2023 Oscar Nomination Snubs and Surprises: 18 Most Shocking Nominees

Tuesday morning marked the return of Hollywood’s most hallowed tradition: waking up hours before the sun rises on the west coast and screaming into a pillow following the announcement of the Academy Awards nominations.

Yet as we assembled our reaction to this year’s list, we came away with the biggest surprise of all: All things considered, the nominees aren’t that bad! That’s a statement made with dozens of caveats, of course. (They’re not bad in the context of the seemingly arbitrary crop of movies and performers who had been deemed serious contenders. Believe me, there are plenty of personal favorites that I wish were here instead.)

That said, there were a slew of unexpected nominees from smaller films—Brian Tyree Henry for Causeway!—and strong showings by deserving hopefuls that some pundits worried would get the shaft, like Women Talking and Triangle of Sadness.

Everything Everywhere All at Once led this year’s nominees with 11, followed by All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin with nine each. (See the full list here.)

Now that we’re done being nice, it’s time to rant. Here’s our rundown of the biggest talking points, snubs, and surprises of the 2023 Oscar nominations.

SURPRISE: Andrea Riseborough and Ana de Armas in Best Actress

The last-minute push to land Andrea Riseborough a Best Actress nod for To Leslie was met with snickering online, with the onslaught of public support from (white) A-list Hollywood suddenly praising her film. Whatever you think of the strategy, it clearly worked, as Riseborough was on no one’s prediction lists until the very last days of voting, thanks to this 11th-hour campaign. As for Ana de Armas, maybe her nomination was more expected, given her precursor mentions. But considering how extremely polarizing Blonde was—the people who didn’t like it haaaaated it—it’s still somewhat surprising to see her overcome that.

SNUB: Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler in Best Actress

Riseborough and de Armas landing in Best Actress meant that two women who were considered sure things did not: Viola Davis for The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler for Till. Davis, a former winner and four-time nominee who had been nominated at every precursor, was considered all but a sure-thing prior for a nomination Tuesday morning, while Deadwyler had the passionate critical support that led many to predict her in this category. To skip over the two Black actresses in contention, given the Academy’s recent history, is certainly a look…

SURPRISE: Best Actor Restrains Itself From the Toms

There were four easy locks in the Best Actor race: Austin Butler, Colin Farrell, Brendan Fraser, and Bill Nighy. Many people thought that Paul Mescal could and should nab the fifth slot for Aftersun. But the Academy is notorious for overlooking young male stars in favor of veterans in Best Actor. That meant that pundits were predicting Tom Cruise for Best Picture nominee Top Gun: Maverick or even Tom Hanks, for the mixed-reviewed A Man Called Otto. But it was Mescal who got in. (Hell yeah!)

SURPRISE: Michelle Williams Gets In!

The announcement that Michelle Williams would be competing in Best Actress for The Fabelmans was a head-scratcher. Not only did it feel like a supporting role, but the five-time nominated actress would have instantly been the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actress. Throughout the season, she was overlooked in Best Actress at several key precursors, leading some to believe the Academy, which clearly loves her, would choose to instead nominate her in the supporting category where she belonged—or perhaps snub her completely. In the end, the original plan worked: She made it into Best Actress after all.

SURPRISE: Stephanie Hsu Joins Her Co-Star Jamie Lee Curtis

Stephanie Hsu, who was such a discovery and easily the breakout star of this award season, may not be the world’s biggest surprise as a Best Supporting Actress nominee. She had been nominated alongside her Everything Everywhere All at Once co-star Jamie Lee Curtis at many precursor awards. But pundits wondered whether the Academy would nominate both the veteran actress, who scored her first career nod, and the newcomer—and felt Hsu would be more likely to miss if they only went with one.

SURPRISE: Hong Chau Gets in for The Whale

The thing about Hong Chau is that she is usually the best part of any project she’s a part of—and has been criminally overlooked and taken for granted. That ends now that she’s an Oscar nominee for The Whale, following a banner year that included a delectable scene-stealing turn in The Menu. The Whale was a polarizing film, to say the least, and Best Supporting Actress had strong competition, so this nomination was never a done deal.

