It seems that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences love to fool moviegoers every year. The nominations for this year’s OSCARs provided the Academy with several opportunities to confuse … and they did not disappoint.

For most filmgoers, the real battle is for Best Picture … with the list of contenders seven strong, as opposed to every other category which is capped with five nominees. Handicapping has already begun, so it’s simple to measure our own tastes with the critics.

When statues for female and male leads and supporting roles are factored in, the homework assignment prior to Sunday March 27th when the awards will be announced could be a bit daunting. So many of the nominated films are available on streaming services, however, that catching up on missed opportunities may not be all that difficult.

With complete transparency and candor, we offer the following observations as the OSCAR clock is ticking down.

The Power of the Dog leads the nomination race with 12 … and rightly so. Jane Campion (Directing) elegantly spins a searing tale of the West and the human struggles of the main characters is pure drama. It’s overwhelming to realize that all four of the main characters have been nominated for their performances. Benedict Cumerbatch (Actor in a Leading Role), Jesse Plemmons and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Actor in a Supporting Role) and Kirsten Dunst (Actress in a Supporting Role) are all preparing acceptance speeches. Sadly, it’s a “jump ball” between Plemmons and Smit-McPhee, since their both vying for the same statue. This film is reason enough to subscribe to AppleTV+.

Belfast is a tribute to the incredible talent of Kenneth Branagh, who wrote, directed and produced this touching memoir of his own childhood. Ciaran Hinds (Actor in a Supporting Role) and Judi Dench (Actress in a Supporting Role) join Branagh (Director) with nominations.

Coda is a challenging film, one that pulls viewers into the silent world of the deaf and deals with the deeply honest emotional struggles of a family whose hearing daughter wants to pursue a life as a singer. The nomination of Troy Kotsur (Actor in a Supporting Role) marks the first time a deaf actor is so honored.

Don’t Look Up was a bit of a conundrum when it appeared on Netflix. A star-studded cast filled with “A-listers” like Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande and Leonardo DiCaprio populating a satire about the end of the world drew raves and jeers. It was supposed to bring some acting nominations, but, alas, even Mr. DiCaprio failed to get the nod.

Dune either thrilled devotees of the book or left audience members wondering why the production company wasted the enormous budget. The film, streaming on HBO Max, has garnered 10 OSCAR nominations across several technical categories — Cinematography, Production Design, Editing, Costume Design, Make-up/hairstyling, Original Score, VFX, and Sound as well as Adapted Screenplay. Director Denis Villeneuve did not get recognized in the Director category. For those in the “devotee” camp, rest assured, a sequel is in the works. Even Timothee Chalamet, who seemed to be cast in every third film this past year, was snubbed for a nomination.

West Side Story was to be a Steven Spielberg triumph with the icing on the cake the appearance of Rita Moreno who won a Supporting Actress OSCAR for her appearance in the first edition of this American musical classic. Although the box office did not reflect the anticipated enthusiasm for this truly amazing production, Ariana DeBose, who recreates the role originally played by Moreno did get the nomination for Actress in a Supporting Role.

King Richard marked Will Smith’s return to the big screen and his performance as the father of tennis’s stellar Williams sisters earned him a nomination for Actor in a Leading Role. Aunjanue Ellis was also recognized with a nomination in the category of Actress in a Supporting Role. HBO Max streams the film.

Nightmare Alley is a remake of a 1947 film based on a novel released in 1946. The director, none other than Guillermo del Toro, attracted an impressive cast including Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collete, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and David Strathairn, among other notables. The fact that none of the acting or directing nominations followed does not bode well for the film’s chances for the OSCAR.

Drive My Car is a bit of an anomaly in this year’s Best Picture category. The Japanese film has been widely praised by critics and won several “Best Picture” competitions that logically led to its inclusion in the OSCAR list for this year. Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi received a nomination in that category with several critics wondering if this could be the upset winner for 2022. That’s a long shot, at best.

Licorice Pizza completes the nomination list for Best Picture and brings director/auteur Paul Thomas Anderson along for a nomination as director. The title may not be tempting as a dinner entrée, but the film is charming, whimsical and filled with cameo appearances by Hollywood notables while the leads are relative newcomers. The film is not yet on a streaming service, so a trip to the local theater is required to be part of the LA scene in the early ‘70’s.

And, as a final offering, we highlight this year’s “snubs.” Much has been made of Lady Gaga’s performance in House of Gucci. The fact that she was iced out of a nomination for Actress in a Leading Role is a true snub. Then, there’s the fate of Being the Ricardos. Intriguing that the leads have been nominated as well as one of the supporting actors. Javier Bardem (Actor in a Leading Role), Nicole Kidman (Actress in a Leading Role) and J.K Simmons (Actor in a Supporting Role) well deserve the accolades. Denzel Washington was not snubbed as he was nominated in the Actor in a Leading Role category. His film The Tragedy of Macbeth seems to have missed the attention of the Academy members in other categories, so Washington can add his tenth nomination to his incredible resume that includes two OSCAR wins.

And, to close, Jared Leto (House of Gucci) and Bradley Cooper (Licorice Pizza) were left outside, looking in. Shame, Academy … shame!