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What Netflix Backlash? The 2019 Oscar Nominations Snubs and Surprises

"Roma" is shaping up to be a strong best Picture candidate, but it has competition.


Among the biggest surprises of the 2019 Oscar race: There’s no such thing as a Netflix backlash. Not only did the most dominant force in Hollywood land 15 Oscar nominations, including “Roma” (10) and three surprise craft nods for the Coen brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” but “Roma” is a historic achievement. It’s the 10th foreign-language nominee that also contends for Best Picture, tying Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) for the most nominations earned by a foreign-language film.

Alfonso Cuarón also became the first filmmaker in Oscar history to land nominations for Picture, Director, and Cinematography. (He did not score a Best Editing slot, which he won for “Gravity” along with directing.) “Roma” is the fifth film to be nominated for Foreign Language Film and Best Picture in the same year. Each of the previous four — “Z” (1969), “Life Is Beautiful” (1998), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Amour” (2012) — won for Foreign Language Film, but not Best Picture. If “Roma” wins Best Picture, it will be a first for Netflix and for a foreign-language film. (Black-and-white winner “The Artist” was a French silent film.)

Emma Stone in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Emma Stone in “The Favourite”

Yorgos Lanthimos

As expected, among the eight nominees for Best Picture, “Roma” and “The Favourite” racked up 10 nominations each, followed by “A Star Is Born” and “Vice” with eight, “Black Panther” with seven, “BlacKkKlansman” with six, “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” with five, and “First Man” and “Mary Poppins Returns” with four. With so many popular movies in the Oscar fray, it’s likely more people will tune into the 91st Oscars on February 24 than in recent years, rooting for mainstream movies they actually care about — even with an Oscar host who’s MIA.

Golden Globe and Critics Choice winner “Roma” is a hybrid four-hankie drama driven by artistic and technological ambitions that delivers a strong message about social strata in Mexico. Cuarón is a studio director who used Hollywood’s cutting-edge technology to fashion a $15-million personal memoir financed by Participant Media and shot in Spanish in Mexico City. With surprise nominations for both Oaxaca schoolteacher Yalitza Aparicio and Supporting Actress Marina de Tavira, “Roma” shows support from the Academy acting branch for a Best Picture win, even without landing any SAG nominations. The actors’ branch has come through in the past for both non-pros (Haing S. Ngor of “The Killing Fields”) and Harold Russell (“The Best Years of Our Lives”) as well as for foreign-language stars such as Juliet Binoche and Marion Cotillard.

Cuarón’s cinephile dream commanded a more robust arthouse release than any Netflix film to date —holding strong in theaters long after the film was available for streaming — along with a lavish promotional campaign (yes, Netflix acquired all those Sunset Boulevard billboards). But while it may look like a small-scale arthouse movie in theatrical terms, Spanish speakers all over the world are cheering the movie, which may be more widely viewed in 190 countries on Netflix than Warner Bros. blockbuster release “A Star Is Born” ($409 million worldwide). (Of course, Netflix does not release these numbers.)

“A Star Is Born”

Warner Bros.

A reminder that being an early frontrunner is risky, Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” — a contemporary update of the backstage musical made three times before — wound up with eight nominations, including three for the triple-threat screenwriter-actor-director, who landed his fourth acting, first shared screenwriting and second producing nods, but no directing slot, while Lady Gaga is a double nominee for Best Actress (her first in that category, along with Supporting Actor Sam Elliott), and Best Original Song, her second song nomination (“The Hunting Ground”). “Shallow” is expected to win. Needless to say, Warners and the filmmakers hope that’s not the only statue they take home on Oscar night. Could Cooper build a sympathy vote for Picture or Actor? Warner Bros. did it with Ben Affleck and “Argo.”

Read More: ‘Roma’ Will Be the Best Picture Nominee to Beat

“A Star Is Born” scored perfectly with guild nominations, showing strong support from both actors and crafts, including SAG Ensemble, DGA, PGA, and WGA nods. Rookie Cooper crafted a moving romantic drama with compelling live performances by himself and Lady Gaga.

