Best Cinematography, Best Director Categories Get Adventurous with Foreign-Language Dialogue, Black-and-White Pictures

The Favourite and Roma are the movies to beat at this year’s Oscars. Those two feature films led the pack with 10 nominations each when the Academy announced the final list of Oscar contenders this morning.

Alfonso Cuarón directing Roma.

Alfonso Cuarón (left) directing Roma with Best Actress nominee Yalitza Aparicio.
Carlos Somonte/Netflix

As many as four Oscar statuettes could go directly to filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón if he is the winning director, producer, cinematographer, and screenwriter for Roma. (Foreign-language film Oscars, technically, are awarded to the country of origin, not the filmmakers.) Before RomaCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the only foreign-language film ever to manage 10 Oscar nominations. But then Cuarón has been earning Oscar attention for years, starting with the Y tu mamá también screenplay nomination he received back in 2003.  In 2011, the Academy’s foreign-language committee was thought to be quite bold for including The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos’ downbeat, borderline bizarre Dogtooth among its nominated films. (It lost.) Now, in an impressive come-from-behind maneuver, the native Greek’s latest is leading the Oscar pack.

Yorgos Lanthimos directs fellow Oscar nominee Olivia Colman in <i>The Favourite</i>

Yorgos Lanthimos directs fellow Oscar nominee Olivia Colman in The Favourite
© 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Despite the near-historic showing by Roma, the Oscar roster isn’t exactly full of surprises. Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book took top honors at the Golden Globes, and the Academy followed suit today with Best Picture nominations for the both of them. Those films are joined in the category by Marvel’s blockbuster Black Panther — the first comic-book movie ever to be nominated for Best Picture — Spike Lee’s explosive KKK drama BlacKkKlansman, Yorgos Lanthimos’ moody Queen Anne drama The Favourite, Cuarón’s exacting period piece Roma, Bradley Cooper’s crowd-pleasing A Star Is Born and, in a dark-horse slot, Adam McKay’s recent-political-history lesson Vice, featuring Christian Bale as Vice President Dick Cheney in one of those uncanny impersonations Oscar voters love so much.

But the line-up wasn’t completely predictable, either. The Best Director category diverges pretty strongly from Best Picture, and it is unusual to see two foreign-language films up for this honor. Cuarón was widely expected to be nominated for Roma, but he’s joined here by Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski, whose Ida won the foreign-film Oscar in 2015, for his period drama Cold War. The other nominated directors are Lanthimos for The Favourite, Lee for BlacKkKlansmanand McKay for Vice. (Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman nominations this year are his first ever for directing or producing. Never an Oscar favorite, Lee had previously earned only a screenplay nomination for Do the Right Thing and a documentary nomination for 4 Little Girls.)

Cold War
Lukasz Bak/Amazon

Both Roma and Cold War turned up again in Best Cinematography, where Łukasz Żal, PSC’s black-and-white work on Cold War and Cuarón’s own monochrome camerawork on Roma are honored alongside Caleb Deschanel, ASC’s precisely toned pictures for the German drama Never Look Away — making it three non-English-language films in the category. (The Academy hasn’t nominated two black-and-white films in this category since 1966.) Also recognized is Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC’s muted, sometimes fish-eyed work in natural light for The Favourite, and Matthew Libatique, ASC’s moody and bittersweet imagery for A Star Is Born. (Of the five, only The Favourite was shot on 35mm film.)

Whatever the relative merits of the work, you have to wonder if Deschanel’s Oscar history might work in his favor this year — he’s been nominated for five Oscars previously, dating to his work on The Right Stuff (1983), without a single win. (Then again, it took Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC, 14 nominations to finally earn an Oscar.)

Also worth noting in the department of overdue Oscars may be Paul Schrader, whose credits as screenwriter and/or director include Taxi DriverRaging Bull, and Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. He received his very first Oscar nomination today, for writing the original screenplay for his 2018 film First Reformed.

Laura Harrier and John David Washington in <i>BlacKkKlansman</i>

Laura Harrier and John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman
Focus Features

Read more from the 2019 Oscar nominees:

Spike and I are trying to deliver a movie, and also to deliver a cinematic experience. If it makes you laugh even in a moment you would never think you would laugh in — if we can make you laugh but not lose you — we’re going to do it.”

