Veteran director Spike Lee finally received some long overdue recognition, first-time director Bradley Cooper heard some bittersweet results, and the Academy generally played it safe in handing out the major nominations.
Even though Lee’s resume includes “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” “Malcolm X,” “Clockers” and “25th Hour,” he received his first nomination as director for “BlacKkKlansman,” thus becoming just the sixth African-American filmmaker to receive a nod.
“BlacKkKlansman” was also one of the eight movies nominated for best picture and Adam Driver was awarded a best supporting actor nod — but the film’s deserving lead, John David Washington, didn’t get the call.
No offense to the great talents of Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”), Willem Dafoe (“Eternity”) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), but I would have given Washington a nomination ahead of all three of those nominees.
Oscar nominations led by ‘Roma,’ ‘Favourite’; historic nod for ‘Black Panther’
Alfonso Cuaron’s very personal and very special period piece “Roma,” filmed in glorious black and white, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ delightfully wicked black comedy “The Favourite” led the field with 10 nominations apiece, with Bradley Cooper’s version of the time-honored Hollywood love story “A Star Is Born” and Adam McKay’s polarizing and hilarious “Vice” racking up eight nods.
The groundbreaking and fantastically entertaining “Black Panther” pulled in seven nominations and became the first superhero movie to get a best picture nod (if you don’t count “Rocky”).
A few upsets, surprises and disappointments from Nomination Tuesday:
• As expected, “A Star Is Born” was nominated for best picture and best song (“Shallow,” which is sure to win the Oscar) and Bradley Cooper is a co-nominee for best adapted screenplay and a nominee for best actor — but EVERYONE expected Cooper’s stellar direction did get a nod, which, stunningly, did not happen.
• Emily Blunt — who will win an Academy Award someday — gave great performances in “A Quiet Place” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” but was not nominated. It’s most likely the “fifth slot” in the best actress category, if you will, was given to (a deserving) Melissa McCarthy for “Can You Ever Forgive Me”?
• Everyone expected “Roma” and its bright young star Yalitza Aparcio to receive nominations, but few had predicted Marina de Tavira from “Roma” would be recognized for supporting actress. Among those on the outside looking in: Margot Robbie (“Mary, Queen of Scots”) and Claire Foy (“First Man”).
• Most prognosticators had Young Star of the Moment Timothee Chalamet receiving a nomination for “Beautiful Boy,” Chalamet didn’t make the cut, with Sam Rockwell, who just won in this category for “Three Billboards…,” surprisingly getting a nomination for his funny but light turn as George W. Bush in “Vice.”
• I was hoping against hope Steve McQueen’s brilliant “Widows” and actors Viola Davis, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo would receive some love from the Academy. No such luck.
• The overall favorite to WIN best documentary category was the Fred Rogers profile “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” but in one of the most shocking moments of the morning, it wasn’t even nominated.
• Somehow, the prolific and immensely accomplished writer/director Paul Schrader had never received a nod, even though he’s the writer or co-writer of “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Schrader finally got his first nod, for writing “First Reformed.”
• With all the talk about the Academy membership getting younger and more diverse and slightly more adventurous in recent years, it would have been cool to see something like “If Beale Street Could Talk” or “Eighth Grade” or “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse” receive best picture nominations, and recognition for Michael B. Jordan (“Black Panther”), Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) and Toni Collette (“Hereditary.”)
Well. “Spider-Verse” DID get an expected nod in the animation category. But none of the aforementioned movies or performances were announced.
• • •
Judging by the emails and comments I’ve been receiving — and oh yes, the mention the worldwide box office success and some previous awards show love — there are a LOT of passionate “Bohemian Rhapsody” fans out there who don’t agree with my assessment of the film as a disappointingly conventional, tamed-down, traditional musical biopic not worthy of the great Freddie Mercury.
As expected, “Bohemian Rhapsody” nailed down a best picture nod and Rami Malek was nominated for best actor. There’s a real chance of Malek winning — and the picture could slip in there as well. (As we get closer to the Oscars, we’ll take a look at how that could happen.)
With box-office smashes “Black Panther” and “A Star Is Born” also among the eight best picture nominees, the Academy found room for some films that would have been in that stupid and ill-fated “Popular Film” category.
Also of note: “Roma” becomes Netflix’s first Oscar-nominated film. Given Netflix’s ever-expanding roster of original films and their interest in partnering up with first-rate talent, it will not be the last.
This year’s Oscar nominations were announced by Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross, two terrific talents, who, unfortunately, engaged in awkward banter throughout the process, repeatedly referencing how early they had to get up in order to host the show.
As I learned a long time ago from doing morning radio, nobody in the audience wants to hear how early you had to get up. They’re up, too, and they’re not on the air. They KNOW it’s early. They want you to entertain and inform them as they’re starting up their day.
The 91st annual Academy Awards will be Sunday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. Chicago time. We won’t have to worry about the host(s) joking or doing elaborate comedic routines or stepping in controversy, because after the Kevin Hart debacle it’s looking like there won’t be a host.
Here’s hoping that makes for a refreshingly different evening.