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The Oscars shutting out ‘The Woman King’ is a real disgrace

No nominations for ‘Nope’ or ‘Till’ make for a frustrating day in Hollywood

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked at an impressive crop of cinematic contributions by Black women and largely said, “No thanks.” The academy’s celebration of high-flying, big-budget maximalism (See: Elvis, Top Gun: Maverick, and Avatar: The Way of Water), mysteriously did not extend to Nope or The Woman King.

The 10,000-member organization that awards the Oscars announced its nominations for the 95th Academy Awards Tuesday morning, and while Everything Everywhere All at Once deservedly racked up a leading total of 11 nods (All Quiet on the Western Front, The Fabelmans, and The Banshees of Inisherin also did well), the obvious absences as the nominations were announced stung.

The Woman King, the historical action epic starring and produced by actress Viola Davis, went entirely unrecognized, a shutout that defies logic. Danielle Deadwyler, star of Till, was nowhere to be found in the nominations for lead actress despite a wrenching depiction of Mamie Till’s mission to ensure that the barbarism of her son’s killing never went forgotten. Deadwyler is one of the most promising actresses of her generation, something easily observed not just in Till, but in the wildly varying roles that preceded it, including her wary, pragmatic 2019 rendering of Lemon Cassidy in The Devil To Pay, a small indie currently streaming on Netflix. In the history of the Oscars, a Black woman has won best actress exactly once: Halle Berry for the melodramatic cringe-a-thon that was Monster’s Ball (2002).

The directing wing’s failure to recognize the prowess of The Woman King helmer Gina Prince-Bythewood only serves to undermine the credibility of the organization (no Black woman has ever won the Oscar for best director). Even the British Academy Film Awards, which are not exactly a bastion of racial and gender equity, recognized Prince-Bythewood with a nomination for best director. And Sarah Polley, the writer-director of Women Talking, was shut out of the director category, even though she received a nomination for writing and the film is a best picture nominee.

Equally galling is that The Woman King also went unrecognized in technical categories for which it should have been an obvious shoo-in: production design, hair and makeup, costuming, editing, and cinematography.

The insults extended to international film as well — no nod for the riveting Saint Omer, helmed by Alice Diop. And while the most egregious snubs were of films by and about Black women, there was no love for Jordan Peele’s jaw-dropping allegory about the soul-sucking nature of his own industry. Nope merited a nod at the very least for cinematography, and arguably for production design, direction, and costuming as well.

Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till did not get a lead actress nomination for Till.

Everett Collection

Those omissions make the scarce triumphs in this year’s nominations harder to celebrate, though I was pleased to see the ever-reliable Brian Tyree Henry recognized with a best supporting actor nomination for his work in Causeway. The same goes for Stephanie Hsu, who has often been overshadowed by her more famous Everything Everywhere All at Once castmates, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, who lead the effervescent romp through the multiverse. Angela Bassett netted the second nomination of her career with a nod for best supporting actress for her role as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In 1994, she was nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It. And Ruth E. Carter, the first Black woman to win an Oscar for costume design, has been nominated again for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, though Hannah Beachler, the film’s production designer (and the first Black woman to win an Oscar for production design, which she took for the first Black Panther film), was also excluded.

Every year I remind myself that the Oscars are not a meritocracy, and 2023 is no different. But in a year chock-full of outstanding, interesting, challenging and varied work in Black cinema, the academy voted once again to undermine its own relevance.

Here is the full list of 2023 Oscar nominees. The ceremony airs live March 12.

Best Picture

All Quiet on the Western Front, Malte Grunert, producer

Avatar: The Way of Water, James Cameron and Jon Landau, producers

The Banshees of Inisherin, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, producers

Elvis, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss, producers

Everything Everywhere All at Once, Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang, producers

The Fabelmans, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, producers

Tár, Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert, producers

Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison and Jerry Bruckheimer, producers

Triangle of Sadness, Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober, producers

Women Talking, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Frances McDormand, producers

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 Östlund, Triangle of Sadness

Best Lead Actor

Austin Butler, Elvis 

Colin Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin

Brendan Fraser, The Whale

Paul Mescal, Aftersun

Bill Nighy, Living

Best Lead Actress

Cate Blanchett, Tár 

Ana de Armas, Blonde

Andrea Riseborough,  To Leslie

Michelle Williams, The Fabelmans

Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin

Brian Tyree Henry, Causeway

Judd Hirsch, The Fabelmans

Barry Keoghan, The Banshees of Inisherin

Ke Huy Quan, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett as Queen Ramonda in a scene from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Annette Brown/Marvel/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Everett Collection

