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Rory’s 2023: Oscar results

Airing the Academy Awards at a different time slot on the night in the US when we sprang forward in the time change sure was a choice! It worked out for me because I missed the ceremony entirely, and I would have been frustrated if I had been watching livetweets/reactions as it happened. But it also meant I didn’t have a decent outlet for my opinions on winners, and everywhere was quiet by the time I was really ready to talk. Time for a bonus post!

Here’s the results in full. I’m going in order based on the official site’s order. Some of the awards are split into two prongs of commentary: campaign notes and personal notes.

Actor in a leading role

Campaign: Cillian Murphy’s win for Oppenheimer is not remotely surprising. He was the frontrunner the entire season, and Paul Giamatti ever getting any attention was more because he was spotted with his Golden Globe at In-N-Out than actual momentum. (The Globes are uneven as a precursor award: they awards dramas and comedies separately, and their voting pool doesn’t feed into the Oscars.) Oppenheimer getting the most nominations and wins also supported Cillian Murphy’s campaign otherwise.

Personal reaction: I’ve liked Cillian Murphy in a lot, but this was neither his most interesting role nor my favorite performance in the category. I’m glad Bradley Cooper had no real chance, though.

Actor in a supporting role

Campaign: See above, sans the Paul Giamatti meme.

Personal reaction: I don’t think the nominees in this category were very strong this year. That Robert Downey Jr. was one of my favorites of the bunch is not really a compliment, but as I said in my Letterboxd review of Oppenheimer, supporting actors tend to shine in Nolan films. As far as career awards go, I don’t have the energy or inclination to get mad about this one; I just think the nominees should have been better.

Actress in a leading role

Campaign: This was the only acting category with any uncertainty. Both Emma Stone and Lily Gladstone took major precursor awards, and if Lily Gladstone had been white, that she took the SAG award should have been a solid lead. But Lily Gladstone didn’t even get a BAFTA nomination, and that tipped me off to her probable loss (as well as Letterboxd’s fondness for Poor Things; there’s a lot of industry professionals on there). I’m not sure what the overlap in the voter base is between the two awards, but the BAFTAs and the Oscars have one major thing in common beyond who votes in both: a bigoted voter base.

I’m sure a lot of people will point to Lily Gladstone not campaigning for Supporting Actress for her loss. It’s a convenient excuse, but BIPOC actors, especially with marginalized genders (Lily Gladstone uses she/they pronouns), never have stationary, fair goalposts. I suspect another excuse would have popped up if this one hadn’t.

Personal reaction: This win was the biggest reason why I didn’t want to watch live updates this year. It’s a terrible, boring choice on the part of the Academy. Poor Things was a visually-beautiful film propping up gross amount of misogyny and ableism. Emma Stone’s performance was obvious in a way the Oscars like. Why award good when you can award big and loud, especially when it props up your own bigotry?

Actress in a supporting role

Campaign: This basically had Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s name engraved on the Oscar in advance. Well-run campaign for a deserving performance.

Personal reaction: I think this was the best round of nominees out of any acting category this year. Saying America Ferrera was probably the most-underwhelming of the bunch is wild when she’s such a soild performer. (I hated her Barbie monologue, but she did what she could with it.) Danielle Brooks was the most obvious nominee out of a massively-solid Color Purple cast, Emily Blunt was one of the better women-in-a-Nolan-film actresses, and Jodie Foster surprised me in a generally-underwhelming Nyad. But Da’Vine Joy Randolph was definitely my favorite.

Animated feature film

The Boy and the Heron was a good winner here, even if I think it should have bumped something like Maestro for a Best Picture nod. (I hate how animated films get siloed.) I thought Spider-Man had a solid chance, but I wasn’t a huge fan. Disney-Pixar really dropped the ball this year; I liked Elemental, but very few people did, and it was certainly the most flawed of their nominees in a while. I’m not surprised that my pick of Nimona didn’t win; I’m just glad it seemed to do well this award season. Robot Dreams had a really late, limited release, so it never really had a chance.


Another Oppenheimer win. Not a surprise or an insult. I didn’t feel too strongly about most of the nominees this year, but I didn’t even begrudge Maestro’s presence here. Could have been better, could have been worse.

