The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for the 94th Oscars on Tuesday. As usual, there were snubs and surprises. Some indie films had no shot, including Benedetta, The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, Nine Days, Pig and Red Rocket. And some well-regarded films had stiff competition, like The Green Knight and In the Heights. I also won’t waste time covering movies that deserved to win in technical categories but weren’t even shortlisted, like Memoria (Sound) and Old (Makeup & Hairstyling). There were also a handful of surprises, including Licorice Pizza blanking in acting and The Rescue not making Documentary Feature. But I’m going to focus on the group below.
Biggest Snubs (in order from most to least egregious)
Annette – Original Song
This category has long been a shitshow, but how do you blow this? Even if the Mael brothers were unlikely to beat Beyoncé, Lin-Manuel Miranda or Billie Eilish, this was the film song of the year, was actually performed in the film and is at the center of one of the best scenes of the year.
The French Dispatch – Picture, Directing, Original Screenplay, Production Design, Film Editing, Original Score
I wasn’t expecting much, as the Academy has rarely nominated Wes Anderson films outside of Original Screenplay. But not this year. Its wonderful production design and film editing whiffed, and even the oft-nominated Alexandre Desplat was nowhere to be found this year.
The Velvet Underground – Documentary Feature
While Summer of Soul seems poised to cruise to victory, it’s Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground that’s the superior music history doc. But like the band it’s about, it’s not surprising it was ignored by the mainstream but adored by critics.
Mass – Picture, Directing, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay
Bleecker Street, the film’s distributor, has acquired some fantastic films out of festivals during its brief existence. But it’s still never gotten a single Oscar nod. So it’s not that big a shock. But Fran Kranz’s directorial debut is that good, and deserved a slew of nominations and the creation of an overdue Best Acting Ensemble award.
The Card Counter – Original Screenplay
Can anyone look me in the eye and honestly tell me Don’t Look Up has a better screenplay than this Paul Schrader film? Didn’t think so.
The Last Duel – Production Design | House of Gucci – Costume Design
Ridley Scott’s two historical epics really got the shaft. I knew Jodie Comer and Ben Affleck had no chance of getting in for Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor, respectively. I can live with that. But these technical nominations seemed like no-brainers, as both featured excellent craftsmanship. But The Last Duel got zilch, while House of Gucci – considered a contender for Picture, Actress and Supporting Actor – only got a nomination for its makeup and hair.
Last Night in Soho – Production Design, Costume Design, Film Editing
Even if you took issue with the script, the technical aspects were extraordinary. The film editing, especially, in that dance sequence, was mind-blowing. And not to pick on it too much, but compared to the WTF style of Don’t Look Up, it’s not contest.
The Matrix Resurrections – Visual Effects
I don’t even know what to say. This is just absolutely baffling, especially given the inclusion of Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings. Like so many MCU entries before it, the effects are quite good until the CGI-heavy finale when it looks like absolute garbage. Seriously, it should have been a two-film race between Matrix Resurrections and Dune. Nothing else even came close this year.
West Side Story – Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay
While the film certainly had a successful day with seven nominations, it should have had a few more. Rachel Zegler and Mike Faist were both newcomers to film, but that didn’t seem to have any effect on Ariana DeBose’s nomination. They all gave stunning performances. And how can you not appreciate what Tony Kushner did with his adaptation? No shots at the writers of Dune, but his script is clearly better.
Summer of Soul – Film Editing
Gonna beat this drum until the day I die: Documentaries should regularly be competing for this award! Once again, a case where someone (in this case Joshua L. Pearson) had hundreds of hours of video to sort through, plus newly recorded interviews, and fashion it into a cohesive story. And whatever problems I may have with the film as a whole, it did that incredibly well.
Pleasant Surprises (in no particular order)
Drive My Car in Best Picture
We did it! (OK, I had nothing to do with it.) But the best film of the year actually got nominated for Best Picture! I had long predicted Directing, Writing and International Feature. But competing for the big prize is huge, even if it has no chance of winning.
The Worst Person in the World in Original Screenplay
A huge shock, as none of Joachim Trier’s previous films have ever been recognized in any category. But this nomination (shared with Eskil Vogt) is richly deserved.
Flee going 3 for 3
I kept seeing people on Film Twitter (which normal people should never dig into) predicting Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s brilliant documentary would miss in all three categories. Heaven forbid! But it didn’t miss anywhere. A lovely showing for a lovely film.
Parallel Mothers in Actress and Original Score
I definitely wasn’t predicting either of these (but probably would have had each in 7th place). Still, I was very glad Pedro Almodóvar’s latest exquisite melodrama was represented.
Nightmare Alley in Best Picture
Easily one of the year’s biggest box office bombs, Guillermo del Toro’s first film since winning Best Picture and Best Director picked up some expected technical awards. But showing up here is a complete shock. Maybe it’s the beneficiary of the set 10 nominees (past years featured 8-10 films), but as a big fan of this film, it’s good to see it wasn’t forgotten by the body at large.