Los Angeles (AFP) – Jane Campion’s gothic Western “The Power of the Dog” led the Oscar nominations Tuesday, fending off a crowded field of movies from a year in which Covid-weary audiences slowly headed back into movie theaters.
The movie about a repressed 1920s cattle rancher in Montana released by Netflix earned 12 nods ahead of next month’s Oscars gala, including best director — making Campion the first female auteur nominated twice in Academy Award history.
“The Power of the Dog” was also nominated for best picture, and landed acting nods for Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.
Campion was last nominated 28 years ago for “The Piano.”
Sprawling sci-fi epic “Dune” landed in second place overall, landing 10 nods including best picture, although its director Denis Villeneuve was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
As expected, the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sprawling novel set on a desert planet plagued by monstrous sandworms scored well across technical categories including cinematography, visual effects and sound.
Other coveted directing slots went to Kenneth Branagh for black-and-white childhood drama “Belfast” and Steven Spielberg for musical “West Side Story,” with each film securing seven nominations.
Spielberg’s decision to remake the most honored musical in Oscars history had been criticized as unnecessary by some, but it won over voters to earn a best picture nomination, and another for supporting actress for Ariana DeBose as Anita.
The directing category was rounded out by Paul Thomas Anderson for “Licorice Pizza,” and Japanese filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi — whose subtitled, three-hour drama “Drive My Car” also earned a rare best picture nomination.
Hopes that larger-than-life, unapologetically commercial box office hits like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and 007 outing “No Time To Die” could break into the best picture race were thwarted.
The $1.8 billion-grossing “Spider-Man” film landed only a visual effects nomination, while Daniel Craig’s final James Bond film earned three nods.
As widely predicted, frontrunner Will Smith earned recognition for his portrayal of the father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams in “King Richard,” which took six nods overall.
He is up against Cumberbatch, Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”), Andrew Garfield (“tick, tick…BOOM!”) and Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos.”)
Lady Gaga was the surprise omission in the best actress category, with “House of Gucci” earning just one nomination — for best hair and make-up.
Instead best actress will be contested by Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Penelope Cruz (“Parallel Mothers”), Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”) and Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”).
The plethora of A-listers will be welcomed by the Academy, after last year’s sparsely-watched Oscars gala, which featured smaller movies barely known to the wider public.
Giant cinematic spectacles — many of which were pushed back into 2021 during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic — are competing with auteur films that gained tractions on streaming sites in this year’s diverse race for Hollywood’s biggest awards.
“Last year we had a much more indie Oscars… This year was the return of big cinema, big movies and studio films,” said one Academy voter, who asked not to be named.
“The race is wide open this year,” said Deadline award columnist Pete Hammond.
The 94th Academy Awards gala is scheduled for March 27.