A crowded field including ‘Dune’, ‘Belfast’, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘The Power of the Dog’ will compete for Oscar nominations on Tuesday, as Academy voters select the best films of a year at the during which Covid-weary audiences slowly headed back to cinemas.
Giant cinematic shows – many of which have been pushed back to 2021 in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic – will compete with arthouse films that have gained traction on streaming sites in a diverse race for the biggest prizes. of Hollywood, which will be presented at the end of March.
“Last year we had a lot more independent Oscars… This year it was the return of big cinema, big movies and studio movies,” said one Academy voter, who asked not to be named.
“The race is wide open this year,” Deadline award columnist Pete Hammond said.
The sprawling sci-fi epic “Dune” — which premiered simultaneously in theaters and online — is set to land top picture and director nominations, and sweep nods in technical categories, including visual effects, cinematography and sound.
“I would say he might actually get the most nominations. Warner Brothers just has a really good campaign behind him,” the Oscar voter said.
“Belfast”, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical black-and-white account of 1960s violence in Northern Ireland, has proven popular with trend setters seeking stories about family and community, although it failed to ignite the box office.
“It resonates right now in a time when people are looking for connection,” Hammond said.
Steven Spielberg’s decision to remake “West Side Story” has been criticized as unnecessary by some – after all, the 1961 original was the most honored musical in Oscar history.
But others praised its technical accomplishments, stunning choreography and subtle tweaks for today’s moviegoers.
“It’s a roll of the dice on that one, but I think it will be nominated” for Best Picture, Hammond predicted.
Another favorite is Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog,” a bizarre psychological western about a repressed cattle rancher in 1920s Montana released by Netflix.
History could be made as Campion looks all but certain to become the first woman to earn a second Best Director nomination – 28 years after her nod for ‘The Piano’.
– Oscars at the box office? –
But larger-than-life, unabashed commercial box office hits that garnered critical acclaim could also be among Tuesday’s nominations.
Even when theaters reopened in 2021, crowds only flocked in pre-pandemic numbers to megaplexes for franchise hits like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and the James Bond release “No Time To Die”.
“We reward theatrical experiences. And ‘Spider-Man’ almost single-handedly saved cinema last year,” the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voter said.
Meanwhile, 007’s latest film could be rewarded for its dramatic culmination of Daniel Craig’s much-loved tenure as a British spy.
The popularity of films nominated on Tuesday will be crucial after last year’s little-watched Oscar gala largely featured smaller films barely known to the general public.
“I guarantee you the honchos running the Academy are hoping and praying that ‘Spider-Man’ can land a Best Picture nomination because they really need it for the show,” Hammond said.
But despite the success of “Black Panther” a few years ago, the Oscar voter said it would “probably be a surprise” if another superhero movie was nominated for the biggest prize of all, that of the best picture.
“I just don’t know if the members of the Academy are ready,” they added.
– Acting races –
Also slated for ‘King Richard’, in which Will Smith plays the father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams, and ‘Don’t Look Up’, a controversial climate change satire starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Meryl Streep who has his ardent fans.
In the acting categories, Smith is considered a shoo-in for a wink, with Benedict Cumberbatch’s sinister cowboy in “The Power of the Dog,” and Andrew Garfield’s lead singing role. in the musical “tick, tick… Boom!”
The best actress race is even more competitive, with several A-listers vying to play real women.
Nicole Kidman starred as sitcom legend Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos”, Jessica Chastain as the infamous televangelist in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”, Lady Gaga as the wife of an heir to fashion in “House of Gucci” and Jennifer Hudson as singer Aretha Franklin in “Respect.”
Kristen Stewart had been heavily tipped for her portrayal of Princess Diana in “Spencer,” but failed to land key nods from precursor shows, including Screen Actors Guild awards.
With only five spots available, Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”) and Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”) could also feature.
The 94th Academy Awards are scheduled for March 27.