2021 Oscar Nominations Reaction

And at last… they’re out! After months of speculating on the blog (starting all the way back with my initial predictions in August), the Oscar nominations for the 94th Academy Awards were unveiled early this morning.

As always, there’s shocking omissions and surprising additions. There’s races that went as planned. And (for me at least) there’s always that one tricky category where I end up going 2/5. This year it was Documentary Feature which is notoriously tough to figure out. On the flip side, I projected 4 out of the 20 feature film competitions with 5/5 accuracy. All in all – I went 82 for 105 on the picks.

Some initial thoughts before I break it down race by race. The Power of the Dog was easily the winner of the morning with 12 nods (even more than anticipated). It led all nominees with Dune second (10).

Other movies that either met or exceeded expectations: Drive My Car, King Richard, and Nightmare Alley (which was the only somewhat surprising BP addition). For others, it was more of a mixed bag. Belfast garnered 7 mentions but came up short in key tech indicators like Cinematography and Editing. The same can be said for Licorice Pizza. Seven was also the number for West Side Story, but it missed screenplay. Being the Ricardos got 3 acting nods but no Picture or screenplay. And even Dune, with the 10 nods, somehow missed a director nomination for Denis Villeneuve.

Then there’s House of Gucci, which showed up only in Makeup and Hairstyling. No Jared Leto (I predicted he’d be left off), but no Lady Gaga in Actress was perhaps the shocker of the day.

Let’s get into it and I’ll offer my initial take on what/who could win (my final predictions will come shortly before the March 27th show).

Best Picture

Nominees:

Belfast

CODA

Don’t Look Up

Drive My Car

Dune

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

How I Did: 9/10

Commentary: My one miss was Alley coming in over Being the Ricardos. Make no mistake. With its 12 mentions, The Power of the Dog is undoubtedly the frontrunner. Yes, the Twitterverse will offer alternate theories. Could Drive My Car‘s impressive haul give us our second foreign BP winner in three years? Could Belfast or West Side Story spoil? I doubt it.

Best Director

Nominees:

Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza

Kenneth Branagh, Belfast

Jane Campion, The Power of the Dog

Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car

Steven Spielberg, West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Hamaguchi getting in wasn’t unforeseen. If so, I figured he’d do so over Anderson, Branagh, or Spielberg and certainly not Villeneuve. That’s what happened. Campion made history today by becoming the first female nominee to get a second nomination. All signs point to her becoming the third (after Kathryn Bigelow and Chloe Zhao) to win.

Best Actress

Nominees:

Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Olivia Colman, The Lost Daughter

Penelope Cruz, Parallel Mothers

Nicole Kidman, Being the Ricardos

Kristen Stewart, Spencer

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: We now arrive at the biggest head scratcher of the major categories. Gaga’s aforementioned omission is truly unexpected (Cruz takes her slot). The precursors (BAFTA, Globes, SAG) have been all over the map and there’s no obvious favorite. I would say Cruz doesn’t stand much of a chance, but the other four do (it’s a lot like last year’s Actress derby). This is also the first time since 2005 where no Actress hopeful has their film in contention for Best Picture. Kidman’s Globe win could help and we’ll see what SAG does, but this is wide open.

Best Actor

Nominees:

Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Benedict Cumberbatch, The Power of the Dog

Andrew Garfield, Tick, Tick… Boom!

Will Smith, King Richard

Denzel Washington, The Tragedy of Macbeth

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: That’s more like it! Smith (especially after Richard‘s good morning) is out ahead though I could see Cumberbatch definitely threatening after Dog‘s very good morning. Fun tidbit: not since 1980 has the Best Actor race consisted entirely of previous nominees until today.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees:

Jessie Buckley, The Lost Daughter

Ariana DeBose, West Side Story

Judi Dench, Belfast

Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: This was the first race announced today and the jaws of prognosticators dropped immediately. Buckley and (especially) Dench were not anticipated by most. I didn’t even have either as my runner-up or second alternate. They displace Ruth Negga (Passing) and Dench’s costar Caitriona Balfe. While the lineup is different than we thought, the frontrunner (DeBose) remains the same with Dunst (getting her first nod) as a possible upset pick.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees:

Ciaran Hinds, Belfast

Troy Kotsur, CODA

Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog

J.K. Simmons, Being the Ricardos

Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Simmons in over Bradley Cooper in Licorice Pizza. Mr. Cooper has two movies contending for BP but no singling out to show for it. Smit-McPhee may be out in front but a Kotsur victory is feasible.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees:

Belfast

Don’t Look Up

King Richard

Licorice Pizza

The Worst Person in the World

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Worst Person is the surprise. I didn’t predict Richard though its  inclusion was expected. They’re in over Ricardos and Parallel Mothers (which was admittedly a bit of an upset pick from me). This should be between Belfast and Pizza and it may represent the best opportunity for either to grab a statue.

