After a year when the Motion Picture Academy scrubbed its bad idea to create an Oscar category for Most Popular Picture, some of the highest-grossing films were nominated for the top statuette of 2019.
Black Panther became the first superhero movie to earn a Best Picture nomination, poised to compete against two other mainstream popular high box office films – Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born – and five smaller, less widely seen releases.
Streaming service Netflix became a major player in the Oscar races with Roma, Mexican director-writer Alfonso Cuarón’s arty, black-and-white childhood memories film. It walked off with 10 nominations at Tuesday morning’s announcement, including a nod for Best Picture, a first for Netflix. A win in that category would be surprising, though, since no foreign-language film has ever won that award. Roma does, however, have a virtual lock on the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar, and a good chance at bring Cuarón his second Best Direction Oscar.
In addition to those four films, the Best Picture category is filled by Spike Lee’s racial drama BlacKkKlansman, the tale of intrigue in Queen Anne’s court The Favourite, the odd couple road trip tale Green Book and Adam McKay’s Vice, a tongue-in-cheek biography of ambitious politician Dick Cheney. Eyebrows were probably raised over the snubs of the adaptation of James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk and First Man, the saga of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s training for and flight to the moon.
Green Book, which won the Golden Globe award for best comedy and Producers Guild award for best picture, was thought to be the front runner for the top Oscar. It may still win, but its chances were damaged Tuesday when it failed to be nominated for its director, Peter Farrelly, best known for such broad comedies as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary.
The same goes for the third remake of A Star is Born, which failed to get a Best Director nomination for its star-producer-co-writer, Bradley Cooper, even though the Academy has a history of recognizing popular performers who make their directing debuts. Still, Cooper did earn nominations in three other categories, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for playing a rock star in a downward spiral.
The Best Actor nominations were as expected. Joining Cooper will be Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) and perhaps a surprise in Willem Dafoe, playing mentally unstable artist Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate. All are worthy, but the Oscar looks headed to the trophy case of Christian Bale, who made a startling physical transformation to impersonate Chaney in Vice.
Glenn Close (the title role in The Wife) is the veteran in the Best Actress category, having two previous lead nominations and four for supporting actress. Her subtle performance as a Nobel laureate’s helpmate may prove to be too subtle for Academy voters, but she is on a winning streak following the Golden Globes and the British equivalent of the Oscars. She will be competing against two women making their screen debuts – Lady Gaga as the rising star in A Star is Born and Yalitza Aparicio as the housekeeper in Roma.
Also in the category are two established actresses, Olivia Colman (The Favourite) and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), each earning a Best Actress nomination for the first time.
Nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role include Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Sam Elliott (A Star is Born) and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Timothée Chalamet was expected to make the cut for his work as a young drug addict in Beautiful Boy, but his place was taken by last year’s winner, Sam Rockwell (George W. Bush in Vice).
Regina King, the tenacious mother in Beale Street, looks likely to repeat her Golden Globes win for Best Supporting Actress. Her competition includes both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz from The Favourite, Amy Adams in Vice and Marine de Tavira as the family matriarch in Roma. De Tavira’s nomination is somewhat surprising, with more likely picks Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) and Claire Foy (First Man) left out in the cold.
Without Farrelly or Cooper in the Best Director race, it looks like Golden Globes winner Cuarón (Roma) has become the odds-on favorite for the Oscar. He will be up against McKay (Vice), as well as first-time nominees Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) and Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War).
In nomination totals, Roma and The Favourite tied with 10, followed by A Star is Born and Vice with eight each. The ceremony will be Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 8 p.m., preceded by several hours of red carpet nonsense.