The 91st annual Academy Award nominations brought the usual surprises – both pleasant (both actresses from “Roma” landed noms!) and peculiar (no Bradley Cooper for director). In the best picture race, there were no shocking omissions or inclusions as the eight films nominated were all Producers Guild of America nominees (only “A Quiet Place” and “Crazy Rich Asians” missed the cut).
But those looking for guidance as to who will be the ultimate winner may get some mixed signals. We take a look at the final nominees and what many perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses going into the final voting.
Advantages: It was the only film to be nominated for PGA, DGA, WGA, SAG ensemble and also land Oscar noms for editing, directing, screenplay and picture. It was profitable, well-received, and could not be timelier. It’s also the film that finally brought Spike Lee his first director and best picture noms.
Challenges: It’s been nominated for everything, but has yet to win a significant race.
Advantages: This Marvel box office blockbuster was beloved by critics and audiences, a genuine game-changer and the first superhero movie to even land a best picture nomination. With seven Oscar nominations, it has support in a number of Academy branches. The SAG ensemble win shows actors love it, too.
Challenges: Not all branches. Outside of technical noms, the film missed out in the major categories from directing to acting to even screenplay. The nomination might just be the award for this one.
20th Century Fox
Advantages: Another commercial smash, albeit one adored by audiences more than critics, this Queen biopic was a wildly popular film and might even feature the year’s winning lead actor performance. It’s also a rally point for a legacy studio in its final pre-acquisition year.
Challenges: Some of those reviews are quite scathing, and when a movie is that denigrated, it can instill pause in voters. Not only that, but the cloud of sexual-assault allegations hanging over director Bryan Singer make it an iffy choice at best.
Advantages: Yorgos Lanthimos’ wicked period piece tied “Roma” for the most nominations this year at 10. It also won 10 British Independent Film Awards and landed 12 British Academy noms. Lanthimos, meanwhile, beat out some heavy competition to land a directing spot.
Challenges: Though the three main women were nominated for SAG and Oscars, the lack of a SAG ensemble nod is troubling.
Advantages: It won the top prize at PGA, which makes it the de facto frontrunner. It also scored the People’s Choice prize in Toronto, a Golden Globe win for best picture, musical or comedy, and has earned DGA and WGA noms.
Challenges: Where to start? The campaign has hit a few bumps and endured a lot of criticism since before the film even hit theaters. Still, none of this seems to have affected the film. It did miss out on a director nom for Peter Farrelly, but scored in other major categories, including editing, where “Roma” and “A Star Is Born” missed out.
Advantages: It is unequivocally the critics’ choice this year, winning the lion’s share of best film prizes in a year brimming with populist fare. Alfonso Cuarón’s film has been recognized by the producers, directors and writers guilds along with various crafts organizations, and it led the nominations with “The Favourite,” proving wide-ranging appeal. Two acting nominations for the actresses also shows the biggest branch supports the film.
Challenges: All of that said, notably, SAG-AFTRA passed on the film’s actors. And the biggest hurdle might be the film’s distributor, Netflix, which has become a boogey man for many in the industry. Additionally, no foreign-language film has ever won best picture, let alone a film that did not report its box office.
“A Star Is Born”
Advantages: It’s that rare film that hits with audiences and critics and it’s grossed more than $400 million at the box office worldwide. Star-director-writer-producer-songwriter Bradley Cooper is beloved by the industry and made a movie that has avoided controversy all season. More importantly, the film received unanimous guild love, including nominations for SAG ensemble, DGA, WGA and PGA.
Challenges: Being an early frontrunner can invite backlash and the film missed a picture win at both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. Plus, Cooper missing out on director stings. Then again, some might perceive this as a plus; it could motivate voters to rally for a film they love.
Advantages: In politically tumultuous times, few films get the rise out of viewers — well, liberal viewers — that Adam McKay’s examination of Dick Cheney does. As a movie that aims to show how we came to this place, it might be the most urgent film in the lineup. And unlike some other best picture nominees, it managed nods in director, screenplay and editing.
Challenges: The film was incredibly divisive, critically speaking. So Annapurna doesn’t have a high Rotten Tomatoes score to tout in advertising (even if the industry has largely disagreed with that assessment so far). Again, sometimes when a movie takes that kind of licking, it can give voters pause.