Reactions to the 2023 Oscar Nominations

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their nominations for the 95th Oscars on Tuesday. There wasn’t a whole lot to get too mad about. Seven of the 10 Best Picture nominees made my own top 10 list, a first. I still don’t understand voters’ obsession with Elvis, but at least they didn’t nominate Tom Hanks for his baffling turn in it. And before you come for me on Twitter, I haven’t seen Till or The Woman King, so I can’t speak to how much of a travesty it is that neither leading lady was nominated. I also don’t know if To Leslie‘s shocking nomination for Best Actress is honoring a hidden gem or merely succumbing to peer pressure.

Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)

Decision to Leave – Picture, Directing, Actress, Original Screenplay, International Feature, Cinematography
Park Chan-wook’s thriller was one of the best movies from any country in any language last year. While it faced an uphill battle to break through in the major categories (and Cinematography), I’m absolutely baffled as to how it was shortlisted for International Feature but didn’t make the final five. It’s better than every movie in that category!

Triangle of Sadness – Supporting Actress
Ruben Östlund’s class satire got three deserving nominations. While many voters have clearly seen it and loved it enough to put it in Best Picture, they didn’t nominate Dolly de Leon, easily the best part of the movie.

Nope – Picture, Directing, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Visual Effects
Jordan Peele struck gold right out the gate with Get Out, picking up nods for Picture and Directing and a win for Best Original Screenplay. But his last two movies have blanked, despite no-brainer nominations like Best Actress for Us and those here for Nope. The lack of technical consideration, when this was one of the most expertly crafted movies of the year, especially hurts.

RRR – Picture, Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound
We already knew it wasn’t going to get into the International Feature category, since India submitted Last Film Show instead. But the groundswell of support the film had throughout 2022 only resulted in one (well-deserved) nomination for Original Song.

Top Gun: Maverick – Cinematography
Easily the most head-scratching category of the day. Bardo and Empire of Light picked up their lone nods here. Both are from respected international DPs. I don’t think anyone was predicting Tár, either. But Maverick has shots I’ve been thinking about for years (since those first trailers dropped back in 2020), which is more than I can say for any of these nominees.

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TV Recap: Jan. 15-21, 2022

NEW SHOWS
The Last of Us – “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” (A) / series premiere
As a non-gamer, I didn’t know what to expect. Though as a fan of Chernobyl, my expectations were pretty high. This 90-minute pilot is about as good as scripted TV gets: thrilling, emotional and executed at a high level. I can’t wait to take this journey each week.

BINGEING
Mad Men – Season 5 (A- average)
The show’s best season yet, as some characters burn it all down (Lane) and others rise from the ashes of their broken dreams (Joan). This is one of the most devastating, incredible seasons of TV of any show.

REWATCH
Happy Endings – Season 1 (A- average)
I tend to skip Season 1 when I watch Happy Endings, but it took a lot less time to find its footing than I remembered. Watching the show in its intended order helped.

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Final Oscar Picks 2023

BEST PICTURE
All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
Babylon
The Banshees of Inisherin
Elvis
Everything Everywhere All at Once
The Fabelmans
TÁR
Top Gun: Maverick
Women Talking

Dark Horse: Triangle of Sadness
Long Shot: The Whale
Total Shock: RRR

The skinny: It’s a little funny to me after all the late surges (All Quiet on the Western Front), bad reviews (Babylon) and a weak awards showing (Women Talking), it’s the autobiographical film by a master director that’s still leading after all this time. There’s still time for any of those three to be replaced by Triangle of Sadness, which still has the Palme d’Or, strong support from international voters and a recent induction into the Criterion Collection on its side. But it could also be The Whale that sneaks in. It’s the one legitimate arthouse hit of awards season and assured nominations in Actor, Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay could push it into the top category. That still leaves RRR on the outside, despite a recent wave of support and strategic screenings for Academy voters.

