By Dawn Chmielewski
LOSANGELES – “Avatar: The Way of Water” director James Cameron’s box office blockbuster failed to translate to industry acclaim, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ members declined to nominate him on Tuesday for best director – one of the most notable Oscar snubs.
Cameron was joined – in omission – by another box-office standout, actor Tom Cruise, whose starring role in “Top Gun: Maverick” wowed audiences but was overlooked in the best actor category.
Both films did, however, land on the list of 10 nominees for best picture, joining audience-pleasing films such as the biopic “Elvis” and multiverse adventure comedy “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.
In a bid to remain relevant to younger audiences, the Academy expanded the number of nominees for best picture to up to 10 more than a dozen years ago and has nominated commercially successful films, breaking from a history of honoring movies and performances its members deem as exhibiting cinematic merit.
Another notable snub from the best picture list was “Babylon,” “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle’s ambitious ode to old Hollywood. Its A-list stars Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt were also left off the list of acting nominations.
The Oscars also have been criticized in years past for their lack of diversity among nominees, sparking a move to broaden Academy membership.
This year none of the nominees for best director are women.
Viola Davis, who won acclaim for her performance in “The Woman King,” was bypassed in the lead actress category, which included such surprise nominees as Andrea Riseborough, who portrayed an addict in “To Leslie.”
Danielle Deadwyler similarly was overlooked for her breakout role as Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old who was abducted and lynched by white supremacists in 1955, in the movie “Till.”
One of the most successful recording artists of the era, Taylor Swift, also was snubbed by the Academy. Her song, “Carolina,” from “Where the Crawdads Sing,” failed to make the cut for best original song. Lady Gaga and Rihanna received nods for “Hold My Hand” and “Lift Me Up.”