This year’s Oscars nominations have dropped, and it’s a rare time when I think the Academy has got things pretty much spot on. "Oppenheimer" deserves to be the most nominated film, while I’m thrilled the likes of "Anatomy of a Fall," "The Zone of Interest," "Poor Things" and "The Holdovers" are well represented in the major categories.
Of course, even in a year where the Oscar field is very strong, the conversation has already turned to snubs. In my circles, there’s a large degree of outrage over the fact Greta Gerwig didn’t receive a Best Director nod or Margot Robbie a Best Actress nomination for "Barbie," but I have to be honest, these are omissions I can live with.
Instead, it’s the lack of love for Past Lives that has me metaphorically shaking my fist in anger toward the Academy voters.
Fortunately, "Past Lives" hasn’t been entirely overlooked. In fact, it’s been nominated in the biggest category of all Best Picture — although it has no realistic chance of actually winning — and it’s also squeezed into Best Original Screenplay, but again its odds of being announced as the winner at the glitzy ceremony in Hollywood on March 10 are slim.
However, just a pair of nominations feels like a scant reward for one of my favorite movies of last year. And trust me, I saw an awful lot of movies last year. "Past Lives" deserved so much more, and there’s one category in particular where its omission feels almost criminal.
'Past Lives' should have been a contender
"Past Lives" is a semi-autobiographical drama written and directed by Celine Song, and it's the one movie from 2023 that I simply cannot stop thinking about.
I rewatched the movie for the first time last weekend, with some fear that I’d built it up too much in my head after seeing it in theaters over the summer, but it held up without a doubt. I pretty much fell in love all over again. Many tears were shed.
If you’re unaware, "Past Lives" focuses on a pair of childhood friends, Nora Moon (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), who grew up together in South Korea, before drifting apart when Nora’s family emigrated to Canada. Over the years the pair reestablish a connection, before drifting apart again, but when they are reunited in person for the first time since they were kids, they reflect on how their lives have been shaped by each other and what could have been.
Why Celine Song hasn't been nominated for Best Director, I’m not quite sure. "Past Lives" marks her directional debut, and she guides viewers through the decade's sprawling story with the confidence of a veteran filmmaker. It’s especially a shame when the Best Director category has a spotty track record of recognizing female directors. At least Justine Triet got in this year for her masterful work on "Anatomy of a Fall," but did the Academy really need to give Martin Scorsese another nomination?
I’d also argue that Teo Yoo has been unfairly overlooked pretty much throughout the entirety of the 2024 awards season. Greta Lee is the movie’s anchor — and I’ll be giving her some well-deserved flowers in a moment — but Yoo’s performance is similarly impressive. Best Supporting Actor is pretty stacked this year, but I reckon there was room for him in Best Actor, but that would have been a huge shock.
Greta Lee was seriously snubbed
Much as I would have loved to see Celine Song pop up in Best Director and room to have been made for Teo Yoo in Best Actor, it’s the omission of Greta Lee from the Best Actress category that I simply cannot wrap my head around.
In "Past Lives," Greta Lee delivers one of the most powerful performances I’ve ever seen on screen as Nora Moon. A lesser performer may have misinterpreted the material and presented the character's arc as a love triangle, but Lee serves up something so much richer instead. Nora isn’t torn between two men, but instead is a person content with her life but also contemplating what could have been had she taken a different path.
The role requires a great degree of subtle emotional power, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s why she wasn’t nominated. The Academy has a habit of nominating the most acting rather than the best, and Past Lives was not the flashy choice for the acting categories. After all, there’s no dramatic crescendo where Nora and Hae Sung get into a raging argument or furiously give in to their passion for the other. Instead "Past Lives" is a much quieter movie, and that’s what makes it all the more relatable, heartfelt and incredibly special.
So, while I’m still greatly looking forward to this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, when the Best Actress category is read out I’ll have a twinge of sadness that Greta Lee will go unrecognized. I guess I’ll have just to hope "Past Lives" somehow pulls off a big upset in the Best Original Screenplay category because even I’m rooting for Oppie for Best Picture.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.