This year’s Oscar nominations were announced on Tuesday morning, by Zazie Beets and Jack Quaid (demonstrating that Quaid truly is in everything these days), including the following music categories:
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)
AMERICAN FICTION - Laura Karpman
INDIANA JONES AND THE DIAL OF DESTINY - John Williams
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Robbie Robertson
OPPENHEIMER - Ludwig Göransson
POOR THINGS - Jerskin Fendrix
This is the first nomination for Fendrix, Karpman and Robertson. Karpman is still among the very few female composers nominated for their original scores, following winners Rachel Portman and Hildur Guonadottir and nominee Germaine Franco (Jackie nominee Mica Levi identifies as non-binary). Robertson passed away on August 9th of last year. His is not even the first posthumous original score nomination, as Victor Young (Around the World in 80 Days) and Alfred Newman (Airport) passed away before their final nominations. It is the third nomination for Göransson, and the 54th (!) for Williams. Göransson seems the likely winner, unless the Academy feels that Williams deserves a sixth one, especially since his last win was 30 years ago (for Schindler’s List). I believe I’m not the only Williams devotee who feels that Dial of Destiny is a less-than-classic Williams score, so I’m hoping sentiment does not win out (especially if that sentiment goes to Robertson). For the record, it’s his fourth nomination for an Indiana Jones score (only Kingdom of the Crystal Skull didn’t make the cut).
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)
THE FIRE INSIDE - Flamin' Hot - Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
I'M JUST KEN - Barbie - Music and Lyric by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt
IT NEVER WENT AWAY - American Symphony - Music and Lyric by Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson
WAHZHAZHE (A SONG FOR MY PEOPLE) - Killers of the Flower Moon - Music and Lyric by Scott George
WHAT WAS I MADE FOR? - Barbie - Music and Lyric by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell
If nothing else, this batch reminds one you should never bet against Diane Warren getting a nomination, no matter how obscure the film (raise your hand if you’ve seen Breakthrough, The Life Ahead, Four Good Days or Tell It Like a Woman). Barbie’s “What Was I Made For?” seems the most likely winner.
And now for those categories everyone else cares about:
AMERICAN FICTION - Ben LeClair, Nikos Karamigios, Cord Jefferson and Jermaine Johnson
ANATOMY OF A FALL - Marie-Ange Luciani and David Thion
BARBIE - David Heyman, Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley and Robbie Brenner
THE HOLDOVERS - Mark Johnson
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Martin Scorsese and Daniel Lupi
MAESTRO - Bradley Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Fred Berner, Amy Durning and Kristie Macosko Krieger
OPPENHEIMER - Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan
PAST LIVES - David Hinojosa, Christine Vachon and Pamela Koffler
POOR THINGS - Ed Guiney, Andrew Lowe, Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone
THE ZONE OF INTEREST - James Wilson
The only surprise for me in this batch is Anatomy of a Fall. Though it was highly touted at the time of its release (and quite good), I mistakenly thought that The Zone of Interest had stolen its thunder as the big “foreign language” film of the year. Though if you saw Anatomy of a Fall, you may have noticed that -- despite being a French film -- seemingly more than half of it is in English, including many of its most important scenes (such as many of the key courtroom scenes). As a Nolan-stan, I’m hoping Oppenheimer wins – a dense, three-hour biopic that can earn that kind of box-office (though certainly helped by all the “Barbenheimer” publicity) is a true rarity.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
BRADLEY COOPER – Maestro
COLMAN DOMINGO – Rustin
PAUL GIAMATTI - The Holdovers
CILLIAN MURPHY – Oppenheimer
JEFFREY WRIGHT - American Fiction
I know it must seem mean, but I’m very happy that DiCaprio was not nominated for Killers of the Flower Moon. It’s not like he’s bad in the film – it just made me realize that, though he can be excellent in many roles (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Titanic, Django Unchained, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood in particular), I find him really uninteresting in all of his “serious,” tormented parts (The Departed, Shutter Island, Inception, The Revenant, Flower Moon). I’m hoping for a Jeffrey Wright win – great actor, great performance, first nomination, and the guy’s played Felix Leiter three times! (In a vaguely related note, for me the only genuinely emotional moment in the disappointing No Time to Die was when Bond tells Logan Ash “I had a brother – his name was Felix.”)
