The 2018 Oscar nominations are out, announced Tuesday morning via telecast by Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis. It’s been an unpredictable year for awards prognosticators, but on the whole, the 2018 nominees list is a pleasant surprise — diverse, drawing from wide-ranging genres, and representing a great year in filmmaking. It’s also broken some longstanding Oscar records while containing its share of weird nominations (Academy Award nominee The Boss Baby, anyone?).
The nominations are led by Guillermo del Toro’s winsome supernatural romance The Shape of Water, with 13 nominations, and Christopher Nolan’s harrowing tale of World War II survival Dunkirk, with eight nominations. Beyond those two films, the list is filled with fascinating winners and losers, across the spectrum of films released in 2017.
Here are the winners, losers, and head-scratchers from Oscar nomination morning 2018.
Winner: The Shape of Water
It’s rare for one movie to so dominate the nominations slate that its closest competitor is five nominations behind, but so it went with The Shape of Water, which received 13 nominations. Its closest competitor, Dunkirk, received a respectable eight nods, but nowhere near The Shape of Water. And 13 nominations is just one off from the record of 14 nominations, held by All About Eve, Titanic, and La La Land.
What’s more, The Shape of Water’s nominations are spread out across the board — in nearly every technical category (it only missed Makeup and Visual Effects) as well as writing, directing, and acting. In the acting categories, it received three separate nominations for its performances (including a mildly surprising nod for Octavia Spencer’s work). The film is by no means the Oscar frontrunner, but the combination of its 13 nominations and its recent Best Picture win at the Producers Guild Awards suggest it’s certainly a major contender.
All of this awards season success seems to have obscured one simple fact: This movie is about a woman who falls in love with a fish-man. That’s hardly typical Oscar fodder, so the movie’s 13 nominations feel even more impressive in light of that fact.
Mudbound premiered a year ago at Sundance, and it left the festival with critical steam and Netflix distribution. But it seemed to stumble during awards season up until this point, lost amid a sea of worthy contenders and lacking the large-scale theatrical distribution that helps boost a movie’s profile for awards voters.
Still, the film racked up four nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Dee Rees, Best Supporting Actress for Mary J. Blige, and Best Cinematography for Rachel Morrison. While it’s disappointing that Rees didn’t pick up a Best Director nod and the film ultimately wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, the recognition it did receive counts as a strong showing for a movie that some feared would be shut out altogether.
Loser: Call Me by Your Name’s supporting actors
Both Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg turned in indelible performances in Call Me by Your Name. Hammer’s turn as the ebullient grad student Oliver was a gorgeous foil for Timothée Chalamet’s Elio, and Stuhlbarg’s monologue near the end of the film brings the story together in a way that made the film unforgettable.
But neither Hammer nor Stuhlbarg picked up a Best Supporting Actor nomination — which feels especially egregious for Stuhlbarg, who also played strong supporting roles in Call Me by Your Name’s fellow Oscar contenders The Shape of Water and The Post. Meanwhile, two actors from another film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, were nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category: Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.
Winner: records and milestones
As the Academy has begun to grow and diversify over the past few years, some startling picks have snuck into the once-predictable lists of nominations and eventual winners (including Moonlight’s big win last year). But even by those standards, these nominations contained plenty of surprises and milestones:
- Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison became the first woman cinematographer ever to be nominated for an Oscar.
- Mudbound also earned a Best Adapted Screenplay nod for Dee Rees, who also directed the film. She became the second black woman to be nominated by the Academy for screenwriting, after Suzanne de Passe for Lady Sings the Blues in 1972.
- Mudbound’s Mary J. Blige became the first person ever to be nominated for both a performance and an original song in the same year.
- Christopher Nolan picked up his first Best Director nomination for Dunkirk.
- Get Out’s Jordan Peele became the first black filmmaker ever nominated for directing, writing, and producing in the same year. He’s also only the fifth black person to be nominated for Best Director.
- Get Out became the first February release to be nominated for an Oscar since The Silence of the Lambs in 1991.
- Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig picked up several nominations, most notably Best Director, for which she became only the fifth woman to be nominated in that category.
- All the Money in the World’s Christopher Plummer, who was hastily swapped in for Kevin Spacey mere weeks before the film premiered in December, became the oldest nominee for acting in the Academy’s history at age 88.
