Big surprises and big snubs, all in really big categories. That’s what defined the nominations for the 91st annual Academy Awards.

Leading the pack with 10 nominations was (unsurprisingly) the period piece / acting showcase / dark satire The Favourite and director Alfonso Cuarón‘s personal passion project Roma.

To get to 10, Cuarón’s Mexican-language film set in 1970 landed a couple of upsets that few pundits (if any) were expecting. Most notably? A Supporting Actress nomination for Marina de Tavira who plays the wife/mother Sofia.

She’s joined by co-star and newcomer Yalitza Aparicio who received a Lead Actress nomination for her portrayal of the maid Cleo, in what is her first acting performance ever. Unlike de Tavira, however, Aparicio had been trending upwards through awards season. Cuarón himself was cited in 5 categories: Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Foreign Language, and Cinematography.

Roma‘s 10 nominations marks a major breakthrough for online streaming beheamoth Netflix, the film’s distributor. With the widest theatrical release of any title they’ve ever had, I hope the lesson that Netflix takes from this is theatrical distribution matters. No doubt it was the difference for many Academy members who still value and seek to protect the moviegoing experience, not to mention the show of respect it is for Cuarón, a director that everyone admires.

Right behind those two leaders was A Star Is Born with 8 nominations, a tally that is actually a disappointment for the early-but-now-fading one-time front runner. Along with nods for Best Picture, Actor (Bradley Cooper), Actress (Lady Gaga), Supporting Actor (Sam Elliott), and Adapted Screenplay, the big news for Star is actually what it was denied: NO Best Director nomination for Cooper (in what was easily the most shocking snub of the day) plus no Film Editing nomination. I’ll get to why that matters in a bit.

One wonders if the directing snub could actually end up working in Cooper’s favor like it did for Ben Affleck and Argo. When Affleck was also denied a directing nod, that oversight helped curry sympathy to give him a producing Oscar in the Best Picture category. Could Cooper also benefit from the same effect? Possibly, but right now the temperature in the awards race would seem that it’s less likely. Or, if he does get a sympathy win, it may be for Best Actor rather than Picture, which would mean scoring a major upset over Actor favorite Christian Bale in Vice.

Speaking of, Adam McKay‘s Dick Cheney takedown Vice fared slightly better than expected, also landing 8 nominations, including Best Picture and an unexpected nod for last year’s Supporting Actor winner Sam Rockwell. He’s up again in the same category for his portrayal of President George W. Bush.

Marvel’s Black Panther became the first comicbook superhero movie to land a Best Picture nomination, a major breakthrough, and racked up 7 nominations (including a small but significant surprise in Original Score), yet its co-writer and director Ryan Coogler was still denied nominations in those respective categories, as was Michael B Jordan for Supporting Actor.

Then there’s Spike Lee‘s BlacKkKlansman which landed 6 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. Those are the first nominations in both categories for Spike Lee, which is ridiculous and long overdue. He’s also up in Adapted Screenplay as a co-screenwriter. I would love to see Spike trend during the rest of the Oscar season and land a Directing win. Cuarón will be his major competition, and the Director’s Guild Award winner will be the major indicator.

Another overdue industry legend: 70-year-old Paul Schrader, who’d never been nominated before despite landmark screenplays for Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Finally, Schrader received his first ever nomination for his original screenplay of First Reformed. Sadly, his star Ethan Hawke — who has virutally dominated the critics group awards — was denied a Best Actor nomination.

Which leaves the so-called “middlebrow” nominees that have been scoring upsets recently at the Golden Globes and Producers Guild: Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book. Both notched 5 nominations including Best Picture but, of the two, its Green Book that appears to be the stronger contender. Along with being boosted by its recent Producers Guild surprise victory, Green Book has more nominations in major categories, including Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay.

