Every year, the Oscars prompt a flurry of speculation from every possible angle (all correct to at least some degree, for better or for worse), and every year, there are at least a few surprises in the crop of nominations. Some are good — Willem Dafoe’s Best Actor nomination for At Eternity’s Gate, for instance — and some are bad — the brilliant First Reformed was largely snubbed, receiving only one nomination (for Original Screenplay), despite a career-best performance from Ethan Hawke and incredible direction by Paul Schrader; all are worth digging into.
A Star Is Born’s star doesn’t seem to be quite as ascendant anymore: Despite racking up eight nominations (including Best Picture), the film failed to lock down a Best Director nod for Bradley Cooper, and is coming off of a disappointing night at the Golden Globes. (Keep an eye out for Glenn Close’s nomination for The Wife. Her terrific Golden Globes speech has only boosted her chances of taking home Best Actress despite Lady Gaga’s ceaseless campaigning.) Black Panther also failed to pick up a Best Director nomination for Ryan Coogler, though it scored a historic Best Picture nomination (and six additional nods).
Expected awards favorites First Man and If Beale Street Could Talk also picked up a surprisingly scant number of nominations, with First Man shut out of what was assumed to be a lock for Original Score, and deserved nominations for Beale Street director Barry Jenkins and actor Brian Tyree Henry left out in the cold. Even the Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor was unexpectedly shut out of the Best Documentary Feature category despite being critically and popularly well-received, and Bo Burnham’s lovely Eighth Grade was left out completely.
By contrast, momentum seems to be building for Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which picked up 10 nominations, including Best Picture (the nomination alone marking a big win for Netflix), Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress. Of the competition (including awards-season favorites Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody), it seems poised to take home the night’s top prize. BlacKkKlansman also cleaned up fairly well, with Best Picture and Best Director (Spike Lee’s first) nominations, among others.
In happier news, the nomination of RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening in the Best Documentary Feature category came as a pleasant surprise, as did the three nominations for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (including Best Original Song for “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”).
That the Academy overlooked Lee Chang-dong’s Burning or more esoteric performances such as Hugh Grant’s in Paddington 2 (or Tom Hardy’s in Venom, but more on that later) isn’t actually that much of a surprise — it’s just unfortunate. Same for the fact that no women were nominated for Best Director, despite a few deserving names in Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), Tamara Jenkins (Private Life), and Chloé Zhao (The Rider). The bombshells may come at the ceremony itself, as we wait to see whether or not Black Panther can pull off a Best Picture win, or if Roma will become the first movie ever to win both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture.
In the meanwhile, if a particular snub or surprise has got you down, take solace in Best Supporting Actor nominee Richard E. Grant’s delight at the morning’s news: