The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the Oscars 2019 this week, and the list is full of surprises.
The Oscars has some wild cards this year — both in who was let in, and who was kept out. The awards show comes with a whole lot of assumptions from fans and viewers, who feel that they can predict it pretty accurately every year. However, the 91st Academy Awards are different, perhaps showing fans that the organizers are ready for change.
The Oscars are in a time of flux right now. With ratings dropping year-by-year, and few celebrities interested in the hosting gig, the show is in need of some updates. Those are on the way, as the Academy has announced that a new pop movie category will be added in coming years. In the meantime, the show has pivoted hard to take contemporary tastes into consideration.
Obviously, there are still gaps in the Academy's selection process, and biases to be accounted for. Still, that is no reason not to celebrate the upheavals coming at us next month when the award ceremony airs. A full list of nominees is available here, and a list of year's biggest snubs is available here.
Now let's take a look at some the biggest surprises at the 2019 Oscars.
Despite at least a decade of dominating the box office and the cultural conversation, superhero films have not made it to the Oscars — until now. This momentous occasion is doubly special, as Black Panther is also a huge symbolic victory for black audiences. It was also created by a lot of talented people of color, putting some much needed diversity on the nomination list.
While Ryan Coogler did not get a nomination for best director, Hanna Beachler did become the first African-American woman to be nominated for best production design. Of course, if the movie wins best picture, the victory will go to everyone involved.
Willem Dafoe scored a nomination for best leading actor in At Eternity's Gate, despite the movie's mediocre commercial performance. The nod surprised many people — in many cases simply because they had not heard about the movie until then. Still, critics raved about At Eternity's Gate, and Dafoe's portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh, so perhaps we should have seen this one coming.
Spike Lee's first nomination for best director feels far too late in his storied career. Moreover, it seems bizarre that the Academy might recognize him for BLacKkKlansman, as his past movies include Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, among many others. Many are now suggesting that the Academy is pulling a Leonardo DiCaprio on Lee, however, fans of BlacKkKlansman tend to disagree.
It is hard to believe than in the same year, another super hero movie got an Oscar nomination as well — and this one features John Mulaney as a super-powered pig. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse has a real shot in the best animated feature category, especially since its the most recent release among all the contenders.
At 74-years-old, even Sam Elliott was pleasantly surprised by his first Oscar nomination. He is up for best supporting actor in A Star Is Born, and when the list was announced he joked to Deadline: "It's about f—ing time."
“I think my biggest takeaway is just how fortunate I am," he went on more seriously. "Number one, to still be in the game, but to have an opportunity to work with two people like Bradley and Stefani (Lady Gaga), it’s just extraordinary. Fifty years into the game and all of a sudden to have anything to do with this, to be connected with a film like this, it’s just a wonderful gift."
Legendary screenwriter Paul Schrader also got his first nomination this year at the age of 72. Schrader wrote the screenplay for First Reformed, but like many other nominees, he may be getting unofficial recognition for a lifetime of excellent work, including scripts for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.
Roma is an Oscars landmark in two ways: First, it is Netflix's first official entry into the competition. The Academy has been hesitant to accept streaming movies, but Netflix distributed the lauded foreign film, making it the company's Oscars debut.
In addition, the cast got a surprise when Marina de Tavira's name appeared in the best supporting actress category. While the movie and some of its cast were expected to turn up in the nominations, Tavira's inclusion was a welcome shock to many.
Finally, the Academy is showing that it can still lead viewers to hidden gems while honoring the blockbusters they love by nominating Pawel Pawlikowski for best director. Pawlikowski directed Cold War, a little known Polish film that earned just $750,000 at the box office. Among those who have seen it, the movie is adored, so perhaps the recognition will help catapult it into public consciousness.