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    My Thoughts on Nominations for the 95th Academy Awards

    By Jan Wahl–

    Last year at this time I was in cinematic heaven. Coda was one of the finest films that I had seen in a long time, and the movie was up for Oscar gold. It is so rare that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I agree on anything, but this time last year they got it right. Coda is a powerful musical drama concerning a deaf family and their hearing daughter. Troy Kotsur took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, Sian Heder also won in the Best Adapted Screenplay category. The film additionally received the coveted Best Picture honor. Very few remember all of this, however, since it was also the year Will Smith used violence onstage, punching Chris Rock.

    All is not lost this go around. There were some fine movies I was seriously rooting for and hope you will check out on your own.  Strong, charismatic women fronted Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Two remarkable directors somehow are out of the Oscar running: Sarah Polley for Women Talking and Baz Luhrmann for Elvis. Ron Howard, who captured the true story of Thirteen Lives, and the two journalists who fought to tell the Harvey Weinstein story, She Said, seem to have been forgotten.

    This bypassing of my favorites goes back a long time with the Academy. I am still trying to get over Judy Garland not taking home the gold for A Star Is Born, Gloria Swanson not winning for Sunset Boulevard, and Ruth Chatterton similarly not being honored for Dodsworth. These were films that were released before I was born, but they and their key performances still knock me out today. We all have our favorites that have been overlooked, but composer Johnny Mercer—who received 18 nominations and four wins—tells us, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive.”

    The Fabelmans, Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical tale of a young filmmaker, is up for awards in many categories. The film, which Spielberg co-wrote and produced with the great Tony Kushner, fills the screen with hope and humor. White Lotus star Jennifer Coolidge said during an acceptance speech that it’s not over till you’re dead, and Spielberg’s terrific movie made possible composer John Williams being the oldest Oscars nominee at 90 and actor Judd Hirsch, 87, as the second oldest in his category. Hirsch is back in awards contention 42 years after his first Oscar recognition for his performance in Ordinary People, surpassing Henry Fonda, who experienced a lag of 41 years between his nominations. Michelle Williams snagged a nomination for playing a loving, eccentric mother in The Fabelmans, but the award will probably go to Cate Blanchett for the overrated Tar or the fabulous Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Yeoh is a frontrunner and I’m hoping it will be her year.

    Everything Everywhere All at Once, with its time travel and fantasy themes, is not my favorite genre, but it does offer a rare chance to celebrate the Asian immigrant family experience and has a strong, feisty mother at its core. Supporting Actor nominee Ke Huy Quan could easily win, reminding us of his childhood roles in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Goonies. Fierce Angela Bassett—one of the most beautiful women I have ever interviewed—will most likely win as well, receiving the Supporting Actress Oscar for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Hers is the first acting nomination for a Marvel picture, and that is one popular franchise. 

    It was a stretch for usually hunky Colin Farrell to play a dumped friend who can’t let go in The Banshees of Inisherin. All five men in the Lead Actor group are first-time nominees, though it seems as if Brendan Fraser and Bill Nighy have been around forever. It is young Austin Butler who made the role of Elvis his own. He blew me away with his dramatic transitions as well as his musical moves and singing. I’m hoping for Austin or Nighy, though Nighy keeps telling us he never watches himself or his films. He’s missing a lot!

    The eligibility period for Academy Awards consideration—2022’s full calendar year—was a bit of a weird one, filmwise. We went from cosmic family fantasy (Everything Everywhere) to dark character study (Tar), to big scale military (Top Gun: Maverick). There is a certain popularism represented by Top Gun, All Quiet on the Western Front, Elvis, the intimate drama Women Talking, and Avatar: The Way of Water. This makes me miss movies that woke up the world, such as Brokeback Mountain, Carol, The Imitation Game, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Coda, to name a few. The good news is that there will be a celebration of cinema soon—the 95th Academy Awards will be on March 12—and I’m on board for that!                      

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

    Off the Wahl
    Published on February 9, 2023