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12 Things We Learned From the Oscar Nominations

Happy Christmas Oscar Nomination Day! Herewith quick observations on the 91st Academy Award nominations.


Cuarón with the first of his many wins this year1. All the times that Alfonso Cuarón made his (plentiful) Best Director acceptance speeches about Marina & Yalitza as the "heart" of his film, really paid off. Voters were paying attention, even if only subconsciously and both actresses were nominated in volatile fifth spots in their categories.

2. It's tough to snag a "lone" Oscar nomination for your movie if you're a non-legendary actor. Timothée Chalamet and Glenn Close and Willem Dafoe were all working at that this year and the one that dropped out was Chalamet for Beautiful Boy. He'll be legendary one day but he just became really famous last year and the film had no other boosts to keep him in the conversation...

3. People need to stop thinking and quoting that RT Scores matter. Bohemian (at 62%) & Vice (at 64%) remind us that, though critical consensus makes a huge difference with small films or arthouse-aimed indies, it doesn't mean much when it comes to unexpected hits, or mainstream targeted films with A list stars.

4. Academy Awards voters REALLY loved Never Look Away which won the year's most surprising nomination for Best Cinematography with virtually zero buzz in that category.

5. The Oscars continue to have a problem with Asian cinema. South Korea has never been nominated and that continues with the snubbing of the critically revered mystery Burning, easily one of the year's most praised films. People never seem to believe me when I talk about this but if I haven't proven by now that I study this category with a fine tooth comb every year in a way few others do, I don't know how I can convince people. FACT: Oscar has a problem with Asian cinema. Consider the film industries in China, Hong Kong, India, The Phillipines, Thailand, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and South Korea and then realize that between those nine countries there have only been only 12 nominations and 1 win which is only slightly better than Hungary or Poland ALONE (and not as strong as the singular records of any of these western european or scandinavian countries: Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Spain). Even if you add in Japan, which is slightly exempt from this rule with 13 nominations and 1 win (and also had 3 honoraries before this was a category proper), ALL ten of those countries combined are still behind France or Italy alone, and just slightly ahead of Germany and Spain all by themselves!

6. Genre bias continues to be a huge problem with the Academy... and precursor awards as well (which acerbate the problem by not refocusing voters). Their lack of respect for genre films doomed A Quiet Place to only one nomination (Sound Editing) despite a fairly robust campaign and lots of love out there for the sci-fi monster movie. It also stopped Toni Collette in Hereditary from making headway in Best Actress. Their favouritism for World War II dramas and biopics over contemporary films also and gave Germany a leg up over South Korea in foreign film, and Rami & Christian an easy leapfrog over the vastly superior Ethan Hawke (snubbed) and Bradley Cooper (always losing) in Best Actor. 

7. Being a zeitgeisty blockbuster has record-breaking advantages. Black Panther became the first superhero movie ever nominated for Best Picture. In total it received 7 nominations, so it isn't the *most* nominated superhero movie. That honor still belongs to The Dark Knight but with BP's Best Picture nomination, it's now essentially the most well honored. Now the question is can it win any of its 7 nominations? The Dark Knight won two (Sound Editing and Supporting Actor).

8. Being a blockbuster documentary hit or even sensationally-reviewed never makes you a lock in Best Documentary Feature which has been one of the most controversial and surprising categories year in and year out since as long as we've been watching the Oscars. This year the huge hit status didn't help Won't You Be My Neighbor or Three Identical Strangers score a nod, but it did help RBG so you never know... 

9. Release date truths reaffirmed. As with most years, 2018 proves that it doesn't matter when you are released as long as you have the goods (see Black Panther & BlacKkKlansman released in February and August, respectively). Waiting until the last minute, as most Oscar hopefuls do via November and December platforming is risky since so many films get lost in the shuffle but distributors continues to take the risk because voters have very short memories. November and December are your best bet for both landing plentiful nominations OR for landing craft nominations for films that people don't really love because at least they still remember them! Not to knock the films makeup and costuming (both lovely) but would Mary Queen of Scots have been nominated in either category had it been released back when Black Panther was? Nope! Would Vice have won 8 nominations despite divisive reviews if released in August? Nope!  

