2018 was one of the richest years in recent film history, and Oscar voters had their work cut out for them selecting the nominees. Their choices are eclectic - I'm still pissed Bradley Cooper wasn't nominated for Best Director for A Star is Born - but they reflect the evolving membership that includes more women, people of color, and non-American members than ever before. Here are the historic firsts from the nominees for the 91st Academy Awards:
Spike Lee is the second African-American to get three nominations in one year
Before today, Spike Lee had only been nominated once for his screenplay of Do the Right Thing - and there is still some controversy today over that film's Picture and Director ommissions. Today, he got three nominations for producing, writing, and directing BlacKkKlansman, following Jordan Peele to become the second African-American filmmaker to get three nominations in one year (Peele is also nominated as a producer of BlacKkKlansman.)
Paul Schrader gets his first-ever nomination for his screenplay of First Reformed
Although his filmography includes the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and films like Mishima, writer-director Paul Schrader had never gotten an Oscar nomination, and his track record over the past ten years has included some pretty negligible work. But last year, he wrote and directed his masterpiece in First Reformed, the summation of his career as a filmmaker and a film scholar, and he may take home the gold next month for this profound study of a small-town priest wracked with guilt.
Paweł Pawlikowski's Cold War is the first Polish film to get a directing nomination
Pawlikowski became the best-known Polish director since Krzyzstof Kieslowski when his film Ida won the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Today he got a Best Director nomination this year for Cold War, about a 20-year love affair between two musicians in postwar Europe, making it the first Polish-language film to be nominated in this category. And here's a fact for insane Oscar trivia fiends like me: although only three directors since 2007 have gotten Best Director nominations without their films getting in for Best Picture, all three, including Pawlikowski, won the directing award at the Cannes Film Festival. (The other two are Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher.)
2018 is the first year time in 42 years two foreign-language films have gotten Best Director nominations.
Paweł Pawlikowski and Roma's Alfonso Cuarón are among the five nominees for Best Director, and Cuarón is arguably the front-runner for the award. The last time this happened was 1976 when Ingmar Bergman and Lina Wertmüller were up for Face to Face and Seven Beauties.
Netflix gets its first Best Picture nomination for Roma
Netflix's streaming format has made traditional film people wary of its status as a film company: last year, Steven Spielberg said he didn't believe Netflix movies deserved Oscars because they were a TV company, and "Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie." Spielberg may have to take this statement back now that Roma, the most critically acclaimed film of 2018, tied The Favourite with 10 Oscar nominations, the most of any movie(s) this year. And even though it's a black-and-white foreign film that most people will watch streamed over their TVs, it is arguably the front-runner to win the Best Picture Oscar.
Yalitza Aparicio is the first first-time actress nominated since 2012
Aparicio, a Mexican preschool teacher with no acting training or acting experience gave one of the most unforgettable performances of 2018 as Cleo, the housemaid of an upper-middle-class Mexican family in Roma. She is the first person since Beasts of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhane Wallis to get an Oscar nomination for their debut film, and she and co-star Mariana de Tavira are also the first Mexican women to receive acting nominations since Adriana Barraza, who was nominated for her supporting role in Babel in 2006.
Black Panther is the first superhero movie to get a Best Picture nomination
Since The Dark Knight missed a Best Picture nomination in 2008, fans and critics have complained about the Academy's bias against superhero movies. When Black Panther became a cultural landmark earlier last year, the debate raged over whether it was good enough to be a nominee, and a scuttled category for Best Popular Film seemed like an attempt to exclude it from the final lineup. However, the Academy awarded the film with seven nominations today, including Best Picture and Best Score for Ludwig Göransson, who also scored my Mom's TV pilot, Red Band Society, back in 2014!
Rami Malek is the first-ever Egyptian-American Best Actor nominee
Bohemian Rhapsody, the long-awaited biopic of Freddie Mercury, divided critics but became a box office smash. Malek, an Egyptian-American most famous for his work on USA's Mr. Robot, won a Golden Globe for his performance as Mercury and is considered a front-runner at the Oscars. In addition to being the first Best Actor nominee of Egyptian descent, he is also the first Egyptian actor to get a nomination in 56 years, when Omar Sharif received a supporting nomination for his work in Lawrence of Arabia.
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