We’ve reached the final stage of the pre-Blitz with today’s announcement of 10 shortlists for specialty categories for next year’s Oscars. And as always, there are some truly baffling decisions made by the individual branches to go along with the more logical ones. From here on out it’s nothing but hunting and viewing as I try to clear as many of these lists as possible in anticipation of the nominations. Next year, the final announcement will come out on February 8, giving us a comfortable six weeks to wade through as much as possible.
As always, I’ll list each nominee, along with links to relevant reviews and whatever release information I can find. This will be a lot easier for some categories than others, particularly the shorts. Though thankfully, those cases, we’ll still get the annual screenings of the entire slate of nominees, so if the shortlist itself isn’t completed, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I’ll also include my topline reaction to each list as we go through. Normally I try to summarize it all at the end, but I think this might be more efficient. We’ll see.
The official Academy press release can be found here. Now let’s get to it!
Documentary Feature – 15 Films
Ascension – Paramount+ and Virtual Cinema
Attica – Showtime
Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry – AppleTV
Faya Dayi – Virtual Cinema
The First Wave – Hulu
Flee – In Theatres
In the Same Breath – HBOMax
Julia – In Theatres
President – In Theatres
Procession – Netflix
The Rescue – Disney+
Simple As Water – HBOMax
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised) – Hulu
The Velvet Underground – AppleTV
Writing with Fire – Limited Release
Billie Eilish? REALLY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Every year I try to tackle this list in an attempt to figure out what the Documentary Branch is thinking. Now I’m more wondering what they were paid. I didn’t necessarily expect The Sparks Brothers to make the list or get nominated, but when you ignore a clever work about a highly-influential act that’s tragically been ignored for decades, but you endorse a puff piece about a wholly-manufactured Hollywood pop star with nothing to say, I seriously begin to question your credibility and integrity. I’ll still probably bite my lip and watch it, since my roommates have AppleTV, but this is the first time since I’ve done this project that I’ve genuinely considered skipping a documentary unless it gets nominated.
Anyway, hopefully the Academy will resume the Oscar Docs showcase this year, giving audiences around the country a chance to see all the hopefuls. If not, then thankfully the vast majority of the shortlisted films are available through some streaming service or VOD rental.
Documentary Short – 15 Films
A Broken House
Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis
Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker
Day of Rage
Lead Me Home
Lynching Postcards: Token of a Great Day
The Queen of Basketball
Sophie & The Baron
Three Songs for Benazir
When We Were Bullies
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Camp Confidential will eventually get nominated, as anything related to Nazis and the Holocaust is automatic. That film, along with Audible, Lead Me Home, and Three Songs for Benazir will be released on Netflix soon. I’ll keep an eye out for the others.
International Feature – 15 Films
Austria – Great Freedom – TBD
Belgium – Playground – TBD
Bhutan – Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom – TBD
Denmark – Flee
Finland – Compartment No. 6 – In Theatres
Germany – I’m Your Man – VOD Rental
Iceland – Lamb – VOD Rental
Iran – A Hero – In Theatres
Italy – The Hand of God – Netflix
Japan – Drive My Car – In Theatres
Kosovo – Hive – Virtual Cinemas
Mexico – Prayers for the Stolen – Netflix
Norway – The Worst Person in the World – In Theatres 2/4/22
Panama – Plaza Catedral – TBD
Spain – The Good Boss – Virtual Cinema
Well, I saw 27 of the 92 submissions for this year, more than 25%, so strictly speaking, any shortlist where I’ve met or exceeded that number counts as a success. For my efforts, I’ve cleared 2/3 of the list already. The difficult part is, of the five I haven’t seen, only one has a domestic release date so far, and it’s mere days before nominations come out.
The real surprise isn’t so much what’s here, but what isn’t. Much has been made of Colombia’s entry, Memoria, including the star power provided by Tilda Swinton, and its “roadshow” release model, where it will debut in one theatre in New York City on Sunday, then play for one week before moving on to another city and another theatre for a pre-determined amount of time, with no plans for a full release or any kind of at-home viewing. This has been entirely frustrating, because this idea cultivates mystique and interest, but with the lack of details or scheduling, complete consternation for completionists like myself. I’ve seen a couple of blurbs about it coming to Los Angeles after New York, but no info beyond that. The California Film Institute, located in San Francisco, had it on its slate of foreign entries for screening until this week, when it was pulled, indicating that maybe, just maybe, the folks at CFI had some inside knowledge about its fate. Whatever the case may be, this movie went from an obsession to the very bottom of the priority list.
