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The Biggest Surprises And Snubs Of The 2022 Oscar Nominations

The nominations are here for the 94th Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, honoring significant achievements in the art of filmmaking. In 2020, The New York Times reported on the extended eligibility and voting schedule for the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021, with films from all of 2020 plus the first two months of 2021 eligible. As a result, the 2022 Oscars have been adjusted as well and will cover movies released in the remaining 10 months of 2021, from March to December.

Those who follow other awards often do a good job predicting the Oscar nominations. However, there are always some movies that prove far more popular with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences than expected, while other films that people either wanted or expected to do well end up ignored. The 2022 nominations are a pretty satisfying bunch on average, and many of the surprises are pleasant ones. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't also sources of deep frustration. From global success stories to overlooked pop stars, here are the biggest snubs and surprises of the 2022 Oscar nominations.

A huge year for international films

Before he won three Oscars, including best picture for "Parasite," Bong Joon-Ho described the Oscars as "very local" during an interview with Vulture. However, as the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expands to include more international members, per IndieWire, the nominations are recognizing more great movies from around the world. The biggest non-English success story among the 2022 nominees is "Drive My Car," Ryusuke Hamaguchi's critically-acclaimed three-hour Japanese drama about an experimental theater director dealing with loss and infidelity. In addition to best international feature, "Drive My Car" is up for best adapted screenplay, best director, and best picture.

"Drive My Car" is far from the only subtitled film to show up outside the International category. Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt's script for the Norwegian romantic comedy "The Worst Person in the World" was a welcome surprise in the best original screenplay category. "Flee," Jonas Poher Rasmussen's animated documentary about an Afghan refugee living in Denmark, is now the first film to be nominated for best international feature, best animated film, and best documentary all at once, as noted by Vanity Fair. Pedro Almodóvar's "Parallel Mothers" wasn't submitted by Spain for best international feature, but it still earned nominations for Penélope Cruz' lead performance and Alberto Iglesias' score.

Nightmare Alley is a pleasant best picture surprise

Eight of the 10 best picture contenders — "The Power of the Dog," "Belfast," "CODA," "Dune," "Don't Look Up," "West Side Story," "King Richard," and "Licorice Pizza" — were generally agreed to be the favorites for nominations by oddsmakers such as Gold Derby. The remaining two slots, however, weren't so easy to predict, with movies like "Being the Ricardos," "The Tragedy of Macbeth," "House of Gucci," and "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" all possibilities based on precursor awards. It turns out the Academy went with "Drive My Car" and "Nightmare Alley" to fill out the category.

"Nightmare Alley," Guillermo Del Toro's adaptation of the 1946 pulp novel by William Lindsay Gresham about a carnie con artist, was considered something of a dark horse contender. Neither the Golden Globes nor the Producers Guild Awards gave it any attention, and it struggled at the box office, as did many adult dramas in 2021. However, Guillermo del Toro has goodwill with the Academy, having won best director and best picture for "The Shape of Water," and many of those who've seen the film love it. Martin Scorsese's rave review for the Los Angeles Times certainly didn't hurt its Oscar campaign.

House of Gucci's actors miss out

Ridley Scott's "House of Gucci" was one of the most widely seen but critically divisive of 2021's potential Oscar nominees. Despite landing plenty of nominations with other awards groups, it ultimately earned just a single Oscar nomination for makeup and hairstyling. Even negative reviews of the movie praised Lady Gaga's performance as socialite and murderer Patrizia Reggiani, but her extreme method acting ultimately failed to make the cut in a crowded race for best actress.

In a relief to many, Jared Leto's performance as Paolo Gucci also failed to get a best supporting actor nomination. Leto's portrayal is so divisive that it managed to get nominated for both a Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role and a Razzie Award for worst supporting actor. As pointed out by Newsweek, three performances, including Glenn Close in 2020's "Hillbilly Elegy," have been nominated for both Oscars and Razzies. It seemed possible Leto's Gucci would join them, but it was not to be.

Denis Villeneuve misses best director

As one of 2021's few blockbusters that could also claim to be ambitious auteur-driven art, "Dune" managed an impressive haul of 10 nominations. That's the second-highest total of any film this year, behind "The Power of the Dog" with 12. However, one notable expected nomination is missing — Denis Villeneuve, a previous Oscar nominee for "Arrival," failed to get in for best director.

