Eight best picture nominations emerged on Tuesday morning: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Vice, Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, Roma and A Star Is Born. They are comedic and dramatic, based on real events and conjured from the pages of comics, in color and in black and white.
If you wanted to take the nominations as a whole as a sign of the exciting year that 2018 was, you might focus on the best actress nomination for Yalitza Aparicio, the first-time actress who anchors Alfonso Cuaron’s beautiful Roma, a black-and-white subtitled film widely available on Netflix. You might focus on the seven nominations for Black Panther, the best director nomination for Paweł Pawlikowski for Poland’s Cold War, or the fact that both of the most-nominated films with ten nods apiece, Roma and The Favourite, are stories of women not oriented around their relationships to men. You might thrill to the best animated feature nomination for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, which reimagined the superhero film — narratively, visually and culturally.
On the other hand, if you wanted to see those nominations through the lens of their considerable disappointments, you might note the lack of best picture or best director nominations for Barry Jenkins’ beautiful and unforgettable If Beale Street Could Talk; the failure to nominate Ryan Coogler, one of Hollywood’s best rising directors, for the triumph of Black Panther; the failure to nominate any women directors at all again and very few women screenwriters again; or the complete shutout of spectacular achievements like Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade and Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace. It would have been lovely to see a nod for Michelle Yeoh for Crazy Rich Asians in a year in which the film was such a powerful force.
There are always delights and there is always dismay. It’s lovely to see Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant nominated for their work in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and to see the script from Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty nominated. But where is the director, Marielle Heller? Where is the film’s best picture nomination? It’s thrilling to see Free Solo, an exciting and unconventional rock-climbing documentary, nominated for best documentary feature. But nothing for Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a fine film that also resonated beautifully with audiences?
The eye of the beholder is a tricky thing.