Snubs, Surprises, and Superheroes: Thoughts on the 2019 Oscar Nominees

Snubs, Surprises, and Superheroes: Thoughts on the 2019 Oscar Nominees

Once again we find ourselves in the thick of awards season about to embark on the final stretch towards the Academy Awards. With the nominees announced this morning, the months of guesswork and prognostication about who would score the coveted nominations can finally be put to rest. Normally by this point many of the awards races seem like they’ve already been decided, the frontrunners solidified in their acclaim with a boatload of awards already won. This is not one of those years, as there is no definite lock for most of the awards. Roma and The Favourite lead the field with ten nominations apiece, but A Star is Born and Vice, both with eight nominations, and Black Panther with seven linger just behind them. Green Book, which has won many of the other lead-up awards, only managed to get five nominations, taking the wind out of its Best Picture hopes. There is much that can be said about this pool of nominees, so I’ve chosen to highlight a few surprises, snubs, and general thoughts that stand out to me below. A full list of the nominees can be found at the end of the article.


Black Panther

Black Panther has achieved what no other superhero movie has before: secured a nomination for Best Picture. The category expanded to allow for the nomination of up to ten movies in the aftermath of The Dark Knight (2008) being left out of the running, but in the ensuing years no movie from the genre ever broke through. That changes this year as Black Panther continues breaking new ground in terms of storytelling, representation, and now awards season. It’s also worth noting that Best Picture is only one of seven nominations the movie received, including Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Mixing. Sadly, Ryan Coogler’s inspired direction and Michael B. Jordan’s memorable turn as Erik Killmonger were left out in the cold, but a Best Picture nod is quite the consolation prize.


Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke has long been a reliably solid presence in movies of all genres and inclinations. As a young man he burst onto the screen with a memorable turn in the poignant coming-of-age drama Dead Poets Society (1989). He then moved on to philosophical science fiction with Gattaca (1997) and has established an impressive run of critical hits in his creative partnership with Richard Linklater with the Before trilogy and Boyhood (2014). So it carries weight to say that his work in the Paul Schrader-directed First Reformed (2018) is a career topping moment (so far) for Hawke, and organizations from the Chicago Film Critics Association to the Gotham Awards have heaped awards on him in response. And so it came as a true shock to see him left out of the running for Best Actor. This is not to diminish the work done by the nominees, but rather to say that in my eyes none of them deliver work more nuanced or captivating than Hawke’s, and it is a shame that the Academy failed to recognize him.


LGBTQ+ Inclusion

The past decade has seen an active process of considering and re-working the inclusivity of the Academy Awards to better reflect the diverse country and world that we live in. The 2019 nominees encompass a number of films that feature queer characters, storylines, and themes, which is a welcome change. GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis released a statement saying “today’s list of Oscar nominees reflect a banner year for LGBTQ inclusion in film and a signal that the Academy and its members are rightfully prioritizing diverse storytelling at a time when audiences and critics alike are calling for more.” Movies such as The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Green Book all feature queer characters (plus A Star is Born recognizes how beloved Lady Gaga is by the drag community) and all are critical and pop culture behemoths, which led to their sweeping recognition this awards season.


Won’t You be My Neighbor?

While I may be stunned by Ethan Hawke’s acting snub, I am even more shocked and saddened by the exclusion of Won’t You be My Neighbor? from the field of nominees for Best Documentary Feature. Earlier this year I wrote of my love for Morgan Neville’s poignant and insightful feature about the indomitable Mr. Fred Rogers and the way he revolutionized television during the run of his various programmes. In that piece I noted how Mr. Rogers saw the importance of providing education and support for children, and that “he and his show chose to never turn away from pain or discomfort” in the world, choosing instead to help children grow through it. The documentary connected with audiences nationwide who had grown up with Mr. Rogers, and even those who knew nothing of him but went out on a limb to see the movie. It is a nearly impeccable piece of filmmaking, and I find it hard to understand how it was left off the ballot.



