Six things we learnt from the Oscars nominations 2022

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Here are the takeaways from this year's selection – from the good and the bad to what needs fixing

Tuesday 8 February 2022. By Thomas Barrie

1. Women are still painfully underrepresented among directors

 

When Jane Campion was last nominated for Best Director in March 1994 for The Piano, Bill Clinton had been in the White House for all of 14 months, Tonya Harding had just pled guilty for plotting to attack Nancy Kerrigan five days before, and the most controversial question surrounding the Academy Awards® was who would replace comedian Billy Crystal as the ceremony’s presenter (in the end, Whoopi Goldberg took up the mantle). In the years since, the Oscars® have faced periodic criticism for the demographic representation among their nominees, taking steps to address the make-up of both the Academy itself and the creatives it honours. And yet still no other female director had ever managed more than a single nod – until now, with Campion’s nomination for The Power Of The Dog. That Jane Campion is a monumentally accomplished visual storyteller (and that The Power Of The Dog is among her best work) is now a given, and something to be celebrated; that it has taken this long for any woman to be nominated twice in the category is not.

 

2. Lady Gaga deserved better

 

Lady Gaga turned in one of the most delectably camp performances of the year as Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House Of Gucci, all flapping hair, boxy power suits, drawling accent and spitting disdain for anyone who got in her way as she clawed to the top of the Gucci dynasty via marriage to Adam Driver’s more reserved company heir, Maurizio Gucci. And yet after Gaga was nominated for a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and numerous other silverware, the Academy – which takes itself more seriously and is generally less inclined to make left-field nominations than other awards bodies – decided not to recognise her. Did her co-stars let her down? Jared Leto and Jeremy Irons’ respective performances in the film were so silly – so heavy on the scenery chewing that only metaphorical matchsticks were left – that the whole film felt at times like a farce. Gaga’s otherwise excellent performance was bogged down in an overlong and overdramatic pantomime of a family drama, and this time around she has suffered for it.

 

3. Streaming services’ conquest of the Oscars® is almost (but not quite) complete

 

For much of the last decade, industry chatter has focused on when a film distributed or produced by Netflix, Amazon or Apple TV+ would win either of the streaming behemoths, their first Best Picture award. It hasn’t happened yet, even as Netflix leads the pack with 27 total Oscar® nominations this year, a repeat of their performance last year with 35, and the year before when they had 24. And while the studio’s The Power Of The Dog looks like a strong contender and Apple TV+’s CODA has the meaty emotional subject matter the Academy has traditionally rewarded, the depth of the field among the traditional studios means there’s still no guarantee of a win for a streamer. Warner Brothers, Universal, Searchlight Pictures and 20th Century Studios haven’t forgotten the art of producing winning films yet, and will give their tech rivals a real run for their money in the Oscars’® most prestigious category.

 

4. Superhero films continue to be snubbed

 

The battle rages on over whether or not superhero films – and in particular, those produced by Disney as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – should be shown more love by the Academy Awards®. Of the two that might have been tipped on paper at the beginning of this Oscars® year to be nominated (i.e. before anyone saw them), the MCU’s Eternals was polarizing at best and managed no nominations at all, while Spider-Man: No Way Home limped in with a measly VFX nod despite widespread critical and commercial success. If superhero films are ever going to be recognised as Oscar®-worthy art, it’s certainly not happening this year. Martin Scorsese can breathe easy.

 

5. ‘Couple nominations’ are going strong

 

In 2020, Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, who are a couple, were nominated for awards for Little Women and Marriage Story respectively (though neither won in the three categories they were named in between them). They weren’t the first, by any means – Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh were both nominated in 1940, as were Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1967, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in 2009. But never before have two couples managed to be nominated in each of the four acting categories between them, as Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, and Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem have done this year. Film trivia buffs will be watching closely on the night to see if the foursome can produce a clean sweep between them.

 

6. Jessie Buckley’s rise seems (rightfully) unstoppable

 

To watch I’d Do Anything on BBC One back in 2008, you’d be forgiven for laughing off the odds that any of the contestants – unknowns competing for the chance to play Nancy in an Andrew Lloyd Webber production of Oliver Twist – would be Oscar®-nominated 14 years later. Unless, of course, you caught one of 18-year-old Jessie Buckley’s performances, in which case you’d have gone straight out to the bookie and put your life savings on it. Since coming second (second!) on the show, Buckley has only got better and better, powering into Hollywood via roles in I’m Thinking Of Ending Things, HBO’s Chernobyl, Fargo, the BAFTA-winning Wild Rose, and the almost offensively underrated psychological thriller, Beast. With a well-earned Best Supporting Actress nomination this year for The Lost Daughter, the Irish actor is getting the stateside recognition she deserves – doubtless it will be the first of many trips to the Dolby Theatre for her in years to come.

 

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