Stephen Whitty: A look at the Oscar nominees, and those who were oddly overlooked



2022 oscars
Kodi Smit-McPhee, left, and Benedict Cumberbatch co-star in “The Power of the Dog.”

It was a day that really demonstrated “The Power of the Dog” — and proved that, in Hollywood awards races, sure things almost never are.

The nominations for the 94th Academy Awards (to be given out on March 27) were announced Feb. 8, and Jane Campion’s neo-Western led the pack, notching 12 nominations, among them Best Picture and Best Director. It also picked up four performance nods, with a Best Actor one for Benedict Cumberbatch, a Best Supporting Actress one for Point Pleasant’s Kirsten Dunst, and Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jesse Plemons both winning Best Supporting Actor attention.

The epic “Dune” made a strong showing, too, coming in second with 10 nominations, including Best Picture. Tied for third, with seven nominations, were two other Best Picture contenders, “West Side Story” and “Belfast.”

Yet those honors were strangely incomplete. “Dune” got no praise for director Denis Villeneuve or anyone in its cast. And while director Kenneth Branagh and veteran supporting actors Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench won acclaim for “Belfast,” its two leads — Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan — went unnoticed.

The Jersey-flavored “West Side Story” — shot in Paterson, and directed by one-time Haddon Township resident Steven Spielberg — won kudos for him and breakout supporting actress Ariana DeBose. Yet others were passed over, including the film’s luminous Maria, born-in-Hackensack, raised-in-Clifton newcomer Rachel Zegler. Mike Faist — who arguably gave the strongest performance in the film, as Riff — was ignored, too.

And it was a genuine shock there was no love for Rita Moreno, given that her role in the film was practically engineered to win a nomination — which would have been a sentimental bookend to her Best Supporting Actress win for the original film, back in 1961.

Those performers’ MIA status, though, might have made room for other nominees — ones few prognosticators saw coming. Like Jessie Buckley of “The Lost Daughter,” an unexpected addition to the Best Supporting Actress field. Or Troy Kotsur, winning Best Supporting Actor attention for “CODA.”

Ariana DeBose and David Alvarez in “West Side Story.”

After fiddling with the Best Picture category for more than a decade, the Academy finally set it at 10 this year, allowing room for a diverse collection of films.

In addition to “Belfast,” “Dune,” “The Power of the Dog” and “West Side Story,” there was the small drama “CODA,” the sardonic satire “Don’t Look Up,” and the Japanese “Drive My Car.” The bio-pic “King Richard,” the quirky “Licorice Pizza” and the hallucinatory “Nightmare Alley” rounded out the eclectic list.

Looking at those nominees, though, film buffs will still have some questions.

How could the star-stuffed “Don’t Look Up” and “Nightmare Alley” not garner notice for any of their actors (or such clearly personal works bring mention of their directors, Adam McKay and Guillermo del Toro?). And if voters were determined to honor a special-effects spectacle, why “Dune” over “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the biggest hit of 2021 and a genuine critical sensation?

But as big as the Oscars are, there is never room for everyone. I was a huge fan of Lady Gaga’s larger-than-life work in “House of Gucci,” but the Academy’s acting branch disagreed (obviously preferring Kristen Stewart’s quieter performance in “Spencer”). Perhaps musical divas are just out of fashion these days, even in biopics. Jennifer Hudson’s tear-up-the-stage star turn in “Respect” went unnoticed, too.

And while it was thankfully not another year of Oscars-so-white, with attention paid to Denzel Washington for “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis for “King Richard,” the complete shutout of “Passing” — particularly Ruth Negga’s delicate, melancholic performance — seemed particularly unfair.

But then, the Oscars aren’t about fairness. They’re about familiarity (Alana Haim may have been the find of the year in “Licorice Pizza,” but she may be just too new to acting to be someone voters are partial to). They’re about box-office and buzz, too. (Mendham Township’s Peter Dinklage is amazing in the new musical “Cyrano,” but how many people were even really aware of that film, set for wide release later this month?)

No, what the Oscars are really about is giving all us armchair experts something to argue over — until the awards are given out on March 27, and we have something new to debate.

Here are the nominations:

From left, Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence in “Don’t Look Up.”

“Don’t Look Up”
“Drive My Car”
“King Richard”
“Licorice Pizza”
“Nightmare Alley”
“The Power of the Dog”
“West Side Story”

Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”)
Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”)
Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”)
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”)
Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”)

Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”)
Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”)
Penélope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”)
Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”)
Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”)

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”)

Jessie Buckley (“The Lost Daughter”)
Ariana DeBose (“West Side Story”)
Judi Dench (“Belfast”)
Kirsten Dunst (“The Power of the Dog”)
Aunjanue Ellis (“King Richard”)

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”)

“Cruella” (Jenny Beavan)
“Cyrano” (Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran)
“Dune” (Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan)
“Nightmare Alley” (Luis Sequeira)
“West Side Story” (Paul Tazewell)

“Belfast” (Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri)
“Dune” (Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett)
“No Time to Die” (Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor)
“The Power of the Dog” (Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb)
“West Side Story” (Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy)

“Don’t Look Up” (Nicholas Britell)
“Dune” (Hans Zimmer)
“Encanto” (Germaine Franco)
“Parallel Mothers” (Alberto Iglesias)
“The Power of the Dog” (Jonny Greenwood)

“CODA” (Siân Heder)
“Drive My Car” (Ryusuke Hamaguchi and Takamasa Oe)
“Dune (Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth)
“The Lost Daughter” (Maggie Gyllenhaal)
“The Power of the Dog” (Jane Campion)

“Belfast” (Kenneth Branagh)
“Don’t Look Up” (screenplay by Adam McKay; story by Adam McKay and David Sirota)
“King Richard” (Zach Baylin)
“Licorice Pizza” (Paul Thomas Anderson)
“The Worst Person in the World” (Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier)

“Affairs of the Art” (Joanna Quinn and Les Mills)
“Bestia” (Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz)
“Boxballet” (Anton Dyakov)
“Robin Robin” (Dan Ojari and Mikey Please)
“The Windshield Wiper” (Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez)

“Ala Kachuu — Take and Run” (Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger)
“The Dress” (Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki)
“The Long Goodbye” (Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed)
“On My Mind” (Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson)
“Please Hold” (K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse)

“Don’t Look Up” (Hank Corwin)
“Dune” (Joe Walker)
“King Richard” (Pamela Martin)
“The Power of the Dog” (Peter Sciberras)
“Tick, Tick… Boom!” (Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum)

“Coming 2 America” (Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer)
“Cruella” (Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon)
“Dune” (Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr)
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh)
“House of Gucci” (Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras)

“Encanto” (Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer)
“Flee” (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie)
“Luca” (Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren)
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” (Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Kurt Albrecht)
“Raya and the Last Dragon” (Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer
and Peter Del Vecho)

“Ascension” (Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell)
“Attica” (Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry)
“Flee” (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie)
“Summer of Soul” (Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein)
“Writing With Fire” (Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh)

“Audible” (Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean)
“Lead Me Home” (Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk)
“The Queen of Basketball” (Ben Proudfoot)
“Three Songs for Benazir” (Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei)
“When We Were Bullies” (Jay Rosenblatt)

“Be Alive.” Music and lyrics by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (“King Richard”)
“Dos Oruguitas.” Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Encanto”)
“Down to Joy.” Music and Lyrics by Van Morrison (“Belfast”)
“No Time to Die.” Music and Lyrics by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (“No Time to Die”)
“Somehow You Do.” Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren (“Four Good Days”)

“Dune” (Greig Fraser)
“Nightmare Alley” (Dan Laustsen)
“The Power of the Dog” (Ari Wegner)
“The Tragedy of Macbeth” (Bruno Delbonnel)
“West Side Story” (Janusz Kaminski)

“Drive My Car” (Japan)
“Flee” (Denmark)
“The Hand of God” (Italy)
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (Bhutan)
“The Worst Person in the World” (Norway)

“Dune” (production design: Patrice Vermette; set decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos)
“Nightmare Alley” (production design: Tamara Deverell; set decoration: Shane Vieau)
“The Power of the Dog” (production design: Grant Major; set decoration: Amber Richards)
“The Tragedy of Macbeeth” (production design: Stefan Dechant; set decoration: Nancy Haigh)
“West Side Story” (production design: Adam Stockhausen; set decoration: Rena DeAngelo)

“Dune” (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer)
“Free Guy” (Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick)
“No Time to Die” (Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould)
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver)
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” (Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick)


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