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Asian Films Could Make Oscar History

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Reporter

Two films, Japan’s Drive My Car and Bhutan’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom could make Oscar history at the 27 March 2022 (Sunday) 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. For the South Asian country of Bhutan, the nomination itself is a victory.

This is Bhutan’s first nomination in this category. Bhutan, however, has only submitted two films for Oscar consideration, the first in 1999, but that film did not get a nomination

Drive My Car is nominated both in the Best Motion Picture of the Year category as well as Best International Feature Film of the Year. There has never been a Japanese film that has won Best Motion Picture. In 2019, Parasite, a South Korean film, won. For the latter category, Japan has had 68 submitted films, 17 nominations and four wins: Rashomon (1951); Gate of Hell (1954); Samurai, The Legend of Musashi (1955) and Departures (2008).

Ryusuke Hamaguchi  is also nominated for Achievement in Directing for his Drive My Car. He is not the first Japanese director nominated for Achievement in Directing. Previously, Hiroshi Teshigahara (Woman in the Dunes, 1965) and Akira Kurosawa (Ran, 1985), but neither won. Previously, Chloé Zhao won in 2020 (Nomadland); Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) won in 2019. Ang Lee won in 2012 (Life of Pi) and 2005 (Brokeback Mountain).  

Ryusuke Hamaguchi  and Takamasa Oe are also nominated for Adapted Screenplay. If they win, they will be the first Japanese to win in this category. Previously New Zealander Taika Waititi won in 2019 for Jojo Rabbit. This might be the first for a script predominately in a non-English languages. 

No actors from Drive My Car were nominated.

Drive My Car won Best Screenplay, the FIPRESCI Prize, and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes this year. It won Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes.

The Danish film, Flee, won the World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance last year and the Best Feature at Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON – (L-R): Sisu and Raya. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

In the category of Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, there are two Asian films: Raya and the Last Dragon and Flee. Flee is about a gay Muslim from Afghanistan who finds refuge in Europe and received nominations in two categories: Best Animated Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best International Film.

The last film to win Best Animated Feature Film of the Year that had an API theme was Big Hero 6 in 2013, winning over The Tale of Princess Kaguya. Moan” was nominated in 2016, but lost to Zootopia. Last year, Over the Moon was nominated (losing to Soul). Hayao Miyazaki won in 2002 for Spirited Away, but no Japanese animation has won since then.

Two films in Best Documentary Feature had directors of Asian descent: Chinese-Jewish hapa Jessica Kingdon for Ascension and the Asian Indian wife and husband team Rintu Thomas and Sashimi Ghosh for Writing with Fire.

Ascension observes contemporary China and the pursuit of the dream of success through productivity and innovation. Writing with Fire is about lower caste women using journalism to fight against prejudice and tackling new technology along the way.

The last Asian Americans to win in this category were Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (with Evan Hayes, and Shannon Dill) for Free Solo in 2019.  

The Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, received one nomination for Achievement in Visual Effects.

AsAmNews graphic by Jana Monji

In terms of diversity, women are underrepresented in this year’s nominations (26 percent). Asian Americans are over-represented in the nominations (10 percent) according to the national average population (5.9 percent), but underrepresented for Los Angeles County (15 percent). 

There are zero nominations for Pacific Islanders, unless one considers Aussie Nicole Kidman. 

For a look at a breakdown of diversity, visit AgeOfTheGeek.org.

The full list of nominations:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

  • “Belfast” Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas, Producers
  • “CODA” Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, Producers
  • “Don’t Look Up” Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers
  • “Drive My Car” Teruhisa Yamamoto, Producer
  • “Dune” Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve and Cale Boyter, Producers
  • “King Richard” Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith, Producers
  • “Licorice Pizza” Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson, Producers
  • “Nightmare Alley” Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale and Bradley Cooper, Producers
  • “The Power of the Dog” Jane Campion, Tanya Seghatchian, Emile Sherman, Iain Canning and Roger Frappier, Producers
  • “West Side Story” Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers

Achievement in Directing

  • “Belfast” Kenneth Branagh
  • “Drive My Car” Ryusuke Hamaguchi
  • “Licorice Pizza” Paul Thomas Anderson
  • “The Power of the Dog” Jane Campion
  • “West Side Story” Steven Spielberg

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

  • Javier Bardem in “Being the Ricardos”
  • Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog”
  • Andrew Garfield in “tick, tick…BOOM!”
  • Will Smith in “King Richard”
  • Denzel Washington in “The Tragedy of Macbeth”

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Ciarán Hinds in “Belfast”
  • Troy Kotsur in “CODA”
  • Jesse Plemons in “The Power of the Dog”
  • J.K. Simmons in “Being the Ricardos”
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee in “The Power of the Dog”

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”
  • Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter”
  • Penélope Cruz in “Parallel Mothers”
  • Nicole Kidman in “Being the Ricardos”
  • Kristen Stewart in “Spencer”

