The 2023 Academy Awards nominations have dropped, and by golly, Top Gun: Maverick is a Best Picture candidate. But that wasn’t the only surprise on Tuesday morning: The Everything Everywhere All at Once hype train continues, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is up for an award that doesn’t involve visual effects, and the Animated Short Film category is straight-up X rated. Read on for our picks of the winners and losers.
For years, Oscars critics have been saying the Academy needs to lean much more populist in order to fix the telecast’s dire ratings problem and the decline in relevance it represents. If you nominate movies that people actually showed up to watch in a theater, the thinking goes, the same fans will show up to watch their favorite films collect some trophies. Last year’s ceremony tried to lean more accessible but shot itself in the foot, confining the technical categories—precisely the ones most likely to go to big-budget tentpoles like Dune—to a second-class preshow. This year, it seems, the voters finally got the message.
Even if star Tom Cruise didn’t land a Best Actor nod, blockbusters like Top Gun: Maverick were all over this year’s slate—including in Adapted Screenplay, not just the big-budget-skewing awards like Visual Effects. Angela Bassett landed the first acting nomination for a performance in a Marvel movie for her turn in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; Avatar: The Way of Water cleaned up nicely, as did Elvis and Everything Everywhere All at Once, the $100 million indie that could; even this year’s big foreign-language breakout, All Quiet on the Western Front, is a massive war epic. (All four films are also up for Best Picture.) Such nominations coexisted peacefully among more rarefied favorites like Women Talking and Tár, proving the Oscars don’t have to fully sell out to acknowledge a wider, and more familiar, set of films. We’ll see whether the ratings adjust accordingly. —Alison Herman
An odd silver lining of the Academy’s aggressive international expansion is that the success of Hollywood outsiders is now so taken for granted that excluding a film like RRR counts as a legitimate snub, even as other non-American movies like Triangle of Sadness and All Quiet on the Western Front thrive in a way that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Yes, Triangle’s Ruben Östlund was nominated alongside the likes of Steven Spielberg, but S.S. Rajamouli—a filmmaker who Big Jim Cameron spent several minutes bowing down to on a red carpet—got left out in the cold. RRR did get one nomination, for Best Original Song, but after India elected not to put it up for Best International Feature, Rajamouli and his team spent months on a full-fledged campaign that didn’t bear fruit in other categories. It’s a bummer, but the fact that success was even a possibility still speaks to the massive shift in the Oscars’ Overton window. —Herman
Winner: The Animated Short Film Category of My Dreams
Film is a visual medium, so instead of explaining why the Best Animated Short Film category was delightfully bonkers, allow me to just show you:
The subjects of the shorts start off harmlessly enough: a boy, a mole, a fox, a horse, a flying sailor, some ice merchants. And then we get to My Year of Dicks, which really [clears throat] penetrated my mind. If that wasn’t enough to wake you up this morning, the final nominee is called An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It. I’ll be honest: I haven’t watched any of these shorts and can’t speak to their quality. But the Oscars has a chance to award either what I can only assume is a Pornhub Original Film or the ostrich-themed premise of a Tim Robinson sketch. No offense to the other nominees, but fingers crossed that 2023 becomes the year of dicks at the Oscars. —Miles Surrey
Winner: “Grassroots” Campaigning
Have you seen To Leslie, the wrenching drama that just earned Andrea Riseborough her first Oscar nod? That’s a trick question—no one has, except for the legions of celebrities who started aggressively campaigning for it just a few weeks ago. It’s an inspirational story: You, too, could get a nomination for a film that grossed $27,000 at the international box office, so long as people like Gwyneth Paltrow decide to jump on the bandwagon just as voting gets going in earnest. On the one hand, the To Leslie “phenomenon” is a hilarious reminder that for all its inclusion-minded expansion, the Academy is still a cloistered group largely made up of easily influenced celebrities. On the other, Riseborough’s spot could have otherwise gone to Danielle Deadwyler of Till or Viola Davis of The Woman King, two outside-chance candidates steamrolled by a niche Awards Twitter meme. The optics are … not great, Bob. —Herman
Winner: Surprise Acting Picks
