The Oscars, or the Academy Awards, is a ceremony that annually recognizes achievements in filmmaking and acting. Since 1929, the ceremony has rewarded work in twenty-four categories. Only members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are able to nominate and vote for the candidates, leading to controversy over the ethicality and bias of the ceremony. Nonetheless, winning an Oscar is a prestigious feat that marks milestones and furthers prospects for many careers. The 2022 Oscar selections were picked from movies shown in theaters from January 1st, 2021 to December 31st, 2021. It is not uncommon for movies to be recognized for multiple categories in the same year, and this year’s Oscars are no different. The Power of the Dog, directed by Jane Campion, swept the floor with its staggering twelve nominations, while the sci-fi movie Dune earned itself a highly respectable 10 nominations.
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As of February 22nd, the Academy Awards announced that they will not be broadcasting some of the awards live, reportedly in response to the bad ratings of last year’s awards ceremony. They attempted to do the same thing in 2018 but ultimately decided against it due to the large amount of backlash they received from the industry. They also announced that they will host a “fan favorite” movie category in partnership with Twitter. All these changes will no doubt lead to an interesting broadcast and even more interesting response.
Actors and Actresses
Besides honoring the films themselves, a major portion of the ceremony is dedicated to honoring the actors and actresses that showed their skill and dedication to the art of acting.
This year, the nominees for the category of Best Actress in a Leading Role are as follows: Jessica Chastain for her role in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Olivia Colman for her part in Lost Daughter, Penelope Cruz for Parallel Mothers, Nicole Kidman in Being the Ricardos, and Kristen Stewart as the lead in Spencer.
Jessica Chastain played the role of Tammy Faye, depicting her in the biopic on the rise and fall of the televangelist and her husband. Even despite any personal qualms with the movie, most reviewers take the time to recognize Chastain’s stellar performance.
Olivia Colman’s portrayal of the character Leda tells the story of the middle-aged divorced mother of two, as her beach vacation of self-discovery turns into one of confrontation and unwelcome memories. Though some viewers find the movie more pretentious than profound, many praise Colman’s acting as she brought the book to movie adaptation to life.
Penelope Cruz starred as Janis, a middle-aged soon-to-be single mother, as she gives birth and words of encouragement that bond her to the scared teen-mom giving birth at the same time. Reviews praise Cruz as a light that brings a somewhat cliche movie to life with her brilliance.
Nicole Kidman’s role was that of Lucille Ball in her own story of falling in love and filming shows and movies, before political rumors create turmoil in her life and relationships. Living up to Lucille Ball’s legend proved hard for Kidman; reviews criticized the movie’s inaccuracies as well as Kidman’s portrayal of the icon. Most claimed she didn’t look the part, yet still gave it her all.
Kristen Stewart was Princess Diana, telling the story of the downfall of Diana and Charles’ marriage through affairs and drama. A beloved figure, Diana’s legacy is a hard one to imitate on-screen, which only added to the pressure Stewart experiences as a result of her Twilight reputation. As such, many reviews criticize her every movement, while others praise her brilliant performance.
In the past, there have been trends with what actresses get chosen for this category. Though I am all but an expert on the awards system, some things I, as well as others, have noticed is the plentiful amount of biopic actresses that get nominated. The Academy generally seems to favor these, seen even from just the nominations, with three out of the five being from biographical films. The problem with awards systems like this, is that winners aren’t chosen just for their talent. Often, people with the most connections and backing win. (See a later section for more on this.) Because of this, I believe that it is likely that Nicole Kidman will win this category.
However, I will continue to shout from the roof-tops my love for Kristen Stewart’s performance in Spencer. Personally, I believe it was one of the best performances of the year, and she undoubtedly deserves the win. Despite thinking that Nicole Kidman will win, I have, at the most, a neutral opinion on her performance. Though I have a favorite, I will not be completely unhappy if one of the other nominees wins. I am allowing myself cautious hope that Stewart’s brilliance will be recognized by the Academy.
Competing for the spot of the Best Actor in a Leading Role are Javier Bardem in Being the Ricardos, Benedict Cumberbatch for The Power of the Dog, Andrew Garfield with Tick, Tick… Boom!, Will Smith in King Richard, and Denzel Washington for his role in The Tragedy of Macbeth.
Javier Bardem’s role in Being the Ricardos was none other than Desi Arnaz, opposite Nicole Kidman, as the actor and husband to Lucille Ball. Many of the criticisms of the movie still stand for his role in it, though on the whole, I was unable to find too much buzz surrounding his performance, neither negative nor positive.
Benedict Cumberbatch played Phil Burbank in The Power of the Dog, a hardened rancher in the 1920s “wild west”. Many give credit to Cumberbatch for his great acting throughout the movie, but perhaps most especially for his nuanced and human portrayal of struggles with sexuality and masculinity in this time period.
Andrew Garfield portrayed the late Jonathan Larson in Tick, Tick… Boom!, a struggling theater composer during the early 1990s, as he navigates pressure from his career, girlfriend, the artistic community amidst the AIDS epidemic, and above all, the feeling of running out of time. Reviews praise the movie, and perhaps even more so Garfield’s presence, as a tribute to the great Jonathan Larson; it seems that even despite qualms with the movie, Garfield’s talent is undeniable.
