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Thoughts on 2021-2022 Oscar Nominations

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Well, the Oscar nominations have finally surfaced yesterday morning. And, as expected, after a long period of anxious waiting periods and anticipation, it is filled with surprises, shocks, and the inevitable.

I can start off by saying that Dune and West Side Story reinging supreme the way they have was clearly a given. Having seen both of these movies, they deserved all the recognitions they had received from the Academy. Dune was a colossal sci-fi film with a political undertone that introduced many people to very alien ideas that may generally be unheard of unless you read Frank Herbert’s novels. Even compared to something like Star Trek or Star Wars, I don’t think I’ve ever been acquainted with the ideas as those that Dune introduced.

And West Side Story? I am so happy that it left as big a dent as it did in the nominations. I was familiar with only the 1961 film, and though it didn’t impact me too much, I acknowledged why it was a good musical film, with great acting, great musical numbers, and a stylized retelling of Romeo and Juliet in mid-20th century New York City. The remake, however, took it a step further by portraying that world in a far more realistic light, with more full-blown violence and slurs, and in general, the movie’s story felt retold with as much emotion was it was with muscle. Frankly, this movie felt shoulder to shoulder with the original film, it was so brilliant. I can safely place this up there with the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, and Peter Jackson’s King Kong as one of the best remakes I’ve ever seen.

Though, I must say, though it’s a relief to see these two films given credit where credit was due, it does feel very weird to see that Dune got an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay but not for Best Director, whereas West Side Story got a nomination for Best Director for Steven Spielberg but not Best Adapted Screenplay. You would think they each would’ve scored nominations in both categories.

Ah, well, at least they both got the Oscar nominations that generally may feel earned on their end, especially Best Picture.

In the animated field, I have to tip my hat to Disney this year; they were on a roll with their animated lineup. Having seen all of this year’s films from them—Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Encanto—I felt overjoyed inside to see them all getting a nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.

I have two things to say about the animated movies nominated this year, of course. One is, I was quite surprised to see Encanto make as big a splash at the Oscars as it did within the story. Best Animated Feature, plus Best Original Song for “Dos Oruguitas” and Best Original Score? That’s actually a good lineup of nominations to round up for what I feel is a superb, lively, energetic musical animated film. Some of the Disney films I know of that had such similar amounts of nominations as these, down to most of the categories, are Bambi, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid. So, while I personally lean a skosh towards Raya, it’s still exciting to see Encanto recognized as much as it had become.

And two, let’s talk about Flee, which came straight from Denmark. I’ve never heard of this movie before, but the nominations this film rounded up are quite staggering. Best Animated Feature? AND Best Foreign Language Film? AND Best Documentary Feature? Wow! This film must’ve done something right to be recognized by the Oscars in all these cinematic aspects.

Speaking of foreign films, is it just me, or are they doing something in a way that continually got them recognized as such by the Oscars? Of all the films to make it through this year, what I wouldn’t have seen coming are films like The Worst Person in the World, which came from Norway and got a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Drive My Car, which came from Japan and, in addition to Best Foreign Language Film, got a nomination for Best Picture. I know this isn’t the first time the Oscar saw artistic value in foreign films, as I’ve seen demonstrated by them with Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Roma, and Parasite. But to see more and more films from around the world gaining the opportunity to speak to everyone in a way that breaches geographic boundaries is something to behold.

I also have this to say about No Time to Die. Much like Encanto, I felt like this movie also got more recognition from the Oscars than I expected it to. But considering what kind of James Bond movie it turned out to be, besides it being Daniel Craig’s final acting role as James Bond, I’m impressed that it got what it did. Best Original Song for “No Time to Die”—that was a given— plus Best Visual Effects and Best Sound? Not too shabby of a lineup for a James Bond film that played its cards right in delivering an astounding James Bond adventure. Besides, the only James Bond films that ever got more than one Oscar nomination are The Spy Who Loved Me and Skyfall, so…Good for you, No Time to Die!

Of course, I must say, there were some films I’ve seen this year that I’m shocked didn’t make the cut at the Oscars this year. In the Heights, for example, was an excellent musical that had lavish musical numbers, and a generally good portrayal of the Puerto Rican culture in New York City. It felt a bit like a more light-hearted Do the Right Thing. On top of that, this is Lin-Manuel Miranda doing the songs, so it felt as energetic as I expected them to be, since I’ve seen that in Moana and especially Encanto. Though, to be fair, Encanto was more musically and visually memorable than In the Heights, and it also had to face stiff competition against West Side Story, also a story set in New York City about ethnic communities. So, that’s kind of understandable.

And The French Dispatch, by Wes Anderson, felt like a genuinely and artistically suave film. The way it told its stories felt as quirky and weird and angular as you’d expect from Wes Anderson, and even the way they were told felt unique. From my perspective, it felt equivalent to reading a magazine catalogue, except you’re seeing it all unfold on the big screen. The set pieces were nice, and considering how generally lucky Wes Anderson’s latest films were in the musical department, like Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs, it is baffling that it didn’t get nominated for Best Original Score. I guess that’s what comes with hopping onto as many Oscar contenders as you can before the nominations. You see the films you love get the credit they deserve, whereas there are others you love that just may not enough to leave a more succinct impression.

And, with regards to Spider-Man: No Way Home, I felt happy that it got an Oscar nomination at all, even if it’s just for Best Visual Effects. The movie was incredible, no doubt, but given the track record of Marvel’s films in general at the Oscars, outside of Black Panther, I wasn’t expecting much from Spider-Man: No Way Home. But for what it got, I’m still happy that the Oscars recognized something of merit about the movie.

These are all just my intake on this year’s Oscar nominations, anyway. I’m interested to hear your thoughts the nominations. Do you feel that your favorite movies of 2021 got the recognition they deserved from the Oscars? Tell em all about it. I’m all ears!

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