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Oscar Edition

Oscar Nominations Cite “Dog”, “Dune”

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Hollywood has apparently learned to love or at least live with streaming services if the current Oscar nominations for 2022 are any indication.  A record 12 nominations by the Netflix film, The Power of the Dog, leads that pack which includes 10 for Dune (currently available to rent on Amazon) and 7 each for West Side Story and Belfast (still in theatres but going to DVD and streaming any day now).  I still like seeing movies where they belong, but who can doubt the convenience of home viewing?

The Power of the Dog is a grim but brilliant noir western that director Jane Campion has adapted flawlessly from Thomas Savages’ 1968 novel.  The four primary cast members, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee, along with Campion are all nominated.  Campion, the only woman to be nominated twice as “Best Director”, is also being recognized for her adaptation of the novel.

Steven Spielberg, no stranger to the Oscars, was deservedly nominated for his terrific reimaging of the 1961 classic musical, West Side Story.  Truth be told the director, along with his excellent writer Tony Kushner, have improved the 1961 version on every level beginning with a cast that reflects the Puerto Rican community and a screenplay that seems far more credible than the naïve original.

The “Best Picture” category also includes Kenneth Branagh’s sentimental look at his childhood, Belfast, the gentle family drama, Coda, Adam McKay’s over-the-top satire about climate change, Don’t Look Up, the critically acclaimed Japanese film, Drive My Car, the sci/fi blockbuster, Dune, the true story of tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams, King Richard, the coming-of-age dramedy, Licorice Pizza and Guillermo del Toro’s noir thriller, Nightmare Alley.

Most were expected to make the top list, but the lackluster reviews and poor box office for Nightmare Alley made that film’s inclusion on the list a surprise to me.  I would have gladly switched out both Licorice Pizza and King Richard if it meant getting Joel Coen’s terrific The Tragedy of Macbeth on the list, but there are always snubs that one can point to every year.

Some other surprises that were welcome were the inclusion of Jesse Plemons and J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos) in the supporting actor category.  Both actors were seen as longshots especially Simmons who, in the unfavorably reviewed Recardos, was nominated along with co-stars Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem.

In The Lost Daughter, Olivia Colman’s nomination was a lock but not so Jessie Buckley who impressed critics playing Colman’s younger self in the film and got a nomination in the supporting actress category.

As usual some good people were bumped from competition.   Bradley Cooper, arguably the best thing about Licorice Pizza, comes to mind as well as the shamelessly overlooked Mass with its stellar performances by both Ann Dowd and Martha Plimpton.

On a whole, however, in another strange, pandemic movie year, there were plenty of good films to celebrate and the nominations got most of it right.  The Oscars will be presented on March 27th.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

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