E: Well then. Okay. There’s some interesting stuff here. A few bummers, a few surprises out of far, far left field. We learned a few important things about how this year’s going to go, and we saw a few trends. It’s no country for young men, first off. And it’s Roma‘s party all the way. Let’s break down the Oscar nods! (Or, E beats herself up a lot.)
Best Supporting Actor 4/5
I’m not going to start off with the self-flagellation, though. I thought this would come down to a fight between Sams Rockwell and Elliot, with four consensus actors already appearing in most if not all pre-cursor lists.
What I said: Mahershala Ali, Timothee Chalamet, Adam Driver, Richard E. Grant and Sam Rockwell
Who Oscar picked: Ali, Driver, Elliot, Grant and Rockwell
Clearly AMPAS couldn’t pick which Sam they wanted more and went for both! Though I’m not whacking myself in the head with a heavy book, I am a little chastened; I forgot the young and handsome man rule.* What was I thinking? You may have noticed that AMPAS prefers its male nominees a little more long in the tooth, grizzled gentlemen well past the first flush of youth and at least into thickening middle age if not beyond. They like dudes who’ve paid their dues. Now, they’re a little looser when it comes to supporting actor (Leonardo DiCaprio picked up his first nod here in his early teens, followed by a lengthy, much publicized gap in nominations as he became more and more celebrated for his looks), and I guess I got snookered by the fact that Timothee Chalamet managed lead nod last year. Sucker! It’s like they’ve just remembered that he’s enviably good-looking (maybe his role last year made him seem less threatening in that regard) and only 23. It’s certainly fair to say that his movie, Beautiful Boy, didn’t make nearly the splash that was expected, and we could also theorize that his chances couldn’t outlast that disappointment. This is the kind of mistake I expect to make: this performance was nominated at BAFTA, the Critics Choice, the Golden Globes and SAG, so it really didn’t make a lot of sense to bet against him.
Rockwell and Elliot, though, have traded being the fifth man at the rest of the pre-cursor awards. Neither seemed to have full support. This is all to say that it’s not shocking to see who’s on the list. It IS somewhat shocking to see who got left off, though we’re all probably more shocked than we should be.
I’m quite happy to see the grizzled veteran Sam Elliot receive his first nomination for his excellent work in A Star is Born. Ali, Driver, Grant and Rockwell all appear as I expected, picking up their second, first, first and second respectively. Ali and Rockwell won in 2017 and 2018 on their first nominations, so all together it’s a group that’s quite new to Oscar, which is nice to see. Grant and Elliot are particularly in the mold that AMPAS likes – respected veterans finally getting a bit of reward.
*Do not come at me over Adam Driver. He’s 35, and he’s not a matinee idol type. This is not a comment on his swoon-worthiness.
Best Supporting Actress 4/5
I think it’s safe to say that no one saw that coming.
I said: Amy Adams, Regina King, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Margot Robbie
Oscar chose: Adams, King, Stone, Weisz and Marina De Tavira
For nearly two months, I’ve been hearing that Roma was or could be the film to beat for Best Picture. Yet the other award just were not bearing that out. The Hollywood Foreign Press, understandably, only allows English language films to compete for Best Picture, and so Roma wasn’t nominated there though it did pick up foreign film and director. Then it got passed over the the Screen Actor’s Guild. It did win the Critics Choice, and got nominated for the BAFTAs. Whatever it would do as a movie, the actors were largely ignored – and Marina da Tavira totally ignored.
And yet here she is, Marina da Tavira, 100% the biggest surprise of the year. I really have to get on Netflix and see this movie. I seriously doubt she could win, but the nomination itself is an incredible feat, especially for a film that’s not in English.