BlacKkKlansman editor Barry Alexander Brown

The challenge of the movie is the tone. We have some really funny things happening, but also some really dramatic and sad things. So how do you go back and forth between those two? That was the hardest part — getting that balance right.”

Green Book editor Patrick Don Vito

Before they are actors, the actors are human beings. This is why [Lanthimos’] direction of the actors can sometimes seem a bit unfamiliar. There is no method acting here. It is more Eisensteinian, bringing related moments and movements together in very human and emotional ways.”

The Favourite editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Unsurprisingly, the film editing nominees are a subset of best picture, with Barry Alexander Brown (BlacKkKlansman), John Ottman (Bohemian Rhapsody), Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Favourite), Patrick J. Don Vito (Green Book) and Hank Corwin (Vice) making the cut. It’s the first Oscar nomination for Mavropsaridis, Ottman and Don Vito.  Corwin was nominated in 2016 for The Big Short, and Brown’s Oscar history dates all the way back to 1980, when he was nominated for co-producing and co-directing the documentary feature The War at Home.

Nor are there any dark-horse nominees in the VFX field, a la the $15 million Ex Machina, which earned the Oscar a few years ago. There may, however, be a trend toward more modestly budgeted features making the cut alongside the usual studio tentpoles. VFX nominees Christopher Robin and First Man were made for a reported $70 million and $59 million, respectively. Generous figures, sure, but definitely mid-level investments compared to the money that went into Ready Player One (about $175 million), Solo: A Star Wars Story ($275 million) and Avengers: Infinity War (around $320 million).

Emily Blunt in <i>A Quiet Place</i>

Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place
Paramount Pictures

Read more from the 2019 Oscar nominees:

One of the big challenges was: how quiet can we get with this film? That was where the exploration began. We started experimenting with all different shades of quiet, including complete silence — digital zero, which we were able to get to basically at three different suspended moments in the film. So we had everything from complete silence up to actually pretty powerful, strong sonic moments, and every gradation in between.”

A Quiet Place sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn

There’s something kind of magical when you take sound out. It’s unsettling. And it’s a novel experience for an audience. They aren’t used to that and it forces them to really become a part of the experience. They feel like they’re right there, in that space, with these characters, to the point where they are even afraid to eat popcorn.”

A Quiet Place sound editor Erik Aadahl

The two sound categories tracked each other pretty closely, with Black PantherBohemian RhapsodyFirst Man and Roma earning nominations for sound editing as well as sound mixing. The departures were A Quiet Place — which made the decision to use no sound at all for scenes from the “sound POV” of a deaf character — in editing and the atmospheric, performance-laden A Star Is Born in mixing.

Still from Free Solo

Free Solo
National Geographic/Jimmy Chin

Read more from the 2019 Oscar nominees:

We spent at least 30 days, over the course of two years, on El Cap filming. Thirty days times five people — that’s like five or six people climbing El Cap at least 10 times. That’s a lot of time in high-angle terrain where you can never make a mistake. That’s a lot of numbers adding up in terms of exposure to risk.”

Free Solo co-director and DP Jimmy Chin

You put yourself at the horizon of your own understanding of the world. When you put yourself in that space, you get that understanding with your camera. It’s helped me understand what I care about, how I interpret things and what I consider meaningful content.”

Hale County This Morning, This Evening director RaMell Ross

And in a very good year for documentaries, Oscar’s final five necessarily left some fine work on the sidelines. The films surviving include at least two box-office hits — mountaineering adventure Free Solo and Ruth Bader Ginsberg bio-doc RBG are both said to have earned around $14 million in theaters. (Despite generating an even more impressive $22.6 million, the Fred Rogers doc Won’t You Be My Neighbor? went un-nominated.) Filling out the roster are three lesser-seen yet widely acclaimed titles: RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, and Of Fathers and Sons.

Academy members will vote for winners in all categories between February 12 and February 19 in advance of the Oscar ceremony, scheduled for Sunday, February 24, 2019, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.

