NEW YORK, N.Y. – The Academy Awards showered outsiders, on screen and off, with milestone-setting nominations that celebrated Guillermo del Toro’s full-hearted ode to outcasts “The Shape of Water,” embraced first-time filmmakers like Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele, and made “Mudbound” director of photography Rachel Morrison the first woman ever nominated for best cinematography.
In nominations that spanned young and old, studio blockbusters and passion-fueled indies, the 90th annual Academy Awards gave many who have long been shunned by the movie business — women directors, transgender filmmakers, minority actors, even Netflix — something to cheer about.
Leading all nominees with 13 nods, including best picture, was “The Shape of Water,” by veteran Mexican filmmaker del Toro, whose Cold War-era fantasy is about a mute office cleaner (Sally Hawkins) who falls in love with an amphibious creature.
The film, shot in Toronto and Hamilton, came just shy of tying the record of 14 nominations shared by “All About Eve,” ”Titanic” and “La La Land.” Toronto native J. Miles Dale shares in the best picture nomination for the film.
But the nominations also carried forward some of the ongoing reckoning of the MeToo movement that has been felt especially acutely in Hollywood, where male filmmakers outrank women by a ratio of 12-to-1.
Gerwig, the writer-director of the nuanced coming-of-age tale “Lady Bird,” became just the fifth woman nominated for best director, following Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow, the sole woman to win (for “The Hurt Locker”).
“To be nominated as the fifth woman, I hope that what it does is that women of all ages look at it and they also find the spark within themselves that says: Now I have to go make my movie,” said Gerwig by phone. “That’s what I want. And I want it selfishly because I want to see their stories.”
In what’s been a wide-open awards season, Oscar voters chose nine best-picture nominees: “The Shape of Water,” Martin McDonaugh’s rage-fueled comic drama “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Gerwig’s nuanced coming-of-age tale “Lady Bird,” Jordan Peele’s horror sensation “Get Out,” Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill drama “Darkest Hour,” Steven Spielberg’s timely newspaper drama “The Post,” Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic “Dunkirk,” Luca Guadagnino’s tender love story “Call Me By Your Name” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s twisted romance “Phantom Thread.”
Peele became the fifth black filmmaker nominated for best director, and the third to helm a best-picture nominee, following Barry Jenkins last year for “Moonlight.” He’s also the third person to receive best picture, director and writing nods for his first feature film after Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait”) and James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”).
“I’m going to write. I’m now going to get hard at work on the next one,” Peele said by phone. “One of the greatest things that I get from this whole process is this faith in my voice. It’s like jet fuel. It makes me want to make as many movies that I can in my life.
Del Toro said in an interview Tuesday that he would celebrate with an extra chicken sausage for breakfast: “That will be my indulgence for the day.”
“You realize that we are all, in some way or another, a bit of an outsider in different ways,” said del Toro of his film’s resonance. “Not fearing the other but embracing the other is the only way to go as a race. The urgency of that message of hope and emotion is what sustained the faith for roughly half a decade that the movie needed to be made.”
All of the acting front-runners — Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards”), Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) — landed their expected nominations. But there were plenty of surprises and more than a few landmarks in the nominations announced from Los Angeles ahead of the March 4 ceremony, to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.
Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) was nominated for best actor, likely eclipsing James Franco (“Disaster Artist”). Franco was accused of sexual misconduct, which he denied, just days before Oscar voting closed.
Canadian Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott’s “All the Money in the World,” also sneaked into the best supporting actor category. Added to the film in reshoots a little more than a month before the film’s release, 88-year-old Plummer is the oldest acting nominee ever. “Everything has happened so quickly of late that I am still a trifled stunned but excited by it all,” said Plummer.
Perhaps most unexpected was the broad success of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” which scored not only nods for Daniel Day-Lewis for best actor and Lesley Manville, for best supporting actress, but also nominations for best picture, Anderson’s direction, costume design and Johnny Greenwood’s score.
Anderson likely displaced not only Steven Spielberg (“The Post”) but Martin McDonagh, the director of the film many have tapped to win best picture, “Three Billboards.” His absence is a major knock for a film that has endured the harshest backlash of the contenders, with many claiming it’s out of touch in matters of race.
Still, “Three Billboards” scored seven nominations Tuesday, behind only “The Shape of Water” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk.” The World War II epic, thus far little-honoured in Hollywood’s awards season, emerged especially strong with Oscar voters, taking eight nominations, many of them in technical categories.
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