Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 Oscar Nominations (Reaction and Analysis)

Well, the 90th Annnual Academy Award nominations were announced early this morning by co-presenters Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis from the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and represented a return to the original format after last year's disastrous, anticlimactic online unveiling. While being glad Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs took the hint and went back to what worked, I can't say I enjoyed the butchering of all the nominees' names and jokey, stand-up atmosphere that again revealed the Academy's desperate, yearly obsession with be seen as relevant and plugged in to pop culture. With Haddish, they found a current, newsworthy entertainer to do it, while accidentally creating that inevitable moment of awkwardness when she wasn't nominated for Supporting Actress. But that was a longshot at best. The announcement was what it was, and there were very few surprises or outrageous snubs. There's definitely nothing as undeserved or appalling as Jennifer Lawrence's recent "Worst Actress" Razzie nod for literally one of best performances of the year in mother! 

Say what you will about the Academy, but as frustrating as they sometimes are, at least they don't just count box receipts and call it a day. They did a mostly respectable job here and while none of these categories will set ratings ablaze, how much of a goal is that anymore? The Oscars never did, nor pretended to. But it would be nice if they permeated the cultural conversation a little more, as they did last year with their strongest show in decades, culminating with that shocking Best Picture mix-up. What they have consistently done is nominate and reward respectable work, and this year again appears to be no exception.  Read the full list of nominees here and check out my take on things below.

- Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water leads the pack with 13 nominations, which seems like an absurd amount, even accounting for the technical awards. Sorry, but it does. Dunkirk and Three Billboards follow with 7 and 8, with both standing a better chance at wining Best Picture. How strange is that? After last year, it's already been established anything can happen. The Florida Project and I, Tonya don't make the cut, but you can't seriously believe the Academy would consider nominating Wonder Woman for Best Picture. But that it didn't get any nominations at all in any category is a bit surprising.

- Nine Best Picture nominees in total and I still say they should go back to five and make each choice mean more. Phantom Thread and Darkest Hour are the two surprises here, as everything else went according to plan. Both of those were primarily viewed as vehicles for their lead actors until this morning. And anyone who thought The Post wouldn't get in was kidding themselves.

- Remember when Greta Gerwig was set to star in that now shelved How I Met Your Mother spin-off a couple of years ago? Me neither. I guess everything does happen for a reason, and while a lot people have been waiting a while for this nomination, few could have guessed it would come in the Director category, making her only the fifth woman to ever earn that honor. And it's awesome. Jordan Peele's in for Get Out and the sole surprise (if you can call it that) is Paul Thomas Anderson's nod for Phantom Thread, which got a lot more love than anticipated. Somewhat conspicuous by his absence is The Post's Steven Spielberg, but with five slots to fill, there was always a good chance he'd be squeezed out. More surprising are the omissions of Three Billboard's Martin McDonagh and Call Me By Your Name's Luca Guadagnino.

- Let's just say it: Denzel Washington probably wouldn't have gotten a Best Actor nod for Roman J. Israel, Esq. if not for the recent sexual misconduct allegations against James Franco, who was all but a lock for The Disaster Artist a few weeks ago. Tom Hanks also found himself out in the cold for The Post, as most of the attention seemed focused on Streep's performance. Denzel's joined by Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out, Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name and, of course, the recently retiring Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread. Either way, Gary Oldman has this in the bag for Darkest Hour. He's due.

- No surprises or snubs whatsoever in Best Actress. A month or two ago it seemed as if Saoirse Ronan had this sewn up for Lady Bird. Now it's Frances McDormand's to lose for Three Billboards, but still closer than some think. We have our obligatory Streep nomination, but at least this time it's a role of substance in a picture most agree is worthy. No Jessica Chastain for Molly's Game, but that was considered a bit of a stretch to begin with. Wouldn't it be something if Margot Robbie won for I, Tonya?

- One of the few shocks, and a somewhat under-reported one, was the great Richard Jenkins' Supporting Actor nomination for The Shape of Water. No one saw that coming and it was probably the biggest sign that movie would be cleaning up this morning. Christopher Plummer still gets in for All The Money in the World despite all the endless controversy swirling around that film. No Armie Hammer for Call Me By Your Name though. That's a noteworthy exclusion, and maybe the biggest snub of the morning.

-In what's shaping up to be the big Supporting Actress showdown between respected TV veterans Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf, Octavia Spencer shockingly slides in for The Shape of Water, while Mary J. Blige and Lesley Manville also get surprise nominations for Mudbound and Phantom Thread, respectively. Holly Hunter missing out for The Big Sick could be considered the only full-blown snub in a category infamous for throwing us some curve balls on both nomination morning and Oscar night.

- Logan becomes the first superhero film nominated for Best Original Screenplay while Mudbound's Rachel Morrison becomes the first female Best Cinematography nominee. 

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