BEST DIRECTOR
Damien Chazelle, Babylon
Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Daniels, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Steven Spielberg, The Fabelmans
Todd Field, TÁR

Dark Horse: Sarah Polley, Women Talking
Long Shot: Joseph Kosinski, Top Gun: Maverick
Total Shock: Park Chan-wook, Decision to Leave

The skinny: Everyone but Chazelle is a DGA nominee this year, and I think his biggest effort to date will still be rewarded. But he’s easily the most vulnerable. So who could get that last spot? Sarah Polley would be a welcome addition, especially since she’s never been nominated and would add to the still far-too-small number of female nominees in this category. It could be DGA nominee Kosinski, though that still seems like a surprise. And Park is overdue and just delivered his best movie yet. But the directors of All Quiet on the Western Front (Edward Berger) and Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund) seem poised to overtake him.

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

Dark Horse: Tom Cruise, Top Gun: Maverick
Long Shot: Adam Sandler, Hustle
Total Shock: Tom Hanks, A Man Called Otto

The skinny: While it felt like Fraser had this locked up all season long, he only has a handful of critics’ awards to show for it. He could still pull it off, but maybe the wave of goodwill – and the chance for bigger parts – will be award enough. It really feels like Colin’s in front with Butler nipping at his heels. But I swear to god, I’m sick of this award going to someone playing a real-life historical figure. (It’s happened eight times here since 2010. Eight!)

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett, TÁR
Ana de Armas, Blonde
Danielle Deadwyler, Till
Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans
Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Dark Horse: Viola Davis, The Woman King
Long Shot: Andrea Riseborough, To Leslie
Total Shock: Emma Thompson, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande

The skinny: Blanchett’s either going to win her third Oscar, or Yeoh will win her first. It could go either way, but I’m expecting the former. The tricky part here is figuring out if Williams will end up here, in Supporting, or shut out altogether. I still think The Fabelmans has enough momentum for her to pick up her fifth nod, but it could be Viola Davis picking up her fifth instead. I don’t think the “grassroots” campaign for Andrea Riseborough will gain enough traction, though she seems more likely to pick up an Independent Spirit Award now.

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The Best Film Performances of 2022

Ensemble in a Drama
Women Talking
Trying to single out a performance here is a fool’s errand, because what makes the movie so powerful is each individual’s grief, frustration and determination revealing themselves throughout. Another clear example of why the Oscars need an Ensemble Acting award.

Actor in a Drama
Brendan Fraser, The Whale
The more I think about Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of The Whale, the less I like it. It’s an intentionally ugly movie that fails to earn its emotional catharsis. But I can’t get rid of the whole thing. Brendan Fraser, who’s always been a reliable presence, gives a powerful performance that finds the empathy the film itself lacks.

Actress in a Drama
Anna Cobb, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
I could be boring here and give this to Cate Blanchett in Tár, but she’s already getting all the awards. So I want to highlight another stellar performance that won’t be at the Oscars. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is perhaps the quintessential horror movie of the Terminally Online era. Cobb plays Casey, a lonely teen who becomes obsessed with an online horror challenge. But is the breakdown she documents real or a performance? Writer-director Jane Schoenbrun never tips her hand. It’s an emotionally and physically complex performance, one that’s all the more astonishing since this marks Cobb’s debut.

Supporting Actor in a Drama
Justin Long, Barbarian
The most hilarious performance of the year hidden inside one of the year’s best horror movies. Long tweaks his nice guy persona as a sex pest whose world comes crashing down right as he’s riding high, sending him back to his hometown and the house of horrors on Barbary Street. Him pulling out a tape measure was the single funniest moment of the year, in a movie that was otherwise terrifying.

Supporting Actress in a Drama
Hong Chau, The Whale
Is that a photo of Hong Chau in The Menu? Yes. Has A24 inexplicably failed to put up a single decent photo of her from The Whale? Also yes. But in both films, underestimate her at your own peril. In The Whale, she plays Charlie’s best friend, neighbor and nurse, who not only enables Charlie’s eating disorder but also provides him the physical and emotional comfort he craves. Like Fraser, she has the emotional depth the film doesn’t.

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The Best and Worst Movies of 2022

10. Avatar: The Way of Water (dir. James Cameron) and Nope (dir. Jordan Peele)
Is this cheating? Maybe. But in a cinema landscape dominated by disposable blockbusters, Cameron and Peele delivered big-budget films made to last. Both are films about family, obsession and invading forces, but mostly they’re on this list because they showed us something we hadn’t seen before.

