Lady Gaga fans, unite in grief. Their idol — who was widely expected to win the Best Actress Oscar this year for her performance as the murderous Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci — has not even been nominated for the award.

In her place are Kristen Stewart, Jessica Chastain and Nicole Kidman — who are recognized for playing real people, respectively Princess Diana, Tammy Faye Messner and Lucille Ball — as well as Oscar stalwarts Olivia Colman and Penélope Cruz. Any of them stands a decent chance of winning now that the Gaga threat...

Lady Gaga fans, unite in grief. Their idol — who was widely expected to win the Best Actress Oscar this year for her performance as the murderous Patrizia Reggiani in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci — has not even been nominated for the award.

In her place are Kristen Stewart, Jessica Chastain and Nicole Kidman — who are recognized for playing real people, respectively Princess Diana, Tammy Faye Messner and Lucille Ball — as well as Oscar stalwarts Olivia Colman and Penélope Cruz. Any of them stands a decent chance of winning now that the Gaga threat has been removed. But this still represents the greatest volte-face in what is otherwise a largely predictable set of Academy Award nominations.

After several years in which the award for Best Picture has gone to interesting arthouse flicks rather than the expected Hollywood behemoth (Parasite over 1917, Moonlight over La La Land), the major competitors this year are the sci-fi epic Dune, with ten nominations, and the western Power of the Dog, with twelve. I suspect that Jane Campion’s much-acclaimed and excellent film will triumph over Denis Villeneuve’s picture, which will probably have to content itself with picking up a number of technical categories.

If this does happen, the awards will say two things about contemporary cinema. First, the rise of Netflix — and the comparative decline of movie theaters — is now certain. And second, the days when big-budget spectaculars such as Lord of the Rings, Gladiator and Titanic won Best Film at the Oscars — at least in part as a reward for making a vast profit for the industry — seem to be over.

Instead, the Academy’s more diverse membership is rewarding the films they believe to really be the best of the year. This would explain why, for instance, the Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has been nominated for Best Director for his long, difficult drama Drive My Car. A few years ago, that film would only have been recognized in the Best Foreign Language Picture category.

The film industry is bifurcating at an alarming rate. Pictures such as the new Spider-Man are still making enormous amounts of money at the box office, but are not being recognized at increasingly refined awards ceremonies (Spider-Man has scored only one nomination, for Best Visual Effects).

The argument that its admirers may put forward is that the only way to revive interest in the Oscars and BAFTAs and what-have-you is to acknowledge populist films in the nominations, even if they have to be artificially included. But this is a patronizing misunderstanding of the target audience of superhero films. Few of them care whether their beloved pictures are given awards. With the viewing figures for the televised ceremony falling year on year, it will take a great deal more than token recognition for a Spider-Man or James Bond film to excite viewers again.

There are plenty of excellent films recognized in this year’s nominations, in a welcome shift away from the woker-than-woke preoccupations of the past few years. That’s true even if Don’t Look Up’s presence in several categories might be more of a recognition of its importance than its achievement. But most of them, from Licorice Pizza to Belfast, are arthouse pictures that have not attracted large American audiences, and are unlikely to do so even if they are garlanded on March 27.

This makes me wonder whether we are coming to the end of a time when the Oscars are an all-important barometer of audience taste. Instead, it seems likely that some superb films will receive their due, and the cinema-going public will shrug, ignore them, and watch the latest Marvel extravaganza instead. Repeat ad infinitum.