Yes, this is a catchall category—but trust me, it’s a good one. If To Leslie was a darkly hilarious kind of surprise, the other acting categories offered genuine grounds for a fist pump (or, in my case, an awkwardly timed yelp at 5:30 in the morning). Relative newcomer Stephanie Hsu rode the Everything Everywhere All at Once wave to earn a nomination alongside her more famous costars. Brian Tyree Henry broke through for his role in Causeway, a quiet drama about a military veteran (Jennifer Lawrence) struggling with PTSD. And Paul Mescal was recognized for his revelatory turn in Aftersun, a much more quietly heartbreaking performance than the capital-B Big turns the Academy usually goes for. Heading into Tuesday morning, all three nominations were largely absent from the litany of precursor awards; heavyweight favorites like Colin Farrell will have to keep on their toes. —Herman
Loser: The Decision to Ignore Decision to Leave
It’s been three years since Parasite made Oscars history—not just as the first Korean film to win an Academy Award, but as the first non-English-language film to win Best Picture. After Parasite’s huge night, I was optimistic that the Academy would acknowledge more Korean cinema in the future. Since we can’t go back in time to hand an Oscar to Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden—one of my favorite movies of the century, full stop—perhaps Academy voters would rally around the auteur’s next film, Decision to Leave. Alas, the Academy made the inexplicable decision to snub: Decision to Leave didn’t muster a single Oscar nomination. It just goes to show you that, as much progress as the Academy has made over the years, the voting body is not immune to having bad taste. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go bury myself at the beach. —Surrey
Loser (Probably): Diane Warren
All due respect to a songwriting legend, but at this point, Diane Warren has out–Glenn Closed Glenn Close. Before this year, Warren had already been nominated for Oscars so many times (13, to be precise) without actually winning that the Academy gave her a special Governors Award just to bring her suffering to its end. But in 2023, Warren is back with a Best Original Song nomination for her work in Tell It Like a Woman, an anthology-style film with segments helmed by Twilight’s Catherine Hardwicke and Taraji P. Henson. It’s a crowded field this year, with heavyweights like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and, of course, the endlessly replayable “Naatu Naatu.” It’s unlikely in the extreme that the 14th time will be the charm for Warren, but you can’t fault her for trying! —Herman
Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
After years of aggressive campaigning for a Best Picture winner to call its own, Netflix entered the 2023 award season in something of a funk. The films that appeared to give the streamer its best chance of Oscar buzz—namely, Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths—weren’t able to gain any meaningful traction with voters. (While Glass Onion did nab a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, it was shut out of all acting categories, as well as Best Picture.) Thankfully for Netflix, one of its international releases pulled most of the streamer’s weight during the Oscar nominations: All Quiet on the Western Front.
The second major film adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s 1928 anti-war novel of the same name, All Quiet nabbed an impressive nine nominations on Tuesday, including Best Picture. All Quiet would still be considered an outsider to win the Academy’s top prize in March, but the fact that Everything Everywhere All at Once was the only movie that scored more nominations speaks to All Quiet’s impressive—if somewhat unexpected—staying power with voters. It may still end up being a quiet year for Netflix at the Oscars, but All Quiet will do its best to make some noise on the streamer’s behalf. —Surrey
Winner: Ruben Östlund Continuing a New Oscars Tradition
There’s been an interesting little Oscars tradition ever since Bong Joon-ho was nominated for (and ultimately won) Best Director for Parasite in 2020: The category has continued to find room for a filmmaker behind an international film. After acknowledging Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) and Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Drive My Car) in 2021 and 2022, respectively, the Academy voters threw their weight behind Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness). On the one hand, it might not register as a huge shock that the Oscars would celebrate last year’s Palme d’Or winner—the same Cannes award that Parasite won back in 2019. But Östlund sneaking into the Best Director race over heavy hitters like Baz Luhrmann (Elvis) and Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) is still an impressive feat, and one that ensures this strange and somewhat incidental tradition carries on for at least another year. —Surrey