The most surprising news to come out of this year’s Oscar nominations is just how right they were. Sure, they’re not perfect—any awards show where The Boss Baby is involved can’t be. But this bigger, better, more diverse Academy seemed to get the big ones right in a tumultuous year for Hollywood, when it couldn’t have mattered more. There is a genuine queer love story, Call Me By Your Name, as well as a genuine outsider (albeit, interspecies) love story, The Shape of Water, up for Best Picture. Mudbound, a little Netflix movie from a black female director, Dee Rees, scored three nominations, for Best Supporting Actress (Mary J. Blige), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Cinematography, where Rachel Morrison has become the first ever female nominee. Most critically, both Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig garnered well-deserved Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture noms for their outstanding debut films, Get Out and Lady Bird, respectively. If Peele wins Best Director, he’ll become the first black person to ever take home that prize; if Gerwig wins, she’ll become just the second women to receive the award, after Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker in 2010.
But perhaps the best part of these nominations is just how wide open these races are, in some of the biggest categories—particularly Best Picture, where nine films have been nominated. In that spirit, we’re doling out some Oscar nomination superlatives: Most Politically-Motivated Snub, Strongest Category, Most Pleasant Surprise and more...
Most Politically-Motivated Snub: James Franco, The Disaster Artist, for Best Actor
It’s hard to imagine last-minute voters weren’t scared off of Franco, following the recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations. But his performance as (or impersonation of) Tommy Wiseau was an audacious high-wire act: hilarious yet empathetic, silly yet anguished, and wholly original.
Most Politically-Motivated Nomination: Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World, for Best Supporting Actor)
I’m sure Plummer is great (he always is), but this reads like as much a nomination for the decision to recast the disgraced Kevin Spacey as it is a nomination for Plummer’s performance.
Strongest Category: Best Director
This is a stacked lineup: Greta Gerwig, for Lady Bird; Jordan Peele, for Get Out; Paul Thomas Anderson, for Phantom Thread; Christopher Nolan, for Dunkirk; and Guillermo del Toro, for The Shape of Water. The best part? None of them, sans Paul Thomas Anderson, have even so much as scored a nomination in this category before—and none of them, including Paul Thomas Anderson, have won it. (This despite the fact that Nolan has made some of the biggest movies of the millennium, and the fact that del Toro is almost universally recognized as a master.) If you had to give someone the slight edge, I guess it’d have to go to del Toro; Nolan is probably a longshot, despite the technical wizardry he pulled off in Dunkirk, a totally unique war movie with some indelible sequences that nonetheless never quite worked. I would be happy if any of the three remaining directors—Gerwig, Peele or PTA—won. In my heart of hearts, though, I think Anderson deserves it. He’s a true once-in-a-generation kind of filmmaker; watching Phantom Thread, it's hard not to feel like he’s in a different league than the rest of his peers.
The Honorary Meryl Streep, “Let’s Just Throw This Person a Nom Because They’re Amazing, Even Though Nobody Gives a Shit About This Movie” Award: Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq., for Best Actor
Sometimes being Denzel Washington has its perks.
Best Showdown: The Tough-Lovin’ Best Supportin’ Moms (Allison Janney, I, Tonya and Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird)
It is my sincerest wish that to decide the Best Supporting Actress winner this year, the Academy pits Janney and Metcalf against one another, in character, in a verbal diss-off, live on national television. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are slim-to-none (okay, “none”). I personally think Metcalf deserves this win. Janney is great, but her portrayal of the crass and cruel LaVona Harding was just so predictably...Allison Janney. Metcalf, as Lady Bird’s mother, gave the more surprising, layered performance.
Most Pleasant Surprise: All the love for Phantom Thread
Many assumed that too few Academy voters had seen Paul Thomas Anderson’s period piece fashion drama. I’m glad that wasn’t the case. Phantom Thread is a meticulously detailed story about one man’s obsession—a movie of and about craft. No single frame, or line of dialogue, or cup on a kitchen table, feels out of place. But it’s also an absurd, ridiculous romance—about the lengths in which we’re willing to go to keep the ones we love, to shape and be shaped by them. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis act is still a cinematic experience like no other—particularly in this movie, which he practically wrote (and in some ways, directed) along with Anderson. I loved this movie from the first title card, and I think it deserved every nomination (it got six) it received. My only gripe is that Vicky Krieps, who managed the impossible task of holding her own with, and sometimes even besting, Day-Lewis, didn’t snag a nomination for Best Actress.
Most Forgotten Film Come Award Season: Good Time
One of the gravest disappointments from this award season in general is that there’s been next to no love for the Safdie brother’s frenetic pulp nightmare, Good Time—which had some serious momentum when it first premiered back in August. Robert Pattinson, in my mind, gave the best performance of the year as the wily, adrenalized, fast-on-his-feet crook, Connie Nikas. He was totally transformed, immersed, alive, in-the-moment. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Feel-Good Nomination of the Year: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon, The Big Sick, for Best Original Screenplay
It’s great to see these two nab a nomination for the retelling of their tender, funny, real-life love story—especially considering how rare it is for a traditional rom-com to break into award season at all.
Most Jealous Non-Nominee Really Trying His Best Not to Be Jealous Right Now: Director Noah Baumbach, Greta Gerwig's long-term boyfriend
Baumbach has garnered tons of acclaim for his films, like The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha (which he wrote with Gerwig) and this year's The Meyerowitz Stories: New and Selected—which some predicted might earn him a screenplay nomination. But he has only ever been nominated for one Oscar, for Best Original Screenplay (The Squid and the Whale). Meanwhile, his girlfriend has hit the movie equivalent of a grand slam at her first at-bat, receiving nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. I mean, I'm sure he's "super happy for her." I'm sure he's "not bothered by it at all." I'm sure he's a very supportive boyfriend, who has no problem "looking past his own ego as an artist" to "experience 100% joy and 0% jealousy" for his girlfriend's newfound success. Yeah. "Definitely." "Totally."
Nominee Most Likely to Wear a Baseball Hat and Sleeveless T-Shirt to the Academy Awards: Sufjan Stevens, Call Me By Your Name, for Best Original Song (“Mysteries of Love”)