We look at the Oscar nominations. The surprises, the nods to celebrate and some glaring omissions…
The Oscar nominations for the 2023 ceremony were announced this week. It’s time to warm up your slapping hands, sorry, clapping hands and ready yourself for the main event. As with every year, there are predictable choices, and pleasing selections but also odd choices and some pretty glaring omissions. Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the pleasing elements and begin with Best Picture.
Everything Everywhere All at Once and Banshees of Inisherin were the two best films of last year. Universally loved, the former especially has become an instant cult classic. Given the quirky nature of Everything and the distinct Irishness of Banshees, there was still the chance the Academy might pull a left-of-field turn and choose more Oscar-friendly fodder. However, since Oscar bait films have largely flopped or failed to deliver in the past year, their place in the list of 10 was virtually nailed on. It’s also not too surprising to see the surprise mega-hit and critical darling, Top Gun: Maverick in the frame too. Having it solidified with confirmation is pleasing still.
Sticking with Everything Everywhere, what was most pleasing for this 11 nomination potential board sweeper is the fact the four main principal cast members were all recognised. It’s been fully deserved for sure, but most of the buzz and hype for the film has centred around the inimitable Michelle Yeoh FINALLY getting her moment on centre stage as a leading lady. There’s also been the heartwarming and triumphant return to the screens of Ke Huy Quan.
Fans have been rallying hard for both to be nominated. The vociferous backing for the pair is wholly warranted and it’s wonderful to see their nods cemented. Having re-watched the film over the weekend it only reconfirmed how enjoyable the irreverent film is. It also reminded me that backing Quan and Yeoh are some other wonderful performances from Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis who both got nominated.
Among other nods, the film is deservedly up for Best Director(s) and Writer(s) too for the Daniels. On Jamie Lee Curtis by the way… how in the hot dog-fingered name of all that is holy, is that her first Oscar nomination? About ruddy time Oscar!
Sometimes a film can have so many wonderful performances that someone becomes sadly overlooked. There was always a feeling that with Everything Everywhere and indeed Banshees of Inisherin, this might happen. Well everyone got their nod for the former and it’s also happened for the latter. Look, Colin Farrell was exceptional in his leading role. It’d be a travesty if he doesn’t win, let alone if he failed to get nominated. The Oscars didn’t make an error on that front at least, but Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan have all received thoroughly deserving nominations for their parts. Condon for me should win in the Best Supporting Actress category.
If we’re talking feel-good noms to follow on from Yeoh and Quan, then the internet has championed Brendan Fraser for his emotional comeback film, The Whale. It’s the cast who really elevates an otherwise okay film and Fraser is immense. Though the film didn’t strike universal acclaim and gathered a little controversy over it being a film about a 600lb man played by an actor not even approaching half that weight, it was always a safe bet for Fraser to be recognised. It’s also pleasing to see Hong Chau nominated as supporting actress for her role in the film too.
Alongside a host of technical category nods and its well-earned Best Picture nod, it was also pleasing, if surprising to see Top Gun: Maverick nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. If nitpickers dug up one issue about the film, it was its simplicity and formulaic story. However, this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a film that didn’t have a great script. It absolutely did, because those astonishing set pieces would be all for nought if the audience didn’t care about the characters.
Maverick does simple brilliantly. It follows a predictable formula, but constantly surprises you with how involved it makes you feel. Tom Cruise is great in the film, buoyed by an excellent support cast who all give so much to delivering a film with unique set pieces. All this is given a stage thanks to a watertight screenplay that is filled with endearingness and humility. It won’t, and probably shouldn’t win, but it deserves its nomination.
One of the most pleasing nominations which definitely came out of the blue, was Paul Mescal’s nomination for Aftersun. More on this film later, but Mescal’s mesmerising and crushing performance is perhaps the most understated yet affecting of the whole year. Aftersun, for an array of reasons, really lingers after the closing credits with its tale of a father/daughter bond as told through hazy memories of the now adult daughter recollecting a last holiday with her old man. It’s in viewing with age and maturity that her idealised vision of this trip and her dad, has changed. It’s where she sees a depression barely contained beneath his surface. Amazing film, and an amazing performance from Mescal.
Whilst we’re on the subject of Aftersun, let’s move on to some glaring omissions from the Academy. Though great to see Mescal nominated it’s a little disappointing, maybe not surprising that a small indie Scottish Drama was overlooked for Best Picture. In truth, some of the Best Picture nods were a little bit predictable. One or two were really not that standout. Aftersun was a slow-burning but deeply affecting story played out with a lot of subtlety. It’s beautifully written and directed by Charlotte Wells, who can probably feel slightly aggrieved to have been ignored in those categories. Whilst best supporting actress was an exceptionally strong category this year, young Frankie Corio wouldn’t have been out of place.
When will horror cinema get its due? It was a brilliant year in the genre, one of the most stellar ever and not without merit that some films could have been nominated. The best screenplay nod for Glass Onion felt a little easy and the film wasn’t quite as inspired as the predecessor. In terms of subverting expectations, a film like Barbarian was more impactful and had just as much wild whimsy as Rian Johnson’s murder mystery (which was great fun).
Also in the horror genre, much like the nigh-on criminal blanking of Toni Collette for Hereditary a few years back, Mia Goth was very disappointingly overlooked for Pearl. The quirky and irreverent slice of technicolour homage horror was dazzling to watch, and absolutely powered by Mia Goth’s stunning performance. It’s arguably, perhaps Yeoh aside, the most sensational performance of the year in that category, but Goth has been overlooked, largely because horror cinema rarely gets a look in sadly.
