The nominations for the 95th Academy Awards were announced on January 24th, and as usual, there were plenty of major surprises and shocking snubs across all categories that raised some eyebrows and irritated movie fans. All 10 of the Best Picture hopefuls that managed to score a nomination this year, led by the fan-favorite and current frontrunner “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, will be making headlines and enjoying a sweet marketing boost ahead of the March 12 ceremony.
Unfortunately, that means that plenty of Oscar-worthy contenders barely missed the cut or were ignored altogether by the Academy’s voting body in spite of their obvious quality. The reasons tend to repeat themselves every edition: lack of a strong mainstream appeal, a little too small of an awards push, or the inevitable language barrier that handicaps every non-English release. The following list wishes to right that wrong by casting a light upon those titles that couldn’t speed past the finish line but still won our hearts in 2022 and you should make sure to cross off your watchlist.
It’s a shame that the Academy voting body couldn’t find room for Charlotte Wells’ remarkably assured directorial debut in its Best Picture line-up, because no other film charmed audiences and tugged at our emotional heartstrings in the past twelve months like this one.
“Aftersun” enthusiasts can at least thank for the much-deserved acting nod for Paul Mescal, who uncorked a near-universally praised performance as a thirty-something divorced dad who spends a summer vacation at a coastal Turkish resort with her preteen daughter (newcomer Frankie Corio, in another star-making turn). Though Wells’ virtuoso directing somehow went unnoticed, time will be much kinder to her deeply moving ’90s-set memoir piece than most of this year’s Oscar hopefuls. Stretching in and out of time like a hazy dream, “Aftersun” is the kind of movie that shatters your heart into a million pieces and forces you to put all the pieces back together. Not to be missed.
2. Decision to Leave
The fact that Park Chan-wook’s romantic crime procedural was completely shutout of the 2023 nominations—let alone the Best Picture race—was by far the most out-of-left-field surprise of all the January announcements. Even premiering to rave reviews at Cannes (where Park earned Best Director honors) and having racked up nominations left and right at the Globes and BAFTAs, the official submission for South Korea somehow went unrecognized in all departments, despite resonating with pundits and moviegoers alike with its cross-pollination of Hitchcockian mystery, romantic longing and film noir tropes.
If not as action-packed as Park’s previous outings, “Decision to Leave”, in which a young detective falls in love with the prime suspect of his homicide case, feels as ferociously irresistible. It’s a testament to the caliber of this year’s best actress’ nominees that Chinese star Tang Wei, who essentially carried the entire movie on her shoulders, couldn’t make the cut in the competitive category. And though her absence is noticeable, the staying power of her scene-stealing turn will not fade anytime soon.
Seen as an early frontrunner in the Oscar race, Paramount’s $80 million gamble fell short of expectations this awards season after missing out on almost every big category. Damien Chazelle’s go-for-broke, swing-for-the-fences epic about the excesses of silent-era Hollywood sparked rarefied passions upon release, bombing at the box office before becoming an unstoppable discourse magnet in the following months.
That it was denied a Best Picture nod is hardly surprising given its unsavory portrait of Tinseltown, which busts open the inner secrets of show business and casts an unwavering eye at Hollywood’s seedy underbelly. At once suffocating and unwieldy yet admirably ambitious on all fronts, “Babylon” comes across as less of a “love letter” to cinema than a scornful hit-piece that acknowledges the human sacrifice that keeps its dream factory up and running. Those that manage to tune into the film’s coked-up rhythms, however, will find a revelatory text that will surely enhance its prospects for later reassessment.
There was never any doubt that former comedian-turned-horror auteur Jordan Peele would deliver the goods, push boundaries, and dazzle audiences with his long-awaited third feature; a richly-textured, genre-blending odd duck that failed to replicate the critical acclaim of “Get Out” and “Us” but nevertheless delivered some of the best popcorn thrills of all 2022.
Part Spielbergian sci-fi horror hybrid, part revisionist Neo-Western, and part biting Hollywood takedown, “Nope” stars Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer as two siblings in a family of ranch owners in rural California who catch a glimpse at what appears to be a horse-eating flying saucer. By instantly entering cultural lexicon and becoming the most talked about studio release of last summer, this zeitgeist smash seemed on the precipice of nominations—especially in categories like sound editing and original screenplay—but ultimately walked away with none. That takes nothing away from the latest entry in what’s already one of the most intriguing catalogs of any working director, who has established a new cinematic language and further cemented his reputation as a global trendsetter.
5. After Yang
As a huge Kogonada fanboy, I’m still miffed about the shocking lack of fanfare for his sophomore effort, a soul-stirring family drama in which Colin Farrell grapples with the meaning of memory and artificial intelligence after his daughter’s loyal companion android suffers a fatal technical malfunction.
What at first blush might seem like a tired-sounding sci-fi premise better suited for a “Black Mirror” one-episode morphs into a surprisingly tactile examination of love, identity, and the ties that bonds us that delivers its earnest observations with heart-stopping clarity. The early-spring release window meant the film never stood a chance at staying fresh in the voters’ minds when the time came to hand the nominations out, but seeing it entirely ice-out by the Academy, including falling short of a much-deserved Best Adapted Screenplay nod, stings all the same. Oscar or not, any sci-fi aficionado worth their salt owes it to themselves to watch one of the most tender and life-affirming additions to the genre in recent years.