Oscar Nominations: Kristen Stewart Earns First Nom for Turn as Diana; Jane Campion, 67, Makes History With Second Career Best Director Nod


This year's Oscar nominees include first-timer Kristen Stewart — seen here as Diana in 'Spencer' — who faces stiff competition in the best actress category. Photo: Courtesy of Neon Films

Nominees for the 94th edition of the Academy Awards have been announced and the term “mixed bag” might best describe this year’s theme. That may be because the Academy, which determines the list of contenders, boasted the largest voter turnout in its history. According to Variety, 9,487 members cast ballots. 

Add to that the return of 10 nominees in the best picture category, which throws it open to potential outliers that might otherwise be excluded by more highbrow fare in a traditional five-title list. That’s especially true in a year when theatrical releases battled it out with films on streaming services for both eyeballs and Academy notice.

The list of nominees makes that breadth of competition clear. Competing for Best Motion Picture of the Year are Belfast, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, Dune, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, Nightmare Alley, The Power of the Dog, and West Wide Story. 

Smart money says a five-film list almost certainly would have excluded Don’t Look Up, Adam McKay’s starry but critically savaged climate crisis dramedy for Netflix, as well as Guillermo del Toro’s visually lush but narratively flabby Nightmare Alley.


Oscar Nominations
Rooney Mara and Bradley Cooper in the film ‘Nightmare Alley’. Photo: Kerry Hayes/ 20th Century Studios


Best Picture Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg, 75, receives his 11th nomination for Best Picture, a record for an individual producer (since 1951 when producers were first named as nominees, according to the Oscars site). In fact, Spielberg is the first director to be nominated in six different decades, starting in the 70’s.

What a five-title Best Picture list might have looked like can be teased out in the list for Achievement in Directing: Kenneth Branagh for Belfast, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi for Drive My Car, Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza, Jane Campion for The Power of the Dog and Steven Spielberg for West Side Story.

Best Director Fun Fact: Jane Campion, 67,  becomes the first woman to have more than one nomination in the Directing category. She is the fourth woman to be nominated for Directing, Writing and Best Picture for the same film, following Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman, 2020) and Chloé Zhao (Nomadland, 2020), according to the Oscars site. 


Jane Campion
The Power of the Dog. (L to R): Phil Jones (Associate Producer – 1st Assistant Director), Jane Campion (Director – Producer – Writer). Photo: Kirsty Griffin/Courtesy of Netflix


Campion’s The Power of the Dog also leads the pack with a total of 12 Oscar nominations overall. These include Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Benedict Cumberbatch, who has been hotly tipped for the hardware since the film opened. 

Cumberbatch battles a marquee list of contenders for the honour, with fellow nominees including Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos), Andrew Garfield (tick, tick…BOOM!), Will Smith (King Richard), and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth).

Best Actor Fun Fact: Every actor in this category has seen their name here before, with Bardem and Smith both thrice previously nominated to Washington’s seven previous nominations.

Perhaps no category is more mixed bag — and evidently less foreseeable — than Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, with Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye), battling Olivia Colman (The Lost Daughter), Penélope Cruz (Parallel Mothers), Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos) and Kristen Stewart (Spencer). 


Oscar Nominations
Olivia Coleman as Leda, in ‘The Lost Daughter’. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix


While the producers of Tammy Faye doubtless lobbied hard for this one, the film largely failed to connect, and Chastain, though reliably great, was working with a script that felt more movie-of-the-week than probing look at the perils of celebrity culture. In any event, this one looks like Stewart’s to lose.

Best Actress Fun Fact: Everyone here is also a previous nominee … except Kristen Stewart (!?), whose embodiment of Diana, Princess of Wales in Spencer was utterly complete. Moreover, she was directed here by Pablo Larraín, whose vision of another real-life 20th century icon and fashion plate — Jackie Kennedy in 2016’s Jackie — also landed Natalie Portman a best actress nod, though she ultimately lost to Emma Stone for La La Land.


Kristen Stewart as Diana, in ‘Spencer’. Photo: Courtesy of NEON


When the Oscars air on Sunday, March 27 on ABC, the real fireworks might be found in the best supporting categories, which are astoundingly tight. 

Competing for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Ciarán Hinds (Belfast), Troy Kotsur (CODA), Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog), JK Simmons (Being the Ricardos), and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Power of the Dog). No sign of Bradley Cooper, who had been favoured for his small but impactful role as bellicose real-life producer Jon Peters in Licorice Pizza. 

Conventional wisdom might say Plemons and Smit-McPhee will split the vote for Power of the Dog while Hinds might be a sentimental choice. In any event, the outcome will be interesting. 


Jane Campion
The Power of the Dog (L to R): Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, Jesse Plemons as George Burbank in The Power of the Dog. Photo: Kirsty Griffin/Courtesy of Netflix


Similarly, Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role is jam-packed with towering talent, pitting Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter) against Ariana DeBose (West Side Story), Judi Dench (Belfast), Kirsten Dunst (The Power of the Dog), and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard). All nominees seem equally deserving here. 

Best Supporting Fun Fact: Dunst and Plemons, who play a couple in The Power of the Dog, are also a couple in real life. Meanwhile, in the best actor/actress category this year, spouses Bardem and Cruz are both nominated. Whichever way this lands for these couples (both win, neither wins, one wins and one doesn’t) is certain to be the stuff of cheeky tabloid speculation afterwards.

Other big-ticket Oscar nominations announced today include:

Cinematography for Dune (Greig Fraser), Nightmare Alley (Dan Laustsen), The Power of the Dog (Ari Wegner), The Tragedy of Macbeth (Bruno Delbonnel) and West Side Story (Janusz Kaminski).


Oscar Nominations
Zendaya and Paul Atreides, in ‘Dune’. Photo: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


Film Editing for Don’t Look Up, Dune, King Richard, The Power of the Dog, and tick, tick… BOOM!

Writing (Adapted Screenplay) for CODA, Drive My Car, Dune, The Lost Daughter, and The Power of the Dog.

Writing (Original Screenplay) for Belfast, Don’t Look Up, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, and The Worst Person in the World.

Best International Feature Film: Drive My Car (Japan), Flee (Denmark), The Hand of God (Italy), Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (Bhutan), and The Worst Person in the World (Norway).


Oscar Nominations
Hidetoshi Nishijima and Tôko Miura in ‘Drive My Car’. Photo: Courtesy of Films We Like


Best Animated Feature Film: Encanto, Flee, Luca, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, and Raya and the Last Dragon.

Costume Design for Cruella, Cyrano, Dune, Nightmare Alley, and West Side Story.

Makeup and Hairstyling for Coming 2 America, Cruella, Dune, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and House of Gucci.

The nominees were announced this morning from Los Angeles by actors Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace, The Help) and Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish, The High Note) with the former offering much intentional — and unintentional — humour. 

While Jordan’s self-deprecating cracks about being short and animated (while announcing same *slaps thigh*) coupled with his frequent costume changes were charming, his mangling of the pronunciation of nominee names was painful. Really, Denis Villeneuve isn’t that hard but it’s clear Jordan had not taken many practice runs beforehand. 

This year’s Oscar theme, by the way, is “movie lovers unite.” Presumably from a safe social distance, of course.