More telling? Green Book landed a surprise Film Editing nomination. Historically, this category is a strong precursor for narrowing down Best Picture contenders. In the past 30-plus years, only one movie – Birdman – has won Best Picture without receiving an Editing nomination. Bohemian also scored an Editing nomination but, in another of the day’s shockers, A Star Is Born and nomination co-leader Roma DID NOT. That’s a big, stunning hit for those two major Oscar hopefuls.

Other titles and filmmakers likely stunned to not hear their names called: Justin Hurwitz, Oscar-winning composer of La La Land, who seemed to be a lock for Original Score (but apparenlty not) with his acclaimed work for First Man. Fellow First Man/La La Land Oscar-winning collaborator Linus Sandgren was also denied a Cinematography slot.

In the documentary category, the Mr. Rogers film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was another apparent shoe-in that was left out. Also, from purely a technical perspective, the best-made action blockbuster of the year Mission: Impossible – Fallout received zero nominations. Talk about a SMDH face palm.

Other big snubs but much less surprising: Barry Jenkins, whose Moonlight was the underdog Best Picture Oscar darling two years ago, saw his follow-up If Beale Street Could Talk receive far less love. Other than its expeted nominations for Supporting Actress Regina King, Adapted Screenplay for Jenkins, and Original Score by Nicholas Britell, Beale was ignored. The denial of Picture, Director, and Cinematography nods are particulary disappointing but, again, not surprising.

Emily Blunt, who had a big year with A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns, didn’t get cited for either, plus Crazy Rich Asians — one of the year’s big breakout hits — was also left empty-handed. Widows, the follow-up to Oscar winning filmmaker Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years A Slave, was also goose-egged.

Back to suprise nods: Poland’s Cold War and Germany’s Never Look Away landed in categories other than Best Foreign Language Film (though both are there, too). Most notably, Cold War filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski scored a Best Director nomination. The stunning black-and-white film is also up for Best Cinematography.

Likewise, and in an absolute blindside, Never Look Away landed a Cinematography nomination for industry stalwart Caleb Deschanel. They join Roma in the Cinematography category which means, of the five contenders, three of the nominees are foreign films. That’s pretty cool, as is the fact that two foreign filmmakers (Cuarón and Pawlikowski) are up for Best Director, the first time that’s happened since 1976.

Along with the strong showing for Roma, Netflix also struck a little gold for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Filmakers Joel and Ethan Coen are up in the Adapted Screenplay category, and the titular ballad “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” is up for Original Song. It even landed a nomination for Costume Design.

So, in terms of the Best Picture race, what does all of this even mean?

It’s hard to sift through and see a clear front-runner, especially when you have Roma missing that all-important Editing nomination. Given that, nomination co-leader The Favourite would theoretically appear to be the, er, favorite, but given that it’s not poised as a clear undisputed winner in any of the major categories, there doesn’t seem to be a passionate groundswell of universal support (probably due to its dark, caustic, polarizing tone), despite a good deal of respect.

Given that, the most telling tea leaves may suggest that the Best Picture front-runner is…BlacKkKlansman. Of the eight Pic nominees, it’s the only one to have had major industry nominations in the Producers, Directors, and Screen Actors guilds also then translate into Oscar nominations, and then also added nominations for Screenplay, Editing, and Score. Daniel Kois also cites an interesting — and valid — historical precedent

Still, BlacKkKlansman lost the Producers Guild prize to Green Book. If it doesn’t win at the Directors or Screen Actors guilds, it’ll be much more difficult for BlacKkKlansman to go all the way…unless, as Dan Kois posits in his piece for Slate, it ends up mirroring an intriguing historical precedent that was set in fairly recent Academy history. You can read the Kois theory here.

OH – and one last very welcome surprise. How about the actual nominations announcement? It was likely the best reveal presentation ever.

Foregoing the long-standing tradition of annoucing nominees to a gaggle of reporters, while also bucking the recent experiement of a heavily-produced clip reel presentation, the Academy had actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Kumail Nanjiani seated side-by-side on a simple but elegant set to read through the various categories together.

And wow, did they have such a pleasant, effervescent chemistry.

