Oscars 2023: snubs and surprises
The morning of Oscar nominations is always mixed. It always brings news to be happy or angry about, with plenty of both emotions running high on Tuesday morning.
For starters, yay, 11 nominations for Everything Everywhere All At Once, the weird little multiverse movie that could! Yay for consistently great actors like Brian Tyree Henry and Hong Chau finally getting their due! Boo to Zero Women Nominated for Best Director Because There’s No Excuse in 2023. Boo to one of the best movie experiences of the year, The Woman King, which is completely shut down.
Here are some of the surprises and snubs from this year’s Oscar nominations.
Brian Tyree Henry for Best Supporting Actor
Brian Tyree Henry was one of those actors who seemed to deserve an Oscar nomination forever, especially the year he starred in Widows, If Beale Street Could Talk and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse . Whenever he shows up in anything, you know it’s going to be good. In “Causeway,” his performance as a car mechanic grappling with the effects of past trauma highlights an otherwise fairly standard drama. Quite often, the academy finally recognizes an actor who has long deserved a nomination, and that actor’s nomination is not necessarily for their best or most memorable performance. The nomination or win is more for their overall work. We’ll take it, even if it elicits mixed feelings, because it’s a testament to this actor’s consistency. That certainly applies to Henry. It’s great to finally name him an Oscar nominee.
Hong Chau for Best Supporting Actress
Like Henry, Hong Chau is one of those actors that has been around for a while and is consistently great. Again, I have mixed feelings about this nomination, albeit for slightly different reasons. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding “The Whale,” starring Brendan Fraser as an obese writing teacher, particularly over whether the film will continue fat-phobic tropes. That being said, there’s no question that Chau, who plays Fraser’s character’s best friend and caretaker, is remarkable and has earned the Academy’s credit for a while.
Stephanie Hsu for Best Supporting Actress
I worded that as a surprise because many people were understandably concerned that Stephanie Hsu would be left out in place of her much better-known All At Once co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Fortunately, both women were nominated instead. Hsu has to carry some of the most grueling scenes of this film’s wild ride. She has to play two characters at the same time: Joy, the daughter of the protagonist Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), and Joy’s alter ego Jobu Tupaki, the film’s villain. A stage and screen star, Hsu is undoubtedly on the rise, and it’s great that this Oscar nomination will add to her growing career.
Paul Mescal for Best Actor
From making television debut in Hulu’s Normal People adaptation (and giving audiences some much-needed horniness in these dark days of 2020) to being Oscar nominated in just three years, Paul Mescal has had a pretty meteoric rise. In “Aftersun,” directed by Charlotte Wells, he provides a tender and thoughtful portrayal of a young father struggling with his mental health while taking his daughter (Frankie Corio) on vacation. It’s the kind of accomplishment that doesn’t exactly catch the eye and therefore not the kind the academy often rewards. So it’s nice to see the recognition for him.
Andrea Riseborough for Best Actress
In probably one of the biggest headaches of the morning, British actress Andrea Riseborough has been nominated for the little-seen indie film To Leslie, thanks to a partly self-funded awards campaign and the support of famous industry peers. They launched a coordinated Twitter campaign and hosted awards ceremonies and panels moderated by big names like Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron. (Vulture has a more detailed explanation here.) It’s an interesting tactic. However, it’s also worth noting that while Riseborough has undoubtedly had a respectable career and has worked consistently in acclaimed independent films, only certain types of people tend to have the industry-level connections, resources, and support for that sort of Oscar nomination .
Ana de Armas for Best Actress
Blonde was one of the most controversial films of 2022 for a number of reasons (one of them: its anti-abortion scenes, which didn’t go over well, especially at this particular moment in American politics). But many people agreed that whatever their feelings about the film, Ana de Armas had done A LOT in it, taking on a challenging and perhaps impossible role as Marilyn Monroe. She’s also had a couple of pivotal years, starring in Knives Out, No Time to Die, and Deep Water.
“Top Gun: Maverick” for Best Adapted Screenplay
The Academy certainly loved “Top Gun: Maverick” and nominated it for Best Picture, which was somewhat expected considering its massive box office earnings (it was a common refrain to joke that Tom Cruise saved the films in 2022) . But a script nomination? ok i guess? Action movies aren’t exactly known for their writing style. But when the academy loves a film, they genuinely love it and tend to nominate it across the board.
No nominees for best female director
Did “Women Talking” stage itself? Did members of the academy just not see “The Woman King”? (See below for much, much more on that.) Gina Prince-Bythewood and Sarah Polley — and all the women who have directed acclaimed films this year — deserve a lot more than that.
‘The Woman King’ completely ruled out
As my colleague Candice Frederick pointed out, this is the kind of film the Oscars would normally focus on: a gripping historical epic with big and technically daring action sequences. (Case in point: The new German adaptation of the WWI epic All Quiet on the Western Front received nine nominations as of Tuesday morning.) Also, The Woman King became a massive box-office hit in a transitional year for cinema releases.
But wait, it’s directed by a black woman and stars an incredible cast of black women (of which Lashana Lynch in particular has earned far more awards than she has received). So yes, that explains it. So deeply demoralizing that this keeps happening.
Viola Davis for Best Actress
See above. Despite Davis being nominated four times and having previously won an Oscar — and certainly always proving just how much of a legend she is — the academy consistently ignores leading roles played by black women.
Case in point: As of Tuesday morning, Angela Bassett was the only black woman to be nominated for an acting award for her supporting role in the Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever. A full 30 years after her first (and only) Oscar nomination as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. And if you need a reminder of the Academy’s abysmal history, in the 95 years of the Academy Awards, only one black woman has ever won Best Actress: Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball over 20 years ago.
Danielle Deadwyler for Best Actress
See above. My best guess is that the surprise nominations from Riseborough and de Armas edged out Davis and Deadwyler. The latter gave a remarkable and truly challenging performance as Mamie Till-Mobley in “Till,” directed by Chinonye Chukwu. The film, which charts Till-Mobley’s journey to civil rights activism following the brutal death of her son, received mixed reviews and was underappreciated in part for its difficult subject matter. But Deadwyler’s work was undeniably great, and once again it’s abysmal that no black women were nominated for leading roles.
“Decision to Leave” for Best International Film
Widely regarded as one of the frontrunners for best international film, South Korea’s Decision to Leave is director Park Chan-wook’s (The Handmaiden, Oldboy) latest film. It’s a twisted, Hitchcock-inspired crime thriller about a detective, Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), who investigates the murder of a man…and then falls in love with the man’s widow, Seo-rae (Tang Wei), who is also a suspect in the case. It’s a superbly shot thriller with nods to classic film noir and mystery films. As both a highly entertaining and dramatic film, it’s an odd omission for the Academy, which has really taken on a wider range of international films in recent years.