The Best Actress category is chaos. Riseborough’s nomination shakes up an already odd list of nominees. Cate Blanchett remains the frontrunner for TÁR, and Yeoh’s nomination was expected. But while Ana de Armas had previously picked up awards and nominations for Blonde, the NC-17 rated adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ Marilyn Monroe-inspired novel has had a divided reaction, to put it mildly. Her nomination, like Michelle Willams’ for The Fabelmans was not seen as a lock going into the morning. Just as notable were a pair of performances that didn’t get nominations despite being viewed as likely inclusions: Viola Davis in The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler in Till.
Other acting categories had some pleasant surprises. After winning the Best Picture prize for CODA last year, Apple is largely on the sidelines this year. (Its only real contender was the slavery period piece Emancipation, which stars Will Smith…and that explains at least part of its failure to launch.) Still, it was nice to see Brian Tyree Henry pick up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his lovely performance in Causeway (a moving, small-scale drama co-starring Jennifer Lawrence that’s been a little slept-on). Also heartening: hearing Paul Mescal’s name in the Best Actor category for his great performance in Aftersun.
Where are the women directors? The Academy has worked to be more inclusive since the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite started a conversation that extended beyond the shortage of Black nominees to other topics. But taking steps forward doesn’t rule out taking steps back. (See the exclusions in the Best Actress field above.) The year after Jane Campion’s win for The Power of the Dog, this year’s directing nominees are all men. Where’s the love for Charlotte Wells (Aftersun), Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), and Sarah Polley—whose film Women Talking scored a Best Picture slot?
Nope? Nope. It’s not that surprising that Jordan Peele’s follow-ups to Get Out haven’t gotten the same top-category Oscar nomination love as his debut. They’re more thematically nebulous than Get Out (if just as good). But it is surprising to see Nope shut out of categories like Score, Cinematography, and Sound, all of which are excellent.
RRR will have to content itself with a single nomination. S. S. Rajamouli’s global breakthrough has wowed all who’ve seen it with its exuberance, technical mastery, and anything goes approach to filmmaking. That didn’t translate into nominations today apart from a nod for the song “Naatu Naatu.” That should at least make for a fun Oscars night performance (and it might be a relief to some involved with the film that its underlying politics don’t have to be scrutinized during an intense awards season).
Three things in life are certain: Death, taxes and Diane Warren receiving a Best Original Song nomination no matter what movie that song appears in. We said this last year and will probably be able to cut-and-paste it into next year’s column: the famed and much-nominated songwriter can be counted on to pick up a nomination by contributing a song to a movie that hardly anyone sees. Last year it was “Somehow You Do,” from Four Good Days, an addiction drama starring Mila Kunis. This year it’s “Applause” from Tell it Like a Woman. What is Tell it Like a Woman? It’s an anthology film with shorts by female directors from around the world, including Catherine Hardwicke and Taraji P. Henson, whose cast includes Jennifer Hudson, Eva Longoria, and Marcia Gay Harden. Sounds interesting, honestly, but good luck finding anyone who’s seen it (or even a review of the film).
Title of the Year: “My Year of Dicks.” Williams, Ahmed, and those attending the nominations announcement couldn’t contain themselves upon hearing the title of this Best Animated Short film nominee, a coming-of-age story about a ’90s teen’s attempt to lose her virginity. Good news for the curious: its creators have made it available online for a limited time. The Animated Short category also yielded this year’s second-best title “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It.” But does either short top last year’s Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom? As with all things awards-related, there is no correct answer. But there are compelling arguments to be had.