But “A Star Is Born” lost the Drama and Best Actor Golden Globes to producer Graham King’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which landed five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Editing, and Actor (Rami Malek), and the Critics Choice Award to “Roma,” while Lady Gaga lost the Globe to Glenn Close (“The Wife”), with whom she shared the Best Actress honors at the Critics Choice Awards. As impeccably crafted as the movie is, Cooper may have made a high degree of difficulty look too easy. While the movie does tick the show business box, like “Birdman” or “The Artist,” it notably lacks the gravitas of its Best Picture rivals.

In recent years, Academy voters have leaned into harder-hitting, socially conscious dramas like “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” and “12 Years a Slave.” Unusually, four Best Picture candidates are participating in this year’s inclusion/diversity narrative, including “Roma,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther” and PGA-winner “Green Book.” (PGA and SAG Ensemble nominee “Crazy Rich Asians” did not make the Oscar cut.) “Roma,” “BlacKkKlansman,” and “Vice” are overtly political, while “The Favourite” mocks irrational narcissist leaders like Donald Trump.

Spike Lee and Adam Driver on the set of “BlacKkKlansman”

Coming on strong with six Oscar nods is Spike Lee’s provocative true ’70s story “BlacKkKlansman” (Focus Features), which also boasts recognition from all four guilds, including a SAG Ensemble slot. After landing documentary (“Four Little Girls”) and Original Screenplay Oscar nominations (“Do the Right Thing”) as well as an Honorary Oscar, Lee finally scored his first Best Director and Best Picture nominations for “BlacKKKlansman,” as well as Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor (Adam Driver), Editing, and Original Score. He’s the sixth black filmmaker to land a directing nomination, and will challenge Cuaron for the Directing win.

Producers Sean McKittrick and Jordan Peele racked up their second Best Picture nomination in a row after “Get Out,” while that film’s other producer Jason Blum is on his third (“Whiplash”). And Focus Features wound up with a total of eight Oscar nods, including two surprise nominations for “Mary Queen of Scots,” for Best Costume and Hair & Makeup.

Michael B. Jordan - Erik Killmonger - BLACK PANTHER

Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger in “Black Panther”

Julia Horne (SPR)

Another historic feat: Marvel landed seven nominations, including its first Best Picture nomination, for Ryan Coogler’s SAG Ensemble and PGA nominee “Black Panther.” The critically lauded box-office chartbuster ($1.3 billion worldwide) marks the first superhero movie vying for Best Picture and boasts strong craft backing and landed a SAG Ensemble nod — but Michael B. Jordan did not land a hoped-for Supporting Actor Oscar spot. Nor did Coogler score with the Academy directors. While “Black Panther” is indubitably a cultural achievement, many still consider it a comic-book movie.

“The Favourite”

Fox Searchlight

More typical of recent Oscar entries is specialty hit “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight), which surprisingly did not land a SAG Ensemble nod, although its three stars received individual nominations. As expected, the movie achieved 10 nominations, including non-DGA nominee Yorgos Lanthimos for the visually sumptuous, wickedly funny portrait of a power-mad monarch (first-time Best Actress nominee Olivia Colman) romancing two ladies in waiting (Supporting Actress Oscar-winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz). The British movie leads the BAFTA field with 12 nominations, and Colman could follow her comedy Globe and Critics Choice wins with the Best Actress Oscar.

Another Searchlight release, Marielle Heller’s New York memoir “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” landed expected acting nods for the deliciously drunken performances of Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant as well as an Adapted Screenplay nomination for Nicole Holofcener; the latter two are first-timers. Searchlight’s total: 15.

Two films based on real people landed Best Picture nominations. The ’60s road movie “Green Book” (Peter Farrelly) won the Best Picture bellwether PGA Award on Saturday, and yielded Best Actor and Supporting Actor for its two popular stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as well as Original Screenplay. Significantly, the movie grabbed an editing nod, but not directing. After winning the TIFF audience award, the film remains hugely popular despite complaints that the story is told from the white point of view. No matter how many dive-bombs are thrown at the picture, it comes up stronger. (Where the barbs come from is a widely speculated question.) Participant Media backed the movie and sold it to Universal.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale in “Vice”


As expected, “Vice” found support from the writers’ and actors’ branches for writer-director nominee Adam McKay and Globe and Critics Choice-winner Christian Bale (this year’s Gary Oldman) and long-overdue Amy Adams, as Republican power couple Dick and Lynne Cheney — and last year’s Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, who had earned a SAG nomination.