Costume design

Not surprised Poor Things won, and it’s one of the least-offensive spaces for it to win, but my pick would have absolutely been Barbie. People really underestimate movies using preexisting fashion for this award.


Campaign: Christopher Nolan won the DGA, and Oppenheimer was always the favorite for Best Picture, and that meant he was a pretty solid lock for this. I’m annoyed and completely unsurprised he won the year he did a biopic instead of genre.

Personal reaction: I like a lot of Christopher Nolan films! I don’t like Oppenheimer, but it’s better than Maestro and Poor Things. I think my pick out of the nominees would have been Jonathan Glazer for The Zone of Interest, but there was no way a movie that challenging would pick up a major award like this.

Documentary feature

I didn’t get to any this year, so no opinions on my favorites. 20 Days in Mariupol is on YouTube for free in its entirety, so I’m curious if that helped its chances. I would love to know if freer access to nominees aids in campaigning, especially for ~smaller awards. (I don’t believe in smaller awards, personally, but the Oscars treats picture, director, actors, and screenplay as their big ones.)

Documentary short

The one nominee I didn’t watch in this category won. Figures!

Film editing

Another Oppenheimer win, not undeserved; the pacing in that movie and juggling of multiple storylines while staying coherent is not easy. My pick would have been Killers of the Flower Moon—for better or worse, the editing made a long movie bearable—but I’m not mad.

International feature film

This is always such a weird category. I don’t object to having more inclusion for non-Hollywood films, but the Academy uses this to silo foreign-language film while often awarding the more palatable countries. I only saw Zone of Interest in this category, but it was good quality, at least.

Makeup and hairstyling

That Poor Things’s win here is one of the most palatable options to me shows how bad the nominees were this year. (Thankfully, Golda and Maestro didn’t win.) But I bet they mostly won for Willem Dafoe’s visible scars, and I don’t feel uncomplicated about that. It’s deeply silly to me that Barbie didn’t get nominated here.

Music (original score)

I didn’t feel too strongly about any nominees this year in terms of quality; I barely noticed scores in most movies I watched, except Killers of the Flower Moon, which I found a bit obtrusive. Oppenheimer’s an okay choice; Ludwig Göransson did the music on Community and produced some Childish Gambino as a result, so I’m kind of tickled by his win here.

Music (original song)

What Was I Made For? was my choice and winner! Wild how young Billie Eilish is with two Oscar wins.

I watched the I’m Just Ken performance and it was a lot of fun! I wish Jack Black’s Peaches had been nominated so that could have had a performance, too. Shame that Tenacious D’s cover of Baby One More Time can’t be eligible for next year’s awards.

Best Picture

Anyone paying five seconds of attention to the campaign would have known Oppenheimer was going to win here. I didn’t agree with the choice, but it could have been worse. (If you didn’t see my last Oscars post, I ranked Best Picture nominees there.)

Production design

Again, a Poor Things win I’m not offended by. I think Barbie and Killers of the Flower Moon were also very worthy contenders.

Animated short film

Didn’t manage to catch any of the nominees this year. Shame.

Live action short film

I only saw Henry Sugar and The After, but The After wasn’t very good, and I think Wes Anderson should have been in longer-form categories for Asteroid City instead, if he got nominated at all. Still, I can’t believe this is his first Oscar win! Maybe Bradley Cooper should go short form if he’s that thirsty for gold.


Basically everyone who saw The Zone of Interest mentioned its sound, and it makes sense; sound was obviously crucial to its storytelling in a way that is uncommon for the average movie. It definitely would have been my pick for the category.

Looking at the nominees, it’s interesting that multiple people are nominated for multiple movies: Tom Ozanich and Dean Zupancic both got nominated for The Creator and Maestro, and Richard King got nominated for Maestro and Oppenheimer. Hollywood really is a small world.

Visual effects

Decent win for Godzilla Minus One. I haven’t seen it, but it was a small team working on a small budget for a non-Hollywood film, and I’ve heard the VFX was very effective.

This is a category that has a lot of mistreatment built in; a lot of the biggest-budget films will be effects heavy, not hire directors who have effects experience or value things like storyboarding, and exploit their employees to a ridiculous degree. Disney-Marvel’s the worst origin of the problem, so it’s impossible to see a nod for Guardians of the Galaxy 3 and not think of it.

