When the dust settled and I saw that I was 39-for-50 on my Oscar nomination predictions, some things were very easy to understand. I mean, I really didn’t think the Academy was going to nominate Nicolas Cage for his role in Pig, even though that was the best performance of the entire year. And it made sense that there were slight underperformances from films like West Side Story and Belfast, even though they both each had seven nominations and each film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.
But two things stood out in a huge way: the fact that the film I consider the frontrunner in many categories dominated the nominations even more than I thought possible, and that a little film from Japan made a whole lot more noise than I thought it possibly could have.
In short, I love the Oscars. Let’s dive into the nominations.
Who were the big winners?
There is no doubt that the big winner today was The Power Of The Dog, Jane Campion’s western focusing on the conflict between a rancher (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his brother’s new wife (Kirsten Dunst). I had predicted a big day for the film with ten nominations. I was blown away to see it take down 12.
What’s even more impressive is that eleven of those nominations are probably favored to win right now. I would say all twelve, but Jesse Plemons, nominated for Best Supporting Actor, is going up against Kodi Smit-McPhee, who is also nominated in his role for the SAME MOVIE! By the way, it’s all deserved; this is a wonderful film that deserves all of the appreciation.
Who else won big? Dune, with ten nominations (I had predicted that- BOOYAH), was only second to Power Of The Dog. What’s surprising is not that the movie got so many nominations (it straight dominated the technical awards), but the nomination it didn’t get for director Denis Villeneuve. I would call this one of the major snubs of the season.
The other biggest winner I want to focus on is Drive My Car. I assumed that Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s heartbreaking film of loss and grief (all set under the backdrop of a production of Checkov’s Uncle Vanya) would get a nomination for Best International Feature and the Academy would consider that enough. Instead, AMPAS decided to nominate Drive My Car for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. This feels a lot like what happened in 2019 with Parasite, and it’s fair to wonder if Drive My Car will get the same accolades that film did. It’s doubtful, but the Oscars have shown us surprises do happen.
Other pleasant surprises
I did not expect to see Jessie Buckley nominated for The Lost Daughter, but seeing her name get called was such a wonderful delight. Playing the younger version of Olivia Colman (also nominated), Buckley shows in The Lost Daughter why I think she’s one of the best actresses working today.
The Academy often makes its biggest mistakes in the Documentary Feature and Animated Feature categories, but they included a wonderful film that deserved the nod in each category. Summer Of Soul may be Questlove’s debut film, but it shows that when he is passionate about a project, he can make a brilliant and moving documentary that both captures our hearts and keeps our toes tapping. And The Mitchells Vs The Machines was a film I was worried would get lost due to an early release, but it is smart and funny and delivers on its emotional payoff.
The big snub
I had predicted Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch to walk out with three nominations for score, production design, and original screenplay. The fact that it was completely ignored and overlooked by the Academy is really sad, because this film is absolutely wonderful and deserved the recognition. Honestly, I would have also consider Jeffrey Wright for Best Supporting Actor, as he delivers my second-favorite performance of 2021 (behind the aforementioned Cage). Anderson has been nominated in the past, so I’m not sure what caused the voters to be so wrong leaving this film out.
Boo, Oscars. Boo.