L to R: Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in GREEN BOOK

“Green Book”

Universal Pictures

Damien Chazelle’s moon race success d’estime, “First Man,” which stumbled at the box office for Universal, only managed four nominations; composer Justin Hurwitz was snubbed for his Globe and Critics Choice-winning score.

“Moonlight” writer-director Barry Jenkins’ elegant James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Critics Choice Awards (over “BlacKkKlansman”) notched nominations for Globe and Critics Choice-winning Supporting Actress (Regina King) — even without a SAG mention — as well as composer Nicholas Britell for Score. Notably, Oscar perennial Annapurna (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Foxcatcher,” “Her”) racked up 11 nominations for the Jenkins film and “Vice.” And producer Plan B (“12 Years a Slave,” “Selma,” “Moonlight,” “The Big Short”) produced both films as well, returning to the Best Picture race for the sixth time.

(l to r.) Teyonah Parris as Ernestine, KiKi Layne as Tish, and Regina King as Sharon star in Barry Jenkins' IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK, an Annapurna Pictures release.

“If Beale Street Could Talk”

Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Picture

The long-overdue Paul Schrader scored his first Oscar nomination, for Original Screenplay, for religious drama “First Reformed” (A24). Critics’ favorite Ethan Hawke was snubbed for Best Actor; his slot went to longshot nominee Willem Dafoe for playing Vincent Van Gogh in Julian Schnabel’s “At Eternity’s Gate” (CBS Films), his first Best Actor nomination (after three for Supporting Actor, including “The Florida Project”).

Cold War

“Cold War”

Amazon Studios

Amazon Studios scored three Oscar slots, along with a big loss: Timothée Chalamet was snubbed for Supporting Actor for “Beautiful Boy,” while Pawel Pawlikowski’s gorgeous black-and-white European romance “Cold War” not only nabbed a Foreign Language slot for Poland but Directing and Cinematography as well.

In the foreign-film race, “Roma” and “Cold War” were joined by Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s universal family drama “Shoplifters” (Japan), Nadine Labaki’s gritty story of a street kid, “Capernaum” (Lebanon), and Florian Henkel Von Donnersmarck’s “Never Look Away” (Germany), which also landed a cinematography nomination for Hollywood veteran Caleb Deschanel, who has been nominated five times but never won.

“Free Solo”

In the documentary race, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s climbing feat “Free Solo” (National Geographic) leads the field, which also includes Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s Ruth Bader Ginsburg valentine “RBG” (CNN/Magnolia), Bing Liu’s moving memoir “Minding the Gap” (Hulu), embedded Syrian jihadi family portrait “Of Fathers and Sons” (Kino Lorber), and surprise entry “Hale County, This Morning, This Evening” (Cinema Guild), which knocked out two box-office hits, triplet thriller “Three Identical Strangers” (Neon) and Fred Rogers tearjerker “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (Focus Features).

While those snubs may surprise, this branch is notorious for not nominating popular movies, including last year’s “Jane,” which wound up settling for an Emmy win for NatGeo. They also tend to penalize former winners like Critics Choice and PGA-winning “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” director Morgan Neville, who hasn’t been nominated since he won the 2014 Oscar for “Twenty Feet from Stardom.”

This year, no women filmmakers earned Director or Best Picture slots, nor did groundbreaking Oscar-nominated Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) get a second cinematography nod for “Black Panther,” although her teammates Hannah Beachler and Ruth Carter are strong contenders for Production and Costume Design Oscars, respectively. Only 31 percent of Academy voters are women.

