Shortlist or S**tlist? Oscars 2023

Maybe it was inevitable that the 95th Oscars shortlist gave Will Smith a smack in the face for Emancipation, which emerged with zero nominations.

Smith, who whacked host Chris Rock in the mouth during the actual ceremony last year, had it coming, albeit metaphorically.

Not all Hollywood snubs are ill-deserved. Some are warranted, even necessary. Other snubs are appalling, an insult to the audience. The 95th Oscars nominations had both.

Although Babylon was nominated for Best Costume Design, Original Score and Best Production Design, there was nothing for the movie’s star Brad Pitt, director Damien Chazelle, or the movie itself in the category of Best Picture.

I won’t be crying over that decision.

And I am still not quite recovered from the tedium of Chazelle’s Blah Blah Land (or thereabouts) almost winning Best Picture in 2017 before an error revealed the winner to be Moonlight.

Remember? With the entire cast and crew of La La Land on stage, pandemonium ensued when it became clear that Faye Dunaway had read out the best actress card instead of the rightful winner’s card for best movie.

Talk about being eclipsed.

But Babylon aside – another deluded, unwatchable perception of Hollywood from Chazelle (in my opinion) – I’d watch Pitt in anything, even a kitty litter commercial.

I feel less for James Cameron – not the most popular director people like to work with – snubbed as Best Director for Avatar: The Way of Water, although the movie made it to Best Picture.

Its predecessor, Avatar, failed to get anywhere in both categories in 2009.

Currently the fourth highest grossing film in history, The Way of Water is undoubtedly a beautiful work of art (for which it has been nominated in the Best Visual Effects category), though I think anyone with iPhone 14 Pro could flush a toilet and make the water look great cinematographically.

I’m also suspicious of anything involving the promotion of water in Hollywood movies, after The Shape of Water won Best Picture in 2018.

‘Woman goes down on strange fish in bath’ – say what it is in the title, for goodness’ sake.

One of the big mysteries is why Cate Blanchett – playing the first female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra – gets a nomination for Tár  – ‘Lesbian waves stick in the air’, for those of you who haven’t seen it. Let’s hope she manages to find something different to wear from the Bag Lady ensemble what she managed at the Critics’ Choice Awards last week. At that event, she also called for the ‘patriarchal pyramid’ of award shows to be abolished. You mean the same one that keeps handing out awards to skinny blondes like yourself? Bet she’ll change her tune if her name’s called on to pick up the Oscar gong.

In another alleged snub, it’s been mentioned that Tom Cruise didn’t pick up a nomination for Best Actor, when Top Gun: Maverick has been nominated for Best Picture.

Why would he? Pretty boy brandishes cocktail shaker, pretty boy wears medals, pretty boy’s hair stays intact despite jumping from high buildings – he’s a good-looking, okay thespian, but he’s no Colin Farrell, nominated for Best Actor for Banshees of Inisherin.

There will doubtless be cries that Viola Davis wasn’t recognized for The Woman King, too. Doubtless time to flash the racism card again, but at least the Academy is not bowing to tokenism and dishing out awards to actors on the basis of their skin color alone rather than their talent (David Cameron’s blue people aside).

And just because a movie is based on true events doesn’t make it worthy of accolades.

Take Elvis. It’s good, but not great, but legends tend to do well in awards, especially when it comes to music – Freddie Mercury, Elton John. Doubtless its inclusion on shortlists will enable the Academy to deliver a tribute to Lisa Marie Presley, who has just died at the tragically young age of 54.

Also based on a real-life story, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans is, to me, one of his weakest movies – and I am a huge fan of his work. It lacks sharpness, humor, depth – it’s as if he were too close to the material to be able to observe himself to add that extra magic that detachment can bring. As for the family secret ‘reveal’, I got it within the first five minutes.

And gosh, it’s dark – and not in a deep, meaningful way. Was there a lighting budget at all, or was the lot spent on bleaching Michelle Williams’s hair?

The story about a little boy falling in love with the movies from a young age is the heart of the story and, though true, the anti-semitism, while being true to life, feels like an adjunct to the main plot and something that has, quite frankly, been told better elsewhere – not least, by Spielberg himself.

Spielberg is a master of fiction; non-fiction, less so. Where’s that killer shark or extra-terrestrial when you need it?

The movie is on the shortlist for Best Picture, and Spielberg for Best Director, on a list that is exclusively men – again. Expect the usual outrage from the hyenas in the female director camp, but is it really that surprising? Most directors are men and, while more women are increasingly entering this area of the industry, awards should go according to talent rather than anatomy. Unless we’re talking Brad Pitt, and then I’m all for anatomy taking all the honors.

So, there are the true losers.  But what of the true winners? Where are the triumphs of cinema to be celebrated?

With the exception of The Banshees of Inisherin (violent, drunken Irish people – always a winner – with a few…spoiler alert coming up…chopped off fingers for good measure), I’d say there aren’t any. More than in any other year, the Academy is playing it safe.

It’s probably a given that Everything Everywhere All at Once will clean up – all the signs are there, not just because of the results of preceding awards, but because there has to be a major nod to diversity.

And it’s one of the many obvious winners in this year’s nominations.

Would you bet your house on Ke Huy Quan not winning Best Supporting Actor? No, me neither. Set aside an extra hour of viewing time on 12th March for another of his acceptance speeches. I swear I had three birthdays when he spouted forth at the Golden Globes.

Sadly, in the cloud of political correctness, the best movie of the year has been obliterated.

I defy you ever, in your lifetime, to see a more brilliant work of art than Mark Mylod’s The Menu.

Forget food. Think suicide, murder, extreme violence, torture. And it’s hilarious. Seriously.

How is not up there in every single nomination?

The genius who is Ralph Fiennes as the macabre chef? The screenplay that is about the effacing of evil and wrongdoing? The actors, whose brilliance in conveying their vile characters makes you forget everything in which they have appeared before.

It’s a satirical masterpiece.

Never have I felt so cheated with Oscars nominations in not seeing this work of extraordinary art on one shortlist. It is everything that cinema is and should be about.

Shame on you, the Academy and your members, for playing the safety game and sacrificing genius on the altar of meh. Truly, you have reinforced the undeniable truth that we are now living in the Golden Age of Mediocrity.

So, with disappointment already so palpable, what can we expect on the big night itself on March 12th?

With Jimmy Kimmel presenting – the host who managed so well during the debacle when Blah Blah Land was mistakenly handed the award – will there be a plethora of Prince Harry jokes, on the back of Jimmy’s already well publicized comments about His Not So Royal Highness?

With his book tanking in his hometown of Montecito, Meghan keeping a discreet silence in the aftermath of the chaos the less than bright ex-royal has created and facing the prospect of a crowded room of Hollywood elites laughing at the Spare, Harry may be sleeping on the couch on Oscar night.

Certainly, the Oscar for Best Performance of the Year should go to Meghan Markle. There’s no one on that Best Actress shortlist to touch her.

Harry jokes may be the only saving grace for the 95th Academy Awards, which is destined to be another boring slog of virtue-signalling that millions of American forget to watch.  


Or maybe the most that we can hope for is Kimmel presiding over another Moonlight style debacle. Unlikely, though.

Bring back Will Smith, I say. All is forgiven.