And so the race for the 91st Academy Awards begins.
The nominees for Best Picture are…
Black Panther (7 nominations)
BlacKkKlansman (6 nominations)
Bohemian Rhapsody (5 nominations)
The Favourite (10 nominations)
Green Book (5 nominations)
Roma (10 nominations)
A Star Is Born (8 nominations)
Vice (8 nominations)
You can see a full ballot list for printing here. My own round-up of 2018 films is here.
My first thoughts on this list? Extremely predictable—I actually said yesterday on Twitter that I thought there would only be 7 or 8 nominees and this is the list that I wrote up last night—and extremely depressing. The optimist in me was actually willing to get up at 5:20 this morning to watch the announcement live, but I should have known better.
I don’t know what planet these Academy voters live on, but apparently it’s one where you don’t watch a lot of movies. Any avid moviegoer who sat through 2018 would not come to the conclusion that Bohemian Rhapsody or Green Book were the best films of the year. I have serious doubts about Vice as well, but at least I know people who liked it. And, well, I’ve already made my thoughts on Black Panther clear—it’s a great entry in the Marvel universe, but Best Picture? No. At least not ahead of the likes of Leave No Trace, First Reformed, or You Were Never Really Here.
In short, overall, I am extremely disappointed in this list. I mean, sure, I was crushed to see that, yet again, no women were nominated for Best Director, but with a Best Picture list like this, who could be surprised? The Oscars certainly have their flaws, and their list seldom matches my own, but somehow I hoped for better this time around. It is hard to get excited for an Oscar blitz when you are pretty sure you have already seen most of the good ones.
Of course, I’m very happy to see three of my own top ten list on there, as well as The Favourite, which I saw earlier this month; however, I really don’t think either BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite should win “Best Picture” on the night. Roma probably wouldn’t be my pick either, but I don’t begrudge it a win; it’s a gorgeous film. Right now I’m rooting for A Star Is Born. Why? Three words: Pure. Movie. Magic.
And with that, let’s get up close and personal with the rest of the nominations, shall we?
What made me squee when the names were read?
In the acting categories, my biggest joy came from the fact that Yalitza Aparicio and Melissa McCarthy were both on the Best Actress list. That was the only acting category to not have a surprise nomination, but I was worried those two might not make it on, so I’m thrilled they did. I was also ecstatic to see Paul Schrader get recognition for his First Reformed screenplay.
Perhaps the biggest fulfillment of my Oscar hopes was the nomination of Shoplifters for Best Foreign-Language Film. In fact, that is a very solid list all around with Capernaum (Lebanon), Cold War (Poland), Never Look Away (Germany), Roma (Mexico), and Shoplifters (Japan). I haven’t yet seen Capernaum (but I’ve been meaning to since it has a female director) or Never Look Away (which isn’t out yet here but is by the director of the fantastic The Lives of Others), but I’m looking forward to both.
Speaking of foreign films, I was extremely pleased to see Cold War, which I saw this past Sunday, pick up nominations for both Cinematography and Directing. I love when foreign films break out into the other categories and, if I can’t have a female director with a nomination, at least Paweł Pawlikowski knocked Peter Farrelly off the Directing list. And, the cinematography of Cold War is gorgeous, the best-looking black and white film I’ve seen in years.
In fact, I’m pretty happy with how the Cinematography category shook out as a whole. The four films I’ve seen in this category (Cold War, The Favorite, Roma, and A Star Is Born) all really impressed me with their distinct looks and Never Look Away is lensed by Caleb Deschanel so I trust. I would be happy to see any of the nominees in this category win.
Well, obviously, I’m mostly disappointed that some of the best films of the year weren’t even talked about as part of this conversation. And that is really the biggest problem with the Oscars these days. Word and, let’s face it, marketing, seems to coalesce around a few films and the guilds follow suit. While it has always been true that the Best Picture list does not necessarily represent the best pictures of the year, it really seems that the Oscars are floundering in this brave new world of tentpole releases and indie darlings. They don’t seem to want nominate indie darlings, but there are so few solid prestige films in the middle that we get things like Green Book in the mix.
In terms of specific nominations, in light of what was actually expected, I don’t have too many distinct disappointments. My biggest one is perhaps Ethan Hawke not getting an acting nod for First Reformed. I mean, I don’t begrudge Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate, since I love when nominations come from out of the blue, but Hawke was so good that I felt sure he was going to squeak by John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman (who was also very good). Instead, they both lost out.
In a similar vein, I thought Leave No Trace had a chance to steal a fifth spot from Black Panther for Best Adapted Screenplay, but instead they both lost out to The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which seemed to come from nowhere. I liked the screenplay for Scruggs just fine, but I had no idea it was adapted so I hadn’t even considered it for that category. In the Original Screenplay category, I was hoping for Eighth Grade to make it in, but since I did get First Reformed, I can’t complain too much.
The biggest surprise of the morning for me was the Best Documentary category. I have actually seen a number of the shortlisted films and was certain that Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers would make it on there. I was less sure about Shirkers but wouldn’t have been surprised. Instead two longshots (Hale County This Morning, This Evening and Of Fathers and Sons) snuck in, along with RBG, which I found merely serviceable. I’m afraid of heights and therefore couldn’t bring myself to watch Free Solo, so at the moment I’m rooting for Minding the Gap, which was not what I expected, but I liked very much.
Finally, I would have liked to see the score of First Man nominated. I haven’t seen many of the films on the score shortlist, but I listened to the selections and that was my favorite (besides Annihilation, which I knew didn’t really have a chance). The First Man score was number one with the oddsmakers, so I don’t know exactly what happened there.
Once again, the Directors Branch has shown themselves to be the old boy network writ large. Get out of here with this nonsense. Also, I don’t want to hear any of these lame-ass excuses as to why Debra Granik, Marielle Heller, or Lynne Ramsay wasn’t nominated, when they nominate the director of a small, domestic picture like Roma or seriously consider first-time director Cooper for awards.
Oscar Blitz Plans
So, what will I be running out to see?
Well, at the moment, the only movies I’m excited about seeing are Can You Ever Forgive Me? and If Beale Street Could Talk as well as the two foreign films (Capernaum and Never Look Away) that I mention above. I suppose I will try to see Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Mary Poppins, and Vice, but I don’t know about Green Book.
Wow, looking this list over, they really didn’t spread the nominations very wide did they? I actually have a number of categories almost covered. And, as previously noted, I’ve seen quite a few of the documentaries and foreign films already. As always, I will try to catch the animation and live-action short programs, which I highly recommend in general if they are playing near you.
What are your thoughts on this morning’s announcement? Add your thoughts below and stay tuned over the next month for my Oscar Blitz series with more details on all the major categories.