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The Biggest Surprises of the 2018 Oscar Nominations

For one thing, they weren’t #SoWhite.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread.
The academy loves Phantom Thread. Focus Features

Academy Award nominee The Boss Baby? The Shape of Water leading the pack?! For those who have been watching this year’s Oscar race closely, even results like these in this year’s nominations were no surprise. In fact, they were pretty much expected.

Less expected were the results below. Let’s break down the nominations that caught even the most experienced Oscar prognosticators off guard.

The nominees are not #SoWhite.

Are the academy’s efforts to diversify its membership, to make it less overwhelmingly old, white, and male, paying off? Most of the nominations that went to people of color this year were not shockers, but collectively, the number of them is a bit of a surprise. Octavia Spencer and Mary J. Blige were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress for their roles in The Shape of Water and Mudbound, respectively, when neither was considered a lock. Jordan Peele became only the fifth black filmmaker nominated for Best Directing, for Get Out. And all of this is not to mention the nominations for Guillermo del Toro (Best Director), Daniel Kaluuya (Best Actor), Kumail Nanjiani (Best Original Screenplay), and Denzel Washington (more on this one below).


Meanwhile, they weren’t quite #SoMale as usual, either. Greta Gerwig became the fifth woman nominated for Best Director, for Lady Bird, and Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography.

The Academy loves Phantom Thread as much as critics do.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ avowed swan song got a lot more love from voters than anticipated, with six nominations total for Paul Thomas Anderson’s off-kilter romance. Outside of Day-Lewis’ expected nod for Best Actor and the expected tip of the cap for Best Costume Design, PTA’s recognition for Best Directing and Lesley Manville’s for Best Supporting Actress are pleasant surprises.

Holly Hunter got shut out of Best Supporting Actress.

Allison Janney’s performance as Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Fay Golden has brought her numerous accolades thus far, including a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award, while Laurie Metcalf has won pretty much every critics’ circle award she possibly could for Lady Bird—both were shoo-ins and clear front-runners. Nonetheless, Holly Hunter’s performance in The Big Sick was widely expected to make its way into the category, with most experts tapping her as the third or fourth seed.


Denzel Washington was nominated for Roman J. Israel, Esq.

This legal drama, in which Washington plays an attorney who is on the spectrum, flew under the radar when it was released to tepid reviews last fall. Washington was nominated for a Golden Globe (where there are 10 Best Actor nominees, five for comedy and five for drama), but basically no one had him as their pick for the Oscars. Perhaps the recent allegations against The Disaster Artist’s James Franco helped pave the way for the vet to receive his eighth nomination, but Washington also beat out one of the only actors who has as many Oscars as he does: Tom Hanks.


Martin McDonagh wasn’t nominated for directing Three Billboards.


The odds of McDonagh actually winning in this category may have seemed low, but considering the momentum Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri had gained in recent weeks as the apparent Best Picture front-runner, a nomination seemed almost a sure thing. Instead, it appears P.T. Anderson took the slot. (McDonagh’s film was nominated in virtually every other major category, however, so no one should count it out.)

Armie Hammer wasn’t nominated for Call Me by Your Name

This year’s Best Supporting Actor category was always a tough one to predict, but most predictions had the actor’s performance seeded solidly in the third or fourth slot. Instead, it seems that Hammer met the same fate as Kevin Spacey: He was replaced at the last minute by Christopher Plummer.

Read more in Slate about the 2018 Oscars.