After months of speculation (and blog posts), one of the most competitive film awards seasons in recent memory was kicked into high gear with this morning’s announcement of the 90th Academy Award nominations. The Oscars are rarely unpredictable, and this year was no different, with many of the nominees considered a lock from months ago. Still, there were some nominees on and off the list that are worthy of an eyebrow raise, or searing outrage at the ridiculousness of it all (we’ll get to Call Me by Your Name in a moment).
Either way, here are the biggest surprises and most egregious snubs of this year’s shortlist:
Snub: Call Me By Your Name underperforms
I was expecting it, prepared myself mentally for it, but seeing it come to fruition was still a gut-punch. Call Me by Your Name, the rapturously beautiful love story starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, is considered by many to be the year’s best film. And yet, the film could only eek out four nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor for Chalamet, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song for “Mystery of Love”. The film’s sumptuous photography didn’t warrant a nomination for Best Cinematography, nor did Luca Guadagnino’s excellent direction. The most egregious snub for me was in the Best Supporting Actor category. Despite giving a sensitive, stunning performance that netted him a Golden Globe nomination, Armie Hammer was shut out in favor of Christopher Plummer’s last-minute role switch in All the Money in the World. The only thing that hurts worse than this excellent film’s under-representation is the very real possibility that it will be shut out completely from winning.
Surprise: Phantom Thread overperforms
Phantom Thread was largely known as Daniel Day-Lewis’ last film before his retirement more than a Best Picture contender. The Academy clearly tapped into something the rest of us missed, bestowing six nominations on the film, including Best Picture. While Lewis’ nomination for Best Actor was guaranteed, Thread picked up surprise nods for Best Directing and Best Supporting Actress for Lesley Manville, displacing projected nominee Hong Chau for Downsizing. It will be interesting to see whether the Academy’s initial passion for Lewis will translate into Oscar glory in March.
Snub: No love for Wonder Woman
Any hopes that the Academy would’ve learned their lesson after famously snubbing The Dark Knight in 2008 were dashed with Wonder Woman. Arguably the best-received comic book film since Christopher Nolan’s Batman epic, Wonder Woman received a total of zero Oscar nominations: not for director Patty Jenkins, not for Best Picture, not even in the technical categories. Considering the goodwill that Jenkins restored to the superhero genre, its critical adulation and record-breaking box office success, the lack of nominations is a glaring oversight. Maybe Justice League was the film’s Norbit?
Surprise: Mudbound beats the Netflix curse
The Academy has historically balked at Netflix as a major category contender, famously shutting out the well-received Beasts of No Nation a few years back. This year, their icy relationship with the streaming giant seems to be thawing, with Mudbound receiving four nominations. Aside from double nominee Mary J. Blige (Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song), the film received nods for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography. The latter nod is historic; it is the first time a black woman has been nominated in that category. After Hulu humiliated Netflix by winning Best Drama Series at the Emmys in September, Mudbound re-established the service as fertile ground for germinating prestige films.
Surprise (and Snub): The Post lands Best Picture; I, Tonya does not
Kyle Buchanan of Vulture warned that The Post’s Oscar standing was slipping following high profile snubs at the Globes, BAFTAs, and SAGs. Still, it was stunning to see the incredibly timely film receive only two nominations this morning: one for Meryl Streep for Best Actress, the other for Best Picture. There were no nominations for Tom Hanks for Best Actor, or Steven Spielberg for Best Director. How exactly does a film that couldn’t break into any other major or minor category net out as Best Picture? That’s a question that producers of multiple nominee I, Tonya are probably asking today. Despite a passionate fan base and multiple nominations for its cast and editing, the Tonya Harding biopic was shut out of Best Picture, even with an open slot.
Surprise: Logan scores a Best Adapted Screenplay nod
The Oscars aren’t kind to superhero films (see Wonder Woman and The Dark Knight) in the major categories, so color me surprised – delighted, even – to see one of last year’s most poignant films, which also happened to be about a near-immortal man with metallic retractable claws, land a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Considering the film turned a graphic novel into a thoughtful meditation on mortality and legacy, its a surprise well deserved.
Snub: Tiffany Haddish slips through the cracks
On one hand, seeing Tiffany Haddish presenting this year’s Oscar nominations was a nice affirmation of her continued incredible success. On the other, it felt a lot like a consolation prize for her lack of a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Her incredibly hilarious performance in the summer hit Girls Trip was recognized by several critics associations, but was largely ignored by other awards bodies like the Golden Globes and the SAGs. Still, there was hope that a last-minute campaign push would secure a slot for the comedian, who is clearly having a moment. What a shame that the Academy failed to capitalize on it.