As the Oscar nomination announcements were underway at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, ABC’s “Good Morning America” was airing an interview with two young women claiming actor-filmmaker James Franco had behaved inappropriately with them.
A few moments later, the list of best actor nominees was read. As expected, the names of Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) were announced.
In a mild upset, the great Denzel Washington was nominated for the not-so-great “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” the eighth time he has been so honored for best actor or best supporting actor.
James Franco, who just a few weeks ago had won a Golden Globe for his performance in “The Disaster Artist,” did not make the cut.
(The controversy surrounding Franco actually began on the night of the Globes, when there were numerous Tweets alleging improper behavior on his part. He has not been accused of assault or any criminal behavior.)
There’s no way of knowing for sure what was in the hearts and minds of the voting members of the Academy when they cast their ballots, but it’s hardly a stretch to speculate Franco’s alleged bad behavior might have been a factor for at least some. Had he been nominated and had he made the choice to attend the Oscars, it could have made for some uncomfortable exchanges on the red carpet, not to mention the possibility of Franco being booed inside the Dolby Theatre.
Washington’s nomination wasn’t the only surprise of the morning. Even though there were nine best picture nominees (the Academy can choose up to 10, but most of us expected the list to top out at eight), the wonderful “I, Tonya” was left on the outside looking in, as were best actor contender Tom Hanks and his “The Post” director, Steven Spielberg.
If you had asked me last week what picture was going to win best foreign-language film, I would have gone with “In the Fade,” a beautifully rendered thriller-drama with a brilliant performance by Diane Kruger as a wife and mother in Germany dealing with unimaginable grief and plotting possible revenge after a terrorist attack claims the lives of her husband and young son.
I would have been wrong. Somehow, “In the Fade” wasn’t even nominated.
Another surprise: not a single nomination, not even in the technical categories, for “Wonder Woman,” the Patty Jenkins-directed global blockbuster. As far as the Academy was concerned, the real Wonder Woman of 2017 is writer-director Greta Gerwig, with “Lady Bird” receiving nominations for best picture, best director, best screenplay, best actress (Saoirse Ronan) and best supporting actress (Laurie Metcalf).
Not that I didn’t love “Lady Bird” (I gave it four stars), but I do think the hype is close to the overboard point. It’s a lovely, smart, funny, original film — but if it wins best picture, it’ll be one of the more lightweight movies to ever take home Oscar.
I can’t say I was surprised “Wind River” wasn’t shown any Academy love, but I was still disappointed there was no recognition for the film, its writer-director Taylor Sheridan and actors Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen. This year and 10 years from now, I stand ready to make the argument “Wind River” is a superior film to “Lady Bird,” “Call Me by Your Name” and “Get Out.” (I was an admirer of all of those films. I was a great admirer of “Wind River.”
For that matter, I would have found room for “Baby Driver” as a best picture nominee.
Also: if “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” wins best picture (as it should), how is it that writer-director Martin McDonagh (who was nominated for original screenplay) wasn’t even nominated for best director? It didn’t direct itself.
Then again, if they put me in charge — and once again, that didn’t happen this year — I would cease the underwhelming tradition of the early-morning announcements and create a TV special, a la what the sports networks do with the Heisman Trophy and the NFL draft et al. Instead, Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish rattled off the nominees in 24 categories, with Haddish having a particularly rough time pronouncing a number of names. (I love Tiffany Haddish, but why not sit down with the presenters beforehand and go over some of the trickier names?)
And to the shock of no one, Meryl Streep received her 21st nomination, for her sublime work in “The Post.”
One of these years, she’s going to get nominated even if she hadn’t been in a movie.