At the 94th Academy Awards, The Power of the Dog is the Alpha Movie.
Director Jane Campion‘s slow-burn Western for Netflix led all films in this year’s Oscar race with 12 nominations including Best Picture, Director (Campion), Benedict Cumberbatch (Actor), and three Supporting nominations for Kodi-Smit McPhee (Supp Actor) and real-life partners Kirsten Dunst (Supp Actress) and Jesse Plemons (Supp Actor).
Campion became the first female in history to receive a second Director nomination; her first was for 1993’s The Piano.
Dune, director Denis Villeneuve‘s sci-fi epic, is second with 10 nominations on the wave of dominating the arts-and-tech categories. Even so, it also fell victim to one of the year’s biggest snubs: Villeneuve was denied a Best Director nomination. That’s nothing short of shocking, particularly considering how the rest of the Academy seemed to think he harnessed the year’s biggest production (by virtue of the 9 arts & tech nominations).
Taking his place in the Director race marked one of the year’s biggest surprises: Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, whose moving 3-hour drama Drive My Car received 4 nominations including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, and Best International Feature.
Other major contenders include Belfast, director Kenneth Branagh‘s semi-autobiographical film about 1960s Ireland; it received 8 nominations including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay. Branagh and Campion each notched nominations in the top 3 categories: Picture (as producers), Director, and Screenplay.
Steven Spielberg‘s adaptation of West Side Story was right behind Belfast with 7 nominations. While that remake secured spots for Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress Ariana DeBose, its screenwriter Tony Kushner was surprisingly absent from the Adapted category. If DeBose is feted, she’ll win for the same exact role (Anita) that Rita Moreno won her Supporting Oscar for exactly 60 years ago.
In addition, Spielberg becomes the first person to be nominated for Best Director in 6 different decades (the 1970s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, 10s, 20s). It’s his 8th directing nod (of 19 overall), and first since 2012’s Lincoln. He’s won twice, for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.
The year’s most shocking snubs included Lady Gaga, who was shut out of the Best Actress race for her commanding turn in House of Gucci. Equally surprising: her co-star Jared Leto was denied a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Both are up for Screen Actors Guild and British Film Academy awards, and those film industry honors usually translate into Oscar nominations. Plemons unexpectedly earned a spot expected for Leto, as did J.K. Simmons for Being the Ricardos. Simmons joins his co-star Nicole Kidman, who’s up for Best Actress in place of Gaga.
Penélope Cruz was also a long-shot that made it as a Best Actress nominee, for Parallel Mothers, a choice that likely bumped out West Side Story‘s Golden Globe winning lead Rachel Zegler, who the Oscars denied.
Making the Best Actress race more complicated: for the first time ever, none of the BAFTA (British Oscar equivalent) Actress nominees are nominated for Oscars, despite the American and British Academies having a lot of membership crossover.
Also rebuffed: Caitriona Balfe, who was considered a strong Supporting Actress contender for her emotionally wrought role in Belfast but instead was left out. Taking her place was Balfe’s Belfast co-star Dame Judi Dench, a previous Oscar-winner, past multi-nominee and a universally admired acting legend.
For a surprise on the positive side, Jesse Buckley is in for her supporting performance as an overwhelmed mother in first-time director Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Netflix drama The Lost Daughter. Buckley plays the younger version of Oliva Colman‘s character; Colman is nominated for Best Actress.
Another major snub: a near-shut out of the year’s biggest blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home. The Marvel movie (now the 4th highest grossing film of all time) not only failed to gain a Best Picture nomination, it was even left out of expected tech categories like Best Sound and Original Score. It’s lone nomination: Best Visual Effects.
On the historical firsts front: Branagh became the first person ever to receive 7 Oscar nominations in seven separate categories. His three for Belfast this year (in Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay) were added to four previous nominations for Best Actor (Henry V), Supporting Actor (My Week With Marilyn), Adapted Screenplay (Hamlet), and Live Action Short Film (Swan Song).
