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Oscar Nominations 2023 Snubs and Surprises: ‘The Woman King,’ Paul Dano, and More

What happened to Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, and all the women of "Women Talking"? Paul Mescal and "Everything Everywhere All at Once."

THE WOMAN KING, from left: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, 2022.  © TriStar Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Woman King”

©TriStar Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

If there is one thing that Oscars nominations morning teaches every year, it’s to never be too sure of a sure thing.

While it’s unsurprising that A24 breakout “Everything Everywhere All at Once” would lead the pack with 11 nominations going into the 95th Academy Awards, as it is pegged to be a Best Picture frontrunner, it is shocking to see crowdpleaser “The Woman King” come up empty-handed, with even Oscar winner Viola Davis not making the final cut for Best Actress.

For the 2023 Oscars, Academy members gave little regard to films directed by women. Was that at the expense of recognizing more international talent, with the German-language “All Quiet on the Western Front” taking a stunning nine nominations?

Some surprises were predictable: We knew that there were a few straggling, unpredictable slots, but didn’t know who would fill them. Now we know voters really did like “Triangle of Sadness,” and “Aftersun” captured enough attention for star Paul Mescal to receive a Best Actor nomination over Tom Cruise (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Tom Hanks (“A Man Called Otto”).

IndieWire dives into those nods and more, tracking the biggest snubs and surprises of this year’s Oscars nominations below.

The 95th Academy Awards air Sunday, March 12.

Snub: “The Woman King”

An A+ Cinemascore is not an easy feat, and a Toronto International Film Festival premiere often rockets projects into Best Picture contention, yet director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic received zero Oscar nominations. Many factors could have contributed to its snub, from bias against action films in Best Picture, to Andrea Riseborough’s last-minute grassroots campaign possibly knocking out perennial nominee Viola Davis. Films by Black or women directors received little attention from the Academy; being a Black woman director means being overlooked on two fronts.

Surprise: “Triangle of Sadness”

Going into nominations for the 95th Oscars, it felt impossible to pin down the 10th slot for Best Picture. Everything from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” to “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” to “RRR” was in the mix, but ultimately, the 2022 Palme D’Or winner that had a spot high up on early Best Picture predictions saw it through to the end — even getting a Best Director nomination for Ruben Östlund.

Snub: James Cameron, “Avatar: The Way of Water”

We were all told to never bet against the “Avatar” helmer, but while his epic sequel got a Best Picture nomination, former Best Director winner Cameron did not make the cut. He still has three more sequels to go, so maybe the 2029 Oscars will be his grand return.

Surprise: Paul Mescal, “Aftersun”

Until last week’s BAFTA nominations, the only big nomination for the “Aftersun” star by a televised awards show was the Critics Choice Awards — a group that does not overlap with Academy voters. Mescal not only beat out the aforementioned Toms, he also scored his nod over Screen Actors Guild nominee Adam Sandler (“Hustle”) and Golden Globe nominee Hugh Jackman (“The Son”) — quite the triumph for the 26-year-old.

Snub: Danielle Deadwyler, “Till”

Though her SAG nomination felt like a good indicator that the “Till” standout would be considered, her absence from the Best Actress category could likely be chalked up to voters being resistant toward watching a film about the Emmett Till tragedy, despite all the thought and care Deadwyler and director Chinonye Chukwu put into it being accessible to all.

Surprise: Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”

Welp, the viral campaign worked. Though her performance in the small indie has always been acclaimed, the push on social media to get her nominated right as voting was under way may be the new play for actors in little-seen work.

Snub: Paul Dano, “The Fabelmans”

In a reverse of the SAG nominations, Dano was left out of the Best Supporting Actor race, while his co-stars Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch both made it in. Voters did not respond to his character’s resistance to his son becoming a filmmaker, and sided with the artists in Steven Spielberg’s fictionalized version of his family.

Surprise: Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”

While is it a surprise for the “Atlanta” star to be nominated for his soulful performance in Apple TV+’s quiet gem “Causeway,” it might be even more surprising that this is his first Oscar nomination. The Academy showing the character actor some well-deserved love after scene-stealing turns in films like “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Widows.”

Snub and Surprise: No actors from “Women Talking”

Although most predicted this outcome by now, it is still a bit of a shock that Sarah Polley’s drama about a group of Mennonite women deciding to escape or fight their male terrorizers did not make it into the Best Supporting Actress category. However, the competition was stacked — and with that many amazing performances, the women of “Women Talking” may have canceled each other out.