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
ANNETTE BENING – Nyad
LILY GLADSTONE - Killers of the Flower Moon
SANDRA HÜLLER - Anatomy of a Fall
CAREY MULLIGAN – Maestro
EMMA STONE - Poor Things
Gladstone seems the likely winner, though I especially loved Carey Mulligan in Maestro. Hüller was also the female lead in The Zone of Interest, though the International Feature nomination for The Teacher’s Lounge reminds one that Hüller is not actually the only German actress working in films today.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
STERLING K. BROWN - American Fiction
ROBERT DE NIRO - Killers of the Flower Moon
ROBERT DOWNEY JR. – Oppenheimer
RYAN GOSLING – Barbie
MARK RUFFALO - Poor Things
The lack of Charles Melton is the biggest surprise, but all three of May December’s stars went un-nominated this year, with its screenplay receiving its only nomination.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
EMILY BLUNT – Oppenheimer
DANIELLE BROOKS - The Color Purple
AMERICA FERRERA – Barbie
JODIE FOSTER – Nyad
DA'VINE JOY RANDOLPH - The Holdovers
The big surprise is Danielle Brooks, especially as her film got no other nominations. She had already been nominated for a Tony for playing the same role in the musical’s 2015 Broadway revival, and it’s the role that got Oprah Winfrey an Oscar nomination in 1985. I’m thrilled that Emily Blunt finally got a nomination (she really deserved it for Mary Poppins Returns), while I thought Ferrara was actually better in the underrated Dumb Money – her gas station scene was especially strong. Randolph seems a plausible winner -- she had previously deserved a nomination for Dolemite Is My Name (and I only recently learned her first name is pronounced DAY-vine.).
ANATOMY OF A FALL- Justine Triet
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Martin Scorsese
OPPENHEIMER - Christopher Nolan
POOR THINGS - Yorgos Lanthimos
THE ZONE OF INTEREST - Jonathan Glazer
The biggest surprise is the lack of Greta Gerwig for Barbie, and my biggest nomination-related annoyance of the day is the complaints about the “snubs” for Gerwig (as director) and Margot Robbie (as actress). Along with doing record-breaking business, Barbie earned eight nominations including Picture, Adapted Screenplay and two of its performances. As I told a co-worker “We should all be as snubbed as Barbie.” And this for a musical fantasy comedy about a doll, not exactly traditional Oscar bait. And Gerwig and Robbie were indeed both nominated, for Adapted Screenplay and Picture, respectively. And seven of Barbie’s nominees were women, as were directors of three of the ten Best Picture nominees (Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, Past Lives), which I assume is a record. But people will always need something to complain about, because the Academy always “screws up.” Not that the Academy doesn’t make mistakes -- it’s just usually not the ones people complain the loudest about. End of rant.
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
AMERICAN FICTION -Cord Jefferson
BARBIE - Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach
OPPENHEIMER - Christopher Nolan
POOR THINGS - Tony McNamara
THE ZONE OF INTEREST - Jonathan Glazer
Sorry, another pet peeve, when people think of the “original” in Original Screenplay as a value judgment on the quality of the film and not just as a way to categorize scripts that are based on other material. Such material as popular series of dolls -- it seems especially odd that some people thought Barbie should be classified an “original” screenplay, given that one of the film’s characters is Ruth Handler (played by Rhea Perlman), the real-life creator of the Barbie doll. Many plausible winners in this category -- Zone of Interest seems the least likely, especially given the quasi-improvisational way much of the film was apparently shot.
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
ANATOMY OF A FALL - Justine Triet and Arthur Harari
THE HOLDOVERS - David Hemingson
MAESTRO - Bradley Cooper & Josh Singer
MAY DECEMBER - Screenplay by Samy Burch; Story by Samy Burch & Alex Mechanik
PAST LIVES - Celine Song
Maestro seems the least likely win of this group (though it’s my favorite film of these five). Holdovers seems a strong possibility, though a friend pointed out that it seems to be at the very least an “homage” to the 1935 French film Merlusse, which features a disliked, fish-smelling boys’ school teacher with a bad eye who is stuck with a group of kids over the holidays. I know a lot of people loved Past Lives, but it didn’t have the kind of emotional impact on me that others felt. I’ve known the parents of May December writer Samy Burch since the 1980s (dad is an executive and producer who wrote the movie Ladybugs; mom is a casting director whose credits include The Breakfast Club and Die Hard), so I’d find her win heartwarming.