I guess this goes to show that a tease doesn’t equate to a fully satisfying experience. But Memoria isn’t the only hyped up movie to miss the cut. Cannes winner Titane is out, much to my surprise (but ultimately to my satisfaction), as is Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, which was one of the most unique films of the year – with the best title – if nothing else. And while I’m appreciative of CFI for offering a slate of films online for virtual viewing, it was pretty clear that these were the films they considered second-tier, as only The Good Boss and Hive made it from the 14 they made available. If nothing else, I am glad for three things. One, that The Good Boss didn’t ultimately suffer for its lack of being Parallel Mothers, as sometimes when critics like a non-submitted film over the one that the country ultimately picked, the actual nominee suffers. Two, of the 10 movies I’ve seen on this list, nine of them were in my personal top 10 for the submissions I saw, so it’s unlikely that a poor film will be nominated or win. Three, all Academy voters are eligible to nominate in this category, but they have to watch all 15 films for their vote to count. Thank God.
Makeup & Hairstyling – 10 Films
Coming 2 America – Amazon Prime
Cruella – Disney+
Cyrano – In Limited Release Now, Nationwide 1/22/22
Dune – In Theatres
The Eyes of Tammy Faye – VOD Rental
House of Gucci – In Theatres
Nightmare Alley – In Theatres
No Time to Die – In Theatres or VOD Rental
The Suicide Squad – VOD Rental
West Side Story – In Theatres
I count myself wholly confused by this list. There’s nothing significant from a makeup perspective in West Side Story apart from there NOT being anymore brownface on white actors. Similarly, Cyrano, at least from the trailers, would appear to be eschewing the traditional makeup that comes with the story, so I don’t know what the Bake-Off showed voters. I get why Cruella is included, but it should be noted that the makeup, hair, and costuming in that movie is all ugly as sin. It’s not something to reward, but to be ashamed of. I haven’t seen either Tammy Faye or Gucci, nor do I plan to unless they get nominated, but I could tell from the trailers that the makeup team was going for… something. Dune and Suicide Squad make sense, especially since the latter won this category the last time out. We’re somehow going to get five nominees out of this mess.
Original Score – 15 Scores
Being the Ricardos – In Theatres and Amazon Prime
Candyman – VOD Rental
Don’t Look Up – Netflix
Encanto – In Theatres
The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun – In Theaters
The Green Knight – VOD Rental and Limited Theatrical Second Run
The Harder They Fall – Netflix
King Richard – In Theatres
The Last Duel – In Theatres and VOD Rental
No Time to Die
Parallel Mothers – In Theatres
The Power of the Dog – Netflix
Spencer – VOD Rental
The Tragedy of Macbeth – In Theatres 12/25
Honestly, looking at this list, I’d more expect this to be the Makeup shortlist (minus the animated Encanto, obviously). I mean, how did The Green Knight and The Last Duel not get shortlisted. The titular knight himself is a more impressive makeup job than the entirety of Cruella.
Original Song – 15 Songs
“So May We Start?” – Annette – Amazon Prime
“Down to Joy” – Belfast – In Theatres
“Right Where I Belong” – Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road – VOD Rental
“Automatic Woman” – Bruised – In Theatres
“Dream Girl” – Cinderella – Amazon Prime
“Beyond the Shore” – CODA – AppleTV
“The Anonymous Ones” – Dear Evan Hansen – VOD Rental
“Just Look Up” – Don’t Look Up
“Dos Oruguitas” – Encanto
“Somehow You Do” – Four Good Days – VOD Rental
“Guns Go Bang” – The Harder They Fall
“Be Alive” – King Richard
“No Time to Die” – No Time to Die
“Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” – Respect – VOD Rental
“Your Song Saved My Life” – Sing 2 – In Theatres
It really is getting disgusting how pretty much this entire list is just ways to shoehorn pop singers into the ceremony rather than anything of substance related to the films themselves, or their quality. The Bond theme is a way to cram in Billie Eilish again, and we all knew this would happen from the moment the film, and the song, were announced two years ago. Apparently the Academy learned nothing from Sam Smith’s win for one of the worst Bond themes of all time. I will give credit that Eilish at least attempts to sing in this, rather than her standard mumbling incoherence, but all that proves is that she can’t sing.
