On a history-making day when The Shape of Water emerged as the Oscar front-runner and Get Out got a big boost for its best picture chances, there were surprise picks and surprise snubs — sometimes involving the same person.
Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic fable The Shape of Water has the most nominations, with 13, including del Toro for best director. In that category, he will compete with Jordan Peele (the comedian who made his directorial debut with horror movie Get Out) but not with Martin McDonagh, who directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a favorite coming into the nominations after winning a Golden Globe for best direction, drama and the Screen Actors Guild’s best ensemble award, but whose movie now faces the near-insurmountable task of winning best picture without a best director nod.
Peele had a great day: He was also nominated for best original screenplay, Get Out got a coveted best picture nod, and star Daniel Kaluuya is nominated for best actor, which ought to be enough for Girls Trip breakout star Tiffany Haddish (she announced the awards alongside Andy Serkis) and the rest of us to learn how to pronounce his name (it’s kah-LOO-ya, by the way).
It was a mostly wonderful and slightly weird day for Dee Rees, cowriter and director of Mudbound, which you can now stream on Netflix. She was nominated for best adapted screenplay — the first African American woman to earn that distinction. Her direction helped secure a best supporting actress nomination for Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige (whose song “Mighty River” was also nominated), and her cinematographer Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated in that category. Somehow, though, the movie was not among the nine nominees for best picture. Though Mudbound didn’t get nominated for the highest of honors, Steven Spielberg’s supposed awards bait The Post did, even though it was was largely left out of many races (Meryl Streep, playing former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, was the only other Post nominee).
Greta Gerwig, the actress who made her directorial debut with the fantastic Lady Bird, was nominated for best director (the fifth woman to win a nod) and best original screenplay, a category that may be the academy’s most diverse — it includes Peele, Del Toro, and Kumail Nanjiani, who, along with wife Emily V. Gordon was nominated for the Big Sick screenplay (McDonagh was also nominated for Billboards).
Rees’ competition in the best adapted screenplay category includes Margate’s Scott Neustadter and Michael Webber, nominated for The Disaster Artist. That movie was obviously on the Academy’s radar, which indicates that director and unnominated star James Franco (a Golden Globe winner) was almost certainly hurt by reports of sexually inappropriate behavior.
He may have been supplanted by Denzel Washington, nominated for his performance as an on-the-spectrum lawyer in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Washington joins Kaluuya in that category, although the favorite remains Gary Oldman (SAG and Golden Globe winner) for Darkest Hour, also nominated for best picture.
In the best supporting actress category, Blige was nominated alongside Octavia Spencer for her work in The Shape of Water, which was surely part of the big push for the sci-fi romance, although the race is likely down to Lady Bird‘s Laurie Metcalf and I, Tonya‘s Allison Janney. As expected, star Sally Hawkins was nominated for best actress — although she faces strong competition from Three Billboards‘ Frances McDormand, who won the Golden Globe and SAG award — but Richard Jenkins’ supporting actor nomination — though he is wonderful — was a bit of a surprise.
He’ll be competing against Sam Rockwell (winner of the SAG and Golden Globe Awards), whose Three Billboards costar Woody Harrelson was also nominated, a mild surprise, as was the fact that neither Armie Hammer nor Michael Stuhlbarg was nominated for Call Me By Your Name, which secured a best picture nomination and best actor nomination for Timothée Chalamet.
The Shape of Water is now the probable favorite. Three Billboards looks to have been hurt by a surge of support for Phantom Thread, the supposed final film of Oscar favorite Daniel Day-Lewis, who got a best actor nod. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson was nominated for best director in the spot that might have gone to McDonagh, and Anderson’s movie was nominated for best picture.
The Shape of Water, though, is not unbeatable. As we learned last year, anything is possible in La La Land.