Tuesday’s Oscar nominations brought the surprises many expected. Some met with joy, others with heartbreak.
Social media and awards circles have touted Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s Everything Everywhere All at Once as the undisputed frontrunners for most of awards season. With 11 leading nominations, it’s in an excellent position to win Best Picture Statuette for distributor A24, the same studio that put down the memorable ‘Moonlight’ fuss over ‘La La Land’ at the 2017 show. A24 led the day for studios with a staggering 18 nominations, followed by Netflix in second place with 16.
The multiverse flick landed the expected names for the acting — Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Stephanie Hsu — but showed in the crafted races like costume design, original score, and original song. However, the title of “one to beat” may pull the claws out of other studios and strategists who want to assert themselves. Remarkably, in the extended best picture era (since 2009), the film with the most Oscar nominations has only won four times – The Hurt Locker (2009), The King’s Speech (2010), Birdman (2014) and “The Shape of Water” (2017). But before Film Twitter takes the ball, that race is far from over, as influential industry groups like the DGA, BAFTA, PGA, and SAG still have to weigh in.
We love looking at the stats or prequels that usually dictate an Oscar winner. Still, many have been broken in this era, most recently with CODA (2021), which won without nominations for directing or any technical category, along with failures by DGA, which no film in modern times has been able to match.
In Tuesday’s nominations, we saw some of those precursors crumble.
The Best Actor race features all first-time nominees – Austin Butler (“Elvis”), Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”), Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”) and Bill Nighy (“Life”). That hasn’t happened since 1934’s three-person cast of Clark Gable, Frank Morgan, and William Powell. In terms of category winner, Butler, Farrell and Fraser each have a televised award, with BAFTA on the horizon. The UK voting bloc appears to favor Martin McDonagh’s Irish black comedy, which could give Farrell an advantage, but SAG will have the final say before final voting begins.
Aside from Farrell, Banshees was a strong performer which, based on traditional best picture standards, is the only other film outside of Everything Everywhere to have had the prequel makeup all the way. Though Martin McDonagh made up for directing Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), it’s difficult to find a clear path to Academy success for Banshees. The directing race looks like a battle between Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”) and the Daniels. The original script race is also favored for Everything Everywhere (although it falls short of best picture). The same British voting bloc that secured nine nominations for “Banshees” was able to coordinate with German war drama “All Quiet on the Western Front” and Palme d’Or winner “Triangle of Sadness.”
“All Quiet,” which tied for the second-highest spot with “Banshees,” became the third remake by a former Best Picture winner to win an award, following “Mutiny on the Bounty” (1962) and “West Side Story” (2021) . The inclusion of Edward Berger’s powerful drama sent Netflix a resounding sigh of relief after revealing the vulnerability of its other race-struggling titles, such as Glass Onion (only capable of a come up with an adapted script), “Guillermo del Toros Pinocchio” (unable to benefit from additional technologies) and “Bardo” (overcoming mixed reviews to snag cinematography).
Universal Pictures’ The Fablemans had a good morning to consider it a viable grand prize contender, with some flaws (such as cinematography and editing) that suggest the race is still on. Not only is Spielberg now the second most nominated director of all time with Martin Scorsese at nine, his personal drama also marks his 13th film to be nominated for Best Picture, tying William Wyler as director with the most nominated films.
For The Fabelmans, Michelle Williams crossed the finish line with her nomination for best actress. With no other industry awards up for grabs until Oscar night and the strong performances of her competitors Cate Blanchett (“Tár”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere”), she’s likely (at best) a distant third place.
Speaking of best actress, the shock of the day undoubtedly came from English star Andrea Riseborough for her role as a single mother from Texas who wins the lottery in Michael Morris’ drama To Leslie from indie distributor Momentum Pictures. The grassroots campaign kicked into high gear at the height of Oscar voting, where prominent members of the acting industry, including Amy Adams, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet, hosted screenings. Riseborough has garnered much respect from the Hollywood community and cinephiles, with roles in previous Best Picture winners such as Birdman (2014). Her capture is worthy of celebration and will likely inspire future campaigns by actors whose studios do not have the financial resources to run awards campaigns for their performers.
