Surprises and snubs: Oscar nominations are here

Grace Sherban, Staff Reporter

A photo from the 2020 Oscars celebration. (Richard Harbaugh)

In the early hours of Feb. 8, Leslie Jordan and Tracee Ellis Ross announced the nominees for the 94th Academy Awards via a livestream on the official Oscars website.

Leading the way with 12 nominations, “The Power of the Dog” came up quite frequently in both the major and technical categories. “Dune” followed close behind with 10 nominations while “Belfast” and “West Side Story” received seven nominations each.

The ten films that are nominated for Best Picture include “Belfast,” “CODA,” “Don’t Look Up,” “Drive My Car,” “Dune,” “King Richard,” “Licorice Pizza,” “Nightmare Alley,” “The Power of the Dog” and “West Side Story.” The most notable inclusion to this lineup is Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car,” a Japanese film about the relationship between a theater director and his chauffeur. There was speculation that this film could make the cut but it seemed like “Being the Ricardos” and “Tick, Tick… BOOM” had momentum from being nominated by the Guilds within the industry. Another surprise in this category is “Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro’s first film since he won Best Picture in 2017 for “The Shape of Water.” While it did receive acclaim for its technical aspects, it was never considered a favorite to be included in the 10 films nominated in this category. 

The Best Actress category has been interesting to follow this season and the announcement of this year’s nominees has finally made it official. Despite no nominations from the SAG or BAFTA, Kristen Stewart is officially an Oscar nominee for her role in “Spencer.” Her fellow nominees include Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Olivia Coleman for “The Lost Daughter,” Penélope Cruz for “Parallel Mothers” and Nicole Kidman for “Being the Ricardos.” It came as no surprise that Chastain, Coleman and Kidman were nominated but the inclusion of Cruz was an unexpected surprise. Rachel Zegler, who won a Golden Globe for her role in “West Side Story,” did not make this list which also excluded Lady Gaga for “House of Gucci” and Alana Haim for “Licorice Pizza.”

It came as no surprise that many of the categories were predictable, but at the same time, there were so many interesting admissions, snubs and historical moments that made everything exciting.

For the most part, Best Actor seemed to be the most predictable acting category with the five nominees being Javier Bardem in “Being the Ricardos,” Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog,” Andrew Garfield in “Tick, Tick… BOOM,” Will Smith in “King Richard” and Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” There was a possibility that Leonardo DiCaprio would be nominated for “Don’t Look Up,” but the five men who were nominated all proved themselves as the clear picks over the course of this awards season. 

Unlike its counterpart, Best Supporting Actor provided a few more surprise nominations. The nominees include Ciarán Hinds in “Belfast,” Troy Kotsur in “CODA,” Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog,” J.K. Simmons in “Being the Ricardos” and Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Power of the Dog.” Simmons’ inclusion in this category was at the least a giant surprise and he beat out other worthy contenders such as Bradley Cooper in “Licorice Pizza,” Jared Leto in “House of Gucci” and Mike Faist in “West Side Story.” Academy history was made in this category as well with Kotsur becoming the first deaf actor to be nominated according to The New York Times

The Best Supporting Actress nominees are a strong group that include Jessica Buckley in “The Lost Daughter,” Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story,” Judi Dench in “Belfast,” Kirsten Dunst in “The Power of the Dog” and Aunjanue Ellis in “King Richard.” Dench’s nomination comes at the cost of her co-star Caitriona Balfe being left out of the nominee list. The biggest names left out of this are most notably Ruth Nega in “Passing” and Cate Blanchet in “Nightmare Alley.” Both of these actresses have slowly gained momentum by picking up nominations from other awards bodies. 

History was made in the Best Director category as Jane Campion, director of “The Power of the Dog” became the first woman to be nominated twice for this award. Her first nomination came in 1993 for her critically acclaimed film “The Piano.” Her fellow nominees include Kenneth Branagh for “Belfast,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi for “Drive My Car,” Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza” and Steven Spielberg for “West Side Story.” Hamaguchi’s nomination in this category comes at the expense of “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve who seemed to be the most likely candidate for the last spot in this lineup. 

Once again, Disney dominated the Best Animated Feature Film category with three of the five nominees coming from this studio. The nominees include “Encanto, “Flee,” “Luca,” “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.” “Encanto” also picked up another nomination in Best Original Song for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Dos Oruguitas.” With a win, Miranda would become a member of the esteemed EGOT club. “Flee,” an animated documentary from Denmark, also received two other nominations in Best Documentary and International Feature. 

The cast and director of “The Power of the Dog.” (Rich Fury)

Both writing categories featured mainly the same films that were nominated for Best Picture but there are a few exceptions to this trend. The nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay are “CODA,” “Drive My Car,” “Dune,” “The Lost Daughter” and “The Power of the Dog” while the nominees for Best Original Screenplay are “Belfast,” “Don’t Look Up,” “King Richard,” “Licorice Pizza” and “The Worst Person in the World.” Despite this overlap between the Best Picture and Screenwriting categories, there are some interesting inclusions to this list like Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World,” which also picked up a Best International Feature nomination. 

With the official reveal of the Academy Award nominees, it will be interesting to see how studios campaign this year despite the ongoing pandemic and fatigue within the industry. It came as no surprise that many of the categories were predictable, but at the same time, there were so many interesting admissions, snubs and historical moments that made everything exciting. For instance, Beyonce and Billie Eilish both received their first Oscar nominations in the original song category. Ari Wegner, the cinematographer of “The Power of the Dog” is the second woman nominated in the only Oscar category that no woman has ever won.

Despite these and many other historic moments, the diversity among the acting nominees continues to be an issue for the Academy. Last year, nine of the 20 acting nominees were people of color. This was a groundbreaking moment considering the backlash received after #OscarsSoWhite gained popularity online a few years prior according to The New York Times. With the decreased diversity, it will be interesting to see how the internet and social media react to the list of nominees. The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will be broadcast on ABC on Mar. 27, 2022.