Will Smith as Richard Williams in King Richard tells the story of Venus and Serena Williams’ dedicated and passionate father with a resolve as strong and unwavering as their family. Online, it seems Smith is seen as the perfect actor for this role, and the only one who could have delivered this detailed performance and its uplifting message.
Denzel Washington in The Tragedy of Macbeth played Macbeth, in this film adaptation of the Shakespeare play about the Scottish lord and his plans to seize power. Though some reviewers dislike the adaptation of the play, few seem to dislike Washington’s portrayal of the title role.
For who I think is going to win versus who I want to win, my personal feelings are blinding my ability to be objective. If the Oscar goes to Andrew Garfield, I will be utterly thrilled. Garfield’s performance in Tik, Tik… Boom was one of the best of the year. I cried watching that movie, and I will cry once more if he wins the Oscar. I will not be surprised if Cumberbatch takes this one, however. The Power of the Dog already has many nominations and his performance was good as well. I will, however, be upset if it goes to Bardem, if not just for the principle of how bad Being the Ricardos was.
Supporting Actress and Actor
The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are Jessie Buckley for The Lost Daughter, Ariana DeBose for West Side Story, Judi Dench for Belfast, Kirsten Dunst for The Power of the Dog, and Aunjanue Ellis for King Richard.
I think, after years of being snubbed, Kirsten Dunst has a very real shot at winning; her performance in The Power of the Dog was nothing short of amazing. But, I also think Ariana DeBose also has a chance of winning this category. Both outcomes are favorable to me.
For Best Supporting Actor, we have Ciarán Hinds for Belfast, Troy Kotsur with CODA, Jesse Plemons and The Power of the Dog, J.K. Simmons for Being the Ricardos, and Kodi Smit-McPhee for The Power of the Dog.
With a powerful performance McPhee, I would not be surprised if he takes home this award. Hinds and Kotsur are also viable options for winners of this category, even if I would personally choose McPhee.
Perhaps the Oscars are best known for the Best Picture category; credited as the films of the year, the list of nominees is long and grand.
Belfast is a drama/comedy biography with a 7.4/10 on IMDB about a Belfast working-class family and their young son in the late 1960s. Rated PG-13, the film is based on true events from Kenneth Branagh’s, the director of this movie, life. Sentimental and nostalgic despite the representation of such a tumultuous time, this black and white film captured hearts with the world seen through childlike eyes.
CODA, its name is that of the acronym Child Of Deaf Adults, has an 8.1/10 on IMDB. Assigned to the genres of comedy, drama, and music, this PG-13 film follows the only hearing daughter of a deaf family, and her struggle to choose between her passion for music and her fear of abandoning her family. This coming-of-age film pleased crowds with its heartfelt simplicity and representation of a deaf family.
Don’t Look Up is a commentary on global warming, and the Academy loves a film with a message. With a 7.2/10 on IMDB and an R rating, this sci-fi dramatic comedy focuses on two low-level astronomers on a media tour to warn the world of an approaching meteorite. With only six months and a society of people who don’t seem to care, the parallels between the world-ending problem of climate change and this meteor caught the attention of audiences.
Drive My Car is an un-rated Japanese drama centered on death and mystery. The main character, two years after his wife’s tragic and unexpected death, meets his new chauffeur, and the two begin to unravel mysteries and painful truths surrounding his wife. IMDB rates it a 7.8/10, users revering the slow yet gripping story for its undeniably good craftsmanship and exploration of grief and loss.
Dune is an adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. Deemed a classic in sci-fi literature, the 2021 movie adaptation tells the story of the son of a powerful and noble family tasked with protecting one of the most important precious resources in the galaxy. IMDB gives it an 8.1/10, and reviewers praise acting and cinematography that even viewers that know nothing of the source material can get behind.
King Richard shares the story of Serena and Venus William’s father’s undying perseverance and determination with their careers. It follows the ups and downs of not only their career paths, but their relationships and connections as well. It has a star rating of 7.6/10 on IMDB, and viewers seem to agree generally that this biopic is sweet, sentimental, and uplifting.
Licorice Pizza combines comedy, drama, and romance, in a coming-of-age film set in 1970’s San Fernando Valley. A 15 year-old child actor meets a 25 year-old photography assistant, and they spark a friendship that, by the end of the movie, turns romantic (an aspect of the movie that received some criticism). What reviewers call brilliant, funny, and nostalgic, earned this movie a 7.7/10 on IMDB.
Nightmare Alley is set in 1940’s New York, featuring thrills, drama, and crime. The plot centers Stanton Carlisle as he meets a clairvoyant and her husband who owns a circus, leading Carlisle to plan to con a tycoon with help from a psychiatrist, one he can’t tell if he is friend or foe. It seems that people enjoy the visuals and acting, and many enjoy the story, though some cite it’s pacing and plot holes as the downfall of this film, leaving it with a 7.2/10 star rating on IMDB.
