Paul Thomas Anderson’s trippy “Phantom Thread” snuck in while Sean Baker’s observant “The Florida Project” nearly got shut out. Palo Alto native James Franco, facing sexual misconduct allegations, wound up with nothing for “The Disaster Artist.” And Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” a gorgeous valentine to the cinema and to anyone who feels like an outsider, is sitting pretty with 13 nominations.
Those were some of the developments from the 90th Academy Awards nominations announced early Tuesday with generous helpings of humor by a spiffy Andy Serkis (robbed of a best actor nod for his motion-capture work in “War for the Planet of the Apes”) and a sassy Tiffany Haddish (passed by in the supporting actress category nod for her hilarious turn in “Girls Trip.”)
For the most part, the nominees selected deserved a spot at the table, but there were some surprises, omissions and headscratchers. Read on:
“Phantom Thread’s” killer showing: In most of the major categories, Anderson’s weird, impeccably made drama about a twisted relationship triumphed. Daniel Day-Lewis — my pick for best actor out of these nominees — might want to reconsider those retirement plans. And what a welcome surprise to see Lesley Manville land a best supporting actress nod for her crafty performance.
“Darkest Hour” for best picture: Joe Wright’s measured historical drama about Winston Churchill is fine, but not exceptional. The same could be said for Steven Spielberg’s Pentagon Papers drama “The Post,” which delivers an urgently needed defense of a free press but does so with overstatement. But both got best picture nods, while other movies were more deserving, including Baker’s unforgettable “The Florida Project,” the crowd-pleasing “The Big Sick,” the action epic “War for the Planet of the Apes” and the powerful “Mudbound.”
They finally nominated a woman for best cinematography: Netflix’s “Mudbound” did well (Mary J. Blige for supporting actress, plus nods for best song and adapted screenplay). But the most notable and historic honor was presented to Rachel Morrison, who received a best cinematography nominee — a first for a woman — for her stunning work on this underseen gem. If you have Netflix, put that binge-watching on hold and watch this film.
Omissions: Besides a scandal-plagued Franco, other surprises included Holly Hunter’s snub in the supporting actress category for one of the year’s most comedic and heartfelt performances in “The Big Sick.” I would have put her over Octavia Spencer, who was only solid in “The Shape of Water.” Armie Hammer gave a career best in “Call Me By Your Name,” but has nothing to show for it. And while “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” keeps earning awards and accolades, its director — Martin McDonagh — continually gets passed over. Go figure. In other categories, the praised documentary about Jane Goodall — titled succinctly “Jane” — went from a sure thing to a no-show, while Steve James’ under-the-radar “Abacus: Too Small to Fail” took a giant step forward.
Newcomers in best director category: Only one filmmaker in this category — Paul Thomas Anderson — has been here before. Greta Gerwig became the only fifth woman to receive a nomination, for “Lady Bird,” while Jordan Peele scored one for his first feature-length debut, “Get Out.” Both should be there. Veteran filmmakers Christopher Nolan and del Toro received their first directing nomination.
Pixar, again: This hardly rates as a surprise, given its track record, but Emeryville-based Pixar scored again with “Coco,” a beautiful film that is likely to beeline its way to another Oscar.
Speaking of slam dunks: Kobe Bryant — yes, the retired pro basketball star — is up for an Oscar, along with Glen Keane and John Williams, for the animated short “Dear Basketball.”
The winners will be handed out March 4 on ABC.