The nominations for the 95th Academy Awards, which will be telecast on March 12, included both pleasant surprises and several omissions. These are the worst offenders.
The 95th annual Academy Awards nominees were released in the early morning hours of January 24. The honors were performed by actors Riz Ahmed (Sound of Metal) and Allison Williams (Get Out). Sadly, Williams’ singing-killer-robot co-star M3GAN was not present at the celebration, but she was undoubtedly present in spirit.
With four blockbuster films nominated — Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Elvis — this year’s Oscars had a wonderful opportunity to grow their global audience beyond the record-low 10.5 million viewers in 2021. So, did the Academy capitalize? Or did it pull 2009, when it neglected to nominate The Dark Knight and Wall-E for Best Picture, resulting in rule revisions and much wringing of hands?
Directors Everything Everywhere All at Once, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, led all films with 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh, who made history as the first openly Asian candidate in the category (Merle Oberon was nominated in 1936 for The Dark Angel, but hid her Asian ancestry). The German-language military movie All Quiet on the Western Front received nine Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture. The Academy certainly enjoys war films, don’t they? Angela Bassett received a well-deserved Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Brian Tyree Henry earned his first Oscar nomination, in Best Supporting Actor, for the little-promoted Causeway, and Paul Mescal received his first Oscar nomination, in Best Actor, for his performance as a tortured young father in Aftersun, are also delightful surprises.
In contrast to previous years, the Academy did an excellent job of nominating a diverse array of performers in the majority of categories but failed to nominate two leading Black contenders, Danielle Deadwyler (Till) and Viola Davis (The Woman King), in Best Actress and did not recognize a single woman in Best Director.
While Top Gun: Maverick was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and a surprise mention for Best Adapted Screenplay, the man who keeps everything running smoothly was not nominated for Best Actor. Cruise is not only the biggest and possibly the last true movie star in the world but also has a history of being slighted by the Academy. Despite merited wins for Jerry Maguire and Magnolia, he has never won an Oscar for acting and has not been nominated for one in almost two decades. He has received only three acting nominations (the two films mentioned earlier, plus Born on the Fourth of July). Have Tom Cruise’s Scientology antics gotten him in trouble with the Academy? They have not helped.
Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis
Despite numerous great performances, this year’s Oscars have the sad distinction of honoring zero Black actors in the Best Actress and Best Actor categories. The omissions are most glaring in the category of Best Actress, where two powerful performances were anticipated to be honored: Danielle Deadwyler’s portrayal of Mamie Till, the mother of murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till, in Till, and Viola Davis’ transformation into warrior General Nanisca, of the Agojie, in The Woman King. Deadwyler and Davis were both active during the campaign, but neither candidate was selected. Deadwyler’s exclusion is arguably the most surprising, given the importance of the part and how she responded to the situation.
Yes, another year has passed with no women nominated for the Best Director award. Aftersun is a personal and heartbreaking story about a distraught young father (Mescal) and his 11-year-old daughter (Frankie Corio) spending their last summer vacation together in Turkey. I had hoped that Charlotte Wells would be recognized for her restrained direction of the film, but it was not. Instead, in this writer’s opinion, Ruben Ostlund was nominated for Triangle of Sadness, one of the most pompous and narratively shallow films of the last year. Possibly, this summer’s Barbie will be redeemed by Greta Gerwig.
Dolly de Leon
Dolly de Leon, who received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for her inspired performance as Abigail, a cleaner who becomes a tribal leader of sorts after a luxury yacht filled with some of the worst one-percenters you’ve ever seen sinks and the survivors are stranded on a remote island, is the film’s saving grace. De Leon turns the tables on these spoiled wimps by residing in her private quarters within the lifeboat and seducing Carl (Harris Dickinson), an insecure male model, into Romance in exchange for special privileges. It would have been wonderful if the Academy had acknowledged de Leon, a veteran Filipina theatre and screen actor, for her remarkable effort.
Dano has not been nominated for an Oscar despite his two-decade career of outstanding performances, including in such acclaimed films as Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood and Prisoners. It was believed that he might receive an award for his delicate performance as Burt Fabelman, the stern-yet-tender computer engineer father of Sammy Fabelman in Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical The Fabelmans, but it was not to be. It’s a shame, given that some of the film’s more operatic performances are recognised while his quiet, powerful one is ignored — especially considering Dano’s enormous year, between this and his Riddler in The Batman. Dano was also severely overlooked for his portrayal of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys in Love & Mercy, which should have earned him every nomination under the sun.