Austin Butler as Elvis Presley in “Elvis” © Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
“Elvis” performed as pundits had projected, picking up on multiple technologies but missing out on Baz Luhrmann. However, the Australian author is nominated for Best Picture as a producer alongside his wife Catherine Martin. Martin is also the most nominated woman of the year, with more nominations for production design and costumes both within reach for the four-time winner. The biopic about the King of Rock and Roll also garnered nominations for cinematographer Mandy Walker, who also received an ASC nomination. This comes after the day’s most shocking snub from Claudio Miranda for Top Gun: Maverick, who was seen as the favorite to walk away with the prize. With Roger Deakins’ “Empire of Light” and Darius Khondji’s “Bardo” as the only nominees for their films and Florian Hoffmeister (“Tár”) and James Friend (“All Quiet on the Western Front”), ASC is missing, the category is in transition . Only twice has a film without an ASC allusion won the film award – “Glory” (1989) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006).
Todd Field’s return to cinema after 16 years was warmly welcomed by the academy, with “Tár” garnering six massive nominations, including two for artists many were not expecting. Of course, this boosts Blanchett’s prize run to win her third statuette. Still, Yeoh was able to weave her way to the front of the tight race with the disappointing underperformance of the women of color in the lead actress after snubs from Viola Davis (“The Woman King”) and Danielle Deadwyler (“Till”).
Neon’s “Triangle of Sadness” managed to repeat the same nominating makeup as Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza” (2021). He received Original Screenplay and Direction nominations for Ruben Östlund, plus Best Picture (sadly without actress Dolly De Leon).
Also reminiscent of another unique Best Picture nominee, MGM/UAR’s “Women Talking” hobbled into the morning with just two Best Picture nominations and an adapted screenplay for Sarah Polley. Similarly, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man (2009) landed just one film and one original screenplay in the first year of best picture expansion to 10.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” © Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection
While the box office is robust for Avatar: The Way of Water, which recently surpassed $2 billion, it received a modest four mentions, fewer than the original’s nine nods. The other sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, started with six of them, with an adapted script. But of course a preference can be a movie like Top Gun’s best friend – as we know, the ‘most loved’ movie wins the best movie and not the ‘most popular’.
Other notable mentions include Judd Hirsch breaking the record for the longest gap between a first and second nomination long held by Henry Fonda. Hirsch’s first nomination for Ordinary People (1980) came 42 years before he applied to be a second supporting actor for The Fabelmans. Meanwhile, Angela Bassett’s nod for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever came with a different love of the craft and is likely to give the Dolby Theater an unbroken winning streak on March 12th.
Regarding the actual ceremony, the Academy has a gift in the original song race starring Lady Gaga (“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick”), Rihanna (“Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” ), David Byrne (“This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Sofia Carson (“Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman”) and the dancing sensations of NTR Jr. and Ram Charan (“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR”) on deck to (hopefully) all perform. Producers should curate the evening around these powerhouses.
For now, we’re venturing into an extended phase two.
The first winner predictions are below:
“Everything everywhere at once” (A24)
Steven Spielberg, “The Fablemans” (Universal Pictures)
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale” (A24)
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere at Once” (A24)
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere at Once” (A24)
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel Studios)
“Everything everywhere at once” (A24) – Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
“Women Speak” (MGM/UAR) – Sarah Polley
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Netflix) – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley
“Elvis” (Warner Bros.) – Catherine Martin, Karen Murphy, Bev Dunn
“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Netflix) – James Friend
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Marvel Studios) – Ruth Carter
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures) – Eddie Hamilton
Make-up and hair styling:
“The Batman” (Warner Bros.) – Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures) – Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount Pictures) – Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson and Scott R. Fisher
“The Fabelmans” (Universal Pictures) – John Williams
“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR” (Variance Films) – music by MM Keeravaani; Lyrics by Chandrabose
“All That Breathes” (HBO Documentaries/Sideshow) – Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer
“Silence on the Western Front” (Germany)
Animated short film:
“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” (Apple TV+) – Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud
Documentary short film:
“The Martha Mitchell Effect” (Netflix) – Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison
Live action short film:
“An Irish Farewell” (Floodlight Images) – Tom Berkeley and Ross White