×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: Academy Shakes Up the Race as ‘Shape of Water’ Takes Frontrunner Status

As ever, all eyes were on Tuesday’s Oscar nominations announcement for whatever surprises the motion picture Academy might have in store. Awards seasons tend to take a certain shape in the run-up to nominations that can feel unshakable, but there is always something.

This year’s “something” was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” which came through in a major way with nominations for best picture, best director (bumping out perceived overall frontrunner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and helmer Martin McDonagh) as well as best supporting actress (Lesley Manville), to go along with expected bids for lead actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), costume design and original score. Six nominations is a more-than-respectable haul for a film that appeared to get lost in the latter-year shuffle, despite having valiant champions.

And valiant champions is what it takes. Clearly there was a passionate core of support for the film, which stars Day-Lewis as a fashion designer in 1950s London. Rally that spirit and you can find purchase. Movies like “The Florida Project” and “I, Tonya” clearly failed to capitalize on their contingents, but “Phantom Thread” was a discovery for voters at the perfect time, in the thick of this year’s voting window.

There were nine best picture nominees in total and virtually all of them you could see coming. The biggest question mark was “Darkest Hour,” which hasn’t performed as well as expected in the guild and industry group circuit, but was obviously a favorite with the British Academy. There is enough crossover between BAFTA and the American Academy to give credence to the “British block,” and it came through for Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill study in the end. (The film landed six nominations.)

Academy brass is no doubt thrilled with the dollop of diversity in the acting categories, which ought to help fend off #OscarsSoWhite criticism this year. Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”), Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) all picked up nominations. Meanwhile, Jordan Peele became the fifth black filmmaker ever nominated for best director. (Screen Actors Guild nominee Hong Chau, alas, was passed over for her performance in “Downsizing.”)

Speaking of fifths, Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman ever nominated by the Academy’s directors branch, another sigh of relief, particularly in the wake of a banner year for female filmmakers in the race. And while we’re on the subject of milestones, it’s worth reiterating Rachel Morrison’s history-making nomination for “Mudbound” (making her the first woman ever nominated for best cinematography). And an adapted screenplay nomination for “Logan” makes it the first superhero movie to ever be recognized for writing.

The biggest surprise outside of “Phantom Thread’s” tally had to be “The Disaster Artist” star James Franco coming up short in the best actor category. That’s an awkward moment dodged in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations that were leveled against Franco earlier this month. That story came with just two days left in the voting window, so it’s unlikely that it made a huge impact; perhaps Franco’s work was too much of a stunt to really register with the actors branch, ultimately.

Speaking of this season’s ongoing industry controversy, Christopher Plummer — who stepped in for disgraced actor Kevin Spacey on Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World” in the wake of sexual assault and harassment allegations leveled against the two-time Oscar winning actor — translated his 10-day, last-minute performance into an Oscar nomination. That’s just impressive, not least of all because it also makes Plummer, at 88, the oldest acting nominee ever.

Dustin Hoffman, also swept up in last year’s wave of allegations, was passed over all season long for “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).” That trend continued with the Academy.

Finally, it has to be counted as a shock that both “City of Ghosts” and “Jane,” easily the most laureled documentaries of the year, were left on the sidelines. That said, it’s nice to see director Steve James back in the Academy fold with “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”; it’s been 23 long years since his last nomination, for “Hoop Dreams.” And with foreign-language contender “In the Fade” winning top prizes at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, Fatih Akin’s film was starting to look like the frontrunner in that category. But the film failed to score a nomination.

And now, of course, the pivot to phase two. There is plenty for the various campaigns to work with. “Get Out” will continue to be the diversity push for the year. “Lady Bird,” meanwhile, will tap into the ongoing gender equality conversation. For many, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” became the frontrunner with its SAG ensemble victory Sunday night, but the film’s lacking best-director nomination is now a red flag (though certainly not a deal-breaker; see Ben Affleck and “Argo”). So what can we expect going into the final stretch.

Anyone with eyes has to see that the best picture prize is Guillermo del Toro’s to lose. “The Shape of Water,” which won the Producers Guild award Saturday night, pulled in a whopping 13 Oscar nominations, one shy of the all-time record tied by “La La Land” last year. Only 12 films in history have amassed that amount of support from the Academy. “Gone with the Wind,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Shakespeare in Love” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” are just a few examples. That’s esteemed company.

“Dunkirk” could be stiffer competition than expected; eight nominations makes it the second-most recognized film of the year, and the only other robust contender throughout the categories. But “Get Out” and “Lady Bird” could perform well on the preferential ballot.

Indeed, it ain’t over until the envelope is bungled. So get ready for a wild and wonderful close to one of the most exciting Oscar races in living memory.

More Film

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

  • Jon M. ChuUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Honored at Unforgettable Awards: 'One Movie Every 25 Years is Just Not F—ing Enough'

    Fresh on the heels of its Golden Globe nomination, “Crazy Rich Asians” was the talk of the evening at Kore Asian Media’s 17th annual Unforgettable Awards. Saturday’s event, which celebrates Asian-American trailblazers and their achievements in the entertainment industry, honored a host of Asian actors, directors and influencers, including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content