2023 Oscar Nominations: Snubs, Surprises, Winners, and Losers

The nominees for the 95th Academy Awards were announced this morning, and while I always expect a healthy mix of good, bad, and surprising from the Academy, I felt generally pleased with their choices this year. While there were a handful of surprises—as well as some selections and omissions that I disagreed with—I would describe the nominations announced this morning as predictable, but not disappointing. Regardless of that fact though, it’s always more fun to start with the complaints, so let’s dive into this year’s snubs first.

Snubs:

Most conversations about this year’s snubs have started with the two lead actor categories. In Best Actress, both Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) did not receive a nomination. While they weren’t necessarily considered foregone conclusions to be nominated in this category, many experts had been predicting they would be. I’m going to delve deeper into the Andrea Riseborough nomination in the next section of this blog, but her inclusion in this category for an almost universally unseen film, as well as Ana de Armas’ for her performance in the much-maligned Blonde, definitely made these snubs a bit more frustrating. The snub that occurred in the Best Actor category wasn’t necessarily a shock, but was definitely still a topic of discussion after the nominations were announced this morning. Of course, I’m referring to Tom Cruise not being included for his work in Top Gun: Maverick. While the film did receive six total nominations, including one for Best Picture, Cruise was not able to sneak his way into Best Actor. Personally, despite how much I admire Top Gun: Maverick and Cruise’s performance in it, I can’t say I’m truly mad about this snub because I think all five of the performers who did get nominated were very deserving.

The next snub I want to focus on is not the omission of a particular performer, but of an entire film in general. Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave not only failed to be included in Best International Feature, it didn’t end up receiving a single nomination in any category. The lack of respect that the Academy seems to have for this film was one of the few things that genuinely stunned me this morning. Not only did I think Decision to Leave was a lock to be nominated in Best International Feature, I thought it had an outside chance of showing up in a handful of other categories as well. One of the main reasons I found this snub so surprising is because as the total number of Academy members has grown in recent years—due largely to an increase of international members being added to the Academy—we have seen more international films achieve greater success at the Oscars. This year though, it seems like the vast majority of that international support went towards Triangle of Sadness and All Quiet on the Western Front, which led to disappointing mornings for both Decision to Leave and RRR.

Two films that I personally love were shut out of categories that I thought they had a chance in: Aftersun in Original Screenplay and Babylon in Best Picture. While I was still ultimately disappointed by these snubs, I must admit I wasn’t overly confident that these nominations were going to happen heading into this morning’s announcement. Another film that I love—which landed towards the top of my favorite films of the year list alongside Aftersun and Babylon—was Jordan Peele’s Nope, which failed to receive any nominations at all. Much like the Aftersun and Babylon snubs, I was not overly shocked by this. It did not seem like Universal ever really put together a strong campaign for Nope, and if they did, it wasn’t an effective one.

The only other snubs that I think are really worth mentioning are Paul Dano being absent from the Best Supporting Actor category for his work in The Fabelmans and James Cameron not being included in Best Director for Avatar: The Way of Water. Out of these two snubs, Dano was definitely the more surprising one. While he was not a favorite to win this category, most people expected him to be nominated. On the other hand, Cameron was certainly not seen as a guarantee in Best Director. However, many people expected him to be the fifth name chosen in a category that seemed to have four locks and one open spot. Ultimately, that final spot went to Ruben Östlund for his work on Triangle of Sadness instead.

Surprises:

I’m not sure it can technically be classified as a surprise because many people had started to predict it at the last minute, but Andrea Riseborough’s inclusion in the Best Actress category was certainly the most talked about nomination of the morning. Many people have probably not even heard of the film she was nominated for, To Leslie, which grossed only $27,000 worldwide. Riseborough, or her agents and managers, essentially earned this nomination by calling on her network of famous friends to take to social media and praise this film and her performance just as voting for the Oscar nominations began. In the past couple of weeks, stars like Jennifer Aniston, Charlize Theron, Sarah Paulson, Edward Norton, Gwyneth Paltrow, Susan Sarandon, Helen Hunt, and many others have either hosted screenings of To Leslie or shared posts online in support of Riseborough’s performance. Regardless of what you think about the ethics behind this campaign strategy, three things were proven to be true this morning: It worked, we’re going to see a lot more of this going forward, and this is one of the most bizarre twists we’ve seen occur during awards season in quite some time.

