Saturday, March 2, 2024

Reactions To The Oscar Shortlists For The 96th Academy Awards

Yesterday saw the announcement of the Academy’s shortlists of eligible contenders in ten categories – Best Makeup & HairstylingSound, Visual Effects, International Feature Film, Documentary Feature, Original Score, Original Song, Animated Short, Live-Action Short and Documentary Short. These lists are invaluable resources for those hoping to get as accurate a score on their nomination predictions as possible. As always, they gave us plenty of surprises, along with helping to solidify narratives that are already beginning to take shape. Let’s take a look at these shortlists and see what’s surprising, what’s not, and what it all means.

The Music Branch Makes Their Own Kind Of Music
The shortlist category that arguably saw the most significant shake-up is Best Original Song. Sure, all the expected major players made it, including three songs from “Barbie” (Academy rules allow for a maximum of only two songs to be nominated), “Keep It Movin'” from “The Color Purple” (along with the less expected “Superpower (I)” from the same film), and “Road to Freedom” from “Rustin.” Fans of “Past Lives” will be relieved to see that the film’s closing credits tune, “Quiet Eyes,” made the cut, and given how well the film seems to be doing at this stage in the awards race, it wouldn’t be surprising to see it mentioned on nomination morning. But veteran Oscar followers may notice that perennial nominee Diane Warren only had one mention on the list, for the song “The Fire Inside” from the Cheetos origin story “Flamin’ Hot” (it wasn’t even completely clear until recently that the film would be eligible for the Oscars, given its Hulu release). She’s an inevitable presence in this category, with a total of fourteen nominations, including nods at the past six consecutive ceremonies. And even though she received an honorary Oscar last year, she’s shown no sign of slowing down and has made it very clear that she still wants to win a competitive award. This year, most pundits were predicting her to be mentioned for the song she wrote for the comedy “80 for Brady” entitled “Gonna Be You,” which is performed by Dolly Parton, Belinda Carlisle, Cyndi Lauper, Gloria Estefan, and Debbie Harry. Will this be the year that Warren’s streak ends, or will voters have to fire up their Hulu accounts and check out “Flamin’ Hot?”

The other big miss was “Peaches” from “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” written by Jack Black. The joke song isn’t even two minutes long and is constructed purely for laughs, but its inclusion at both the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards nominations meant awards predictors had to take it seriously as a contender until now. The Bruce Springsteen tune “She Came to Me” from “Addicted to Romance” was also nowhere to be found, despite a mention from the Globes.

In addition, this year’s musicals were widely unappreciated by the songwriting branch. In fact, not counting the songs from the semi-musicals that are “Barbie” and “Flora and Son,” the two songs from “The Color Purple” are the only tunes included from “traditional” musicals. Said musicals “Dicks: The Musical,” “Theater Camp,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Wonka” were completely shut out, including “This Wish” from “Wish,” which was recently nominated at the CCAs.

In the Best Score category, things went much more predictably. The only truly surprising snub is the plaintive score from “Past Lives.” Otherwise, the fifteen films to make the cut feature music by past winners and category veterans like Michael Giacchino (“Society Of The Snow“), Ludwig Göransson (“Oppenheimer“), Mica Levi (“The Zone of Interest“), Thomas Newman (“Elemental“), and John Williams (“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny“), along with newer names from big contenders (Jerskin Fendrix for “Poor Things” and Robbie Robertson for “Killers of the Flower Moon“).

VFX Go About As VFX-pected
The big shock to the Best Visual Effects race came not today but about two weeks ago when a list of twenty finalists for the Best Visual Effects category was made public, and “Oppenheimer” was nowhere to be found. Today’s ten Best Visual Effects contenders are far less surprising than that seismic shake-up. The MCU had a poor showing, with only one of its three eligible films making it to the top ten (“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3). “Barbie” and “Killers of the Flower Moon” also didn’t make the cut, meaning that “Poor Things” is the only likely Best Picture nominee that can potentially be nominated.

Another Big Day For “Barbie”
The biggest film of the year continues to prove unstoppable. After racking up precursor nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards – including a record-breaking eighteen nods at the latter – “Barbie” was once again the big winner from today’s announcement. Not only did it show up in the two music categories as expected, but it even managed to make the top ten list for Best Sound. Sure, it’s missing from the less-predicted categories of Best Makeup & Hairstyling and Best Visual Effects. Still, those were arguably long-shots, and these exclusions don’t give any reason to doubt that “Barbie” will have a very good nomination morning.

Makeup Shake-Up
The ten finalists for Best Makeup and Hairstyling are pretty unsurprising, although two big misses came from two very different films – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Nyad.” Otherwise, it’s a typical list full of prosthetics and old-age transformations (“Golda,” “Maestro,” “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things“), plus a shocking mention for the Dracula-on-a-boat film “The Last Voyage of the Demeter.” Despite being the genre that undoubtedly has produced the most iconic makeup effects in film history, horror films have a hot-and-cold history with this category. But if one scary movie from 2023 were thought to have a chance here, most would likely not pick the poorly reviewed and underperforming vampire flick. Still, impressive makeup is worthy of recognition, regardless of overall film quality, and horror fans should count this as a win (which is unlikely to repeat on nomination morning).

“Society Of The Snow’s” Sound Snub
Oppenheimer” is widely predicted to walk away with Best Sound with hardly any real competition, and the other nine films that made the category’s shortlist are the expected mix of prestige contenders (“Killers of the Flower Moon,” “Maestro,” “The Zone of Interest“) and action-based films with noticeable sound work (“Ferrari,” “The Killer,” “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One“). However, one film is surprisingly absent – Netflix’s “Society Of The Snow,” notably features an upsetting, visceral plane crash sequence. Some predicted it to be the only real threat to “Oppenheimer’s” victory, but it couldn’t even make this list of ten. “The Color Purple” is also a semi-surprising miss, given this branch’s affection for musicals, as are the action-packed absentees “John Wick: Chapter 4,” “Godzilla Minus One,” and “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse.”

Documentary And International Feature Races Solidify
Both the Best Documentary and International Feature categories narrowed down to fifteen contending films, and neither category featured the kinds of shocking snubs that can occasionally occur here (especially in Best Documentary). Missing from Best Documentary Feature are notable films “Kokomo City” and “The Mission,” while International Feature left off Turkey’s “About Dry Grasses,” South Korea’s “Concrete Utopia,” Philippines’ “The Missing,” and Chile’s “The Settlers,” among many others. In addition, “Four Daughters” from Tunisia and “20 Days in Mariupol” from Ukraine managed to be included on both lists. If either of them manages to receive nominations in both categories, they’d follow suit with the recent trend that saw “Honeyland,” “Collective,” and “Flee” achieve the same thing. Otherwise, all the eligible International contenders that received nominations from the respective category at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards made the shortlist.

What did you think of the Oscar shortlist announcement yesterday? Did any inclusions or exclusions surprise you? We will be updating our Oscar Predictions to reflect these shortlists as quickly as possible. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on our Twitter account.

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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