Every year, film buffs across the globe unite for the announcement of the long-awaited Oscar nominations. Collective sighs of relief, groans of anger, and gasps of disbelief abound as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reveals which actors, creative workers, and films will get the chance to clutch the coveted gold statue.
This year was no exception. It is officially time to conduct a thorough Oscar nominations debrief in preparation for the ceremony on March 27 hosted by Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes.
To begin with the bad news, it was upsetting to see a complete lack of nominations for Rebecca Hall’s magnificent directorial debut “Passing.” This adaptation of Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel of the same name was one of the year’s most beautiful, complex, and thought-provoking films. “Passing” tells the story of two Black women, one of whom is passing for white in 1920s New York, precariously rekindling a friendship after many years apart.
Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson each offer career-best performances while masterfully developing an odd, foreboding chemistry. To see none of this film’s artistry recognized — while mediocre works such as “Don’t Look Up” bag several nominations — is frankly a shame.
As for individual actors who were disappointingly omitted from Oscar contention, Lady Gaga of course comes to mind. Was “House of Gucci” thirty minutes too long, overly campy, and largely unremarkable? Yes. But Gaga, in pure Gaga fashion, gave this role 110 percent effort and deserved to be recognized for it. The Academy snubbing Gaga’s widely praised and extremely popular turn as Patrizia Reggiani was a missed opportunity. Here’s to hoping Lady Gaga still comes to the ceremony!
A much less discussed, yet even more deserving performance was that of Ann Dowd in “Mass.” Dowd plays the mother of a school shooter who has a conversation with the parents of a victim, a role that demands unimaginable amounts of empathy, emotional range, and sensitivity. Dowd delivered on all fronts and helped shape a jarringly beautiful film that lingers long after the screen fades to black.
Other notable snubs include, but are not limited to: Mike Faist in “West Side Story,” Hidetoshi Nishijima in “Drive My Car,” Cate Blanchett in “Nightmare Alley,” and Caitríona Balfe in “Belfast.” Someone could make a (pretty convincing) case for Willem Dafoe in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” as well.
On to the good news. Though controversial, the most pleasant surprise was the Academy’s somewhat tepid reception of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza.” This aimless tale of a 15-year-old high schooler falling in love with a 25-year-old woman was simply uncomfortable and unenjoyable to watch. Therefore, it was quite a relief to see that this film only landed three nominations (although one was unfortunately for Best Picture).
Also, it was only right that Jesse Plemons received a nod from the Academy for his wonderful performance in “The Power of the Dog.” While his on-screen and real-life wife, Kirsten Dunst, has received much deserved recognition for her role in the film, Plemmons’s unassuming yet subtly beautiful portrayal of George Burbank seemed to be fading into the background. Through this nomination, the Academy rightfully recognized one of the most versatile and entertaining actors working in Hollywood today.
More so than any other nomination, the inclusion of Kristen Stewart — whose turn as Princess Diana in “Spencer” had been inexplicably overlooked by other voting academies such as the Screen Actors Guild — was a thrilling and delightful surprise (seriously, just ask my roommate how excited I was to hear her name read). Stewart, who many may have come to know and love through her work in the “Twilight” films, embraced a daunting new challenge with this role and deserves not only to be nominated, but to win.
Regardless of who takes home the gold on March 27, this year’s ceremony will hopefully mark a return to the extravagance and joy that was largely absent from last year’s toned-down affair. Viewers can expect musical performances from a star-studded lineup of Best Original Song nominees, such as Billie Eilish and Beyoncé. With the ratings of the Oscars ceremony having seen a steep decline in recent years, nothing is off the table as the Academy plans to kick this beloved tradition into high gear.