Everyone has strong opinions about the Oscar nominations. Now, thanks to a format change to how the nominees were announced, there was raging about the announcement ceremony, too.
The injustice of Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish being asked to host the ceremony only to be snubbed in the Best Supporting Actress category was chief among them, and similar gripes could be made in support of War of the Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis, her co-host.
Then there were the time-sucking short films starring the likes of Gal Gadot, Zoe Saldana, and Salma Hayek that played before each category. (Our read: while utterly random, they were kind of beautiful, and we’re all here for any Academy project that casts Molly Shannon.)
But that’s all besides the point to the real gripe-fest: the actual nominations, led by The Shape of Water with 13 nods, one shy of the Academy record. There’s groaning to be done, sure. But also some cheering. It’s an inclusive list, including scores of representation for women: Greta Gerwig becomes the fifth woman to ever be nominated for Best Director while Jordan Peele is the fifth black person to be nominated, and Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison is the first woman to ever be nominated in Best Cinematography.
Our nerdy awards obsession, which has tracked the twists and turns of the awards season studiously, is here to distill it all so that you can sound smart gabbing about the nominations at happy hour. So from the surprising surge in support for Darkest Hour and the shocking exclusion of James Franco—did those allegations about his sexual misbehavior torpedo his chances?—here’s a look at the biggest talking points.
SNUB: Tiffany Haddish
The breakout star of Girl’s Trip was the dark horse nomination everyone was rooting for. Arguably no acting performance made as much of a mark on the cultural zeitgeist, and no performer announced themselves as an on-camera force with as much unbridled gusto. But her work wasn’t just delightfully loud and raunchy. It was a careful calibration of comedy brashness with blaring pathos to match. Oscar voters rarely reward comedy performances this big. It’s a shame that pattern continued.
SURPRISE: Darkest Hour
On paper, Darkest Hour is Oscars catnip: a prestige biopic of Winston Churchill with Gary Oldman starring in a tonnage of prosthetics. Yet the film never gained traction during awards season and the buzz had all but flatlined by the time Tuesday’s nominations rolled around, to the point that few, if any, pundits had the film in their Best Picture predictions. That it made it in over the likes of The Big Sick, Mudbound and I, Tonya in the big category is one thing. But that it did so well below-the-line, with four additional nominations plus Oldman in Best Actor, is another.
SNUB: James Franco
When allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior against James Franco broke with mere days to go before Oscar ballots were due, most assumed it was too late in the voting period to really thwart The Disaster Artist star’s chances at what was considered a sure-thing Best Actor nomination. Did enough voters delay voting until the 11th hour that the investigation affected their ballots? Or did voters, who, again, typically scoff at comedy, simply not warm up to his performance?
SURPRISE: Denzel Washington
Suffice it to say that it’s Denzel Washington in the slot that most assumed would go to Franco. Apparently people really did see Roman J. Israel, Esq., at least enough to get Washington a Best Actor nod over Franco and the man we thought would be more likely to replace the Disaster Artist star on the shortlist: The Post’s Tom Hanks.
SNUB: Holly Hunter and Hong Chau
With awards season stretching closer to interminable each successive year, it’s pretty easy to trim the likely nominees in each category to a shortlist of 7 or 8 names that are the ones really in the mix. In Best Supporting Actress, that included The Big Sick’s Holly Hunter and Downsizing’s Hong Chau, who scored nominations at the lion’s share of precursor ceremonies. Hunter, a former Oscar winner, delivers a riotous, classic supporting performance in The Big Sick. And while critics and awards voters largely dismissed Downsizing, Chau delivers a dynamo performance, rivaling fellow snubee Michael Stuhlbarg for Best Monologue of 2018. Plus, with inclusion such a talking point this past year, it would have been meaningful for Chau to join the ranks of the precious few Asian actors to score an Oscar nomination.
SURPRISE: Lesley Manville
The Phantom Thread co-star’s deliciously stern performance was a highlight of the year, but one that came so late in it that Manville struggled to gain awards steam at the precursor ceremonies. But if there’s ever a time to surge, it’s now.
SNUB: Martin McDonagh
In what was once a wide-open race, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri had emerged as the presumed frontrunner, after picking up Best Picture trophies and a surprise abundance of nominations on the way to Oscars morning. So it’s a bit of shock given that momentum that the film’s director, Martin McDonagh, failed to score a slot in the Best Director race. Could the backlash against Three Billboards that’s been brewing be starting to take hold?
SURPRISE: Paul Thomas Anderson
Phantom Thread’s Paul Thomas Anderson was certainly on the carousel of possible Best Director contenders, but for all the reasons we mentioned regarding Lesley Manville, most ranked him least likely to make it into the final five over the likes of The Post’s Steven Spielberg, Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino, Darkest Hour’s Joe Wright, and The Florida Project’s Sean Baker. Speaking of...
SNUB: The Florida Project
In our opinion, the year’s best film was The Florida Project, a charming yet vital look at the broken system behind the plague of the country’s hidden homeless, told through the eyes of a spirited young girl. It’s a tiny film, but it deserved way more accolades than it got: just one nomination, in Best Supporting Actor for Willem Dafoe. Not only would it have lead our Best Picture list, but also would have seen Sean Baker in Best Director and nine-year-old wunderkind Brooklynn Prince in Best Actress as well.
SURPRISE: Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig
Given the Oscars’ horrendous track record when it comes to inclusion—the Best Director category among the worst of them all in that metric—we’re pleasantly surprised that both Get Out’s Jordan Peele and Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig made it into the tight category. Both nominations are historic. They’re both first-time directors. Peele becomes the fifth black director to be nominated, and Gerwig becomes the fifth woman. The progress is a good thing, but so is the fact that two of the year’s actual best directors got nominated. Deserving nominees can often be too much to ask for!
SNUB: Call Me By Your Name Boys
Throughout the course of awards season, the conversation morphed from both of the Call Me By Your Name co-stars—Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg—being shoo-in Best Supporting Actor nominees, to which of them will get the CMBYN slot, to whether either of them could get in at all. Whether vote-splitting is to blame or the brakes on CMBYN’s awards momentum, it’s frustrating that the film, which was so profoundly affecting for gay audiences, wasn’t the awards juggernaut that many hoped could score nods for one or both of the co-stars in its sweep.
SURPRISE: Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison
Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography for her sensational work in Mudbound. More, Mudbound is the first Netflix film to break into major Oscar races outside of Best Documentary.
SNUB: In the Fade
In the Fade star Diane Kruger worked the Oscar campaign tirelessly in support of the German film, and it had paid off not only with reliable nominations throughout awards season, but with major wins. Going into Tuesday’s nominations, In the Fade was the Best Foreign Language Film frontrunner, but now it’s not even nominated.
SURPRISE: Mary J. Blige, Times Two
R&B superstar Mary J. Blige is now not only a Best Supporting Actress nominee for her work in Mudbound, but to sweeten the deal she also scored a nod for writing the song “Mighty River” for the picture.
Wonder, about a disfigured young boy who comes of age when his parents stop homeschooling him and enroll him in school, was an unexpected box office sensation, and deservedly so: the tear-jerker resisted bait to be cloying or manipulative, treating its target young adult audience with rare dignity. An adapted screenplay nod for Stephen Chbosky and Steve Conrad’s carefully threaded script would have been a nice victory lap for the film’s success.