Worthy Nominations Lead This Year's Diverse Oscar Pack

CW: Mentions of sexual assault and harassment

“The Shape of Water” leads the Oscar pack with 13 nominations and a pretty high chance of winning at least a few of the gold men. (Stay tuned for my Oscar predictions to come in a future TSL edition.) Here, I’ll take a closer look at who will and won’t be attending on March 4.

The Winners

Guillermo del Toro, director of the aquatic-monster-meets-love-story “Shape of Water,” was already on a high from winning his first Golden Globe earlier this month and is now up for three different Oscars: Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. Not to mention its supporting actress, Octavia Spencer, who is now tied with Viola Davis as the most nominated black woman in history. “Dunkirk” was recognized for its prowess behind the camera with nominations in eight categories including Best Picture, but none in the acting categories. Christopher Nolan’s film went with the bare minimum of a script and three overlapping geography-based storylines: the evacuation mission by air, sea, and land of the namesake French seatown in World War II. It was certainly a cinematographic accomplishment above any other. On the other hand, the grab-you-and-never-let-go small-town crime drama “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri,” featuring Best Actress favorite Frances McDormand, was rightfully handed acting nominations for three of its stars (the other two being Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell).

The acting categories display both the predictability and the newfound social responsibility that Oscar voters are feeling. The Best Actor category features three long-time acting favorites (Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”; Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”; and Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) and two younger up-and-comers (Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”; Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”) who starred in films taking on social issues long ignored in Hollywood.

Meryl Streep’s unnecessary nomination aside (“The Post”), the Best Actress category is almost entirely representative of the Best Picture category. All but Margot Robbie’s film “I, Tonya” are nominated for the night’s top prize. The final three nominees, Sally Hawkins (“Shape of Water”), McDormand, and Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) will share in some tough competition with no clear winner (but if Streep wins, my eyes will roll further into my head than ever before).

On the screenplay side, real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani received the ultimate validation for their own relationship’s story portrayed in “The Big Sick.” British period dramas “Victoria and Abdul” and “Darkest Hour” received creativity points with costuming and makeup nods.

The Surprises

The happiest of surprises was the inclusion of Jordan Peele’s horror “Get Out” (recognized as a ‘comedy’ at the Golden Globes) among the ten Best Pictures that bent the racial status quo in horror film, the portrayal of liberal racism, and the meaning and effect of satire as a genre. Peele became the first black actor to be nominated for directing, producing, and directing in the same year. However, in the same top category, more neutrally surprising were the inclusion of “Darkest Hour” and “Phantom Thread,” which have not, as films, received much attention or accolades at other awards shows (Globes, Critics Choice, SAGs, or Baftas) and were perceived as a showcase of their lead actors (Oldman and Day-Lewis, respectively) more than their production quality.

The Florida Project” is, in my opinion, one of the most relevant and creatively poignant films of the year but only received one nomination: Willem Dafoe (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) for Best Supporting Actor as the manager of an Orlando, Florida motel inhabited entirely by low-income, extended-stay residents.

Not so much a surprise due to ability and film quality, but due to the nominee herself, “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison (“CAKE,” “Fruitvale Station”) became the first woman ever nominated in the Cinematography category. The film’s director-screenwriter Dee Rees was also given a historic nod as the second black woman nominated in Best Adapted Screenplay category, after Suzanne de Passe’s 1972 “Lady Sings the Blues.”

The Losers

Best Original Score is riddled with repeated nominees and winners (Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and Alexandre Desplat). However, Williams was nominated for the less memorable tunes in “The Last Jedi,” and not those in “The Post.” Fan- and critic-favorite “Wonder Woman” was entirely left off the docket. And “Call Me By Your Name’s” secondary lead Armie Hammer, 2017’s triple-dipper Michael Stuhlbarg (“Call Me By Your Name,” “The Shape of Water,” and “The Post”), and even 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince from “The Florida Project” were similarly missing. But you gotta make cuts somewhere ...

Using the term “loser” or “snub” likely isn’t the best in the case of James Franco, the director and lead in “The Disaster Artist.” The film remakes large portions of and provides context for Tommy Wiseau's 2003 cult film “The Room,” commonly deemed one of the worst movies ever made. Franco, winner of the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy for the role and previously nominated for Best Actor (“127 Hours”), was notably left off both the Best Actor and Best Director categories for this 90th show.

Two days following his Golden Globes win, a Los Angeles Times report brought about accusations from five women of sexual misconduct, sparking trending stories about the hypocrisy of his wearing a “Time’s Up” pin on the ‘Night Hollywood Wore Black.’ Rumors that his conduct led to his absence from two of the year’s most coveted prizes would be promising (if true), but seem unlikely to be the case given the fact that the accusations came only one day before Oscar ballots were due from Academy members.

Casey Affleck, last year’s male acting winner for “Manchester by the Sea,” announced last week that he will not be attending this year’s event, a rarity as it is typically protocol for the current Best Actor to present the next Best Actress award. His original win was somewhat contested, as it was revealed in 2016 that Affleck had settled two sexual harassment cases filed in 2010 out of court — accusations which he still denies. His decision has brought about discussions on accused perpetrators of sexual harassment treating news of their accusations as solved by lowering public visibility, rather than coming to terms with their actions publically.

The Roundup

We will have to wait and see how the Trump Administration and host Jimmy Kimmel (whose day job “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” takes place right across the street from the Oscars’ Dolby Theater) responds to the #MeToo movement as well. Either way, it will be an entertaining follow-up to the comically relentless but needed grip that Golden Globes host Seth Meyers had during TV’s and films’ biggest night in early January.