The omicron variant may have derailed our holiday plans, but we still have plenty to be thankful for when it comes to this year’s awards race.
On Monday, Nicolas cage earned a much-deserved best actor nomination from the Critics Choice Awards for “Pig,” playing a gentle truffle hunter on a revenge/rescue mission. “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Ann Dowd received a Critics Choice nod for her harrowing work in “Mass,” a school shooting drama set almost entirely in one room. Sundance Film Festival winner “CODA” made an awards season comeback with a best drama nod from the (controversial, but still noteworthy) Golden Globes. And the stunning Japanese-language “Drive My Car” emerged as a possible best picture nominee, following a surprise win for best film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
As Oscar season kicks into high gear – with Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations coming next on Jan. 12, 2022 – we look at who’s up and who’s down before we head into the new year.
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Bradley Cooper, Penelope Cruz hit roadblocks
With so many A-listers in the running, some of this year’s strongest contenders are bound to get left out in the cold. Cooper has two horses in the race with Guillermo del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” playing a greedy carnival worker-turned-con man, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza,” in a small but scene-stealing role as Barbra Streisand’s bell bottoms-wearing beau. But even with a combined 16 nods for both films at the Critics Choice Awards, the eight-time Oscar nominee failed to get best actor or supporting actor nominations.
Like Cooper, Cruz also missed out at Critics Choice and the Golden Globes. Throughout her career, the Spanish actress has amassed four Globes nominations, which are voted on by a small group of foreign journalists whose tastes often skew international. A fifth nod seemed likely for her spellbinding turn in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers,” playing a woman whose newborn is switched at birth. Although the movie itself was recognized in the Globes’ international film and best original score categories, Cruz was curiously overlooked for best actress, despite winning an equivalent award at September’s Venice Film Festival for her performance. in the Globes’ international film and best original score categories, Cruz was curiously overlooked for best actress, despite winning an equivalent award at September’s Venice Film Festival for her performance.
But don’t count her out just yet: As we saw with Anthony Hopkins’ “The Father” last season, an eleventh-hour campaign could land her in Oscars’ bull’s-eye for a second time, after a supporting actress win in 2009 for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Where to watch: “Nightmare Alley” is now in theaters; “Licorice Pizza” is now in select theaters, expanding nationwide Christmas Day; “Parallel Mothers” opens in select theaters Christmas Day.
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Where’s Frances McDormand?
In “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” McDormand reminds us once again that she’s one of the greatest actors working today, bringing tenacity and tenderness to her conniving Lady Macbeth. But while co-star Denzel Washington has picked up a slew of critics groups’ nominations, as well as best actor nods from the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, McDormand has so far gone entirely unrecognized – shocking, given how widely the four-time Oscar-winning actress and producer is beloved.
Could there be some category confusion at play? After setting the plot in motion, Lady Macbeth disappears for much of the Shakespeare adaptation’s second half, and McDormand herself has called it “a small supporting role” – though her role is being promoted for best actress, easily one of this year’s most crowded categories. Chalk it up to bad awards strategy, or McDormand simply wanting to cede the spotlight to Kathryn Hunter, whose uncanny, contortionist take on the movie’s witches won her a best supporting actress prize from the New York Film Critics Circle.
Where to watch: “The Tragedy of Macbeth” opens in select theaters Christmas Day, streams on Apple TV+ Jan. 14, 2022.
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Ben Affleck’s ‘Tender Bar’ serves up movie-star charisma
Critics have been banging the drum all season for Affleck to receive his first acting Oscar nomination for medieval drama “The Last Duel,” playing a sleazebag French count who ruthlessly belittles Matt Damon’s seemingly honorable knight. But his goateed villain is apparently no match for Uncle Charlie, the actor’s saintly character in “The Tender Bar.” In George Clooney’s coming-of-age drama, Charlie runs a working-class bar and doles out wisdom to his nephew, J.R. (Tye Sheridan), an aspiring writer with an absent dad.
Although he’s in just a handful of scenes, Affleck’s low-key charm is the highlight of the otherwise poorly reviewed drama (38% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes). It was enough to net him a surprise best supporting actor nomination at the Golden Globes alongside expected contenders Troy Kotsur (“CODA”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”). Factor in continued interest in his rekindled romance with Jennifer Lopez, along with many candid interviews in support of “Tender Bar,” and Affleck could ride a wave of goodwill to other major awards shows.
Where to watch: “The Tender Bar” is now in theaters, streams on Amazon Prime Jan. 7, 2022.
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‘West Side Story’ mambos to pole position
Do we have a new best picture front-runner? We’re seven weeks from Oscar nominations and a lot still can change, but we’re feeling pretty confident in the odds for “West Side Story,” Steven Spielberg’s no guts, no glory take on the classic Broadway musical, which spawned a 10-time Oscar-winning 1961 film. Unlike other top contenders “Belfast,” “The Power of the Dog,” “King Richard” and “Dune,” “West Side” has the rare distinction of being a jaw-dropping visual spectacle that is also an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, with first-rate performances, timely themes and no shortage of heart-tugging emotion.
The film has already proven to be a major awards player, with 11 Critics Choice nominations, four Golden Globes nods, and a best actress win from the National Board of Review for Rachel Zegler, who could easily earn a coveted slot in Oscars’ top five. More interesting is the best supporting actress race, where Ariana DeBose, who plays Anita, faces off against Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for her portrayal in the original film and has a poignant new role in this version. At this early stage, we’ll give DeBose the slight edge, having picked up the lion’s share of critics’ group nominations, in addition to Golden Globe and Critics Choice nods. (Moreno, 90, earned the latter but not the former.)
Where to watch: “West Side Story” is now in theaters.
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Bradley Cooper, Frances McDormand look like longer shots