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Jessie Buckley in “The Lost Daughter”
  • Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story”
  • Judi Dench in “Belfast”
  • Kirsten Dunst in “The Power of the Dog”
  • Aunjanue Ellis in “King Richard”

Adapted Screenplay

  • “CODA” Screenplay by Siân Heder
  • “Drive My Car” Screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
  • “Dune” Screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth
  • “The Lost Daughter” Written by Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • “The Power of the Dog” Written by Jane Campion

Original Screenplay

  • “Belfast” Written by Kenneth Branagh
  • “Don’t Look Up” Screenplay by Adam McKay; Story by Adam McKay & David Sirota
  • “King Richard” Written by Zach Baylin
  • “Licorice Pizza” Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • “The Worst Person in the World” Written by Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier

Best International Feature Film of the Year

  • “Drive My Car” Japan
  • “Flee” Denmark
  • “The Hand of God” Italy
  • “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” Bhutan
  • “The Worst Person in the World” Norway

Best Documentary Feature

  • “Ascension” Jessica Kingdon, Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell
  • “Attica” Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry
  • “Flee” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein
  • “Writing with Fire” Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

  • “Encanto” Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino and Clark Spencer
  • “Flee” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie
  • “Luca” Enrico Casarosa and Andrea Warren
  • “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Kurt Albrecht
  • “Raya and the Last Dragon” Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original score)

  • “Don’t Look Up” Nicholas Britell
  • “Dune” Hans Zimmer
  • “Encanto” Germaine Franco
  • “Parallel Mothers” Alberto Iglesias
  • “The Power of the Dog” Jonny Greenwood

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original song)

  • “Be Alive” from “King Richard”
    Music and Lyric by DIXSON and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter
  • “Dos Oruguitas” from “Encanto”
    Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda
  • “Down To Joy” from “Belfast”
    Music and Lyric by Van Morrison
  • “No Time To Die” from “No Time to Die”
    Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  • “Somehow You Do” from “Four Good Days”
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Dune” Greig Fraser
  • “Nightmare Alley” Dan Laustsen
  • “The Power of the Dog” Ari Wegner
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” Bruno Delbonnel
  • “West Side Story” Janusz Kaminski

Achievement in costume design

  • “Cruella” Jenny Beavan
  • “Cyrano” Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran
  • “Dune” Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan
  • “Nightmare Alley” Luis Sequeira
  • “West Side Story” Paul Tazewell

Best documentary short subject

  • “Audible” Matt Ogens and Geoff McLean
  • “Lead Me Home” Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk
  • “The Queen of Basketball” Ben Proudfoot
  • “Three Songs for Benazir” Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei
  • “When We Were Bullies” Jay Rosenblatt

Achievement in film editing

  • “Don’t Look Up” Hank Corwin
  • “Dune” Joe Walker
  • “King Richard” Pamela Martin
  • “The Power of the Dog” Peter Sciberras
  • “tick, tick…BOOM!” Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • “Coming 2 America” Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer
  • “Cruella” Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne and Julia Vernon
  • “Dune” Donald Mowat, Love Larson and Eva von Bahr
  • “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh
  • “House of Gucci” Göran Lundström, Anna Carin Lock and Frederic Aspiras

Achievement in Production Design

  • “Dune” Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos
  • “Nightmare Alley” Production Design: Tamara Deverell; Set Decoration: Shane Vieau
  • “The Power of the Dog” Production Design: Grant Major; Set Decoration: Amber Richards
  • “The Tragedy of Macbeth” Production Design: Stefan Dechant; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
  • “West Side Story” Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

Best Animated Short Film

  • “Affairs of the Art” Joanna Quinn and Les Mills
  • “Bestia” Hugo Covarrubias and Tevo Díaz
  • “Boxballet” Anton Dyakov
  • “Robin Robin” Dan Ojari and Mikey Please
  • “The Windshield Wiper” Alberto Mielgo and Leo Sanchez

Best Live Action Short Film

  • “Ala Kachuu – Take and Run” Maria Brendle and Nadine Lüchinger
  • “The Dress” Tadeusz Łysiak and Maciej Ślesicki
  • “The Long Goodbye” Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed
  • “On My Mind” Martin Strange-Hansen and Kim Magnusson
  • “Please Hold” K.D. Dávila and Levin Menekse

Achievement in Sound

  • “Belfast” Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather and Niv Adiri
  • “Dune” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett
  • “No Time to Die” Simon Hayes, Oliver Tarney, James Harrison, Paul Massey and Mark Taylor
  • “The Power of the Dog” Richard Flynn, Robert Mackenzie and Tara Webb
  • “West Side Story” Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy

Achievement in Visual Effects

  • “Dune” Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer
  • “Free Guy” Swen Gillberg, Bryan Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis and Dan Sudick
  • “No Time to Die” Charlie Noble, Joel Green, Jonathan Fawkner and Chris Corbould
  • “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” Christopher Townsend, Joe Farrell, Sean Noel Walker and Dan Oliver
  • “Spider-Man: No Way Home” Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

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