Takeaways from the Oscar nominations: heavy hitters rewarded, plus some surprises
The Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday morning, and most of the heavy hitters were richly rewarded. A man was nominated for playing a doll; a woman was nominated for playing a baby (sort of). Ten pictures will vie to be considered best. Let's talk about what happened.
All hail Oppenheimer. Whether Christopher Nolan is your speed or not, the Academy loves him. Oppenheimer, his drama about the man who developed the atomic bomb, led all films with 13 nominations in both what are sometimes considered "major" categories (like best picture, best director, best actor and adapted screenplay) and "technical" categories (like sound, production design, and visual effects). It's not a record; a couple of other films, including Titanic, have received 14. Still, it's a very big total. In another year, Poor Things' 11 nominations orKillers of the Flower Moon's 10 might have led the nominations. But not up against this kind of — forgive the phrase — explosive acclaim.
A couple of contenders came up empty or nearly so. There were a lot of films that elbowed their way into big nominations; that's what you get when you start with 10 best picture nominees. But both Origin, the latest film from director Ava DuVernay, and All of Us Strangers, the love story starring Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, were left out of the nominations. The Color Purplemusical adaptation was nominated only for Danielle Brooks' supporting performance — a richly deserved nod, by the way.
A lot of the acting nominees are first-timers. There are 10 first-time acting nominees: Emily Blunt (Oppenheimer), Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple), Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction), Colman Domingo (Rustin), America Ferrera (Barbie), Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), Sandra Hüller (Anatomy of a Fall), Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer), Da'Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers) and Jeffrey Wright (American Fiction). They're a fascinating mix of familiar good actors who you might be surprised are first-timers (Blunt, Domingo, Wright, Murphy), folks who did great work on television before they got much recognition in film (Ferrera, Brown, Brooks), and people who probably feel like relative newcomers to a lot of Oscar voters even though they are emphatically not (Gladstone, Randolph, Hüller).
One woman director is in, a couple of others are out. French filmmaker Justine Triet was nominated for best director for Anatomy of a Fall, the devastating story of a woman suspected of being responsible for the death of her husband. But both Greta Gerwig, who directed the much-nominated Barbie,and Celine Song, who directed the beautiful best picture nominee Past Lives,were left out of the category. Both their lead actresses, Margot Robbie and Greta Lee, went without nominations in that category, too.
Barbenheimer turned out fine for everybody. It's funny to look back now and remember that the showdown between Barbie and Oppenheimer, because they opened the same weekend, was ever treated as any kind of either-or competition that would have a single victor. They both made a ton of money, though Barbie made more; they both received a bunch of Oscar nominations, though Oppenheimer received more. (Barbie had eight, including one for Ryan Gosling's extraordinarily silly supporting work as Ken. More true comedy nominations, please!) They were very different kinds of "event" pictures we could stand to have more of: well-made, surprising, vibrant and memorable, in completely different ways.
International films continue to perform well. In 2018, Alfonso Cuarón's Roma was only the fifth non-English-language film to ever be nominated for both best international film and best picture. But just since then, there have been four more: Parasite, Drive My Car, All Quiet on the Western Front and now The Zone of Interest, the disturbing study of a family living happily just outside the walls of Auschwitz, where the father is commandant. The short version? There's no longer any reason to suspect that a film with subtitles won't be nominated for best picture, which is a great development.
John Williams and Thelma Schoonmaker set (or keep extending) records. Williams, who has written much of the most beloved rousing movie music of the last 60 or so years, received his 54th nomination for the score of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. It's more nominations than any other living person has. And Schoonmaker, longtime collaborator of Martin Scorsese, became the most nominated editor ever when she was recognized for the ninth time, for his film Killers of the Flower Moon. (She's won for Raging Bull, The Aviator and The Departed.) Both Williams and Schoonmaker are examples of essential collaborators without whom celebrated directors could not do their work, whether they're making tragic epics or swashbuckling adventures.
Want to catch up on last year? Here's what NPR critics picked as the best movies and TV of 2023.
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