Avid Oscarologists out there realize that history was made last year. Yes, the show went on, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hollywood’s glitziest night took place on April 25—making it the longest awards season in modern times. The event itself was a subdued affair with “Nomadland” being the presumptive front-runner ever since it won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion as well as the Toronto Film Festival’s People’s Choice Award, both often acting as reliable bellwethers.
Alas, the pandemic is still an issue, although Oscar’s recent predecessors—the Emmys and the Tonys—managed to find a safe and mostly satisfying way to celebrate the arts with televised ceremonies without compromising the health of participants. Still, you might have more than a few questions about how the 94th Academy Awards will turn out.
When will the ceremony take place?
It will be held on March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. While it would normally take place in February, the date was chosen to not compete with the 2022 Winter Olympics being held in Beijing from February 4-20, as well as Super Bowl LVI that will take place in the Los Angeles area on February 13.
What are the eligibility requirements to be nominated?
The requirements for films to compete are much the same as the ones from last year. That means direct-to-digital titles can be nominated while there is more flexibility for theatrical runs beyond Los Angeles. However, the eligibility period will end with the traditional calendar year on December 31, 2021.
Are there any new rules?
Last year, the Academy decided to dictate that 10 films will compete for Best Picture (instead of the unpredictable number between five and 10, based on votes). It will be the first time that 10 titles will vie against each other since the 84th edition was held in 2011 (when “The Artist” won). Also revised were the song categories. The minimum amount of original music required for nominees in the Best Original Score line-up has been reduced from 60% to 35%. As for Best Original Song, submissions are being held at five songs per film. Also getting a do-over are the short lists that will expand from 10 to 15 titles for Best Animated Short Film, Best Documentary Short Subject, and Best Live Action Short Film. Also, the nominating process for the relatively new category of Best Sound, which combines sound design and editing, now features a preliminary round of 10 candidates.
Is it true that mailed screeners are no more?
Deep-sixing these discs is part of an initiative to be environmentally friendly since studios had a policy of having recipients destroy the DVDs once the awards season was over. Digital equivalents and streaming will now be the standard.
Who will be honored at the 12th annual Governors Awards on January 15, 2022, when the awards are presented?
On June 24 of this year, the Academy announced their choices in to be honored categories:
“Samuel L. Jackson is a cultural icon whose dynamic work has resonated across genres and generations and generations worldwide.”
“For Elaine May’s bold, uncompromising approach to filmmaking as a writer, director and actress.”
“Liv Ullmann’s bravery and emotional transparency has gifted audiences with deeply affecting screen portrayals.”
As for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Danny Glover will receive the honor for his “decades-long advocacy for justice and human rights (that) reflects his dedication to recognizing our shared humanity on and off the screen.
What about the likely choices to claim a spot in the expanded Best Picture category?
More than a few were held back from last year since ticket buyers weren’t all that comfortable with compromising their health while sitting in a movie theater.
Some of the films that are a part of this year’s conversation include Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” Guillermo Del Toro’s “Nightmare Alley,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth” and Steven Spielberg’s new big-screen take on “West Side Story,” a 1961 classic that won Best Picture along with nine other gold men—the most ever earned by a musical film.
But it’s also savvy to look at what made a splash at the festivals at Venice and Toronto. Jane Campion, the second woman to ever be nominated for a directing Oscar for 1993’s “The Piano,” earned a Silver Lion for her first film in 12 years, “The Power of the Dog.” But even more of a sure sign, TIFF’s People’s Choice Award went to Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” a nostalgic look at a working-class Northern Irish family set in the ‘60s that has been compared to “Roma.” Consider that for the past nine years, every winner at North America’s largest film festival has been afforded a Best Picture slot.
There are lots more to come, including “King Richard,” with Will Smith playing the father of female tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. Filmmaker Joe Wright is back with Peter Dinklage as his star attraction in “Cyrano.” Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart just might be swept along in the on-going Princess Diana mania of the moment in Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer.” And don’t leave Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” behind either, whose just-released trailer goes down like a high-energy drink with an extra kick.