10. Campaigning remains crucial to winning nominations. A24, our favourite distributor of the last several years (sorry everyone else!) has been excellent at the Oscar game but they mostly sat this year out and paid the price despite wildly acclaimed films. Hereditary and Eighth Grade, both with devout fanbases were totally ignored and First Reformed only nabbed a Screenplay nomination despite having the year's most acclaimed leading performance from four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke. Meanwhile, Netflix pulled out all the stops this year to make themselves a contender and ended up with a surprising 3 nominations for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs  and a very hefty if not surprising 10 nominations for Roma. Campaigning is always a dice throw though. Warner Bros worked hard for its titles and A Star is Born got 8 nominations but Crazy Rich Asians was shut out entirely. Disney worked hard for Black Panther and Mary Poppins Returns but one soared while the other didn't do as well as it might have in another year.

11. Winning the Golden Globe for Best Score is occasionally a bad-luck charm, since the Globe voters and Oscar tend to have very different musical taste (this is also true in Best Song). The unlucky recipient this time was First Man's glorious score by Justin Hurwitz was somehow stiffed with Oscar after winning the Globe. This isn't the first time that's happened. Previous examples in the last twenty years include: Alex Ebert for All is Lost (2013), Alexandre Desplat for The Painted Veil (2006), Craig Armstrong for Moulin Rouge! (2001), and Ennio Morricone for The Legend of 1900 (1998)

12. The Academy is still not ready for Emily Blunt. This is probably the third time she's come close to an acting nomination following The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and Young Victoria (2009). One senses that she's just going to join the ranks of the most-beloved-always-ignored movie stars or win on her first nomination. 


Related Articles: 
• Adams vs Weisz, Round Two
• Best Picture Silliness
• Deep Cut Oscar Trivia
• Mourning the Snubs
• How to Stage the Original Song Performances
• Nomination Index (individual charts still being updated)


P.S. Sign up for our newsletter which we'll be relaunching this week, if you dont wanna miss anything going forward related to Oscar and beyond...


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Reader Comments (71)

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody over the weekend, and it was terrible until it hits the recreation of Queen's Live Aid performance in the end. The movie proves that leaving on a high note goes a long way to engendering positive feelings from viewers. But as good as the recreation is, it's a terribly bad musical biopic. It glosses over things and has some embarrassing scenes and dialogue. Bohemian Rhapsody should have been nominated for a Razzie instead of an Oscar.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Ethan Hawke needs to stop saying European Art Films are better than Hollywood movies, even though he's right.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDan H.

They have a problem w asian cinema AND also their actors. Last year they snubbed Hong Chau and now Yeoh :(.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTobias s

Emily Blunt is the new Cameron Diaz. Always so close, but still so far away.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPatagonia

Patagonia - The only difference is that Emily Blunt is a good actress

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrown Cow Stunning

Totally hear you about the foreign branch's bias against Asian cinema.....but, um, no mention in your writeup of the terrific, soulful, auteurist Asian film that was nominated this year?

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGWB

IMHO, she was more worthy than Gaga, Close and Aparicio (but I’m rooting for Close, so I’ll let that one slide) (and no backlash against Aparicio from me here either, I’m happy for her too) but Blunt should be on nom 3 or 4 by now. She’s proven how versatile she is, she’s likeable, she plays the game, she’s stylish, a good interviewer.
Whew, talk about bad luck.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I've learned that the member additions and diversity initiatives are making a difference in one good way - actors and craftspeople of color are more likely to gain notice. However the core identity of an Academy voter hasn't changed that much - the long-standing performance and genre biases (as Nat points out) are still there. And campaigning still matters - how bad do you want it?

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

Does Cooper's snub (yes, snub) in Director increase his likelihood of winning Actor? I hope so!

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBD

Don't cry for Emily Blunt...she's winning at LIFE!