- And at 22, Call Me by Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet became the youngest Best Actor nominee in nearly 80 years.
- Logan scored a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, becoming the first live-action superhero film to do so in the Academy’s history (even The Dark Knight didn’t pull off that honor).
- Octavia Spencer is now tied with Viola Davis as the most nominated black actress of all time. She’s also the only black actress to be nominated again following an Oscar win: After winning for The Help in 2012, she was nominated for Hidden Figures last year and for The Shape of Water this year.
- Yance Ford is the now first transgender director ever to be nominated, with a nod in the Best Documentary category for Strong Island.
Winner: Phantom Thread
Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread had a relatively quiet release, picking up awards mostly from critics groups. It seemed for a while that the only guarantee was that Daniel Day-Lewis would be nominated for his performance, which he has insisted will be his last film role.
But the movie ended up with six nominations, all of which feel richly deserved. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who has written the score for Anderson’s past four features, was finally nominated for his first Oscar. The movie’s costumes earned a nod, as did stars Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville for their performances, and Anderson for his directing. And the film landed in the Best Picture category as well — certainly a strong showing.
Loser: The Florida Project
The Florida Project has been a critical darling since its Cannes premiere last spring. But it’s also beloved by audiences — the kind of film you can’t help but love, a sweet and funny story about children living in a motel near Disney World that also devastatingly confronts the struggles of living in poverty in America today.
Willem Dafoe has been a shoo-in for the Best Supporting Actor category since the movie came out, picking up accolades for his portrayal of the hotel manager, and he did receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination. But there was some hope that the film might be nominated for Best Screenplay, or that Sean Baker’s directing would receive some recognition. And with an empty 10th slot in the Best Picture category, The Florida Project’s exclusions feels like a shame.
Winner: an especially strong Best Director race
Best Director was an especially tough category to break into this year, with strong contenders like Steven Spielberg (The Post) in the running. But the nominee list is hard to argue with. It’s an unusually strong group: Christopher Nolan, who nabbed his first nomination in the category for Dunkirk, Jordan Peele for Get Out, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, and Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water.
Each of these nominations feels richly deserved, but together they also form a remarkably diverse category, with only two white male nominees in a traditionally white-male-dominated category. (Del Toro is Mexican, Gerwig is only the fifth woman ever to be nominated for Best Director, and Peele is only the fifth black person to be nominated in the category.)
Meanwhile, the most startling omission is Martin McDonagh, who has been picking up awards left and right for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; the film itself is nominated for seven Oscars.
Loser: The Post
Every year, we ask ourselves, “Can a movie that was nominated for Best Picture be considered a loser?” and every year, the answer is yes. This year, The Post, Steven Spielberg’s film about the Washington Post’s struggle to print the Pentagon Papers in the wake of a court order shutting down the papers’ publication in the New York Times, felt like prime Oscar bait.
It starred Academy favorites Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks (who hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since Cast Away in 2000, so maybe he isn’t an Academy favorite anymore). It featured all of Spielberg’s usual behind-the-camera collaborators (most of them Oscar winners). It received strong reviews and an even stronger box office tally (though most of its box office earnings rolled in after nomination ballots had already been turned in).
The Post ran into a frequent problem for movies of this type: When they seem like they should be big Oscar players, they can’t simply have strong reviews. They need to have world-beating, “This is Steven Spielberg’s best movie ever!” reviews. And The Post didn’t have that kind of praise. Indeed, its best campaign strategy might have been picking a fight with the president (via its contemporary resonance), but this was one Twitter fight Donald Trump either didn’t engage in or (most likely) didn’t even know was happening. So its nominations for Best Picture and Best Actress (Streep) feel a little paltry, at the end of the day.
The Post also didn’t help matters by opening so late in the calendar year that it struggled to woo voters for the various industry guild awards (the Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, etc.) to even see the film. When it fell off the map at most of the major guilds, it essentially had to rely on the strength of the movie itself to overcome the early loss of momentum.
And because no movie could ever be good enough to live up to what The Post’s hype was presumed to be, its “late-breaking movie that gets a bunch of nominations” potential was mostly taken up by Phantom Thread, which opened a few days after it.
Winner: Get Out
Get Out was a pure surprise, the movie that in many ways defined the year and never fell out of awards-related discussions. That’s remarkable for many reasons — it’s unabashedly a horror film about racism (and a very funny one), and it premiered in February, two factors that tend to work against movies when it comes to the Oscars.
