Oscars 2023 Nominations: The Most Shocking Snubs and Surprises

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The Oscars 2023 nominations are finally here and wow, didn’t see some of those coming. Announced by Allison Williams and Riz Ahmed in the Academy’s first telecast of the nominations since 2020, many of the honorees for next month’s ceremony were spot-on according to our predictions (including All Quiet on the Western Front quietly gathering its flowers out of proportion to the buzz the title has gotten so far), but there are always shocks to be found on Oscar noms morning. Read on for our awards expert’s analysis of this years biggest snubs and surprises.

WTF: Best Actress

We knew something was going on here. Most of us weren’t bold enough to predict the thing would happen, but math alone indicated it was a possibility: After dozens of A-list actors—who just so happen to be voters in the Academy’s acting branch—started vaulting the performance of Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie just before Oscar voting kicked off, the possibility of a tiny indie breaking through the year’s most competitive category started appearing, well, possible. But who would she kick out? Michelle Williams, after she missed out on a SAG nomination? Ana de Armas, who surprisingly got one? No, the Fabelmans matriarch and Blonde star still both made the cut. Instead, the discovery of the season, Danielle Deadwyler, is a heartbreaking snub for Till—a fate forecast by her Golden Globes snub—and Viola Davis feels like an outrageous one for The Woman King, given that she didn’t miss anywhere and she’s pretty much Hollywood royalty. We’ll have more on that latter snub in a minute, but for now: Consider Academy campaigning completely turned on its head. To Leslie had absolutely no FYC machine until the absolute last minute—a coordinated strategy, no matter what anyone tells you, that paid off in remarkable fashion.

Surprise: Everything Everywhere All at Once Does Even Better Than We Thought

Look, this A24 phenomenon has been a best picture front-runner for months now. But it’s very unusual for a film made on an independent budget to pull off a double-digit nominations tally—and lead all films in the final count. But that’s exactly what Everything Everywhere All at Once did, nabbing four acting nominations, recognition in both writing and directing for filmmakers Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and surprise mentions below the line for everything from best original song to costume design. If you don’t have this one out front to win it all, well, let’s just say you might be playing catchup.

Snub: The Woman King (Everywhere)

The Gina Prince-Bythewood historial epic premiered to very strong reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival and was one of the few theatrical bright spots at this fall’s box office. So what happened? Signs have indicated for a while now that the movie simply wasn’t clicking with industry voters. The Academy is always tougher on genre, but still, to not even have nominated Davis’s titanic and transformative lead performance feels a little like rubbing salt in the wound.

Snub: She Said (Everywhere, but Especially Screenplay)

When the Harvey Weinstein exposé drama debuted at the New York Film Festival, critics were favorable and at least one nomination seemed safe—adapted screenplay, for Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s humane take on the book of the same name by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. But the film’s disappointing theatrical bow in November all but decimated its awards momentum—a feeling cemented by this morning’s nominations, as She Said was snubbed across the board. For a voting body that usually loves to highlight its industry, the blanking appears especially stark.

Surprise: Women Talking (Picture)

On a slightly brighter note for female-directed films. Never underestimate the power of a SAG ensemble nomination. Like The Woman King, the chances for Sarah Polley’s powerful and intimate drama to crack the top category had been dwindling by the day, but its recognition from the actors’ union signified that the support was there from the Academy’s largest pull of voters to get it over the top. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened, with Polley also nominated for her adapted screenplay. And thank goodness: If Women Talking weren’t nominated for best picture, well, this would’ve been the first time in the Academy’s history that they nominated 10 movies for best picture without one of them being directed by a woman. We can’t call that progress, exactly, but it’s something!

Surprise: Brian Tyree Henry (Supporting Actor)

There’s always one or two actors who can’t seem to hit any precursor awards group but still find the passion to show up on nominations morning. A few did—see Riseborough up top—but Brian Tyree Henry was particularly active on the campaign trail for his rich, layered work in Causeway opposite Jennifer Lawrence, and deserved a place in the conversation even as everyone from SAG to the Golden Globes kept passing him by. It’s one of the most delightful, deserved surprises of the morning, especially given that the quiet Apple TV+ film made no waves otherwise. It’s a testament to just how good he was.

