Dark Western “The Power of the Dog” leads the field in this year’s Academy Awards with 12 nominations for the Netflix film, ahead of 10 nods for science-fiction epic “Dune”.

The nominations make Jane Campion the first female auteur nominated twice in Academy Award history.
The nominations make Jane Campion the first female auteur nominated twice in Academy Award history. (Reuters)

Jane Campion's gothic Western "The Power of the Dog" has led the Oscars nominations, fending off a crowded field of movies from a year in which Covid-weary audiences slowly headed back into movie theatres.

The movie about a repressed 1920s cattle rancher in Montana released by Netflix earned 12 nods on Tuesday ahead of next month's Oscars gala, including best director – making Campion the first female auteur nominated twice in Academy Award history.

"The Power of the Dog" was also nominated for best picture, and landed acting nods for Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

Campion was last nominated 28 years ago for "The Piano."

Sprawling sci-fi epic "Dune" landed in second place overall, landing 10 nods including best picture, although its director Denis Villeneuve was overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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As expected, the adaptation of Frank Herbert's sprawling novel set on a desert planet plagued by monstrous sandworms scored well across technical categories including cinematography, visual effects and sound.

Other coveted directing slots went to Kenneth Branagh for black-and-white childhood drama "Belfast" and Steven Spielberg for musical "West Side Story," with each film securing seven nominations.

Spielberg's decision to remake the most honoured musical in Oscars history had been criticised as unnecessary by some, but it won over voters to earn a best picture nomination, and another for supporting actress for Ariana DeBose as Anita.

'Wide open'

As widely predicted, frontrunner Will Smith earned recognition for his portrayal of the father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams in "King Richard," which took six nods overall.

He is up against Cumberbatch, Denzel Washington ("The Tragedy of Macbeth"), Andrew Garfield ("tick, tick...BOOM!") and Javier Bardem ("Being the Ricardos.")

Lady Gaga was the surprise omission in the best actress category, with "House of Gucci" earning just one nomination -- for best hair and make-up.

Instead best actress will be contested by Jessica Chastain ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye"), Olivia Colman ("The Lost Daughter"), Penelope Cruz ("Parallel Mothers"), Nicole Kidman ("Being the Ricardos") and Kristen Stewart ("Spencer").

"Last year we had a much more indie Oscars... This year was the return of big cinema, big movies and studio films," said one Academy voter, who asked not to be named.

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"The race is wide open this year," said Deadline award columnist Pete Hammond.

The 94th Academy Awards gala is scheduled for March 27.

Source: AFP