Unlike the BAFTA nominations, which are pure chaos, the Oscar nominations this morning are much more in line with expectations. The Power of the Dog, an awards favorite since last fall, leads all nominations with twelve. Craft-friendly Dune follows with ten. West Side Story and Belfast follow with seven apiece. There aren’t many surprises here, except Catriona Balfe missing a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Belfast. House of Gucci was never on solid ground, though actors favored it more than other guilds, but it’s not exactly a shocker that a divisive movie with middling box office missed the cut this year. I was sort of rooting for the chaos of a Jared Leto nomination, though. I generally like these nominations, but they’re pretty much as expected.
What is surprising? The including of Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s exquisite Drive My Car with four nominations: Best International Film, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. I LOVE THIS. Drive My Car is absolutely one of 2021’s best, and I’m glad the Academy made SO much room for it, proving that Parasite is not a fluke, the Academy is baseline more international now than it was just a few years ago. Similarly, Penelope Cruz, not a sure thing, scored a Best Actress nomination for Parallel Mothers, though Pedro Almodovar feels underappreciated, even though he has an Oscar (for 2002’s Hable con ella).
On the disappointing side, I’m a bit bummed Bradley Cooper didn’t get recognized for his brief but memorable performance in Licorice Pizza. It was a smaller role, but as much as I love J.K. Simmons, I would swap him for BCoop in a heartbeat. Though I do sort of love that Being The Ricardos was only recognized for acting and nothing else.
As for the Best Picture race, it remains largely unchanged. I went 8-for-10 on my predictions, swapping The Tragedy of Macbeth and tick…tick…BOOM! for Drive My Car and Nightmare Alley. I’ll take it—I like both those movies, and Drive My Car REALLY deserves it. Still, The Power of the Dog remains the frontrunner, King Richard and Belfast have feel-good vibes, Dune is a powerful dark horse, but with no Best Director nod for Denis Villeneuve, that mountain just got a little harder to scale. As Best Picture goes to ten nominees and Best Director remains at five, the director/picture split will happen more and more, though, and Dune still got nominations for editing, cinematography, and screenplay, all key bellwethers in the Best Picture race.
Now let’s talk about the other dark horse in the room, Don’t Look Up. It scored four nominations, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. So we can’t ignore it, because two of the bellwethers are present. It also scored a nod for composer Nicholas Britell, and while I will never argue with Britell being recognized for anything, Ariana Grande’s song, “Just Look Up”, was not nominated, and that IS the best movie song of the year (since “Edgar’s Prayer” from Barb and Star was ineligible). Vulture’s Alison Willmore proposed a frighteningly believable scenario in which Don’t Look Up could win Best Picture, noting its social issues-appeal, Movie Star appeal, and its Netflix-accessibility appeal.
All jokes aside, it is a compelling argument. I definitely won’t count Don’t Look Up out, though I would note that Dune has Movie Star appeal, HBO Max-accessibility appeal, and populist appeal. It also has all those craft nominations, indicating strong support across the Academy. I still think this is The Power of the Dog’s year, and we could go back-to-back with women walking away with Best Director if Jane Campion comes through—AS SHE SHOULD—but Dune and Don’t Look Up will haunt us for the rest of awards season.
Check out the complete list of nominees here.