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This year’s nine nominees for the Best Picture Academy Award are an intriguing mix of genres, subjects and styles, ranging from fantasy and history to romance, horror and coming-of-age, played on an epic scale in Dunkirk and a much more intimate one in Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name. The acting and directing nominees are equally varied and diverse, with six previous winners, ten first-time nominees and five African-Americans among them. If you haven’t seen all the movies or performances, no problem: our guide to the nominees in five major categories will fill you in, and help you make your Oscar pool picks.

A sci-fi fantasy about a romance between a mute janitorial worker and an intelligent sea creature set in a secret government facility during the Cold War sounds like the preposterous premise of B-list monster movie, but in the hands of writer-director Guillermo Del Toro and his cast and crew, it’s anything but. With thirteen Oscar nominations, it’s sure to take home a few.

Dramatizing the historic rescue of stranded Allied soldiers from a French beach during World War II and told via parallel perspectives from the land, sea and air, this intense drama earned eight nominations. “We are thrilled that the Academy has recognized the craft and talent of so many of the incredible people that brought the story of Dunkirk to life,” director Christopher Nolan and his wife and producing partner Emma Thomas stated. “This recognition helps us to believe that we have done some justice to honoring all those whose lives were affected by the real life events at Dunkirk.”

A fascinating portrayal of the life of one of history’s greatest figures, this biographical drama focuses on Winston Churchill’s first term as Prime Minister of Great Britain, and depicts the Dunkirk invasion from his point of view. It racked up six nominations, among them nods for the costume design and makeup and hairstyling teams that physically transformed Gary Oldman into the iconic statesman.

A renowned and gifted but selfish dress designer to the rich and royal who is accustomed to getting his way meets his match in the strong-willed woman he selects as his muse in this drama that received six nominations including—no surprise—Best Costume Design. Set in 1950s London, it’s both a visual and dramatic triumph for director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis, who last collaborated on There Will Be Blood in 2007.

This little film about a young girl coming of age and asserting her independence has made a big impact, scoring five nominations, including two for its female actors. Writer-director Greta Gerwig expressed as much excitement about that as getting doubly recognized herself. “In a year where there are so many brilliant films by so many of my heroes of cinema, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart,” she said.

Named Best Picture at both the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, this darkly funny drama about a justice-seeking mother fighting her own war against a small-town police force has earned seven nominations. But will director Martin McDonagh’s failure to earn one hurt its chances? McDonagh, who was recognized for his screenplay, said in a statement, “I'm thrilled that our film has received seven nominations from the Academy, and that the beautiful work of our editor Jon Gregory, our composer Carter Burwell, my brothers-in-arms Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, and our fearless leader Frances McDormand have all been recognized so wonderfully. I can't wait to celebrate with them come March 4th.”

A romantic coming of age story gorgeously and sensitively told, this movie focuses on a young man experiencing his first great love with a more experienced fellow in an Italian town in the summer of 1983. Based on a novel by André Aciman, the film “is all about empathy, acceptance and equality in relationships. In a way, it’s an affirmation of the possibility of becoming better people in the comfort of other people instead of trying to crush other people,” director Luca Guadagnino said. “I think it resonates because of this need to be following the mysteries of love.”

In 1971, the Washington Post defied the Nixon administration to publish the top secret Pentagon Papers, exposing the government’s lies and cover-ups about the Vietnam War. Steven Spielberg’s dramatization of the events amid conflicts over national security, freedom of the press and bottom-line corporate concerns make for a gripping drama that is eerily timely more than four decades later. Surprisingly, The Post scored only two nominations. Neither Tom Hanks, who plays executive editor Ben Bradlee nor director Steven Spielberg were nominated for their fifth film together.

Meeting the racist parents of his white girlfriend turns into a nightmare, literally, for the young black man at the center of the comedy-horror-thriller, which struck a nerve with audiences, critics, and the Academy, which honored it in four categories. Made for $4.5 million, it has made $254 million at the domestic box office to date. “I think it’s resonating because of the climate caused by the Trump administration,” producer Jason Blum believes. “Generally, the country has gone in the right way in terms of racism and sexism, even if in the last 12 months we’ve gone the wrong way. I think it’s incredibly timely, sadly.”


His remarkable portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour has earned him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Now Gary Oldman, who was nominated in 2011 for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, is favored to add an Oscar to his haul. “To have the chance to play an iconic leader like Winston Churchill at this point in my career was the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so happy that my colleagues and partners on this wonderful film have also been honored with nominations,” he said in a statement. “I am overjoyed to be nominated, and proud to be part of this wonderful thing known as movie making!”

A five-time Academy nominee and three-time winner (for My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood and Lincoln), Day-Lewis is in the mix this year for his portrayal of Reynolds Woodcock, the brilliant control freak of a couturier in Phantom Thread. He has declared his retirement with this film and winning the Oscar would be a great way to end a stellar career.

He earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for his portrayal of the title character in Roman J. Israel, Esq., an idealistic, driven, eccentric defense attorney who becomes disillusioned and finds himself at a moral crossroads when he goes to work for a firm that puts profits before clients. Now Denzel Washington, nominated last year for Fences, has the chance to win his third Oscar. He previously took home statues for Glory in 1989 and Training Day in 2001.

