Sensing a potential trend in the possible nominations of three major Oscars categories — best director, actor and actress — we could see a first-time occurrence for the Academy Awards on Tuesday. However, if you read the tea leaves put forth by the nominations for the DGA and SAG, there’s a strong possibility that all three of those categories may not include a first-time nominee — a first in Oscar history.
For best actor, the SAG lineup recognized all former nominees and winners — Javier Bardem (“Being the Ricardos”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Power of the Dog”), Andrew Garfield (“Tick, Tick … Boom!”), Will Smith (“King Richard”) and Denzel Washington (“The Tragedy of Macbeth”). Even the ones on the bubble are once-nominated or crowned, including Mahershala Ali (“Swan Song”), Bradley Cooper (“Nightmare Alley”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“Don’t Look Up”). The closest first-timers in the running seem to be Golden Globe nominees Peter Dinklage (“Cyrano”) and Cooper Hoffman (“Licorice Pizza”), and long shots include Clifton Collins Jr (“Jockey”) and Simon Rex (“Red Rocket”). The last time that category was made up of all familiar faces was 1980: winner Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull”), Robert Duvall (“The Great Santini”), John Hurt (“The Elephant Man”), Jack Lemmon (“Tribute”) and Peter O’Toole (“The Stunt Man”).
SAG shockingly left off Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) in the best actress category, who would be a first-time Oscar nominee. Instead, they nominated Jessica Chastain (“The Eyes of Tammy Faye”), Olivia Colman (“The Lost Daughter”), Lady Gaga (“House of Gucci”), Jennifer Hudson (“Respect”) and Nicole Kidman (“Being the Ricardos”). Best actress lineups with all former nominees occur more often than the other two categories. For example, the 2013 lineup had four winners, and one still unrewarded: Amy Adams (“American Hustle”), Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”), Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), Judi Dench (“Philomena”) and Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”). Before that, you merely need to go back to 1994 for another case: Jessica Lange (“Blue Sky”), Jodie Foster (“Nell”), Miranda Richardson (“Tom & Viv”), Winona Ryder (“Little Women”) and Susan Sarandon (“The Client”).
This stat could bode well for potential BAFTA top-two vote-getters Alana Haim (“Licorice Pizza”), Emilia Jones (“CODA”), Renate Reinsve (“The Worst Person in the World”) and Tessa Thompson (“Passing”) or Golden Globe winner Rachel Zegler (“West Side Story”).
An all once Oscar-nominated lineup for best director hasn’t happened since 1950, with George Cukor (“Born Yesterday”), John Huston (“The Asphalt Jungle”), winner Joseph L. Mankiewicz (“All About Eve”), Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) and Billy Wilder (“Sunset Boulevard”). However, judging by the DGA Awards lineup that included Paul Thomas Anderson (“Licorice Pizza”), Kenneth Branagh (“Belfast”), Jane Campion (“The Power of the Dog”), Steven Spielberg (“West Side Story”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Dune”), all signs are pointing to this 71-year-long streak being broken (to be clear, this is referring to first-time nominees in the best director category). But, of course, this could get broken up with any of the seeming fringe contenders, notably Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (“Drive My Car”), Siân Heder (“CODA”), Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (“The Lost Daughter”).
Before 1950, there has only been one other occurrence of all once-nominated filmmakers: for the celebration of 1931/32, which only nominated three directors, they recognized King Vidor (“The Champ”), Josef von Sternberg (“Shanghai Express”) and eventual winner Frank Borzage (“Bad Girl”).
While the statistic may seem mundane or unimportant, it may point to a possible unfavorable trend in Hollywood as to who the actors and directors branch voters are selecting as “the best of the year.” Familiarity and established names give you a considerable edge.
The categories in question are 60% of what many consider the “big five” – which also includes the categories for best picture and either original or adapted screenplay. A total of 43 films have been nominated in all five of these categories in history, with just three successfully winning all of them – “It Happened One Night” (1934), “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Even best original screenplay, if “King Richard” scribe Zach Baylin can make the cut, has potential for all former nominees and winners. Luckily the adapted race could have four newbies, potentially even all women.
One of the great dreams of actors and filmmakers is the chance to be recognized for your achievements in your craft. Unfortunately, there seems to a downward trend for being recognized, as Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”), Adriana Barraza (“Babel”) or Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) have. Even then, the opportunities that can come afterward don’t always align with others in year’s past. Nyong’o has made 10 films since 2013, four of which only used her voice, and just one, Jordan Peele’s “Us,” was a leading role.
This isn’t just an Academy membership problem. It’s about throwing accountability back to the studios to give more unknowns and underappreciated actors and filmmakers a chance to hit a home run.
My final predictions column is here, with full rankings and commentary being updated before nominations.
2022 Academy Awards Predictions
- Best Picture
- Best Director
- Best Actor
- Best Actress
- Best Supporting Actor
- Best Supporting Actress
- Best Original Screenplay
- Best Adapted Screenplay
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Production Design
- Best Cinematography
- Best Costume Design
- Best Film Editing
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling
- Best Sound
- Best Visual Effects
- Best Original Score
- Best Original Song
- Best Documentary Feature
- Best International Feature
- Best Animated Short
- Best Documentary Short
- Best Live-Action Short