With one glaring omission—more on that later—the Oscar nominations for 2022 may be more rich and varied than any other year in recent memory. Suddenly, it’s not so unusual to find international films nominated in the Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay categories, as opposed to being conveniently and unimaginatively filed under Best International Feature. (We have the success and popularity of 2019’s ParasiteThis trend is at least partly due to the fact that there are many people who can thank them. The even better news is that you can now watch most of these films at home: a three-hour Japanese movie that, in olden days, you’d have to trek to your local arthouse to see (if you had one), can now be streamed in your living room. Accessibility is the best thing about pre-Oscar party catching up. This comes after years of anxiety over going to movies again.
You’ve already heard plenty about some of the Oscar nominees, like Jane Campion’s tense and beautifully crafted western Dog Power. Following is a list of Oscar picks—a mix of performers and movies—that may have somehow escaped your radar, or that simply deserve a little extra consideration. This may seem like cheating but the film at the bottom received zero Oscar nominations. Let’s call it a shadow entry in the Oscar race—a picture that’s a winner, even with no chance of winning.
Drive My Car
Nominated For:Best Picture, Best International Feature Film, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay
A Tokyo theater actor and director (Hidetoshi Nishijima), recently widowed, reflects on his love for his late wife, even as he confronts the truth about her unfaithfulness—and forges an unexpected bond with the young woman (Tôko Miura) assigned to be his driver for the duration of a theater festival in Hiroshima. Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s lyrical three-hour drama, adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami, explores grief, forgiveness and Chekov—more or less in that order. It is an inspiring movie full of warmth and subtlety that reminds us to not only be patient with our fellow humans, but with ourselves as well.
Which stream? HBO Max
The World’s Worst Person
Nominated For:International Feature of the Year and Original Screenplay Award
Norwegian actor Renate Reinsve shines in Joachim Trier’s bittersweet comedy about a young woman making the wrong choices for the right reasons—or perhaps the other way around. Trier has made a movie filled with tenderness, for its characters and for this whole sorry world, a balm for anyone who has ever been confused—and who hasn’t?
Which stream?Not available yet
Penelope Cruz is the Best Actress Mothers who are also parallel
In the seventh film collaboration between Spanish maestro Pedro Almodóvar and Penelope Cruz, Cruz plays Janis, a professional photographer in her late 30s who finds herself pregnant as the result of her involvement with a married forensic anthropologist. She meets Milena Smit, a mother-to be who was born under completely different circumstances. There’s a plot twist here that you might easily guess—but brace yourself for Cruz’s marvelous, fine-grained performance, possibly the best she has ever given. Janis’s fragility and her fortitude are two sides of one coin, and Cruz shifts from one to the other in the merest breath.
Which stream?Amazon Prime Video amongst other platforms
Troy Kotsur is the Best Supporting Actor CODA
In Siân Heder’s CODA, a young woman who can hear grows up in a family of others who can’t. Troy Kotsur, who has been deaf since birth, plays her father, Frank, a Gloucester, Mass., fisherman who can’t understand why his daughter wants to leave town, and the family, to pursue a singing career. Kotsur’s performance, both fierce and delicate, enfolds the myriad complexities of fatherhood—including the importance of holding on tight, but with a light touch.
Which stream? Apple TV
Ariana DeBose wins Best Supporting Actress West Side Story
A successful version West Side StoryNeeds a wonderful Anita. Steven Spielberg’s rapturous interpretation of the deeply beloved material found Ariana deBose. A glorious dancer and a singer of ardent warmth, she also carries the picture’s most intense dramatic scenes—a regal presence announcing herself with a flounce of chiffon.
Which stream? Disney+ and HBO Max
Javier Bardem for Best Actor in The Ricardos
There’s a surprise at the center of writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s otherwise flawed The Ricardos Javier Bardem’s portrayal of Desi Arnaz, husband and business partner of Lucille Ball (played by fellow Oscar-nominee Nicole Kidman). Bardem is not Arnaz’s equal: Bardem has more muscle and strength than Arnaz. While Arnaz was fleet, with a dancer’s frame, Bardem is solid and earthy. What’s more, Bardem is Spanish, not Cuban. Bardem plays Arnaz brilliantly, uncovering complexities that were not obvious to us. When he deflects Lucy’s accusations of philandering, we can’t be sure if he’s lying or not—but his chilled-martini-glass charm somehow makes every word believable. Bardem captures Arnaz’s magnetism and his ambition, and the two men melt into one before our eyes.
Which stream? Amazon Prime
Aunjanue Eli and Will Smith are the winners of Best Supporting Actress & Best Actor. King Richard
As the parents of Venus and Serena Williams, Oracene “Brandy” Price and Richard Williams, Aunjanue Ellis and Will Smith are a formidable team. As the man who raised his two little girls to be among the greatest tennis players in history, Smith plays Richard’s proud-papa peacock act to the hilt—but without vanity, he also shows us this man’s stubborn, self-centered side, and, even more important, his vulnerability. And Ellis has been giving terrific performances—as Ray Charles’ inamorata Mary Ann Fisher in Ray,A saucy spy The Undercover Brother—for years. Her performance here is her best yet. Ellis brings the movie to Earth when it teeters toward hagiography, giving us a woman who both dreams big and holds a family together, proving the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Which stream? Amazon Prime is among many other platforms
Nominated For:International Feature of the Year, Best Documentary Feature and Best Animated Feature
Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s extraordinary animated work FleeThe film tells the true story of Amin, a refugee from Afghanistan who was a child. Having rebuilt his life in Denmark, he’s getting ready to marry the man he loves—only to learn the impossibility of outrunning his past. This is an innovative and perceptive story about love and how to find it.
Which stream? Hulu amongst other platforms
Bullies: When We Were Bullies
Nominated For:The Best Documentary Shorts
While working on an earlier project, filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt found himself jolted into remembering a painful episode from his past, an instance of bullying at tHe Brooklyn public school he attended in the 1960s—only he I was also one of those bullies. Rosenblatt finds classmates who clearly remember the incident and recall it with deep regret. It is a short, but profound film that examines the cruelty children can inflict on others and how this affects us as adults.
Which stream? ShortsTV
Nominated For:There is nothing
This is clearly cheating. But it’s baffling that the Academy failed to recognize Rebecca Hall’s debut feature, based on Nella Larsen’s compact and potent novel from 1929, with even a single nomination, particularly in the performance category. Ruth Negga and Tessa Thompson are both extraordinary in this drama about two childhood friends, both of them Black although one has staked her identity—and her life—on passing for white. Perhaps the semantics of Oscar categories caused these two performances to cancel each other out in the Academy’s eyes: Are these co-lead performances? Should Thompson be considered the lead, since the story unfolds from her point of view, even if Negga’s stunner of a performance pervades every frame of the movie? We don’t know what actually happened. But in the Oscar race of our dreams, we’re the ones who get to choose the winners, and I’d happily hand a statuette to either of two extraordinary performers.
Which stream? Netflix