Graham: Oscar nominations are emotional and diverse
Oscar statues may come in “The Shape of Water” this year.
Guillermo del Toro’s aquatic adult fairy tale lead Tuesday’s diverse field of Academy Award nominations, picking up nods in 13 categories, including the Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay races.
Christopher Nolan’s WWII drama “Dunkirk” followed with eight nominations and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” landed seven, as nominees in the major categories crossed barriers of race, sex, age and even distribution model.
Actors of color represented in the major races include Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out” and Denzel Washington in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” both nominated for Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress nominees Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) and Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”). Blige is a two-time nominee this year, as her “Mudbound” offering “Mighty River” is nominated in the Best Original Song category.
The Best Director field includes Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”). Gerwig becomes the first woman nominated for Best Director since Kathryn Bigelow, whose own film, “Detroit,” was shut out of all categories.
Gerwig and Peele will also compete in the Best Original Screenplay category, alongside Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon (“The Big Sick”) and Del Toro. Virgil Williams’ and Dee Rees’ “Mudbound” script is nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, while “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever to be nominated in the Best Cinematography category. “Mudbound’s” four nominations were a strong showing for a streaming title; after a small qualifying theatrical run, the film premiered on Netflix in November.
At age 88, Christopher Plummer became the oldest acting nominee in Academy history for his role in “All the Money in the World,” a role he quickly filmed when Kevin Spacey was suddenly ousted from the project in November. The nomination gives Plummer his third Best Supporting Actor nod in the last 10 years; he won the category for 2011’s “Beginners.”
Meryl Streep nabbed her 21st Oscar nomination for her role in “The Post,” adding to her own nomination record. She’ll compete in a Best Actress field that includes frontrunner Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards”), Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”), Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) and Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”).
Elsewhere, surprises included “Phantom Thread’s” unexpectedly strong showing, as the twisted romantic drama scored nominations in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Score categories. Those nominations managed to shake up several categories: by landing Best Picture, it took a slot that was thought to be reserved for either “I, Tonya” or “The Florida Project,” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s inclusion in the Best Director field left “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s” Martin McDonagh on the outside looking in.
Meanwhile, “Phantom Thread’s” Lesley Manville sneaking into the Best Supporting Actress race closed the door on “Girls Trip’s” sentimental favorite Tiffany Haddish, not that Haddish seemed all that bothered. The comedian’s live announcing of the nominees (and her frustration over the pronunciations of many of the nominees’ names) made for the liveliest Oscar nomination ceremony in memory.
James Franco, who found himself caught up in allegations of sexual misconduct earlier this month, was omitted from the Best Actor race for “The Disaster Artist.” That opened things up for Washington, who strolled in with his fifth Best Actor nomination (and second in a row, following last year’s “Fences”) for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” in which he plays a lawyer battling a crisis of conscience. Gary Oldman remains the favorite in the category for his blustery performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” which also slipped into the Best Picture category.
Woody Harrelson earned his third Oscar nomination (following previous noms for “The People vs. Larry Flynt” and “The Messenger”) for his role in “Three Billboards,” although his costar, Sam Rockwell, is still the one to beat in the Best Supporting Actor category. Harrelson snaked a slot that was thought to be going to either Armie Hammer or Michael Stuhlbarg for “Call Me By Your Name.” Don’t feel too bad for Stuhlbarg: he managed to pull off a rare feat by appearing in three films nominated for Best Picture: “The Post,” “The Shape of Water” and “Call Me By Your Name,” the first time an actor has appeared in three Best Picture nominees in the same year since John C. Reilly showed up in “Chicago,” “Gangs of New York” and “The Hours” in 2002. (It was tougher for Reilly: he managed the hat trick back when the Best Picture field was limited to five nominees.)
“Get Out” became the first horror movie to score a Best Picture nomination since, well, it depends on whom you ask. “Black Swan” was nominated for Best Picture in 2010 and “The Sixth Sense” scored a Best Picture nomination in 1999, but while they have elements of horror in their DNA, they fit better under the psychological thriller heading. “The Silence of the Lambs” won Best Picture in 1991, and while many consider it a horror movie, others peg it, too, in the thriller category. For a straight up, inarguable horror movie in the Best Picture race, you have to go back to “The Exorcist” in 1973.
Native Detroiter Sufjan Stevens snagged a nomination for Best Original Song for “Mystery of Love,” one of three songs he contributed to “Call Me By Your Name.” Joining Stevens among Oscar nominees with local ties is Ann Arbor native Laura Checkoway, whose short film “Edith+Eddie” was nominated for Best Documentary, Short Subject. The film tells the story of America’s oldest interracial married couple.
Kobe Bryant — yes, that Kobe Bryant — can now add Oscar nominee to his resume, as the retired basketball star’s short film, “Dear Basketball,” is nominated in the Animated Short category. Bryant is credited as a writer and producer on the six-minute film, based on a letter he wrote when he announced his retirement in 2015.
And yes, in the Best Animated Feature category, the much-maligned-by-anyone-except-5-year-olds-and-Alec-Baldwin tale “The Boss Baby” managed a nomination, edging out the more deserving “The Lego Batman Movie.” Holy snub, Batman.
Statues will be handed out March 4, and Jimmy Kimmel returns as host. After last year’s Best Picture trainwreck (remember when Warren Beatty read the wrong winner?), it should be a good one.
90th Academy Awards
Red Carpet: 6:30 p.m. March 4
Awards show: 8 p.m.
ABC (Channel 7 in Detroit)