Best Actress Nominees Are Bizarre Step Backward

Today’s Oscars nominations included a handful of lovely surprises (Paul Mescal, Brian Tyree Henry, Stephanie Hsu!) and some more, well, befuddling picks like Top Gun: Maverick for Best Adapted Screenplay (I blame Scientology!). However, out of all the surprises and snubs, it’s this year’s crop of Best Actress nominees that has truly broken the internet. It turns out that Courteney Cox and Joe Mantegna urging the Academy to consider Andrea Riseborough actually worked. And apparently, only one woman of color can compete for Best Actress every year.

Let’s start with the good news. It looks like we can still count on a showdown between frontrunners Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All At Once and Cate Blanchett for Tár, who were both nominated. I would personally love to see a tie between these two acting titans, the first since Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand split the Academy’s votes evenly in 1969.

“PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 05: Danielle Deadwyler poses in the press room during with an award during the 2023 Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Night Gala at Palm Springs Convention Center on January 05, 2023 in Palm Springs, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)”

Kevin Winter

However, if Yeoh, who won Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy at this year’s Golden Globes, takes home the prize, she would be the first Asian woman to win Best Actress and only the second woman of color in the history of the category, after Halle Berry more than 20 years ago. Both statistics are equally embarrassing for the Academy, but her potential win will nevertheless be a joyous occasion.

We also have Michelle Williams for The Fabelmans, who was noticeably absent from this year’s crop of Screen Actors Guild Awards contenders. The SAGs are considered the main bellwether for Oscars nominees, even more than the Golden Globes.

However, it seems like Academy voters like just about everything about The Fabelmans, as it racked up seven nominations. It would honestly be rude if they ignored our favorite Dawson’s Creek actor. Glad she was able to pull a K-Stew!

On the other hand, always-reliable English actress Andrea Riseborough managed to summon nearly every actor in Hollywood—including her competition!—for a last-minute Best Actress campaign that has now manifested in an Oscar nomination. So maybe we shouldn’t count her out as a possible surprise win, a la Olivia Coleman beating Glenn Close at 2019’s ceremony.

Is this likely? Not really. I’m assuming that voters will expect Riseborough to simply appreciate the nomination. Still, this woman’s influence over Hollywood is certainly something to behold. The power of being a decent person, I’m assuming, and, of course, being white.

Now, let’s get into the controversy. As one of the few people on the planet who did not ardently hate the movie Blonde and thoroughly enjoyed Ana de Armas’ take on Marilyn Monroe, I’m pretty thrilled that she made the cut. (Fight me!) However, the internet couldn’t be less enthused about the Cuban actress presumably taking a spot from two Black women: Danielle Deadwyler for his heart-wrenching performance in Till and Viola Davis’s critically acclaimed work in The Woman King. To semi-quote Taylor Swift defending her VMA nomination over Nicki Minaj that one year, maybe one of the (other) white women took their spots!

Regardless, snubbing two of the only Black actresses in Oscars contention this year is downright embarrassing and speaks to the Academy’s inability to accept Black actresses as leading women and not just side characters.

Likewise, it’s not a surprise that there’s only one Black woman, Angela Bassett for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, amongst this year’s acting nominees, in the Supporting Actress Category. Historically, it’s the only place you can expect Black women tend to sweep at the Oscars (and not just because we’re often playing maids). I guess the Academy looked at Yeoh and de Armas, a white Latina, on their ballots and thought, “That’s enough diversity for today!”

Still, good for Yeoh, who has taken all of her Best Actress campaign opportunities to shit on Hollywood for being racist and ageist. We can only hope her potential Oscars speech is just as brutally honest and impolite!

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