Oscars 2022 nominations: there are no sure things

The Power Of The Dog, Belfast, Dune, Licorice Pizza, King Richard, Drive My Car and others compete for industry's top prize, but no one pic is a lock

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      That sound you’re hearing is a thousand personal publicists racing to position their clients for the next month of campaigning. The nominations for the 94th annual Academy Awards have been announced, and there are no sure things.

      Denis Villeneuve’s Dune—a cerebral, meditative and deliberately incomplete adaptation of one of the hardest sci-fi novels out there—landed a genuinely surprising 10 nominations including best picture, best adapted screenplay and best cinematography. It didn’t manage any acting nominations, which isn’t surprising—genre work is rarely recognized in those categories. But Villeneuve himself was locked out of the director category, which was taken up by Belfast’s Kenneth Branagh, Drive My Car’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Licorice Pizza’s Paul Thomas Anderson, The Power Of The Dog’s Jane Campion, and West Side Story’s Steven Spielberg.

      Villeneuve shares a nomination with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth for the adapted screenplay, and as a producer of the film he’d share in the best picture award should the film win… which it almost certainly won’t, since only five films have snagged the top prize without an accompanying best director nomination: Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, Argo, and Green Book.

      Campion’s The Power Of The Dog seems a more likely best picture contender, having picked up 12 nominations including key acting nods for star Benedict Cumberbatch and supporting actors Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee. New Zealand’s Campion is now the first woman to be nominated for best director more than once; her first nod came for The Piano three decades ago. She lost to Steven Spielberg and Schindler’s List; her chances are considerably better this time around.

      History was also made in the best supporting actor category, where CODA’s Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor nominated for an Oscar. His CODA co-star Marlee Matlin was nominated for best actress, and won, for the 1986 drama Children Of A Lesser God.

      I don’t know that we can count out Belfast, though. The Academy clearly loves Branagh’s semi-autobiographical rhapsody to growing up poor during The Troubles, showering it with a total of seven noms including picture, director, original screenplay and supporting nods for Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench.

      As the nominations rolled out, it was surprising to realize Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s delicate drama Drive My Car was faring as well as it did, earning slots for picture, international feature, director and adapted screenplay. It was a bit sad to realize The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s equally delicate study of conflicted motherhood, came up a little short in the rankings, scoring recognition for lead Olivia Colman, supporting actress Jessie Buckley and Gyllenhaal’s adapted screenplay but falling short of the director and picture.

      And Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza landed major nominations for picture, director and original screenplay… but no love anywhere else. Bradley Cooper, who plays a frenzied version of Hollywood producer Jon Peters, was as much of a lock as anyone for a supporting actor nomination, but that didn’t happen; on the upside, Jared Leto wasn’t nominated for his feature-length hate crime in House Of Gucci, either.

      And again, it was a very overcrowded field this year, as evidenced by the Academy’s willingness to fill all 10 available best picture slots. (They rarely get past nine.)

      It was great to see a project as weird and challenging as Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley make the cut—though again, the lack of further nominations for del Toro or star Bradley Cooper means the nomination is the award this time—and I was happy to see Steven Spielberg’s muscular adaptation of West Side Story do as well as it did, with seven nominations in total including Spielberg’s eighth best director nomination and a best supporting actress nod for Ariana DeBose.

      Another surprise was how well King Richard fared: with six nominations including best picture, best actor (for producer/star Will Smith), best supporting actress for Aunjanue Ellis and best original screenplay, it can’t be counted out as a serious contender. This could be Smith’s year, especially if the Academy finds Cumberbatch’s Power Of The Dog performance too mannered on a rewatch… though who knows, since Denzel Washington’s doing incredible work in The Tragedy Of Macbeth and everyone loves Andrew Garfield in tick, tick… BOOM.

      The fifth best actor contender is something of a head-scratcher: Javier Bardem is up for his interpretation of Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin’s Being The Ricardos, and Nicole Kidman landed her own best actress nomination as Lucille Ball. This is foolishness and I shall not countenance it further.

