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The Oscars 2022: A breakdown of the Academy’s 94th award nominations

Editor Ben Carpenter outlines the 94th Academy Award nominations, sharing his insight on the films, directors, and nominees, based on previous winners and the nominee's achievements thus far

Barbara Streisand at the 40th Annual Academy Awards (1968).

By Ben Carpenter, Film & Television Editor

In a world where monoculture collapsed somewhere around the rise of the ALS ice bucket challenge (which too quickly collapsed into the archives of embarrassment), award nominations since have suffered from an increasing level of irrelevance. Whilst originally the dwindling interest in the self-congratulatory award season was slow, this process has only been exponentially increased by the pandemic, and it would seem that upon the announcement of this year's nominations on Tuesday 8th, it was one of the most muted receptions yet.

Whether this can be rooted down to the pandemic's effects on the industry or just a general disinterest in a fading tradition remains an unanswerable question. Nonetheless, the nominations proved interesting for pop culture ambassadors, such as myself and hopefully, you, our readers.

Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao & Mollye Asher at the 93rd Annual Academy Awards (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

In April of 2020, the academy announced that this year's ceremony would entail an increased number of total nominees, up to 10 for the Best Picture category, a decision clearly designed to open the awards up from the more generic ‘Oscar-bait’ pieces to more popular mainstream affairs.

Such a turn has proved effective, with the visually spectacular but narratively divided hit Dune obtaining not just a Best Picture nod but a further nine nominations in a range of technical categories, such as visual effects, cinematography and production design.

Don’t Look Up also received a Best Picture nod, which I am sure will prove to be even more controversial, with the film echoing the polarisation of McKay’s previous project Vice (2018), which also received a set of nominations at the 91st awards.

Timothee Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson in Denis Villeneuve's Dune (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

Such displays of devotion to the aforementioned projects are just one of the many ways the academy is attempting to broaden its appeal. And the acting nominations prove to be just as provocative.

In the Best Leading Actress category, we find a plethora of A-listers, including a first-time nomination for Kristen Stewart for her performance as the people’s princess in Spencer. In the weeks leading up to the nominations, it looked as though Stewart would find herself shunned from the category, as both the BAFTAs and the SAG awards failed to recognise her depiction of Diana.

However, such a nomination proves just how far Stewart has come since her Twilight (2008) days as she continues to build a strong reputation for herself in the indie circuit.

Kristen Stewart in Spencer (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

I, for one, am absolutely over the moon that she received a nomination, having reviewed the film for the BFI London film festival (click here to access my review!), and finding that Stewart managed to avoid impersonation, truly embodying Diana in all of her complexities and nuances.

A win for Stewart, however, would seem unlikely, if not nearly impossible. Joined by a collection of celebrated performers from Penelope Cruz, for Parallel Mothers, and Nicole Kidman, for Being The Ricardos, Stewart’s company is inarguably more established, with both Cruz and Kidman having won academy awards in previous years.

Kidman received the Golden Globe this year for her performance as Lucille Ball, defeating Stewart, who was once deemed a frontrunner. Rounding out the category, we find the previous winner Olivia Colman and, now 3-time nominee, Jessica Chastain, for her turn as televangelist, Tammy Faye.

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Jessica Chastain in The Eyes of Tammy Fae (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

Moving onto the Best Actor category, we also find a collection of prior nominees, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Power of The Dog looking to be the most likely winner.

The Power of The Dog proved to be the most nominated film of this year's ceremony with an outstanding 12 nominations. Released on Netflix over the winter period, the film was well and truly a welcome return for Jane Campion after a decade of radio silence.

The Power of the Dog:A poignant exposé of masculinity in 1920s western culture
A dominating Yale educated rancher projects his male toxicity onto his brother’s wife and son in Jane Campion’s directorial return

In receiving her second nomination for Best Director, after her prior nomination for The Piano in 1994, Campion became the first female director in the award’s history to be nominated for this award twice.

Whilst such a milestone should be recognised, I channelled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and couldn’t help but wonder, when will nominating female filmmakers cease to be an event and become the norm it should be?

Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smitt-McPhee in The Power of The Dog (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

Closing off the acting nominations, we have Belfast and The Power of the Dog in the lead, with both films homing actors in the supporting actor and actress categories.

Other significant mentions must include Licorice Pizza, the sun-drenched nostalgia piece by Paul Thomas Anderson that has received unanimous praise in almost every area- except the glaring fault of an uncomfortable age difference between its leads. Despite such discourse, the academy delivered three nominations for the film, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.

Licorice Pizza combines California sun and teenage devotion for a sweet nostalgic treat
Buzzing car radios, heaps of 70s references and Southern California’s own unique brand of golden sun; Licorice Pizza proves a subtle success for PTA

As with every year's nominations however, it would seem that the films and individuals NOT nominated have caused arguably even more discussion and upheaval.

House of Gucci, for instance, only received a nomination for Makeup & Hairstyling. To much scrutiny Lady Gaga, who has received nominations from almost every award body, including the BAFTAs, SAG, Critics Choice & Golden Globes, failed to receive her second acting award nomination.

Gaga rules the runway in the overlong yet entertaining House of Gucci
Based on true events, the film charts the Gucci family’s shifting power dynamics as they vie for creative and monetary control over their corporate name-sake, largely from the perspective of outsider Patrizia Reggiani, played to a passionate intensity by Lady Gaga in her sophomore role

Other supposed 'snubs' include acting nominations for Catriona Balfe in Belfast, Ruth Negga for Passing and a directing nomination for Denis Villeneuve’s work on Dune. The latter is particularly surprising, as Dune received so many other technical recognitions; technical elements that were effectively deployed at the hands of Villeneuve.

Lady Gaga in House of Gucci (2021) // Courtesy of IMDB

With the awards themselves broadcasting on March 27th, keep an eye out for further discourse in the lead up to what strugglingly remains one of the most culturally significant film events of the year.

Featured Image: IMDB

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