' ' Cinema Romantico: Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Some Drivel On...the Oscar Nominations

The buzz on this year’s Oscar nominations, at least in circles where people pay (too much) attention to such things, was not good. I mean, there is always concern over what will not get nominated as opposed to what will, but that worry seemed even more pronounced, fatalistic even, the same people who would have taken to the streets of Hollywood Boulevard if Jared Leto had been nominated for “House of Gucci” acting as vaingloriously tragic as Jared Leto in “House of Gucci.”  (Leto was not nominated.) I’m not sure what was causing the doom and gloom. The other awards nominees and winners, I guess, or the general sense of melancholy that has defined the Pandemic, or the relentlessness of Lady Gaga performatively campaigning how much she wanted an Oscar causing all the people who performatively Don’t Care About The Oscars to perform that much harder and really bum themselves out. Then the nominations broke early on Tuesday morning and devolved into a mess so fascinating that even conventional nominations – J.K. Simmons for “Being the Ricardos”! Judi Dench for “Belfast”! – seemed shocking. It was sort of fun, and it allowed for a brief reprieve of the dire forecasts, at least until 12 months from now when we repeat this whole process and everyone gets pre-outraged again. (See all nominations here.)

The emergent push and pull between the old guard and new guard of Academy voters that has become paramount the last few years was on display once again. Although Kenneth Branagh’s critically pooh-pooed “Belfast” was grandfathered in for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay nominations so, too, did Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” earn nods in the same categories (and Best International Feature). A three-hour Japanese adaptation of Uncle Vanya? What is the world coming to? (Something good?) Guillermo del Toro’s remake of the 1940s noir “Nightmare Alley” and Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story” redux might have been a box office flops from being pitted against Marvel’s “Spider Man: No Way Home” but the former films earned a Best Picture nod and the latter did not. That push away from the mainstream might elicit out of touch accusations from the sort of people who lament each year that only movies they have never heard of get nominated. I don’t know, when I was young buck watching movies the Oscars were exciting because they made me watch movies I never would have thought of watching in the first place. “Nightmare Alley” is streaming on HBOMax and fellow nominees “Dune” and “King Richard” are streaming there too. “Power of the Dog” is streaming on Netflix as is fellow nominee “Don’t Look Up.” And whether such streaming availability is an indicator of our present or a sign of our future, in this moment, they are all so easy to watch! (“Drive My Car”, on the other hand, is not.) Speaking of which, “Power of the Dog” earned the most nominations of any movie, 12, including Jane Campion for Best Director, and you have to wonder if it has emerged as Best Picture favorite which would be a fairly rad winner. 

In Best Director, Campion, Branagh, and Hamaguchi were joined by Spielberg and Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza.” Denis Villeneuve, who directed “Dune”, did not earn a nomination despite his film being up for Best Picture. There was speculation on social media that Villeneuve was eschewed because the Academy was waiting to nominate him for Dune Part 2 which reminds me of the late William Goldman laughing away such narrative bunkums. To sort of paraphrase him, do you really think all the Academy voters all got together at The Ivy and collectively chose to wait on voting for Denis?

Will Smith seems the front-runner for Best Actor with “King Richard” and though my “Card Counter” loving heart was disappointed in Oscar Isaac being passed over, seeing Denzel Washington nominated in the same category for playing Macbeth in the same year as Smith is really pretty cool. Let’s try to savor it. 

Best Actress is a loaded field with topliners Penélope Cruz, Olivia Colman, and Nicole Kidman. In getting nominated for “Eyes of Tammy Faye”, Jessica Chastain earned the annual slot for the Movie We Are All Pretty Sure Does Not Really Exist. Kristen Stewart, who had openly declared that she did not care one iota whether she was nominated, wound up nominated for “Spencer” after being written off by everyone while Lady Gaga, who had essentially declared that she wanted an Oscar more than anything in the world (for right now), was not nominated for “House of Gucci.” Does that mean the Oscars are finally starting to go punk rock? That if you express disdain for the whole affair you are more likely to be nominated than if you ply voters with prime rib luncheons and free booze? I can’t say for certain but I certainly hope whoever is producing the Oscar telecast is already conspiring with Lady Gaga to do a bit midway through the show where she tries to show up unannounced on the red carpet and is turned away by an usher. 

In the end, reactions to Oscar nominees are just a swarm of individual desires and predilections come to life or denied which is really all ‘snubs’ are about. If you liked the movie or the performance or the costume design and it wasn’t nominated, the movie or performer or costume designer in question was snubbed; if you didn’t like the movie or the performance or the costume design and it wasn’t nominated, the Oscars got it ‘right.’ So let me just formally say right here that as a Kirsten Dunst stan for going on 23 years, who has seen every movie she’s made (except for “Woodshock”, still gotta get to that one), her first ever nomination in the Best Supporting Actress for “Power of the Dog” might be the happiest an Oscar nod has ever made me. Maybe it doesn’t sound like it. I confess, my enthusiasm for Oscar Nomination Day and even the Oscars themselves has waned over the years for a variety of factors. Once upon a time I might have poured a Tuesday Morning mimosa in celebration. As it was, I just checked the nominations when I woke up, saw her name, and went about my morning. But still, it was a pretty wonderful morning. 

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

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