Monday, January 30, 2023

Surprises And Snubs From The Shortlists For The 95th Academy Awards

Shortlists for several categories have been released for the 95th Academy Awards, narrowing down the contenders for Oscar nominations on January 24th, 2023. As always, there are certainly some good and bad surprises that may have a bearing on the Oscar races at large. It’s tempting to read far too much into these lists and perceive any snubbed film as dead in the water, but that doesn’t match the history. 

Recent Best Picture winners “CODA,” “Parasite,” and “The Shape of Water” all missed out on some potential shortlist placements, but it didn’t impact their trajectory toward the win. This year, neither frontrunners “The Fabelmans” nor “Everything Everywhere All At Once” landed on every eligible shortlist. That doesn’t mean either film is doomed in this year’s races. Still, there are plenty of takeaways from the lists. Let’s dive into each of the seven feature-length shortlists (we’ll save the shorts for another day), what surprises each list contained, and my predicted nominees in each category.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
All That Breathes
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Bad Axe
Children of the Mist
Descendant
Fire of Love
Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song
Hidden Letters
A House Made of Splinters
The Janes
Last Flight Home
Moonage Daydream
Navalny
Retrograde
The Territory

Will we ever again see a year without a significant contender getting a surprise snub in Best Documentary Feature? In perhaps the biggest shock of all the shortlists, “Good Night Oppy” was nowhere to be found. We’ll never really know if it was the extensive recreations or something else that the Documentary branch didn’t go for, but the Critics’ Choice winner was denied a spot here. Otherwise, most of the expected films showed up here. Netflix’s “Sr.,” about Robert Downey Jr. & Sr., missed out, as did “Sidney” and “Aftershock,” but none of these were as surprising as “Good Night Oppy” missing. Sundance winner “All That Breathes” and Venice winner “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed” both placed on the shortlist and are looking strong for nominations. “Navalny” feels like a solid bet to win at this point, especially as war rages on in Ukraine. The experiential David Bowie doc “Moonage Daydream” also scored a mention on the Best Sound shortlist, an inspired selection, which could help draw more attention to the film. Below are my predicted nominees in the category.

  1. Navalny
  2. All That Breathes
  3. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
  4. Descendant
  5. The Territory


INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Argentina, “Argentina, 1985
Austria, “Corsage
Belgium, “Close
Cambodia, “Return to Seoul
Denmark, “Holy Spider
France, “Saint Omer
Germany, “All Quiet on the Western Front
India, “Last Film Show”
Ireland, “The Quiet Girl
Mexico, “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
Morocco, “The Blue Caftan
Pakistan, “Joyland
Poland, “EO
South Korea, “Decision to Leave
Sweden, “Cairo Conspiracy

While often dominated by European nations, this year’s shortlist for Best International Feature Film features geographic diversity and a wide variety of styles. There are no drastically significant misses, though Spain is typically a mainstay on this shortlist. Their entry, “Alcarràs,” missed here, as did Brazil’s “Mars One,” Japan’s “Plan 75,” and Bolivia’s “Utama.” Notably missing is Ukraine’s entry, “Klondike,” which many predicted in light of the war. The major contenders, “EO,” “Decision to Leave,” and “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” are all safe. Of all the films here, Germany’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” had an incredible showing today, landing on all five shortlists for which it was eligible (Best International Feature, Score, Sound, Makeup & Hairstyling, and Visual Effects). Name recognition will go far to keep “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” safe, while “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Decision to Leave,” and “EO” have all received lots of attention from critics’ groups. Add in the accessible and Amazon-backed “Argentina, 1985,” and you’ve got a likely group of nominees. Below are my predicted nominees for International Feature.

1. All Quiet on the Western Front
2. Decision to Leave
3. EO
4. Argentina, 1985
5. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
All Quiet on the Western Front
Amsterdam
Babylon
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Blonde
Crimes of the Future
Elvis
Emancipation
The Whale

While “Crimes of the Future” is a pleasant surprise, there are more notable misses on this list than surprise placements. With only ten films on the list, it’s a little surprising to see poorly reviewed films like “Amsterdam” and “Blonde” make their way here. It would’ve been nice to see “The Woman King” here, and “X” would’ve been an inspired nomination too. Those misses are disappointing. “The Northman” also would’ve been fantastic, but that film was released so long ago that it’s no surprise it’s being looked over. “Everything Everywhere All At Once” is the biggest miss. While it would’ve been helpful for the Daniels’ film to gain momentum across multiple categories, this doesn’t likely mean anything for the movie at large. While the shortlist was smaller in 2017, with a seven-film list pared down to just three nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling, “The Shape of Water” shockingly missed, yet it went on to a Best Picture win. The point is: anything can still happen. For our Makeup & Hairstyling nominees, the three guarantees seem to be “Elvis,” “The Whale,” and “The Batman,” the three films whose makeup made headlines this year. After that, it’s more of a guess. Below are my predicted nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

1. Elvis
2. The Whale
3. The Batman
4. Babylon
5. All Quiet on the Western Front

ORIGINAL SCORE
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Devotion
Don’t Worry Darling
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Nope
She Said
The Woman King
Women Talking

Thomas Newman, tied for the second-most Oscar nominations without a win, missed the shortlist for “A Man Called Otto.” Similarly, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross failed to show up for either “Empire of Light” or “Bones & All.” Reznor & Ross just won their second Oscar two years ago, but they’ve been snubbed by the Academy several times before since then. The branch seems to be a bit hot or cold with the duo. Perhaps the biggest surprise miss here is Michael Giacchino’s score for “The Batman.” The film did well on the shortlists but couldn’t make it in here, despite most people predicting the movie to score a nomination. Expected contenders “Living” and “RRR” also missed. Otherwise, most of the major frontrunners got in, like “The Fabelmans,” “Babylon,” and “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” “Women Talking” has been having a rough time in the precursors, but Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score made it in here. This excellent list will be challenging to narrow down to five. Could the branch deny John Williams’ last collaboration with Steven Spielberg? Doubtful. Below are my predicted nominees for Best Original Score.

