From She Said to Devotion: This Season’s Skipped Oscarbait Films | Oscars 2023
Jthere was excitement and surprise towards the end of last month when the year’s Oscar nominations were announced, but, following closely, there was also a lot of disappointment and anger with many perceived rebuffs. While the fantasy multiverse Everything Everywhere All At Once led the way, closely followed by The Banshees of Inishirin and All Quiet on the Western Front, a host of films that seemed, at least months ago to some, geared up for rewards glory ended up with little or nothing.
Empire of Light
While Roger Deakins might have snuck into the Best Cinematography category for his jaw-dropping work, Sam Mendes’ 80s drama Empire of Light was otherwise left in the dark, an accomplishment given its pedigree. The lukewarm reviews that greeted its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival quickly turned cold as more people saw it and scorn quickly seeped in, with the film becoming one of the season unfairly piled on whipped boys, seen as the kind of failed middlebrow mulch that’s only made for trophies. It marked a steep downfall for Mendes after 1917 reinserted him into the conversation and for Colman, whom the academy and all other relevant awards bodies are generally keen to reward.
While Top Gun: Maverick exceeded even the highest of expectations, flying into the top 10 box office hits of all time before earning six Oscar nominations, another moving flyboy story also starring Glen Powell crashed. On paper, Devotion seemed to be the more awards-friendly of the two, based on the groundbreaking true story of the Navy’s first-ever black airman during the Korean War, but mostly positive reviews (for me, it was by far best of both movies) failed to attract audiences, and the $90 million budget drama only raked in $21 million. It was a similar non-runner with academy voters, despite a strong showing from Jonathan Majors, who could well find himself in the running next year.
Hoping to replicate the success of 2016 Best Picture winner Spotlight, with its combination of inspirational journalism, a narrative drawn from rabid abuse headlines, and drab office decor, the investigative drama Weinstein She Said seemed designed for academy attention. But it slumped during a busy awards season, bombarding at the box office and garnering reviews that were more polite than passionate. It looked for a while that its star Carey Mulligan might end up in the best supporting actress roster after Bafta and Golden Globe nods (a clear case of category fraud but Universal’s smarter strategy counts). given the competitive Best Actress race) but the film was entirely snubbed, leading some to wonder how long Hollywood should wait before telling the recent story.
The female king
Modeled as if it were an Oscar contender from decades past (Gladiator and Braveheart were both confirmed influences), Gina Prince-Bythewood’s rousing action adventure The Woman King was instant fun for crowds both when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and when it was released widely soon after. . It was the rare historical epic at the center of black women with Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis at the helm, the actor considered probably the best actress, and those doing top-notch work behind the scenes (on a lower budget than films of this magnitude). generally receive) also expected to gain recognition. But, to the astonishment of many, he failed to secure a single nomination, with Davis’ snub seen as a direct result of Andrea Riseborough’s controversial last-minute campaign.
Opening in Toronto with less roar and more laughter roar was a 50s soft drama, My Policeman, the movie that hoped to legitimize Harry Styles as not just a movie star (this had to be proven with Don ‘t Worry Darling, which premiered a few days earlier in Venice) but a real actor. The damning verdict was that it wasn’t and it wasn’t, with the film receiving mostly negative reviews, instantly killing its chances as an award contender. Instead, Styles soared high this year with the Grammy-winning album Harry’s House, leading many to predict that multi-hyphenation could quickly remove one of those hyphens. union very soon.
It was too good to be true. After the surprise success of devastating dementia drama The Father, playwright-turned-writer-director Florian Zeller decided to adapt another of his difficult family plays, The Son, an acclaimed stage hit (Michael Billington of The Guardian described as “remarkable”). He assembled a stacked cast – Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman, Oscar nominee Vanessa Kirby, Oscar winner Laura Dern – and even brought together Anthony Hopkins, who won the Best Actor Oscar for The Father, back for a spin. of a scene. But as it turned out, The Son was too bad to believe, a goofy drama that managed to miss everything its predecessor had done right, turning off critics, audiences and voters alike. The Mother seems unlikely to follow.
There was understandable concern about a film based on the horrific lynching of Emmett Till, one of the most untreatable chapters in American history, and given a long history of exploited dark trauma. ‘screen (especially during awards season), expectations were understandably low. But Till, by Chinonye Chukwu who directed the mighty 2019 drama Clemency (star Alfre Woodard was a scathing Oscar snub that year), was a thoughtful and poignant film that eschewed uncomfortable tropes and allowed Danielle Deadwyler to shine in her first major lead role. However, Academy voters seemed to disagree with the vast majority and Deadwyler was dropped from the Best Actress category, a major shock to pundits and possibly a result of the film being always considered too difficult to contemplate.
Last year saw a steep fall for writer-director David O Russell, returning after a seven-year absence with a film that suggested he probably should have waited a bit longer. With Amsterdam, he threw everything at the wall, including the most starred cast of the year (Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Zoe Saldana, Rami Malek, Chris Rock, Mike Myers Taylor Swift) but it sank both commercially and critically. O Russell’s previous four films have amassed 23 Oscar nominations and three wins, but the academy, along with everyone else, shunned this one.
Will Smith’s slavery drama Emancipation has been shrouded in question marks throughout the year after the actor was embroiled in controversy over the infamous slap we’ve all grown weary of. to hear. The recent Best Actor Oscar winner received a 10-year ban from the academy which would prevent him from attending events but not being nominated and months later Apple announced that his collaboration with director Antoine Fuqua, telling the story of a slave fleeing a plantation, would get a release late in the season. But questions of whether voters are ready to embrace it again aside, the film was ultimately considered more of a solid thriller than a weighty drama and it didn’t receive the nominations that those involved in it were hoping for.
Bardo, false chronicle of a handful of truths
It’s been a turbulent awards season for Netflix, still thirsty for that best picture win after Roma, Marriage Story and Power of the Dog all lost, with their biggest bets mostly disappointing. White Noise and The Good Nurse were ruled out entirely while Glass Onion and Blonde had to settle for a nod each (it was the dark horse All Quiet on the Western Front who ended up with the most). Perhaps the streamer’s biggest disappointment was Alejandro G Iñárritu’s comedy-drama Bardo, which could only manage one nomination for cinematography. The director has already been in favor with the academy with a staggering 26 nominations and seven wins in his previous films, but critics greeted his Venice film festival premiere with thumbs down or hesitation, calling it an indulgent faux pas.