Villeneuve was previously nominated for the Directors Guild Award, alongside eventual Oscar nominees Paul Thomas Anderson ("Licorice Pizza"), Kenneth Branagh ("Belfast"), Jane Campion ("The Power of the Dog"), and Steven Spielberg ("West Side Story"). Ryusuke Hamaguchi ("Drive My Car") ultimately made the list instead. You can compare Villeneuve's omission to past snubs of Christopher Nolan for "Inception" and Ridley Scott for "The Martian," wildly popular science fiction hits that managed best picture, screenplay, and craft nominations but failed to qualify for best director.

Actors love Being the Ricardos

Aaron Sorkin's "Being the Ricardos," about making the classic sitcom "I Love Lucy," was a promising-on-paper Oscar contender that ended up getting mixed reviews on Rotten Tomatoes but still managed an impressive nomination haul from various awards groups. This made it an open question as to just how much the Academy would go for the Amazon Studios release. It turns out "Being the Ricardos" was very popular with the actors' branch of awards — but not popular enough to get nominated elsewhere.

Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Lucille Ball, which won her a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress, might very well be the frontrunner for the best actress Oscar. Javier Bardem as Desi Arnaz and J.K. Simmons as William Frawley are both mildly surprising picks for best actor and best supporting actor, respectively, indicating wide support for the film among the actors in the Academy. These three acting nominations, however, are the only Oscar nominations the film received. Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, is that former Oscar winner and four-time nominee Sorkin failed to get nominated for best original screenplay.

Belfast is no longer the frontrunner

After winning the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, per Variety, Kenneth Branagh's semi-autobiographical family drama "Belfast" was widely seen as a frontrunner to win best picture. This charming film was a major crowdpleaser during its festival run. Even the film's relative lack of actual crowds turning out to see it in theaters didn't seem like too big a deal in a year that audiences remained reluctant to return to cinemas. With seven Oscar nominations, including picture, director, and original screenplay, "Belfast" is still a contender, but its frontrunner status is in serious question.

Despite receiving nominations from industry groups for its cinematography and editing, the Oscars ignored "Belfast" in both categories. The editing snub is particularly damaging to its best picture chances, given that the best picture win almost always also secures an editing nomination, as noted by Gold Derby. In addition, while Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench, the actors playing the grandparents in the film, both received nominations, neither Jamie Dornan nor Caitriona Balfe, who played the parents, managed to join them.

Kristen Stewart is the only nominee for Spencer

Early on in awards season, Kristen Stewart was picking up so many critics' awards for her portrayal of Princess Diana in "Spencer" that it looked like she was the frontrunner to win the best actress Oscar. In the weeks building up to the nominations announcement, however, it started to look like she might not even be nominated. She did not receive a nod from the Screen Actors Guild, and she lost the Golden Globe to Nicole Kidman in "Being the Ricardos." "Spencer" failed to get a single nomination from the BAFTA Awards — though considering the BAFTAs are headed by Prince William, as noted by Marie Claire, a film critical of the royal family likely had no chance there anyway.

What could have been a sure thing but now feels like something of a surprise, and Stewart is nominated for the best actress Oscar alongside Kidman, Penélope Cruz ("Parallel Mothers"), Jessica Chastain ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye"), and Olivia Colman ("The Lost Daughter"). However, Stewart's nomination is the only acknowledgment for "Spencer" from the Academy, despite its cinematography, costume design, and original score being recognized by other award committees.

Passing is completely passed over

Netflix has done a solid job with Oscar campaigning. In addition to best picture nominees "The Power of the Dog" and "Don't Look Up," the streaming service received nods for films like "The Lost Daughter," "The Mitchells vs. the Machines," and "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" One 2021 Netflix release which went completely empty-handed on nominations morning, however, is "Passing." Rebecca Hall's directorial debut, based on 1929 novel by Nella Larsen, follows two light-skinned African American women living on opposite sides of the color line in 1920s New York City.

Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga both earned BAFTA nominations, among other awards, for their performances in "Passing." Negga's role, in particular, is both memorable and daring enough that it could have made a worthy contender for the best supporting actress Oscar. Instead, she's not even a nominee. Best adapted screenplay and best cinematography were also categories that "Passing" could have had a serious shot, but unfortunately, the film failed to break through.