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoSue

For me Toni Collete is the same situation as Ralph Fiennes in Grand Budapest Hotel. She didn't get nominated because she didn't play the game and didn't work the Academy just like him. Also, she moved to Australia and wasn't attending screenings or doing many Q&A's.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCris

Emily Blunt didn't deserve to be nominated this year. She really had to do nothing in Mary Poppins and the accent was a distracting choice. Also she was barely solid in A Quiet Place.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDg

I learned that I shouldn't let myself feel anything for the Oscars because these are people who somehow don't think First Man had the best Score of the year.

Although they did give Marina de Tavira a nomination (I had completely given up hope!).

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAnya

I loved Burning but saw its omission coming. The last half is just too bewildering. And Never Look Away is the kind of overlong, overbudgeted mediocrity that would be nominated for a dozen Oscars if it were in English. I was hoping for Colombia or Denmark to fill the Burning's vacancy. Shoplifters and Cold War are masterpieces. Two masterpieces in one category! Since Roma and Capernaum are both worthy, too, I'll shut up and consider the glass more than half full.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

Emily Blunt's time will come sooner or later. All she needs is the right kind of movie and role and she's in it to win it. Just my hunch anyway.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterGustavo Horn

Hollywood has a problem with Asians period. So the lack of support for Asian cinema regardless of the global goodwill it has is irrelevant to them. They rather diva worship European juggernauts.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

That Hollywood loves Mexico more than our President. Ethan Hawke cannot get a break, Nicole will be a presenter only, Julia has lost her mojo.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

Blunt doesn't do enough straight-up dramas to give herself better chances of a nom. Not that that should change how she chooses what she acts in, but Young Victoria may have been her best shot of her higher profile roles.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

Emily Blunt is not only young (35) but a superstar!

Directors evidently gravitate towards her. Rob Marshall literally offered her the role of Mary Poppins.

The Devil Wears Prada snub still hurts after 12 years because she's ICONIC in an ICONIC movie.

A million performances would kill to age so well!

She was great in:
-Looper (sci-fi) - very non-Oscar
-Edge of Tomorrow (action sci-fi) - very non-Oscar
-Girl on the Train (pedestrian predictable story, bad reviews for the movie) - non-Oscar
-A Quiet Place (horror) - very non-Oscar

A nomination for Young Victoria would've been bland and thank space it didn't happen! Same goes for Mary Poppins Returns.

Emily's day will come and she'll be Blue Jasmine amazing <3

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I learned that the industry really, really, really wants to punish films that cost a lot of money to make and do not crack at least a megabuck in revenue. I have no idea how much money "First Man" lost, but the message has gone out loud and clear that if you miss revenue expectations that badly, then you can kiss your chances at major Oscar nominations goodbye (sorry, Claire).

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

It seems rare for an actor to have such high highs and low lows as Claire Foy in 2018.

Her Dragon Tattoo movie was an unmitigated flop. Did First Man break even? She won an Emmy. She almost got an Oscar nomination.

Maybe she should do some indies next. The high stakes studio projects weren't very kind to her.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

We learned that Viggo Mortensen can get nominated for Best Actor without doing a nude scene.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom G

Also, glad someone besides me liked Ms. Blunt in "Edge of Tomorrow", my personal favorite of her many splendid performances. Extra credit for that push-up that got repeated again, and again, and again...

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Tom G --- ooh god one!

January 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Anyone but Rami! I don't know why the Academy undervalues Bradley Cooper, and don't get me started on Ethan Hawke being completely overlooked for a performance that won many critics awards. As Tom noted, Nicole and Julia cannot break in despite their superstardom status and heavily financed campaigns, partly paid for out of their own wealth. And I guess Timothee Chalamet is no longer a beautiful boy. Hollywood is weird and fickle.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJono

Carl and Yavor- Yes, yes, yes.

My favorite actresses working today are all named: Emily, Emma, Olivia, and Sarah (and some times Regina, Rachel, Nicole, and Cate/Kate.)

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPam

The nominations of this year shows something:

Twitter groups of the academy are "battle" themselves: the old members who thinks that movies = money = only to be awarded and the new and not-English members who thinks movies = arts and risk = not necessarily make money.

In for our five years, will be a lot of difficult to see more than one US born male director nominated for achievement in directing. If Adam McCay was replaced for Debra Granik, boy, what. beautiful line up we all would have!!