For his portrayal of the artistic, vulnerable Elio in Call Me By Your Name, 22-year-old Chalamet is the third youngest Best Actor nominee in history. Having played the President’s son on Homeland at 16, progressing to roles in Men, Women & Children, Royal Pains, Interstellar, The Adderall Diaries and Lady Bird, the SAG and Golden Globe-nominated Chalamet declared himself “a bit in shock” about his Oscar nod. “The feeling of gratitude I have at the moment has less to do with individual achievement and more with the appreciation for the artists past honored in this category and all of the nominees of this year,” he said. “I am truly honored.”

A seemingly innocent meet-the-parents visit with his girlfriend turns horrific for the young black hero of Get Out, played by British actor Kaluuya, who received SAG and Golden Globe nominations for his very effective performance. The first-time Oscar nominee had appeared in the Netflix anthology Black Mirror, which landed him on the radar of Get Out director Jordan Peele. “I’m walking around in a daze. I’m so proud of Team Get Out. What a ride. What an experience. What a year,” Kaluuya tweeted his reaction to the nomination. The ride continues this month:  He’s in the highly anticipated Black Panther, set for release Feb. 15.


McDormand is widely considered a frontrunner after having won both the SAG and Golden Globe for her tour de force portrayal of the mother of a murdered daughter who challenges her town’s police for their inaction in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Oscar-nominated three times for a supporting role and twice for lead actress, she won in the latter category in 1996 for Fargo.

As the mute cleaning woman in The Shape of Water—a part that director Guillermo Del Toro wrote with her in mind--Hawkins doesn’t utter a word, but her expressive mouth, eyes and body language speak volumes. It’s a performance that earned her Golden Globe and SAG nominations before landing this second nod from the Academy (her first was for Blue Jasmine in 2013). “It is a privilege to tell such stories and to be able to make films that show there is a life beyond the life that people know – one that is not always seen.” She said in a statement. “To be considered in this category, alongside these exceptional women, is a real honor and gift in itself.”

With her 21st nomination for The Post, Streep broke her own record for the most Oscar nominations. She has won three times, for The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice and Kramer vs. Kramer, and her performance as newspaper publisher Katherine Graham, who stood her ground against the Nixon White House and her own board of directors, just may win her another. “I am honored beyond measure by this nomination for a film I love, a film that stands in defense of press freedom, and inclusion of women’s voices in the movement of history,” said Streep, She earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for the role, which teamed her with Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg for the first time.

At 23, Ronan has already earned two Oscar nominations for Atonement and Brooklyn, and this nod for her performance as the title character in Lady Bird makes her the youngest actor to be nominated three times. She earned a SAG nomination and won a Golden Globe for the role. “To have been a part of a film like Lady Bird was a true privilege and I am incredibly grateful to the Academy for recognizing this wonderful story about the beauty and strength of women,” Ronan said. Next fall, she and co-nominee Margot Robbie will face off again, this time on screen. She’ll play the title role in Mary Queen of Scots, opposite Robbie’s Queen Elizabeth I.

Australian actress Robbie made a major impression with her roles in The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus, Suicide Squad, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and a provocative cameo in The Big Short. But it’s her role as embattled figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya that has earned her nominations for Golden Globe, SAG and Academy Awards. “There’s nothing I could say that articulates how proud I am of this one,” she tweeted.


Fresh off his Golden Globe win for his fantastical Shape of Water, Del Toro enters the Oscar race as a triple nominee, for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. It’s the first directing nomination for the Mexican filmmaker, who was nominated in 2007 for writing Pan’s Labyrinth. He expressed his thanks “for this moment of joy in a 25 year journey as a storyteller” in a tweet and later said, “I share these nominations with all the young filmmakers in Mexico and Latin America who put their hopes in our craft and the intimate stories of their imagination.”

Although he’s been nominated for his screenplays for Inception and Memento, Nolan has never been nominated for a Best Director Oscar. His nomination for the thrilling Dunkirk rectifies that situation. “It's really gratifying that people would recognize my work in that way," he said. “This recognition helps us to believe that we have done some justice to honoring all those whose lives were affected by the real life events at Dunkirk. It shows the unique power of an extraordinary true story.”

Before Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was best known as an actress, with roles in Mistress America, Frances Ha, Greenberg and most recently Jackie and 20th Century Women. But these days she’s winning acclaim for her work off camera. Her directing and screenplay nominations are her first, and she’s only the fifth woman to be nominated for Best Director. “This is an unbelievable honor and I am beside myself with joy and gratitude,” she said. “I am struggling to find the words to express how much the nomination for Best Director and Best Screenplay means to me. In a year where there are so many brilliant films by so many of my heroes of cinema, all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Having first found fame as half of the comedy sketch duo Key & Peele, Peele is making an even bigger splash as the writer and director of Get Out. The first time Oscar nominee the third filmmaker in Academy history to receive directing, writing, and Best Picture nominations for his feature directorial debut. He is the fifth African-American Best Director nominee, after John Singleton, Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen and Barry Jenkins (none of whom won) and fourth black Original Screenplay nominee (Suzanne de Passe, Spike Lee, and John Singleton, who did not win). “Right now I’m just thinking about everyone who bought a ticket and told someone else to,” he tweeted. “You did this.”