The flip side of a surprise inclusion is the omission, although unlike supporting actor, this slot was certainly up for grabs. I was afraid that Emily Blunt’s plethora of good roles this year was going to be a weakness for her, rather than a strength, and so it went. Snubbed twice! That’s pretty lousy. That makes me wonder if she’s going to win the year she finally gets that nomination, because people will feel so guilty that these continual omissions. Of course, the role of ‘mom in horror movie’ doesn’t normally get nominated for Oscars, so I suppose that could be part of it too, certainly among people who hadn’t seen her spring flick. At least my guess Margot Robbie already has a nod to her name; both Blunt and First Man‘s Claire Foy missed out on a chance to pick up their first. Honestly, I don’t feel bad about missing out on this one, which I might have if it had gone to Blunt or Foy. There’s no way I would have guessed the way it actually turned out.
Anyway, Adams, Stone and Weisz have been celebrated everywhere and will continue to be. Those three ladies picked up their sixth, third and second nominations respectively. (Stone and Weisz have also each won.) King and da Tavira are fist timers.
One thing I passed over in my initial analysis (boo me) is that not only did Regina King miss out on a BAFTA nod, but she was also passed over for SAG. She’s won the two major awards that have already been given out (Golden Globes and Critics Choice), but between now and the Oscars, we’ll have no chance to see if she can maintain her buzz, or if one of the others can wrest the Oscar away. Not da Tavira, of course, since she’s not nominated at those events either, but who knows? I guess we’ll get a glimmer on Sunday at the SAG awards. If someone – let’s say Adams the unrewarded – wins both, perhaps she can challenge King at the big game.
Best Actor 4/5
Remember what I said above whippersnappers not getting attention at the Oscars? Yeah, I should have remembered that here, too.
I said: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Viggo Mortensen and John David Washington
Oscar Picked: Bale, Cooper, Malek, Mortensen and Willem DaFoe
I’m kind of annoyed with myself over this one. I really should have known they wouldn’t let such a neophyte take a leading man slot away from a grizzled vet, although I think in this case it’s less about age (he’s 34) as it may be about the fact that he’s only been acting for three years. I noted that Washington was the least assured of a spot, and had Dafoe as the alternate, but I let myself forget that major rule when faced with Washington’s marginally larger pre-cursor nomination total. And we know they like Dafoe, who’s also in academy sweet spot playing the super famous eccentric painter Vincent Van Gogh (real person with a mental or physical illness!). I did think that AMPAS might want more representation in their lead line up, and he was the prime place I thought it would come. Guess I was wrong about that! More on that latter…
So, okay. Bale, Cooper and Dafoe pick up their fourth acting nods. (Cooper has three non-acting nods, and we’ll get to that later, too.) Mortensen has three, and it’s a little interesting to me that he played a Russian assassin in one and an Italian-American enforcer in another. Egyptian-American Malek gets his first; there’s a cool interview with him where the 37 year old explains he got the call on a lovely snowy day, working in Paris. How idyllic!
Best Actress 4/5
I’m kicking myself slightly less here, but still, I’m bummed about missing a perfect score.
What I said: Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy, and Emily Blunt (with Nicole Kidman as a surprise)
What actually happened: Close, Colman, Gaga, McCarthy and Yalitza Aparicio
I called Aparicio a dark horse, and I also said this would be where we really knew how much the Academy loved Roma, and hey, now we do. I thought this category was ripe for a big surprise. Surprise – it was! Not as big as a surprise as occurred in supporting actress (Aparicio was one of seven women nominated for the Critics Choice, so she’s been marginally involved in the conversation) but still, definitely a surprise, particularly since she’s never acted before. Talk about a backstory – she’d just graduated with her teaching degree, and responded to a casting call for indigenous Mexican actresses at her sister’s urging, buying time while she waited for the results of her teaching exam. What a turn of events that is! She becomes, I believe, just the fifth Latina to be nominated for lead actress. I’m curious if a so-called “non-actor” has ever been nominated for this particular award before; it does happen occasionally (Barkhad Abdi, for example) but not often. (Here’s a partial answer: Marilee Matlin won the Oscar for her first movie, Children of a Lesser God, and may by some definitions be considered a “non-actor” – kind of a silly category, really, which just means people who weren’t trained professionals or even aspiring actors, and one that seems often to be deployed in patronizing ways. Anyway. I use it to highlight what an incredible trajectory this must be for Aparicio, and because it’s often used in industry articles, but clearly she’s acting in the movie, so I feel awkward about my own usage of the term.)