SNUB: The Women Who Were Talking

If Hsu and Chau weren’t guaranteed slots in the Best Supporting Actress category, it’s because Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy, the two standout supporting players from Women Talking, were buzzed about as strong contenders. But as Sarah Polley’s film was such an ensemble piece, selecting which cast member to single out was always going to be a difficult task for voters.

SNUB: Dolly de Leon Misses Out for Triangle of Sadness

Filipino actress Dolly de Leon commits grand larceny with the second act of Triangle of Sadness, absolutely stealing what was already an outrageous film. She’d been a critics’ favorite all season, and, given how many nominations Triangle of Sadness eked out—including Best Picture and Best Director—it’s a shame that the wave of love didn’t carry her to a Best Supporting Actress nod.

SURPRISE: Brian Tyree Henry Gets for Causeway

Every year (hopefully) there’s at least one nomination that makes you clap your hands and softly coo “yay!” to yourself, because it’s such a lovely and deserving nod—the kind that years of Academy nonsense makes you skeptical the organization would notice. Brian Tyree Henry’s beautiful, but unshowy work in Causeway is just that.

SNUB: Paul Dano for The Fabelmans

The assumption was that the Academy would swoon so hard over Steven Spielberg’s love letter to the movies/himself with The Fabelmans that both Paul Dano and Judd Hirsch would land nods in Best Supporting Actor. Voters went with the veteran actor, giving Hirsh his first nod in over 40 years.

SURPRISE: The Auteurs Trump the Blockbusters in Best Director

James Cameron did not get nominated for Best Director for Avatar: The Way of the Water and I’m sure he’s being totally chill about it. Neither did Joseph Kosinski, who expertly helmed Top Gun: Maverick to apparent movie-industry-saving status. Instead, voters went artsy, choosing Todd Field for Tár and, in more of a surprise, Ruben Östlund for Triangle of Sadness.

SURPRISE: My Year of Dicks in Best Animated Short

The shorts categories at the Oscars usually signify bathroom breaks for an audience wholly unfamiliar with the nominees. This year’s Animated Short list makes a case for staying tuned in, if just to hear a celebrity read the names of nominee My Year of Dicks, followed by An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake, and I Think I Believe It. May all of Hollywood embrace Animated Short filmmakers’ idea of what makes a great movie title.

SNUB: Decision to Leave in Best International Feature

Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave was one of the most critically hailed films of the year and considered one of the strongest contenders in the Best International Feature, especially considering the director’s acclaim and pedigree. Ireland’s entry The Quiet Girl made it in instead.

SURPRISE: Oscar Also-Rans in Best Cinematography

Once upon a time, before anyone had seen the films, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Bardo and Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light, were, on paper, pegged as award-season frontrunners. Then people did see the (terrible) films, and, as the race went on, their hopes for attention fizzled. So it’s a bit of a surprise, then, to see both appear in Best Cinematography.

SURPRISE: Women Talking Over The Whale in Best Picture

One film is great. The other is not. When it comes to the Academy, that has never mattered. Suffice it to say, this is a very good surprise.

SNUB: Nope Shut Out Completely

This movie is so good. The writing is good. The directing is good. The acting is so good. I understand that “genre” is not the Academy’s typical thing. And I think that is very shitty of the Academy!

SNUB: RRR in Major Categories

You can tell that Academy voters really don’t watch everything, because if they did, the ebullient treat that is RRR would be all over the place, especially in Best Picture and Best Director. At least we can relish that its spectacular “Naatu Naatu” landed a deserved Original Song nod. Next stop: Winning.

SURPRISE: All Quiet on the Western Front Is Loud and Everywhere

Just weeks ago, All Quiet on the Western Front had little visible presence in the awards race, save for some scattered Best International Feature nods. Then the Netflix film completely dominated the BAFTA nominations and suddenly every pundit had it leading their Oscar predictions, including, all of a sudden, in Best Picture. The German film made good on the last-minute surge in momentum, scoring nine total nods (including that Best Picture mention), behind only Everything Everywhere All at Once for the highest tally.

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