Film critics and die-hard cinema aficionados alike rose early Tuesday morning in preparation for the announcement of this year’s Academy Award nominations. Leading the pack are Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” and Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” with 10 nominations each — though it’s a genuine toss-up as to which film will take home the award for Best Picture, with no apparent frontrunner. From controversial Best Picture nominations to unexpected snubs (Timothée Chalamet! Claire Foy! Emily Blunt!), we break down the 2019 Academy Award nominations below.
As expected, both Golden Globes winners, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book,” earned a spot in the list of nominees, despite numerous scandals associated with both films. Frankly, it wouldn’t be surprising if “Green Book” took Best Picture, especially after its Golden Globe and Producers’ Guild of America Award wins, the latter of which usually predicts the Oscar winner. Beyond that, the lineup for Best Picture feels relatively level across the board. This year’s list of nominees did make history, though, when “Black Panther” proved itself to be a heavy-hitter with seven nominations, becoming the first superhero movie in history to garner the Best Picture nod.
Another milestone? With five Best Picture-nominated films focusing on people of color and over half involving LGBTQ themes, this could be the most diverse lineup yet — a long way from 2015’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign, which called for equal representation on the silver screen. Still, this year’s nominees missed the mark for representation elsewhere, in categories like Best Director, which featured only male directors, and with only one nominated film overall featuring an Asian storyline (Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Cannes darling “Shoplifters,” which received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film). Clearly, Hollywood still has a long way to go.
The nominees for Best Director are… Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”), Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”), Adam McKay (“Vice”), and Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”).
Believe it or not, this is actually Spike Lee’s first Best Director nomination, despite a long career and cultural legacy which garnered him two Academy nominations for “Do the Right Thing” (1989) and “4 Little Girls” (1997).
Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper was excluded from the list of Best Director nominees. His remake of “A Star Is Born” was expected to be an awards season darling, but seemed to recede into the shadow (or Shallow?) after upsets by “Bohemian Rhapsody” at the Golden Globes and “Green Book” at the PGAs. Still, “A Star Is Born” didn’t do too poorly overall, with eight nominations to boot, including a Best Actor nod for Cooper. Guess the Academy just wanted to take another look at him!
In other news, it’s unusual for directors of foreign language films to be nominated, but this year there were two: Pawel Pawlikowski was recognized for “Cold War” and Alfonso Cuarón for “Roma.” “Cold War,” which premiered last year at Cannes, is a bleak yet uplifting tale of love that endures despite its circumstances. The film, tracking a Cold War-era love story, invokes gripping pathos — especially given the fact that Pawlikowski based the story loosely on his own parents. Cuarón’s “Roma,” too, tends toward the personal. In his “90 percent autobiographical” film, Cuarón displays his inimitable knack for detail, especially through naturalistic sound effects that easily immerse and orient one in the bustling Colonia Roma neighborhood, in which he spent his own childhood. However, he has proven to better employ his directing abilities, which tend toward extra dramatization, in the more action-packed “Gravity” (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2014) and 2006’s dystopian “Children of Men.”
While the Best Director nominees traversed country borders, they failed to break the glass ceiling. Yet again, no women were nominated in the category, despite outstanding work by many female directors this year, including Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider,” Marianne Heller’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and Tamara Jenkins’ “Private Life,” among others. Only five women in Oscars history have ever cinched a nomination for Best Director (and only one, Kathryn Bigelow, has ever won). Women were also shut out of the Cinematography, Editing, and Visual Effects categories this year. Despite more diverse nominees across the board, it looks as though the glass ceiling is firmly intact.
Of all the categories, this might be the most competitive. All five films were also nominated for Golden Globes, with Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” taking home the prize. Brad Bird delivered on the quality guarantee of any Pixar film at least 10 years in the making; the meticulous and imaginative director serves a meaty, heartfelt story with plenty of charming jokes and (sometimes heavy-handed) feminist themes to boot. However, the impressive sequel, which features a villain borne of our modern-day concerns, the technology-hijacking, anonymous “Screenslaver,” doesn’t quite live up to its timeless predecessor. This nit-picking, however, is in effort to distinguish the film from its formidably creative contenders, and one would be hard-pressed to enumerate the flaws of such an enjoyable film; “Incredibles 2” became the second-highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Wes Anderson’s stop-motion-animated, heartwarming canine epic “Isle of Dogs” and the thrillingly hallucinatory, neon-inflected “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” stand out both for their experimentation with the graphic form. The four American nominees can serve as bellwethers for our cultural climate, despite their drastically different storyworlds. “Isle of Dogs” features a rabble-rousing politician who claims to speak for his people, and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” remarkably defies the strictures of the oft-revisited Spider-Man story and its hackneyed remakes by tying culturally diverse Spider-creatures from parallel universes into its surprisingly touching story. A foray into the Wild Wild Internet, where anything is commodifiable, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” melds pop-culture references and Disney Princess cameos left and right. The film is an ambitious follow-up to its predecessor, “Wreck it Ralph,” but veers from wonderfully playful to intractably busy and dizzying. The Japanese film “Mirai” debuted to less fanfare in the United States, but has been praised for its wondrous storyworld that celebrates the magic of childhood. Despite the fierce competition, critics generally agree that “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” with its trippy, holographic illustration, is animation history in the making, and consequently, is most deserving of the Oscar.
