Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards were announced this morning, and while there are plenty of people who can be upset at the fact at they were overlooked (hello, major snubs!), there are an equal number of places we can point at and say, "The Academy got this right." Marvel Studios has their first Best Picture nominee! Netflix is proving to be a major player (thanks to Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)! Amy Adams continues to be an Academy darling... but can she finally win?
Here are the five Oscar nominations (or group of nominees) that have us very excited this morning. What are yours?
The Best Original Song Nominees
It's not that the songs chosen by the Academy are particularly brilliant. In fact, right after it was revealed that "Shallow" was the song chose from A Star is Born, a heated debate immediately broke out in the CinemaBlend GChat about which songs from Bradley Cooper's movie are better. Instead, it's about the fact that most of these selections could lead to incredible live moments during the Oscars telecast.
I have been arguing that -- because there's no host this year -- the Academy Awards should begin with a performance of "Shallow" by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. That would be better than any monologue from a hired-gun comedian. And if Emily Blunt gets up to sing "Where the Lost Things Go" from Mary Poppins Returns, I will become a blubbering puddle of emotions. Toss in Tim Blake Nelson riding a horse across the stage singing "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings," and this year's crop of songs could make the Oscars very special.
Overall, it was a spectacular day for Alfonso Cuaron's Roma. The movie leads all nominated films with 10 total recognitions -- tied with The Favourite, which also racked up ten. To me, it's more impressive that Roma found such success with the Academy today because it is a foreign-language, black-and-white film with NO name actors upon which to sell the story, and it's produced by a streaming giant... a no-no with the Academy. (Or so we thought.)
However, the one Oscar nomination out of the 10 that has us most excited is for Roma's cinematography. Director Alfonso Cuaron originally planned to collaborate with famed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (himself a three-time Oscar winner), but schedules prevented them from linking up on Roma. So Cuaron DP'd the film himself, and he created a visually stunning work that's worthy of Chivo's eye. You can lose yourself in still frames of Roma, and if there is ONE Oscar it most deserves, it's this one.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for Best Animated Feature
There's a fear that, if a movie is released too late in the game, it gets overlooked by the sheer crush of Oscar contenders packing theaters at the end of the year. Ironically, there's also a fear that if you get released too early in the year, you get forgotten, as well. What is that "Oscar release date" sweet spot? No matter the timing, overall quality and positive word of mouth put Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on the Academy's radar, and we're thrilled it is in the Animated Feature category.
Mind you, this tends to be a category that is dominated by Disney and Pixar over the years. And Spider-Man will have to fend off both, as Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet received nominations as well. But in our opinion, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the better film. It's the best interpretation of the Spider-Man mythology put to the screen. And it revolutionized what storytellers can do with animation. It deserves an Oscar this year.
Sam Elliott for A Star is Born
It was a good day, overall, for A Star is Born. Any time you can emerge with a Best Picture nomination, you are at the top of the game. Yes, Bradley Cooper was a massive snub in the Best Director category, but A Star is Born nabbed Best Actor and Actress, as well as Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography.
Which is great. But the one that we're very excited about is Sam Elliott, a legend of the silver screen who picks up his first Oscar nomination, even though he has been in an incredible number of great films over the years. And because he was overlooked by a couple of organizations leading up to the Oscars, there was concern that the Academy might miss him. They didn't, and we are thrilled. At the very least, it means that we will get his 12 notes speech as his Oscars clip.
Black Panther for Best Picture
As mentioned above, it was an historic day for superhero movies at the Oscars. And they didn't even need a superfluous Popular Movie category to make headlines! Marvel Studios now has a Best Picture nominee in Black Panther, with the origin story earning 7 total nominations, including the top category. Very impressive. And in a year where the field is wide open, with no real movie calling itself a comfortable frontrunner, the race for Picture truly begins now.
But where can Marvel go from here? That's what I find most invigorating. No longer are they simply peddling blockbuster fluff. They have shown the potential to produce Oscar-caliber films, and it feels like they are ready to continue pushing the envelope in Phase Four (if that's what Phase Four is called). Seeing Black Panther in the Best Picture race was a pleasant surprise, but also a comforting sign of bigger things to come, we believe.