The 96th annual Academy Awards (Oscars) nominations were officially announced on Tuesday, January 23, 2024, and the public’s response has been surprisingly passionate.
In an age where public interest in awards shows seems to be waning with each passing year, certain omissions and notable inclusions have got people talking.
Let’s take a look at some of the most noteworthy snubs and surprises of the 2024 Oscar nominations.
Snub: Margot Robbie/ Greta Gerwig – Best Actress in a Leading Role/Best Director (Barbie)
All right, let’s get the big one out of the way first. Many fans of Barbie were quite displeased to see the film’s two most prominent figures (lead actress and director) snubbed in their respective categories at the Oscars. The film has a wide fan base, being half of the “Barbenheimer” sensation that rocked theaters last summer and the highest-grossing film of 2023.
While these categories are particularly competitive this year, the pink flames rose in online film circles as many were quick to voice their displeasure with the results.
Surprise: Godzilla Minus One – Best Visual Effects
Despite heavy hitters like Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part 1 and John Wick Chapter 4 pumping adrenaline into theater screens last summer, Godzilla Minus One swooped in during the latter half of the year and proved to many to be the defining action spectacle of 2023. To see it be honored with an Oscar nomination for its visual effects is a surprising yet well-deserved acknowledgment. All the more impressive is how phenomenal the effects look for its meager $15 million budget. I saw $300 million films last year that didn’t look half as good as this. All hail the king of the monsters!
Snub: Zac Efron – Best Actor in a Leading Role (The Iron Claw)
Physical transformation for a role is something the Academy often loves rewarding, so Zac Efron’s absence in the Best Actor race is a surprising omission.
His turn as real-life wrestler Kevin Von Erich in A24’s heartbreaking biopic, The Iron Claw, is more than just bulging muscles. His emotional range in the film’s heavier scenes showed us the true extent of Efron’s impressive acting abilities. He has no doubt evolved from his Disney Channel days. The role certainly should have earned him an Oscar nomination.
Surprise: Sterling K. Brown – Best Actor in a Supporting Role (American Fiction)
American Fiction stands tall as a razor-sharp satire and one of the funniest films of the year. The film owes a huge amount of its comedic success to Sterling K. Brown’s performance. He’s one of those scene-stealing side characters that commands attention with his hilarious line delivery and eccentric personality. I have felt for some time that he was a massive snub at the Oscars for his outstanding performance in the 2019 film Waves, so I’m really happy to see him in contention here. Comparing his intensity in that film to his comedic presence here really highlights his exceptional range as an actor.
Snub: Nicolas Cage – Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dream Scenario)
Dream Scenario really could have snuck into so many of these Oscars categories, and it would have been completely justified. The film as a whole is wonderfully original, and beautifully imaginative and is led by a performance from Nicolas Cage that compliments the writing perfectly.
Despite his notorious tendency to play many unhinged characters prone to sudden outbursts, Cage showcases a surprising amount of subtlety and expert comedic timing here. He navigates the strange and awkward world of this film so well. It’s a role that is not only his best in years but an all-time career highlight.
Surprise: Past Lives – Best Picture/Best Original Screenplay
Despite their hit film Everything Everywhere All at Once taking home the most trophies at last year’s ceremony, A24 releases like The Iron Claw and Dream Scenario were largely shut out by the Oscars this year. So, to see their film Past Lives receive some love is a welcome sight. It’s a powerful and touching tale of long-lost love and reflecting on what could have been. While Celine Song certainly deserved a nomination for her extraordinary debut as a director, to see the film nominated in two of the most prominent categories is a win nonetheless.
Snub: May December – Various
While May December did receive an Oscar nomination for its incredible screenplay, it should have gotten more. Its absence in the acting categories and even Best Picture is a bit disheartening. The Natalie Portman-fronted film may have been a bit too taboo for the Academy to give much attention to. Its core narrative centers around a scandal involving an adult forming a romantic relationship with a 13-year-old and the long-term ramifications of that.
Regardless, the film is a dense, occasionally disturbing commentary on unearthing repressed trauma and the egocentrism of actors. It is among the finest movies of 2023.
Surprise: Justine Triet – Best Director (Anatomy of a Fall)
In a year with no shortage of exceptional directing, to see Justine Triet slip into the 2024 Oscar nominations ahead of talents like Greta Gerwig, Alexander Payne, and Bradley Cooper is a true feat. Her patient, meticulous direction in Anatomy of a Fall was astonishing and a large reason why this courtroom drama was such an intriguing experience. Seeing as the film won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (the top prize), her inclusion here is absolutely earned.
A Step in the Right Direction
Despite some less-than-ideal exclusions, the Academy seems to have gotten it right for the most with the 2024 Oscar nominations. In recent years, seeing films like Don’t Look Up or Avatar: The Way of Water in the batch of Best Picture contenders has left me a bit perplexed. But nearly everything in contention this year makes sense and it’s easy to see how they earned their place in with the other nominees. If last year’s ceremony is any indication, the Academy has found its groove once again.
It’s a shame that the Margot/Greta snafu has resulted in Lily Gladstone’s historic nomination being overlooked. As the first Native American woman to be nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role, her win would signify a fantastic moment in representation and a well-deserved victory for the night. Better yet, she is considered the current frontrunner for the trophy. All that’s left to do now is speculate and wait patiently for the ceremony. May the best film win!
The 96th Academy Awards premiere live on Sunday, March 10, 2024.