Surprises and Snubs: 2018 Oscar Nomination Reactions

I’m not sure why the Academy still insists on announcing the Oscar nominees at 7:30 AM CST (it must have to do with dominating the entire entertainment news cycle), but we finally know who will be up for awards at the 90th Academy Awards.  All of awards season has led up to this, the most prestigious awards for films in America.  I watched these nominations while getting ready Tuesday morning and was left cheering for my favorites, surprised and confused at the nominations and snubs, and am pumped to begin talking about the future winner with others.  First, let’s look at what films came away with the most nominations and then we’ll dive in:

Most Nominations (By Movie)

The Shape of Water – 13
Dunkirk
– 8
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
– 7
Darkest Hour
– 6
Phantom Thread
– 6
Blade Runner 2049
– 5
Lady Bird
– 5
Call Me By Your Name
– 4
Get Out
– 4
Mudbound
– 4
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
– 4

The Nominations for the 90th Academy Awards

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Instant Reaction:   Just like last year, I generally enjoyed all of the nominees, although I’m a strong critic of Three Billboards.  Despite some controversy, Three Billboards is riding some major momentum coming into the Oscars, after sweeping the SAG Awards and taking home the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama.  On the other hand, The Shape of Water got awarded 13 nominations (one shy of tying the record) so perhaps the voting body of the Academy is leaning towards del Toro’s adult fairy tale.  It may be telling that Martin McDonagh was not nominated for Best Director, which may give The Shape of Water an edge.  Among the other nominees, I was surprised to see Phantom Thread get lots of love.  It was released very late in the year and I was worried it’d get forgotten.  I’m not shocked to see Get Out and Lady Bird be in the mix. Despite both not being traditional awards contenders, the amount of Oscar buzz had me believing their nominations would be a lock.  Some notable snubs include I, Tonya, The Florida Project, and The Big Sick. Personally I would remove The Post, because its nomination relies mostly on its subject matter and prestigious director/actors and less on its excellent craft.
My Favorite:Phantom Thread
Best Film Not Represented:The Florida Project

Best Director

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Instant Reaction: Seemingly as a response to Natalie Portman’s comment about an all-white, all-male lineup at the Golden Globes, the Academy responded with a more diverse field.  Gerwig is the fifth female director to be nominated and Peele is the fifth African American director.  Personally I am happy to see these five directors get nominations.  The Globes field reeked of old faces whose movies were sub par in comparison to their previous work and a lack of recognition for very talented young directors who proved that they deserved to be considered.  What these five individuals represent is some of the most unique, well-crafted, well-directed films of 2018.  It may also come as a shock that Christopher Nolan scored his first ever Oscar nomination for Best Director.  Of all of his films, I personally believe Dunkirk to be his best directed film, so I’m happy to see him get recognized for this work.
My Favorite: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Best Director Not Represented: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Instant Reaction: Both of the major acting categories seem be to a lock.  Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill has been winning all the awards and should win him the Oscar.  However, this is supposedly Day-Lewis’s last shot at winning his fourth Best Actor Oscar (he’s been nominated six times, and won three).  One notable snub/omission is James Franco for his work in The Disaster Artist (He won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical earlier this month).  Whatever the reason, the narrative will be that recent allegations of sexual misconduct made the Academy wise up due to their past with awarding similar individuals (Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and even last year awarding Casey Affleck the same Best Actor award).  In his place, Denzel Washington gets his second nomination in back-to-back years.
My Favorite: Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Best Actor Not Represented: Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robie, I, Tonya
Meryl Streep, The Post
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Instant Reaction: Like the Best Actor race, this competition seems to be a lock with McDormand taking home nearly every award for her performance.  She’s won both the SAG Award and the Golden Globe.  A close competitor, Saoirse Ronan received her third Best Actress nomination (she’s only 23!!!).  2017 was not a strong year for central female performances, but the rest of the field are deserving of these nominations.  And yes, Streep delivered one of her best performances in years.  I would have loved to see Jessica Chastain get recognized for her role in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game.
My Favorite: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Best Actress Not Represented: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Instant Reaction: Throughout most of the time leading up to awards season, Willem Dafoe was seen as the front-runner for his role as a caring, father-like manager at a hotel in The Florida Project, and also as the strongest contender and champion for that film.  However, after seeing Rockwell take home the Golden Globe and the SAG Award, this race may as well be over.  Weirder things have happened though (See Mark Rylance’s surprise win over Sylvester Stallone a few years ago).  Among the other three contenders, it’s a shock to see Billboard’s Harrelson also get a nomination, possibly squeezing out an appearance by either Armie Hammer or Michael Stuhlbarg from Call Me By Your Name.  It’s also notable that Plummer got a nomination.  When the Golden Globes were announced, most saw his nomination as a gimmick and more a sign of support for Ridley Scott, who decided to replace Kevin Space after he was accused of multiple sexual assaults.  Personally I thought Plummer was great in his role, and like seeing this nomination to put those detractors to rest.
My Favorite: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Best Actor Not Represented: Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name, or Michael Stuhlbarg, The Shape of Water or Michael Stuhlbarg, The Post

