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What Surprised Us (And What Did Not) In The 2022 Academy Award Nominations

Two rows of gold Oscar statuettes sit on a lighted shelf.
Oscars statuettes are on display backstage during the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020.
(Handout/A.M.P.A.S. via
Getty Images)
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Two years ago, the Korean drama Parasite won four Academy Awards, including best picture. It was a powerhouse showing for a non-English language film. And this year’s nominations show that Oscar voters are still dazzled by international productions. The March 27 ceremony will include a surprise foreign-language best picture selection and a separate history-making pick from Denmark.

Even as a variety of domestic productions dominated the nominations — Jane Campion’s Western adaptation, The Power of the Dog, collected a leading 12 nominations, with the sci-fi drama Dune in second with 10 — Japan’s Drive My Car not only earned a stunning best picture nomination, but director Ryusuke Hamaguchi also was shortlisted.

At the same time, the Danish-produced documentary, Flee, which tells the story of an Afghan refugee, became the first movie ever nominated in these three categories: animated feature, documentary feature and international feature.

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Here Come The Streamers

For the third straight year, Netflix took home the most nominations with 32. Half of the 10 best picture nominees either debuted on streaming services or premiered concurrently in theaters and online. Apple Original Films earned its first best picture nomination for Coda, which it acquired at last year’s Sundance Film Festival for a record $25 million.

While Oscar voters did nominate two Black performers for best actor — Will Smith in King Richard and Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth — all of the supporting actor nominees are white.

The Snubs And A Lack Of Blockbusters

Notable snubs included Denis Villeneuve, the director of Dune, lead actress contender Lady Gaga from House of Gucci, and supporting actor favorite Ben Affleck from The Tender Bar. The Rescue, a new film from the directors of the Oscar-winning Free Solo, was not nominated for documentary feature, and Aaron Sorkin was not recognized for writing and directing Being the Ricardos.

The ratings for last year’s scaled-down Oscar ceremony plummeted more than 50% from 2020, and given the slate of little-seen best picture contenders this year, the show’s producers may struggle to improve the TV turnout.

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story has sold just $36.7 million of domestic tickets, a fraction of its $100-million production budget. And the remake of the 1961 original wasn’t undone by streaming, as it’s not available on any such platform.

The same is true for some other best picture contenders that flamed out at the multiplex: Belfast, Nightmare Alley and Licorice Pizza. (Dune, even though it was released on HBO Max as it hit theaters, has grossed more than $107 million.)

Tips For Your Oscar Pool

If you’re starting to handicap potential Oscar victories, bear this in mind: the best picture winner often wins the editing trophy, but is almost always at least nominated in the category. And it’s almost always the case, too, that the director of the best picture winner is nominated, and sometimes wins as well.

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Given that history, you’re left with only one contender that checks all three boxes: picture, editing and directing. And it’s The Power of the Dog.

The Oscars are scheduled to be presented on March 27 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

What questions do you have about film, TV, music, or arts and entertainment?
John Horn, entertainment reporter and host of our weekly podcast Retake, explores whether the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?

Corrected February 10, 2022 at 11:43 AM PST
An earlier version incorrectly gave the date of the ceremony at the top of the story. It was correct at the end.
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