The nominees for Best Actress are… Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”), Glenn Close (“The Wife”), Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”), and Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”).
In the Best Actress category, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga, and Glenn Close were all expected nominees — Colman for her manic performance as Queen Anne in “The Favourite,” Lady Gaga for her portrayal of an ingénue-cum-pop sensation in “A Star is Born,” and Close for her Golden Globe-awarded turn in “The Wife.”
Yalitza Aparicio is the first indigenous Mexican actress to be nominated for an Oscar. Having never acted before “Roma,” Aparicio auditioned on a whim, substituting for her pregnant sister who got cold feet at the last minute. She planned on becoming a teacher. Aparicio’s nomination is a welcome surprise, though, and a well-deserved one at that. Although her speaking time in the beautifully experiential film “Roma” is minimal, Aparicio exemplifies the artistic feat of showing without telling.
In the snub list, Emily Blunt was shut out, even though most expected a nod for her performances in “A Quiet Place” and “Mary Poppins.” It’s too bad there’s no Oscar for greatest versatility, as Blunt proved she could handle suspense and whimsicality this year with two very different bathtub scenes.
The nominees for Best Actor are… Christian Bale (“Vice”), Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”), Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), and Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”).
Christian Bale took home the Golden Globe for Adam McKay’s “Vice,” so it was no surprise that Bale was among the nominees for Best Actor this year. Bale is no newcomer to the Academy Awards, with previous accolades for his roles in “American Hustle,” “The Fighter,” and “The Big Short.” Bale is a famously chameleonic actor, and his interpretation of Dick Cheney is no exception: He “ballooned” in weight and spent hours in the makeup chair getting prosthetic jowls in order to play the shadowy former Vice President.
Bale deserves the win, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for Rami Malek or Bradley Cooper to take home the Best Actor award, either. Malek took home a Golden Globe for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Cooper played the gruff, seasoned musician-turned-meme in his own directorial debut, “A Star Is Born.” Would it be incorrect to say that virtually no one has talked about “At Eternity’s Gate” as an Oscars contender? And yet, Willem Dafoe slips into this year’s Best Actor lineup as a dark horse nominee for playing Vincent Van Gogh.
The nominees for Best Supporting Actress are… Amy Adams (“Vice”), Marina de Tavira (“Roma”), Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Emma Stone (“The Favourite”), Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”).
Listen, Amy Adams deserves an Oscar. What will it take? A grassroots Internet campaign? A GoFundMe? She’s gone unnoticed every time she’s been nominated (a whopping five nominations!), and for an actress of her caliber, that’s quite the travesty. Her last nomination came in 2013, for her brilliant performance as the devastating seductress of “American Hustle." Since then, she’s generally been on a roll, most recently with her wrenching performance in the HBO limited series “Sharp Objects.” It would be nice to see her win, even a symbolic victory for an accomplished career. Still, it wouldn’t be undeserved if Regina King took the statuette for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” either. The HFPA seemed to agree earlier this month.
The nominees for Best Supporting Actor are… Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”), Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”), Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Sam Rockwell (“Vice”).
Mahershala Ali has had a whirlwind two years in the awards-show spotlight. After becoming the first Muslim actor to win an acting Oscar for his role as a Cuban drug dealer in the critically acclaimed and notoriously almost-snubbed “Moonlight” in 2017, he recently won the Supporting Actor Golden Globe for his role in the controversy-addled “Green Book,” and is well on track to snag his second Oscar as well. By those rankled by the insensitive behavior of Ali’s co-star, Viggo Mortensen, and by the anti-Muslim tweets of the film’s screenwriter, Nick Vallelonga, Ali is considered the saving grace of the film’s supposedly too-sanguine, “feel-good” story about a friendship that sets a paradigm for interracial harmony in the Deep South.
Surprisingly, Timothée Chalamet was excluded from the list of nominees, despite a poignant performance as a drug-addicted teenager in Felix van Groeningen’s “Beautiful Boy,” based on the memoirs of a New York Times journalist and his son. After Chalamet gained fame as the youngest Best Actor nominee in 80 years for Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” last year, his snub this year is unexpected. Still, with performances in this year’s “The King” and “Little Women” in the works, Chalamet’s career is likely far from over.
—Staff writer Claire N. Park can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @carolinetsai3.