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Instant Reaction: Team Janney or Team Metcalf.  Voters will ultimately choose between these two fantastic actresses and their equally deserving performances.  However, after winning the SAG Award and Golden Globe, all bets are on Janney also winning the Oscar.  My personal favorite is Laurie Metcalf.  Some surprises are Blige, whose early Sundance buzz had seemed to subsided, and Manville, whose presence was always felt in Phantom Thread despite most not predicting a nomination.  Also, Octavia Spencer received her third Oscar nomination and shows no sign of stopping. Some notable snubs were Holly Hunter and Tiffany Haddish.  Both had significant Oscar buzz but ultimately their films couldn’t compete with the ones the other nominees were in.
My Favorite: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Best Actress Not Represented: Tiffany Haddish, Girl’s Trip or Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

Best Writing – Original Screenplay

The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Instant Reaction: I love this category.  This is where writers are rewarded for new ideas, or original takes on real-life events.  In a world of sequels, prequels, and every type of intellectual property getting the cinematic treatment, these five films succeeded by being the opposite.  Whether it’s Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s retelling of their own story, Peele’s socially relevent thriller, or del Toro’s adult fantasy fairy tale, these films all enthralled audiences with their creativity and uniqueness. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird are the clear favorites.
My Favorite:Lady Bird
Best Original Screenplay Not Represented:Phantom Thread

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

Instant Reaction: Another reason I love the screenplay Oscar nominations is because the are usually places for films that didn’t receive love in the major categories to get recognized.  Logan, which saw the final outing of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, surprisingly gets a nod as the first ever superhero film to be awarded an Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination.  The Disaster Artist, which tells the true story of the making of The Room, gets recognized as well.  If it wins an Oscar, I hope Greg Sestero gets to take the stage.  However, Call Me By Your Name is the clear front-runner.
My Favorite: Call Me By Your Name
Best Adapted Screenplay Not Represented: Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

Best Animated Feature Film

The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

Instant Reaction: Another year, another snub for a LEGO animated film – this time The LEGO Batman Movie.  Is the Academy really saying that The Boss Baby or Ferdinand are better in both animation quality, screenwriting, or voice acting?  Who knows, but there seems be clear bias against toy-centric animated movies….  Coco is the clear front-runner and has the greatest chance to win.  Not only was it one of my favorite movies of the year, but it’s one of Pixar’s best.  I’m also excited to see The Breadwinner get another nomination for Cartoon Saloon, the excellent Irish animation studio that brought us The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea.
My Favorite: Coco
Best Animated Film Not Represented:The LEGO Batman Movie

Best Documentary Feature Film

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Instant Reaction: Every year, I try to follow the documentaries that are getting Oscar buzz, and usually I ended up being able to watch one or two.  This year I was able to watch all but one (I think it’s due to streaming platforms acquiring many documentaries and making them readily available during the year).  Usually the Best Documentary category is used to highlight important contributions to exposing/explaining current events – from Icarus‘s expose on the Russian Doping Scandal to seeing/learning of the Syrian civil war in Last Men of Aleppo through the eyes of search and rescue missions of the White Helmets.  The other three documentaries are intimate, personal stories, such as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail which tells the story of the only bank (a small family bank in Chinatown) to be prosecuted for the 2008 financial crisis.  I am surprised, however, that City of Ghosts was overlooked.  It was the supposed front-runner most of the year, but voters seemed not to want two different films about the Syrian crisis.
My Favorite:Icarus
Best Documentary Film Not Represented:Oklahoma City

Other Thoughts

  • I wasn’t able to see any of the films nominated for Best Foreign Language Feature Film, so I didn’t want to give my thoughts about them.
  • Sadly, Wonder Woman was shut out of nominations.
  • Kobe Bryant, nominated for the basketball-themed animated short Dear Basketball he wrote, could be an Academy Award winner come March.
  • Nominated for his song Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name, Sufjan Stevens will most likely perform at the Oscars.  I never thought I’d see the day when one of my favorite indie songwriters would be performing at the Academy Awards, let along vying for an award.
  • Netflix finally received non-documentary Oscar nominations – four for Dee Rees’ historical drama Mudbound.
  • Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 will be strong contenders for the technical awards, despite some nominations in other larger categories.
  • James Avory, nominated for his screenplay work on Call Me By Your Name, is now the oldest person ever to be nominated for an Oscar at the age of 90.
  • Of all of the simian-centric films nominated for Best Visual Effects, I’m hoping War for the Planet of the Apes brings home the Oscar.
  • Fun Fact: Mary J. Blige is the first person ever to be nominated for both an acting performance and original song.
  • Love seeing Baby Driver getting recognition with nominations in Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Editing
  • Roger Deakins received his 14th Best Cinematography Oscar nomination for Blade Runner 2049.  All indications are that he will finally come home with his first win.

I am so excited with these nominations.  Two years ago, the Academy instituted sweeping changes to their membership by-rules in order to promote diversity and give more individuals voices within the voting community.  This was the first year where the results of the changes could be felt, and a diverse range of films and individuals were nominated.  While these awards in no way signify the exclusive “best films of 2017” (because that’s too personal and subjective), seeing genre films, younger filmmakers, and female and people of color getting nominated excites me for the future of the Academy Awards.  Hollywood is best when people of many backgrounds, upbringings, races, ethnicities, and viewpoints are given chances to present their ideas on the silver screen.  One of the reasons I love film is to be able to see the world from a viewpoint completely different from mine.  Part of what makes the Academy Awards great is recognizing these great filmmakers and actors for their hard work, which in turn motivates aspiring individuals to strive to be their best and present their craft to the world.  I’m hoping to see the Academy embrace even more “non-Oscar” type movies regularly in the future.  If you have not seen any of these movies, or have been meaning to check them out, I encourage you to dive in and get ready for March.

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