95th Academy Award Nominations & Thoughts

Well, the Oscar nominations for the 95th Academy Awards have arrived. All of the battles on Hollywood's western front between critics lists, guilds, filmmakers, actors, and studio campaigns have led to a...fairly reasonable but undoubtedly safe set of potential winners. As far as the major categories are concerned, there's (once again) not a ton of surprise for those who have been paying attention. Elsewhere, I can't offhand see any picks that came out of nowhere, and only one that upsets the general standard for things. The recent overhaul in the Academy membership has led to diverse choices in many categories, though it doesn't feel as positively overwhelming as it could have been. I have further thoughts on all these, which I will go through, category by category. The Oscar results will be revealed on March 27, 2022.

Here is a quick breakdown of the films with the most nominations:

Everything Everywhere All At Once – 11, All Quiet on the Western Front – 9, The Banshees of Inisherin – 9, Elvis – 8, The Fabelmans – 7, Top Gun: Maverick – 6, Tár – 5, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – 5, Avatar: The Way of Water – 4, Babylon – 3, The Batman - 3, Triangle of Sadness – 3, The Whale - 3

Inevitable or not, films left out of the conversation entirely:

Athena, After Yang, Ambulance, Bones and All, Broker, Crimes of the Future, Decision to Leave, Descendant, Devotion, Emancipation, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, The Good Nurse, Hustle, Moonage Daydream, No Bears, Nope, The Northman, Return to Seoul, Saint Omer, She Said, Thirteen Lives, Till, White Noise, The Women King


And the nominees are:

BEST PICTURE
(Ranked in order of preference - only for this category)
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
The Banshees of Inisherin
Avatar: The Way of Water
Top Gun: Maverick
Tár
Triangle of Sadness
All Quiet on the Western Front
Elvis
Women Talking

With the full ten Best Picture Nominee lineup back as a requirement, here's the list, and it's…not bad at all. Even if I'm not as over the moon for Elvis or Women Talking as some others may be, there's nothing here to make me raise an eyebrow, nor anything that wasn't at least seen as a possibility. Of course, talking "Best Picture" means knowing some of my faves weren't going to get in, and now I know the possible surprise inclusion of RRR just wasn't meant to be. Instead, it looks like the international portion of the academy pushed hard for All Quiet on the Western Front (expected) and, even though it's not technically an international film, Triangle of Sadness, making for another of a few comedies (rare) to find its way in the lineup. Not hurting is how things don't necessarily feel locked up as of yet, even if Everything Everywhere All at Once feels like a favorite.


BEST DIRECTOR
Todd Field, Tár
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Ruben Ostlund, Triangle of Sadness
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans

With 9 nominations celebrating its technical qualities, here's a category that's basically letting us know All Quiet on the Western Front directed itself. Good for Ruben Ostulund though, who seemingly pushed his way through a crowded door that must have included James Cameron, Baz Luhrmann, maybe Joseph Kosinski, and any of the women directors potentially on the docket. With all of that in mind, we're probably gearing up for a showdown between the two-time winner for directing Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan and the two guys who made the farting corpse movie and the "Turn Down For What" music video. What a time to be alive.


BEST ACTRESS
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Strangely, it is the most exciting of the major categories because of how strange it is. This is still a race boiling down to Blanchett and Yeoh, but the last-minute groundswell of support from various actors that came in for Andrea Riseborough is a fairly new metric to consider. Never mind how seeing a consistently working white actress getting a bunch of people she's acquainted with to throw their support behind her for playing a beaten down, recovering drug addict (it's a good movie and performance, for the record) seems to have been enough to push aside Danielle Deadwyler's performance in Till (which was a presumed lock for a nom) and Viola Davis in The Woman King. It's enough of a wild occurrence to have people overlook de Armas sneaking in for the divisive Blonde. And then there's Williams, who opted for Lead instead of Supporting and will once again go home empty-handed.


