netflix.
8. House of Gucci
What's it about? – When Patricia Reggiani marries into the powerful Gucci family, she desperately wants to make an impact on the famous fashion brand controlled by different members of the dysfunctional family.
Who's in it? – Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons.
What are its Oscar chances? – Lady Gaga represents its most likely shot in the best actress category, while it's possible Jared Leto could find himself nominated in the best supporting actor category. However best film and best director for Ridley Scott look shaky at this stage.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in November.
What's it about? – It follows Princess Diana as she spends Christmas with the Royal Family at Sandringham, whilst her marriage to Prince Charles continues to disintegrate.
Who's in it? – Kristen Stewart, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall.
What are its Oscar chances? – While the film is a long way from being universally loved, there's still been great praise for Kristen Stewart's performance as the Princess of Wales, and she's probably the front runner to lift the best actress Oscar. Behind the camera, nominations are also a possibility in areas like production design and costume design.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in November, and is also available on premium video on demand.
10. The Lost Daughter
What's it about? – A woman enjoying a summer holiday starts to become obsessed with another woman and her daughter, and begins to experience echoes of her own past.
Who's in it? – Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson.
What are its Oscar chances? – Previous Oscar winner Olivia Colman stands a great chance of being nominated again for best actress. And Jessie Buckley might squeeze into the competitive best supporting actress category.
The film could also feature in the best picture category. Maggie Gyllenhaal is likely to be nominated for best adapted screenplay, and could also become only the eighth woman to be nominated for best director.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas earlier this month, and will also be streaming on Netflix from 31 December.
11. Don't Look Up
What's it about? – Two astronomers embark on a global media tour to warn the planet of a deadly comet hurtling towards the earth.
Who's in it? – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep.
What are its Oscar chances? – The film is awash with Oscar talent amongst the main cast including previous winners Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep, not to mention supporting roles from another couple of winners Cate Blanchett and Mark Rylance.
None of them seem likely to get nominations this time around though, with the film's best chances being for best picture and best original screenplay for Adam McKay who won the adapted screenplay Oscar in 2016 for The Big Short.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas earlier in the month, and is now streaming on Netflix.
What's it about? – Ruby is the only hearing person in her family, a Coda (child of deaf adult/s). She wants to study music but also feels she has to help her parents with their struggling business.
Who's in it? – Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur.
What are its Oscar chances? – Its best chances appear to be for Troy Kotsur in the best supporting actor category, for Sian Heder in best adapted screenplay and in best picture. Emilia Jones is also an outside possibility for a best actress nomination.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas over the summer, and is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
13. The Tragedy of Macbeth
What's it about? – It's an adaptation of the Shakespeare play about a lord convinced by three witches that he can become King of Scotland with the support of his ambitious wife.
Who's in it? – Denzel Washington, Frances McDormand, Kathryn Hunter.
What are its Oscar chances? – Previous double winner Denzel Washington represents its greatest chance in the best actor category. But triple acting winner Frances McDormand looks unlikely to add a fourth performance award this time around.
Where can I see it? – The film was released on 26 December.
14. Being The Ricardos
What's it about? – The film charts the relationship between the stars of the classic 1950s American sitcom I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
Who's in it? – Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, JK Simmons.
What are its Oscar chances? – The Academy have long been big fans of Aaron Sorkin's writing, nominating him multiple times. This time he looks almost certain to be again nominated for best original screenplay, but as in the past seems unlikely to be recognised for his directing on this occasion. Past winner Nicole Kidman has a great chance of being nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Lucille Ball.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas on 10 December, and is now also streaming on Amazon Prime.
15. No Time to Die
What's it about? – It's Daniel Craig's final outing as James Bond, where he faces a deadly villain in Bond's most emotional adventure yet.
Who's in it? – Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Ana de Armas, Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch.
What are its Oscar chances? – It's very unlikely to score in the major categories, but might possibly get nominations in some technical areas. Previous Bond film Skyfall won (or shared) best sound editing in 2013. The film's strongest chance is for best song. Adele won for Skyfall, and Sam Smith for Writing's On The Wall from Spectre. Billie Eilish looks to be a firm favourite for No Time To Die, which would make it a hat trick of Bond song wins.
Where can I see it? – It was released in cinemas in September, is currently on premium video on demand, and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
There's more to the film world than awards season, of course. So here are some of the potential blockbusters also heading our way in 2022:
- March: Robert Pattinson will don the bat suit for the film The Batman, and the Downton Abbey sequel A New Era will also hit cinemas.
- April: the third Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore will be released with Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp as evil wizard Grindelwald.
- May: the long-delayed Top Gun: Maverick finally jets into cinemas.
- June: will mark the release of the latest Jurassic World story titled Dominion; Pixar's animated origin story Lightyear, and Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic are also due out.
- July: Marvel's Thor: Love and Thunder has planted its hammer for a peak summer release.
- September: Tom Cruise will probably save the world again in Mission: Impossible.
- November: The sequel to Black Panther, Wakanda, is due.
- December: the sequel to the biggest film of all time, Avatar, will finally premiere.