Other contentious snubs included a complete blank for critically acclaimed dramas Till and The Woman King. For the former, director Chinonye Chukwu wasn’t happy and felt the academy was still overwhelmingly catering to white male cinematic voices. She’s previously been snubbed for her acclaimed film Clemency a few years prior. She may well have a point, and though the Oscars have become more inclusive over time, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
You might argue a lack of box office punch with Till, and indeed The Woman King (albeit it did open at number 1), but the counter of course is a few other films that have also failed to ignite a wide audience which did get recognised. The most glaring omission between the two films is undoubtedly Danielle Deadwyler, whose performance in Till was superb. That said, Best Actress was a very strong category this year. A like of female voices in the best director category is also disappointing given some of the films this year.
There are plenty of surprises this year. Triangle of Sadness garnered decent if unspectacular reviews from fans and critics. It didn’t make too many waves at the box office either, so not exactly a populist vote. Of the trio of viciously barbed satires on upper-class pomposity this year (along with the aforementioned Glass Onion, and The Menu), my feeling is that the best of the three (The Menu) was the one that got kicked entirely to the curb. It has great observations in it, a few devilish and unexpected twists away from your expectations and some great dialogue. Additionally, Ralph Fiennes is superb and may also feel like he’s been done over by an Academy blank.
As for Anya Taylor Joy, she probably didn’t do enough through the year to gain traction but her time will certainly come. She also appeared in The Northman, a film which has been totally overlooked, and whilst a Best Picture nod was never going to happen for a snarling Viking opus, it was disappointingly overlooked in some technical categories, including cinematography, costuming and hair and makeup. The Academy will recognise a sleeper hit, a mega hit, an indie hit and very occasionally a left of fielder, but very rarely will they recognise a box office bomb, though Babylon was always going to get a token hair and makeup and costuming double.
One particularly disappointing snub comes in what could have been a toss-up between best foreign film, or even getting a well-earned nod in the main categories. Decision to Leave might be too subtle for its own good, with Park Chan-wook dialling back a lot of his extreme approaches and visual dazzle to deliver a brooding film laced with metaphors and ambiguity. Still, his previous film, The Handmaiden was also unfairly snubbed. The Best Foreign picture snub for Decision to Leave is especially galling but I would have liked to have seen it in the main categories, not least with Best Picture, Director and the mesmeric Tang Wei for Best Actress.
Whilst it’s disappointing that no one went and watched The Fabelmans and it’s Spielberg in excellent form, there’s still a sense that his own nod and that of Best Picture just feel a little bit too easy. It does have more of a personal touch than many of Spielberg’s films, and he’s still a maestro, but is he going above and beyond what he can do? Is he hitting us like a bolt from the blue? He can produce a film like this in his sleep. Michelle Williams however is worthy of her nod, but as far as direction, if Maverick can come away with a best picture nod and adapted screenplay, I do feel Joseph Kosinski has crafted something sensational in its field. It’s a marvel of technical brilliance, and dedication but also enduring storytelling.
Not that I’d have been that keen on it, but it did surprise me to see James Cameron snubbed as director. If Avatar: The Way of Water heavily relies on its technical marvels, it still represents years of meticulous perfectionism. If it’s deemed worthy enough of a Best Picture nod, perhaps a Director nod should have gone hand in hand (that being said, I don’t think it’s anywhere near the top 10 of the past year). Likewise, Elvis feels like Oscar bait that caught plenty of bites and also feels like easy Baz Luhrmann fodder as a piece of work. Austin Butler, however, is well worth his nod.
A final look into surprises and it was a pleasant and unexpected one which saw Andrea Riseborough getting nominated for To Leslie. I’ve not seen the film. In fact, I’m not sure many outside the Academy actually have given it grossed $27000 on its brief theatrical run, but it was critically lauded and not least for Riseborough’s central performance. It’s nice that the Oscars can still dig out an unexpected indie surprise but it’s also great to see Riseborough getting recognition because every single time I see her in a film, she’s captivating.
Likewise, Women Talking’s nominations came right out of the blue too. It could be deemed a surprise that none of the principal leads in Women Talking were nominated in the acting categories, although actress and supporting actress were arguably the most stellar categories of the year.
Finally, I’ll end with a final snub for the Caped Crusader. There had been early buzz upon The Batman’s release that it was a Best Picture contender. It was that deep and cinematic, much like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, that it couldn’t simply be dismissed as just comic book cinema. Okay, it wasn’t quite worthy of a picture nomination, and perhaps the film also came out too early. After all, it feels like we’ve long passed R Batz by now. It did get some nods, including best visual effects, but the film could easily have got nominated for best cinematography and best score. The former in particular, courtesy of Greg Feiser, was stunning. There weren’t too many films that dripped atmosphere and looked as intoxicatingly atmospheric as The Batman. Finally and above, I’d wager the biggest snub might well be the fact my Oscar nomination for Firenado obviously got lost in the mail.
What surprised you in the nominations? What was the biggest snub or most underserved nomination? Let us know on our social channels @FlickeringMyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award winning screenwriter and passionate cinephile. He has a number of films out around the world, including When Darkness Falls and several releases due out soon, including big-screen releases for Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Nick Moran, Patsy Kensit, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray) and War of The Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more info at the best personal site you’ll ever see here.