Snub: Pinocchio (Everywhere but Animated Feature)

Netflix pushed Guillermo del Toro’s stunning stop-motion take on the iconic character in a number of directions, from Alexandre Desplat’s score to the screenplay the director cowrote with Patrick McHale. In the end the movie could only show up once, for best animated feature. Del Toro has spent much of his time on the trail this season advocating for animated films to be considered on an equal playing field with live-action in the context of awards. We’ve clearly got a ways to go.

Surprise: Ruben Östlund, Triangle of Sadness (Director) 

I’d been hearing from Academy members about how much they loved Triangle of Sadness at just about every event I attended this season. Still, something held me back from predicting its Cannes-winning filmmaker Ruben Östlund from actually pulling off dual writing and directing nods. In the end, the Swedish auteur pulled it off despite a divisive critical reaction, a real triumph for the movie’s studio, Neon, and yet another reminder of just how international this voting body—and especially the directors’ branch—has gotten. All Quiet on the Western Front’s Edward Berger seemed like the more obvious directing pick, but let’s be honest—this is a group that always goes their own way. They’ve done so yet again. 

Snub: Decision to Leave (International Feature, Director)

The Triangle surge particularly came at the expense of one deserving underdog. Park Chan-wook was being talked up as a surprise director nominee back when Decision to Leave won him the directing prize at Cannes. At minimum, the Korean master’s crafty homage to romantic noir felt assured of a nod for best international feature. But the Academy ignored him altogether, missing a chance to give one of the global cinema scene’s most reliably singular auteurs an overdue Oscars moment.

Surprise: Tár Outperforms The Fabelmans (Editing, Cinematography)

The Academy is changing, and while these kinds of categories don’t get as much attention in the big picture, they’re worth zeroing in on for evidence as to why: Most assumed voters would go for the classically beautiful stylings of The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s cinematic memoir, especially over the austere and deliberately immersive work on Todd Field’s Tár. Yet the latter drama—the preference of international cinephiles, if you will—took Fabelmans’ assumed spots in both editing and cinematography, a testament to its strength as a contender and to the Academy’s increasingly idiosyncratic tastes.

Surprise: Bardo (Cinematography)

Back in Venice, Bardo was one of Netflix’s top overall awards contenders of the year. By the time Williams and Ahmed announced best international feature, and Bardo didn’t make the cut, the endpoint of its precipitous decline as a player felt assuredly grim. It’s still among Iñárritu’s worst-performing films with the Academy, but it did pull off a surprise single nomination in the end, for Darius Khondji’s surreal and painterly cinematography. So much went into this semi-autobiographical drama, you have to sense some relief that it was recognized somewhere.

Snub: Paul Dano, The Fabelmans (Supporting Actor)

I predicted that this might happen, but it’s still a general surprise given the way the winds were blowing: Paul Dano missed out on a nomination for best supporting actor—we can now consider the There Will Be Blood alum very overdue—with his Fabelmans costar Judd Hirsch leapfrogging him to his first Academy recognition in decades. Hirsch missed out with everyone from SAG to BAFTA, but is the kind of industry veteran the industry tends to go for; Dano falling out in his favor recalls Caitriona Balfe missing out to Judi Dench at the last minute last year for Belfast, another case of a TIFF Audience Winner simply not having the legs to pull off multiple category nominations.

Surprise: All Quiet on the Western Front (Everywhere)

I remember being at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Netflix’s German war drama premiered, and hearing faintly that this movie had the goods to be a real contender. I didn’t quite believe it, if only because the noise was so much louder for the streamer’s other contenders, all of which—at best—earned single nominations today: Bardo, White Noise, Glass Onion, Blonde, the then-yet-to-premiere Pinocchio. But the crafts segment of the Academy elevated this movie to top-tier contender, just as happened at BAFTA, and it’s now one of the most nominated titles of the year. The Academy loves a war movie, so this bloody epic scratched that itch. But the groundswell of industry support cannot be understated, even if the result isn’t as shocking today as it would’ve seemed even a month ago.

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