The lead actress category was full of previous nominees—Jessica Chastain for The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Olivia Colman for The Lost Daughter, Nicole Kidman for Being the Ricardos, and Penelope Cruz for Parallel Mothers. But while the Cruz nod wasn't widely predicted, she does provide Almodovar's baby-switching melodrama with a grounded quality it otherwise lacks. Maybe the biggest surprise of the morning, (besides Ruth Negga's snub for Passing), came from the category's sole never-before-nominated actress: Kristen Stewart for Spencer.
Stewart's (literally) haunted performance in Pablo Larrain's Diana biopic had a lot of buzz early on, but when she got overlooked by the BAFTAs, which generally act as a kind of Oscars bellwether, all that buzz faded away. Turns out she got counted out too early. Nevertheless, look for Kidman to stomp on the competition like they're so many grapes under Lucy Ricardo's bare feet.
As for best picture, the Japanese film Drive My Car made it into the running, in addition to its nominations for best international feature, best directing and best adapted screenplay—just as Parasite did, two years ago. Though beloved by critics, its moody, introspective tone and three-hour running time will likely combine to preclude a repeat of Parasite's singular success.
2. The dog? Is powerful!
Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog was the morning's big winner, with 12 nominations, beating out Dune (10 nominations), West Side Story (8), Belfast (7) and King Richard (6).
Campion's nomination for best director makes her the first woman who's been nominated twice in that category. Should she win, as she is heavily favored to do, she will only be the third woman to do so.
It would also represent the first best picture win for Netflix—a major battle victory in the ongoing war between streaming and theaters.
3. The big battle: Feelgood vs. Feeldark
In the race for best picture, it's likely going to come down to a fight between two very different movies: Kenneth Branagh's warmly nostalgic Belfast, and Campion's not-at-all-warm, acidic The Power of the Dog.
Both Branagh's semi-autobiographical, poignant remembrance of his youth during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and Campion's dispassionate autopsy of festering masculinity, prove deeply satisfying, albeit in widely divergent ways. Belfast provides comfort, while The Power of the Dog provides cathartic, steel-trap plotting.
Five years ago, Belfast's strong performances, young narrator and feelgood quality would have combined to make it a shoe-in; the less generous among us would've tagged it as "Oscar bait." But the love for The Power of the Dog has proven consistently strong and hasn't yet flagged.
4. Could Flee go three for three?
The moving Danish film Flee is both a documentary and an animated feature. It's the tale of a young man who fled Afghanistan with his family as a boy, and who has spent his life guarding various secrets ever since. This morning it received nods for best doc, best animated feature and best international feature.
While a sweep is unlikely, given the competition, the trifecta of noms at least means that more people will get to see this excellent film. The best shot it's got of a win is in best documentary, but it's up against the beautiful Summer of Soul.
5. How to get better Oscars ceremony ratings? Two words: Be. 'Yoncé.
It's no secret that the Oscars telecast has gotten lousy viewership over the past few years. The nomination of "Be Alive" from King Richard for best original song, however, raises the possibility of a live performance by Beyoncé. If even a small percentage of the Hive tunes in for that, and/or for a performance of "No Time to Die" by Billie Eilish—ratings will get a bump. (The other best song nominees include tunes by okay-boomer favorites like Diane Warren and Van Morrison.)
Encanto's "Dos Oruguitas" got a nod, as well. While it's a beautiful song, it likely won't send the droves of TikTokers who've been lip-syncing to the movie's other, earwormier songs to their TV sets on Oscar night. (Justice for "Surface Pressure"!)
6. Don't look now, but Don't Look Up did well