Roeper on the Oscar nominations: Even now, the Academy can surprise

Nods for Ana de Armas and ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ are a stretch, but hooray for unexpected contenders Brian Tyree Henry and Andrea Riseborough.

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For her performance in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Angela Bassett became the first Oscar nominee from a Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

Marvel Studios

By the time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences rolled out its award nominations in the traditional pre-dawn presentation Tuesday morning, avid Oscar fans had a pretty good idea of who would make the cut and who would be “snubbed,” as we love to say.

This is because we’re living in a time when there are websites and social media accounts and podcasts devoted solely to handicapping awards, and while I’d rather spend a cold winter’s day at an outdoor table at the J.J. Devin Public House pub in “The Banshees of Inisherin” than devote an entire year to chronicling this stuff, I’m a fan of those who do it.

Nevertheless. When the nominations were announced by Allison Williams and Riz Ahmed at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, there were a number of surprises, including:

  • Bryan Tyree Henry’s nod for best supporting actor in “Causeway,” a small and beautiful and powerful film from director Lila Neugebauer starring Jennifer Lawrence as a U.S. soldier back home in New Orleans dealing with traumatic brain injury, and Henry as a local man who becomes her best friend. It’s a well-deserved nomination for a versatile and perhaps underrated actor.

  • Andrea Riseborough seemingly coming out of nowhere to win a best actress nomination for another low-budget gem: Michael Morris’ “To Leslie,” with Riseborough delivering one of the most searing and authentic portrayals of alcoholism in recent memory. I had “To Leslie” at No. 5 on my list of the best movies of 2022, so I’m thrilled that the nomination for Riseborough will almost certainly lead to a wider audience checking out the film.
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Andrea Riseborough plays an alcoholic single mom in “To Leslie.”

Momentum Pictures

  • Yet another quiet but resonant film, Sarah Polley’s moving and riveting “Women Talking,” was among the 10 best picture nominees, and it was the only one of the 10 directed by a woman. However, in the category of best director, it was all men’s club, as neither Polley nor Charlotte Wells (“Aftersun”) nor Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”) nor Chinonye Chukwu (“Till” ) were nominated.
  • James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” was nominated for best picture, but Cameron didn’t make the cut for best director. That’s a little bit ridiculous, given that Cameron has spent more than a decade overseeing every aspect of his creation, and “The Way of Water” is about as much a director’s film as any film can be.
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Ana de Armas plays Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.”

Netflix

  • Best actress nominee Ana de Armas is a fine talent who has turned in brilliant work in “No Time to Die,” “Knives Out” and “Blade Runner 2043,” but I thought she struggled with her performance and was drowned in the wretched excess in the dreadful “Blonde.” 

Some notable news (well, movie news) was made with Angela Bassett’s nomination for best supporting actress for “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Bassett’s second nod after her 1994 lead actress nomination for portraying Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” Bassett becomes the first performer in any Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to receive some Oscar love. (Robert Downey Jr. deserved serious Oscar consideration for at least ONE of his turns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, but that superhero ship has sailed.)

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Brian Tyree Henry is nominated for best supporting actor for his work as a car repairman who befriends a traumatized war veteran in “Causeway.”

Apple TV+

The wonderful and beloved Jamie Lee Curtis received her first nomination ever, for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a critical darling and surprise commercial hit that received a total of 11 nominations, including the expected but still fantastic nod for former child star Ke Huy Quan, continuing one of the great comeback stories in recent years — and Hollywood LOVES comeback stories.

Hollywood also loves movies about movies, so don’t be surprised if Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” wins best picture. The top contenders appear to be “Fabelmans,” “Everything Everywhere …” and “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but look out for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” which received nominations for best international film and best picture.

As for “Top Gun: Maverick” receiving a best picture nomination: that’s all well and fine. Director Joseph Kosinski did a great job of paying homage to Tony Scott’s 1986 original, Tom Cruise had his star power wattage turned up to 11, and the supporting cast (including Val Kilmer) was terrific. But the idea that “Maverick” is the stuff of Oscar is a real stretch. It’s a great piece of mainstream popcorn entertainment and that’s something to be applauded — but it’s by far the most lightweight film among the 10 nominees.

The 95th Academy Awards will be on ABC at 7 p.m. on March 12, with the reliable Jimmy Kimmel returning to hosting duties. As for my predictions in all of the categories — stay tuned. We might even have a contest where you can whup me for the chance to win a nifty prize.

Top nominees

TOP NOMINEES

Best picture: “All Quiet on the Western Front”; “Avatar: The Way of Water”; “The Banshees of Inisherin”; “Elvis”; “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; “The Fabelmans”; “Tár”; “Top Gun: Maverick”; “Triangle of Sadness”; “Women Talking.”

Best actor: Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”; Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Austin Butler, “Elvis”; Bill Nighy, “Living”; Paul Mescal, “Aftersun.”

Best actress: Ana de Armas, “Blonde”; Cate Blanchett, “Tár”; Andrea Riseborough, “To Leslie”; Michelle Williams, “The Fabelmans”; Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Best director: “Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Steven Spielberg, “The Fabelmans”; Todd Field, “Tár”; Ruben Ostlund, “Triangle of Sadness.”

Best supporting actor: Brian Tyree Henry, “Causeway”; Judd Hirsch, “The Fabelmans”; Brendan Gleeson, “Banshees on Inisherin”; Barry Keoghan, “Banshees of Inisherin”; Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Best supporting actress: Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”; Hong Chau, “The Whale”; Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”; Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

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