This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards—once colloquially, now officially known as The Oscars. It’s amazing to realize that the Oscars—in fact, nearly the entire film industry itself—dates back almost a century at this point. It’s a span of time that seems both epic in scope and shockingly brief. The original Academy Awards, honoring films from 1927 and ’28, took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. Some 270 people were in attendance, and the ceremony lasted all of 15 minutes. It wasn’t even broadcast on radio. And yet there are more than 2 million people alive today (the estimated number of nonagenarians in America) who could have watched every single Best Picture Oscar winner—from 1927’s Wings to 2017’s Moonlight—in a movie theater in their lifetime.
On Sunday, March 4 late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel takes the stage of the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles to host this year’s historic annual gala honoring achievements in film for the second consecutive year. This makes him the first person to host back-to-back Oscar ceremonies since Billy Crystal in 1997 and 1998. That fact qualifies Kimmel as the night’s first winner. But who else in Hollywood got either a well-earned pat on the back or an undeserved kick in the butt?
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water leads 2018’s pack with 13 Oscar nominations, followed by Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with 8 and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with 7. Mr. del Toro is up for Best Achievement in Directing, Motion Picture of the Year and Best Original Screenplay. He was nominated for Best Original Screenplay back in 2007 for Pan’s Labyrinth. Nolan has been nominated for three previous Oscars: Motion Picture of the Year and Best Original Screenplay for 2011’s Inception and Best Original Screenplay for 2002’s Memento. McDonagh was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for 2009’s In Bruges and won an Oscar for 2006’s Best Short Film (Live Action) “Six Shooter.” It’s hard to judge which among these high-flying filmmakers has an advantage this year.
Whether he wins Best Picture, Best Director or Best Original Screenplay or not (probably not), Jordan Peele has to be considered a major winner. Not only did he deliver one of this year’s most profitable films ($176 million in box office on a $4.5 million budget) with Get Out, but he landed an Oscar nod for his very first directing assignment (only the fifth black director to be so honored). Adding to the long odds is the fact that it’s extraordinarily rare for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to acknowledge horror films at all. Over the years The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Silence of the Lambs (1990), The Sixth Sense (1999) and Black Swan (2010) are the only horror films to be nominated for Best Picture. Dracula, Frankenstein, Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby: All were ignored by Oscar, who waited 45 years to nominate a scary film as Best Picture. Between the nods for Peele’s socially conscious horror-thriller and Guillermo del Toro’s romantic monster movie, 2018 is looking like a watershed year for genre film.
Like Peele, Greta Gerwig must also—sadly—be counted as a pioneer. She’s only the fifth woman in the history of the Academy Awards to be nominated for Best Director. And only one of those, Kathryn Bigelow for 2010’s The Hurt Locker, actually won. Against her fellow multiple nominees, Gerwig has to be seen as a long shot, but it’s a deserved nomination nonetheless and will hopefully be seen as a sign of things to come in Hollywood.
Although Gerwig’s nomination could be seen as a sign of things to come, it’s clearly not a sign of things as they are. Conspicuously absent among this year’s Oscar nominees was Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman. Most moviegoers thought that was a shoe-in. Jenkins was inarguably responsible for the smashing success of DC/Warner Bros.’ blockbuster hit. And yet, Wonder Woman ended up with zero Oscar nominations—not even in the technical categories. Like horror, superhero movies aren’t a genre that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has shown much respect for. And yet, the X-Men spin-off Logan snuck in with a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green’s rule-breaking screenplay was extraordinarily good, so kudos to the Academy for noticing. But giving Wonder Woman the goose egg seems like poor sportsmanship on the part of Oscar.
There was also a list of expected actors who did not show up on the Oscars short list. Despite taking home a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice Award and a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, James Franco didn’t make the cut for his comically meta turn as bad director/