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LOS ANGELES, USA – A lot of sadness over Dolly de Leon’s Oscars snub for her powerful performance in Triangle of Sadness. The film bagged three Academy nominations – best picture, director, and original screenplay (the latter two for Ruben Ostlund) – but Dolly, whose portrayal of Abigail elevated the film, did not get a nod.
Many people, especially Filipinos around the world, hoped to hear or read that Dolly scored what would have been the first acting nomination by a Pinoy actor in the Oscars’ 95-year history. But in the Academy’s nominations announcement early Tuesday morning (Tuesday evening, Manila time) at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, there was disappointingly no Oscar love for Dolly.
Let me put it this way – minus Dolly’s portrayal of the toilet yacht worker who becomes a chief player midway – would Triangle of Sadness have been as effective? Would Ruben Ostlund’s satire of the super-rich have been as memorable?
Had Dolly been nominated, there would have been three Asians in the best supporting actress category – she, Hong Chau (The Whale) and Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once). But Hong and Stephanie’s citations still mark the first time that two Asian women are recognized in this category in the same year.
In the early morning ceremonies hosted by Oscar winner Riz Ahmed and M3GAN actress Allison Williams – Hong, Stephanie, Angela Bassett (Black Panther: Wakanda Forever), Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin) and Jamie Lee Curtis (Everything Everywhere All at Once) were announced as the best supporting actress contenders.
The nominations announcement was otherwise a banner year for Asian actors. It was the largest batch of Asian nominees ever – Hong, Stephanie, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan (the latter two for Everything Everywhere…). And these four actors are all first-time Academy nominees.
Michelle Yeoh became the first Oscar best actress nominee to openly identify herself as Asian.
Merle Oberon, whose father was British and mother was from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) and had Maori roots as well, garnered a best actress nod for The Dark Angel in 1936. But the Bombay-born Merle passed herself as white, a sad reflection of the racist colonial society of that era. She made up a story that she was of French, Irish and Dutch descent and that she was born in Tasmania.
If Michelle wins on March 12, she would be the first Asian and the first Malaysian to triumph as best actress in the Academy‘s almost century of existence. She would be the second woman of color to cinch that honor after Halle Berry who made history in 2002 for Monster’s Ball.
Ana de Armas, who was cited for Blonde, is the first Cuban to be nominated in this circle.
The other best actress nominees are Cate Blanchett (Tar) and Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), whose inclusion surprised some and was credited to last-minute heavy push on social media by her famous fellow actors, including Jane Fonda, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amy Adams, Geena Davis, and Kate Winslet.
Left out were two women who were buzzed as very likely nominees: Viola Davis (The Woman King) and Danielle Deadwyler (Till). Before Tuesday morning, many thought Viola’s nomination was a lock.
Back to Stephanie, she is the second openly queer actor in the Oscars’ history, since Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1999), to earn an acting nod for portraying a queer character.
In the supporting actor race, Ke Huy Quan, also from Everything, Everywhere…, became the first Vietnam-born nominee. Ke was frustrated that he could not bounce back for 40 years since his big break as a child actor as Short Round in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
After last Tuesday morning, Ke became only the second ethnically Chinese performer to be in the running for best supporting actor since the late Haing S. Ngor who went on to win for The Killing Fields in 1985. Haing remains the first and only Asian best supporting actor winner.
Except for Judd Hirsch, all supporting actor contenders this year are first-timers: Brendan Gleeson (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway), Barry Keoghan (The Banshees…) and Ke. Judd holds the record for having the longest gap between supporting actor nods – 42 years – between Ordinary People (1981) and now, for The Fabelmans.
For his 10-minute onscreen minutes as a grand uncle in Steven Spielberg’s film based on his youth, Judd also became the second oldest acting nominee (Christopher Plummer is the oldest – he was 88 when he was cited for All the Money in the World in 2018).
It’s a remarkable year for Oscar nominee neophytes. For 16 of the 20 acting contenders, it was their first time to hear or read their names as Academy nominees.
In the best actor derby, it’s the first time since 1934 that all nominees are rookie contenders: Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees…), Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Paul Mescal (Aftersun).
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, co-directed by Filipino Januel Mercado, got in the best animated feature film race. But under the Academy rules, director Joel Crawford and producer Mark Swift were listed as the nominees.
The Last Wish is up against Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, The Sea Beast and Turning Red (the first Pixar feature directed by an Asian woman, Domee Shi, and it’s her feature directing debut). Domee is the sole Asian director of the nominated films in this category.
Daniel Kwan, a Massachusetts native of Chinese heritage, is the only non-Caucasian among the best director finalists: Daniel Scheinert, Kwan’s fellow director (Everything Everywhere…); Martin McDonagh (The Banshees…). Steven Spielberg (The Fabelmans), Todd Field (Tar), and Ruben Ostlund (Triangle of Sadness).
Potential female filmmaker nominees, especially Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King), Sarah Polley (Women Talking) and Charlotte Wells (Aftersun), were left out.
Kwan and Scheinert, known collectively as the Daniels, have two other nominations – best picture (as producers, with Jonathan Wang) and original screenplay.
Asian films were shut out of the international feature field. South Korea’s Decision to Leave, directed by Park Chan-wook, was considered a shoo-in among the 15 on the shortlist but it did not make it to the top five. Cambodia’s Return to Seoul, Pakistan’s Joyland, and India’s Last Film Show also failed to make the cut.
Instead, these are the five nominees: All Quiet on the Western Front (Germany), Argentina, 1985 (Argentina), Close (Belgium), EO (Poland), and The Quiet Girl (Ireland). Only Argentina, 1985 managed to crash this circle of European films.
All Quiet on the Western Front also made it to the 10 best picture candidates: Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees…, Elvis, Everything, Everywhere…, The Fabelmans, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, and Women Talking.
With his original score citation for The Fabelmans, John Williams not only boosted his record for having the most nominations (53). At 90, he is now also the oldest person to be in the running for a competitive Oscar.
By mid-Tuesday, “No Dolly de Leon” was trending on Twitter as hundreds of folks who loved the actress’ performance in Triangle of Sadness tweeted their sentiments. Earlier, on Monday, expectations for the Pinay went on overdrive as Dolly, the only Asian in the best supporting actress derby of the Guldbagge (Golden Beetles), Sweden’s most prestigious film honors, won.
The 95th Oscar awards will be handed out on March 12 in Hollywood.