1. The Fabelmans
2. Babylon
3. Women Talking
4. The Banshees of Inisherin
5. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

ORIGINAL SONG
“Time” from Amsterdam
“Nothing Is Lost (You Give Me Strength)” from Avatar: The Way of Water
“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
“This Is A Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once
“Ciao Papa” from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
“Til You’re Home” from A Man Called Otto
“Naatu Naatu” from RRR
“My Mind & Me” from Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me
“Good Afternoon” from Spirited
“Applause” from Tell It like a Woman
“Stand Up” from Till
“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
“Dust & Ash” from The Voice of Dust and Ash
“Carolina” from “Where the Crawdads Sing
“New Body Rhumba” from White Noise

Reigning winners Billie Eilish and Finneas won’t be back at the Oscars this year, as their boy band tribute “Nobody Like U” from “Turning Red” was nowhere to be found on the shortlist. Most every other expected track made it on, like “Ciao Papa” from “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” “Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” and “This is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” “RRR” landed here with “Naatu Naatu,” a song that could easily score the win in the end. While this is the only shortlist that “RRR” landed on, it’s also their best shot at a nomination. Elsewhere, category mainstays like Diane Warren and J. Ralph landed here to no surprise. Doubt them at your own peril. Taylor Swift was hoping to appear on the Best Live Action Short shortlist, but she’ll have to settle for Best Original Song alone. Ultimately, this category is shaping up with a pretty clear consensus five. The only question remains: will there be a surprise on nomination morning? Below are my predicted nominations for Best Original Song.

1. “Naatu Naatu” from RRR
2. “Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
3. “Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick
4. “Ciao Papa” from Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
5. “Applause” from Tell It Like A Woman

SOUND
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Moonage Daydream
Top Gun: Maverick

There are only a few surprises here. While it’s a bit surprising not to see “The Fabelmans” here, given its frontrunner status and legendary team, this branch often leans into more showy work. “Nope” certainly deserved a spot here, so that may be the biggest disappointment. The team behind Amazon’s “Thirteen Lives” also pushed hard for a place in this category, but the film was ultimately buried in late summer, so it’s not much of a surprise to see it miss. Again, “RRR” showing up here would’ve been a good sign of support, but it’s helpful not to read too much into the misses. Could “RRR” still land a Picture nomination? It remains to be seen, but missing here isn’t necessarily detrimental. Regarding pleasant surprises, seeing “Moonage Daydream” here is very inspiring. It would be incredible to see the documentary in the final five, though that’s not terribly likely. Below are my predicted nominations for Best Sound.

1. Top Gun: Maverick
2. Avatar: The Way of Water
3. The Batman
4. Elvis
5. All Quiet on the Western Front

VISUAL EFFECTS
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Batman
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
Jurassic World Dominion
Nope
Thirteen Lives
Top Gun: Maverick

Continuing the tough day for “Good Night Oppy,” the documentary missed a placement on this list of ten. “RRR” also surprisingly failed to show up. After not being selected as India’s submission for International Feature, more below-the-line support would’ve certainly helped give confidence in Best Picture or Director nominations. Even so, it’s far too early to call the film’s chances dead. Similarly, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” still had a good day with Best Original Score, Song, and Sound placements, but this could’ve been a great day. Instead, the film missed the Best Visual Effects shortlist. Still, there’s nothing to worry about when it comes to the movie’s above-the-line odds. As far as surprises that made the list, I’m a little shocked that the branch remembered that a “Fantastic Beasts” movie was even released this year. The “Thirteen Lives” push couldn’t snag the sound nomination but did land a placement here. Otherwise, the list is just about as expected. Is there anything that can beat “Avatar: The Way of Water?” The answer is obviously no, but “Top Gun: Maverick” will give it a run for its money. Below are my predicted nominations for Best Visual Effects.

1. Avatar: The Way of Water
2. Top Gun: Maverick
3. The Batman
4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
5. Nope

Of course, there are valid readings into snubs and surprises from these shortlists, but missing some major shortlists doesn’t necessarily mean a film’s chances in other categories are dead. These are insular lists voted on by branches. One branch could love a movie, as the music branch did for “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” while another branch didn’t prefer it, as the film missed in Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. Though for “RRR,” a film whose journey to Best Picture was always going to be uphill, finding below-the-line support would’ve helped push the movie into the above-the-line categories. It’s difficult to determine whether we can say “it’s over” for “RRR,” but there are a few other categories in which the film can land at this point. Overall, there aren’t too many shocks among the shortlists, but certainly plenty of things that make us tweak our predictions.

What did you think of the shortlists? What was the most shocking miss? How do these shortlists affect your predictions? Please let us know in the comments below or over on our Twitter account and check out our recently updated Oscar Predictions.

Daniel Howat
Daniel Howathttps://nextbestpicture.com
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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