Also: Flee, the Danish documentary rendered in animation (about a gay Muslim fleeing persecution), is the first film to score the trifecta nomination of Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary, and Best International Film.
And for a notable second: actor Troy Kotsur became only the second deaf actor to be nominated for playing a deaf character, in CODA. His supporting nomination is added to the Best Actress winning turn by Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God. Serendipitously, Matlin co-stars with Kotsur in CODA.
Other films in this year’s Best Picture race include CODA (the inspirational drama about a deaf family, on AppleTV+), Don’t Look Up (Leonardo DiCaprio‘s apocalyptic satire, on Netflix), King Richard (the sports biopic about Serena & Venus Williams being managed by their dad, played by Will Smith), Licorice Pizza (director Paul Thomas Anderson‘s 1970s SoCal nostalgia hangout movie romance), and Nightmare Alley (director Guillermo del Toro‘s 1940s noir starring Bradley Cooper).
Of those five contenders, the one with the most nominations is, surprisingly, King Richard with 6. A film that struggled at the box office, it wasn’t the most popular or watched (that would be Don’t Look Up) nor did it come from auteur pedigree (like Licorice Pizza and Nightmare Alley did). Nevertheless, the inspirational real-life sports drama broke through with acting, writing, song, and editing nominations.
Meanwhile, Licorice Pizza — considered to be indie filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson’s most accessible movie to date — only managed 3 nominations (Picture, Director and Screenplay) while Nightmare Alley garnered 4 on the strength of arts & tech citations.
Another interesting trivia tidbit: Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz become the sixth married couple to be nominated for acting in the same year. Bardem is up for Best Actor in Being the Ricardos and Cruz is a Best Actress contender for her turn Pedro Almodovar‘s Spanish melodrama Parallel Mothers. (As noted earlier, real-life partners Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst — who also have children together — are nominated as well for The Power of the Dog, but they are not married.)
On the diversity front, the Best Actor category is the year’s most multi-ethnic. Three of the five slots went to people of color: Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Will Smith (King Richard), and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth). They are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch (The Power of the Dog) and Andrew Garfield (Tick, Tick…Boom!).
In EGOT news (i.e. people who are Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award winners), songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda is one step closer to joining that elite fraternity. Already a winner of the E, G and T, Miranda is now nominated for Best Original Song for “Dos Oruguitas,” his tune from Disney’s animated musical Encanto.
Although “Dos Oruguitas” doesn’t match the popularity of chart-topping phenomenon “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the same film, Miranda has to be considered a frontrunner even if because he’ll likely get sympathy/respect votes for the absent “Bruno.”
(Note: the reason “Bruno” was not nominated is because Walt Disney did not submit it for consideration, as the Academy requires. The deadline for submission was months prior to “Bruno” becoming a phenomenon, so Disney simply made a hunch at that time that “Dos Oruguitas” — a more emotional ballad — was their best bet to win.)
If Miranda wins, he’ll become the 17th member of the EGOT club. Plus (and even more exclusively), he has a Pulitzer Prize on his shelf, too, for the stage musical Hamilton.
In the coming weeks, the various industry guild award ceremonies will start to crystalize who the strong contenders are. Then, as Oscar night approaches, I’ll make my final predictions.
The Power of the Dog and Belfast instantly emerge as the initial Best Picture favorites. Not only are their overall nomination totals formidable (12 and 8, respectively) but, unlike 10-time nominee Dune, they have multiple contenders in top tier categories like Director and Acting where Dune has none.
Another tell in Dog‘s favor: it’s the Best Picture candidate to be nominated in both the Director and Editing categories. There’s generally multiple crossovers between the two, so the fact that there’s only one this year would suggest that Dog could be formidable, even dominant.
If The Power of the Dog can come through, it’ll be the first streaming title to win Best Picture — and Netflix will finally secure their long-sought awards season white whale.
In terms of hosting, the Academy has announced that they will be utilizing a rotation of multiple hosts yet to be named. The show is being produced by Will Parker; his producing credits include Straight Outta Compton, Ride Along, Girls Trip, and Think Like a Man.
