The 94th Annual Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday, with The Power of the Dog leading the way with 12 references, followed by Dune with 10 references. As always, the academy got some things right and a lot wrong. Now the complaints – along with the rare pleasures – are being voiced on social media, and here are some conversation points for those water cooler chats about this year’s nominees.
Best Documentary Feature Nomination Writes with Fire Bags
Writing with Fire, which premiered worldwide at the Sundance Film Festival 2021, became the first Indian feature to be nominated for an Oscar since Lagaan in 2002. Intoxication in Uttar Pradesh. As they adapt to the transition from print to digital, they continue to give voice to the voiceless, bringing to light incidents involving gender-related violence and systemic corruption. The film has traveled to dozens of festivals around the world and has yet to be screened in India. Another Sundance Doc, Jonas Pohr Rasmussen’s Flee, made history on its own, becoming the first film to receive nominations in the categories of Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature, and Best International Feature Film.
If the Oscars were actually the best reflection of the film this year, Zola would have had to be show-in at least three categories: Janice Bravo for Best Director, Joy McMillan for Best Film Editing, and Coleman Domingo for Best Supporting Actor. While Zola was always going to show the courage to opt for the academy, the shut-outs of French Dispatch and The Last Duel were even more shocking. This is despite the fact that the category for Best Picture has been expanded to 10 nominees.
Kristen Stuart for Best Actress: Spencer withdrew with only one nomination. Notable exceptions in the category include Jodi Comer (The Last Dual) and Renate Rainsway (Worst Person in the World). One of the happiest announcements since Jesse Buckley’s nomination for Lost Daughter was ignored, especially for Wild Rose and I’m Thinking of Ending Things. But Ruth Negga (passing) had no place in the co-star category. Not many of us thought, Kenneth Branagh (Belfast) snatched the slot for the fifth best director over Denise Villeneuve (Dune). Perhaps, Oscar nomination co-host Leslie Jordan will not ruin the pronunciation of her name a third time as it was omitted at the last minute.
Can Netflix finally win the big trophy?
For the third year in a row, Netflix is not only the leading distributor (with 27 nominations), it has two contenders in the Best Picture competition: The Power of the Dog and Don’t Look Up. But the conversion rate of the streaming giant is not very desirable. What Roma, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Monk, and The Trial of Chicago 7 all failed to do, can Jane Campion’s ingenious meditation on toxic masculinity go the extra mile? All eyes are on how things are going at the awards ceremony of the directors, producers and the Screen Actors Guild. If Netflix gets its first great picture, all we can do is say for The Power of the Dog and dont look up.
Slow change in attitude towards non-English movies
There is no doubt that the 2020 success of Parasite has changed the business attitude towards non-English language films. This year, Rusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car became the first Japanese film to join the Elite Club of Nominees for Best Picture. It was also a pleasure to see a Norwegian film (Joachim Trier’s The Waste Person in the World) make it to the Best Original Screenplay category. But the change in attitude should be such that the academy does not allow a token nominee each year.
Could this be the year of the Jain campaign?
Steven Spielberg became the first filmmaker to receive a nomination in six different decades, when Jane Campion became the first woman to be twice nominated for Best Director. Spielberg won the award twice in the 1990s (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan). Campeon won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (The Piano in 1994) and is at the forefront of winning the award this year. If she does, it will be her first back-to-back win for women in this category since she won for Klose Shaw Nomadland last year. Other nominees are Paul Thomas Anderson, Kenneth Branagh and Ruseke Hamaguchi.
Oscar’s lasting love for biography
Academics like biopics more than critics and the general public. As for the acting body, there is nothing more “Oscar-worthy acting” than seeing their peers treading layers of makeup, wearing prosthetics and imitating behaviors in “transformed” performances. Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tommy Faye) and Nicole Kidman (Being the Recordos) have been nominated for Best Performance. But their inclusion seems to exclude Comer and Reinsve.
Bafta’s jury system is the way forward
For the second year in a row, Bafta showed the achievements of the jury system. There is a significant difference between acting and directing between Oscar nominees and directing. The cast includes Renate Reinsve (The Worst Person in the World), Ruth Negga (Passing), Audrey Diwan (Happening) and Julia Ducournau (Titane) for Best Director, making the BAFTA race even more exciting. The academy will certainly benefit from a similar review of its voting procedure. But the question remains whether they are willing to make the necessary introspection?
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog) are now an Oscar nominated couple. Oscar winners Penelope Cruz (Parallel Mothers) and Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos) also received nominations, the first time in the history of the Academy Awards that two real couples have been nominated in the same year. In all four acting categories.
No love for superheroes
There was a basis for support for Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is highly anticipated among Marvel fans that it will become the second superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture in 2019 after Black Panther. But that was not the case. As expected, John Watts’ third Spider-Man movie received a consolation nomination for Best Visual Effects. Success is not guaranteed as Dune and Free Guy compete for the same title.
The 94th Annual Academy Awards will be held on March 27.