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Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett make Oscar history as 2023 nominations include major firsts

Michelle Yeoh in Everything everywhere all at once; Angela Bassett in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; Colin Farrel in The Banshees of Inisherin

March’s Oscars telecast will mark the 95th Academy Awards. Still, as every year, there were plenty of “firsts” among Tuesday’s nominations – with 16 of the 20 acting nominees being rookies.

But first let’s start with a bit of history.

Everything everywhere all at once Star Michelle Yeoh has become the first Asian woman to be nominated for Best Actress. (There is, however, a certain complexity in this designation: Merle Oberon, nominated in 1936 for The black Angelallegedly hid her Asian ancestry and identified as white, so why some outlets list Yeoh as the first contestant “who identifies as Asian”). And Yeoh has a strong chance of winning an Oscar in her first nomination: she and Tar’s Cate Blanchett is seen neck and neck in the category, which also includes Michelle Williams (The Fabelmans), Ana de Armas (Blond) and surprise nominee Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie).

Also note: Yeoh’s nominations, his Everywhere co-stars Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, and Hong Chau (The whale) mark the most Asian actors ever recognized in a single year at four. Life Screenwriter Kazuo Ishiguro, meanwhile, became the first Asian person ever nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

Angela Bassett’s Swan Song as Queen Ramonda in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever won her Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first Marvel Cinematic Universe actor ever nominated for an Oscar. The only two other actors ever nominated for superhero movies, Heath Ledger (The black Knight) and Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), both on DC properties for playing the same character, won the Oscar. Bassett also holds a good shot. She opens as the first big favorite against Chau, Kerry Condon (The Banshees of Inisherin), Jamie Lee Curtis and Hsu.

Here is a feat that will probably not be matched: Catherine Martin (Elvis) became the first person to earn nominations for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Better picture. (Martin, with her husband and Elvis director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann, are the producers of the film.)

On the international front: As the Bollywood sensation on social media RRR missed out on Best Picture, his nod for Best Original Song (first favorite “Naatu Naatu”) marked the first time an entry in the category came from India. The quiet girl became Ireland’s first-ever Best International Film nominee.

Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere, Everything At Once (A24)

Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything everywhere all at once (A24)

As mentioned earlier, 16 of the 20 acting nominees – and an astounding 80% – are rookies, including some names that might surprise you (ahem, Jamie Lee Curtis and Colin Farrell), and including, remarkably, every name in the Best Actors race. They are:

BEST ACTRESS: Ana de Armas (Blond), Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie), Michelle Yeo (Everywhere)

BEST ACTOR: Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The whale), Paul Mescal (After Sun), Bill Nighy (Life)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING: Hong Chau (The whale), Jamie Lee Curtis (Everywhere), Stephane Hsu (Everywhere), Kerry Condon (Banshees)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Brendan Gleeson (Banshees), Brian Tyree Henry (Pavement), Barry Keoghan (Banshees), Ke Huy Quan (Everywhere)

The four returning actors: Cate Blanchett (now an eight-time nominee who won for the aviator and blue jasmine), Michelle Williams (now a five-time nominee whose last nod came in 2017 for Manchester by the sea), Angela Bassett (now a two-time nominee whose previous nod came in 1994 for What’s love got to do with it?) and Judd Hirsch (now a two-time nominee whose previous nod came in 1981 for Ordinary people). At 42, the appointment of Hirsch broke Henry Ford’s record for the longest gap between acting nominations (Ford was at 41 with names in 1940 and 1981).

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 26: Rihanna attends Marvel Studios & #39;

Rihanna attends Marvel Studios Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever premiere at the Dolby Theater on October 26, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Beyond the acting races, there were a few other high-profile names to make the Oscar vote for the first time in their lives.

Jerry Bruckheimer, the 79-year-old super-producer behind box office hits like Beverly Hills Cop, The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Pirates of the Caribbean, Bad Boys and national treasure, became a first nominee for the production Top Gun: Maverick. He shares the nomination with star Tom Cruise and fellow producers Christopher McQuarrie and David Ellison.

R&B superstar Rihanna also became a first-time nominee in the Best Original Song category for her rendition of the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever single “Lift Me Up”. She shares the nomination with writer-director Ryan Coogler, composer Ludwig Göransson and co-performer Tems, who also became the first Nigerian ever named for an Oscar.

According to The variety, Rihanna is already set to perform “Lift Me Up” at the March 12 ceremony, exactly one month after her February 12 Super Bowl halftime show. Not a bad stretch.

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