9. Triangle of Sadness (dir. Ruben Östlund)
Though I’m less enamored with the first part – skewering the vapidity of supermodels – the later two sections are lights-out brilliant. On the luxury yacht, class divisions start to grow wider, until all the rich assholes are throwing up in a segment that rivals that infamous Family Guy scene. But what comes after is even more brilliant: a turn of the tables that echoes both Lord of the Flies and The Twilight Zone.

8. Women Talking (dir. Sarah Polley)
I love movies that mostly feature a single location and lots of talking. They’re usually dominated by men: Glengarry Glen Ross, 12 Angry Men, Reservoir Dogs, the list goes on. But Polley’s film gives women the floor as they debate a life-changing decision: leave the religious compound where they’ve spent all their lives, or stay and face continued sexual assault. It’s not easy subject matter, but it’s handled delicately. The performances are excellent across-the-board, building to a powerful ending.

7. The Fabelmans (dir. Steven Spielberg)
You know who’s good at making movies? That Steven Spielberg. This extremely autobiographical story about a boy (Gabriel Labelle, a knockout in his first major role) obsessed with filmmaking hits all the right emotional notes without the sentimentality Spielberg can be guilty of indulging in.

6. The Banshees of Inisherin (dir. Martin McDonagh)
The end of a friendship can be more painful than the end of a romantic relationship. But below the surface there’s even more to explore in McDonagh’s viciously dark comedy: ambition vs. contentment, selfishness vs. selflessness, and even echoes of the Irish Civil War.

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The Best TV Performances of 2022

Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Abbott Elementary
Many comedies take a while to find their footing and figure out the balance of their ensembles. Not Abbott. It joins a rare club – whose members include Arrested Development and Brooklyn Nine-Nine – of shows that nailed it right away. Every cast members knows when to step into the spotlight and when to cede the stage for someone else to have the heartwarming or side-splitting moment.

Actor in a Comedy Series
Nathan Fielder, The Rehearsal
How much is Nathan Fielder acting in his diabolical creation? We’ll never know, and that’s part of the brilliance. His role as orchestrator, life coach and eventual participant has so many layers that only Fielder himself could peel back them all.

Actress in a Comedy Series
Hannah Einbinder, Hacks
HBO Max has been delivering some blatant category fraud by getting Einbinder nominated as a Supporting Actress two years running. It’s made it easier for Jean Smart to win Lead Actress both years, but especially in its second season, Einbinder has proven herself. This version of Ava is a lot more caring and mature. She takes her lumps from Deborah, coming out the other side as more confident writer.

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta
I easily could have given this award to every dude on The Righteous Gemstones – including Walton Goggins, Tim Baltz, Eric Roberts and Tony Cavalero – but this was my last chance to honor the great Brian Tyree Henry, the heart and soul of this show. Alfred found success but still has to deal with robberies, grief, stardom, and a changing artistic landscape that forces him into uncomfortable situations, both literal and figurative. By the time he was fighting off a wild boar, it felt like a metaphor for all his frustrations.

Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Sarah Goldberg, Barry
Poor Sally. She finally saw her dream come true, starring in and show-running an autobiographical drama. And then it didn’t get 10 million hours viewed in its first weekend and got canceled. Having to listen to some nonsense from a CEO about not hitting the right “taste clusters” felt like an exaggeration, but with streamers cleaning house left and right, it now feels prescient. This is before we even get to Barry’s violent outbursts and solutions. Her elevator meltdown on her former assistant Natalie (D’Arcy Carden) felt completely understandable. Only a performance as good as Goldberg’s made that possible.

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The Best TV Shows of 2022, Part 2

COMEDY SHOWS & SPECIALS

Documentary Now! (IFC)
One of the only shows on the air that feels like it’s tailor-made to my overlapping nerdy interests. Documentary Now! continues to deliver spot-on absurdist parodies of obscure documentaries, solely because IFC’s parent company wants to work with Fred Armisen and company. While it can’t be that expensive (compared to, say, The Rings of Power), it does require lots of location shooting for ratings that would get it annihilated anywhere else. But thankfully they have an advocate to keep letting them bring us wonderful sights like a Werner Herzog-esque director (Alexander Skarsgård) shooting both a depressing drama about nomadic peoples of Eurasia and a cheesy sitcom about two bachelors forced to become parents.

Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (HBO Max)
“It’s hard to tell people your grandma was a side piece,” Carmichael begins. And it doesn’t get any less uncomfortable or real from there. Unraveling his family’s complicated life story, as well as revealing his own secrets, Carmichael proves he’s adept as both a comedian and storyteller. On a personal level, this special helped me sort out some tough feelings I had about some of my own family members.

The Kids in the Hall (Prime)
I never absorbed this Canadian quintet’s sketches like I did with Saturday Night Live or MADtv as a kid. But I always knew there was something special about their particular brand of humor, especially as I saw more of the show as I got older. This revival season – of which I hope there’s more to come – shows that while the cast may be a little pudgier and a little grayer, they’re still just as sharp as ever.

Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special (Netflix)
Norm was one of my most favorite comedians. He could go for an extremely obvious punchline or an extremely esoteric one. Part of the joy was you never knew which, but either one could make him extremely happy, flashing a devilish grin when one landed. This special – recorded in his home studio during the pandemic – takes away a key element of his work (the audience) but still manages to be uproarious.

Would It Kill You to Laugh? (Peacock)
A loose collection of sketches connected only by Kate Berlant and John Early’s friendship. Y’know, the kind that allows them to write scenarios where they’re catty to one another, having confused sexual feelings for one another or playing a married beaver couple susceptible to scams(?!). What, you don’t have a friend like that? Not all the scenes were winners, but I’m still thinking about several, including their fake sitcom I’m Gay, She’s Half Jewish! and a recurring bit where currency has been replaced with hot caramel.

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The Best TV Shows of 2022, Part 1

If you thought we had hit “Peak TV” (a term coined by executive John Landgraf nearly a decade ago), you were wrong. With 600-plus scripted shows airing in 2022, there was absolutely no way to keep up. But I still watched a hell of a lot. So much, in fact, that I’m doing something unprecedented. I’ve got my customary top 10, but my honorable mentions include another 10 shows, and then I’ve got 10 more after that worth highlighting. (And this is on top of my top 5 comedy shows and specials, coming soon.) So strap in. We’re starting with the two best comic book adaptations of the year.

10. The Sandman (Netflix)
They did it. Somehow, they pulled off a proper adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece. But it wasn’t mere fidelity that made it so special. The show managed to keep a hold of the graphic novel’s black heart, remaining hopeful even amidst the ugliness of the world. It also updated its casting without calling attention to itself.
Standout episodes: “A Hope in Hell,” “24/7,” “The Doll’s House”

9. The Boys (Prime Video)
The superhero parody grew even more grotesque and cynical in its third season, which I didn’t even think was possible. It made no bones about its view of the American regime, revealing last season’s “political savior” as another blackmailing Supe, and directly connecting its most evil characters to U.S. colonialism and arms dealing in Central America in ’80s. But was it still funny? Oh god yes! Provided you had a strong stomach, of course.
Standout episodes: “Barbary Coast,” “Herogasm,” “The Instant White-Hot Wild”

8. Hacks (HBO Max)
This marvelous comedy’s debut season was one of 2021’s most pleasant surprises. The show took a leap in Season 2, with both Deborah and Ava maturing emotionally. Their evolution from working together to genuinely caring about one another was one of the most touching depictions of friendship on TV. And it still found time to bring in Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf off the bench as an anal-retentive tour manager! Its finale felt like the perfect note to end on, but thankfully there will be more Hacks to come.
Standout episodes: “The Captain’s Wife,” “Retired,” “The One, the Only”

