The 91st Academy Awards – And The Nominees Are… A Mixed Bag of Hits and Misses!

Here we are again – headed for the end of Awards Season with the nominees for the 91 Academy Awards released this morning.

As usual, the Academy gets more right than wrong, but some of the picks and noms are really wild – like the disappointing Vice getting eight noms and Bohemian Rhapsody actually getting a Best Picture nom (where Rami Malek single-handedly lifted an average musical bio pic with a truly great performance).

So, without further ado, here the nominations – with a bit of commentary in select spots.

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Vice – Lynn Cheney (Amy Adams) and Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) – Photo by Matt Kennedy/Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

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

Both Bale and Malek made pretty average movies better with incredible performances. If either won, I would not be disappointed, but Dafoe’s Vincent Van Gogh was literally mesmerizing.

It would have been nice if Ethan Hawke could have been included for his role in First Reformed.

Green Book – Dr. Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali) performs with cellist Oleg (Dimiter D. Marinov) and bassist George (Mike Hatton) – Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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

I think all five performances here were stellar, but Richard E. Grant’s alcoholic besty in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Was the best in the group.

Roma – Alfonso Cuaron directs Yalitza Aparicio – Photo courtesy of Netflix.

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

Again, all performances in this category are terrific. That said, Yalitza Aparicio – in her first ever acting role – is both joyful and heartbreaking. One of the others might receive the award but none deserve it more than Aparicio.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Sharon (Regina King) – Photo courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams – Vice
Marina de Tavira – Roma
Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone – The Favourite
Rachel Weisz – The Favourite

Damn! It’s been a great year for stellar performances – here are five more. For me, though, if Regina King doesn’t win, that would be crying shame. Her ferociously supportive mama in If Beale Street could Talk is positively incandescent.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Peni (Kimiko Glen), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) – Image courtesy of Sony Pictures animation.

Animated Feature Film
Incredibles 2 – Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
Isle of Dogs – Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
Mirai – Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
Ralph Breaks the Internet – Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

So far, we’ve had really great choices in the nominations and Best Animated Feature certainly keeps the streak alive.

For me, though, there’s one clear leader in this pack – Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse. It’s an origin story that takes place across several alternate dimensions and features several different spider-based characters while never taking the audience out of that origin story. Plus, new techniques allow the film to reflect its comic book origins in a unique and innovative way.

And, frankly, it’s just more fun than the other nominees and that should count for something.

The Favourite – Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) – Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos/Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Cinematography
Cold War – ?ukasz Z?al
The Favourite – Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel
Roma – Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born – Matthew Libatique

Alfonso Cuaron’s cinematography turns the daily lives of Roma’s characters into a kind of free verse poetry without ever calling attention to itself – and makes incredibly subtle textures with its black and white palette.

Black Panther – Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Shuri (Letitia Wright) – Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios.

Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Mary Zophres
Black Panther – Ruth Carter
The Favourite – Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns – Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots – Alexandra Byrne

If you consider variety, appropriateness and quality, Black Panther should win here.

BlacKkKlansman – Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) – Photo courtesy of Blumhouse/Legendary Pictures.

Directing
BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee
Cold War – Pawe? Pawlikowski
The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos
Roma – Alfonso Cuarón
Vice – Adam McKay

Roma and BlackKklansman are two of the best movies I saw in 2018. Roma is the poetry of daily life among the middle class; BlacKkKlansman rages against the stupidity of racism by showing its absurdity.

I would be happy if either one took home the Oscar, but I think it would be a more important statement if BlacKkKlansman did.

Documentary (Feature)
Free Solo – Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
Hale County This Morning, This Evening – RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
Minding the Gap – Bing Liu and Diane Quon
Of Fathers and Sons – Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
RBG – Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Documentary (Short Subject)
Black Sheep – Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn
End Game – Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat – Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser
A Night at The Garden – Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence. – Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton

Bohemian Rhapsody – John Deacon (Joe Mazzello), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek) and Brian May (Gwilym Lee) – Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman – Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman
The Favourite – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book – Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice – Hank Corwin

Foreign Language Film
Capernaum – Lebanon
Cold War – Poland
Never Look Away – Germany
Roma – Mexico
Shoplifters – Japan

Mary, Queen of Scots – Mary (Saoirse Ronan) – Photo courtesy of Focus Features.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Border – Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots – Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
Vice – Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

This is the one other category (with Best Actor) that Vice deserves to win.

Isle of Dogs – (L-R): Rex (Edward Norton), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), King (Bob Balaban) and Chief (Bryan Cranston) – Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Music (Original Score)
Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson
BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman

Either Terence Blanchard or Nicholas Britell should take home this award. They gave their films real life and soul.

A Star is Born – Jack (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) – Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Music (Original Song)
All The Stars – from Black Panther; Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
I’ll Fight – from RBG; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
The Place Where Lost Things Go – from Mary Poppins Returns; Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
Shallow – from A Star Is Born; Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings – from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

I’m expecting either Shallow or The Place Where Lost Things Go to win, but neither is the best song from their respective films.

Best Picture
Black Panther – Kevin Feige, Producer
BlacKkKlansman – Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
Bohemian Rhapsody – Graham King, Producer
The Favourite – Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
Green Book – Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
Roma – Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
A Star Is Born – Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
Vice – Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

The Academy once again failed to fill the full ten slots they allot for Best Picture nominations – stopping at eight (and Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody most definitely do not belong here!).

Off the top of my head, here are four films that deserve to be here: At Eternity’s Gate, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Sicario :Day of the Soldato and Thoroughbreds.

Mary Poppins Returns – Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) – Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

Production Design
Black Panther – Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
The Favourite – Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
First Man – Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
Mary Poppins Returns – Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
Roma – Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Ba?rbara Enri?quez

Short Film (Animated)
Animal Behaviour – Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao – Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb
Late Afternoon – Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco
One Small Step – Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
Weekends – Trevor Jimenez

Short Film (Live Action)
Detainment – Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
Fauve – Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
Marguerite – Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
Mother – Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
Skin – Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman

First Man – Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) – Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Sound Editing
Black Panther – Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody – John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
First Man – Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place – Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma – Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay

If A Quiet Place doesn’t win, it will be a gross miscarriage of justice. And how is this A Quiet Place’s only nomination???


A Star is Born – Jack (Bradley Cooper) and Ally (Lady Gaga) – Photo by Neal Preston/Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.

Sound Mixing
Black Panther – Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody – Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali
First Man – Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis
Roma – Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García
A Star Is Born – Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow

Bohemian Rhapsody actually deserves to be here (the only category other than Best Actor where it does belong), but probably won’t win.

Christopher Robin –  Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) and Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) – Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War – Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
Christopher Robin – Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
First Man – Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
Ready Player One – Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story – Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy

Another category full of deserving nominees. I’d like to see the subtlety and grace of Christopher Robin rewarded, but Ready Player One will likely take home the Oscar because of its quality and overwhelming quantity.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) – Photo by Mary Cybulski/Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman – Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk – Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born – Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

I never expected to say this, but the Brothers Coen are not deserving this year. Any of Black Panther, Mary Poppins Returns, Paddington 2 and Isle of Dogs would have been better choices.

First Reformed – Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) – Photo courtesy of A24 Pictures.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

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

Exchange Thoroughbreds for Vice and the category would be filled with brilliance.