The Academy Awards have announced their nominees for 2023, and familiar problems have once again resulted in some glaring snubs for Black filmmakers and actors, most notably for Black women.
The Woman King, an epic crowd pleaser and the type of film The Academy loves to nominate, was shut out– including one of this awards season’s biggest omissions in Viola Davis for her lead performance.
Another huge omission was Jordan Peele’s Nope, which was surprisingly left without any nominations, leaving many wondering: “why?”
Nope was critically acclaimed, even after its initial release, where there was noted confusion about its plot and themes, the film was quickly reclaimed as a visionary work and a proclamation of Peele pushing the boundaries of his social horror endeavors.
It was a financial success, being the highest-grossing blockbuster that was a wholly original intellectual property not tied in with any existing franchise. Peele has been recognized by the Academy already, winning Best Original Screenplay for Get Out in 2017, making the exclusion of Nope all the more confusing.
Even if the film was considered a long shot for Best Picture or Best Director, its lack of any technical award nominations is even more troubling. Nope was one of the most visually stunning films of the year. The sound design was terrifying and inventive, with a monster design that allowed Peele to experiment and pull off things that have never before been seen in a horror film. Peele invoked the epicness of Spielberg with such a powerful and creepy twist of pure horror.
Nope cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who built a custom IMAX camera specifically for the film, made it one of the best shot movies of the year, perfectly capturing the multi-layered themes and storytelling Peele is known for, allowing the director to reach another level.
in what universe does this not get nominated for best sound. pic.twitter.com/JtvAITFaDl
— za:3 (@200gecs) January 24, 2023
Horror movies are generally ignored by the Oscars, which could have also worked against Nope. What made Get Out such a unique case was it left the institution no choice and was a box office phenomenon, yet critically praised in a way that forged a direct path to the nomination. It is rare for horror films to break through, but if any film would, you would bet money that it would be a Jordan Peele-directed film. It’s a horror movie with very real, powerful social commentary about race with a diverse cast, something Peele has proven can be very successful. Year after year, some of the best performances in the movie world are featured in horror movies, but they are never recognized by the big awards bodies. Keke Palmer is now another example of this.
When Nope was released in the summer, it almost seemed like a no-brainer that Palmer would get a nod as she was being recognized by critics and fans alike. Her performance as Emerald became an instant sensation, with everyone recognizing that we were witnessing something special. Her brash and excitable nature clashes and melds so well with her co-star, Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ, who is quiet and introverted.
It’s a role that was tailor-made for Palmer’s charisma, which Peele takes full advantage of, giving her a chance to showcase everything that makes her a special performer.
She is the pulse of the movie and is quite literally the voice of her family. The emotional stakes of the film were made all the more compelling because of her.
So why was Nope not recognized? Well, playing the game is an essential part of getting performances and films nominated, but as evidenced by Davis and The Woman King, even if you play the game, black filmmakers and actors are behind the eight ball, especially Black women. There was a glimmer of hope with Palmer winning a New York Film Critics Circle honor for her work.
But for the Oscars, the surprise nominations of Ana De Armas for Blonde (a movie that was critically panned) and Andrea Riseborough for To Leslie, (a film no one has really seen but was bolstered by an overnight celebrity-fueled campaign) left someone like Viola Davis on the outside.
Michelle Yeoh and Stephanie Hsu were rightfully nominated for their roles in Everything Everywhere All At Once, but there’s a world where they could have been joined by Davis and Palmer, which would have reflected on the quality and success of the films they appeared in. Also not to mention, it would have made for a great award show. In different ways, the Academy continues to stress what’s important to them: recognizing underrepresented populations and their stories, but sometimes we can’t help but feel it falls short of this promise.
The Oscars will continue to make mistakes, but Nope will continue to be one of the best movies of the last year. Its dense themes and visual storytelling call for multiple viewings. Palmer’s performance and the brother-sister moments between herself and Kaluuya will be one of the things people keep returning to over and over. It didn’t get Oscar recognition, but like a lot of films that didn’t get awards love, we will look back at it as a true spectacle and something truly special. Awards recognition is one thing, but enduring the test of time by being a thought-provoking, daring, and flat-out thrilling and entertaining film is a success in its own right.