I am glad for the surprises (3 not English films and filmmakers for cinematography and directing, two Mexican actresses, Glenn, Melissa, Richard, Spike for directing, Jenkins for adapted screenwriting, The Favourite with TEN NOMINATIONS!, all the animated / foreign / documentaries nominees), Paul Shrader finally nominated!, but I am piss with no woman in directing (where's Debra? Where's Zhao?), only two women in writing (again where is Leave no Trace? The Rider? Tully?), no Suspiria noms (Thom Yorke, Tilda and makeup especially) and piss with all the love for Black Panther, Bohemian Rapsody and A Star is Born. Good movies, but only that. We have more remarkable things to awarded this year.

ps: thank u movie God for the directors branch!! they were really close to give us the best nominees of the year! Debra, u fucking deserved!

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

another campign that worked hard and got results is Cold War's. Kulig and Pawlikowski have been in LA for months.

January 22, 2019 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

However, we would prefer that Viggo continues his "Naked for Oscar" film campaign.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Twitter groups = Two groups

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSoshua

Also, category fraud aside, this is the first Emma Stone nomination that I actually like. And probably her best work since Easy A.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

We learned that no matter how accomplished your work on a tricky film, Oscar does not like rewarding actors-turned-directors too soon.Which is a damn shame for ASIB.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

@brookesboy: So I guess the days of Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson are over.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

@ Pam: Agreed also on at least one Sarah (Paulson) - such commanding presence concealed under her quiet grace. A gift to all of us on both the small and the big screen.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

Richard E. Grant got an Oscar nomination - so glad for this. (my other long shot choice was Hugh Grant for Paddington 2)
Emily Blunt is the new Donald Sutherland, good in everything (especially genre) but somehow not nominated. But well liked !
These nominations revolve so much around buzz and not so much on merit, which is the same as it ever was. (Their snubs of First Man and Ethan Hawke)
Now if only Richard E. Grant would win...

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Emily Blunt may still be Young in The real world, but in Hollywood, a woman aged 40 is considered an ancient corpse and discarded like yesterday's cold mashed potatoes.

Then she may, If Lucky, make a come back in her late fifties playing suffering mothers/grandmothers/wives.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I am just upset because Emily Blunt didn’t get nominated and Bradley Cooper couldn’t get a direction nomination. Not really a snub, but I would have loved to have seen “A Place Called Slaughter Race” get nominated in song just because it was hysterical and very well used in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Some of this year makes me really happy when it came to Oscar, but I’m disappointed First Man and Mary Poopins Returns didn’t do better. Also, I would have loved for Michael B Jordan to have cracked into the Supporting Actor race. This year has just been weird. I’m hoping with it’s hefty nomination haul that The Favourite can come back to my theatre. It was only here for one weekend and I was out of town on vacation.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

@Bruno--long gone. The cruel irony is that those two didn't deserve their Oscar wins. But Cooper deserved a nomination much more than them.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Still not sure how I feel about First Reformed (performance certainly great and currently in my 5 but not really sure how I truly feel about it). Will see it again.

But that shot ^^^^ ...Bergmanish, no?

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

To play contrarian to the constant negativity .. let's celebrate a few things -
- Spike Lee got his first directing nomination!
- Long time actors Olivia Coleman, Richard E Grant, Sam Elliott & Regina King received their first ever nominations!
- A black and white, foreign language, Mexico based film did really well
- 7 out of 20 acting nominees are playing queer characters
- Rachel Wiesz finally has a second nomination
- Glenn Close finally reaches 7 nominations - win or loose it's an incredible feat
- Nicole Holofcener receives her first nomination!
- Paul Schrader receives his first nomination!