The rest of the list is basically the same. “Here I Am” is Jennifer Hudson, but at least she’s doing so for the movie where she played Aretha Franklin, so it’s thematically appropriate. “Be Alive” is forcing Beyonce down our throats. “Your Song Saved My Life” was the rider to get Bono to voice a character in Sing 2. “Dream Girl” is a transparent attempt to set up another “Adele Dazeem” moment. “Somehow You Do,” performed by Reba McEntire, is this year’s requisite Diane Warren ballad, because we just can’t take a year off.
I’ve not seen half the films on this list, but I’ve heard a great deal of the music. From this, only “May We Now Start,” (at least Sparks gets some love here), “Down to Joy,” “Dos Oruguitas,” and “Beyond the Shore” deserve any serious consideration.
Animated Short – 15 Films
Affairs of the Art
Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice
Mum is Pouring Rain
Only a Child
Step into the River
The Windshield Wiper
I’m pretty sure the only one of this bunch I’ve seen is Us Again, which premiered as the lead-in short to Raya and the Last Dragon, and was appropriately heartwarming. But that appears to be all the Disney representation on this list, and there doesn’t seem to be anything from Pixar. If true, then this is exceedingly rare. Going through the list, you can find Robin Robin on Netflix, but this entire list looks like a bunch of indie projects, which either means it’s already decided, or we’re going to have a really interesting final five.
Live Action Short – 15 Films
Ala Cachu – Take and Run
Censor of Dreams
Les Grandes Claques
The Long Goodbye
On My Mind
Under the Heavens
When the Sun Sets
You’re Dead Helen
All three Short categories got their lists expanded to 15 films this year, when previously they were only 10. That means more great works get a chance to be seen, but it also means it’ll be nigh impossible to track them all down. I’ll do my best and keep you posted as I find stuff. If nothing else, I want to see You’re Dead Helen on title alone.
Sound – 10 Films
Last Night in Soho – In Theatres
The Matrix Resurrections – In Theatres and HBOMax
No Time to Die
The Power of the Dog
A Quiet Place Part II – VOD Rental
Spider-Man: No Way Home – In Theatres
tick… tick… BOOM! – Netflix
West Side Story
Previously, the sound categories were not included in the shortlists. But now that there’s just the one overall Sound group, they’re getting one (though this year there was no point because there was no universe where Sound of Metal wasn’t winning; the entire category was just a formality). That’s why there are 10 this year as opposed to the regular nine, which means we have shortlists for almost half the field. Of the films on this list that I’ve seen, I’d argue that Belfast is probably most worthy, as part of the film’s underlying concept is the main character hearing, but not seeing, a lot of the violence going on around him. A Quiet Place got nominated for Sound Editing a couple years ago, when there were still two sound categories, so it stands to reason that the sequel will likely get a nod here as well, as there’s no difficulty in parsing what counts as editing and what counts as mixing.
Visual Effects – 10 Films
Black Widow – Disney+
Eternals – In Theatres and VOD Rental
Free Guy – VOD Rental
Ghostbusters: Afterlife – In Theatres
Godzilla vs. Kong – HBOMax
The Matrix Resurrections
No Time to Die
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – Disney+
Spider-Man: No Way Home
All four Marvel films this year? Really? You guys do realize that most of those effects look fake as shit, right? Only Spider-Man has anything resembling something even remotely passable. Same goes for Godzilla vs. Kong, which made more of a case for why effects-driven films probably should go back to obscuring the fights in near-total darkness. Because in this movie, when they were fighting in daylight, it was basically a lazy cartoon. Still, all of this ranting is probably moot, as this feels like a foregone conclusion for Dune. But again, how is The Green Knight not in this field? The giant women alone were a better effect than any of the bullshit in Eternals.
Well, there you have it. Ten categories have all their potential nominees out there in the open for you. Track down what you can – or what you feel like – and with luck, by the time the nominations roll around in six weeks’ time, we’ll be ready for a nice, leisurely Blitz next year.
Join the conversation in the comments below! How many of these films have you seen? What’s the biggest snub? Why is a (by all accounts) completely average Bond movie getting so much attention? Let me know!