With another year comes another round of Academy Award nominations, and as usual, it would be impossible not to have heard of the hype surrounding them and the predictions for who will win. Among the nominated works and performances are the Irish film The Banshees of Inisherin (Best Score, Film, Original Screenplay) the Michelle Yeoh-led Everything Everywhere All at Once (which has a whopping 11 nominations, including Score, Lead and Supporting Actresses), The Whale (which has nominations for Hair and Makeup, and Best Actor for Brendan Fraser) and Elvis (Editing and Best Actor for Austin Butler).
With these nominations come some noticeable observations and surprises over who was acknowledged and who was snubbed. For starters, none of the best director nominees are women, a first in three years. Despite the fact that women have been nominated in other categories besides Best Actress (namely Best Song for Lady Gaga and Rihanna for Top Gun: Maverick and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, respectively), potential female contenders for the director award have been overlooked by the voting body. The Woman King, which is based on the female warriors of the African kingdom of Dahomey in the 19th century, received no acknowledgement in any category, and nobody nominated the Chinonye Chuku-helmed Till, about the mother of Emmett Till and her journey for justice for her lynched son, either.
On a more positive side, however, there have been pleasant surprises and diverse nominations in other categories. The most recent revelation from this year’s nominations is Andrea Riseborough for her performance in under-the-radar drama To Leslie, which can be attributed to the many praises it’s received on social media from high-profile actors such as Edward Norton, Cate Blanchett and Gwyneth Paltrow. However, with this unexpected nod comes a double-edged sword; the Academy conducted an investigation into whether or not the campaigning broke any rules regarding nominations. It didn’t, thankfully, but nonetheless, there are those who feel that this came at the expense of potential nods for Black actors Viola Davis (who played the lead in The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till). The director of Till went as far as to call the snubbing misogynistic towards Black women.
The nominations we do have this year speak to previous academy award nominees. We have the usual suspects in the drama category (The Banshees of Inisherin, To Leslie, All Quiet on the Western Front), as well as those (loosely) based on significant figures from history (the aforementioned Elvis and unexpectedly, Blonde, which is up for a Best Actress nomination for Ana de Armas). The nomination board has also given nods to action film Top Gun: Maverick (Best Picture), as well as sci-fi films Avatar: The Way of Water (Best Picture, Sound, Visual Effects and Production Design) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Best Costume Design, Hair and Makeup, Visual Effects and Supporting Actress), as well as Everything Everywhere All at Once.
In past years, films in the sci-fi and fantasy genres have usually only been nominated for categories such as make-up and hair, special/visual effects and costume design, rather than for the actors or directors. This treatment of these outlier genres as lesser and unworthy of being deemed ‘true art’ is known as placing them in the ‘sci-fi ghetto’ or the ‘fantasy ghetto’. However, since the first Black Panther movie was nominated for Best Picture as well as winning Best Costume design, this is slowly, but surely, ceasing to be the case, especially now that the powerhouse and past nominee Angela Bassett has received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance as Queen Mother Ramonda. This is also the first time ever that an actor of any gender has been nominated by the Academy Awards in a Marvel movie, which I consider to be a major step in acknowledging that sci-fi and fantasy films have just as much merit performance-wise compared to their dramatic, contemporary counterparts.
Now we just have to wait and see who will win which awards when the ceremony takes place on March 12. Who will come out on top and who will leave with nothing? Hopefully the winners will not be overshadowed by any occurrences like the slap that Will Smith gave Chris Rock last year for joking about the former's wife Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia.