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SCA students react to Oscar nominations

Oscar nominations have been released, and USC Cinematic Arts students have some controversial takes as who could take home the awards.

Photo of an Oscar statue

This morning, the Motion Picture Academy released their nominations for the 94th Academy Awards taking place next month. Reporter Justin Heo spoke to USC students and professors about which nominations they are excited or surprised to see, which films they think were snubbed, and which are their picks to win. Fitz Cain has more on the story.

It’s Oscar season again! Leading the pack of this year’s nominations is western slow-burn “The Power of the Dog,” follow closely by sci-fi epic “Dune.”

Juliette Boland, a sophomore studying Cinema & Media Studies, is particularly excited to see “West Side Story” get a best picture nod.

Juliette Boland: “You have phenomenal performances like Ariana Dubose and Rachel Zegler. I mean, that whole cast just gave an insane performance.”

Boland also notes some surprise at the nominees for best actress.

Juliette Boland: “I thought that Lady Gaga, despite most people not really liking the House of Gucci, I thought Lady Gaga definitely would have been nominated. I really thought that Caitriona Balfe, who plays the supporting actress in Belfast, directed by Kenneth Branagh, was going to be nominated. She has just the most heartbreaking scene in that film, and I thought it definitely was worthy of an Oscar.”

Ari Johnson, a freshman studying film and television production, notes a surprising absence in two major categories.

Ari Johnson: “My initial thoughts was that I was surprised that the lost daughter wasn’t nominated for either Best Director or Best Picture.”

Yannick Haynes, a sophomore acting major, is surprised to see Andrew Garfield and Kristen Stewart receive nominations for their portrayals of playwright Jonathan Larson and Princess Diana.

Yannick Haynes: “I think for me, I think I mean, honestly, Andrew Garfield is probably the most surprising. But also, I mean, finally, see, like Kristen Stewart, you know, for a role as Princess Diana, I was like, Oh, snap. Kristen Stewart finally got, you know, like her roses.”

Midge Costin, a professor at the School of Cinematic Arts, is an official voter for the Academy Awards sound division. Costin explains her role in choosing the final nominees for the award shortlists.

Midge Costin: “We all went to the academy last weekend, was it? And we saw ten minute reels, eight minute reels of each of the ten. And we heard a Zoom interview with the crews and then the supervising sound people. And then we all voted again, one through one through 10 and put it in the order and then they come up with the the vote. So it came down to five. Very happy with the wow. And then but then we all get to vote on the 10 the best films.”

Costin also shares her predictions of who will take home the gold for the sound categories.

Midge Costin: “When you go to do your ballot, always for sound, because now the general audience votes, they’re all going to vote for a West Side story. They’re all going to vote for the musicals. I bet. Summer of Soul wins or West Side Story wins for sound.”

Oscar fans also took notice of the diversity within this year’s different award fields, to mixed result. Hayne is happy to see two Black actors present in the best actor category.

Yannick Haynes: “I think it’s really exciting for, you know, Will Smith and Denzel Washington, two amazing Black actors to be nominated within the same category for, you know, best actor. That’s like frigging crazy.”

Boland points to genre diversity in the best picture category, specifically “Dune” receiving a rare nomination for a sci-fi film. Although biopic “King Richard,” “West Side Story,” and Japanese drama “Drive My Car” feature people of color in prominent roles, Boland says she thinks the Oscars have a long way to go.

Juliette Boland: “Most of these pictures are led by white or white passing actors and actresses. I really thought by this point it would have improved from last year, but hopefully the industry learns from this. Similar to what happened with the Golden Globes, we just need to start talking about these things and just improve how we look at films and critique them.”

The 94th Academy Awards are scheduled to be held on March 27th at The Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. For Annenberg Media, I’m Fitz Cain.