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Let’s Talk About the Oscar Nominations


Did you know that they announce the Academy Award nominations early in the morning? If you didn’t, you sure found out today, because Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani would not stop talking about it! And on one hand, get a new bit, you guys; on the other, it is very early in the morning, a tradition dating back to when they had to time the nominations to be carried by the east coast morning shows in their final half hour. But that’s not really the way the world works any more — most of us watched the nomination announcements on a live stream — so the early morning nominations are kind of an outmoded relic of a changed industry, much like the Oscars themselves BUT I KID.

Anyway, it’s a wild list of nominations, full of wonderful surprises and groan-worthy inclusions. (Sure, give a few more to Green Book, why not.) So let’s take a look at who we didn’t expect to see in the major categories — and who got left out at their expense.

Best Picture Black Panther BlacKkKlansman Bohemian Rhapsody Green Book The Favourite Roma Vice A Star is Born

The big surprise here is probably the inclusion of Black Panther, a popular favorite that was far from a shoo-in, thanks (I’m told) to “superhero bias.” The rest of these were pretty widely predicted; the two that most of the pundits anticipated showing, and didn’t, were First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk. There were signs early in the nomination announcements that they weren’t going to have a good morning — First Man was passed over for Best Supporting Actress Claire Foy and Best Score, while Beale Street’s luminous cinematography was also not nominated. In the end, the much-anticipated 2017 rematch between Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle didn’t happen — which is a shame, because both are great movies. (Certainly better ones than Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book, or Vice.) And, y’know, just a reminder, they can nominate up to 10 here. There are eight. They could’ve thrown ‘em in! They didn’t! I don’t even know, you guys.

Best Actress Yalitza Aparicio, Roma Glenn Close, The Wife Olivia Colman, The Favourite Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The nicest kinda-surprise here is the inclusion of Melissa McCarthy, who could have been left aside in a very competitive year. And Aparicio was by no means a shoo-in, though by this point in the announcements, the Academy’s love for Roma was quite clear. Emily Blunt is the big missing piece here; she’s very good in (the very bad) Mary Poppins Returns, and because she was widely predicted to land this one, her (obviously leading) performance in A Quiet Place was campaigned as supporting. She was nominated in neither category, which has to sting. And speaking of the wrong category, we’re really acting like Olivia Colman was the lead and Emma Stone was supporting, eh? All right.

Best Actor Christian Bale, Vice Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

If you can honestly look me in the face and tell me that the sub-SNL level “Yo, I’m from da Bronx” performance of Mortensen in Green Book, or the make-up showcase work of Malek and Bale, are any match (much less preferable) to the incredible things Hawke is doing in First Reformed, I don’t know how to talk to you about acting. And, for that matter, John David Washington’s work in BlackKlansman also easily surpasses their hackery. Ah well. Oscars, am I right? They transformed themselves, and you can see all the hard work they did, so that must be Great Acting, eh?


Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams, Vice Marina De Tavira, Roma Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Emma Stone, The Favourite Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

The first category announced this morning also included its first big shock: a nomination for Marina De Tavira, whom I don’t think I’d seen one “awards pundit” predict would show up here. But Roma basically got nominated for anything it was eligible for (it led the field with 10 nominations); its inclusion here met no nod for the aforementioned Claire Foy or Emily Blunt.

Best Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Green Book Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman Sam Elliott, A Star is Born Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? Sam Rockwell, Vice

Rockwell, last year’s winner, was another shock nomination — and an indication that the voters really loved Vice, which racked up eight nominations. That meant Timothée Chalamet didn’t nab his widely predicted nom for his showy turn as a teen drug addict in Beautiful Boy (which is frankly just fine). The bummer is that Black Panther’s success this morning (it was nominated in seven categories) didn’t extend here; Michael B. Jordan, who has not yet been nominated for an Oscar, was easily the best thing in it.