Tidbit: since 2001, there was at least one screenplay contender where it served as its only nomination. Until today.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees:

CODA

Drive My Car

Dune

The Lost Daughter

The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: Let’s not overcomplicate it when we don’t need to. Power is far and away the leader in this pack.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees:

Encanto

Flee

Luca

The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Raya and the Last Dragon

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: This went as planned. There are three Disney products in the group, but the other two (Flee, Mitchells) are potential roadblocks to Encanto winning. Yet betting against Disney usually isn’t wise in this one and Encanto will probably take it.

Best International Feature Film

Nominees:

Drive My Car

Flee

The Hand of God

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

The Worst Person in the World

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: I’m gonna go ahead and say Lunana is the first Oscar contender with Yak in its title without checking (correct me if wrong). It surprisingly gets in (along with far less surprising The Hand of God) over A Hero and Playground. This one’s simple: anything other than Car would be a massive upset.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees:

Ascension

Attica

Flee

Summer of Soul

Writing with Fire

How I Did: 2/5

Commentary: There’s that blasted 2 for 5 race! Ascension, Attica, and Fire are up over my selections of Faye Dayi, Procession, and The Rescue (its omission is stunning considering it was a contender to win).

Flee made history by becoming the first film to be nominated for Animated Feature, International Feature Film, and here. This race probably marks its best chance to win, but I wouldn’t sleep on Summer of Soul. 

Best Cinematography

Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Alley over Belfast. Get used to hearing this with the tech categories – Dune might be out in front. Dog could threaten.

Best Costume Design

Nominees:

Cruella

Cyrano

Dune

Nightmare Alley

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Cyrano‘s sole nod comes here. I had House of Gucci instead. Dune can’t win all the techs and Cruella could take this.

Best Film Editing

Nominees:

Don’t Look Up

Dune

King Richard

The Power of the Dog

Tick, Tick… Boom!

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Richard and Boom! over Belfast and Licorice Pizza. The Belfast omission is particularly notable as BP victors nearly always are nominated here. This could be more Dune gold.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees:

Coming 2 America

Cruella

Dune

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

House of Gucci

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Went with Suicide Squad over Coming 2 America. Despite its bad performance this morning, Gucci could win this. Or it might just go to Dune.

Best Original Score

Nominees:

Don’t Look Up

Dune

No Time to Die

Parallel Mothers

The Power of the Dog

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Went with The French Dispatch (which goose egged) over Mothers. As for the winner (get ready for it) – expect Dune or Dog.

Best Original Song

Nominees:

“Be Alive” from King Richard

“Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

“Down to Joy” from Belfast

“No Time to Die” from No Time to Die

“Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Maybe the surprise here shouldn’t be with “Somehow You Do” over “Just Look Up” from Don’t Look Up. After all, this marks Diane Warren’s 13th nomination and sixth in the last seven years. She’s never won and won’t this time.

“Be Alive” from Beyonce or “Oruguitas” could get it, but “No Time to Die” from Billie Eilish could be the third Bond theme in a row to be celebrated.

Best Production Design

Nominees:

Dune

Nightmare Alley

The Power of the Dog

The Tragedy of Macbeth

West Side Story

How I Did: 4/5

Commentary: Another category where I said French Dispatch and missed. Power gets in instead. While Dune is strong, I wouldn’t be startled to see this as the lone victory for Nightmare Alley.

Best Sound

Nominees:

Belfast

Dune

No Time to Die

The Power of the Dog

West Side Story

How I Did: 5/5

Commentary: You should hear Dune‘s name called.

Best Visual Effects

Nominees:

Dune

Free Guy

No Time to Die

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

Spider-Man: No Way Home

How I Did: 3/5

Commentary: Free Guy and Spidey over The Matrix Resurrections and Godzilla vs. Kong. As for the winner: See Best Sound.

Here’s the overall nominations break down:

12 Nominations

The Power of the Dog

10 Nominations

Dune

7 Nominations

Belfast, West Side Story

6 Nominations

King Richard

4 Nominations

Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Nightmare Alley

3 Nominations

Being the Ricardos, CODA, Encanto, Flee, Licorice Pizza, The Lost Daughter, No Time to Die, The Tragedy of Macbeth

2 Nominations

Cruella, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Parallel Mothers, Tick, Tick… Boom!, The Worst Person in the World

1 Nomination

Ascension, Attica, Coming 2 America, Cyrano, Four Good Days, Free Guy, The Hand of God, House of Gucci, Luca, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spencer, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Summer of Soul, Writing with Fire

Starting very shortly, you can peruse my Case Of posts in which I write individualized posts for all the contenders in Picture, Director, and the four acting races!

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