NEW YORK — Oscar voters on Tuesday showered Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite with a leading 10 nominations for the 91st Academy Awards, while two dominant but contentious Hollywood forces — Netflix and Marvel — each scored their first best picture nomination.
Though many expected A Star Is Born, Bradley Cooper’s revival of one of Hollywood’s most remade show business myths, to top the nominations, Cooper was surprisingly overlooked as director and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences instead put its fullest support behind a pair of indies by international directors.
With the black-and-white, Spanish-language Roma, Netflix scored its first best picture nomination, a prize the streaming giant has dearly sought. Marvel, too, joined the club with Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture.
Cuaron tied the record for most decorated Oscar nominee ever for one film with four individual nods for Roma, his deeply personal exhumation of his Mexico City childhood. Cuaron was nominated for direction, cinematography, original screenplay and best picture. Only Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) and Warren Beatty (who did it twice with Reds and Heaven Can Wait) have matched the four-nod feat.
Cuaron, previously a six-time nominee and winner for directing Gravity, said by phone from London that the nominations for such a personal film were more meaningful to him, as was the attention for a film about a humble indigenous domestic worker (Yalitza Aparicio, who was nominated for best actress). He praised Netflix for its commitment to his film.
“Cinema needs the opportunity to be diverse,” Cuaron said. “What mainstream cinema and the theatrical experience has lacked in general is diversity. And I’m talking about diversity in terms of stories and characters and ways of doing films.”
Just as rewarded Tuesday was Lanthimos’ period romp, which resounded most in the acting categories thanks to its trio of actresses: Olivia Colman in the best actress category, and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in supporting.
Along with Roma, Black Panther and The Favourite, the eight nominees for best picture were: Peter Farrelly’s interracial road trip tale “Green Book,” Spike Lee’s white supremacist evisceration BlacKkKlansman, the Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, Adam McKay’s highly critical Dick Cheney biopic Vice and A Star Is Born, which still landed eight nominations, including best actress for Lady Gaga and best supporting actor for Sam Elliott.
Black Panther, the year’s biggest domestic box-office hit and a bona fide cultural event, finally cracked the category long kryptonite to superheroes . Despite the overwhelming popularity of comic book movies, they had previously been shunned from Hollywood’s top honour to the consternation of some industry insiders. After The Dark Knight was snubbed in 2009, the academy expanded the best picture category from five to up to 10 nominees.
The lush, big-budget craft of Black Panther was rewarded with seven total nominations, including Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart’s production design, Terence Blanchard’s score, Ruth Carter’s costume design and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s song All the Stars. Beachler became the first African-American nominated for production design.
“To break down a wall like that, to be your ancestors’ wildest dreams, to show other young women of colour and boys and girls that you can do whatever you want no matter what struggles you have in your life — all of that. That’s what it means to me,” said Beachler, talking by phone from the Cincinnati set of Todd Haynes’ latest.
There has likewise been resistance among some academy members to awarding Netflix films since the company typically bypasses movie theatres. Steven Spielberg has said Netflix films are more like TV movies and deserve an Emmy, not an Oscar . Netflix altered its policy for Roma and the Coen brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (which earned three unexpected nods), premiering them first in theatres before debuting them on Netflix. In turn, it was rewarded with a 15 nominations overall, second only to Disney’s 17.
Three decades after landing a writing nod for 1989’s Do the Right Thing, Spike Lee was nominated for his first directing Oscar for BlacKkKlansman.
“Thirty years is a long time, ain’t it?” Lee said by phone Tuesday with a hearty laugh. The 61-year-old filmmaker lamented the oversight of his lead actor, John David Washington, whom he consoled with a prediction of future awards: “Young blood, you’ll be here.” But Lee took pride in his film’s six nominations, and he likes his odds.
“BlacKkKlansman is the dark horse — pun intended,” said Lee, cackling. “You know what? That’s fitting. I’ve always been an underdog, from the very beginning, from film school. That narrative has not changed. And I like that position.”
The other directing nominees were Lanthimos, Cuaron, Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War) and McKay (Vice) — a field that, a year after continued focus on gender inequality in Hollywood, included no female directors. Some had campaigned for Debra Granik (Leave No Trace) or Chloe Zhao (The Rider) to become the sixth woman ever nominated for best director.