EL CONDE - Edward Lachman
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Rodrigo Prieto
MAESTRO - Matthew Libatique
OPPENHEIMER - Hoyte van Hoytema
POOR THINGS - Robbie Ryan
One of the year’s biggest surprises is the nomination for El Conde, the very strange political-satirical-horror film from Pablo Larrain (No, Jackie, Spencer), which depicts the late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as an immortal vampire. The black-and-white imagery from veteran Edward Lachman (Far from Heaven, Carol) is spectacular, but the film was a Netflix release which barely played in theaters. I’m hoping for an Oppenheimer win, but as usual with this category there’s a lot of true artistry here. And Flower Moon DP Rodrigo Prieto also shot Barbie, so he’s had quite the year.
BARBIE - Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Adam Willis
NAPOLEON - Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Elli Griff
OPPENHEIMER - Production Design: Ruth De Jong; Set Decoration: Claire Kaufman
POOR THINGS - Production Design: James Price and Shona Heath; Set Decoration: Zsuzsa Mihalek
This is the one category where I predicted all five nominees correctly. I hope veteran Jack Fisk wins -- I also wish he’d had the chance to direct more films as his good as his debut feature, Raggedy Man.
BARBIE - Jacqueline Durran
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Jacqueline West
NAPOLEON - Janty Yates and Dave Crossman
OPPENHEIMER - Ellen Mirojnick
POOR THINGS - Holly Waddington
Another Oscars-obsessed friend pointed out that this is one of those occasional years where the same five films are nominated for both Production Design and Costume Design. Poor Things’ combination of period and fantasy makes it a plausible winner.
ANATOMY OF A FALL - Laurent Sénéchal
THE HOLDOVERS - Kevin Tent
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON - Thelma Schoonmaker
OPPENHEIMER - Jennifer Lame
POOR THINGS - Yorgos Mavropsaridis
The legendary Schoonmaker already has three Oscars, and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels Flower Moon wouldn’t have lost anything by being an hour shorter. Oppenheimer seems the likely winner. Fun Barbenheimer tie-in: Jennifer Lame also edits Noah Baumbach's films.
THE CREATOR - Ian Voigt, Erik Aadahl, Ethan Van der Ryn, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic
MAESTRO - Steven A. Morrow, Richard King, Jason Ruder, Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - DEAD RECKONING PART ONE - Chris Munro, James H. Mather, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor
OPPENHEIMER - Willie Burton, Richard King, Gary A. Rizzo and Kevin O'Connell
THE ZONE OF INTEREST - Tarn Willers and Johnnie Burn
Oppenheimer is probably the loudest (and its nominees are all major figures in their field), Maestro benefits from being about music, while The Zone of Interest’s use of sound is one of its most striking attributes. Surprisingly, the two nominations for Dead Reckoning constitute the first nominations for any film in the Mission: Impossible franchise (for comparison, the 11 Fast/Furious-related films have zero nominations, while the extended X-Men/Wolverine/Deadpool franchise has a whopping two).
THE CREATOR - Jay Cooper, Ian Comley, Andrew Roberts and Neil Corbould
GODZILLA MINUS ONE - Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 3 - Stephane Ceretti, Alexis Wajsbrot, Guy Williams and Theo Bialek
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - DEAD RECKONING PART ONE - Alex Wuttke, Simone Coco, Jeff Sutherland and Neil Corbould
NAPOLEON - Charley Henley, Luc-Ewen Martin-Fenouillet, Simone Coco and Neil Corbould
No clear winner in this category. Dead Reckoning has a remarkable number of “invisible” effects (extended CGI sets, CGI cars in the chase), while Godzilla is very well regarded and was filmed on a remarkably small budget by Hollywood standards (and nominee Yamazaki is also the film's director). The award could go to The Creator, whose visuals were its most acclaimed element. Either way, Neil Corbould seems to have at least a 60 percent chance of winning.
