A mute cleaning lady at a Cold War aerospace facility who falls in love with a sea creature. An outraged mother who uses outdoor advertising to shame the police into finding her daughter’s killer. A young woman coming of college age, butting heads with her overprotective mom. The nation’s first female publisher of a major daily newspaper deciding whether to risk it all for freedom of the press.
Female central characters dominated the top films of 2017 as well as the announcements of Academy Awards nominations, made Tuesday morning. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water led the Year of the Woman pack with 13 nominations, followed by strong showings for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (9), Lady Bird (5) and a tepid two nods for The Post. The bias towards women, however, was not enough for I, Tonya, or The Florida Project to make the cut in the Best Picture race.
It will be a nine-horse field for the top Oscar, with Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out and The Phantom Thread joining the four films cited above. Also falling short was the offbeat romantic comedy, The Big Sick.
Three Billboards went into the announcements a front-runner for Best Picture, having already won similar awards at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. But as indication of its slippage among Oscar voters was filmmaker Martin McDonagh’s failure to cop a Best Director nomination. Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight) earned his first-ever direction nod for Dunkirk, the epic World War II battle film. He will be joined in the category by del Toro (The Shape of Water), Paul Thomas Anderson (The Phantom Thread) and two first-time directors – Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) and Jordan Peele (Get Out).
Gerwig is only the fifth woman to ever be nominated in the director category. With nine Best Picture nominees and only five for Best Director, there were bound to be snubs. Still, it is surprising to see Steven Spielberg (The Post) left off the list.
For Best Actor, nominees Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis in what he is calling his final screen performance (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and front-runner Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) were all expected. The surprise inclusion is two-time previous winner Denzel Washington as lawyer Roman J. Israel, Esq., squeaking into the category instead of James Franco (The Disaster Artist). Franco’s snub could be caused by recent allegations of sexual harassment.
There were no upsets in the Best Actress field, with nominations going to Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) and that promising newcomer, Meryl Streep (The Post), who added to her record number of nominations with her 20th. Jessica Chastain could well have been included for her work in Molly’s Game, but she continues to be snubbed by Oscar voters, after not being nominated for A Most Violent Year or Miss Sloane. Other empty-handed actresses who were possible contenders include Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World) and Judi Dench (Victoria and Abdul).
Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, both of Three Billboards, will go head-to-head in the Supporting Actor category, possibly helping Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) to his first Oscar. Also in the category are Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) and Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World). Plummer demonstrated the unimportance of lengthy preparation for a role, having quickly replaced Kevin Spacey as oil baron J. Paul Getty after accusations of sexual misconduct against Spacey.
Better known as a singer-songwriter, Mary J. Blige picked up her first Oscar nomination for her supporting performance in Mudbound, and another for the film’s song, “Mighty River.” It appears, however, to be a two-actress race between Allison Janney (I, Tonya) and Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), both playing tough-love moms. A third ferocious matriarch, Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), failed to get nominated. The two other slots for Supporting Actress went to Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water).
Only one of the five Adapted Screenplay nominees – Call Me By Your Name – comes from a film nominated for Best Picture. The others in the category are The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game and Mudbound. The nominees for Original Screenplay were more predictable: The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, Get Out and The Big Sick.
Pixar looks primed to win again in the Animated Feature field for its critical and popular success, Coco. Its only significant competition comes from Loving Vincent, a biography of artist Vincent Van Gogh in which each frame is hand-painted. The category also includes The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner and Ferdinand, for which the nomination will have to be honor enough, as they say.
The 90th annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday, March 4, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and broadcast on ABC.