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Column: What this year's Oscar nominations should've looked like

Frankie Corio, left, and Paul Mescal in “Aftersun,” directed by Charlotte Wells. Photo Courtesy of A24/TNS.

Well, they're finally here. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 95th Academy Awards on Tuesday. 

A good deal went right. 

Paul Mescal was recognized for his outstanding performance in "Aftersun," earning a Best Actor nomination alongside the wonderful work of Brendan Fraser, Colin Farrell and Austin Butler. "All Quiet on the Western Front" got the love it deserves, tying with "The Banshees of Inisherin" for second-most nominations earned with nine each. And the Best Picture nominees almost all make sense for once. 

Almost... "Close" should have been nominated over "Avatar," but I'll probably have to write a whole column about that later. 

But, as always, a good deal didn't go right. 

There were... interesting nominations and there were outright snubs. So, let's enter the wonderful world of awards-show whining to see where it all went wrong. 

Best Actress

The biggest awards always come with the biggest controversy, and this one is well-earned. 

2023 marks yet another year where no Black actresses were nominated for their field's top prize. The most notable potential nominees were Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler for their performances in "The Woman King" and "Till," respectively.

Deadwyler's performance as the mother of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955 and whose death was a catalyst for civil rights reform, was particularly moving. The passion and love she poured into the portrayal of a grief-stricken mother left one feeling genuinely devastated, and the determination to prevent the senseless tragedy her character had gone through from ever happening again was moving in a way that really surprised me when watching.

I, like most others, have yet to see Andrea Riseborough's performance in "To Leslie." A very quick but effective campaign saw the small indie film earn a surprise nomination, so I won't count her out without watching it first.

But could a nomination have been spared to Deadwyler instead of Ana de Armas, who starred as Marilyn Monroe in the widely derided "Blonde"? I think it should have. 

'Decision to Leave'

The Korean romance mystery "Decision to Leave" basically came into Tuesday as a sure-fire pick to earn a nomination for Best International Feature. The cautiously crafted, ridiculously layered film was even in talks for a potential Best Picture nod. 

That's why everyone was stunned to see it come away with nothing. I was at a loss. 

Zero. How? 

The cinematography and directing were outstanding, captivating viewers all throughout a runtime far longer than most filmmakers can handle. The performances were sensational, with Tang Wei making a name for herself on the global stage with her role as the seductive yet elusive female lead. The writing was tight, smart and moving all at once. 

It's one thing when an international film can't be nominated because its country didn't submit it as its official selection for the award, like India so confusingly chose not to do with "RRR." But "Decision to Leave" was on the shortlist of 15 potential nominees. It was right there. All they had to do was give it a chance.

And they failed.


Speaking of a film that should have been nominated for multiple awards for Best Picture but wasn't Charlotte Wells' directorial debut was not treated particularly kindly by the Academy. 

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Mescal's nomination was the least they could do. But Wells herself should have gotten a nod for Best Directing for the way she was able to wring such raw emotion out of him and his co-star Frankie Corio.

The cinematography was lovely with the innovative glimpses through protagonist-wielded camcorders and shooting on 35mm film really hammering home the nostalgic, homey feel of this subtle, beautifully crafted odyssey.

Hopefully, the film is recognized for its many strengths in auxiliary awards shows, because justice will not come for it on Hollywood's biggest night.  

Technical awards

This is where the Academy usually delivers its most disappointing decisions, and this year is no different.

The most glaring omission in the technical categories was "Tár" not being nominated for Best Sound. 

This was an absolute slam dunk for the Academy. It's a movie about Lydia Tár, a fictional world-famous conductor, and her orchestra in which the silence of the concert hall, the lilting melodies of Elgar's cello concerto and the multitudes of Mahler's Fifth were all balanced to perfection. Vast silences magnified the guilt Tár felt for her abuses of power and her manipulation of her subordinates. Tiny sounds, a refrigerator alarm or a metronome (a metronome!), literally kept her up at night. 

I mean, come on, now. Was it too on the nose? Were they confused? Do they need help? 

I can see how nominating "Tár" for Best Score, though merited, could have been a bit much for them, so I can forgive them for not doing so. But I can't piece together how the music in "The Batman" wasn't recognized.

Michael Giacchino's score punctuated the action with bombastic accents and lent a truly sinister air to the caped crusader and the foes he faced. I stayed through the whole end credits just to listen to "Sonata in Darkness." I thought this would be the only thing standing in the way of Justin Hurwitz earning his third Oscar for the score in "Babylon." 

Nominating "Elvis" for Best Editing was also a choice.

Director Baz Lurhmann has always had a flair for the dramatic. (See, this is an understatement. Something he's clearly incapable of doing.) I felt like I needed a handrail to hold on to while I watched this draining, nearly three-hour-long biopic, and that was largely due to the jump-cutting disaster that was the film's editing. The constant transition to shots that were unnecessary aesthetic flourishes greatly undermined the spectacular performance from Austin Butler as The King, and that's putting it nicely. 

But given that the Academy has already handed this award to the disastrous, meme-worthy editing of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 2019, I'm afraid I can't rule out "Elvis" taking this one home.

These aren't the only spots where the Academy may have made mistakes. Chinonye Chukwu and S.S. Rajamouli could have been nominated for Best Director for "Till" and "RRR," respectively. "Close" could have had at least five nods. 

The beauty of Awards season, though, is that these are just nominations, a way to recognize the greatness that the year in film has presented us. Fortunately, the Academy acknowledged much of that greatness this year. 

But the Academy does not know all. And this is yet another year where that fact was made painfully clear.