The Best and Worst of the 2022 Academy Award Nominations

2022 is already shaping up to suck, to put it mildly. It’s not looking great, for the most part.  Frankly, the majority of this year’s Academy Award nominations are reflecting that sentiment perfectly. With the exception of a few locks and surprises, most of them are the same things we’ve all come to expect from a normal awards cycle. Biopics, grandparent movies, remakes, and unfunny comedies are all in the Best Picture category, and Marvel has more Oscar nominations than Wes Anderson and Apichatpong Weerasethakul combined. For most people, that might not mean anything–it might even be a cause for joy.  For this writer, unsurprising though it may be, it’s pretty bleak. What else is new, though? We’re in the third year of a worldwide pandemic and things are still expectedly bad, etc., etc. At this point, all of us are just trying to look for any moments or pieces of happiness as we go throughout our daily lives, whatever that means at this point. So, without any further fanfare, here are 3 nominations (or snubs) that made me cringe with embarrassment, and 3 that provided the aforementioned pieces of happiness to this cynical “film enjoyer.”  

The Lows: 

  1. “Don’t Look Up”  – Best Picture 

Adam McKay’s latest film, “Don’t Look Up,” secured four nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture. The film is a satire about the political and social reactions to an asteroid that will result in all life on the planet going extinct speeding toward Earth. It sure sounds bleak, but it’s funny, right?? Unfortunately, the incredibly obvious social commentary and finger-wagging of the script – and especially the unfortunate “If You Don’t Like This Movie You Don’t Believe In Climate Change” campaign strategy McKay has taken on – completely hinder any sort of moments of higher truth or comedy. The film features some great turns by Mark Rylance and Cate Blanchette, but not even they can save this film from itself. I’m starting to become convinced that this film will win the award for Best Picture based on the unfair, reactionary, guilt-tripping social media campaign alone. Well, at least Nicholas Britell got another nomination for Best Original Score. Love that guy! 

  1. “The Alana Haim Snub” 

“Licorice Pizza,” one of the highest reviewed films of the year and one of my personal favorites, was nominated for three awards this year: Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. While I am ecstatic at Paul Thomas Anderson being recognized for his consistently brilliant work, it was unfortunate to see first-time actors Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Alana Haim (one-third of the band Haim) lose out on nominations for their brilliantly nuanced performances as young people trying to find their respective places in life. The Haim snub in particular really hurts. Haim, in a part written specifically for her, gives a deeply realized performance as a twenty-something without any aim who meets a kid that eventually helps her grow up. As simple as it sounds, Haim’s performance is very subtle, with each given facial expression conveying a thousand unsaid words in place of the dialogue we hear. In short, it’s a star-making performance, and it was honestly embarrassing that the Academy couldn’t be bothered to recognize that. Oh well, on to the next one for Haim. I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

  1. Marvel and Free Guy 

Again, Marvel Entertainment and the film “Free Guy” have more Academy Award nominations than “The French Dispatch,” “Memoria,” “Pig,” and countless other great films combined.  Do I need to say anything else? 

The Highs: 

  1. “Drive My Car” 

Between Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s “Drive My Car” and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s equally brilliant “Memoria,” I honestly can’t decide which film is my “favorite” of 2021.  Either way, “Drive My Car” received a surprising yet welcomed four nominations this year: Best International Feature Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. Readers familiar with the Academy know by now that non-English language films getting recognized in “Big Four” categories is a rarity, with the exception of Bong Joon-Ho’s brilliant “Parasite.” So, imagine my surprise when I woke up to see that a beautiful and incredibly subtle three-hour Japanese drama about communication, theatre, and death was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. Awards don’t inherently matter, but I’m still overwhelmed with joy at these nominations, and I’m so glad writer/director Hamaguchi is being recognized for his brilliant dramatic work. Definitely check this one out if you get the chance.  It’s worth your time. 

  1. “The Power of the Dog” 

Director Jane Campion is back in full force in “The Power of the Dog,” a chilling and ice-cold western about masculinity and internalized homophobia. Campion’s drama, which is available on Netflix right now, received a whopping 12 nominations, the most of any movie this year. It deserves every single one of them. From the cinematography to the score, the editing to the performances, and the writing to the direction, every nomination this film received is absolutely warranted. Campion has become the first woman to receive multiple nominations for Best Director, and the film as a whole has become the first film directed by a woman to receive more than ten nominations. As obviously upsetting and eye-roll inducing as those statistics are, it’s still nice to see a great film get some wins. I’m sure we will see more coming its way come Oscar night. 

  1. “Flee” – Best Documentary, Best International Feature Film, Best Animated Feature Film 

Not many wide audiences have been able to see the Danish animated documentary “Flee” yet, but I highly suggest seeking it out as soon as you can – the film is on Hulu now. The film depicts the experiences of Amin Nawabi, a gay man who decides to share his experiences of fleeing his home country of Afghanistan to Denmark. The animation vividly shows the audience the refugee experience, and as harrowing as it sounds – and is – it is also one of the more poignant and beautiful documentaries about human experience I have seen in recent memory. Although the form may be a bit more conventional than it seems, the soaring animation and the structure of how the animation is deployed is absolutely stunning. It’s just great, and it’s wonderful to see a beautiful, medium-shattering film like this become the first film to be nominated in the aforementioned three categories at the same time. 

Bonus: Jonny Greenwood 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jonny Greenwood is rapidly becoming one of the best composers in film history. Although I’m sad that his brilliant score for “Spencer” was not recognized with a nomination, his menacing and brutal score for “The Power of the Dog” is no joke either.  If Greenwood loses this one, I will be very upset.  Just kidding–or am I?