Oscar nominations rich with talent, but a few greats got, um, overlooked
Ruth Negga, Caitriona Balfe, Nicolas Cage and Jennifer Hudson deserved some love, but let’s not call it a snub
When it comes to making Oscar predictions, there’s one sure thing every year, without fail:
On the morning of the nominations, you are going to see approximately 250,000 online headlines and social media posts invoking the word “snubbed.”
Somebody’s gonna get snubbed. Snubs will occur. There will be snubbery.
Sure enough, when the 94th Oscar nominations were announced in typically underwhelming fashion at 5:20 a.m. Pacific Time, there was a near-instantaneous fuss and holler about how putative nominee favorites Lady Gaga, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ruth Negga, Rita Moreno, “Dune” director Denis Villeneuve and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” were SNUBBED, big time.
Newsweek headline: “Lady Gaga Snubbed at Oscar Nominations as ‘House of Gucci’ Shut Out.”
As if the Academy voters got together en masse like a bunch of Mean Girls and decided to “rebuff, ignore or spurn disdainfully,” as the Google puts it. Perhaps they overlooked some deserving performances and films; I would argue that Ruth Negga for “Passing,” Caitriona Balfe for “Belfast” and Villeneuve’s direction of “Dune” should have made the cut. Overall, however, there weren’t any truly shocking surprises, from the rock-solid list of the 10 best picture nominees through the acting categories, which were once again dominated by biopics.
Six of the 10 top acting nods went to performers playing real-life figures: Will Smith in “King Richard,” Andrew Garfield in “tick tick … Boom!,” Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman in “Being the Ricardos,” Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” and Kristen Stewart in “Spencer.” (Since 2010, a total of 10 best actor or actress Academy Awards have been given for portrayals of real-life figures.)
Jane Campion’s elegant and haunting “The Power of the Dog,” which had a limited theatrical release last November and then was released to stream worldwide on Dec. 1, led the way with 12 nominations. The eclectic best picture nominations include some mainstream Hollywood fare, e.g., “West Side Story,” “Dune” and “King Richard,” a rare nomination for a family film in the wonderful “CODA,” and a dual nomination for best picture and best international feature film for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car.”
Was “Spider-Man: No Way Home” an international sensation and a wildly entertaining superhero movie with that great triple play performance from all the Spidey guys? Yes. Did it deserve a best picture nomination over “Belfast” or “Licorice Pizza” or “Nightmare Alley”? Come on. (On the other hand, I WOULD sub out the overblown “Don’t Look Up” to make room for “No Way Home” and about 100 other movies.)
It would have been great to see the Academy also find room for Nicolas Cage’s performance in “Pig” (as well as the movie itself); Jennifer Hudson’s work in “Respect,” Ben Affleck’s supporting turn in “The Tender Bar,” Peter Dinklage for reinventing “Cyrano” and the Kid Cudi/Jay-Z original song “Guns Go Bang” from “The Harder They Fall.” But the acting categories are loaded, with perennial faves such as Olivia Colman, Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington and Judi Dench joined by Kirsten Dunst, Ariana DeBose, Aunjanue Ellis, Jesse Plemons, Kodi Smit-McPhee — and Troy Kotsur, the first deaf male actor to land an Oscar nomination.
Of course, the first deaf nominee — and winner — was Morton Grove’s own Marlee Matlin (Kostur’s “CODA” co-star) for “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986.
That’s another time the Academy got things just right.