Moving on to much more pleasant surprises, I was very excited to see Brian Tyree Henry earn a nomination in Best Supporting Actor for his work in Causeway. While it seemed like there were possibly some open spots in this category, not many people were predicting one of those spots would go to him. It would be hard for anyone to say that Henry didn’t deserve the nomination though. He gave an incredible performance in Causeway and has been one of the most underrated and interesting-to-watch actors in Hollywood for some time now. And speaking of great performances in small intimate dramas being recognized, I was also thrilled to see Paul Mescal be included in the Best Actor category. This nomination certainly wasn’t as much of a surprise as Henry’s was, but it was by no means a guarantee heading into the nomination announcements.

Another surprise I enjoyed seeing this morning was Top Gun: Maverick‘s inclusion in Best Adapted Screenplay. While I wouldn’t necessarily say the screenplay is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the reasons why I love Maverick, I was excited to see that the Academy didn’t limit it to the usual big budget-skewing categories like Visual Effects. While it definitely deserves recognition in those categories as well, the Oscars are just a lot more fun with it earning an Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture nomination as well.

I briefly touched on it already when I discussed James Cameron’s snub but Ruben Östlund being given a Best Director nomination was definitely a surprise this morning as well. Although, perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised because Östlund’s nomination makes it four consecutive years that the Academy has included a filmmaker behind an international film in the Best Director category. Previously, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) was nominated in 2020, Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) in 2021, and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car) in 2022. I’m not sure what, if anything, this nomination means for Triangle of Sadness‘ Best Picture chances, as it continues to be one of the most difficult films to track this awards season. For now, all I’ll say is I wouldn’t be shocked to see it gain some traction in that race in the lead-up to the Oscars though.

Winners:

Without question, the biggest winner of this morning was Everything Everywhere All At Once. The Daniels’ sci-fi hit led all films with a total of 11 nominations, including Best Director, four acting nominations, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. While I think it’s important to note that in recent years accumulating the most nominations has not necessarily correlated to Best Picture success, I think it would be unfair to say any other film is running ahead of Everything Everywhere All At Once in the Best Picture race at the moment.

Another big winner from this morning was blockbuster films. There has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether or not the Academy needs to start nominating more populist films in order to help fix their show’s decline in popularity. Whether or not it was actually a coordinated effort, they certainly recognized a great deal of blockbusters and profitable films this year. Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water both received several nominations and were included in Best Picture, Marvel will have a presence at this year’s Oscars with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever earning five nominations including a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Angela Bassett, and widely seen films like Elvis and the aforementioned Everything Everywhere All At Once did incredibly well this morning as well. It remains to be seen whether or not this will actually have a positive effect on the telecast’s ratings, but I think it’s fair to say it certainly won’t make things worse.

All Quiet on the Western Front is the third winner I want to highlight. This film has been gaining a lot of momentum in awards season recently and that culminated in it receiving nine total nominations this morning. That is a very impressive feat for a movie that was probably not on a lot of people’s radars a couple of months ago. I’m not sure how successful this film will be on Oscar night, but if things continue the way they have been going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being discussed as an outside contender in the Best Picture race.

The final winner worth discussing is the presence of first time nominees in the acting categories. Often times the acting categories, especially the lead acting categories, are made up of Hollywood veterans and famous names that seem to be getting nominated all the time. This year though, the Academy chose to recognize an incredible amount of newcomers. In fact, all five of the men nominated in Best Actor are first-time nominees. Furthermore, there are three first-timers nominated in Best Actress, and eight out of the ten performers nominated in the supporting acting categories are first-time nominees as well. Regardless of who you are rooting for in these categories, it’s always nice to see some fresh faces be recognized by the Academy.

Losers:

The clear loser this morning was the Academy’s ability, or lack thereof, to nominate female directors. Unfortunately, after a two-year streak of a woman winning the Best Director award (Chloé Zhao and Jane Campion), the Academy failed to nominate a single women in Best Director this year. To make matters worse, only one of the ten films nominated for Best Picture was directed by a woman. I’m not saying the five men who were nominated in Best Director didn’t do great work on their films, but Sarah Polley, Gina Prince-Bythewood, and Charlotte Wells certainly deserved more consideration.

From a film perspective, I believe the five biggest losers were The WhaleBabylonThe Woman KingRRR, and Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. While most of these films did receive at least one nomination—The Woman King was the only one that was completely shut out—they all received a few less than many people were expecting. In particular, The Whale seemed to be the “first film out” in a handful of different categories. It’s also important to note that all of these films were, at one point or another, in the conversation to possibly receive a Best Picture nomination, and ultimately did not.

The 95th Oscars take place on March 12th and I’m ready to be surprised, delighted, and disappointed with many of the winners just as I was with many of the nominees.

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