Belle snubbed, Disney dominates animated feature

The best animated feature category has historically not been very kind to anime films, not counting those produced by Studio Ghibli, but Mamoru Hosoda's "Mirai" was the first to break this barrier, as noted by Deadline. Hosoda's follow-up film "Belle" has been even better-received than "Mirai," with the film receiving a 14-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival, according to TimeOut. With the regularly-nominated arthouse animation distributor GKIDS handling the awards campaign, "Belle" seemed like a safe bet for a nomination — but unfortunately, Hosoda's ambitious and visually stunning cyberpunk musical take on the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale failed to make it in.

"Flee" is the only international nominee in the best animated feature category at the 94th Academy Awards. The other nominees are "The Mitchells vs. the Machines," from Netflix and Sony Animation, and three movies released by Disney, "Encanto," "Luca," and "Raya and the Last Dragon." Deadline points out that Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar have won 14 out of the first 20 best animated feature Oscars presented. It remains to be seen whether having three Disney nominees splits the vote, allowing "Flee" or "The Mitchells vs. the Machines" to claim victory, or if the massive popularity of "Encanto" ultimately wins out.

Ariana Grande, Jay-Z miss best original song

The 2022 best original song Oscar has its fair share of star power. Beyoncé is nominated for the "King Richard" closing credits song "Be Alive," while Billie Eilish is up for her Grammy-winning theme for the James Bond film "No Time to Die." Lin-Manuel Miranda has a chance of EGOTing with the "Encanto" ballad "Dos Oruguitas," although the chart-topping "We Don't Talk About Bruno" was not submitted for Oscar consideration, as explained by Entertainment Weekly. The remaining two nominations are more controversial. Respect for songwriter Diane Warren is the only explanation for why "Somehow You Do," her song from the little-seen film "For More Days," is nominated. "Down to Joy," in contrast, comes from a beloved movie, "Belfast," but has a controversial composer, Van Morrison, per Rolling Stone.

The list of songs that made the Oscar shortlist but ended up robbed of a nomination reveals many more appealing potential contenders. "Just Look Up," performed by Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi in "Don't Look Up," makes for one of the funniest scenes in the best picture nominated satire. Kid Cudi also performed alongside Jay-Z in "Guns Go Bang," the opening credits theme from "The Harder They Fall." It would have been an event to see husband and wife Jay-Z and Beyoncé competing for the award. Lower on star power but also a noteworthy snub is "So May We Start" by Sparks, the opening number from the beautifully bizarre musical "Annette."

What is Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom?

Every year, there's always that one Oscar nomination that hardly anybody predicted. For the 2021/2022 awards season, Gold Derby highlighted six films as the most likely to get nominated for best international feature: "Drive My Car," "The Hand of God," "The Worst Person in the World," "Flee," "A Hero" and "Compartment No. 6." The first four movies were nominated as predicted, but the fifth spot went to neither the Iranian nor the Finnish contenders. Instead, "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom" became the first Bhutanese film ever nominated for an Oscar.

Written and directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom" is about a young teacher assigned to work in a remote yak-herding village. BroadwayWorld notes that, extraordinarily, most of the actors had never been in or even seen a movie before. Interestingly, the film was submitted for the 2021 awards but was disqualified due to Bhutan's lack of a formal nominating committee. After addressing the issue, the country resubmitted the film a year later to its surprise success.

Traditional studios beat streamers

As the rivalry between the theatrical experience and the comforts of streaming continues to intensify, the Academy Awards continues to show something of a preference for films made for theaters. Of the 10 best picture nominees at the 2022 Oscars, only three of them were released by streaming companies — "Don't Look Up" and "The Power of the Dog" were Netflix productions, while "CODA" was released by Apple TV+. The other seven come from traditional old-school movie studios — though it's worth noting that "Dune" and "King Richard," the two nominees from Warner Bros., were released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

Looking at the field of contenders, a streamer-dominated line-up was definitely possible. Had "Tick, Tick ... Boom!" or "The Lost Daughter" squeezed in, there was a real chance that Netflix could have had three best picture nominees. Amazon Studios was pushing "Being the Ricardos," while Apple TV+ also had "The Tragedy of Macbeth" as a contender. "The Power of the Dog" could become the first best picture winner produced for a streaming service, as the 2021 winner "Nomadland" was made by Searchlight Pictures and intended for theaters but was released on Hulu as a pandemic necessity. However it shakes out this year, traditional studios remain dominant in awards season.