When a foreign-language black-and-white Netflix movie is the Best Picture frontrunner, many conventional assumptions about how to measure Oscar strength go out the window. Do you have to have an SAG Ensemble win to get Best Picture? No, “Braveheart” and “The Shape of Water” did it. Do you have to win the PGA to win Best Picture? No, “Moonlight,” “Spotlight,” and “Crash” did it. Do you have to be a major studio to win Best Picture? Indies have outperformed the studios for years, and Netflix outspends and outmaneuvers them as well. (Of note: Netflix’s 15 nominations included two for documentary shorts, “End Game” and “Period. End of Sentence.,” the latter of which Netflix awards coordinator Lisa Taback produced, and sold to her boss right before the nominations were announced.)

In the end, the studio scorecard is Searchlight with 15 (“The Favourite,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “Isle of Dogs”) and parent studio Fox with five for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for a studio total of 20; Universal (nine nods for “First Man” and “Green Book”) plus eight for Focus Features (“BlacKkKlansman” and Mary Queen of Scots”) for a studio total of 17; Netflix with 15 (“Roma,” “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” End Game,” and “Period. End of Sentence.”), and Disney with 15 (“Black Panther,” “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Christopher Robin,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and short film “Bao”).

The nominations are listed below:

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Christian Bale in “Vice”
Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Mahershala Ali in “Green Book”
Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott in “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell in “Vice”

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”
Glenn Close in “The Wife”
Olivia Colman in “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Amy Adams in “Vice”
Marina de Tavira in “Roma”
Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone in “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”

Best animated feature film of the year

“Incredibles 2” Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
“Isle of Dogs” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
“Mirai” Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
“Ralph Breaks the Internet” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Achievement in cinematography

“Cold War” Łukasz Żal
“The Favourite” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born” Matthew Libatique

Achievement in costume design

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther” Ruth Carter
“The Favourite” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots” Alexandra Byrne

Achievement in directing

“BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee
“Cold War” Paweł Pawlikowski
“The Favourite” Yorgos Lanthimos
“Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice” Adam McKay

Best documentary feature

“Free Solo” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening” RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
“Minding the Gap” Bing Liu and Diane Quon
“Of Fathers and Sons” Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
“RBG” Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Best documentary short subject

“Black Sheep” Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn
“End Game” Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat” Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser
“A Night at The Garden” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.” Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton

Achievement in film editing

“BlacKkKlansman” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody” John Ottman
“The Favourite” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Green Book” Patrick J. Don Vito
“Vice” Hank Corwin

Best foreign language film of the year

“Capernaum” Lebanon
“Cold War” Poland
“Never Look Away” Germany
“Roma” Mexico
“Shoplifters” Japan

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

“Border” Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
“Mary Queen of Scots” Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
“Vice” Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

“Black Panther” Ludwig Goransson
“BlacKkKlansman” Terence Blanchard
“If Beale Street Could Talk” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns” Marc Shaiman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Best motion picture of the year

“Black Panther” Kevin Feige, Producer
“BlacKkKlansman” Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
“Bohemian Rhapsody” Graham King, Producer
“The Favourite” Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
“Green Book” Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
“Roma” Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
“A Star Is Born” Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
“Vice” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

Achievement in production design

“Black Panther” Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
“The Favourite” Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
“First Man” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
“Mary Poppins Returns” Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Roma” Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

Best animated short film

“Animal Behaviour” Alison Snowden and David Fine
“Bao” Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb
“Late Afternoon” Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco
“One Small Step” Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends” Trevor Jimenez

Best live action short film

“Detainment” Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
“Fauve” Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
“Marguerite” Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
“Mother” Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
“Skin” Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman

Achievement in sound editing

“Black Panther” Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody” John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
“First Man” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
“Roma” Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay

Achievement in sound mixing

“Black Panther” Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin
“Bohemian Rhapsody” Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali
“First Man” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis
“Roma” Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García
“A Star Is Born” Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow

Achievement in visual effects

“Avengers: Infinity War” Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
“Christopher Robin” Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
“First Man” Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
“Ready Player One” Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
“Solo: A Star Wars Story” Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy

Adapted screenplay

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman” Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk” Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born” Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Original screenplay

“The Favourite” Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
“First Reformed” Written by Paul Schrader
“Green Book” Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma” Written by Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice” Written by Adam McKay

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