The full list of 2019 Oscar nominees follows:

Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Christian Bale in Vice
  • Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born
  • Willem Dafoe in At Eternity’s Gate
  • Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Viggo Mortensen in Green Book

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Mahershala Ali in Green Book
  • Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman
  • Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born
  • Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?
  • Sam Rockwell in Vice

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Yalitza Aparicio in Roma
  • Glenn Close in The Wife
  • Olivia Colman in The Favourite
  • Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born
  • Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in Vice
  • Marina de Tavira in Roma
  • Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Emma Stone in The Favourite
  • Rachel Weisz in The Favourite

Best animated feature film of the year

  • Incredibles 2 Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
  • Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
  • Mirai Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Achievement in cinematography

  • Cold War Łukasz Żal
  • The Favourite Robbie Ryan
  • Never Look Away Caleb Deschanel
  • Roma Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star Is Born Matthew Libatique

Achievement in costume design

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Mary Zophres
  • Black Panther Ruth Carter
  • The Favourite Sandy Powell
  • Mary Poppins Returns Sandy Powell
  • Mary Queen of Scots Alexandra Byrne

Achievement in directing

  • BlacKkKlansman Spike Lee
  • Cold War Paweł Pawlikowski
  • The Favourite Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Roma Alfonso Cuarón
  • Vice Adam McKay

Best documentary feature

  • Free Solo Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
  • Hale County This Morning, This Evening RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
  • Minding the Gap Bing Liu and Diane Quon
  • Of Fathers and Sons Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
  • RBG Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Best documentary short subject

  • Black Sheep Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn
  • End Game Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
  • Lifeboat Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser
  • A Night at The Garden Marshall Curry
  • Period. End of Sentence. Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton

Achievement in film editing

  • BlacKkKlansman Barry Alexander Brown
  • Bohemian Rhapsody John Ottman
  • The Favourite Yorgos Mavropsaridis
  • Green Book Patrick J. Don Vito
  • Vice Hank Corwin

Best foreign language film of the year

  • Capernaum Lebanon
  • Cold War Poland
  • Never Look Away Germany
  • Roma Mexico
  • Shoplifters Japan

Achievement in makeup and hairstyling

  • Border Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
  • Mary Queen of Scots Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
  • Vice Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • Black Panther Ludwig Goransson
  • BlacKkKlansman Terence Blanchard
  • If Beale Street Could Talk Nicholas Britell
  • Isle of Dogs Alexandre Desplat
  • Mary Poppins Returns Marc Shaiman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • All The Stars from Black Panther
    Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
  • I’ll Fight from RBG
    Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
  • The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns
    Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
  • Shallow from A Star Is Born
    Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
  • When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
    Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Best motion picture of the year

  • Black Panther Kevin Feige, Producer
  • BlacKkKlansman Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
  • Bohemian Rhapsody Graham King, Producer
  • The Favourite Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
  • Green Book Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
  • Roma Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
  • A Star Is Born Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
  • Vice Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

Achievement in production design

  • Black Panther Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
  • The Favourite Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
  • First Man Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
  • Mary Poppins Returns Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
  • Roma Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

Best animated short film

  • Animal Behaviour Alison Snowden and David Fine
  • Bao Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb
  • Late Afternoon Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco
  • One Small Step Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
  • Weekends Trevor Jimenez

Best live action short film

  • Detainment Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
  • Fauve Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
  • Marguerite Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
  • Mother Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
  • Skin Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman

Achievement in sound editing

  • Black Panther Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
  • Bohemian Rhapsody John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
  • First Man Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
  • A Quiet Place Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • Roma Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay

Achievement in sound mixing

  • Black Panther Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin
  • Bohemian Rhapsody Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali
  • First Man Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis
  • Roma Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García
  • A Star Is Born Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow

Achievement in visual effects

  • Avengers: Infinity War Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
  • Christopher Robin Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
  • First Man Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
  • Ready Player One Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy

Adapted screenplay

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • BlacKkKlansman Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
  • If Beale Street Could Talk Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
  • A Star Is Born Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Original screenplay

  • The Favourite Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
  • First Reformed Written by Paul Schrader
  • Green Book Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
  • Roma Written by Alfonso Cuarón
  • Vice Written by Adam McKay