He wasn’t on the Best Director list for the Golden Globes or SAG Awards, but the Academy has honored Anderson for Phantom Thread, his eighth Oscar nomination, along with his ninth for Best Picture. He was previously singled out by the Academy for directing, writing and producing There Will Be Blood, and his screenplays for Inherent Vice, Magnolia, and Boogie Nights.


Known for his roles in The Way Way Back, Moon, Seven Psychopaths and Frost/Nixon, to name a few, Rockwell has been showered with accolades for his role as a racist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, winning both a Golden Globe and a SAG Award for his performance. “This is an incredible honor. I share this with the entire cast and crew,” he said. “I have been a working actor for a long time and this really means a lot.”

Portraying a cancer-stricken cop and frenemy to Frances McDormand’s defiant mom in Three Billboards earned Harrelson a SAG Award nomination and his third Oscar nod: he was previously nominated for The Messenger and The People vs. Larry Flynt. The nomination also pits him against Rockwell, who has the bigger role, and the greater momentum.

After scoring SAG and Golden Globe nominations, Jenkins earned his second Oscar nod for his portrayal of a gay illustrator who aids his mute neighbor in rescuing a mysterious sea creature from the clutches of government types who aim to dissect it in The Shape of Water. He was previously nominated in 2009 for The Visitor. “I’m so excited and thrilled by the nomination and for The Shape of Water team led by Guillermo the Great,” he said. “It is rare and humbling to be part of something so special.”

With his nomination as the miserly billionaire J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World, 88-year-old Plummer became the oldest nominee in Oscar history. He was previously nominated twice, and won in 2012 for Beginners. Kevin Spacey was originally cast as Getty, but director Ridley Scott decided to replace him with Plummer after allegations of sexual misconduct against Spacey surfaced. Plummer deemed the honor “quite unexpected but incredibly gratifying. Everything has happened so quickly of late that I am still a trifled stunned but excited by it all.”

Playing the owner of a rundown hotel near Disney World who becomes involved with his impoverished tenants in The Florida Project earned Dafoe SAG, Golden Globe and his third Oscar nomination. He was previously nominated for Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire. “He’s a simple man with a good heart. That’s something we all relate to. We’re all haunted by our limitations, but that impulse to do a little to make things better for others seems to resonate, especially this year,” he commented. “I am very proud of this movie that authentically expresses the human’s spirit’s natural impulse to extend itself to others even in difficult circumstances.”


Her pitch-perfect performance as Tonya Harding’s monstrous mother LaVona in I, Tonya has earned her Golden Globe and SAG Awards. Now Janney, who owns six Emmys for The West Wing, Masters of Sex, and Mom, may score her first Oscar on her first nomination for a role that was written for her. “My friend Steven Rogers always said, ‘I wrote this role for you so you’d win an Oscar,’” she said after the nominees were announced. “I’m just so happy and so thankful to him and for this honor.”

The rap superstar turned actress hit the jackpot with her first major movie role, nabbing a nomination for her portrayal of a poor tenant farmer in Mudbound, a drama about racism in 1940s Mississippi. The Golden Globe and SAG Award nominee is also nominated in the Best Song category for “Mighty River” from the film, and she’ll likely perform it at the ceremony. “I’m almost speechless,” she said. “I’m so moved and so grateful that I’m being recognized for the work I’ve done as a singer and an actress.”

Although she has three Emmys for Roseanne, Metcalf had never been nominated for a major movie award before her role as the title character’s mother in Lady Bird earned her Golden Globe, SAG and Academy Award nominations. “I’m thrilled to be recognized with the incredible actresses in my category, and am grateful to the Academy for this amazing honor,” she said. “It’s so wonderful to have that kind of recognition for a project that you fell in love with and watched everyone pour their heart and soul into making it.”

Her role as a house cleaner in The Help earned Spencer her first Oscar. Now she has another shot for playing a woman in a similar kind of job but vastly different environment in The Shape of Water. Her performance as Zelda Fuller, who aids her friend in her rescue of captive sea creature, earned her a Golden Globe nomination, and now she’s on the Academy nominee list for the second year in a row (she was honored last year for Hidden Figures). “My heart is bursting with pure elation for the cast and crew of The Shape Of Water,” she said. “Guillermo has given us all a dream job and to be recognized by the Academy is so deeply moving.”

The least widely known of the women in this category, British actress Manville received her first Oscar nomination for her role as a fashion designer’s formidably steely sister and business manager in Phantom Thread. Previously married to Best Actor nominee Gary Oldman, she acknowledged that while expressing her gratitude. “I am rather giddy with excitement at the wonderful news,” she said. “It is also quite a day for my son Alfie Oldman, having both parents nominated in the same year.”

The 90th Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air live on ABC March 4 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. ET from The Dolby Theatre in Hollywood / Issue 200 - August 2018
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