With bouyant, unforced banter, the duo looked like they were having a genuinely good time at 5:20 a.m. in the morning rather than faking obligatory reads off of cue cards. They were smooth, relaxed, funny, yet never desperate for laughs, and came off as the coolest party hosts you could hope for. (You can watch the full presentation here.)

Honestly, Academy, is it too late to recruit Ellis Ross and Nanjiani to host the Oscars?

What a nice surprise that would be for what has been an often toxic awards season (including the Kevin Hart hosting-not-hosting-maybe-he-is-oh-sorry-he’s-not debacle that escalated into absurd “national crisis” levels across social and entertainment media).

As far as my own nomination predictions and how I fared: out of 121 choices I got 83 correct and 38 incorrect. I ended up going a perfect 8-for-8 in the Best Picture category (yay!) and 5-for-5 in five other categories (Actress, Original Screenplay, Animated Feature, Foreign Language, Production Design) and 4-for-5 in nine other categories.

The 91st Annual Academy Awards will take place on Sunday night February 24, 2019, at 8pm EST/7pm CST. Hosted by no one, it will air on ABC.

The Nominees for


Black Panther  (7 Nominations)
– BlacKkKlansman  (6 Nominations)
Bohemian Rhapsody  (5 Nominations)
– The Favourite  (10 Nominations)
– Green Book  (5 Nominations)
– Roma  (10 Nominations)
– A Star Is Born  (8 Nominations)
– Vice  (8 Nominations)

– Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
– Paweł Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
– Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
– Adam McKay, Vice

– Christian Bale, Vice
– Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
– Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
– Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
– Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

– Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
– Glenn Close, The Wife
– Olivia Colman, The Favourite
– Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
– Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

– Mahershala Ali, Green Book
– Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
– Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
– Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
– Sam Rockwell, Vice

– Amy Adams, Vice
– Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
– Marina de Tavira, Roma
– Emma Stone, The Favourite
– Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

The Ballad of Buster ScruggsJoel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansmanCharlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could TalkBarry Jenkins
A Star Is BornEric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
– Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War
– Never Look Away

Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
– Minding the Gap

– Of Fathers and Sons

Black PantherLudwig Goransson
BlacKkKlansmanTerence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could TalkNicholas Britell
Isle of DogsAlexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins ReturnsMarc Shaiman

– “All the Stars”, Black Panther
– “I’ll Fight”, RBG
– “The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Mary Poppins Returns
– “Shallow”,A Star Is Born
– “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings”, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden

Period. End of Sentence




Animal Behaavior

Late Afternoon
One Small Step


Cold WarŁukasz Żal
The FavouriteRobbie Ryan
– Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
RomaAlfonso Cuarón
A Star Is BornMatthew Libatique

BlacKkKlansmanBarry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
The FavouriteYorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
ViceHank Corwin

Black PantherHannah Beachler, Jay Hart
The FavouriteFiona Crombie, Alice Felton
First ManNathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
Mary Poppins ReturnsJohn Myhre, Gordon Sim
RomaEugenio Caballero, Barbara Enriquez

Black PantherRuth Carter
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
The FavouriteSandy Powell
Mary Poppins ReturnsSandy Powell
Mary Queen of ScotsAlexandra Byrne

– Border
Mary Queen of Scots

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody

First Man
A Quiet Place

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man

– A Star Is Born

Avengers: Infinity War
– Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Click on links below for other Critics Group Awards and Guild Nominees that have been announced so far for the 2018 / 19 season:

Producers Guild of America Winners
Critics Choice Awards Winners
Directors Guild of America Nominees
Writers Guild of America Nominees
Golden Globe Winners
National Society of Film Critics
Boston Society of Film Critics
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association
Screen Actors Guild Nominees
San Francisco Film Critics Circle
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Toronto Film Critics Association
Philadelphia Film Critics Circle
Chicago Film Critics Association
AFI Film Awards
Detroit Film Critics Society
Atlanta Film Critics Circle
New York Film Critics Circle
The National Board of Review

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