The 94th Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday night March 27, 2022, at 8pm EST / 7pm CST. After a year away, the ceremony will return to the traditional Oscar home of the Dolby Theatre. Last year it was held at L.A.’s Union Station to help accommodate COVID concerns.
The Nominees for
THE 94th ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
– Belfast (8 Nominations)
– CODA (3 Nominations)
– Don’t Look Up (4 Nominations)
– Drive My Car (4 Nominations)
– Dune (10 Nominations)
– King Richard (6 Nominations)
– Licorice Pizza (3 Nominations)
– Nightmare Alley (4 Nominations)
– The Power of the Dog (12 Nominations)
– West Side Story (7 Nominations)
Notable Omissions: Being the Ricardos, House of Gucci, The Lost Daughter, Spencer, Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Tragedy of Macbeth
– 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
– 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
Notable Omissions: Leonardo DiCaprio, Don’t Look Up
– Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
– Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
– Penélope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
– Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
– Kristen Stewart, Spencer
Notable Omissions: Lady Gaga, House of Gucci, Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza), Jennifer Hudson (Respect), Frances McDormand (The Tragedy of Macbeth), Tessa Thompson (Passing), Rachel Zegler (West Side Story)
Notable Omissions: Ben Affleck (The Tender Bar), David Alvarez (West Side Story), Jon Bernthal (King Richard), Bradley Cooper, Licorice Pizza, Jamie Dornan (Belfast), Mike Faist (West Side Story), Jared Leto, House of Gucci
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
– Belfast, Kenneth Branagh
– Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay and David Sirota
– King Richard, Zach Baylin
– Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson
– The Worst Person In The World, Eskil Vogt, Joachim Troer
Notable Omissions: Being the Ricardos (Aaron Sorkin), The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson), Parallel Mothers (Pedro Almodovar)
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
– CODA, Siân Heder
– Drive My Car, Ryusuke Hamaguchi & Takamasa Oe
– Dune, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth, and Jon Spaihts
– The Lost Daughter, Maggie Gyllenhaal
– The Power of the Dog, Jane Campion
Notable Omission: Belle, Sing 2
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM
– Drive My Car (Japan)
– Flee (Denmark)
– The Hand of God (Italy)
– Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan)
– The Worst Person in the World (Norway)
Notable Omissions: A Hero (Iran), Parallel Mothers (Spain), Petite Maman (France)
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
– Summer of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
– Writing with Fire
Notable Omissions: The First Wave, In the Same Breath, Procession, The Rescue, Simple as Water
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
– “Be Alive” (King Richard), Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, DIXON
– “Dos Oruguitas” (Encanto), Lin-Manuel Miranda
– “Down to Joy” (Belfast), Van Morrison
– “No Time To Die” (No Time To Die), Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell
– “Somehow You Do” (Four Good Days), Diane Warren
Notable Omission: “The Anonymous Ones” (Dear Evan Hansen), “Here I Am Singing My Way Home” (Respect), “Home All Summer” (In the Heights), “Just Look Up” (Don’t Look Up)
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
– Lead Me Home
– The Queen of Basketball
– Three Songs for Benazir
– When We Were Bullies
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
– Ala Kachuu — Take and Run
– The Dress
– The Long Goodbye
– On My Mind
– Please Hold
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
– Affairs of the Art
– Robin Robin
– The Windshield Wiper
Notable Omission: Belfast (Haris Zambarloukos), Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, Michael Bauman), Passing (Eduard Grau),
BEST MAKEUP & HAIR DESIGN
– Coming 2 America
– The Eyes of Tammy Faye
– House of Gucci
Notable Omissions: Cyrano, King Richard, The Matrix Resurrections, Nightmare Alley, Spencer, West Side Story
Click on links below for other major Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2021 / 22 season:
Writers Guild of America Nominees 2021
Producers Guild of America Nominees 2021
Screen Actors Guild Nominees 2021
American Film Institute Top Ten 2021
Los Angeles Film Critics Assocation 2021
New York Film Critics Circle 2021
National Board of Review 2021