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
GOLDA - Karen Hartley Thomas, Suzi Battersby and Ashra Kelly-Blue
MAESTRO - Kazu Hiro, Kay Georgiou and Lori McCoy-Bell
OPPENHEIMER - Luisa Abel
POOR THINGS - Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier and Josh Weston
SOCIETY OF THE SNOW - Ana López-Puigcerver, David Martí and Montse Ribé
Maestro seems the likely winner, unless the “controversy” over Cooper’s fake nose in the film gets in the way. It’s nice to see Society of the Snow get in, as it features the kind of crucial yet unshowy makeup that seldom gets acknowledged in this category (2010’s The Way Back being a rare exception). Very happy to see two absolute geniuses of the craft, Kazu Hiro (Darkest Hour, Bombshell) and Mark Coulier (The Iron Lady, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Suspiria) get acknowledged again this year.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE FILM
BOBI WINE: THE PEOPLE'S PRESIDENT - Moses Bwayo, Christopher Sharp and John Battsek
THE ETERNAL MEMORY – nominees TBD
FOUR DAUGHTERS - Kaouther Ben Hania and Nadim Cheikhrouha
TO KILL A TIGER - Nisha Pahuja, Cornelia Principe and David Oppenheim
20 DAYS IN MARIUPOL - Mstyslav Chernov, Michelle Mizner and Raney Aronson-Rath
I haven’t seen any of these (The Pigeon Tunnel, Errol Morris’ portrait of John Le Carre, was the only new documentary I saw in 2023), but all five are high-profile and well-reviewed. Mariupol’s subject matter (the Ukraine war) may give it an edge for the award.
DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM
THE ABCS OF BOOK BANNING - Sheila Nevins and Trish Adlesic
THE BARBER OF LITTLE ROCK - John Hoffman and Christine Turner
ISLAND IN BETWEEN - S. Leo Chiang and Jean Tsien
THE LAST REPAIR SHOP - Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers
NAI NAI & WÀI PÓ - Sean Wang and Sam Davis
I can only hope this year’s batch are not too depressing. The last two decades of this category and Live Action Short have shown me enough imperiled children to haunt my dreams forever. Nominee Bowers is of course also the prolific composer of Green Book, Origin, and Haunted Mansion and was shortlisted but not nominated for this year’s Color Purple).
LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
THE AFTER - Misan Harriman and Nicky Bentham
INVINCIBLE - Vincent René-Lortie and Samuel Caron
KNIGHT OF FORTUNE - Lasse Lyskjær Noer and Christian Norlyk
RED, WHITE AND BLUE - Nazrin Choudhury and Sara McFarlane
THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR - Wes Anderson and Steven Rales
See above. Though I trust at least the Wes Anderson short won’t have the children killed by snipers, children drowned in quicksand, or children crushed by railway bridges in a vivid illustration of “the trolley problem” that are endemic to this category.
ANIMATED SHORT FILM
LETTER TO A PIG - Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter
NINETY-FIVE SENSES - Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess
OUR UNIFORM - Yegane Moghaddam
PACHYDERME - Stéphanie Clément and Marc Rius
WAR IS OVER! INSPIRED BY THE MUSIC OF JOHN & YOKO - Dave Mullins and Brad Booker
I haven’t seen any of these yet. The Ninety-Five Senses nominees are best known as the makers of Napoleon Dynamite.
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
THE BOY AND THE HERON - Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki
ELEMENTAL - Peter Sohn and Denise Ream
NIMONA - Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, Karen Ryan and Julie Zackary
ROBOT DREAMS - Pablo Berger, Ibon Cormenzana, Ignasi Estapé and Sandra Tapia Díaz
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE - Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Amy Pascal
I was not really aware of Robot Dreams until now, but now I’m especially glad I had trekked all the way to Pacific Palisades’ Netflix-owned Bay Theater to catch Nimona. Spider-Verse is the box-office smash of the bunch, but Miyazaki’s acclaimed swan song is the likely winner, especially given its surprising commercial success in the U.S.
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
IO CAPITANO – Italy
PERFECT DAYS – Japan
SOCIETY OF THE SNOW – Spain
THE TEACHERS' LOUNGE – Germany
THE ZONE OF INTEREST - United Kingdom
Best Picture nominee Zone of Interest would seem to have the edge here, though I’d be happy if Society of the Snow won. I haven’t seen Italy or Japan’s films yet. The biggest surprise is the omission of France’s The Taste of Things, which was super Academy-voter-friendly. Maybe the membership got the combination of romance, food and Juliette Binoche out of their system with Chocolat (Taste of Things is far better, though some Rachel Portman music wouldn’t have hurt).
Films from last year that went un-nominated include Air, All of Us Strangers, Asteroid City, The Boys in the Boat, The Burial, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, Creed III, Dream Scenario, Dumb Money, Eileen, Fair Play, Ferrari, Freud’s Last Session, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, The Iron Claw, John Wick: Chapter 4, The Killer, Leave the World Behind, The Little Mermaid, Migration, Monster, Origin, Passages, Priscilla, Rebel Moon – Part One: A Child of Fire, Saltburn, The Taste of Things, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, Theater Camp, A Thousand and One, Wish, Wonka and You Hurt My Feelings.