A Marvel movie is up for Best Picture. Spike Lee has earned his first Best Director nod. A critically acclaimed film has been nominated for Best Picture AND Best Foreign Language Film. And one of cinema’s reigning masters, Alfonso Cuarón, has tallied four nominations for producing, directing, writing, and photographing his pet project. What’s more, the Best Picture race embraces both box-office hits and prestige pictures. I’d call that a pretty good year for Oscar.
Are there upsets and disappointments? Of course. I’m sorry Ryan Coogler isn’t one of the Best Director nominees for Black Panther—but, as always, there are only five directing slots and eight Best Pictures. I wish If Beale Street Could Talk was one of the finalists but I’m thrilled for Best Supporting Actress Regina King, and that Barry Jenkins was cited for Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s a shame that an exceptional film like First Man was largely ignored. And the wonderful documentary everyone called a shoo-in for Academy voters has been left out: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
But those are the breaks of the game. It’s heartening to see people I admire like Nicole Holofcener nominated for co-writing the screenplay of Can You Ever Forgive Me… among many other women recognized this year, from Capernaum director Nadine Labaki to Domee Shi for her disarming animated short Bao.
When all is said and done, this is a tally of votes, not a final decree. I am not alone in believing that Leave No Trace, The Rider and The Death of Stalin are exceptional films. I understand people’s frustrations and anger in some cases, but the Oscars are never going to please everyone; it just isn’t in the cards. This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve disagreed with some of the Academy’s choices. But it’s an honest vote and I think, on the whole, a decent result.