The nominations for the ’22 Academy Awards dropped on Tuesday morning, and as with every Hollywood awards season there were expectations met and expectations dashed. There’s also the few naysayers who took to social media to say these awards are antiquated and irrelevant. They groused. They whined. They said, “Who cares?”
That question’s been asked since 1929.
We know these awards are a promotional, political exercise, one you can buy into or not. I’d argue at this time of change in the film industry the Oscars are as important as ever if only for the opportunity to talk about movies and their value to us.
Huge swaths of the filmgoing public aren’t going to the cinema anymore, which, as we saw in 2021, tends to really diminish the buzz around these awards shows and Hollywood hubbub in general. It’s a hubbub I, for one, enjoy, and I think it adds to the experience of filmgoing.
Many of today’s nominees are only to be found on streaming services and we’ve not really figured out how to best celebrate many of those particular films, as equally worthy as they may be. The at-home experience just isn’t as effective for building cultural hype — as much as I also enjoy it.
So, as we mull over that conundrum, let’s see who got the love from The Academy. I’ll go over my thoughts on a few of the nominated films and on the snubs. If you see a title underlined it’s a link to my full review of the film.
I also might offer a suggestion or two on who should win, but don’t look to me to help fill out your Oscar ballot. I’m notoriously bad at predicting winners, and the winds of momentum can change between now and March 27th.
For Best International Feature film, I was a little disappointed to see A Hero from Iran didn’t make the cut. (Stephen Cooke and I just spoke about the picture on our LENS ME YOUR EARS podcast.) That said, this looks like an interesting and worthy selection:
I liked it, but maybe not as much as the Danish animated documentary Flee, which made history being nominated for Best International Feature, Best Animated Feature, and Best Documentary Feature — one film’s never been nominated in those three categories before. (I think it’s likely to win in the third.) NOTE: I’ve just learned Flee will show in our region virtually as part of a Lunenburg Doc Fest program on March 3rd.
Norway’s submission, The Worst Person in the World, is another gem that showed at FIN. It’s a romantic comedy and drama I hope we get to see soon in cinemas.
The other films in the category, The Hand of God from Italy, and Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom from Bhutan I know less about, but maybe when restrictions lift we’ll get a chance to see them through Carbon Arc.
In the Best Original Song category, I’m having a hard time believing the Lin-Manuel Miranda song from Encanto nominated was “Dos Oruguitas” and not the massive hit, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” But what do I know? The Billie Eilish track from No Time To Die has to be a favourite here. Everyone loves a 007 song and it’s a good one.
Not unexpectedly, Dune has been nominated for a passel of awards, mostly in entirely deserving technical categories. (Notably, Denis Villeneuve didn’t get the nod for Best Director.) If the film doesn’t win for its Cinematography by Greig Fraser, or for Hans Zimmer’s Original Score, or the Sound and Visual Effects teams, that won’t make any sense to me.
In the writing categories, Original Screenplay should go to Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza. He’s been nominated repeatedly in various categories for films like Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, and Phantom Thread, and has never won. That’s a recognition long overdue. (I doubt his film will pick up the Best Picture trophy though that would also be deserved.)
I don’t have a dog in the fight for Adapted Screenplay — Drive My Car might be the most impressive screenplay of the group. I still wish the Academy had the courage to nominate Zola, the startling film based on a Twitter thread. You wanna be relevant, Oscars? This would’ve done it.
In the Best Supporting Actress category, I can see why those fans of Passing are disappointed not to see Ruth Negga on the list, especially given the competition includes Judi Dench, who has won before, and that Aunjanue Ellis’ role in the so-so King Richard is comparatively slight.
(I’m more disappointed that Tessa Thompson, whose performance in Passing was maybe the most impressive, isn’t on the list for Best Actress.)
But Kirsten Dunst in Power of The Dog, Jesse Buckley in The Lost Daughter, and especially Ariana DeBose in West Side Story., they’re all excellent performances. My fingers are crossed for DeBose, who was a standout for her part in Spielberg’s musical revival.
Ciarán Hinds has to be the frontrunner in Best Supporting Actor category. The legendary Belfast-born actor, who turns 69 today, has never been nominated before and you’ve gotta think this is his time, especially for the acclaimed Belfast. I was also happy to see Troy Kotsur from CODA be recognized, as well as Jesse Plemons, a character actor ascendant in the industry, for Power of The Dog.
For the Best Actress In A Leading Role category, it’s especially competitive this year. Some may be disappointed we aren’t seeing Lady Gaga considered. I thought she was good in her role but House of Gucci was a bit of a dumpster fire. (Some thought Jared Leto might squeak in, too, for Supporting Actor but no such luck Jared stans.) Jennifer Hudson for Respect was also in play in advance of the nominations, but I think maybe too few people saw the Aretha Franklin biopic.
Parallel Mothers hasn’t opened here yet, so I can’t speak to Penélope Cruz’s performance, but Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Olivia Colman in The Lost Daughter, and Kristen Stewart’s transformation into Princess Diana in Spencer are all stand-out performances. I feel like Stewart’s is the most impressive, but would be more than OK to see Chastain win and who could argue against Colman or the delightful speech she’d likely make? Maybe Cruz will shine — she usually does.
Will Smith is the purported Best Actor In A Leading Role frontrunner for his work in King Richard. He’s been nominated twice before — in Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) — and some think he’s due. He’s fine in the role, though I don’t think the film is particularly special and I say that as a big tennis fan.
Amongst the other nominees, I think Andrew Garfield would be a delightful surprise if he wins for tick, tick…BOOM! He had to act, sing, and dance in his movie. That should count for something (as it should for Ariana DeBose, too).
For Best Director, how great would it be if Paul Thomas Anderson was to win? I’d be surprised. These are all superb filmmakers in this category, but I feel like it’s Jane Campion’s to lose for Power of The Dog. As the first woman to be nominated for Best Director — for The Piano — she didn’t win. (She did win for Best Original Screenplay that year.) It’s her time in 2022.
Meanwhile, the Academy’s affection for Kenneth Branagh might be influenced by the quality and success of a film of his opening soon, Death On The Nile, but he’s also got to be considered a favourite.
The category of Best Picture has a full 10 films in it this year. I was not surprised to see Belfast, Dune, Licorice Pizza, Power of The Dog or West Side Story on the list, and though I didn’t enjoy the Campion film as much as some did I don’t deny it’s well made and deserving of the consideration. Nightmare Alley is also a gorgeously crafted picture, though too long, and the almost-three-hour-long but otherwise solid Drive My Car might also end up suffering due to the sore asses of its audiences. (I chose one of the shortest films of 2021 as the best because storytelling concision is underrated.)
CODA is a wonderful crowdpleaser of the old school and also deserves to be here. King Richard has moments but I don’t think it’s a Best Picture winner, and while I liked Don’t Look Up more than many critics, I don’t think it’s getting anywhere near the podium on Oscar night.
(Anyone who really thought Spider-Man: No Way Home had a chance to be nominated for Best Picture was living in some other parallel universe — and I say that as a fan of the movie.)
I think that wraps up what I have to say. I’ll look forward to how the the Oscar race shapes up in the weeks to come, and will be primed with my popcorn on the big night. Follow me on Twitter @FlawInTheIris for more on the Oscars in the days ahead.