The Oscar nominations are now out, and history will be made if Ariana DeBose wins the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance as Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story.” DeBose is the odds-on favorite; if she triumphs, she would be the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar.
“West Side Story” was nominated for seven Academy Awards this week, but it did not secure one for out gay playwright Tony Kushner, who penned the film’s screenplay. The film that received the most nominations this year is Jane Campion’s queer frontier drama, “The Power of the Dog,” which leads the pack with twelve nominations.
In addition to nods for Best Picture and Best Director — which Campion, the first female filmmaker to be nominated twice in the category, is expected to win — the film also received nods in three acting categories, for Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch as the repressed homosexual Phil Burbank), Best Supporting Actor (Kodi Smit-McPhee and Jesse Plemons) and Best Supporting Actress (Kirsten Dunst). While Smit-McPhee, who plays the lisping, effeminate Peter Gordon in the film, is likely to be the only actor in the film to take home a trophy, Campion could score a win not just for Best Director, but also for Best Adapted Screenplay. (The screenplay was based on gay writer Thomas Savage’s novel). “The Power of the Dog” also received nods for Best Sound, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Production Design.
“The Power of the Dog” is the frontrunner for Best Picture (which would give Campion a third possible win on Oscar night as producer). If the film prevails, it would be the first time that a Netflix film took the top prize. Its competition this year is: “Belfast;” “CODA;” “Don’t Look Up;” “Drive My Car;” “Dune;” “King Richard;” “Licorice Pizza;” “Nightmare Alley;” and “West Side Story.”
“The Power of the Dog” is not the only Best Picture nominee directed by a woman. (“CODA” was helmed by Sian Heder), however, in the Best Director category, Jane Campion is the only female nominee. She is expected to best Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”) Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”) and Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) in the category.
In the Best Actress category, out queer actress Kristen Stewart, received her first Oscar nomination for her performance in “Spencer,” and Oscar-winner Penélope Cruz was justly honored with a nomination for her stunning performance in out gay filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers.” However, Olivia Colman is likely to pick up a second Oscar for her turn in “The Lost Daughter.” Competing against Colman, Stewart and Cruz is Jessica Chastain, who plays the gay friendly Tammy Faye Bakker in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” and Nicole Kidman for her turn as Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos.” Notable performances left out of the nominations include gay icon Lady Gaga for her performance in “House of Gucci,” and Tessa Thompson, who identifies as queer, for her role in the queer-tinged “Passing.”
Chastain’s costar in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Andrew Garfield, was nominated as Best Actor for his role as musical theater geek Jonathan Larson in “tick, tick…Boom.” He will compete against Cumberbatch as well as Philly native Will Smith in “King Richard;” Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth;” and Oscar-winner Javier Bardem in “Being the Ricardos.” Smith is the prognosticators’ best bet in this category.
In addition to the aforementioned DeBose and Dunst, the Best Supporting Actress contenders include Jessie Buckley for “The Lost Daughter;” Aunjanue Ellis for “King Richard;” and Judi Dench for “Belfast.” Alas, the superb Ruth Negga did not make the cut for her delicate performance in “Passing.”
In the Best Supporting Actor race, Smit-McPhee and Jesse Plemons are up against Troy Kotsur for “CODA;” J.K. Simmons for “Being the Ricardos;” and Ciarán Hinds for “Belfast.” Jared Leto did not receive a nomination for his love-it-or-hate-it performance in “House of Gucci,” but he did receive a Razzie nomination for it this week.
Other LGBTQ films recognized with nominations by the Academy include “Flee” which received nominations in three categories: Best International Film, Best Documentary, and Best Animated Feature, which is an achievement in itself. Recounting the harrowing experiences of a gay Afghani man seeking refuge in Denmark, “Flee” is expected to triumph in the Documentary category. However, it faces stiff competition from Philly native Questlove’s glorious documentary, “Summer of Soul.” Another music doc, out gay filmmaker Todd Haynes’ “The Velvet Underground,” was shortlisted in this category, however, it did not secure a nomination.
“Flee” is unlikely to win in the Best International Film category as Japan’s entry, “Drive My Car,” directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, is in pole position. Alas, the fantastic “Compartment No. 6” (opening February 25), about a lesbian travelling across Russia, was shortlisted but failed to secure a spot in this category, which includes nominees “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (Bhutan’s first Oscar nomination ever); “The Hand of God” (Italy); and “The Worst Person in the World” (Norway).
In the Animated Feature category, “Flee” will be up against “The Mitchells vs the Machines,” a family comedy with a queer character played by out Wayne native, Abbi Jacobson. Alas, both films are expected to lose to “Encanto,” the popular Disney film that features bisexual actress Stephanie Beatriz voicing the lead role. “Luca” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” round out this category.
In the Best Documentary Short category, the frontrunner is “Audible” executive produced by the sexually fluid Nyle DiMarco, an emotional film about members of a deaf Maryland high school football team. Snubbed in this category was the shortlisted “Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker” — directed by out gay filmmaker Ryan White and narrated by Neil Patrick Harris about the titular queer illustrator.
As for who will win, well, everyone has to wait for the Oscars telecast on March 27.