Angela Bassett, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Hong Chau, The Whale

Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin

Jamie Lee Curtis, Everything Everywhere All at Once 

Stephanie Hsu, Everything Everywhere All at Once

Best Adapted Screenplay

All Quiet on the Western Front by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery by Rian Johnson

Living by Kazuo Ishiguro

Top Gun: Maverick by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie; story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks

Women Talking, by Sarah Polley

Best Original Screenplay

The Banshees of Inisherin by Martin McDonagh

Everything Everywhere All at Once by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

The Fabelmans, by Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner

Tár by Todd Field

Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Östlund

Best Cinematography 

All Quiet on the Western Front, James Friend

Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Darius Khondji

Elvis, Mandy Walker

Empire of Light, Roger Deakins

Tár, Florian Hoffmeister

Best Documentary Feature Film 

All That Breathes, Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin and Yoni Golijov

Fire of Love, Sara Dosa, Shane Boris and Ina Fichman

A House Made of Splinters, Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström

Navalny, Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris

Best Documentary Short Film 

The Elephant Whisperers, Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

Haulout, Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev

How Do You Measure a Year? Jay Rosenblatt

The Martha Mitchell Effect, Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison

Stranger at the Gate, Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Best Film Editing

The Banshees of Inisherin, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen

Elvis, Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond

Everything Everywhere All at Once, Paul Rogers

Tár, Monika Willi

Top Gun: Maverick, Eddie Hamilton

Best International Feature Film 

All Quiet on the Western Front, Germany

Argentina, 1985 Argentina

Close, Belgium

EO, Poland

The Quiet Girl, Ireland

Best Original Song 

“Applause” from Tell It Like a Woman, music and lyric by Diane Warren

“Hold My Hand” from Top Gun: Maverick, music and lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop

“Lift Me Up” from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Goransson; lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler

“Naatu Naatu” from RRR, music by M.M. Keeravaani; lyric by Chandrabose  

“This Is a Life” from Everything Everywhere All at Once, music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski; lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne

Best Production Design 

All Quiet on the Western Front, production design: Christian M. Goldbeck; Set Decoration: Ernestine Hipper

Avatar: The Way of Water, production design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter; set decoration: Vanessa Cole

Babylon, production design: Florencia Martin; set decoration: Anthony Carlino

Elvis, production Design: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; set decoration: Bev Dunn

The Fabelmans, production design: Rick Carter; set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Best Visual Effects

All Quiet on the Western Front, Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank and Kamil Jafar

Avatar: The Way of Water, Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett

The Batman, Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands and Dominic Tuohy

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White and Dan Sudick

Top Gun: Maverick, Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson and Scott R. Fisher

Best Animated Feature Film 

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, Dean Fleischer Camp, Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan and Paul Mezey

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Joel Crawford and Mark Swift

The Sea Beast, Chris Williams and Jed Schlanger

Turning Red, Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins

Best Animated Short Film

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud

The Flying Sailor, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Ice Merchants, João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano

My Year of Dicks, Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon

An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It, Lachlan Pendragon

Best Costume Design 

Babylon, Mary Zophres

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Ruth Carter

Elvis, Catherine Martin

Everything Everywhere All at Once, Shirley Kurata

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, Jenny Beavan

Best Live Action Short

An Irish Goodbye, Tom Berkeley and Ross White

Ivalu, Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan

Le Pupille, Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón

Night Ride, Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen

The Red Suitcase, Cyrus Neshvad

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

All Quiet on the Western Front, Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová

The Batman, Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Camille Friend and Joel Harlow

Elvis, Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signoretti

The Whale, Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley

Best Original Score 

All Quiet on the Western Front, Volker Bertelmann

Babylon, Justin Hurwitz

The Banshees of Inisherin, Carter Burwell

Everything Everywhere All at Once, Son Lux

The Fabelmans, John Williams

Best Sound

All Quiet on the Western Front, Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel and Stefan Korte

Avatar: The Way of Water, Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers and Michael Hedges

The Batman, Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray and Andy Nelson

Elvis, David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson and Michael Keller

Top Gun: Maverick, Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.