Godzilla Minus One is not immune to these accusations either. This Vulture article has the director speaking directly about mistreatment in Japan and how their in-house studio handled things. (Apologies for the paywall.) With the budget and the probable timeline, it seems likely the workers weren’t paid enough, and the director being one of the winners for the VFX award after prior VFX industry experience meant he probably knew what he could get away with. I don’t want to ignore the probable problems here! That this is a good win in a Hollywood context shows how hard VFX artists have it (and also, how tough capitalism is on its workers both in the US and in Japan), not a sign of positive growth.

I just think people should aim for better. No, Hollywood shouldn’t have budgets in the hundreds of millions and pay a bunch of VFX teams peanuts with dangerous amounts of crunch built in. But a small team doing a lot of a film’s heavy lifting should get a decent chunk of upfront budget and good backend, too. Pay labor what they’re worth, and don’t kill them in the process!

Writing (adapted screenplay)

American Fiction was my choice for this category, so I was happy to see its win! A lot of films have one element that stands above the rest, and for me, American Fiction’s was in its writing. Which is appropriate for a movie about writing. It’s definitely a writers-love-stories-about-writing win.

Writing (original screenplay)

Anatomy of a Fall wasn’t my choice, but I’m not surprised it won. Screenplay often goes to writer-directors who get nominated for things like Best Picture/Director but have no real chance at those awards in a particular year. Amount of nominations and how many are in the ~big categories matters for overall wins. Anatomy of a Fall had Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress besides. Screenplay is kind of an honorable mention win, in that context? This also applies to American Fiction a bit: it got Best Picture and Lead/Supporting Actor nods.

That’s not to say neither screenplay was deserving! Even if I wasn’t into Anatomy of a Fall, I thought it was trying interesting things. And a lot of nominations is no guarantee; Maestro was just bad, and its lack of wins despite nominations suggests that I’m not the only one who thought so. But the Academy loves politics and bigotry more than quality sometimes. Like, I thought Past Lives was a better screenplay than Anatomy of a Fall, but it didn’t get a director nod or any acting nods, and that happening when it was made by a Korean-Canadian director with a Korean-Canadian female character at its center is not a coincidence. Anatomy of a Fall had a female cowriter (who was also nominated for Director), so it’s an easy Diversity Win! for the Academy to point toward.

Otherwise, it’s worth mentioning that this was an oddly-controversial category this year. I’d like to think May December’s diminished chances for this award and more awards broadly was because of the ethical qualms I mentioned in my broad 2023 movies post, but I don’t give Hollywood that much credit. May December was deliberately mocking the industry in a less-friendly way than American Fiction, and I think that’s what killed it.

And I saw the Variety article about The Holdovers’s alleged plagiarism right after I put up my Oscars post, of course. (Hat tip to Sara for the link.) I haven’t done a comparison of the two sources myself, but if you’re interested, there’s a comparison document at the bottom. The behind-the-scenes on this was happening right around voting time, and the article’s drop was a big “this is why it isn’t winning” banner.

A couple last thoughts

I saw a lot of people say this was a good awards season, and I disagree. The Oscars deferred to a lot of its worst instincts on the majority of its predictable wins (of which there were far too many, if you like a good upset) and its surprises. I didn’t enjoy watching most of the nominees. The word “value” made it into a lot of my reviews, for better or worse.

Obviously, it’s still early in the year, but I don’t have a lot of hope next year’s Oscars will be any better. COVID and bad practices around short-term illness/long-term disability are still affecting production (even if no one wants to think so), the SAG-AFTRA/WGA strikes have changed this year’s release schedule as much as last year’s, and studio heads would rather strike finished films out of existence rather than share them, to name just a few of the industry’s structural problems. Maybe there will be some actual thought about what’s going on; I do think there were some hints in this year’s nominees that Hollywood knows things are broken. But even if major course corrections happened quickly, it won’t be fast enough to save next year’s award season.

But I don’t want to be right about this. I love the craft and creative expression of filmmakers, and there are always worthy contenders that get overlooked every year. There’s plenty of room for my doomer instincts to be wrong. I sincerely hope they are.

Rory Hume is a rainbow gay, cat whisperer, and concert swag addict.

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