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBroadview

One thing that came across loud and clear this morning: The Oscars do *not* need an "Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film" — at all. Consider the 2018 Best Picture nominees' (domestic) box office grosses:

BlacKkKlansman - $48,527,565
Black Panther - $700,059,566
Bohemian Rhapsody - $202,432,484*
Green Book - $42,318,991*
The Favourite - $23,014,025*
Roma - N/A
A Star Is Born - $204,803,733*
Vice - $39,469,367*

*still in theaters, so not final

There's literally not an unpopular film in the bunch! AMPAS, then and in retrospect, looks so foolish to even propose that new category. Oy.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I think we learned that the generational divide within the Academy is becoming more noticeable. I realize I may be going off assumptions here, but for every fresh, adventurous nomination that shows the Academy is changing, there's still at least one completely safe, conventional one that reaffirms the same old establishment. I find it hard to believe that the voters who went all in for The Favourite, Roma, and BlacKkKlansman are the same ones who got Vice, Green Book, and Bohemian Rhapsody in the Best Picture mix. Those are the kinds of movies that would have been nominated in the '90s or early 2000s. They're still being nominated today, but luckily there are ALSO fresher, less conventional "Oscar bait" movies in the mix as well. I do believe it's because there is now a significant generational divide among the voters.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

As much as I like Sam Rockwell, his part is basically a glorified cameo. Timothee was robbed. That was a great performance, while Sam merely deserves a thank you note for stopping by.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Carrell

I'm having a hard time feeling bad for Bradley Cooper. He's great IN the film, and the academy has been very friendly to him in recent years. But maybe the general feeling many people have shared that they loved the first hour and then didn't really enjoy the second hour cost him the director nomination. I don;t know why the Academy loves McKay, but I'd have swapped him out for Jenkins before Cooper.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermikey67

Look...I like Emily Blunt a lot. I think she’s very talented. But talent will only get you so far when you have terrible taste in terms of project choice. I’m surprised no one mentions this she lamenting how she’s never been nominated. Her taste in terms of choosing projects is either boring or actively bad. She needs to be good in a film that’s also actually good.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKieran Scarett

"As much as I like Sam Rockwell, his part is basically a glorified cameo. Timothee was robbed. That was a great performance, while Sam merely deserves a thank you note for stopping by."

Agreeance. One of the worst nominations, for sure. But at least he is bona-fide supporting. If there had to be a supporting actor performance from VICE I'd have given the nom to Steve Carrell, who was really quite good.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Will we look back on this year as a hinge moment in Oscars history? Several years of expanding the Academy's membership are having an effect:

1. ROMA, Roma, Roma! A foreign language film leads the nominations tally, including two acting nominations (one truly unexpected) and a screenplay nod for a film that was virtually unscripted.

2. Three out of four BEST DIRECTOR nominees are non-American born.

3. NETFLIX is here to stay. Not just the heavily promoted Roma but 3 nominations for a film no one was talking about, Buster Scruggs. We've come a long way from Mudbound in just a year.

4. More than one film about the black experience cracks the best picture race. Congratulations, Spike Lee, Ryan Coogler and Barry Jenkins.

5. A Marvel film in the best picture race. Comic book movies gain respectability?

6. Films that center LGBT storylines are now so common they don't even make headlines: The Favourite, Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, Can You Ever.... Say what you will about the quality of these representations, the Academy isn't listening.

BUT...of course, old habits die hard: WOMEN directors, writers and craftspeople still can't break through the boys' club. Asian and Asian-American films are not being made, promoted or honored. Stupid biopics still seem important.

Still, the tide is turning.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHustler

I never get anything done on Oscar Nomination Day.

I miss the old presentations like crazy. You know, the five screens, the actors shots and the journalist clapping or gasping.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

There's Something About Mary, Being John Malkovich, Vanilla Sky and In Her Shoes all direct the burning cow to sit.

I'm surprised that anyone thinks Vice is a throwback nod...unless you mean it's due to the star power and clear subject (all true).

LoL that's not gonna change. The supposed new guard ain't as artsy as y'all think. The follw-ups for many of these new actors are often obvious (and often bombastic) money-inspired things.

The new guard is here to spread the wealth, not to nominate all the small stuff. Good luck to you if you think all the tiny art films are better off and movies you think are bullshit will no longer get in. Whatever today's or tomorrow's Braveheart is it and films like it will still get in.

If the Oscars were as uninspired as some of you pretend then some of you wouldn't pay any attention lol.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

@brookesboy: Disagree here. I thought the direction on ASIB was messy. He deserves the acting nod.

January 22, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

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