OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland filmmaker Ryan Coogler got the call Tuesday morning that he has dreamed about all his life.
His blockbuster film — “Black Panther” — had been nominated in four Academy Awards including the prestigious best picture category. It will be against “Roma,” “The Favourite,” Peter Farrelly’s interracial road trip tale “Green Book,” Spike Lee’s white supremacist evisceration “BlacKkKlansman,” the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Adam McKay’s highly critical Dick Cheney biopic “Vice” and “A Star Is Born.”
The best picture category has long kryptonite to superhero movies like “Black Panther” even though it was the year’s biggest domestic box-office hit and a bona fide cultural event.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of comic book movies, they had previously been shunned from Hollywood’s top honor to the consternation of some industry insiders. After “The Dark Knight” was snubbed in 2009, the academy expanded the best picture category from five to up to 10 nominees.
Though many expected “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper’s tear-inducing revival of one of Hollywood’s most oft-remade show-business myths, to top the nominations, Cooper was surprisingly overlooked as director and the academy instead put its fullest support behind a pair of indies by international directors. “A Star Is Born” still landed eight nominations, including best actress for Lady Gaga and best supporting actor for Sam Elliott.
With the black-and-white, Spanish-language “Roma,” Netflix scored its first best picture nomination, a prize the streaming giant has dearly sought. Marvel, too, joined the club with Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture.
Cuaron tied the record for most decorated Oscar nominee ever for one film with four individual nods for “Roma,” his deeply personal exhumation of his Mexico City childhood. Cuaron was nominated for direction, cinematography, original screenplay and best picture. Only Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”) and Warren Beatty (who did it twice with “Reds” and “Heaven Can Wait”) have matched the four-nod feat.
Just as rewarded Tuesday was Lanthimos’ period romp, which resounded most in the acting categories thanks to its trio of actresses: Olivia Colman in the best actress category, and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in supporting.
There has also been some resistance among some academy members to Netflix films since the company typically bypasses movie theaters. Steven Spielberg has said Netflix films are more like TV movies and deserve an Emmy, not an Oscar. Netflix altered its policy for “Roma” and the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (which also earned three unexpected nods), premiering them first in theaters before debuting them on Netflix. In turn, it was rewarded with 13 nominations overall, second only to Fox Searchlight’s 15.
Thirty years after landing a writing nod for 1989’s Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee was nominated for his first directing Oscar for his “BlacKkKlansman.” The other directing nominees were Lanthimos, Cuaron, Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”) and McKay (“Vice”) — a field that, a year after continued focus on gender inequality in Hollywood, included no female directors. Some had campaigned for Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”) or Chloe Zhao (“The Rider”) to become the sixth woman ever nominated for best director.
The nominations, announced by Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross from the Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, included plenty of surprises. In a banner year for documentaries, the Fred Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” was snubbed despite more than $22 million in ticket sales (a huge sum for a doc). Instead the nominees were “Free Solo,” ”Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” ”Minding the Gap,” ”Of Fathers and Sons” and the Ruth Bader Ginsberg portrait “RBG.”
The acting categories played out largely as expected with a few notable differences. Along with Lady Gaga and Colman, the best actress nominees are Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”), Glenn Close (“The Wife”) and Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”).
In best actor, the expected front runner Christian Bale was nominated for his transformation into Cheney in “Vice” (his fourth Oscar nod), along with Cooper, Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) and Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”). Notably left out were Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) and John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”).
The nominees for best supporting actress were Amy Adams (“Vice”), Marina De Tavira (“Roma”), Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), along with Stone and Weisz. Tavira was something a surprise, likely unseating Claire Foy of “First Man.”
But perhaps the biggest acting snub came in best supporting actor, where Timothy Chalamet, who broke through last year with “Call Me By Your Name,” was left out for his drug addict in “Beautiful Boy.” Nominated were Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”), Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Sam Rockwell (“Vice”).
Some Oscar regulars were honored again. Joel and Ethan Coen notched their seventh screenwriting nomination. Close, never a winner, landed her seventh acting nod. But the nominees were crowded with first-timers, including new performers (Aparicio) and veteran ones (Grant, Colman, Driver, King). Paul Schrader, the 72-year-old “Taxi Driver” scribe, was nominated for his first Oscar for the script to his religious thriller “First Reformed.”
The lead-up to Tuesday’s nominations was rocky for both the film academy and some of the contending movies. Shortly after being announced as host, comedian Kevin Hart was forced to withdraw over years-old homophobic tweets that the comedian eventually apologized for. That has left the Oscars, one month before the Feb. 24 ceremony, without an emcee, and likely to stay that way.
Some film contenders, like “Green Book” and the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” have suffered waves upon waves of backlash, even as their awards tallies have mounted. Before landing five nominations Tuesday, “Green Book” — which has been criticized for relying on racial tropes — won the top award from the Producers Guild, an honor that has been a reliable Oscar barometer. In the 10 years since the Oscars expanded its best-picture ballot, the PGA winner has gone on to win best picture eight times.
The season’s steadiest contender — Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” — looked potentially unbeatable until it got beat. Despite an enviable string of awards and more than $400 million in worldwide box office, Cooper’s lauded remake was almost totally ignored at the Golden Globes. Still, “A Star Is Born” was the sole film to land top nominations from virtually every guild group.
Potentially benefiting this year’s broadcast will be a number of popular nominees. “Black Panther,” ”Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” have all done enormous box office. Just how many people have seen “Roma,” though, remains a mystery. Netflix doesn’t release box office receipts or streaming viewership.
For the second straight year, Fox Searchlight (which released last year’s winner, “The Shape of Water”) topped all studios, even as it and its parent studio, 20th Century Fox are in the process of being acquired by the Walt Disney Co. If their releases counted under Disney, the new mega-studio would have dwarfed all studios with 31 nominations.
The Oscars last year hit a new ratings low, declining 20 percent and averaging 26.5 million viewers on ABC. Though ratings for award shows have generally been dropping, the downturn prompted the academy to revamp this year’s telecast. Though initial plans for a new popular film category were scuttled, the academy is planning to present some awards off-air and keep the broadcast to three hours.