Well, now that we know for sure that Tom Cruise didn’t get that well-deserved Oscar nod, what are we to do but talk about the things that surprised and stunned us yesterday when the Academy Award nominations were announced? Cruise was obviously snubbed, which is a travesty a sham, and a mockery all at once — a traveshamockery, if you will — but at least he was in good company.
Oscar winner Viola Davis not getting recognition for The Woman King? No nominations at all for that movie, as a matter of fact? Crazy. Till star Danielle Deadwyler being ignored? Insane.
Now, the obvious question to ask is, what actress would I deprive of a nomination so as to honor these two astonishing women? I haven’t seen To Leslie yet, so I cannot speak to the Andrea Riseborough question — though I have heard wonderful things and am a fan of hers, to begin with — but you cannot tell me, with a straight face, that Michelle Williams was better than either Davis or Deadwyler. Generally speaking, I enjoyed The Fabelmans, even if I thought it was badly flawed, but as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Williams not only delivers a supporting performance, but it’s very by the numbers, hitting all the appropriate emotional notes without ever rising above them. Don’t get me wrong, I think Williams is a great performer, but to reward her for this role, in this category, over Davis and Deadwyler, is an enormous miscarriage of awards justice.
Speaking of miscarriages of justice, while I love Paul Mescal as an actor (he’s wonderful in Normal People), and enjoyed his performance in Aftersun, I don’t quite get why he received this nomination. Even if you’re not a Tom Cruise fan — and I understand that many are not, and also mistakenly believe that the effortless charm he displays in Top Gun: Maverick probably took exactly that much effort to achieve — what Adam Sandler did in Hustle was triumphant. The fact that SAG/AFTRA recognized Sandler with a nomination, but the Academy ignored him in favor of Mescal is a bit baffling. [Editor’s Note: Is it really, though?]
Also baffling? The inexplicable love the Academy showed for Ruben Östlund‘s Triangle of Sadness, which earned him Best Original Screenplay and Best Director nominations, with the film getting a Best Picture nod, to boot. The fact that Top Gun: Maverick‘s Joseph Kosinski lost out on a directing nomination to this guy, whose movie is almost banal in its extreme “satire” of the über wealthy, is an insult. Triangle is what a Texan friend of mine would refer to as “all hat, no cattle,” as Östlund relies on cliches and heavy-handed tropes to deliver what he’d like to think is social commentary. That Academy voters fell for it made my eyes roll so hard, I think I strained something.
Likewise, while I will once again trumpet my love of Steven Spielberg, the fact that the semi-autobiographical script he wrote with Tony Kushner earned an Original Screenplay nod is nauseating. Both men have done far better work, but the treacly over-the-top touches, the on-the-nose use of antisemitic villains, and the rote coming-of-age story beats apparently are exactly what the writing branch of the Academy loves, I guess. Far be it for me, a non-member of the Academy, to point out that the brilliantly funny Bros and the somber, effective, and incredibly delicately written Causeway are both far better examples of originality and quality storytelling than The Fabelmans.
Since I mentioned Causeway, I absolutely believe it is worth celebrating the nomination of Brian Tyree Henry for his work in that movie. When his name was announced yesterday morning, I actually let out a yelp of glee. Yes, a yelp of glee. That and Riseborough’s nomination were probably the biggest surprises of the morning for me, as was the pleasant one that Chris McQuarrie, Ehren Kruger, and the whole team behind the Top Gun: Maverick script received a well-deserved Adapted Screenplay nod.
Back to Henry for a moment. His performance is the kind of quiet, restrained turn that doesn’t often get noticed anymore by Academy members, who gravitate toward larger, more bombastic work, i.e. Judd Hirsch being nominated over his Fabelmans co-star Paul Dano. Instead, Henry brings tenderness and empathy to his role in Causeway, serving as a marvelous counterpart to Jennifer Lawrence‘s wounded soldier, who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury. It really is a special, soulful bit of acting from Henry. He doesn’t have a chance at winning — I think it’s going to be a sentimental favorite such as Hirsch or Everything Everywhere All at Once star Ke Huy Quan — but the fact that he earned a nomination at all is something of a triumph for that film.
Since I’m here, I also have to declare my unrestrained joy that Jamie Lee Curtis earned her first-ever nomination, which she more than deserved. She is so good in EEAAO, reminding us what a talented actress she is and why she’s been relevant for more than four decades. I don’t for a second think she’s going to win, either, but once again, in this case, the recognition is worth its weight in gold.
The Batman only received three nominations, which is pretty much what I expected after Michael Giacchino was hosed off the Academy’s shortlist for Best Score, but the fact that Greig Fraser wasn’t recognized for his remarkable cinematography was more than a little disappointing. In that vein, I don’t know that I was necessarily rooting for James Cameron to get another Best Director nomination for Avatar: The Way of Water, but I was definitely stunned when his name wasn’t called, just as I was when Descendant wasn’t nominated for Best Documentary Feature.
If I’m being honest, many of this year’s nominations have me feeling rather low. After the mediocre cinematic year we had in 2021, I had much higher hopes for 2022. The pandemic hampered releases on a large scale the last couple of years, but now that we seem to be on the other side of it all, I expected to see more movies this year that I really loved, and that I thought the Academy would love as well. Taking my admittedly irrational love for The Batman out of it, there were easily a half-dozen movies I saw this year that would make better Best Picture nominees than most of the films on the actual list. Admittedly, I haven’t yet seen All Quiet on the Western Front or Women Talking, but the idea that The Fabelmans is now one of the two frontrunners bums me out.
I tend to agree with my editor’s opinion that EEAAO is not the kind of movie the Academy will recognize as the year’s best, even if it did snag 11 nominations — more than any other film this year. And since Kosinski’s lack of nomination effectively removes Top Gun: Maverick as a genuine contender, that only leaves The Banshees of Inisherin, and as much as I loved that picture, I would be shocked if the Academy gives it the top prize. It’s too weird for the Academy, and when offered a safe, traditional option like Spielberg’s movie, it seems incredibly unlikely that they wouldn’t take it, but on the other hand, or should I say fin, this is the same organization that gave Best Picture to that movie about the woman who has sex with a fish-man.
This isn’t the last time I’ll be writing about this year’s Oscars, but now that the nominations are out, it is the last time I can complain about what the Academy did and didn’t do. It’s something of an annual tradition, I know, but it would be a lot more upbeat if they would just listen to my advice! That doesn’t seem so hard, does it?
Anyway, Hooray for Hollywood, and all that. Huzzah.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for more than 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday, and all previous columns can be found here.