While every pool of Oscar nominations has a few surprises in store, this year packed some real shockers. Though big players like Oppenheimer, Poor Things, Killers of the Flower Moon and Barbie walked away with the most nominations, there was still room for major upsets across the board. From exclusions to well-deserved inclusions, here are the key takeaways.
Surprise: American Fiction has a great showing
It’s hard not to like Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction, a combination of searing satire and moving family drama. While the movie has been performing admirably this awards season, its five nominations go to show how well the movie resonated with viewers. Several key SAG Award nominations could’ve clued you in to the movie’s success, with Sterling K. Brown and Jeffrey Wright’s performances singled out and the film standing as a Best Picture contender.
Snub: Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie are missing
The biggest news from the Oscar nominations was not who was included, but who wasn’t. Shockingly, the two women behind Barbie completely missed out on their respective categories, with Greta Gerwig being snubbed for Best Director and Margot Robbie being passed over for Best Actress. The former is strange, given Gerwig’s mastery of moviemaking in Barbie that’s easily comparable to a nominee like Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things; the latter is nothing short of bizarre. How can you not nominate Barbie for Barbie?
Surprise: America Ferrera gets a big nomination
That said, one of Barbie’s eight nominations was a pleasant surprise, with America Ferrera nabbing a nod for Best Supporting Actress. She missed out on the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, and the BAFTAs (but did have a powerful speech at the Critics Choice Awards), leaving the chances of her becoming an Oscar nominee in doubt. It wasn’t a predictable nomination, but that makes it all the more exciting.
Snub: All of Us Strangers is a stranger to the Academy
One of last year’s best, most moving films was shut out. All of Us Strangers is a difficult movie to define, concerning a man who somehow encounters his parents who died when he was just a child. It’s emotionally fraught and features fantastic performances from the likes of Andrew Scott, Claire Foy, and Paul Mescal, and it all hinges on how well writer-director Andrew Haigh pulls off his premise. Unfortunately, neither he nor his cast were recognized.
Surprise: Justine Triet and Jonathan Glazer dominate major categories
In a post-Parasite world, it’s more common to see international films emerge as major players in awards season. This year, two films have made their mark: Justine Triet’s Golden Globe-winning legal drama Anatomy of a Fall and Jonathan Glazer’s abrasive Holocaust drama The Zone of Interest. Both nabbed significant nominations in Best Picture, Best Director, and their respective Best Screenplay categories, and, interestingly, while The Zone of Interest is eligible for Best International Film, Anatomy of a Fall isn’t (France submitted a different movie for the category).
Snub: May December only shows up in screenplay
Todd Haynes’ May December walks a daring tightrope of complex morality, and evidently it was a bit too difficult to digest for Academy voters. Though supporting actor Charles Melton cleaned up across critics’ groups, he missed out on his first Oscar nomination. Previous Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore also got snubbed, in spite of their many-layered performances. Thankfully, screenwriter Samy Burch did get a nod for Best Original Screenplay, one of the most deserved nominations of the day.
Surprise: Tech categories get specific
The more technical categories always have some room for a surprise or two, and this year is no exception. The beautifully shot black-and-white El Conde received a nomination for Best Cinematography, while late-game favorite Godzilla Minus One nabbed a nod for Best Visual Effects. The sci-fi film The Creator was also recognized for its sound and effects, showing that a movie can make an impact outside of the box office.
Snub: Fallen Leaves falls in the rankings
Despite an especially strong showing at the Golden Globes, the Finnish film Fallen Leaves failed to gain a spot in the category for Best International Film. The offbeat rom com received the third place prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival (behind Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest), and it seemed to have enough staying power to truly go the distance. However, its awards season ends here.
Surprise: Wes Anderson could finally win . . .
. . . For a short film. Despite the acclaimed filmmaker’s Cannes-premiering Asteroid City being eligible for this year’s Oscars it was his 39-minute film The Wonderful Life of Henry Sugar that got traction. Notably, Anderson has never won an Academy Award himself, and while his feature films may be a bit too eccentric for the awards body to reward, small doses of the director may very well pay off.
Snub: Saltburn gets burned
Saltburn, one of 2023’s most talked about movies, comes up with nothing at the Oscars. Though filmmaker Emerald Fennell is an Oscar winner, her writing and directing didn’t break through this time around. Neither did Rosamund Pike’s sensational supporting performance, nor Barry Keoghan’s soul-bearing lead role. What may be more of a snub, though, is the film’s absence from categories like Best Cinematography and Best Production Design—Saltburn is nothing if not a visual stunner.