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Breaking Down The 2018 Oscar Nominations


Academy Award nominations were announced today. And if you're looking for an early front-runner, you could do worse than Guillermo del Toro's romantic science fiction fantasy "The Shape Of Water." It led the way with 13 nominations including best picture.


RICHARD JENKINS: (As Giles) The princess without voice and the tale of love and loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all...

KELLY: Joining "The Shape Of Water" in the top category with eight nominations is the World War II battlefield epic "Dunkirk."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) That's two minutes. You've missed it.


KELLY: And close on the heels of "Dunkirk" with seven nominations is "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." That's the story of a woman demanding that a sexual predator be brought to justice.


FRANCES MCDORMAND: (As Mildred) My daughter Angela was murdered seven months ago. It seems to me the police department is too busy torturing black folks and eating Krispy Kremes to solve actual crime.

KELLY: And there are six other best picture contenders. Well, joining me now to talk about all the nominations are Linda Holmes of NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See. Hi, Linda...


KELLY: ...And our film critic Bob Mondello. So welcome to you both.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Good to be here.

KELLY: Bob, I'm going to give you the first word 'cause I want you to run through. There are nine nominations for best picture overall. We heard about three. What are the other six?

MONDELLO: Well, there's another World War II story that looks at Dunkirk from Winston Churchill's point of view, the "Darkest Hour" - also the gay love story "Call Me By Your Name," The horror comedy with a racial subtext "Get Out," the Pentagon Papers chronicle "The Post" and the fashion world drama that Daniel Day-Lewis says will be his last film ever, "Phantom Thread," and also Greta Gerwig's autobiographical or semi-autobiographical high school dramedy "Lady Bird."

KELLY: Dramedy - all right, there we go.

MONDELLO: (Laughter).

KELLY: Linda, does the fact that "The Shape Of Water," which we started with - 13 nominations - does that kind of make it a shoo-in for best picture?

HOLMES: It doesn't make it a shoo-in. Sometimes the sheer number of nominations says more about what kind of movie it is than how likely it is to win. Sometimes films get many, many nominations because of the number of good roles they have and their ability to be nominated for things like visuals and sound, which, if you look at a film like "Get Out," it doesn't have the same kind of visual effects. It's just as visually effective, but it doesn't have the same kinds of effects as a film like "The Shape Of Water." So sometimes it really just says what kind of a film it is.

KELLY: Now, there were some notable firsts in other categories. Let me start with directors category. Bob, what happened there?

MONDELLO: OK, there were two first-time directors, Jordan Peele for "Get Out" and Greta Gerwig for "Lady Bird." And "Dunkirk" is veteran filmmaker Christopher Nolan's first nomination for director. He's been nominated before but always for screenplay. This time he got nominated for director. And this is the guy who made "Memento." This is the guy who made, I mean, just all the - those amazing Batman pictures. It's incredible he hasn't been nominated for director before.

KELLY: He was due, you would argue.

MONDELLO: Yeah, I'd say.

KELLY: Yeah. Linda...

HOLMES: Believe it or not, this is the first time a woman has ever been nominated in the category of cinematography. Her name is Rachel Morrison, and she's the cinematographer for "Mudbound." The cinematographer is literally the person whose lens you're looking through. So having a woman at the 90th Academy Awards finally nominated in that category is an important first.

MONDELLO: And under normal circumstances, I would be so for her winning. And I am torn because Roger Deakins has been nominated 14 times...

KELLY: Fourteen times...

MONDELLO: ...Fourteen times and has never won.

KELLY: You know, it's always interesting to see how the Oscars play off the national zeitgeist and what we're all talking about this year. Of course we're talking about the #MeToo movement, and I'm sure that will come up at the Oscars. What about what we were all talking about a couple of years ago, #OscarsSoWhite? Linda, will that still be front and center this year?

HOLMES: I think that it will be. I think that you can see some progress in those areas, Jordan Peele being nominated, Greta Gerwig in terms of including more women. I think that the acting categories have more black actors - Octavia Spencer, Denzel Washington, Daniel Kaluuya, who's in "Get Out," and also Mary J. Blige - nice to see Guillermo del Toro is nominated as a director for "Shape Of Water." So there is some progress. It's iterative. They have a long, long way to go.

KELLY: Now, let me ask you about something which they will be desperately trying not to do at the Oscars this year, which is announce the wrong winner for best picture.

HOLMES: Oh, boy.


MONDELLO: That was one of the most special moments in Oscar history last year.

HOLMES: It really was. It was wonderful - awful but wonderful.

KELLY: Awful but wonderful - what steps are they taking to not have a repeat of this?

MONDELLO: I think the biggest one of all is that they're not allowing cellphones backstage. The guy who handed the wrong envelope had just tweeted a photo of somebody from backstage on his cellphone.

HOLMES: Emma Stone, I believe.

MONDELLO: And you know...

KELLY: Was distracted.

MONDELLO: Apparently. So anyway, they - one of my favorite things is they're going to have somebody in the control booth who has memorized all the winners. So someone is going to know this ahead of time.


KELLY: All right, that's our film critic Bob Mondello and Linda Holmes, czar of our pop culture blog Monkey See. Thanks so much to you both.

HOLMES: Thank you.

MONDELLO: Always a pleasure.

KELLY: On tomorrow's Morning Edition - more movie stars and filmmakers. The Sundance Film Festival is underway in Park City, Utah. Our colleague David Greene is going to talk with critic Kenneth Turan about what is worth watching. That is tomorrow on Morning Edition. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.
Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.