Snub: Claudio Miranda, “Top Gun: Maverick”

Guild nominations and critics awards had given pretty much every indication that the director of photography for “Top Gun: Maverick” would not only receive a Best Cinematography nomination, but be a frontrunner in the category. However, with both Miranda and “Avatar: The Way of Water” cinematographer Russell Carpenter not making the cut, it seems this branch of voters was not quite looking for technical innovation when making their nomination choices.

Surprise: Florian Hoffmeister, “TÁR”

The director of photography for Todd Field’s epic portrait of a musical genius in decline was not on many people’s radar for the Best Cinematography category, but it is certainly an inspired choice. Take one look at Film Twitter, and one will see just about every frame of the two and a half hour film held up as a work of art.

Snub: Hannah Beachler, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

The first Black woman to both be nominated and win Best Production Design did not make it in this time around, even though she was key to bringing the new world of Talokan to life. One look at the nominations though shows that voters were much more interested in capturing a period in history rather than creating a whole new world.

Surprise: Rick Carter and Karen O’Hara, “The Fabelmans”

Although the film was expected to be an Oscars frontrunner since its People’s Choice Award at TIFF, production designer Rick Carter and set decorator Karen O’Hara were far from a guarantee for a Best Production Design nomination (the film just does not have the same huge setpieces as its fellow nominees). Still, it is notable how the pair brought to life three vastly different settings from the 50s and 60s, from an east coast cinema palace to a California teen beach party.

Snub: Hildur Guðnadóttir, “Women Talking”

The first solo female composer to ever win Best Score had trouble with the Academy this year every step of the way. First, she was told her work on “TÁR” did not qualify, but she still made the Best Original Score shortlist for her work on “Women Talking.” Though she seemed to be on an upswing, even if she did not ultimately win any critics awards, it is still a surprise that scoring two Best Picture nominees did not lead to her own nod.

Surprise: Son Lux, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

Sometimes a band, sometimes a solo moniker for musician Ryan Lott, Son Lux has been more of an experimental music staple than a go-to for scoring films. Their only previous soundtrack work was for “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” a film that did not receive any Oscars nominations. Best Original Score is not an easy category to break into, especially over a few past winners that were in contention, but love for A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” helped Son Lux break new ground.

Snub: “Ciao Papa”— Guillermo del Toro, Alexandre Desplat, and Roeban Katz (“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio”)

Desplat in particular is another big snub within Best Original Score, but it looks like the Academy was just not in love with the musical aspect of “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” in general. Standout track “Ciao Papa” was expected to charm the voters, but one could assume its chances were swallowed by Monstro nominations lead “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Surprise: “This Is a Life”— David Byrne, Ryan Lott, and Mitski (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Maybe it is unwise to count out the legendary David Byrne, especially for a song from a movie that was clearly a Best Picture favorite beforehand, but it just wasn’t getting recognized by the same indicators as other songs. The Original Song nomination makes Son Lux’s Ryan Lott a double nominee as well, and gives indie music darling Mitski her first Oscar nomination, so this one unexpected nod brings much to celebrate.

Snub and Surprise: Netflix in Best Animated Feature

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” seemed like a given, with how the director tends to exceed Oscars nominations expectations with every project, and how this Netflix film is the magnum opus of his animation work, but the streaming service also getting in for “The Sea Beast” was a bit of a shock. The film from “Big Hero 6” director Chris Williams just entered the awards race so early that it felt as if other big Netflix animation projects like “Wendell and Wild” or “My Father’s Dragon” would eclipse it.

Snub: “Decision to Leave

The past couple years saw the Academy begin to embrace East Asian cinema in a way it never has before. Yes, “Parasite” winning Best Picture and Best Director was the ultimate triumph, but the nominations last year for “Drive My Car” looked like it cemented the region as an Oscars powerhouse. Everything seemed teed up for the Academy to finally recognize Park Chan-wook in a big way, a filmmaker that has been a favorite of cinephiles across the world since 2003’s “Oldboy,” but has never made anything quite accessible enough for even his home country of South Korea to put in contention for Best International Feature Film. While his neo-noir did finally get that recognition from Korea, coming out of an award-winning run at Cannes last year, the film may have proven to be too stylized for Oscars voters, and therefore was not nominated at all.

Surprise: “The Quiet Girl”

Consider Ireland’s submission for Best International Feature Film the biggest success story to come out of December’s Academy shortlists. The drama directed by Colm Bairéad never made the same noise as international film festival premieres like “Bardo” (Mexico) and “Saint Omer” (France), but caught the eye of curious voters upon its inclusion on the International category’s shortlist, and got in right in the nick of time.

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