Alfonso Cuarón’s art house semi-autobiographical film Roma is looking more and more like the movie to beat this awards season, an impressive feat considering that it is a black and white foreign language film released through Netflix, all classifications that have limited voter appeal for works in the past. Yet, today it became only the ninth film to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film as well as Best Picture, and furthermore seems poised to be the first to ever win both. Roma also bears the distinction of becoming the first movie released through Netflix to ever be nominated for Best Picture, and so signals that the streaming giant may have finally found a way to break into the awards season dominance that has thus far eluded it. Regardless of its number of ‘firsts,’ Roma is quite simply a great film and it is exciting and encouraging to see the Academy heap recognition on such a deserving title.


Bradley Cooper – Best Director

Much of the buzz for A Star is Born has focused on Lady Gaga’s show-stealing turn as Ally, a performance that I believe puts her on par with Judy Garland’s in the the 1954 movie of the same name. As a result, Bradley Cooper, who pulled quadruple duty as actor, writer, producer, and director, has not received as much recognition for the incredible work that he put in. Nonetheless he has consistently scored nominations and wins for his direction as awards season has progressed, and so it is shocking that he was snubbed from a nomination for Best Director, all the more surprising when it is so rare  for a strong Best Picture nominee to not also secure a Best Director nod. Looking at the list of Best Director nominees I can’t help but imagine that the slot occupied by Adam McKay for his work on Vice would be better filled by Cooper. Vice was far from McKay’s best work and was much more memorable for the performances than his directing. I would even argue McKay’s directing is what often undercut the movie, as opposed to Cooper’s, which helped to elevate already impressive performances, production design, and sound design.


Eighth Grade

For all of the snubs and surprises, the most disappointing takeaway from the nominations for me is the fact that Bo Burnham’s brilliant Eighth Grade was entirely shut out. It was always going to be a longshot for the micro-indie without a single ‘known’ performer to break into the awards season, but word-of-mouth love for its star Elsie Fisher and Burnham’s hilarious and insightful screenplay seemed to sustain it towards at least a nomination or two. I hoped it would take the path of last year’s The Florida Project (2017), which was critically acclaimed. Even without the wide popularity to propel it into the awards conversation at large it secured Willem Dafoe a much-deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actor. But alas, this is not the case here, even as Fisher is as deserving of recognition as Dafoe. I cannot recommend Eighth Grade more highly and suggest that everyone puts it at the top of their watchlists. It really is that good.




Best Picture:

“Black Panther”


“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”


“A Star Is Born”



Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”

Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”


Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”


Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”

Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”

Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Sam Rockwell, “Vice”


Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”



Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Adam McKay, “Vice”


Animated Feature:

“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird

“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson

“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda

“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman


Animated Short:

“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine

“Bao,” Domee Shi

“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall

“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas

“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez


Adapted Screenplay:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen

“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins

“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters


Original Screenplay:

“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara

“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader

“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón

“Vice,” Adam McKay



“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal

“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan

“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel

“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón

“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique


Best Documentary Feature:

“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross

“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu

“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki

“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen


Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins

“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald

“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry

“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi


Best Live Action Short Film:

“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe

“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte

“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley

“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen

“Skin,” Guy Nattiv


Best Foreign Language Film:

“Capernaum” (Lebanon)

“Cold War” (Poland)

“Never Look Away” (Germany)

“Roma” (Mexico)

“Shoplifters” (Japan)


Film Editing:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman

“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito

“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis

“Vice,” Hank Corwin


Sound Editing:

“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst

“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan

“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl

“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay


Sound Mixing:

“Black Panther”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“First Man”


“A Star Is Born”


Production Design:

“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler

“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas

“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton

“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim

“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez


Original Score:

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard

“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell

“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat

“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman


Original Song:

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA

“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson

“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice

“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch


Makeup and Hair:


“Mary Queen of Scots”



Costume Design:

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres

“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter

“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell

“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell

“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne


Visual Effects:

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Christopher Robin”

“First Man”

“Ready Player One”

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”


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