An honor roll that ranges from Barbie to Spider-man, that recognizes a German actress and an underappreciated African-American actor, can’t be called anything but inclusive. That’s what I like about this year’s Oscar nominees.

As always, the Actors’ branch—by far the largest number of voting members—is always welcoming to newcomers like Sandra Hüller, who is so good in Anatomy of a Fall, and relative newbies like Danielle Brooks and Colman Domingo, both of whom have paid their dues. Even Jeffrey Wright, for all his experience on stage, film, and television, has seldom had a leading role as rich as the one he plays in American Fiction. Its director and screenwriter, Cord Jefferson, is not a kid either but this marks his first feature film.

The Holdovers’ Da’Vine Joy Randolph was a Tony Award nominee over a decade ago for the Broadway adaptation of Ghost. Danielle Brooks has been nominated for a Tony, an Emmy, a daytime Emmy, and shared a Grammy for the original cast album of the Broadway musical The Color of Purple.  Both women may be unfamiliar to moviegoers, but I daresay not for long.

Even Lily Gladstone, whose breakthrough role in Killers of the Flower Moon is a milestone in her career, earned the Best Supporting Actress Award from my colleagues at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for her work in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women back in 2016.

There is no sign of ageism in this list of nominees, either. 80-somethings Martin Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker are nominees, as is 75-year-old cinematographer Ed Lachman (for Pablo Larrain’s El Conde), revered animation director Hayao Miyazaki (The Boy and the Heron), who is 83, and composer John Williams (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny), who sets an Academy record at age 91.

The proof is in the pudding represented by the films nominated for Best Picture, which include box-office blockbusters Barbie and Oppenheimer, foreign-language favorites Anatomy of a Fall and The Zone of Interest, and one American indie, Past Lives, made by first-time director Celine Song. The list is completed by some of my personal favorites of the year: The Holdovers, Poor Things, American Fiction, and Maestro. I call that a win-win situation for filmmakers and filmgoers alike.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024