      Instead, let’s look at the other best actress nominee who finds the humanity in a celebrity caricature through several pounds of latex: it’s Jessica Chastain in The Eyes Of Tammy Faye. She’s up against some serious competition in Parallel Mothers’ Penélope Cruz, Spencer’s Kristen Stewart and The Lost Daughter’s Colman, all of whom do exquisite work, but I’m very curious to see where this one lands.

      Remember, it’s all about predicting the mood of the Academy, which of course is not a hive mind but a group of thousands of artists with individual points of view and a propensity to argue amongst themselves.

      And as with all awards shows, the rules are made up and the points don’t matter. Hell, Don’t Look Up is in the running for picture, original screenplay, film editing and original score! Nothing means anything, man.


      Complete list of Oscar nominations

      Best picture

      Belfast
      CODA
      Don’t Look Up
      Drive My Car
      Dune
      King Richard
      Licorice Pizza
      Nightmare Alley
      The Power Of The Dog
      West Side Story

      Actor in a leading role

      Javier Bardem, Being The Ricardos
      Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power Of The Dog
      Andrew Garfield, tick, tick… BOOM!
      Will Smith, King Richard
      Denzel Washington, The Tragedy Of Macbeth

      Actress in a leading role

      Jessica Chastain, The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
      Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
      Penélope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
      Nicole Kidman, Being The Ricardos
      Kristen Stewart, Spencer

      Actor in a supporting role

      Ciaran Hinds, Belfast
      Troy Kotsur, CODA
      Jesse Plemons, The Power Of The Dog
      J.K. Simmons, Being The Ricardos
      Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power Of The Dog

      Actress in a supporting role

      Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter
      Ariana DeBose, West Side Story
      Judi Dench, Belfast
      Kirsten Dunst, The Power Of The Dog
      Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

      Directing

      Kenneth Branagh, Belfast
      Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car
      Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza
      Jane Campion, The Power Of The Dog
      Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

      Cinematography

      Dune
      Nightmare Alley
      The Power Of The Dog
      The Tragedy Of Macbeth
      West Side Story

      Writing (adapted screenplay)

      CODA
      Drive My Car
      Dune
      The Lost Daughter
      The Power Of The Dog

      Writing (original screenplay)

      Belfast
      Don’t Look Up
      King Richard
      Licorice Pizza
      The Worst Person In The World

      Film editing

      Don’t Look Up
      Dune
      King Richard
      Power Of The Dog
      tick, tick… BOOM!

      International feature film

      Drive My Car
      Flee
      The Hand Of God
      Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom
      The Worst Person in the World

      Animated feature film

      Encanto
      Flee
      Luca
      The Mitchells Vs. The Machine
      Raya And The Last Dragon

      Animated short film

      Affairs Of The Art
      Bestia
      Box Ballet
      Robin Robin
      The Windshield Wiper

      Original song

      Be Alive
      Dos Orugitas
      Down to Joy
      No Time to Die
      Somehow You Do

      Original score

      Don’t Look Up
      Dune
      Encanto
      Parallel Mothers
      The Power Of The Dog

      Sound

      Belfast
      Dune
      No Time To Die
      The Power Of The Dog
      West Side Story

      Documentary feature

      Ascension
      Attica
      Flee
      Summer Of Soul
      Riding With Fire

      Documentary short subject

      Audible
      Lead Me Home
      The Queen Of Basketball
      Three Songs For Benazir
      When We Were Bullies

      Makeup and hairstyling

      Coming To America
      Cruella
      Dune
      The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
      House of Gucci

      Costume design

      Cruella
      Cyrano
      Dune
      Nightmare Alley
      West Side Story

      Live action short film

      Ala Kachuu – Take And Run
      The Dress
      The Long Goodbye
      On My Mind
      Please Hold

      Production design

      Dune
      Nightmare Alley
      The Power Of The Dog
      The Tragedy Of Macbeth
      West Side Story

      Visual effects

      Dune
      Free Guy
      No Time to Die
      Shang-Chi and the Legend Of The Ten Rings
      Spider-Man: No Way Home

      The Oscars will be broadcast live on Sunday, March 27

      @normwilner

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