As well noted, I worried about Emily Blunt, and my worries were justified. Does AMPAS just not like her? It’s hard to imagine why that would be. Did people not vote for her work in Mary Poppins Returns because they thought she’d make the supporting list for The Quiet Place? Did they somehow think that Poppins isn’t a serious enough movie, because it’s for families? A lot has changed in the way Oscar looks at itself since Mary Poppins won best picture (and four other Oscars, including best actress) in 1965.
Anyway, I knew Blunt was vulnerable, but there wasn’t a great deal of data to support anyone else as the clear alternative. I should have just been bold – although I would probably have gone with Kidman if I had.
As far as the other nominees are concerned, there’s a lot to like. Close picks up her seventh, McCarthy her second and first as a leading lady. Colman, Gaga and obviously Aparicio their first. It should be noted that AMPAS has absolutely no compunctions about nominating women in their first appearance on screen, nominating very young women, or nominating particularly beautiful women, and they are not at all known for preferring to reward older women, though in this case 71 year old Close is maybe, just maybe, likely to best competitors in their 40s, 30s and 20s.
Best Director 4/5
This is the one where I’m really kicking myself. You’re not going to believe it, but I actually had this right, panicked, and changed it.
I said: Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee, Adam McKay and Pawel Pawlikowski
Oscar picked: Cuaron, Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee, McKay and Pawlikowski
It would be hard to express how mad I am at myself, really, because this is a category I never get right, and I had it in my grasp, and then I blew it. I had laid it all out: the director’s branch is full of iconoclasts, they make shocking choices, they love to choose unknowns over big names. I had a feeling that they might not be ready to take Farrelly seriously, and after all, his movie has had a weirdly rocky Oscar campaign and middling love from critics. I wouldn’t say the directors branch follows the critics, but that they tend to like similarly obscure things. Green Book won the Producer’s Guild, which made it a contender in this unusually fluid year, but would it remain one without a director nomination? Conventional wisdom says you’re not going to win best picture without getting a directing nod, though that has occasionally been proven wrong (via Driving Miss Daisy and Argo). So I thought about it, and I felt like I could see the directing branch being snobby about his movie. But Bradley Cooper? How could they snub him? Naw, I can’t take him off the list. Is he really more likely to be snubbed than McKay? I had the strongest feeling about Lanthimos ( critics swooned over his last film The Lobster, they seemed to like The Favourite even more, he’s really, really strange and buzzy), but I wasn’t brave enough to call it, so I switched it back.
Uuuuuugh. So. Mad. At. Myself.
I can’t even really be happy with myself for calling Pawlikowski, which ought to make me very pleased. Ah well. I’ve done worse with directors, that’s for certain, and I haven’t seen anyone who actually got all five right.
These omissions have a huge impact on the whole race. Can A Star is Born or Green Book win when their directors haven’t been nominated? This really punctures their balloons. I never thought The Favourite would be capable of winning, and I still don’t expect it, but it has to be viewed as something of a contender because of its broad support, especially if it takes the SAG award for best ensemble. 10 nominations, same as Roma! Now, I don’t think we’re going to run into an Argo-like situation, with that director’s snub heard round the world, though if A Star is Born picks up the SAG and BAFTA then I’ll be forced to admit otherwise. That doesn’t seem to be where the press is running at this point, anyway. Nope, all current indicators are pointing toward a Roma win.
What’s interesting about this slate? Easy: its national, linguistic and ethnic diversity. There are three first time directing nominees here (Lanthimos and Lee have nods already for writing, and Pawlikowski previously directed a film, Ida, which won the foreign film Oscar). Though all are men, only one of the five is a white American; Lanthimos is Greek, Pawlikowski Polish, Cuaron Mexican and Lee African American. It’s been nearly 30 years since Lee was passed over for Do The Right Thing, so this honor comes to him long overdue.
