Monday, February 26, 2024

Surprises, Misses, And More From The 96th Academy Award Nominations

The moment we’ve all been waiting for arrived this morning, as the nominations for the 96th Academy Awards are finally here! Another new crop of Oscar nominees has been minted, another set of exclusions, another set of films to debate over. As expected, this year’s nominees were dominated by “Oppenheimer.” “Poor Things” had a strong showing, “Barbie” had some surprises, and “American Fiction” proved to be a strong contender. Ultimately, though, this was a fairly unsurprising morning, all things considered. Nevertheless, let’s dive into all the snubs, surprises, and more to see how this will affect the race toward the Oscars.

With thirteen nominations, “Oppenheimer” didn’t show a single sign of weakness today. Nolan’s film was nominated in every single category possible, only missing the category it wasn’t shortlisted for Best Visual Effects (had it been eligible, it could’ve tied the all-time nomination record, and if there were two sound categories still, it could’ve become the all-time nomination leader). Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr. scored acting nominations, as did Emily Blunt (finally). Being the nomination leader doesn’t automatically mean a film is winning Best Picture, but it solidified what we already knew in this case. “Oppenheimer” is likely going to be the Next Best Picture (pun intended) Oscar winner, and it’s just that simple.

Continuing the “Barbenheimer” discourse six months later, “Barbie” had a decent showing earlier this morning, surprising in some categories but missing in others. America Ferrera scored a much-deserved surprise nomination for Best Supporting Actress, alongside the expected Best Supporting Actor nomination for Ryan Gosling. Yet, Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, was not nominated for Best Actress. Greta Gerwig missed a nomination for Best Director, though she and Noah Baumbach shared a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. The film did well overall, with eight nominations across seven categories, but after missing Best Director, Actress, and Film Editing, this wasn’t without bumps in the road. Films have certainly won Best Picture with less (“CODA” anyone?), but it does seem like the competition between “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” for the Academy’s biggest prize isn’t nearly as close as we once thought.

Despite a solid ten nominations, “Killers of the Flower Moon” had two big misses. Leonardo DiCaprio missed a Best Actor nomination, although many predicted that to happen for a few weeks now after his SAG miss. The more significant exclusion was in Best Adapted Screenplay, where Martin Scorsese and Eric Roth’s adaptation failed to crack the lineup. It also missed at BAFTA, which indicates some may have taken issue with the film’s choice to center the narrative on the white villains of the story rather than the Osage people they victimized. Nevertheless, Lily Gladstone made history as the first Indigenous American to be nominated for acting. Additionally, the film scored a somewhat surprising Oscar nomination for Best Original Song with “Wahzhazhe (A Song For My People).” Of course, “Killers of the Flower Moon” showed up in Best Picture, Director, and many craft categories, including a posthumous nomination for Robbie Robertson in Best Original Score.

After winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award, many wondered if “American Fiction” would perform well in awards season. Today, it showed its strength loudly as the Academy clearly loved “American Fiction,” While five nominations don’t sound like a lot in comparison to the thirteen for “Oppenheimer,” comedies like “American Fiction” rarely get any attention from the Academy. Yet today, Cord Jefferson’s feature directorial debut scored major nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. Jeffrey Wright nabbed his first nomination for Best Actor, while Sterling K. Brown showed that the SAG nomination was no fluke, showing up in Best Supporting Actor. Laura Karpman’s nomination for Best Original Score was even more surprising, showing love for the film across multiple branches. Cord Jefferson could be looking at a Best Adapted Screenplay win if the team behind the film’s awards campaign can play their cards right.

Best Original Score had a handful of surprises this morning, in addition to “American Fiction’s” surprise nomination. Despite getting in essentially everywhere, Daniel Pemberton’s score for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” was sadly left off the list. Instead, John Williams extended plenty of his own records with a nomination for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.” Last year, he set the record for being the oldest nominee in Academy history and extended that one. He continues his run as the most nominated living person at the Oscars. This will be perceived as a “legacy nomination” for Williams, which, given the intense competition in the category this year, won’t go over well. Expected nominations for Robertson for “Killers of the Flower Moon,” Ludwig Göransson for “Oppenheimer,” and Jerskin Fendrix for “Poor Things” all rounded out the category.

Oppenheimer” led the nominees this morning, but “Poor Things” was right on its heels with eleven nominations. Much like “Oppenheimer,” “Poor Things” didn’t really have many misses to complain about. Willem Dafoe didn’t get into Best Supporting Actor, but Mark Ruffalo landed in there instead after missing at SAG and BAFTA. Recently, people had begun to doubt Yorgos Lanthimos in Best Director and even questioned the film in Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Still, it showed up in all three categories. Other than Dafoe, the only proper miss was in Best Visual Effects, where “Poor Things” was shortlisted. This was a solid morning for the film overall.

Everyone was predicting Jodie Foster would land a Best Supporting Actress nomination for “Nyad,” and she did, but Annette Bening was more of a bubble contender. While most people predicted Margot Robbie or Greta Lee, Bening showed up instead. This performance, perhaps more than most others this year, likely appealed to the older crop of the Academy, ensuring her spot in the lineup. Seeing Robbie and Lee left out was a bummer, but the Academy prefers portrayals of real people to original characters, which hurt them both.

