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Pleasant Surprises: the 2023 Oscar Nominations

The 2023 Oscar nominations were finally announced a few days ago. The nominations for next month's ceremony have been predicted by many over the past few months, and of course most of them have been confirmed, but there are some nice surprises and unsavoury snubs. We now take a look at the former!

Although two of the last three Best Picture winners were directed by Asian filmmakers, the Academy has fallen short in nominating actors of Asian descent. Film hits such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did not receive a single nomination for their actors. However, this year’s number of nominations (Everywhere, Everything, All at Once’s Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, and Stephanie Hsu, as well as The Whale’s supporting actress Hong Chau, were nominated this year) broke the record for the number of actors of Asian descent ever nominated in a year. Yeoh, 60, is only the second Asian to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. And the first was not just now: Merle Oberon had to hide her Asian heritage in 1935 when she was nominated for Black Angel.

Something for something, you might say. Most POC nominees were expected in the Best Actress category, but both Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till) were ultimately passed over. The omission of Davis, a Hollywood favourite, may come as a particular surprise, as she has roared through the season so far, receiving nominations at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Critics Choice Awards, and BAFTAs. But here we have Andrea Riseborough, who has mostly appeared in independent films, for her indie film To Leslie, in which she plays a broke lottery winner. The micro-budget film has been campaigned for at the last minute by stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Edward Norton. The award is likely to go to either Cate Blanchett (Tár) or Michelle Yeoh. But the award for Supporting Actress is most likely to go to Angela Bassett, who wowed critics as Queen Ramonda (Black Panther 2) and could even make history as Marvel Studios’ first Oscar-winning actress.

In the men’s field, we are delighted with two surprise nominations. One of them is Brian Tyree Henry, who won Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Causeway, in which he stars alongside Jennifer Lawrence. Henry’s breakthrough performance as Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles in the critically acclaimed Atlanta followed roles in films such as Widows and If Beale Street Could Talk. But perhaps an even bigger surprise is Paul Mescal, who only a few years ago emerged and stole viewers’ hearts in Hulu’s adaptation of Sally Rooney’s book, “Normal People”, and then Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut, The Lost Girl. Mescal also has two starring roles in 2022. The first was in Aftersun, in which he plays the troubled father of a young girl, and the second was in God’s Creatures, about a man accused of sexual abuse, both of which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Mescal was nominated for the Oscar top five for Aftersun.

And finally, there is a German Netflix production, All Quiet on the Western Front, which almost collected the most nominations this year (nine in total). The German-language adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s classic World War I novel was a favourite of many Oscar voters, as the 1930 adaptation won the Best Picture prize at the third Academy Awards.