Their competition for the Best Picture top gong includes “Black Panther,” the blockbuster comic book film; “A Star is Born,” a rock ‘n roll remake of an oft-told love story; and “Vice,” a scabrous look at the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
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“Roma’s” strong morning solidifies Netflix’s position as a major force in filmmaking, not to mention a company willing to spend top dollar to promote its films to Oscar voters. It is the first time Netflix has earned a best picture nomination.
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The remaining films among the eight nominees for best picture are “BlacKkKlansman,” a thriller about a black detective’s infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan, “Green Book,” a road trip dramedy that unfolds in the Civil Rights era, and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a biopic of Freddie Mercury that endured the firing of its director Bryan Singer to emerge as a box office sensation.
This year, also marks the first time that a superhero film, “Black Panther,” has earned a best picture nod. The Marvel adventure became a cultural sensation and a rallying cry for the power of inclusion at a time when Hollywood is under pressure to produce more movies starring women and people of color.
Glenn Close picked up her seventh Oscar nomination for “The Wife,” an indie drama about a woman whose contributions to the career of her husband, a Nobel Prize-winning author, have been overlooked. If she loses, Close will become the unluckiest actress in Oscar history, lapping Thelma Ritter and Deborah Kerr, both with six losses, for that distinction.
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Close’s main competition is likely to come from Lady Gaga, the pop singer who dazzled critics with her turn as a blazing new vocal talent in “A Star is Born,” or Olivia Colman, the English character actress who ably unearthed the bruised heart of an otherwise gorgon of a queen in “The Favourite.” The other contenders are Yalitza Aparicio for her work as a kind-hearted maid in “Roma” and Melissa McCarthy for her turn as a misanthropic literary forger in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
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Best actor is also looking to be a tight race. As expected, Christian Bale earned his fourth nomination for his chameleonic turn as Dick Cheney in “Vice.” The Welsh-born actor packed on 18 kilos to transform himself into the conservative politician and despite the fact he’s already been rewarded for “The Fighter” (he shed weight for that one), he could be well positioned to earn his second statue following a Golden Globes win.
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Right now, Bale’s main rivals for the prize are likely to be Rami Malek, nominated for his performance as Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and Bradley Cooper, recognized for his work as an alcoholic singer in “A Star is Born.”
Malek won the Globe for best actor in a drama, while Bale took the best actor in a comedy prize. The Oscars don’t distinguish between the categories in that way. The other nominees were Willem Dafoe for his work as a tortured Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate” and Viggo Mortensen as a racist bouncer in “Green Book.” Despite being recognized for his acting Cooper was snubbed for his work directing “A Star is Born.”
Instead, the directing category includes “Roma’s” Aflonso Cuaron, a previous Oscar-winner for “Gravity,” “Vice’s” Adam McKay, “The Favourite’s” Yorgos Lanthimos, and “Cold War’s” Paweł Pawlikowski. The fifth slot went to Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman.” It, astoundingly, the first directing nomination for Lee despite a resume that includes such classics as “Malcolm X” and “Do the Right Thing.” Lee was also nominated for producing “BlacKkKlansman” and for co-writing its screenplay.
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Cuaron, who drew on his childhood in Mexico City to craft “Roma,” also scored Oscar nominations for his work as a producer, writer, and cinematographer on the film. This ties him with Warren Beatty, Alan Menken, and Joel and Ethan Coen, for the most nominations for a single movie. Beatty previously pulled off that feat on two separate occasions, for “Heaven Can Wait” and “Reds,” Menken hit the milestone with his compositions for “Beauty and the Beast,” and the Coens achieved the feat for “No Country for Old Men.” Cuaron was shut out in one category — he was overlooked for editing “Roma.”
Every Oscar campaign attracts controversies and this year has been no exception. “Green Book” is riding high after its win at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday, but the look at the friendship between a white nightclub bouncer and the black jazz pianist he’s hired to drive through the segregated South, has careened from one bad headline to another.
In recent weeks, decades-old stories about director Peter Farrelly exposing himself to actors as a joke on the sets of his earlier films, recirculated, and an anti-Muslim tweet by producer Nick Vallelonga was discovered and widely shared on Twitter. Farrelly was snubbed in the directing category.
Likewise, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has been grappling with how to best handle the firing of Singer, who, depending on the telling, either stopped showing up to set as part of a career-long pattern of unprofessional behavior or had to deal with a family emergency. So far Malek and the producers solution has simply been to ignore the elephant in the auditorium by rewriting him out of their awards show speeches.
There were several unexpected nominations and admissions. Timothee Chalamet was overlooked in the supporting actor category for his performance as a drug addict in Amazon’s “Beautiful Boy,” a blow for the streamer which has been reassessing its approach to making movies after a series of box office disappointments.
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Amazon will have to content itself with a best foreign language film and directing nominee for “Cold War.” Other performers who were overlooked include John David Washington for his turn as a crusading cop in “BlacKkKlansman,” Emily Blunt for putting a new spin on a familiar nanny in “Mary Poppins Returns,” and Claire Foy for her work as Janet Armstrong, the long-suffering wife of astronaut Neil Armstrong, in “First Man.”
With Chalamet left out in the cold, the supporting actor race will be between Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”), Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”), Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), and Sam Elliott, scoring his first nod at 75 for his work in “A Star is Born.” Sam Rockwell was a surprise nominee for his sly take on George W. Bush.
The supporting actress battle includes two co-stars from “The Favourite,” Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, as well as Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Amy Adams (“Vice”). Marina de Tavira was a surprise nominee for her role as a mother struggling to hold her family together in the midst of a divorce in “Roma.” King and Ali have picked up most of the supporting actor awards leading into Tuesday’s nominations.
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