BEST ACTOR
Austin Butler, Elvis
Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Bill Nighy, Living
Paul Mescal, Aftersun

By contrast, the Best Actor lineup is solid without any one thing standing out about it. Nice to see Paul Mescal make it to the final lineup, given how much more of a softer performance it is, although if "depressed mid-to-old white men" was the theme to go for, well, he was due to be involved. Nighy coming in for playing not an eccentric, fun character, but a stodgy older man taking a chance to do some good is…fine, but pretty typical when it comes to finally giving some due to an actor that's taken plenty of chances beforehand. With all that in mind, Farrell has plenty of fans, but Elvis and The Whale look like the new Blue Hawaii to watch.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Hong Chau, The Whale
Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

There were plenty of Women Talking, but perhaps they were everywhere all at once and canceled each other out. Instead, Bassett takes her second-ever nomination with plenty of newcomers around her. It would appear Hsu joined Curtis near the last moment, rounding out the goodwill coming from EEAAO. Similarly, Chau joined Fraser as the main representation for The Whale, which missed out on all other major categories.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway
Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans
Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Is this the most fun of the acting categories? It helps that these are all very likable performances handled by very likable actors. The mix of veterans and first-timers is welcome. The Banshees crew now has their full cast up for an award, and it would be wild to see one of them win (unlikely as that may be). Judd Hirsch came out ahead of Paul Dano for the same film (though I thought Hirsch was a lock since the film's premiere at TIFF). Brian Tyree Henry is now an Oscar nominee, which is excellent news for Paper Boi fans. Still, Ke Huy Quan has been on a wild run, and it's likely not going to stop.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
All Quiet on the Western Front
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Living
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Remember how everyone was saying, "Sure, Top Gun: Maverick looked great, but have you seen the script!" Kidding aside, that's a fun nomination, much like Logan popping in a few years back. Since it's a Best Picture nominee, I guess we now know Women Talking made it that far for its script and nothing else, apparently. Meanwhile, Rian Johnson now has back-to-back nominations for Benoit Blanc mysteries.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Tár
Triangle of Sadness

Generally, there's space here for that quirky indie outside, but since that film is Everything Everywhere All At Once, the most nominated film of the year, that was already taken care of. The rest are all Best Picture nominees too, so there go hopes for a neat outlier to break up the pack. However, it's not as though any of these are undeserving.


BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
All Quiet on the Western Front
Argentina, 1985
Close
EO
The Quiet Girl

Given the subject matter of each of these films, it's not too surprising to see any of them here. I'm not the biggest fan of what Close has to offer, but I get it. Still, Decision to Leave being left out hurts a bit, especially since it wound up with nothing at all. Even then, Holy Spider, Return to Seoul, and Saint Omer were also worthy options (the less said about India not submitting RRR in the first place, the better). And yet, it's all somewhat moot when you remember all the noms All Quiet on the Western Front already has.


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
The Sea Beast
Turning Red

Even with Pixar on the list, this was not the strongest year for Disney, and with Guillermo del Toro already being an Academy favorite, Pinocchio is likely the film to beat. That said, this is a really solid lineup. Happy to see The Sea Beast here, as that's a pretty wonderful film. Marcel the Shell will almost certainly appear at the Oscars with tuxedo shoes on. And it looks like Puss in Boots got another wish after all. Would I have loved to have seen Mad God get a quip at the Oscars ceremony? Yes. Yes, I would've.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
All That Breathes
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Fire of Love
A House Made of Splinters
Navalny

One of the more unpredictable branches managed to pull through and nominate the frontrunners. With that said,  A House Made of Splinters seemed to sneak in, while pushing my personal favorite doc of 2022, Descendant, out. Not some great offense, but okay. Curious to see what resonates most with voters, but I do really like Fire of Love.


BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"Applause" by Diane Warren for Tell It Like a Woman
"Hold My Hand" by Lady Gaga and Bloodpop for Top Gun: Maverick
"Lift Me Up" by Tems, Ludwig Göransson, Rihanna and Ryan Coogler for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“Naatu Naatu” by Kala Bhairava, M. M. Keeravani, Rahul Sipligunj for RRR
"This Is a Life" by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski for Everything Everywhere All at Once

I guess the groovy "new body rhumba" from White Noise needed to sit this one out in favor of Diane Warren's 14th loss for Best Original Song. Anyway, Ryan Coogler has managed his second Oscar nomination, this time for helping with the Rihanna song (neither nomination he has is for writing/directing). David Byrne gets back in the Oscar race for the first time since the 80s. All of that in mind, RRR triumphs with its one expected nomination for "Naatu Naatu," a song that totally rocks and hopefully shows the first step in more representation of killer Indian flicks.


BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
All Quiet on the Western Front, Volker Bertelmann
Babylon, Justin Hurwitz
The Banshees of Inisherin, Carter Burwell
Everything Everywhere All At Once, Son Lux
The Fabelmans, John Williams

It seems like the consensus has generally been, "At least the score for Babylon was good," so nice to see it finds its way here. Not sure what Alexandre Desplat did to miss out for his moving Pinocchio score. That said, all these other Best Picture nominees were certainly worth listening to. Still, The Batman had some really memorable themes and ways to play with its score that were worth noting, among other films with great scores to go with them. Oh, and John Williams is now the oldest Oscar nominee.


BEST FILM EDITING
The Banshees of Inisherin, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen
Elvis, Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond
Everything Everywhere All at Once, Paul Rogers
Tár, Monika Willi
Top Gun: Maverick, Eddie Hamilton

Nominating Tár here is pretty inspired, given how the film unfolds. Otherwise, this is a standard mix of Best Picture noms, a music-based film, and a couple of action films that all generally end up in this category. All Quiet missing out is a bit of a surprise. With that in mind, Decision to Leave had the best editing of the year and is nowhere to be found.


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Darius Khondji
Elvis, Mandy Walker
Empire of Light, Roger Deakins
Tár, Florian Hoffmeister

Shockingly, this is my favorite category and has perhaps the most boring lineup I've seen in some time. Make no mistake, these are movies that largely look pretty good (even if Empire of Light is the worst movie on this list…and maybe the worst movie to be nominated for anything altogether). However, there were some terrific-looking films from all over this year, including many of the Best Picture nominees not listed here, The Batman, Decision to Leave, Athena, Nope, The Northman, and the list goes on. For a chance to do something interesting, this feels like a big missed opportunity.


BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
Elvis
The Fabelmans

This is another pretty standard list with nothing to really praise or gripe over. It would be neat to see the reels presented for Avatar just to get a sense of how the physical and digital work combined to make this nomination possible. Elvis and Babylon are easy givens. Given the stop-motion, use of a multiverse, and a memorable grocery store, perhaps there could have been some more fun by including Pinocchio, Everything Everywhere, or White Noise, but it is what it is. Also curious if the use of the Volume helps or hurts films like The Batman (which also built sets and filmed all over England).


BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Babylon
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris landing a nomination here is maybe my favorite one to see, given how the costumes actually apply to the narrative. It's also a pleasant film worthy of the nom for the work involved as well. Cool to see some contemporary films in here to break away from the period work, even if I'm not quite sure if Ruth Carter will pull off another win for a sequel to Black Panther. That said, the posters alone would sell anyone on Elvis landing here, as the King always had style.


BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Batman
Elvis
The Whale
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Mud, blood, and everything else made All Quiet a surefire nominee. Batman got pretty muddy too, plus he had that whole Penguin to deal with. Speaking of oversized prosthetics, The Whale, of course, makes sense to be here. There's no real Suicide Squad wild card entry to look for (sorry Crimes of the Future), so I guess we'll all just have to enjoy a standard 5-entry list of potentials.


BEST SOUND
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Elvis
Top Gun: Maverick

Can't deny any of these entries in the (still saddening) blended together Best Sound category. I could certainly see arguments for Nope, Black Panther, and Babylon being in here. Moonage Daydream's unique approach to sound would have also made for a cool nom. Tár would have been a very cool nomination, given how key the way sound is applied matters to that film. Still, swooping jets, explosions, Elvis songs, and more properly found their way to the list.


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Top Gun: Maverick

I mean, this is Avatar's to lose, and it would be hard to think the other films don't already know it. Can't deny how strong the other entries are (even if they don't really come close). Top Gun: Maverick pulls off some of the best "invisible effects" work as far as the efforts done to keep the physical stunts locked in step with the CG at play. Nope felt like an even better play at this, given how wild it is to think about all the day-for-night photography being done, the digital work to make it all work so convincingly. Or perhaps the universe being torn apart in multiple movies, or the efforts to re-create a cave in Thailand could have made their way in. Still, solid set of movies to see get this far.


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Halout
The Martha Mitchell Effect
The Elephant Whisperers
How Do You Measure a Year?
Stranger at the Gate

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
An Irish Goodbye
Ivalu
Le Pupille
Night Rise
The Red Suitcase

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
The Flying Sailor
Ice Merchants
My Year of Dicks
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It

As of now, aside from a couple of the animated and live-action shorts, I have not had a chance to view this set of nominees, but I look forward to doing so, as always.

***

That will do it for the nominations and my commentary for now. The Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 12, with *sigh* Jimmy Kimmel returning as host. There will be podcasts and possibly more to come on my end.

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