Oscars: Academy Embraces Outsiders as 'The Shape of Water' Gets 13 Noms

Nominations for 'Get Out,' 'Lady Bird' and more signal a shift in this year's awards show.

The Academy embraced outsiders with the nominations it announced Tuesday for the 90th Oscars as it lavished 13 on Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, a romantic fantasy in which a mute woman, a black cleaning lady and a gay man join forces to save a mysterious sea creature from ominous government forces.

And the Academy’s sometimes halting progress toward diversity was also in evidence as it included Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a horror movie that explores racial fears, among the nine best picture nominations.

The elite best picture circle included four films in which women play the central roles — in addition to Shape, they included Lady Bird, writer-director Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical look back at a smart girl growing up in Sacramento, California.; The Post, in which best actress nominee Meryl Streep plays Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham; and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which Frances McDormand, another of the best actress nominees, stars as a woman bent on seeking justice for the rape and murder of her daughter. And although Phantom Thread, another of the best picture nominees, centers on a male fashion designer, the women in his life, played by Vicky Krieps and best supporting actress nominee Lesley Manville, are every bit his equals.

The gay romance Call Me by Your Name took another of the best picture slots, which left only two best picture nominees — both period pieces looking back at a seminal moment in World War II — in which traditional notions of masculinity are celebrated: Darkest Hour, in which best actor nominee Gary Oldman summons up the spirit of Winston Churchill; and Dunkirk, in which nominated director Christopher Nolan recreates the famous retreat near the start of the war.

While three of this year’s acting nominees — Denzel Washington, Streep and Octavia Spencer — were nominated last year, several Hollywood stalwarts were overlooked. Director Steven Spielberg failed to secure a nomination for The Post, as did Tom Hanks, who plays former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, while the film’s screenplay, by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (an Oscar winner for Spotlight), also failed to make the cut.

On the other hand, veteran actor Christopher Plummer, who won the best supporting actor award for 2010’s Beginners, not only became the oldest acting nominee in Oscar history — at 88, he surpasses Titanic’s Gloria Stewart, who was 87 when she was nominated — but he also can claim what is probably the shortest time between completing a performance and receiving Oscar recognition, as Plummer filmed his scenes as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World in late November, when he stepped in at the last moment to replace Kevin Spacey, who was cut from the pic following allegations of sexual assault.

While Gerwig will carry the flag for women in the directing category, other women made significant inroads in crafts that had been traditionally dominated by men. Rachel Morrison, for her work in Mudbound, became the first woman ever nominated in the cinematography category. And Mary H. Ellis, nominated for Baby Driver, became only the sixth woman nominated in the sound mixing category.

When it comes to the more familiar faces, Streep extended her already-record number of nominations to 21 as she faces off in the best actress category against McDormand (who has already picked up Golden Globe and SAG Awards), Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins, I, Tonya’s Margot Robbie and Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan.

In the best actor category, Phantom Thread’s Daniel Day-Lewis, who already holds the record for most best actor Oscars with three, will be going up against Roman J. Israel’s Denzel Washington (who has two Oscars, one for best actor and one for supporting), Darkest Hour’s Gary Oldman (the presumed front-runner after winning Golden Globe and SAG Awards) and two relative newcomers, Call Me by Your Name’s Timothy Chalamet and Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya. In fact, it is the first time the category has included two actors under 30.

Composer John Williams received his 51st nomination for scoring Star Wars: The Last Jedi, adding to his record of the most noms for any living person. (The all-time record holder is Walt Disney with 59.) He will be competing this year with Dunkirk’s Hans Zimmer, Phantom Thread’s Johnny Greenwood, Shape of Water’s Alexandre Desplat and Three Billboards’ Carter Burwell.

In the adapted screenplay category, Dee Rees became the first black woman ever nominated in that category for her work on Mudbound, which she also directed and co-wrote with her fellow nominee Virgil Williams. Their work on Mudbound shares that category with the work of such veteran filmmakers and writers as James Ivory (Call Me); the team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist); the team of Scott Frank and James Mangold, along with Michael Green (Logan); and Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game).

New voices appear in the original screenplay category, which includes The Big Sick's Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, Get Out's Peele and Lady Bird's Gerwig, alongside Shape of Water's del Toro and Vanessa Taylor and Three Billboards' Martin McDonagh.

This year's spotlight on diversity even extended into the animated feature category, where Pixar's Coco, set amid Mexico's Day of the Dead, and The Breadwinner, about a young girl in Afghanistan, are nominated along with Ferdinand (which takes place in Spain), Loving Vincent (a portrait of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh) and The Boss Baby.