Everybody’s known that Cuaron would be the winner in this category for ages. He personally picked up four nods today, as director, writer, producer and – most unusually – cinematographer, bringing his career total to ten.
Best Picture 8/8
Well would you look at that?
I chose: BlackkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, VICE (Bohemian Rhapsody was my 7th place slot and VICE my 8th.)
Oscar chose: BlackkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, VICE
It’s funny, but here, where I got everything right, I’m just bemused. I’m sorry that Mary Poppins Returns, my hope for a ninth slot, didn’t make the list, but I’m not shocked it didn’t. That would have given us something closer to gender parity, and I admit, I’m sick of being a third of the way there, but I don’t see AMPAS giving up its intense focus on men. It’s better than an eighth or a quarter representation, but I’m still done with it. Especially when you look at the best picture nominees from the 1930s and see that they include films both starring women and of the more “girlie” genres, it’s just lame. Why are we taking so many steps back, Hollywood?
Still, the clear frontrunner at this point has got to be female-centered Roma, which would make history as the first foreign language film to win best picture if it does go on to take the biggest prize. (It’s already made a little history as the first movie produced by Netflix – available for streaming now! – to be nominated for this prize.) We won’t know until Oscar night itself, since it’s not even nominated at the SAG awards, but it has to be considered the top of the heap with it’s ten nominations, especially the two shocking acting nods. The BAFTA awards, which haven’t fallen in line with Oscar lately, may or may not help us see.
I would not have guessed this would be my best category, but there it is.
Bits and Bobs:
As you may know, both Roma and The Favourite scored 10 nominations, leading this year’s pack. VICE grabbed 8, and A Star is Born managed 7 (picking up one for Sam Elliot but losing the expected directing nomination).
Shoring up the international nature of this year’s slate, foreign film nominees Roma, Cold War and Never Look Away all also scored cinematography nominations. That race is rounded out by Shoplifters (from Japan) and Capernum, the second Lebanese film to be so nominated, the first being last year’s . Capernum brings even more diversity, being directed by Nadine Labaki in a moment where non-costume designing female crew members are thin on the ground. (For example, out of the twenty writers nominated for adapted and original screenplay, only two are women.) Sandy Powell is nominated twice in costume design, for Mary Poppins Returns and The Favourite; there are a very few women in the sound categories, production design, make up and songwriting, but none in score, cinematography, editing or visual effects.
To my disappointment, the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor was passed over, although political bio-doc RBG happily was not, even gathering an original song nod for “I’ll Fight.” Speaking of songs, only one song each from the spectacular soundtracks to A Star is Born and Mary Poppins Returns received nominations, though they did pick my favorites (“Shallow” and “The Place Where Lost Things Go”). Sadly, that means it’s unlikely for Lin-Manuel Miranda to perform, since “Lost Things” isn’t one of his; I wonder if Emily Blunt will get that call, since the Academy didn’t get her another this year. There was a foreign production among the animated feature nominees (Mirai) but it did not displace the four I was excited to see nominated (Incredibles 2, Isle of Dogs, Ralph Breaks the Internet and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse).
Two more shocking omissions appear in the most technical categories. Black Panther, the first superhero movie nominated for best picture, was actually passed over for its special effects. Think about that for a minute! It lost out to films like Solo: A Star Wars Story and Avengers: Infinity War. I’m pretty flabbergasted by that; it’s almost like the community couldn’t agree that it’s both an effects film and a critical success. I would never have expected to write this, either, but wunderkind Justin Hurwitz got passed over for his excellent Golden Globe winning score for First Man. First Man over all did comparatively poorly, missing out on best picture, director, actor, supporting actress – which I expected – and other other categories that I was more surprised by, though it did manage 4 nods including both sound categories and the elusive visual effects.
And I suppose that’s all I have to say about all that tonight. What a really weird year! What a weird, weird year.