Oscar nominations morning is always a mixed bag. It consistently brings news to be happy or infuriated about, with a lot of both emotions bubbling up 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 getting nominated for Best Director because, come on, there’s no excuse in the year 2023. Boo to one of the best movie experiences of the year, “The Woman King,” getting completely shut out.
Here are some of the surprises and snubs of this year’s Oscar nominations.
Brian Tyree Henry For Best Supporting Actor
Brian Tyree Henry has been one of those actors who deserved an Oscar nomination for seemingly forever, especially the year he was in “Widows,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.” Whenever he shows up in anything, you know it will be good. In “Causeway,” his performance as a car mechanic dealing with the repercussions of past traumas elevates what’s otherwise a fairly standard drama. Somewhat frequently, the Academy finally recognizes an actor who has deserved a nomination for a long time, and that actor’s nomination isn’t necessarily for their best or most memorable performance. The nomination or the win is more for their entire body of work. We’ll take it even if it provokes mixed emotions because it’s a testament to that actor’s consistency. That’s certainly true of Henry. It’s great to call him an Oscar nominee at long last.
Hong Chau For Best Supporting Actress
Like Henry, Hong Chau is one of those actors who’s been working for a while and is consistently great. Again, I have mixed emotions about this nomination, though for slightly different reasons. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding “The Whale,” starring Brendan Fraser as an obese writing teacher, particularly whether the film perpetuates fatphobic tropes. But putting that aside, there’s no question that Chau, who plays Fraser’s character’s best friend and caretaker, is remarkable, and she has deserved recognition from the Academy for a while.
Stephanie Hsu For Best Supporting Actress
I put this as a surprise because many people were understandably worried that Stephanie Hsu would be omitted in place of her much more well-known “Everything Everywhere All At Once” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis. Instead, both women, pleasantly, were nominated. Hsu has to carry some of the most arduous scenes of that movie’s wild ride. She has to play two characters simultaneously: Joy, the daughter of protagonist Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), and Joy’s alter-ego Jobu Tupaki, the film’s villain. A star of stage and screen, 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 his television debut in Hulu’s “Normal People” adaptation (and giving audiences some well-needed horniness during those dark days of 2020) to being an Oscar nominee in just three years, Paul Mescal has had quite the meteoric rise. In “Aftersun,” directed by Charlotte Wells, he delivers a tender and introspective performance as a young father struggling with his mental health while taking his daughter (Frankie Corio) on vacation. It’s the kind of performance that isn’t exactly showy 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 head-scratchers of the morning, British actor Andrea Riseborough got nominated for the little-seen indie film “To Leslie,” thanks to a partially self-funded awards campaign and support from famous peers in the industry. They mounted a coordinated Twitter campaign and hosted awards screenings and panels moderated by big names like Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron. (Vulture has a more detailed explainer here.) It’s an interesting tactic. However, it’s also worth noting that while Riseborough has undoubtedly had a respected career working steadily in acclaimed independent films, only certain types of people tend to have the connections, resources and industry-level support for this kind of come-from-behind Oscar nomination.
Ana de Armas For Best Actress
“Blonde” was one of the most divisive movies of 2022 for a host of reasons (one of them: its anti-abortion scenes, which did not sit well, especially at this particular moment in American politics). But many people agreed that however they felt about the movie, Ana de Armas did A LOT in it, taking on a demanding and perhaps impossible role as Marilyn Monroe. Plus, with lead roles in “Knives Out,” “No Time to Die,” and “Deep Water,” she has had a major couple of years.
‘Top Gun: Maverick’ For Best Adapted Screenplay
The Academy sure loved “Top Gun: Maverick,” nominating it for Best Picture, which was somewhat expected, given its huge box office returns (it was a common refrain to joke that Tom Cruise saved the movies in 2022). But a screenplay nomination? OK, I guess? Action flicks aren’t exactly known for their writing. But when the Academy loves a movie, they really love it and tend to nominate it across the board.
Did “Women Talking” direct 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 directed acclaimed films this year — deserve way better than this.
‘The Woman King’ Completely Shut Out
As my colleague Candice Frederick has pointed out, this is the kind of movie that the Oscars would typically really go for: A sweeping historical epic with big and technically daring action sequences. (Case in point: the new German adaptation of World War I epic “All Quiet on the Western Front” garnered nine nominations on Tuesday morning.) Plus, “The Woman King” became a huge box-office hit in a transitional year for theatrical releases.
But wait, it was directed by a Black woman and stars an incredible cast of Black women (of them, Lashana Lynch especially deserved way more awards buzz than she got). So yeah, that explains it. So deeply demoralizing that this happens time and time again.
Viola Davis For Best Actress
See above. Though Davis has been nominated four times and won an Oscar before — and certainly has always demonstrated how much she’s a legend — the Academy keeps ignoring leading roles by Black women.
Case in point: On Tuesday morning, Angela Bassett was the only Black woman nominated for an acting award for her supporting role in the “Black Panther” sequel “Wakanda Forever.” It came a whole 30 years after her first (and until now, 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 Oscars, 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 Riseborough and de Armas’ surprise nominations pushed out Davis and Deadwyler. The latter delivered a remarkable and really challenging performance as Mamie Till-Mobley in “Till,” directed by Chinonye Chukwu. Depicting Till-Mobley’s journey to civil rights activism in the wake of her son’s brutal death, the movie received mixed reviews and was underseen, in part due to its tough subject matter. But Deadwyler’s work was undeniably great, and once again, it is abysmal to see no Black women nominated for leading roles.
‘Decision to Leave’ For Best International Film
Widely considered one of the frontrunners for Best International Film, South Korea’s “Decision to Leave” is the latest film from director Park Chan-wook (“The Handmaiden,” “Oldboy”). It’s a twisty, Hitchcock-inspired mystery about a detective, Hae-jun (Park Hae-il), who is investigating the murder of a man… and then starts falling for the man’s widow Seo-rae (Tang Wei), who is also a suspect in the case. It’s a gorgeously shot thriller with nods to classic film noir and mystery films. As both a highly entertaining and dramatic film, it’s a strange omission for the Academy, which has really embraced a wider range of international films in recent years.