Analysis: And the Oscar goes to…surprises, trailblazers from this year’s nominees


Noah Moore

This year’s Oscar nominees will surely make history, and no, not just because Meryl Streep was nominated…again.

Rejoice, film critics and celebrity devotees. The wait is over. The 90th Academy Award nominations were released Tuesday morning and have since caused much fervor.

This year was a major year for film. With plots ranging from a mute woman falling in love with an experimental mutant to a mother desperate for justice after her daughter’s disappearance, the nominees have a diverse array of plotlines and emotional tenacities. Three films stand out as frontrunners this year.

Leading this year’s nominations is Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” a film in which a woman who is unable to speak connects with a mutant kept in a tub.

The film picked up the most nominations of any film with 13 nominations, including: Best Picture, Best Director for del Toro, who recently won the category at the Golden Globes, Best Actress for the critically lauded Sally Hawkins, Best Score, which it also recently won at the Globes, among other recognizable nominees such as Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins in the Supporting category.

It is also a lock in the Best Production Design category.

Predictors see “The Shape of Water” as a contender for Best Picture, though there is no clear frontrunner just yet. It might have a strong chance to win Best Director and Best Score and have a strong chance in the Actress category.

Following right behind fresh off a Golden Globe win is “Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” featuring the dynamic Oscar-worthy performance by Frances McDormand as a mom seeking justice against the police for their lack of conclusion after her daughter’s disappearance.

The film picked up nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, all three of which they won at the Globes. They are missing, though, on the Best Director list, which some may say depletes their chances for a big win.

The final frontrunner is Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” This film is a masterful ode to youth and a mother-daughter relationship.

Saoirse Ronan, now a three-time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner for her role as the titular Lady Bird, and Laurie Metcalf, also Oscar and Golden Globe nominated for her role as the mother, carried this visceral piece to the awards season with brilliantly real performances.

But the real noteworthy nomination comes as Greta Gerwig for Best Director, one of only five females nominated in this category ever. She also received a screenwriting nod, and the film is in the running for Best Picture.

As for the acting categories, Gary Oldman may repeat his Globes’ win in Best Actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” Best Actress might go to McDormand, though Hawkins or Ronan might also have a chance. Also, though her chances might be slim, Margot Robbie’s performance in “I, Tonya” should not be overlooked.

Best Supporting Actor will be a toss-up between Sam Rockwell and Willem Dafoe for “The Florida Project,” and it might go to the latter. Supporting Actress is close between Metcalf and Allison Janney’s performance in ‘I, Tonya,’ but might ultimately go to Janney for her hilariously terrifying overbearing performance as Tonya Harding’s chain smoker mother.

But beyond the front runners, this year was monumental in its display of minorities throughout its nominee list. Besides Gerwig’s directing nod, Jordan Peele’s nomination in the same category for the critically-lauded “Get Out” means he is only the fifth African-American ever nominated for a directing Oscar.

In the cinematography field, Rachel Morrison received a nomination for “Mudbound,” the Netflix biopic about slavery during wartime, making her the first female ever nominated in this category, the only category that hadn’t had a woman nominated before until this year.

Also, the Best Actor field features two African-American nominees: Daniel Kaluuya for “Get Out” and Denzel Washington as a surprise nominee for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

However, while this list blazed trails for female and minorities, some things never change. Meryl Streep picked up her record-setting 21st Oscar for “The Post,” which also was nominated for Best Picture.

The 90th Academy Awards will take place Mar. 4 at 7 p.m. CST on ABC hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.  

Features reporter Noah Moore can be reached at 859-982-8111 and noah.[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @noah_moore18.