But Get Out came through, with four significant nominations, including one for star Daniel Kaluuya’s performance and three for Jordan Peele, who wrote, directed, and produced the movie. While some may be tempted to argue that Get Out is a case of the Academy rewarding “relevant” films, the strength of Get Out lies in how it skewers the kind of “benevolent” liberal racism that the Academy itself has been accused of. It’s a huge win for Peele and a credit to the voting body that it’s persisted all the way into this Oscar season.
Winner: everyone who watched the nominations telecast, thanks to Tiffany Haddish, Andy Serkis, and some creative filmmaking
Awards nominations announcements are often pretty boring affairs, with famous people reading off lists of nominees at a podium. But the Oscars certainly stepped up their game this year, nabbing Girls Trip’s Tiffany Haddish and War for the Planet of the Apes’ Andy Serkis to read out the nominations.
They’re both lively and consummate performers, and Haddish’s butchering of several names (including that of Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino) felt positively gleeful. And Haddish is so infectious that by the end of the telecast, even Serkis — who is British — was calling Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missourah.”
The telecast also featured very short, artfully shot vignettes to introduce the more technical categories, all of which starred a diverse group of women: Priyanka Chopra, Rosario Dawson, Gal Gadot, Salma Hayek, Michelle Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, Molly Shannon, Rebel Wilson, and Michelle Yeoh. The effect, on balance, was charming — and it made watching the nominations early in the morning far more appealing.
Loser: James Franco
James Franco had been nominated essentially everywhere an actor needs to be nominated to pull through on Oscar nominations morning. He won a Golden Globe. He was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award. And he won a number of critics prizes. Especially given the strength of reviews for both his performance in The Disaster Artist (as Tommy Wiseau, director of the legendarily bad movie The Room) and his direction of the film, it felt like he would receive his second Oscar nomination.
Right in the heart of Oscars voting season, the Los Angeles Times reported that five women were accusing Franco of sexual misconduct. The news resulted in a lot of unfortunate hand-wringing about whether what Franco had done was “as bad” as what someone like Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey had done, and Franco continued along the Oscar campaign trail. Most damningly, he tested out a convoluted explanation for the accusations, saying that while they hadn’t happened, he was glad women were speaking up to accuse him of things he said he hadn’t done.
It’s unfortunate that the story around this will now shift to how the accusations “cost” Franco an Oscar nomination, and it feels all but certain that in a few years, Franco will ride his way back to the Oscar nominees list, with more than a few voters grumbling about how he was mistreated in 2018.
His snub is one of the biggest and most surprising of the 2018 Oscar nominations, and it also, hopefully, suggests that our cynicism is misplaced and that these sorts of accusations will carry real weight with the Oscars going forward. (To believe this requires ignoring that the reigning Best Actor winner is Casey Affleck, who is also accused of sexual misconduct, but hey, maybe it’ll happen!)
Winners: Agnés Varda and Kobe Bryant
There’s nothing that quite captures the weird sweep of the 2018 Oscar nominees like the fact that both Agnés Varda and Kobe Bryant have finally been nominated for the award.
Varda is one of the most important directors in the hugely influential French New Wave of the mid-20th century. She’s directed many masterpieces but is perhaps best known for 1961’s Cleo From 5 to 7, a more or less “real time” (though its 90-minute runtime is shorter than the two hours depicted) tale of a pop singer awaiting the results of her cancer biopsy and finding herself confronting her own mortality.
Yet Varda wasn’t nominated for Cleo, or for any of her other films, until she finally received her first nomination, at the age of 89, for her terrific new documentary Faces/Places, in which she and her co-director, the photographer JR, travel through rural France and bond. (In 2017, she did receive an honorary Oscar for her career achievement.)
Bryant, meanwhile, is the National Basketball Association’s Most Valuable Player of the 2007-’08 season, a five-time NBA champion, and an 18-time NBA All-Star. Despite those many successes, he has never been nominated for an Oscar either, until this morning, when he was nominated for producing the animated short Dear Basketball, which he also wrote and starred in. (It’s an adaptation of a poem of the same name he wrote.) He is nominated alongside the short’s director, legendary animator Glen Keane.
Congrats to Agnés and Kobe!!!!!