Best Director Alfonso Cuarón, Roma Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman Adam McKay, Vice Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

You know what other movie they really liked? Cold War! Pawel Pawlikowski’s elegiac, decade- and continent-spanning love story not only picked up its expected Best Foreign Film nomination — it also grabbed surprise nods for Best Director and Best Cinematography (both earned!). The surprise exclusions here were for Green Book’s Peter Farrelly and A Star is Born’s Bradley Cooper; the latter was particularly shocking, since Academy voters typically loooooove actor-turned-directors (see Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, etc.). And while A Star Is Born has been, basically since TIFF, the “safe” bet for Best Picture — it’s a showbiz story, based on a beloved classic, and a popular success to boot — its exclusion from this category means it’s now a long shot for the big prize, which rarely goes to a film with an un-nominated director. (And that also extends to Green Book, thank God.) Then again, that could end up working in its Best Picture favor, since Cooper is now an object of sympathy. (Call it the Argo Maneuver.) Also worth noting: this is the first Best Director nod for Spike Lee, and only his third competitive nomination, after nods for Screenplay (Do the Right Thing) and Documentary (4 Little Girls). If the Academy is in the mood to do one of those “career achievement” Best Director awards — à la The Departed — this would be a good time to do it.

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Best Animated Film The Incredibles 2 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Isle of Dogs Mirai Ralph Breaks the Internet

No big surprises here — all of the nomination predictions I saw anticipated these very five nominees. Which I guess tells you something about this year’s animated features? Anyways, go Spidey.

Adapted Screenplay The Ballad of Buster Scruggs If Beale Street Could Talk A Star Is Born Can You Ever Forgive Me? BlacKkKlansman

How old were you when you discovered Buster Scruggs was, in fact, an Adapted Screenplay? Because I was this morning years old. At any rate, the nomination for the Coen Brothers’ western anthology was a big surprise, as it was in the Best Song category, indicating (along with Roma’s huge showing) that Netflix’s big spending this campaign season paid off. And its inclusion here meant that Black Panther, widely predicted to get a screenplay nomination, was left out. But hey, it has its Best Picture nomination as a consolation prize. Oh, and the mountains of money it made.

Original Screenplay The Favourite First Reformed Green Book Vice Roma

Everyone knew it would happen, but it was still a big thrill to see Taxi Driver writer Paul Schrader land a nomination (his first, somehow) for First Reformed. And everyone knew it would happen, but it was still a big bummer to see Islamophobic tweet writer Nick Vallelonga land a nomination (his first, obviously) for Green Book. If I may paraphrase his favorite politician, that movie could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and it wouldn’t lose voters.

Documentary Feature Free Solo Minding the Gap Hale County This Morning, This Evening Of Fathers and Sons RBG

The biggest shock of the morning, for my money, was Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — an indie box office hit from the director of 2014’s Best Documentary winner — not showing up on this list. (I’d have rather seen it on there than RGB, which seemed to get the Commercial Success Hagiography Bio-Doc slot.) In its stead, surprisingly and happily, was Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross’ impressionistic, observational portrait of an Alabama community. It was one of my top five documentaries of the year; I’m thrilled Oscar voters felt the same.

Best Foreign Language Film Capernaum (Lebanon) Cold War (Poland) Never Look Away (Germany) Roma (Mexico) Shoplifters (Japan)

The South Korean psychological drama Burning was one of my top 10 of the year, and seemed a pretty safe bet for this category, so its exclusion was a bummer; it was apparently nudged out by Capernaum, which has been wowing viewers since its theatrical bow last month. Any way you slice it, this is a hell of a foreign film line-up — further evidenced by the fact that three of these films (Roma, Cold War, and Never Look Away) are also nominated for Best Cinematography.

So with those nominations done, the Academy just has to figure out what to do about the fact that they still don’t have a host? Somehow? Presumably, they’ll figure that out before Feb. 24. (Or maybe they won’t! That’d be pretty wild.) Watch this space for more.