The Snubs and Surprises of the 2018 Oscar Nominations


Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread” supporting actress: She gave a disquieting performance as the wry, watchful sister and business partner to Mr. Day-Lewis’s couturier. Well known on the other side of the pond for her stage and film work with Mike Leigh, Ms. Manville is a less-familiar face to American audiences, and, this year, Oscars forecasters had her on a long list behind Holly Hunter (“The Big Sick”) and Hong Chau (“Downsizing”). Instead, she landed her first Academy Award nomination.

The Snubs


After making many year-end best lists, “Wonder Woman” failed to get any love from the academy. Credit Clay Enos/DC Comics and Warner Bros.

“Wonder Woman”: Always a long shot despite its enormous commercial appeal, “Wonder Woman” still had a marvelous run, appearing on various Top 10 lists at the end of the year, getting nominated by the Producers Guild, and showing Hollywood honchos that an action movie about a woman (Gal Gadot) directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins) could make serious bank. But the film lacked real awards prospects in two key categories — acting and directing — which winnowed down its best-picture chances considerably.

James Franco: We will never know how much the accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior hurt Mr. Franco’s chances for a best-actor nomination for his lead role in “The Disaster Artist.” The allegations emerged on Jan. 11, Oscar nomination voting closed the next day, and some prognosticators guessed that Mr. Franco, who has denied any wrongdoing, might still squeak in. The fact that “The Disaster Artist” was a satirical film about a terrible film might have hurt his chances with the academy. Regardless, his snub makes for one less awkward moment at the ceremony.

“Mudbound” and Dee Rees: Her epic tale of two families, one black, the other white, eking out hardscrabble existences in the World War II-era South has every hallmark of an Oscar movie. A Sundance favorite scooped up by Netflix, it did land other nods, including a supporting actress nomination for Mary J. Blige. But the film failed to win over enough academy voters to nab a best-picture slot or a best-director one for Ms. Rees.

Martin McDonagh: He was seen as a shoo-in in the best director category, after earning Directors Guild and Golden Globe nominations for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a heavy favorite in the Oscar race. Chances are that Mr. McDonagh was edged out by Paul Thomas Anderson, whose “Phantom Thread” ended up with six nominations.

“Jane”: This documentary by Brett Morgen about the beloved primatologist Jane Goodall had all the markings of an Oscar hit. It won precursor awards and nominations, including a best documentary prize from the Producers Guild, earned a 99 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and held the top spot on many prognosticators’ lists. Yet the academy’s documentary branch voters largely opted for grittier fare.

Jessica Chastain: Given the competition for best actress, it wasn’t a shocker that this two-time nominee was passed over for her lead performance in Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game.” Playing a former ski champion who runs a high-stakes poker game, Ms. Chastain displayed a variant of the detached steeliness that has been a through-line in many of her recent characters (in, for example “Zero Dark Thirty” and “A Most Violent Year”) but it wasn’t enough to woo the academy.

Armie Hammer: He was been working hard in recent years to break from commercial fare. He portrayed a conflicted slave owner in the 2016 “The Birth of a Nation,” and, more stirringly, a golden-boy graduate student who falls for a teenage boy in “Call Me by Your Name,” a gay coming-of-age story set in Italy. The performance earned him a nomination for a Golden Globe but not a SAG Award, which meant the Oscar nomination was a tougher get.

“The Big Sick” and Holly Hunter: Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, drew this tenderhearted rom-com from their own love story, which also served as a window into the dislocation and racism endured by immigrants — especially Muslim ones. Still, the film was indubitably a comedy, a genre that academy members tend to dismiss as lightweight, making it a long shot for best picture, even if it did earn a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for best ensemble. Holly Hunter was expected to get a supporting actress nomination, but was also left out. The film landed just one nomination, for best original screenplay.

Steven Spielberg: “The Post” had all the trappings of a traditional Oscar shoo-in — Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, a story from the history books that feels more urgent than ever — and while it claimed a spot on the best-picture list, Mr. Spielberg was outshone by fresher up-and-coming directors like Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele. This is a pattern the academy tends to hew to when it comes to Mr. Spielberg, a two-time Oscar-winning director. “War Horse” and “Bridge of Spies” both ended up with nods for best picture but not director.

“The Florida Project”: This tale of a young mother and her 6-year-old daughter living hand-to-mouth in a seedy Orlando-area motel drew near-universal acclaim for the writer-director Sean Baker, who broke through in 2015 with “Tangerine.” But despite an early awards season drumbeat, and a best supporting actor nomination for one of its stars, Willem Dafoe, this art-house film did not make the academy’s final list.

Tom Hanks: He is a two-time best-actor Oscar winner — for the 1993 film “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump” the next year — but he hasn’t been nominated by the Academy since 2001, when he was up for best actor in “Cast Away.” In “The Post,” Mr. Hanks plays the irascible Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, effortlessly slipping into a role indelibly played by Jason Robards in “All the President’s Men.” Especially given the times, it was a good role to end Mr. Hanks’s drought, but the academy evidently did not concur.

Correction: January 23, 2018

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of times Denzel Washington has been nominated for an Oscar. His nod for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” brings the total to nine, not eight. An earlier version also misstated the sponsor of photography by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. It was the Farm Security Administration, not the Works Progress Administration.

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