Oscar nominations 2023: A thumbs up for personal stories

Ke Huy Quan (left) and Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once. PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT
Triangle Of Sadness starring (from left) Dolly de Leon and Charlbi Dean. PHOTO: THE PROJECTOR

SINGAPORE – It was an Oscar nominations list that broke barriers, but it was one that held snubs too.

One Asian actress was recognised after a career spanning four decades, while another was left out in the cold.

Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh, 60, is the first Asian to receive a Best Actress nomination for playing laundry owner Evelyn Wang in the comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once.

At the same time, on Tuesday morning in Los Angeles (Tuesday night in Singapore), Filipino actress Dolly de Leon, 54, was left out of the Best Supporting Actress list, to much online anguish – her performance in the black comedy Triangle Of Sadness was the best part of the film, pundits said.

Yeoh’s film romped home with 11 nominations, the most of any film this year. Everything Everywhere is shaping up to be the one to beat, though it will get strong competition from Irish drama The Banshees Of Inisherin, which came in second with nine nods, tied with the German-language war epic All Quiet On The Western Front. All three are in the Best Picture category.

What can be gleaned from Tuesday’s results is that the voters in the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences love a feel-good story. They saw the wave of support coming for Yeoh and her co-stars, Asian-American actors Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, and rewarded both in the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress categories respectively.

Quan’s journey is poignant. The 51-year-old of Vietnamese descent got his break as a child actor in a big-budget hit, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984). As what happens to child actors, doors closed in his face as he got older. In a tearful Golden Globes acceptance speech earlier in January after winning the Supporting Actor trophy, he spoke of how his life changed after the two directors of Everything, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, cast him as Evelyn’s husband Waymond.

The same need to remember the forgotten seems to be driving Brendan Fraser’s Best Actor nomination for playing a depressed, morbidly obese English teacher in the drama The Whale. After becoming a leading man in the 1990s, his career quietened in the 2000s, when he mostly took on voice and supporting parts. A few years ago, Oscar-winning film-maker Darren Aronofsky cast him as the lead in The Whale and from that moment, the drums announcing his renaissance have been pounding non-stop.

The voters also wanted to send positive vibes to two movies that do not need awards of any kind, the Tom Cruise military hit Top Gun: Maverick and the James Cameron fantasy sequel Avatar: The Way Of Water. The cinema business was trying to emerge from a pandemic slump when these two films sent the box office to dizzy highs. By giving them Best Picture nominations, the Academy voters are saying thanks for saving their industry.

The coming-of-age animated comedy Turning Red by Chinese-Canadian film-maker Domee Shi was a surprise inclusion in the Best Animated Feature category. Pundits gave it zero chance of making the list, with one reason being that its Chinese-Canadian angle was too personal.

Turning Red is a surprise inclusion in the Best Animated Feature category. PHOTO: PIXAR

But Academy voters liked the story of a pre-teen girl going through a boy-crazy phase of her life. Shi’s movie is unlikely to win – the juggernaut that is Oscar-winning Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is tipped to clinch the Oscar – but Turning Red’s nod does send a message that unique voices matter.

Nominees in key categories of the 2023 Oscar race

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

Tar

Top Gun: Maverick

Triangle Of Sadness

Women Talking

Lead Actor

Austin Butler – Elvis

Colin Farrell – The Banshees Of Inisherin

Brendan Fraser – The Whale

Paul Mescal – Aftersun

Bill Nighy – Living

Lead Actress

Cate Blanchett – Tar

Ana de Armas – Blonde

Andrea Riseborough – To Leslie

Michelle Williams – The Fabelmans

Michelle Yeoh – Everything Everywhere All At Once

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

Supporting Actress

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

Animated Feature Film

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

Puss In Boots: The Last Wish

The Sea Beast

Turning Red

Directing

Todd Field – Tar

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – Everything Everywhere All At Once

Martin McDonagh – The Banshees Of Inisherin

Ruben Ostlund – Triangle Of Sadness

Steven Spielberg – The Fabelmans

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.