15 Oscar nominations snubs and surprises, from Spike Lee's first best director nod to poor Bradley Cooper

 
 
Updated 1/22/2019 12:53 PM
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  • This image released by Focus Features shows director Spike Lee, left, with actors Topher Grace, center, and Adam Driver on the set of Lee's film "BlacKkKlansman." On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Lee was nominated for an Oscar for best director for his work on the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24.

    This image released by Focus Features shows director Spike Lee, left, with actors Topher Grace, center, and Adam Driver on the set of Lee's film "BlacKkKlansman." On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, Lee was nominated for an Oscar for best director for his work on the film. The 91st Academy Awards will be held on Feb. 24. (David Lee/Focus Features via AP)

The 2019 Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, and there are plenty of exciting nominations: Spike Lee got a long-overdue nod in the best director category; "Black Panther" became the first superhero movie to land in the best picture race; and veteran screenwriter Paul Schrader received his first nomination.

But there were also snubs -- glaring and, some might say, unforgivable ones. Here's your guide to the biggest takeaways from the nominations.

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SURPRISES

• SPIKE LEE'S FIRST BEST DIRECTOR NOD

It's hard to believe the filmmaker behind "Do the Right Thing" and "Malcolm X" had never been nominated in the best director category. That has long been a point of contention for Lee, whose honorary award from the Academy in 2015 was widely seen as a feeble attempt to make up for years of overlooking the director's groundbreaking work.

Lee told GQ in an interview last year that he had all but written off the academy's biggest accolade after "Do the Right Thing" -- a masterful reflection of racial tension that has been preserved by the National Film Registry -- failed to get a nomination in 1990. ("Driving Miss Daisy" won the award that year.)

"To be honest, after 'Do the Right Thing,' I said, 'That's it.' You know?," Lee told GQ last year. "That's not to say I wasn't happy to get the honorary award, but as far as Oscars, my thing has always been my body of work."

• "BLACK PANTHER" MAKES HISTORY

The Marvel juggernaut is the first superhero film to be nominated for best picture. And its production designer, Hannah Beachler, is the first African-American to be nominated for best production design. That said, the film was snubbed in a couple categories. Ryan Coogler didn't get a best director nod. And the film was shut out of the race for best cinematography, which includes several other best picture nominees ("Roma," "A Star Is Born" and "The Favourite").

"Black Panther" wasn't the only superhero movie to catch the academy's attention. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse," which follows biracial Brooklyn teen Miles Morales as he transforms into the comic legend, also earned a nomination, marking a historic honor for director Peter Ramsey. He is now the first African-American director nominated for an animated feature.

• MARINA DE TAVIRA FOR BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

While it's no shock that "Roma" star Yalitza Aparicio received a best actress nod, Marina de Tavira's supporting role in the film hadn't received any prior consideration this awards season. That's changed; the Mexican actress' surprise nod is also her first Academy Award nomination.

• PAWEL PAWLIKOWSKI FOR BEST DIRECTOR

It's not that Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski doesn't deserve an Oscar, but many viewers likely haven't seen his movie, "Cold War," which earned less than $750,000 at the box office. But they may remember "Ida," his film that took home the 2015 Oscar for best foreign language film. "Cold War," the love story of a young musician who falls in love with her musical director, shares some similarities with "A Star is Born" -- but it was Pawlikowski who got the nod instead of Cooper.

• WILLEM DAFOE FOR BEST LEADING ACTOR

Dafoe got some buzz for his role as Vincent Van Gogh in "At Eternity's Gate," including a Golden Globe nomination, but many moviegoers may have missed the movie altogether. (It only made $2 million at the box office.) The actor has been nominated now four times, but has never walked away with an Oscar.

• PAUL SCHRADER'S FIRST NOMINATION

The veteran screenwriter, a frequent collaborator of Martin Scorsese's, earned his first nomination for "First Reformed." Many -- particularly those well-versed in Scorsese's body of work -- consider the recognition for Schrader long overdue. His long list of credits include the 1976 thriller "Taxi Driver" and 1980's "Raging Bull," both of which received a slew of nominations in other Oscar categories including best picture.

