The streaming platforms are gearing up for another attempt to win the Academy’s affections. Though a streamer has yet to win the big best picture prize, Netflix has assembled a strong slate this year, at least judging by the reception at the Telluride Film Festival.
In the case of “Power,” Campion has thrown down the gauntlet and orchestrated the best film of her impressive career, even surpassing “The Piano,” for which she became the second woman to be nominated for directing. Judging by the reception, the film performed fairly well for festivalgoers and could be the ace in the hole for Netflix for awards season. If Campion is nominated for directing, she would be the first woman to return for a second nom. Kathryn Bigelow famously was snubbed for “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) after winning for “The Hurt Locker” (2009).
The legs for “Power” rest in the actors. Benedict Cumberbatch, who hasn’t been nominated since Morten Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game” (2014), looks to be in a good position to angle for his second nom. His dominating and terrifying Phil Burbank strikes fear into those who encounter him, and it’s one of his strongest turns. With three other films this year – “The Courier,” “The Electrical Life of Louis Wain” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” – he’ll be splashed across the media landscape for his campaign.
It could also present a long-overdue chance for the Academy to finally nominate the talented Kirsten Dunst. After a stunning career that began with a snub for Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), she’s delivered great performances in films like “The Virgin Suicides,” “Melancholia” and “The Beguiled.” If she campaigned for supporting actress, voters might be ready to show appreciation and gratitude for a long and impressive career. Her co-stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and real-life partner Jesse Plemons are exquisite in their parts, and interestingly divide their time in the film accordingly, with Plemons heavier in the first half and McPhee taking charge in the latter.
Smit-McPhee, who began his journey at Telluride in 2009 with “The Road” opposite Viggo Mortensen, is an invigorating presence in the film, emerging as a young Anthony Perkins. Plemons has the line of the movie and could help Campion compete in adapted screenplay. It’s unsure which of the two men, if either, will seduce the Academy the most.
With one of Campion’s larger budgets, she makes every dollar count. Production design, cinematography, costumes, editing and sound are all on the table. Composer Jonny Greenwood could have himself a double mention on Oscar nominations morning since he did the music for “Spencer” with Kristen Stewart, which also played at the fest.
“The Power of the Dog” now heads to Toronto and the New York Film Festival, where Netflix will aim to continue its momentum and solidify its status.
In regards to Gyllenhaal’s debut feature, the dense and heavy material showcases her talents as a filmmaker and storyteller. As we continue to see many of our gifted actresses taking the helm behind the camera — such as Regina King (“One Night in Miami”) or later this year Halle Berry (“Bruised”) – it’s an exciting landscape for interesting stories to be told. “The Lost Daughter” could make inroads in adapted screenplay, with its exploration of themes surrounding motherhood and society’s expectations of a woman’s place in it.
The cast is dynamic, with Academy Award winner Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) leading the charge. One year after coming close to nabbing her second for “The Father,” she could be a competitive force once again. Similar to her winning turn in “The Favourite,” she’s not a clear leading candidate, especially if the plan is to campaign her co-star Jessie Buckley, who portrays the younger version of Colman’s character, in the supporting actress category.
If people are just figuring out that Stewart has left her “Twilight” days behind her, then it’s time to move beyond the “Fifty Shades” series when discussing the magnificent Dakota Johnson. As the bombshell Nina, she exudes confidence and vulnerability, bringing about her most demanding and electric turn yet. If Buckley is campaigned in supporting, there could be a scenario that finds both of the women nominated, which is not infrequent happening in the supporting categories. (“The Favourite” was double nominated for Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz). Netflix will need to work its campaign magic to give it a fighting chance.
Netflix also has “The Hand of God,” the autobiographical film from Paolo Sorrentino, who directed the Italian international feature winner “The Great Beauty,” and his most recent might also remain in that category. It’s only been one year since Thomas Vinterberg cracked the directing lineup for “Another Round,” but Sorrentino’s feature is a bit too bloated and insular to appeal to the awards masses. The movie tries to navigate macho characters and behaviors, which could be hard for American viewers to digest. European audiences may gobble it up.
Coming up later this year, Netflix still has Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “tick, tick…Boom!” to potentially add to the awards season mix.