Now Let Us Obsess Over Oscar’s 2018 Acting Nominees
The contenders have been announced and the snubs have been analyzed to death. Now comes the really fun stretch in the road to the Oscars: For the next month and a half, super-obsessed film fans get to pore over the movies and their nominees and pinpoint intriguing trends and patterns that casual moviegoers are too busy living everyday life outside of the cinema to notice. There’s nothing like a little extra context to make the acting races really pop.
So while we all wait for the big prizes to be handed out on March 4, here are some more Oscar bits to mull in-between catch-up screenings.
1. For the first 89 years of Academy Awards, no black performer ever managed to score back-to-back acting nominations in two consecutive years. Even legendary two-time nominee Sidney Poitier had to wait half a decade between his first Best Actor nomination, for 1958’s The Defiant Ones, and his Best Actor win for 1963’s The Lilies of the Field. (That was the groundbreaking one that Oprah Winfrey referenced at the beginning of her now-iconic Golden Globes Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech.)
Apparently, 90 is the charm. Thirty years after earning his first nomination, for Cry Freedom, Denzel Washington has pulled a one-two Oscar punch for the first time in his career. His Roman J. Israel, Esq. Best Actor nod follows last year’s citation in the same category for Fences, and he’s in excellent company. Just one year after getting a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Hidden Figures, Washington’s fellow black Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is back in the running for her supporting role in The Shape of Water.
2. With her fifth nomination, for Three Billboard outside Ebbing, Missouri, Oscar winner Frances McDormand becomes the 12th female performer to earn acting nominations for performances in four different decades. In the ’80s, she was a Best Supporting Actress finalist for Mississippi Burning. In the ’90s, she won Best Actress for Fargo, adding two more Best Supporting Actress nods (for Almost Famous and North Country in the ’00s).
Her Best Actress nomination for Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, puts McDormand in an elite group with fellow Oscar winners Julie Christie, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Diane Keaton, Shirley MacLaine, Geraldine Page, Vanessa Redgrave, Julia Roberts, Maggie Smith, Meryl Streep, and Joanne Woodward, all of whom have made the short list with performances from four different decades. Nice company if you can get it!
3. Speaking of McDormand, the last time she was nominated, for 2005’s North Country, her co-star was Woody Harrelson. Although the former Cheers star was overlooked for that Charlize Theron vehicle, he’s now a three-time nominee, this time competing for Best Supporting Actor for his heart-of-the-movie role in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Six degrees of McDormand in Best Supporting Actor doesn’t end with her Three Billboards co-stars Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. The first time she was nominated, for 1988’s Mississippi Burning, McDormand’s co-star was The Florida Project’s Best Supporting Actor nominee Willem Dafoe, and she also shares an Emmy connection with The Shape of Water’s Richard Jenkins (see below).
4. This is a great year for former and current TV stars. Washington broke out on the ’80s hospital drama St. Elsewhere. Harrelson won an Emmy during his stint on Cheers. Best Supporting Actress nominees Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) are Emmy winners, too. Metcalf won three consecutive supporting comedy actress gongs for Roseanne in the ’90s, while Janney is a six-time winner, for Mom, Masters of Sex and The West Wing.
Meanwhile, Harrelson’s fellow Best Supporting Actor nominee Richard Jenkins played the deceased dad for five seasons on Six Feet Under, and he won a best actor Emmy in 2015 for his leading role in the TV movie Olive Kitteridge. Incidentally his leading lady was McDormand, who scored a best actress win for her title role in the 2014 telepic.
If Janney triumphs in Best Supporting Actress, it will be the second consecutive year that a female star of a current TV series has won an Oscar — and in the same category. Last year, How to Get Away with Murder’s Viola Davis picked up the Best Supporting Actress prize for Fences. Remember when then-current Mad About You star Helen Hunt shocked everyone by snagging Best Actress for 1997’s As Good As It Gets? The line between movie and TV star has certainly blurred since then.
5. Until this week, pretty much the only thing Mary J. Blige and Cher had in common was their joint appearance on VH1’s second Divas Live special in 1999. This Oscar season, Mudbound Best Supporting Actress contender Blige has become only the second performer known primarily as a music star to be nominated for an acting Oscar since Cher was an ’80s Best Supporting actress nominee for Silkwood in 1984 and a Best Actress winner for Moonstruck in 1988. (The first was Chicago’s Queen Latifah, and for those screaming “JENNIFER HUDSON!”, the Dreamgirls Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner was known primarily as an American Idol loser, not as a music star, before pulling off what her superstar co-star Beyonce Knowles has yet to do.)
6. Remember the ’90s, when Oscar was so into Tom Hanks that he went home with him two years in a row (when he won Best Actor for 1993’s Philadelphia and 1994’s Forrest Gump)? As Meryl Streep breaks her own record (again) by scoring her 21st nomination for The Post, her co-star has been snubbed… um, again. This is the third time in five Oscar sessions that Hanks has headlined a Best Picture nominee for which his main co-star was nominated and he was overlooked. The other luckier costars were Barkhad Abdi (Best Supporting Actor nominee for 2013’s Captain Phillips) and Mark Rylance (Best Supporting Actor winner for 2015’s Bridge of Spies).
7. At this time last year, most moviegoers had probably never heard of Call Me by Your Name’s Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet. This year, he’s the star of two Best Picture nominees, Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird. Meanwhile, Michael Stuhlbarg, the actor who played his dad in Call Me by Your Name, popped up in two other Best Picture candidates, The Post and The Shape of Water. Sadly, he was nominated for neither, as wasn’t last year’s Best Supporting Actor nominee Lucas Hedges for Lady Bird and Three Billboard’s outside Ebbing, Missouri. His fellow up-and-coming Three Billboards co-star Caleb Landry Jones also pulled off a double-play this time with his roles in that film and in Get Out.
8. There’s a huge generation gap among this year’s acting nominees. Twenty percent of the 20 actors in the running are in their twenties, and they’re all Best Actor/Actress contenders: Call Me by Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet, 22, Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, 28, Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan, 23, and I, Tonya’s Margot Robbie, 27. It’s a great time to be a twentysomething leading lady/man.
Of the remaining 16 acting nominees, four are in their forties: The Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins, 41, and Octavia Spencer, 45, Mudbound’s Mary J. Blige, 47, and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Sam Rockwell, 49. Meanwhile, three are in their fifties: Darkest Hour’s Gary Oldman, 59, I, Tonya’s Alison Janney, 58, and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Woody Harrelson, 57.
The seven sixtysomethings include The Post’s Meryl Streep, 68, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri’s Frances McDormand, 60, Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s Denzel Washington, 63, Phantom Thread’s Daniel Day-Lewis, 60, and Lesley Manville, 61, The Florida Project’s Willem Dafoe, 62, and Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf, 62. There’s a lone septuagenarian (The Shape of Water’s Richard Jenkins, 70), and one whippersnapper pushing 90 (All the Money in the World’s Christopher Plummer, 88).
Oscar skipped an entire decade this year. May the roaring thirties be back in vogue next season.