The Power of the Dog’s western setting combined with drama and tragic romance earned it a 6.9/10 on IMDB. Revered for its storytelling, the movie follows Phil and George, brothers and wealthy owners of a ranch, and their bond that seems anything but pleasant; Phil endlessly taunts everyone, including George’s new wife and her son, leading her to alcoholism. With a slow and suspenseful character driven plot, the story unfurls with reveals of motivations and pasts.
West Side Story is a musical that has been adapted before, but the 2021 version boasts a 7.8/10 on IMDB that gained it a spot on this list. It tells the classic story of forbidden love and rivalry of opposing gangs. Many reviewers enjoyed this remake of a well-loved musical.
I have many predictions for how this category could go. For one, the Academy loves a period piece surrounded by nostalgia, and Belfast seems like an obvious choice. They also enjoy dark and gritty movies, so I think The Power of the Dog is up there.
I think Dune was added to the list to draw in fans of the movie for the ceremony, though I do see its artistic merit and would not be opposed to it winning this category. Don’t Look Up was probably only added so the star-studded cast would attend the awards ceremony, and their fans would watch it.
Having not seen many of the movies on this list, I don’t have much of a personal investment in who wins. Yet, I have opinions on what I don’t want to win. Licorice Pizza is just another romance film with a lack of diversity and nothing new to share. Even looking beyond the weird age gap, the movie doesn’t seem inventive and fails to add anything defining to the genre. My qualm with West Side Story has more to do with the cast than the film itself. Ansel Elgort, the actor who plays Tony, had a successful career in the early twenty-tens, before fading into the background and not taking many roles, and I wish it had stayed that way. In 2020, he was accused of sexually assaulting an underage girl, who admitted to having a “consensual” relationship with, but nothing else. I am therefore hopeful that this movie doesn’t add any prestige to his name, though I do feel for the rest of the crew and cast who had no choice but to work with him.
Aspects of Films
Nominated are Kenneth Branagh for Belfast, Ryusuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car, Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza, Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog, and Steven Spielberg for West Side Story.
For this category, I think the award will go to Kenneth Branagh for Belfast. The movie focuses on aspects of his own life, and the Academy loves a sad, nostalgic film. If he doesn’t win, an outcome that will slightly surprise me, I think the award will go to Steven Spielberg for West Side Story, mostly because of my understanding of his reputation.
Production design deals with the overall aesthetic and cohesion of a film; it is a summation of all of the visual elements that create the world of the film. The main purpose is to help the audience understand where and when things are happening.
The nominees for this category are Dune, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and West Side Story.
I think that Dune is a strong contender. The sets, the props, and overall feeling of Dune was compelling and told a full and followable story. If I had to pick a runner up, it would be The Power of the Dog, for it’s strong grasp on the western feel it has throughout.
Generally, this category refers to the use of the camera in the movie. Movies can have flawless scripts, amazing actors, and the best crew around, but often, I think, how the camera moves to capture all of this is really what pulls a film together. That is cinematography.
Similar names throughout, the nominees for this category are Dune, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, The Tragedy of Macbeth, and West Side Story.
Once again, I personally would give this one to Dune. The sweeping shots and poignant and nuanced techniques used throughout feel innovative even if they aren’t. Yet, all of the movies on this list are visually beautiful, and I would be anything but upset if The Power of the Dog won, as I feel similarly about its presentation.
In film, visual effects describe the task of creating or changing images on screen that do not exist in real life. For example, if there is an explosion in a scene, the fire and destruction would be visual effects.
This category features some new names from those we’ve grown accustomed to, including: Dune, Free Guy, No Time to Die, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
With two amazing movies from Marvel and a phenomenon of an adaptation, this category is a hard one for me to choose from. My opinions on the visual effects themselves do not sway much from movie to movie, though I am not a harsh critic of things I do not know much about. But, if I am attempting to think like the Academy, I think the award will go to Dune, even if I would love for it to go to either of the MCU movies on this list.
Creative and technical, this part of movie making is pretty self explanatory. Though, the creative aspects are what really set films apart in this category. Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, The Power of the Dog, and Tick, Tick… Boom! are all nominees.
Once again, my favoritism for Tick, Tick…Boom! blinds me. The editing of this movie was not only masterful, but was one of the things that made the film so enjoyable to watch. The editing meshed beautifully with the tone and the other visuals, and it not winning this category will be somewhat devastating. However, if I had to choose who I think is going to win, I might have to choose Dune once more; it feels like a safe bet.
Costumes in film are more than just a cool outfit; they are tasked with carrying the weight of exploring character traits and development, time period, experimentation, etc, in a visual form inside the film. Some new names are added to this category, with the nominees being Cruella, Cyrano, Dune, Nightmare Alley, and Westside Story.
Rather harshly, I think the costumes in Cruella are nothing special, and I don’t think it will win this category. With Cyrano, Nightmare Alley, and Westside Story, I have to take into account the Academy’s love for period pieces in this category. Despite my love for the art form of contemporary costume design, I know that period pieces are usually the benchmark for “exceptional” costumes. If I were to choose a winner, however, I would give this award to Dune for the stunning and inventive costumes that fit the narrative perfectly.