Oscar 2018: Trends and Facts

Guillermo del Toro’s romantic fable and love letter to films of his youth, The Shae of Water, dominated the 90th Academy Awards nominations, picking up a leading 13 nominations.

It was followed by “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” with 9 nominations, and “Dunkirk” with 7 nominations. All three films earned best picture nods.

The rest of the category was rounded out by “Call Me By Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Get Out,” “Phantom Thread,” and “The Post.”

“This has been a remarkable year for the movies,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President John Bailey said before nominations were announced.

Indeed it was, but as much for what happened behind-the-scenes as for the on-screen work on display. That’s because this year’s Oscars are unfolding at a time of tumult for the movie business. In October, dozens of women stepped forward to accuse mogul and producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault. Weinstein was a mainstay of awards season, credited with creating the modern Oscar campaign (a seemingly endless parade of celebrity grip-and-grins paired with a whisper network aimed at crippling the perceived frontrunners). Since the allegations broke, Weinstein has been fired from his company and drummed out of the industry. But the issue has only widened. Scores of big names — a group ranging from Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Dustin Hoffman to A-list director and film financier Brett Ratner — have all been accused of sexual misconduct or assault, often at the cost of their careers.

Spacey’s fall ended up working to the advantage of one nominee. Christopher Plummer was nominated for best supporting actor after he became a last-minute replacement for Spacey in “All the Money in the World,” filming his part as oil baron J. Paul Getty in a matter of weeks after principal photography had been completed. At 88, he is the oldest Oscar nominee in history.

Other performers were bruised by the scandal. James Franco had been viewed as a lead actor contender for his work in “The Disaster Artist.” His candidacy was undone, however, after allegations of misconduct involving students at his acting school broke in the midst of Oscar campaigning. When best actor nominations were announced, Franco’s name wasn’t among them.

Barrier-breaking in Key Categories.

Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar for her work in “Mudbound.”

Greta Gerwig  is only the fifth woman nominated in the best director category for bringing “Lady Bird,” a tender coming-of-age story, to the screen.

“Get Out” Jordan Peele became the fifth black man nominated in the best director category.

Meryl Streep extended her record streak of nominations, picking up a 21st nod for her performance as a newspaper publisher in “The Post.”

Spielberg failed to pick up a directing nomination for his work on “The Post,” while Tom Hanks was ignored for his performance as crusading editor Ben Bradlee in the film.

Hong Chau was passed over for her work as a Vietnamese refugee in “Downsizing,” probably because the picture was both an artistic and commercial flop.

Luca Guadagnino, the Italian auteur behind “Call Me By Your Name,” failed to pick up a directing nod despite earning rave reviews.

“Three Billboards” demonstrated its awards heft, but Martin McDonagh’s directing wasn’t among the film’s nine nominations. The film is seen as a best picture front-runner after it picked up a Producers Guild of America honor last weekend. McDonagh was recognized for producing the movie and for writing its screenplay.

The other nominated directors include Peele, Gerwig, del Toro, and, in something of an upset, “Phantom Thread’s” Paul Thomas Anderson.

With Franco out of the mix and Hanks overlooked, the leading actor category comes down to Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), and Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”).

Oldman is viewed as the actor to beat for his chameleonic turn as Winston Churchill. It will also mark something of a send-off for Day Lewis, a three-time winner and six-time nominee. The actor announced his retirement last summer after completing his work as an obsessive designer in “Phantom Thread.”

In addition to Streep, the best actress category is comprised of Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”), Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”), and Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”).

McDormand has received many of the early awards for her work as an ornery mother out to revenger her daughter’s rape and murder, earning Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild statues for her work.

“I come out of the woods every few years,” she said while accepting her Screen Actors Guild Award last weekend. “There’s a lot of young one’s coming out, too, and they need doorstops, too.”

Fewer people are going to theaters. Domestic attendance in 2017 fell to its lowest levels in decades and the industry is still grappling with how to compete with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon that offer cheap content.

Netflix

Often overlooked by the Academy, Netflix had a good Oscar run, earning seven nominations, including several key nods for “Mudbound” and the Russian doping documentary “Icarus.”

Amazon was largely shut out, with a single nomination, screenplay for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s “The Big Sick.”

Last year’s best picture winner, “Moonlight,” was a low-budget indie.

This year’s best picture nominees were primarily art house productions.

Only “Dunkirk” and “Get Out” earned north of $100 million, for instance, while the likes of “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards,” and “Lady Bird” were indie players or art house divisions of major studios.

The Oscars will be handed out on March 4, 2018 on ABC. Late night host Jimmy Kimmel will return for his second stint as emceed.

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