Until the up-too-early hosts read the Oscar nominations each year, it’s never totally clear what stories will define the race. But after Tracee Ellis Ross and Leslie Jordan made their announcements at 5am PST sharp this morning, it’s clear that Netflix’s Power of the Dog is the film to beat, with a whopping 12 nominations. There were plenty of other surprises (Nightmare Alley, who could’ve guessed?) and polarizing inclusions (Don’t Look Up is Film Twitter’s own personal comet) to make this an interesting Oscar season. Let’s break down the highlights.
The Best Actress race is wide open. No nomination is a sure thing but it certainly seemed likely that Lady Gaga would pick up a Best Actress nomination for House of Gucci. She was nominated three years ago for A Star is Born and picked up several awards and nominations heading into the day, including a surprise Best Actress honor from the New York Film Critics Circle. Also, she’s very good in a demanding role that puts her at the center of most scenes. None of that apparently mattered, however, leaving the category without an obvious frontrunner. (The Academy seemed fairly soft on House of Gucci overall. It picked up only one nomination, for Makeup and Hairstyling, but an expected nomination for Jared Leto failed to materialize. Even its costumes got overlooked.)
That’s bad news for Gaga but potentially good news for Kristen Stewart, whose intense work in Diana didn’t seem like a shoo-in prior to the announcement. Nor does the category itself look to have a shoo-in. She’s up against Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, and Nicole Kidman. Of the bunch, Kidman seems the most likely winner—she’s a beloved actress playing another beloved actress in a biopic, which the Academy historically favors. But that could change as voters catch up with Colman’s extraordinary work in The Lost Daughter.
Two couples could walk away with his-and-hers trophies. Cruz is terrific in Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers. She seems like a long shot to win, but if she does, it’s one of two possible scenarios in which spouses walk away with matching prizes for the first time: Cruz’s husband Javier Bardem is nominated for Best Actor for Being the Ricardos. And, over in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories, both Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons picked up nominations for The Power of the Dog. Will either couple do what Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and other famous acting couples never could? (Probably not. Neither Bardem nor Cruz look like likely winners and Plemons is up against a breakout turn from co-star Kodi Smit-McPhee. But it would be fun, wouldn’t it?)
The Power of the Dog could give Netflix its first Best Picture win. Netflix has made hard pushes to win the Best Picture prize for years with films like Roma, The Irishman, Marriage Story, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and others. This year looks like the service’s best shot to date. Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog picked up 12 nominations, more than any other film, including nods for Best Supporting Actor (two, as mentioned above), Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor, and Best Director. (Campion is the first woman to be nominated for that prize more than once–her previous nomination was for The Piano–and currently appears to be the frontrunner.) That’s a lot of nominations, which always helps build momentum for any film attempting to claim the top prize.