This year’s Oscar nominations are, at once, entirely predictable and utterly incredible. Call Me By Your Name and The Shape of Water were presumed Best Picture nominees — they are now confirmed Best Picture nominees — but they’re also movies that will forever change the way you look at the peach and fish emojis. But beyond Blumhouse Productions, the home of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, now having two Oscar contenders on its roster (Whiplash and Get Out), the nominations of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences suggests a changing organization that’s trying to undo much of the ceremony’s alleged predictability and disrupt the idea of “Oscar bait.”
Here are some of the biggest shake-ups from previous years, as seen through (most but not all of) the Best Picture nominees.
Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name‘s nomination is big news for peach lovers everywhere (and I don’t mean people who love eating peaches…), but an even bigger deal for actors in their 20s. Timothée Chalamet, 22, and Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya, 28, are the first pair of under-30 actors to be nominated for Best Actor in the same year ever; the Call Me By Your Name star is also the youngest nominee since Mickey Rooney in 1939 for Babes in Arms. If he wins, he would break the current record, held by The Pianist‘s Adrien Brody, by seven years.
This is An Extremely Oscar Movie. Moving on.
Remember when Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, but The Reader was? (To quote Hugh Jackman, “I haven’t seen The Reader.”) The Academy does, which is why since 2009, the number of nominations has gone from a maximum of five to 10. This year, there are nine potential winners, including Dunkirk, directed by… Christopher Nolan. The World War II epic is not only his first film to receive Best Picture consideration, but a reminder that a summer blockbuster can be just as stunning as a mid-December prestige drama.
Even if Get Out doesn’t win a single award (although I think it has a shot in the writing category), Jordan Peele has already made Oscars history. He’s only the third person ever to receive Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay nods for his first feature film as a director, joining Warren Beatty (Heaven Can Wait) and James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment). Peele’s also only the fifth black person to be nominated for Best Director, and fourth for Best Original Screenplay. As noted by Kyle Buchanan, Get Out is the second film to be released in February and still score a Best Picture nomination (The Silence of the Lambs is the other). There’s hope for you yet, Fifty Shades Freed.
The last time a woman was nominated for Best Director was in 2009, when Kathryn Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker. The lack of representation isn’t good, but it gets worse. In the 90-year history of the Academy Awards, only five women have ever been nominated: Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), Bigelow, and now Gerwig. The glass-half-full approach is to say, “Well, there were only two women for the first 75 years of the Oscars, but there’s been three in the 15 years since,” but, no. The Oscars needs to do better, as does the film industry. We need to get to a place where it’s no longer a big deal when a woman is nominated.
Phantom Thread is a wonderful film and you should see it, if only for Daniel Day-Lewis’ catty putdowns, but it’s not making any history.
See: Darkest Hour.
The Shape of Water
Only one horror movie has ever won Best Picture: The Silence of the Lambs. The Shape of Water isn’t exactly a horror movie — it’s more horror-adjacent; maybe horror-romance-fantasy — but it’s close enough to count. (Get Out is even closer, despite it being considered a “Musical or Comedy Motion Picture” by the Golden Globes.) There’s a monster, it’s inspired by Creature from the Black Lagoon, and director Guillermo del Toro endorsed this New York Times article asking, “Why Are We Ashamed to Call Get Out and The Shape of Water Horror Films?” The Shape of Water is also the first film to be nominated for Best Picture to feature a mute woman having sex with a fish-man and his retractable penis, unless there’s a scene from Coal Miner’s Daughter I’m forgetting.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
As someone who’s firmly Team Florida Project, I’m still aghast (not a ghost, although that should have been represented, too) that Sean Baker’s loving and humane film was left out of the Best Picture conversation. Not that it had a chance against Three Billboards, the presumed frontrunner. Or it was, until Martin McDonagh wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Only four films have won Best Picture without their directors also scoring a nomination: Wings (1927/28), Grand Hotel (1931/32), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and Argo (2012).
The window is suddenly wide open for Get Out to sneak through.