Oscars: 'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Top a Very International List of Nominees

The Favourite and Roma -Split-H 2019
Courtesy Photos

The organization's effort to bring more filmmakers from around the world into its ranks was reflected in the noms for the 91st Academy Awards.

Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s look back at a middle-class family in 1960s Mexico City, and The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy about intrigue in the 18th century court of England’s Queen Anne, topped the list of nominations for the 91st Oscars. With 10 nominations each, their prominence reflected the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ concerted effort in recent years to welcome more international members, with more eclectic tastes, into its ranks.

A Star Is Born, the classic Hollywood tale of one star rising while another falls, followed with eight nods, as did Vice, the acerbic portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney, which also claimed eight noms.

But while all four films were nominated for best picture, Bradley Cooper — who also starred in, co-wrote and produced Star — was denied a directing nomination. Instead, the directors branch nominated Cuaron, Lanthimos and Vice’s Adam McKay, along with Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski, for his black-and-white love story Cold War, and Spike Lee, who earned the first directing nod of his career, for BlacKkKlansman.

In addition to Roma,The FavouriteStar and Vice, the eight best picture nominees also included Black Panther, the first superhero movie ever to crack the top Oscar category; BlacKkKlansman, the true story of a black cop who investigated the Klan in the '70s; Bohemian Rhapsody, the musical biopic about Freddie Mercury and the rock band Queen, which made the cut despite the fact that its director Bryan Singer was fired during production; and Green Book, the account of an interracial friendship that develops on a road trip through the Jim Crow-era South.

Roma, which also made history by becoming the first Netflix movie to earn a best picture nomination, compounded its success by scoring a best actress nomination for Yalitza Aparicio, a complete newcomer to acting who plays the family housekeeper, and a supporting nod for Mexican actress Marina de Tavira, who plays the family matriarch. It also earned noms for production design, sound editing, sound mixing and Cuaron’s original screenplay and cinematography, the first time a director has been nominated in that category for a film he shot. 

Additionally, the Spanish-language Roma received a best foreign-language film nomination, where it will compete with Poland’s Cold War, Lebanon’s Capernaum, Germany’s Never Look Away and Japan’s Shoplifters.

In the acting ranks, trios and duos dominated. Lady Gaga, who also collected a song nomination for “Shallow,” was nominated for best actress for Star, which also saw Cooper and Sam Elliott earn spots in the best actor and best supporting actor lists, respectively. The Favourite also picked up three nods: best actress for Olivia Colman as the difficult Queen Anne and best supporting actress for the dueling courtiers played by Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. And Vice was represented by best actor nominee Christian Bale, virtually invisible amid all that Cheney makeup (which was also found worthy of a nomination); supporting actress Amy Adams, who plays Cheney’s wife, Lynne; and supporting actor Sam Rockwell, who plays former President George W. Bush. 

While Roma’s Aparicio and de Tavira will be joining each other on the red carpet, so will Green Book’s Viggo Mortensen, a best actor nominee for playing driver Tony Lip, and recent Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali, a supporting actor nominee for playing pianist Don Shirley, as well as best actress nominee Melissa McCarthy, who plays literary forger Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and supporting actor nominee Richard E. Grant, who plays Israel’s dishy partner in crime.

Rounding out the acting nods are Willem Dafoe, who stars as painter Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate, and Rami Malek, who portrays rock star Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody in the best actor category; Glenn Close, who plays a woman whose life has been overshadowed by her husband’s in The Wife, in the best actress category; Adam Driver, who plays one of the undercover cops in BlacKkKlansman, in the supporting actor category; and Regina King, who plays a loving and supportive mother in If Beale Street Could Talk, in the supporting actress category.

On the screenwriting front, in the original screenplay category Paul Schrader, who penned Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, received the first Oscar nom of his career for his original screenplay for First ReformedThe Favourite’s Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara also received first-time noms; and Green Book’s Peter Farrelly, Brian Currie and Nick Vallelonga, who based the film on stories his father told him, also figured in the category as did Roma’s Cuaron and Vice’s McKay, who previously won an adapted screenplay Oscar for The Big Short.

The adapted screenplay nominees included multiple Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, their episodic Western that includes segments based on the Jack London story "All Gold in the Canyon," and Stewart Edward White’s "The Gal Who Got Rattled"; Spike Lee (who was nominated for original screenplay for Do The Right Thing near the beginning of his career), Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Wilmott for BlacKkKlansman; Barry Jenkins (a winner in the category for 2016’s Moonlight) for his James Baldwin adaptation, If Beale Street Could Talk; Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters for A Star Is Born, based on the 1976 version of the film by John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion and Frank Pierson; and Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty for Can You Ever Forgive Me?

While the best picture nominations rewarded big box office winners like Black PantherBohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born, the same wasn’t true of the nominations for best documentary feature, where the Fred Rogers biodoc Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, which grossed $22.8 million domestically, and Three Identical Strangers, which did a sizable $12.3 million, failed to get the call. Instead, nods went to RBG, a celebration of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Free Solo, which follows rock climber Alex Honnold up the face of Yosemite’s El Capitan, along with Hale County This Morning, This Evening, a meditative look at black life in one Southern town; Minding the Gap, which traces the path three young men take as they wrestle with adulthood; and Of Fathers and Sons, which captures Islamic jihadists as they train young would-be terrorists in Syria.

In the animation category, where Pixar and Disney Animation have long dominated, a serious challenge could be posed by Sony Animation’s nominated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. For while Pixar’s Incredibles 2 and Disney’s Ralph Breaks the Internet were both nominated — Pixar also picked up an animated short nom for Bao — so was Sony’s Spider-Man, which has already picked up Globe and PGA Awards. All three will be competing with Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Isle of Dogs and Mamoru Hosoda’s hand-drawn Mirai. The latter comes from Japan, another indication of the international reach of this year’s nominees, and marks the 11th nomination for the independent distributor GKIDS since 2010.