COLUMN: Five snubs and five surprises from the 90th Academy Award nominations

  (Image: oscars.org)

(Image: oscars.org)

This morning, Girls Trip discovery Tiffany Haddish and Planet of the Apes stalwart Andy Serkis announced the nominees for the 90th Academy Awards.  Gosh, it would have been nice if they would have gotten to say their own names as Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor.  How priceless would a Haddish flip-out have been?!  Alas, we have the list and it has talking points.

Unlike in previous years, I did not set out to predict the nominees before this morning, even after my personal best 86% accuracy score in doing so last year for the "Big 8" categories.  Rest assured, I still have confidence in this Oscar race to guess the eventual winners.  Stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!  As always, I'll save my reasoning and full analysis for my annual Oscar prediction articles coming next month.  Please follow my 2018 Awards Tracker page for all of the latest award winners and data between now and March 4th.  

As with any year, there are hot topics being debated immediately stemming from snubs and surprises.  Here are my takeaways consisting of five snubs and five surprises, coming out of this morning's nominations.  Enjoy!

FIVE SNUBS

1.  Zero nominations for Wonder Woman-- In this Year of Women, the DC superhero was one of many high-profile flagbearers and I'm surprised it came away empty-handed.  I think fans were gunning for Wonder Woman to be this year's Hidden Figures as the populist representative in the Best Picture field, but the nine finalists are very deep.  Even a Best Costume Design nomination would have been a small victory for Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, and company.

2. The Academy apparently doesn't play with LEGOs-- A few years ago, the overwhelming Best Animated Feature frontrunner was The LEGO Movie and it was snubbed from being nominated in shocking fashion.  The LEGO Batman Movie doesn't have Coco-level pull, but, gosh darn, it's better than Ferdinand and The Boss Baby.  Expect one Alec Baldwin Trump joke and a tuxedoed stage appearance for WWE star John Cena as a presenter.   

3. The Big Sick deserved more than a screenplay nomination-- I'll grant that Best Original Screenplay was the film's strongest contending trait for an Oscar nomination, but there's room for more comedy in the acting categories than just Lady Bird.  SAG nominee Holly Hunter was far better than another Octavia Spencer nomination for playing a wise old member of the service industry.  Furthermore, I don't know if there was a more complete lead performance last year than Kumail Nanjiani and the Best Actor category had some room for a shake-up (see surprises below).  More love was needed here.

4. War for the Planet of the Apes deserved more than an effects nomination-- I've been a proponent of this trilogy capper all year and I think it deserved a shot at a special Best Actor distinction for Andy Serkis.  That man might be his own category, but I'd trade Denzel for Serkis in a heartbeat.  As a movie score fan, I'll never push away the legendary John Williams for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but I'd gladly bounce out Carter Burwell for Michael Giacchino's rich score from War for the Planet of the Apes.

5. The Best Foreign Language category is extremely thin-- Props to the transgender opus of Chile's A Fantastic Woman and the category favorite of The Square from Sweden, but the depth behind those two is obscure, even for this category.  On my 2018 Awards Tracker, the leading winner of this award has been France's BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Germany's Diane Kruger film In the Fade is not far behind.  Both were snubbed, making this a two-horse race.

FIVE SURPRISES

1. The race for Best Actor behind Gary Oldman-- The Darkest Hour star is the clear favorite, but that category turned heads behind him.  Timothee Chalamet was expected and Daniel Day-Lewis is Daniel Day-Lewis, but the representation of Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out and Denzel Washington from Roman J. Israel, Esq. are welcome surprises.  The semi-snub was Golden Globe winner James Franco from The Disaster Artist.  Maybe the negative headlines caught up to him.  I ain't mad about that.  

2. Netflix has broken the glass ceiling with Mudbound-- Dees Rees, Virgil Williams, and Mudbound have made Netflix a new and legitimate player for quality film.  Their efforts mostly remain undiscovered treasure as the newfangled digital arthouse.  For every high-profile Bright, there are five other films like MudboundFirst They Killed My Father, Our Souls at Night, Win it All, and War Machine.  Mudbound deserves this love and Netflix is just getting started.  Give it time and they have the money, talent draw, and ability to invade the Oscars the way they've already invaded the Emmys for television.

3. Martin McDonagh missing the Best Director field-- I'm not a Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri fan or a guy that sees its Oscar draw.  That's why this slots as a surprise and not a snub from the post-Golden Globes and SAG momentum that has been pushing McDonagh and his film.  Paul Thomas Anderson was the slot-stealer and a deserving one.  It is extremely rare that a Best Picture winner doesn't have its director at least nominated, let along winning that category as well.  In my crystal ball, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will not win Best Picture, opening the top category of the night to be quite the mysterious race.  Right now, The Shape of Water looks like the next strongest, but watch out for Get Out and Lady Bird.

4. A comic book film has finally be recognized for its writing-- In my opinion, there have been many comic book films worthy of consideration in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for years.  Deadpool was a big writing contender last year and The Dark Knight deserved some love a decade ago.  Sure, the content is not a Jane Austen novel or a Shakespearean play, but the skill to deftly adapt the combination of visual and written storytelling from graphic novels has been grossly underappreciated.  The writing team of James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green behind Logan completely deserved the nomination they received.  Call that another broken glass ceiling.

5. The late release surge of Phantom Thread-- There's always one film that waits until the last minute for its qualifying release and then slow-plays January to become the late-breaking awards contender.  That was supposed to be Martin Scorsese's Silence last year and it sputtered.  This year it's Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread with a robust pull of six nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Original Score).  All six were spot-on and arguments could be made for it having even more (Best Actress, Best Editing, etc.).  

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