The frontrunner for this year’s Oscars is Netflix’s Western psychodrama The Power of the Dog, a nominee in 12 categories including Best Picture. Among a field of big hitters announced today there is also recognition for sci-fi blockbuster Dune (10 nominations), Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story (seven) and BelfastKenneth Branagh’s coming-of-age story (seven).
The Academy would love the 2022 awards to be a comeback story. Last year, a low-key, Covid-affected ceremony saw a dramatic fall-off in TV ratings. The hope is that the return of a grand bash filled with star names and box-office successes will help draw back public attention.
Among the Best Picture contenders, The Power of the Dog reached most of its audience through streaming. Some rivals such as Dune have pulled significant crowds into cinemas, but West Side Story delivered a flat commercial performance despite enthusiastic reviews. Other nominees include Belfast; King Richard, biopic of Richard Williams, father and coach of Venus and Serena; Japanese breakout hit Drive My Car and another Netflix title, comedy cause celebrity Don’t Look Up.
Jane Campion, nominated as Best Director for The Power of the Dogwas previously shortlisted in 1994 for The Piano. A victory at next month’s ceremony would make this the first time a woman took the prize two years running (Chloé Zhao having won in 2021 for Nomadland), yet Campion remains the only woman nominated in a category of five.
In the acting categories, more recognition for The Power of the Dog finds Benedict Cumberbatch nominated for Best Actor alongside bookies’ favorite Will Smith, up for his performance in King Richard. The leading contender for Best Actress remains Nicole Kidman, cast as Lucille Ball in biopic Being the Ricardos. The Power of the Dog features too in both supporting categories, with nominations for Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst.
Netflix will be hoping the 2022 Oscars make a good news story every bit as much as the Academy after last month’s dizzying fall in the price of its stock. Aside from Campion’s film, the streamer has four nominations for Don’t Look Up and a further two for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical tick, tick. . . BOOM!. Apple’s filmmaking arm takes three nominations each for The Tragedy of Macbeth and the poignant comedy-drama CODA (nominated for Best Picture).
Among the old-school studios, Warner Bros. may see partial vindication in the many nominations of Dune after facing anger from leading film-makers over its policy of releasing films in cinemas and on its HBO Max streaming platform simultaneously. As a big box-office hit, the movie’s prominence may also stem criticism that the Oscars now mostly reward films little seen by audiences.
For the Academy, there will be further relief if it avoids a repeat of the controversies around diversity that have beset the awards in recent years. The next step will be to try to restore TV audiences and a general sense of cultural heft. In that respect, some planning detail is still needed. As the Oscars announced their nominations, it was still unknown who – if anyone – will actually host the ceremony on March 27.
The nominees in the four main awards categories are as follows:
Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical tale of a Protestant family living through the Troubles in the late 1960s
Sian Heder’s drama about a hearing teenager who is a child of deaf parents
Don’t Look Up
Adam McKay’s satire about an impending global disaster
Drive My Car
Japanese drama about a theater director dealing with loss, regret and Uncle Vanya
Big-budget adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel
Biopic of Venus and Serena Williams’ father and coach starring Will Smith
Sunny tale of first love in 1970s California by Paul Thomas Anderson
Guillermo del Toro’s 1940s-set film noir about grisly sideshows and bad people
The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion’s story of macho bravado and ambiguous sexuality in the Old West
West Side Story
Steven Spielberg’s lavish and faithful adaptation of Sondheim’s musical
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
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
Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers
Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos
Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter
Kristen Stewart, Spencer