Wonder Woman’s snub, Denzel’s triumph and ... The Boss Baby?! The big Oscar surprises in full
It is a mathematical impossibility for a group of Oscar nominations to please everyone, but this year’s have come pretty close with meaningful love for racial allegory Get Out, woman-led drama Lady Bird and art house period piece Phantom Thread.
The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards also see the history-making nomination of Rachel Morrison – now the first woman to ever be nominated for cinematography, after her work in Mudbound.
Still, there were some significant surprises and even a few outright snubs. Here are the most surprising moments from the nomination announcements.
No Wonder Woman
It was a good day for women, generally speaking, with the first ever nomination for a female cinematographer (Rachel Morrison for Mudbound) and Greta Gerwig becoming the fifth woman in history to get a best director nomination (for Lady Bird), but the love stopped short of one of the most populist female-driven projects of the year: Wonder Woman .
The bizarre fish-monster romance makes a splash
Despite the heavy-hitters seen in cinemas over the past 12 months - including Steven Spielberg’s The Post, which looked like it was tailor-made for Oscar swooning - it was an off-kilter romance between a woman and a fish that took home the most nominations.
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water clocked in an impressive 13 nominations, including Best Picture, Actress (Sally Hawkins), Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins) and Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer).
That it didn’t take a nomination for Best Actor is perhaps less surprising, since Doug Jones spends the film hidden under full body prosthetics as the creepy mer-man who woos a mute cleaning lady (Hawkins) working in a sinister government laboratory.
Mexican director del Toro has proven his talent at switching between elegaic arthouse movies - Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone - and rock-’em-sock-’em action movies - Pacific Rim, Blade II - before.
But it’s been 11 years since he got his last nomination, for Pan’s Labyrinth, and the until-now modest box office success (US34.6 million, HK$270 million) of his modestly budgeted film (US$19.5 million, HK$152 million) gave no indication that it would prove such a resounding success at the Oscars.
Denzel Washington breaks through and James Franco doesn’t
You’d be forgiven if you weren’t aware there was a Denzel Washington film out this year. Dan Gilroy’s criminal court thriller Roman J Israel, Esq came and went without much fanfare, to middling reviews and box office. Washington’s performance as the activist lawyer was the one bright spot for many critics (although The New York Times said the film doesn’t serve him).
Still, Washington has hardly been at the forefront of the awards race this year, especially when compared with, say Tom Hanks, who was not nominated for playing Ben Bradlee in The Post - and has not been nominated in 17 years.
Washington also perhaps took the spot from James Franco for The Disaster Artist . This is Washington’s sixth lead actor nomination; he’s won twice.
Netflix finds a narrative win in ‘Mudbound’
The streaming service has gambled big in the past few years with would-be Oscar nominees, but found their first successful non-documentary contender in a film it acquired at the Sundance Film Festival – Dee Rees’ American odyssey Mudbound, about two families, one black, and one white, in the post-second world war South.
Mudbound was nominated for best adapted screenplay, best supporting actress (Mary J Blige), best original song and best cinematography.
For some, it’s been a question of whether the film academy had an anti-Netflix bias. Whatever the case was before, though, the times might be changing.
The Steve James curse is broken
Snubs were almost becoming a way of life for documentary filmmaker Steve James who time and time again churns out excellent work to not much film Academy recognition.
His Hoop Dreams was infamously only nominated for editing and then his sure bet, the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself, was also passed over.
This year, James finally got nominated for Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, about the family-owned community bank that was the only US bank to face criminal charges following the 2008 subprime mortgage collapse.
‘Phantom Thread’ eclipses heavyweights
Paul Thomas Anderson’s moody period piece is a favourite among hard core cinephiles, but many were surprised on Tuesday when Anderson was nominated for best director over both Steven Spielberg (The Post) and Martin McDonagh ( Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ).
Anderson, an eight-time Oscar nominee (now twice for directing), didn’t even get a Director’s Guild or a Producer’s Guild nomination for Phantom Thread.
The Kevin Spacey controversy fails to hurt Ridley Scott
By now, everyone knows how Ridley Scott replaced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer as J Paul Getty in All the Money in the World just six weeks before the film was set to hit theatres.
That choice that was officially validated in the best possible way for the film – a supporting Oscar nomination for Plummer (his third).
Diversity gets a boost, but only for some
The Oscars are not so white any more, but one group that remains marginalised is Latino actors, who have not gotten an Oscar nomination since 2012.
In fact, only three have won in the last 20 years (Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, and Benicio Del Toro). This year, Salma Hayek had the best shot for her role in the dark satire Beatriz at Dinner - but didn’t make the shortlist.
‘Jane’ gets cut out
Three days after Brett Morgen’s highly acclaimed Jane Goodall documentary Jane picked up the Producers Guild Award in the documentary category, the film academy left it on the cutting room floor.
The baby CEO film is an Oscar nominee
They can’t take it back. A film that has a 52 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes – The Boss Baby , in which Alec Baldwin voices a pint-sized, suit-wearing CEO – has been nominated for best animated feature.
The Animated Feature Film category is typically a dumping ground for films of questionable Oscar worthiness - the first film to ever win in the category was Shrek for crying out loud - but this year the movie stands out given the quality of its competition.
Also in the category this year are Disney/Pixar’s universally adored Mexican fable Coco ; Loving Vincent , a biopic of Vincent van Gogh in which every frame is hand-painted in the style of his art; The Breadwinner, about a girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan; and Ferdinand, an adaptation of a much-loved children’s book.
Of those, Ferdinand would be about the closest competition to The Boss Baby, artistically speaking - but its 70 per cent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes shows it’s still way ahead of the tiny tycoon.