By Penny Theodorakopoulou,
“If you can dream it, you can do it”.
— Walt Disney
And that is a solid fact that the Walt Disney Company does. Every year, at least one Disney film is nominated in the Academy Awards (commonly known as “The Oscars”), and not in just one category. Be it from Walt Disney Studios or its subsidiaries (20th Century Studios, Searchlight Pictures, Pixar, and Marvel Studios), Disney has been conquering all those years in the Awards — and for good reasons —, winning more and more Oscars every year.
Disney’s tradition continues, as 10 movies have earned 23 Oscar nominations for the Oscars 2022. The films are listed below:
- West Side Story (2021 — 20th Century Studios)
- Nightmare Alley (2021 — Searchlight Pictures)
- Encanto (2021 — Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
- Cruella (2021 — Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
- The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021 — Searchlight Pictures)
- Free Guy (2021 — 20th Century Studios)
- Luca (2021 — Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
- Raya and the Last Dragon (2021 — Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
- Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings (2021 — Marvel Studios)
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021 — Searchlight Pictures / Onyx Collective).
As you can see, since the films are numerous and the nominations, as we will establish below, are more than double the number, in this article, we will talk about the first five movies that were mentioned above: West Side Story, Nightmare Alley, Encanto, Cruella, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Let the analysis begin!
1) West Side Story (2021)
Steven Spielberg comes back into directing after Ready Player One (2018) with a musical/romance film, West Side Story. As an adaptation of the titular book by Arthur Laurents, West Side Story is, more or less, a modern take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Just like in Romeo and Juliet’s case, there is some kind of “vendetta” back in America’s late 50s (1957, to be exact). Jets (white Americans) and Sharks (Puerto Ricans) are two rival teenage gangs who try to claim the streets of San Juan Hill, which resides in Manhattan’s West Side in New York. Sharks, since they are immigrants from Puerto Rico, face racism every single day, whilst Jets feel their “white privilege” being threatened due to the arrival of the Latin American in their neighborhood. As the rivalry escalates as days go by, a forbidden love begins to blossom between Maria (Rachel Zegler), who is the sister of the leader of the Sharks, Bernando (David Alvarez), and Tony (Ansel Elgort), cofounder and best friend of the leader of the Jets.
Leonard Bernstein’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics of the songs, as well as Spielberg’s direction present to the Silver Screen a magnificent but condemned love story between Maria and Tony, hence the film’s seven nominations in the following categories:
- Best Picture (Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger)
- Best Directing (Steven Spielberg)
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ariana DeBose)
- Best Costume Design (Paul Tazewell)
- Best Sound (Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, and Shawn Murphy)
- Best Cinematography (Janusz Kamiński)
- Best Production Design (Adam Stockhausen for Production Design and Rena DeAngelo for Set Decoration).
2) Nightmare Alley (2021)
After The Shape of Water (2017), a movie that won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score), Guillermo del Toro makes an epic comeback with Nightmare Alley, a neo-noir psychological thriller, the plot of which is based on William Lindsay Gresham’s titular novel that was published back in 1946.
Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) lets his father freeze to death on his bed, and then burns down his house and goes to work in a touring “variety” troupe. His attention is drawn to a geek show, where a geek would be forced to eat a chicken while it was still alive. The owner of the geek show, Clem (Willem Dafoe), lets the geeks die in the cold as soon as they fall ill — exactly like Stan did to his father. Stan learns the art of psychic “Madame Zeena” (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband, Pete (David Strathairn), and how they communicate with each other to mislead viewers. Stan is attracted to the beautiful Molly (Rooney Mara), who lets electric current rush through her body. When Stan kills Peter, Zeena’s husband, by giving him wood alcohol in order to steal his secret book with his and Zeena’s cold reading and code language, he convinces Molly to follow him and leave the circus together. Two years later, we see Stan and Molly together again in Chicago, with a psychic performance in a big nightclub in the city. Stan does not follow his teachers’ advice not to pretend to be in contact with the dead in an “eerie show”, which has the expected outcome.
Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley is ranked second after West Side Story in nominations, counting four nominations in the following categories:
- Best Picture (Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale, and Bradley Cooper)
- Best Costume Design (Luis Sequeira)
- Best Cinematography (Dan Laustsen)
- Best Production Design (Tamara Deverell for Production Design and Shane Vieau for Set Decoration).
3) Encanto (2021)
Disney’s first (out of three films that have been nominated for the Oscars 2022) film Encanto is your typical, one would say, Disney film (a classic musical fantasy comedy), making it no different than the rest of the Disney films. For some reason, however, which we will establish below shortly, this film has captivated both the audience and the film critics, marking it as 2021’s best-animated film.