7. Atlanta (FX)
Season 3 of Atlanta felt like a challenge, both for the creators and the audience. Due to COVID restrictions, only about half of the episodes feature the entire cast and their surreal adventures in Europe – including meeting Liam Neeson and eating human hands – while the rest were fables about foster care, reparations and of course, race. There were a lot of cries of “This is not what I signed up for,” and even I had trouble with some of the less sharp satires. But then a few months later the fourth and final season dropped, and while I’m unaware of the actual production schedule, it felt like something had flipped. The quartet was back together (mostly) and every episode seemed like the very best version of this show. The season premiere (titled “The Most Atlanta”) felt like everything the show had gotten exactly right about Georgia’s capital city, condensed into 30 minutes. I watched it twice in the same day. But the show had even more up its sleeve a few weeks later, with an astonishing alternate history mockumentary about the production of A Goofy Movie. (No, really.) It was sublime silliness done seriously.
Standout episodes: “The Big Payback,” “The Most Atlanta,” “The Goof Who Sat by the Door”

6. Abbott Elementary (ABC)
What a miracle. Quinta Brunson has been funny for a long time, and this was the perfect vehicle for her talents. Every episode is keenly observed, hilarious and sweet, and never feels like it’s trying too hard. And it does what the best ensembles do – more on that later – giving everyone a chance to be funny. It also has the funniest TV janitor since Scrubs.
Standout episodes: “Gifted Program,” “Desking,” “Sick Day”

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Best Songs of 2022

Another year of not caring about new music has gone splendidly. Sure, I checked out some of the bigger albums (like Beyoncé’s Renaissance) but for the most part, I’m only listening to individual tracks. Were their some important and/or exhilarating albums I missed? I’m sure, but ignorance really has been bliss. My top 50 songs are below. Check out the Spotify playist here.

The 1975 – “About You”
Alvvays – “Belinda Says”
Anxious – “Where You Been”
Bear and the Beasts – “Bare Witness”
Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”
The Blessed Madonna – “Serotonin Moonbeams”
Braxe + Falcon feat. Panda Bear – “Step by Step”
Phoebe Bridgers – “So Much Wine”
Brandi Carlile – “You and Me on the Rock (In the Canyon Haze)”
Chat Pile – “Lake Time (Mr. Rodan)”
Jacob Collier (feat. Lizzy McAlpine and John Mayer) – “Never Gonna Be Alone”
Lucy Dacus – “Kissing Lessons”
Danger Mouse & Black Thought feat. MF Doom – “Belize”
Dawes – “The Interest of Time”
Destroyer – “June”
Future Islands – “King of Sweden”
Aimee-Leigh Gemstone – “Sassy on Sunday”
Ludwig Göransson – “Turning Red”
Gorillaz feat. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown – “New Gold”
Hot Chip – “Down”
Jamie xx – “Let’s Do It Again”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Go Find Yourself or Whatever”
Jimmy Eat World – “Place Your Debts”
Durand Jones & the Indications – “The Way That I Do”
Kae Tempest feat. Kevin Abstract – “More Pressure”
Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit”
Kendrick Lamar feat. Baby Keem and Sam Dew – “Savior”
LCD Soundsystem – “New Body Rhumba”
MJ Lenderman – “You Are Every Girl to Me”
Lizzo – “About Damn Time”
Brian Metolius – “Robert Dyas (The Funky Range of Our Christmas Gifts)”
Mitski – “Should’ve Been Me”
Marcus Mumford – “Grace”
Phoenix feat. Ezra Koenig – “Tonight”
Plains, Waxahatchee and Jess Williamson – “Abilene”
Pusha T – “Diet Coke”
Secret Machines – “Day 21”
Seratones – “Good Day”
The Smile – “Speech Bubbles”
Soccer Mommy – “Shotgun”
Spoon – “Wild”
Bartees Strange – “Heavy Heart”
The Suffers – “Don’t Bother Me”
Taylor Swift – “Anti-Hero”
Trombone Shorty – “Come Back”
TRSH – “Miso Soup”
Wallice – “90s American Superstar”
Weyes Blood – “It’s Not Just Me, It’s Everybody”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs feat. Perfume Genius – “Spitting Off the Edge of the World”
Yeule – “Don’t Be So Hard on Your Own Beauty”

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TV Recap: Jan. 1-7, 2023

BINGEING
The Little Drummer Girl (A)
While the acting is tremendous, the writing is taut and the production design is immaculate, what makes this one of the best literary adaptations ever is Park Chan-wook’s incredible direction. Even the quietest moments are filled with tension and desire. That’s his specialty, and it works perfectly here.

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