Though not a surprise, as mostly everyone saw it coming, both “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest” had a very good morning with five nominations each. Both films landed in Best Picture and Director, making Justine Triet the lone female nominee in Best Director. Each film got its respective screenplay nominations along with one craft nomination (“Anatomy of a Fall” got Best Film Editing, while “The Zone of Interest” got a richly deserved nomination for Best Sound). And Sandra Hüller received a Best Actress nomination for “Anatomy of a Fall,” while “The Zone of Interest” got into Best International Feature, where it’s assured the win being it’s also nominated for Best Picture. Many believed Hüller would show up in Best Supporting Actress for Glazer’s film, but that never panned out. Even so, this is a stellar morning for both Cannes titles that have had similar journeys all awards season and truly shows how international titles are growing in strength each year with the new Academy membership.

While “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest” showed the domination of international titles, the actual Best International Feature category was all over the place. France chose “The Taste of Things” as their submission over “Anatomy of a Fall” and was shut out entirely. Thankfully, “Society of a Snow” received a nomination here, along with Best Makeup and Hairstyling, though it missed in Best Visual Effects. Many believed “20 Days in Mariupol” would pull double-duty, scoring a nomination for Best International Feature alongside its Best Documentary nomination after it received both nominations from BAFTA, but it missed there. Instead, “Perfect Days,” “Io Capitano,” and “The Teachers’ Lounge” rounded out the category.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” won the Critics Choice Awards’ Best Documentary prize but was snubbed here. “Summer of Soul” aside, winning at CCA has been the kiss of death for contenders in this category as of late. “20 Days in Mariupol” scored a nomination here and will presumably win while “Beyond Utopia” was sadly overlooked. Interestingly, in Best Documentary Feature, three of the five nominees were officially selected as a country’s submission for Best International Feature, though none of them crossed over. “The Eternal Memory” was Chile’s submission, “Four Daughters” was submitted by Tunisia, and Ukraine submitted “20 Days in Mariupol.” “To Kill a Tiger” rounds out the category, making this category entirely comprised of non-English language documentaries.

Were they just waiting for Tom Cruise to bail on Paramount? Seven movies in “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning” scored the franchise’s first-ever Oscar nominations. The film showed up in Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. While it’s unlikely to win either category, seeing some recognition finally come this franchise’s way is nice.

Godzilla Minus One” became the first “Godzilla” movie to score an Oscar nomination today, nabbing a nomination in Best Visual Effects. Despite its low budget, this nomination was the biggest hurdle for it to overcome if it was going to win the category altogether. Typically, this category is won by a film that most resembles a Best Picture nominee, but this year, that title is held by “Napoleon,” and I don’t expect the branch to go in that direction. So who will win? “The Creator” grabbed an expected nomination and sure does feel possible as a winner, but the film itself underwhelmed audiences and critics. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” could be the first winner for the MCU, but that doesn’t seem quite right. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning” isn’t likely winning either. So it’s a battle between “The Creator” and “Godzilla Minus One.” I think the narrative that “Godzilla Minus One” has going for it is incredibly strong and should carry it through to a win.

All the signs pointed to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” scoring that fifth spot in Best Animated Feature, but the Academy went with “Robot Dreams” instead. While it’s not exactly a shock, with the entire Academy able to vote on the nominees in this category, they’ve leaned more heavily on more prominent names over the last few years. Still, “Robot Dreams” is a crowdpleaser, so clearly, they got enough voters to check it out. Sadly, no animated films scored nominations outside their designated category (a sad repeat of last year’s nominees, too). “The Boy and the Heron” couldn’t materialize a Best Original Score nomination, and neither could “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” They’re joined in the category by Pixar’s “Elemental” and Netflix’s “Nimona.” What will it take to get the Academy to nominate a film elsewhere? We need that big-budget, big-box-office, crowd-pleasing original film to make it happen.

Alexander Payne may have missed a nomination for Best Director this morning, but “The Holdovers” scored a respectable five nominations. Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph were both nominated and could easily win their categories. David Hemingson was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, while the film scored a Best Film Editing nomination too. This is the right combination of nominations to stay in the hunt to win Best Picture. If it wins Best Actor, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay, it’s the clear number-two contender for Best Picture. Can it beat “Oppenheimer?” No, I don’t believe anything will, but it can take solace in second place.

Overall, this year didn’t contain too many shocking omissions. While in years past, there’s often a shocking miss of someone who could’ve gone on to win their category, that really didn’t happen this year. It’s disappointing to see films like “All Of Us Strangers,” “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” and “Saltburn” miss out entirely, along with so many other great films. Even so, this is a solid set of nominees. Best Picture has big, populist hits, international titles, smaller indies, and films that appeal to an older and younger generation. Overall, there’s not a ton to complain about this year. Here’s to another nearly two months of campaigning!

What do you think about this year’s nominations? What was the biggest surprise of the morning? How does this shake up the potential winners? Please check out our updated predictions here and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or over on our Twitter account.

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Daniel Howat
Daniel Howat
Movie and awards season obsessed. Hollywood Critics Association Member.

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