I think the Oscars have conditioned me for disappointment. Every year, I tune in eagerly to the nominations announcement waiting to see who is in the running, only to face one baffling snub after another. Knives Out missing out on a Best Picture nomination in 2020. Da 5 Bloods getting skipped over in nearly every category in 2021. Denis Villeneuve being snubbed a very much-earned Best Director nomination for Dune just last year. Every year, I wait and wait and wait for the Oscars to get it right, only to be met with confusion, frustration, and mind-boggling disappointment every single time.
For the first time in five years, that disappointment never came. In fact, this was probably one of the best Oscar nominations I’ve seen in quite some time.
Now don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of snubs from this year’s nominees. Robert Eggers’ The Northman was overlooked in all of the categories, as well as Adam Sandler’s heart-pounding basketball drama Hustle. Perhaps most bafflingly, Jordan Peele’s eerie sci-fi horror film Nope got a resounding zero nominations. Seriously? Not even one for cinematography? Film editing? Production design? Visual effects? Even sound?
So yeah, snubs are still aplenty, but for the most part, the Academy got it right this year. Now there’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d type.
At 11 nominations total, Daniels’ genre-bending masterpiece Everything Everywhere All At Once is this year’s biggest contender with four acting nominations, a Best Director nomination, and a Best Picture nomination. The film deserves every single nomination it has received and then some, with the only categories it was notably absent in including makeup and visual effects. Still, even with those snubs, it practically swept all of the major categories and has solidified itself as a for-sure contender on Oscar night.
At nine nominations apiece, the next biggest Best Picture contenders include the German anti-war film All Quiet On The Western Front and the Irish tragicomedy The Banshees Of Inisherin. The surprising thing here isn’t the fact that both are so closely tied to Everything Everywhere All At Once. The surprising thing here is that All Quiet On The Western Front is nominated as many times as it is. Originally thought to be a front-runner in the International Film category, it’s now considered a leading contender in the Best Picture category as well, especially with additional cinematography, visual effects, and adapted screenplay nominations.
Following closely behind those two films, however, is Baz Luhrmann’s bedazzling musical biopic Elvis. Austin Butler was obviously a shoo-in in the acting category, and it’s probably the film’s best chance to win an Oscar as well. But I wouldn’t call it a done deal. After all, Austin still has to contend with Brendan Fraser in The Whale, and I question if there’s any performance that could potentially overtake his. Although bafflingly, The Whale did not receive a Best Picture nomination despite also securing makeup and Best Supporting Actress noms for Hong Chau.
From there, the Steven Spielberg biopic The Fabelmans secured seven nominations, including Best Picture. Spielberg obviously got nominated multiple times up and down the ballot, from director all the way to original screenplay. Yet, the biggest surprise to me was Judd Hirsch’s inclusion under the supporting actor category for Sammy’s excitable circus Uncle Boris. His scene was one of my favorites from the whole film, and he did a really brilliant job showing how art can make us feel whole while simultaneously ripping us in two. He was easily one of the film’s most standout actors and created a big impact despite his small screen time. I’m really glad he was nominated, even though his chances to win are extremely slim.
Following The Fabelmans with six nominations apiece are the tragic psychological drama Tar and the heart-racing action sequel Top Gun: Maverick. These are two very different films finding success on two very different sides of the ballot, with Top Gun: Maverick sweeping in most of the technical categories while Tar secured screenplay, actress, and directing noms. The interesting thing is seeing what they aren’t nominated for. Tar was noticeably overlooked in the music and production design categories, while Top Gun: Maverick was wrongfully snubbed under cinematography (actually, the entire cinematography category has gone down the crapper. But there will be time to talk more about that later).
After that, Avatar: The Way Of Water fits in comfortably as the eighth Best Picture nominee, securing additional nominations under the sound, production design, and visual effects categories. While it is a technical and emotional powerhouse of a film, I don’t really expect it to be a major contender in most categories with the notable exception of visual effects, which is fine. After all, the first movie won three Academy Awards and even earned James Cameron another Best Director nomination. If The Way Of Water even comes close to the first film, it will have been a success. Besides, at over $2 billion, it’s the highest-grossing movie of 2022. It’s not like it needs the extra hardware.
Behind Avatar: The Way Of Water is the Swedish satire Triangle Of Sadness, which has secured screenplay and direction nominations aside from Best Picture. Besides that, I gotta be honest: I’ve never heard of the movie. The only thing I know about this film is that its poster features an older woman throwing up gold. Aside from that, I’ve got nothing. Needless to say that there will be few people rooting for it on Oscar night.
And finally, the last Best Picture nominee is Women Talking, a monumental little film about a group of women who band together to defend themselves from vicious attacks in their colony. What’s perplexing about this film isn’t the fact that it’s nominated for Best Picture: that much is to be expected for a film of this subject matter. What’s perplexing is that it only secured one other nomination in the adapted screenplay category. How many times do we have to go over this, Academy? A film cannot be considered Best Picture-worthy for one element alone. Selma wasn’t Best Picture-worthy just because of the song “Glory,” and The Post wasn’t Best Picture-worthy just because of Meryl Streep. Neither can Woman Talking stand on its own just for its screenplay. Seriously, would have killed you to give the movie a supporting actress nomination? Production design? Costumes?
I could pick apart other grievances I have with the nominees this year, like how The Batman astoundingly missed a Best Original Score nomination, while The Woman King was overlooked in every category Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was nominated in despite being superior in nearly every way. But for the most part, I’m surprisingly pleased with the nominees we have this year. For once, Academy Award voters prioritized the films that deserved the most recognition and lifted up the artists that we might have missed last year. Let’s hope they keep that momentum going into the Oscars ceremony on March 12.
– David Dunn