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Lady Gaga's Epic Oscars Campaign Ends Exactly How We Expected

Nominations for the 94th Academy Awards are in, and one particular movie seems to have greatly underperformed in relation to existing expectations: "House of Gucci." The Ridley Scott-directed crime drama about the real-life struggle for power within the Italian fashion brand scored a sole nomination, for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Meanwhile, presumed shoo-ins — Janty Yates' costume design, and Jared Leto's controversial yet attention-grabbing performance as Paolo Gucci — were left in the dust.

But no "Gucci" snub hurt more than Lady Gaga's. Up until today, the pop icon-turned-movie starlet had been hotly tipped to not only get nominated but possibly even win the Oscar for her acclaimed performance as Maurizio Gucci's viciously ambitious wife, Patrizia Reggiani. In fact, Gaga was so determined to make a splash on the award season trail that her campaign became a whole, highly entertaining spectacle unto itself. And yet, when the Best Actress nominees were announced, Gaga's name wasn't among them. Instead, the Academy rewarded Jessica Chastain for "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," Olivia Colman for "The Lost Daughter," Penélope Cruz for "Parallel Mothers," Nicole Kidman for "Being the Ricardos," and Kristen Stewart for "Spencer."

Now, fans of Gaga and "House of Gucci" are being left to wonder just what could have possibly gone so wrong. And, even though the snub may come as a shock at first, it wouldn't be out of line to argue that it was, in many ways, a foregone conclusion.

Lady Gaga gave an acclaimed performance in a poorly-received film

When critical reviews for "House of Gucci" began to roll in a few days in advance of its November 24 theatrical release, they briefly seemed to spell doom for the film's Oscar chances. Critics were largely unimpressed with Ridley Scott's take on the Gucci family saga, deeming it bloated, unfocused, and tonally muddled (via Metacritic).

Thankfully for the Gaga fans following those reviews closely, her performance emerged as the one consistent bright spot in all of them. In fact, the general perceived shoddiness of "House of Gucci" even emphasized the merits of Gaga's acting. Many were the critics who wished that the rest of the film had risen up to the standard of entertaining high camp set by her work. As summed up by the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, "Lady Gaga's note-perfect performance has a timeless style all its own." That, coupled with the film's healthy box office returns (via The Numbers), was plenty enough to kickstart dreams of Oscar glory.

The awards season potential of Gaga's gold-among-the-dross turn was cemented by her win at the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Awards (via IMDb). It was then that things kicked into overdrive.

Gaga pined hard — maybe even too hard

With "House of Gucci" officially in the Oscar conversation, it didn't take long for Lady Gaga to show that she was in it to win. Following her breakthrough and nomination for 2018's "A Star Is Born," the singer-actress pulled out all the stops to show the press and the industry that she'd matured as a performer and was now 100% committed to the craft of serious, high-minded acting.

The many measures she boasted as part of her dense "House of Gucci" process included, but were not limited to: speaking in an Italian accent for nine months, staying in character for over a year, writing an 80-page biography about Patrizia Reggiani, allegedly being haunted by the spirit of Reggiani herself manifested in a swarm of flies, keeping a psychiatric nurse on set, shooting an excised sex scene with Salma Hayek, and getting so into her character that she drove by the site of Maurizio Gucci's shooting and thought "What have I done?" (via Vulture).

All in all, Gaga's enthusiasm to show her work may have hurt more than it helped. The press was quick to point out how out-of-place she looked next to her more experienced peers while name-dropping a few too many method acting scholars, or joking about getting drunk on prop wine. Paradoxically, her need to prove herself as a respectable actress may have pegged her as less than that in the eyes of the image-conscious, gatekeeping-inclined Academy.

Her status as a favorite was possibly inflated by precursor awards

The awards campaign trail is long enough that, when a strategy isn't working, competitors usually have time to shift gears. But Gaga's team may not have noticed that her over-the-top campaigning wasn't going over that well with Oscar voters until it was too late, because voters in other awards bodies gobbled it up.

Specifically, award pundits all but clinched her as the Best Actress frontrunner when "House of Gucci" overperformed at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The SAG Awards are generally held up as the most important precursor to acting Oscar nominations because both awards are voted on by actors in the U.S. film industry; when Gaga, Jared Leto, and the film's ensemble cast all snagged nominations (via IMDb), it was taken as a sign that actors loved "House of Gucci."

The problem is that, unlike the Oscars, the SAG Awards have an extremely broad voting pool. The SAG-AFTRA guild has over 165,000 members, and their awards are voted on every year by a randomly-selected committee of 2,500 of those members (via Refinery29). Naturally, this configuration favors popular, widely-seen studio films and box office hits such as "House of Gucci," and leaves a lot less room for the gatekeeping instincts that might have clashed with Gaga's campaign style.

The race's momentum may have favored two other performers

With Gaga as the only actress to be nominated in all major Oscar precursor awards (via The Week), her status as a frontrunner became a given, buoying her intense campaigning and encouraging her stans on social media to become boastful, aggressive, and hostile to other contenders (via Rolling Stone). That was certainly not the ideal narrative to drive the kind of passionate vote push that secures Oscar nominations — especially not with two dark horses waiting in the wings.

After all, while awards like the Golden Globes and SAGs are partial to popularity and star power, the Academy has a way of looking for touching, inspiring narratives that attest to the power and importance of great art. And, this year, that perspective favored Kristen Stewart and Penélope Cruz.

Stewart, who was noted as an early frontrunner for her brilliantly subtle work as Lady Diana in "Spencer," ultimately got shut out of the SAG Awards and the BAFTAs — leading to a widespread perception that she was being given an unfair shake for her "Twilight" past, which in turn spurred a powerful underdog narrative (via Variety). Cruz, meanwhile, is exactly the sort of prestigious Euro actress in a respectable auteur film — in this case, Pedro Almodóvar's "Parallel Mothers" — that the Oscars historically love to honor. The fact that neither was a match for Gaga's campaign-trail dominance — not to mention how Gaga fans viciously mocked them – only strengthened their potential as representatives of what the Academy "really stands for."