The story revolves around Mirabel Madrigal (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) and her family, who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia, in an enchanted vibrant house. Everyone in the Madrigal family receives a special and unique “gift” that unlocks when they are five years old, the powers of which are generally based on their personality. Surrounded by her fantastical family, Mirabel is the only person who does not get special powers, despite her quirky and empathetic personality. During a ceremony to reveal her young cousin’s gift, she notices that her house seems to be in danger of falling apart. Despite Mirabel’s constant warnings, the rest of her family assumes that she is making things up because she has not unlocked her special gift yet. Determined to save her family’s home, she is forced to follow clues left by her estranged uncle Bruno (John Leguizamo), who disappeared after his power of seeing the future made him not the most popular member of the family.
Apart from the stellar voice cast, the spectacular storytelling, the vibrant music, and the stunning and beautiful animation, Encanto‘s moral of the story is about self-discovery, belonging, and identity, hence its popularity and favoritism. Nomination-wise, Encanto is nominated in three categories. These are:
- Best Animated Feature Film (Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, and Clark Spencer)
- Best Original Song (“Dos Oruguitas”, Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda)
- Best Original Score (Germaine Franco).
4) Cruella (2021)
A personal favorite film, Cruella is about the origins of the not-so-beloved Disney villain, Cruella de Vil, from The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Disney fans get to see a different take on Cruella de Vil, apart from her obsession with the dalmatian coat, which is only mentioned once or twice throughout the movie.
Estella (Cruella’s real name, who is portrayed by Emma Stone) has been living in the streets of London, since her mother died when she was a little girl, trying to make ends meet. Even though her living conditions are not ideal for someone her age, her lifetime dream to become a major fashion designer is as vivid as her passion for designing clothes. Estella’s genius for design and troublemaking catches the eye of London’s top designer: the ever-chic, ever-merciless Baroness (Emma Thompson). Working under this haute couture era seems like a dream job for Estella. However, things take a dark turn when Estella finds out that Baroness was the one who killed her mother. So, Estella embraces her dark side, creating an alter ego named Cruella, who audaciously crashes every Baroness’s event to steal the spotlight, whilst plotting her revenge on Baroness.
- Best Costume Design (Jenny Beavan)
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne, and Julia Vernon).
5) The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)
Last but not least (at least for the time being), we have Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye, a film that is based on the 2000’s documentary on Tammy Faye Bakker by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato of World of Wonder.
Taking place in the US’s 80s, Tamara Faye LaValley (Jessica Chastain) meets Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield) in Minneapolis, where the two were attending North Central Bible College. After they wed a year later, Tammy introduced her husband to her family, the mother of which did not approve of Tammy’s decision, telling her that she acted impulsively, as well as that her action was not very “Christian”. In an attempt to raise awareness to the Christian community about love and inspiration, the newly-wed couple travels across the U.S. and starts preaching and singing to every Christian community they came across. The Faye-Bakker duo, well known in the U.S., had the TV show The PTL Club (Praise The Lord), through which they became rich, but they also did charity work and helped many AIDS patients, since the 80s was the decade that AIDS first broke out. The film, like most biopics, chronicles the rise of Faye-Bakker and their downfall, following a sex scandal, in which Jim allegedly bought the silence of a woman who accused him of rape.
Even though Michael Showalter’s The Eyes of Tammy Faye is not quite popular when it comes to the depiction or the script of the movie, the startling performance from the two protagonists, Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield, is so talked-about, the film received two nominations. In particular, The Eyes of Tammy Faye is nominated for:
- Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jessica Chastain)
- Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, and Justin Raleigh).
On the next part of Disney’s nominations, we will take a look at the remaining five films: Free Guy, Luca, Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, and Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Until then, stay tuned or watch the movies above!
- The Walt Disney Company Earns 23 Oscar® Nominations, thewaltdisneycompany.com, Available here
- Disney’s Films Rake in 2022 Oscar Nominations, insidethemagic.net, Available here
- West Side Story [Steven Spielberg] — Review, gr.ign.com, Available here
- Nightmare Alley: Guillermo del Toro returns with a creepy carnival noir, bfi.org.uk, Available here
- Encanto, rogerebert.com, Available here
- ‘Cruella’ Review: A Disney Villain Gets a Backstory. It’s Spotty., nytimes.com, Available here
- ‘The Eyes of Tammy Faye’ Review: As Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Andrew Garfield and Jessica Chastain Put a Human Face on the Infamous Saga of Televangelism, variety.com, Available here