It has been a long awards season - from critics groups, online discourses and op-eds, streaming packages, the pandemic disrupting nearly everything (besides Spider-Man: No Way Home, of course) and more, but we finally got here - the 94th Oscar nominations for the 2021 slate.
By Tobi Ogunyemi
As always, there were surprises and snubs, but the steady frontrunners and guiding hands made out as expected. Leading the way, Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog with 12 overall nominations, Denis Villeneuve's Dune coming up behind with 10, and Belfast and West Side Story scoring 7 nominations each. As far as the services, or keeping it old school with the studios of course, Netflix leads everyone with 26 total nominations with only two slots in the Best Picture race, and Amazon getting Apple+ into the main event as well.
Let's look at some of main categories and more from this past Tuesday:
Best Picture: 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.
Overall, as expected. With Nightmare Alley being the surprise to come in early, thanks to a late push by Searchlight, HBOMax and Martin Scorsese. And, Drive My Car, the most lauded and revered film of the season makes its way in, being the first Japanese film in history to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (Licorice Pizza), Kenneth Branagh (Belfast), Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog), Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car), Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
Denis Villeneuve missing out on Best Director is a shocker, and I thought for sure Spielberg would've been the odd man out since The Academy doesn't like nominating him, if they can help it. Ryusuke Hamaguchi was a critic pipe dream and they more than came through for him, and Jane Campion is now the first woman in history to score more than one nomination in this category.
Best Actor: 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)
You could've chalked this one up, pretty much. However, I believe it could have used someone like Nicolas Cage, Simon Rex or Bradley Cooper in here, or Leonardo DiCaprio, just to make things exciting. But, not for nothing, there's a 2001 rematch here between Smith and Washington, when the latter won his second Oscar for his performance in Training Day.
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter), Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos), Kristen Stewart (Spencer)
Simply put, between at least 10 possible actual candidates, Best Actress went wild here. Looking like she was down for the count on a number of levels, Stewart was able to make it to the final five against incredible odds, as did Cruz for what is considered to be a career level best performance. That left off Lady Gaga, who could have made the case that she was the front go-getter coming in, and campaigned around even more than Stewart did - one actress campaigning worked, when another didn't - but the smart money would be on either Colman or Kidman here, but this is anyone's game really.
Best Supporting Actor: Ciarán Hinds (Belfast), Troy Kotsur (CODA), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog), J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos), Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog)
No Ben Affleck, no Bradley Cooper, and definitely no Jared Leto, with J.K. Simmons coming off the top rope out of nowhere to score a 2nd nomination in this field, that NO ONE saw coming. This is also the second time in a row, after Judas and the Black Messiah, that two co-stars from the same movie are nominated in this field.
Best Supporting Actress: Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Judi Dench (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard)
The wild, and most surprising category of the morning (which, historically, is usually the case) had all, but one, receiving their first nominations. That included one of the most dynamic actors working today in Buckley, frontrunner juggernaut DeBose, longtime and beloved favorite Dunst and character actor champion Ellis. And, just like Simmons in the men's section, Dench literally came out of nowhere to score the Belfast nomination that Caitríona Balfe has been holding down all season for the most part. What a turn of events, and this also leaves out another front runner in Passing's Ruth Negga, who recently just scored a nomination for her work with the BAFTAs, but not here.
Other observations across the board:
- Denmark's Flee pulled off the first ever impressive hat trick of being nominated in the Best Animated, Documentary and International Feature categories.
- Javier Bardem/Penelope Cruz and Jesse Plemons/Kirsten Dunst are two married couples who got nominations across all four acting categories.
- First time in history that each acting category has one performance that was directed by a woman director: Cumberbatch, Plemons and Smit-McPhee by Jane Campion, and Colman and Buckley by Maggie Gyllenhaal. On top of that, Colman and Buckley are the first duo nominated to play the same person since Judi Dench and Kate Winslet pulled it off in 2001's Iris.
- No Aaron Sorkin or Pedro Almódovar in the Screenplay categories, which went as expected except for a big surprise in The Worst Person in the World scoring a huge cheered surprise in the Original Screenplay field.
- Asghar Farhadi missing out on International Feature with A Hero is another shocking omission, he's won this category twice and gets left out for Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom from Bhutan.
- Steven Spielberg is now the first director ever to be nominated in six straight decades, and is now the 3rd most nominated director ever, behind William Wyler and Martin Scorsese.
-A personal favorite moment, the Best Cinematography field might be the best pound for pound lineup of the whole ballot this time around, with Dune, Nightmare Alley, Power of the Dog, The Tragedy of Macbeth and West Side Story. And, on top of that, Ari Wegner becomes just the second woman ever to be nominated in this category, after Rachel Morrison in 2017's Mudbound.
Now that we know what is in competition, the real campaigning and jockeying for the ultimate prize begins. March 27th. Mark your calendars.
Full Ballot for the 94th Oscars: https://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2022