Oscar nominations 2019: Five things we learnt

  • It’s a mix of traditional and surprising choices in the major Oscar categories this year  
  • Half of the Best Picture roster looks like it always does: a three-hankie drama (A Star is Born), an issue film (Green Book), a blockbuster (Black Panther) and a biopic (Bohemian Rhapsody)

NEW DELHI: On 22 January, Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross announced the 2019 Academy Award nominations. Roma and The Favourite walked away with 10 each; A Star is Born and Vice were close behind, with 8 apiece. With a month to go, it remains to be seen how the odds will fluctuate, and whether the Academy will side with tradition (A Star is Born, Green Book) or change (Roma, The Favourite). Here are five things we learnt:

It’s a good time to be a foreign artist in Hollywood

For perhaps the first time ever, three nominations for Best Director went to artists from non-English-speaking countries: Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) and Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War). Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) is in the race for best actress. Alfonso Cuaron and Lukasz Zal were nominated for cinematography for Roma and Cold War respectively. Goran Lundstrom and Pamela Goldammer got a surprise makeup and hairstyling nomination for the German film Border. Part of this is Netflix pushing Roma and Amazon Cold War, but it also underlines the extent to which American film today depends on foreign talent for new ideas.

It’s establishment versus disruptors for Best Picture

Half of the Best Picture roster looks like it always does: a three-hankie drama (A Star is Born), an issue film (Green Book), a blockbuster (Black Panther) and a biopic (Bohemian Rhapsody). But the other half is as exciting as the Academy voting structure will permit. There’s Vice, a coruscating satire made with Hollywood money and stars. You have two very different kinds of personal filmmaking: Spike Lee’s fire-breathing BlacKkKlansman and Alfonso Cuaron’s intimate epic Roma. Finally, there’s Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark royal comedy The Favourite.

The Favourite is a surprise frontrunner

Everyone was expecting a Best Actress nomination for The Favourite star Olivia Colman, and possible Best Picture and Screenplay nods for the film. But it’s unlikely the makers of this acid historical comedy could have anticipated tying with Roma for the most nominations. Best Picture nominees Green Book and A Star is Born are more likely to appeal to a broad swathe of voters, but as the last few years have shown, it’s getting tougher to predict the top award.

Ethan Hawke can’t catch a break

That Hawke has won the New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, San Diego, Vancouver and Toronto critics circle awards for best actor in 2018, but hasn’t been nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar, tells you something about the kind of acting turns the popular awards are interested in. As a pastor undergoing a colossal crisis of faith, Hawke turns in a stunning performance: clenched, guilt-wracked, human. It may have been a bit too real for Academy voters, who’ve opted for five showy performances instead.

‘First Man’ misses out

The Oscars don’t like a failure. Damien Chazelle’s First Man seemed like the sort of film that would score with Academy voters, but the film’s tepid box-office seems to have haunted its awards season chances. The film is in the running for Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects (its stellar in-camera effects make it a deserving, if unlikely, winner). But Chazelle deserved a nomination for Best Director as much as he did with La La Land (he won that year), and Justin Hurwitz’s score being ignored is plain baffling.

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