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SNUBS

• ETHAN HAWKE FOR BEST ACTOR

What's Ethan Hawke gotta do to win an Oscar? When he was nominated and lost in 2002 for his supporting role in "Training Day," Denzel Washington whispered to him, "You know, you don't want to win that, man. Wait until they give it to you because they have to. You want to win because the work demands it."

It seemed like this could have been the year. Hawke's critically lauded work in "First Reformed" seemed so much like it demanded an Oscar -- or at least a fifth nomination -- that several outlets asked him about the prospect months ago. He told GQ: "I was on the subway the other day, and I was thinking, 'What would I say if somebody asked me that question?' Because everyone in the world knows that when an actor says that they don't want to win an award, they're lying."

Tough luck, but there's always next year.

• BRADLEY COOPER FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Cooper didn't necessarily have a bad day. After all, "A Star is Born" was nominated for eight awards: It's up for best picture; his lead actress Lady Gaga got a best actress nod and a best song nod; and Cooper himself received a best actor nod.

But Cooper didn't nab best director, even though many praised his movie as being one of the finest directed concert films of all time.

• JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON FOR BEST ACTOR

"BlacKkKlansman" earned a total of six nominations, including best picture and a best supporting actor nod for Adam Driver. But Washington, whose portrayal of Detective Ron Stallworth earned recognition from the Hollywood Foreign Press and Screen Actors Guild, was shut out of the lead actor category.

Fans of Lee's filmography might note that this isn't the first time the academy has snubbed a Washington. Many believe the actor's father, Denzel, should have won the best actor Oscar for his spellbinding turn as Malcolm X in Lee's 1992 biopic. (The trophy went to Al Pacino for "Scent of a Woman.") The elder Washington won best supporting actor in 1990 for "Glory" and took home the best actor trophy in 2002 for "Training Day," but there's still a sense that Denzel has never really gotten his due.

• "WIDOWS"

Director Steve McQueen is something of a critical darling, having won best picture in 2014 for "12 Years a Slave" and a tremendous amount of film critics' awards over the years. "Widows," his female-centric, slow-burning heist film that closely examines racial and class differences, is the movie he's always wanted to make.

We know this because the movie begins with a shot of McQueen addressing the audience and explaining how important the film is to him -- so it's surprising that the movie, which critics adored, didn't receive a single nomination in any category, a repeat of the Golden Globes.

• "WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?"

This feel-good documentary about kindest human Fred Rogers and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" got entire theaters crying this summer, as it raked in $22 million at the box office. It was considered a lock for documentary features, but it was inexplicably left out.

What happened? Can we blame Tom Hanks for Mister Rogers overload, or is the field just too competitive this year?

• "IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK"

The critically acclaimed movie seemed like Oscar fare. After all, it's based on the 1974 novel of the same name by James Baldwin and was directed by Barry Jenkins, whose 2016 film "Moonlight" famously won an Oscar for best picture over the expected victor "La La Land." So it's surprising that neither Jenkins or the film itself was recognized in the two main categories. That isn't to say the film did poorly: It earned a nod for best adapted screenplay, original score and a best supporting nomination for Regina King.

• "EIGHTH GRADE"

It may have been a long shot for Bo Burnham's feature-film debut to be recognized, but "Eighth Grade" had been universally loved by critics and received attention on the awards circuit. Elsie Fisher was nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy, and Burnham's screenplay had been shortlisted as a contender for best original screenplay. Still, nada.

• "FIRST MAN" SCORE

Sure, Damien Chazelle's space movie didn't really rise to the top of many critics' lists, but the score! Justin Hurwitz, who also won an Oscar for "La La Land," won the Golden Globe for his best original score, but it didn't even get considered among academy voters.

• "BURNING"

We were surprised to see "Burning," a South Korean thriller from director Lee Chang-dong, overlooked in the foreign film category. Critics loved it -- the film has a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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