Years ago -- after the 1969 Oscars -- a young lady friend of mine wrote me "I never agree with them on everything, but there were things I was very happy about." Since, that night, Dustin Hoffman lost to John Wayne, and Catherine Burns to Goldie Hawn, but at the same time Midnight Cowboy won best picture/director and Maggie Smith won best actress, I was in full agreement with her. I came to think of that as how I'd almost always feel about the Oscars, with my comparative level of contentment based on how the scale tilted.
This year, though as always there were personal disappointments, I think the scale tilted VERY positive. My five most-liked movies of the year are all nominated for best picture (and my 6th, Blade Runner, scored a healthy five tech nods). One of them -- Phantom Thread -- was one many thought had no chance, but it killed (to answer Sabin's question, "Who predicted this?", I actually predicted everything it got plus screenplay -- and I think okri was in the ballpark, too). With all that on the positive end, I can live with The Post scrounging up two nods, and Darkest Hour fouling the nest with a chanceless best picture nomination.
Plus, as we all know, I have a personal bugaboo about things being entirely predictable. I hate when the professional predictors brush aside your long shot by saying "It didn't get the important precursors", and I love when they're all wrong. (As so many of them were about PTA.) It wasn't a completely WTF morning, but there was enough divergence from the template that I was able to enjoy the uncertainty, even when it resulted in an omission or inclusion I wouldn't have made.
Did anyone else tune into Good Morning America expecting to see the early tech nods, and then frantically have to go to the computer for the live-steam? I thus came in late on the first category (production design), though I was able to get a quick glance at the full board, enough to see it was mostly the expected candidates. This held true for most of the design categories: cinematography repeated ASC, and costumes were within normal range (the costume guild be damned, I knew they'd never pass up Victoria & Abdul). There were minor surprises within this first batch: Get Out missing editing; sound mixing and sound editing absolutely matching, I believe for the first time?; I, Tonya slipping into editing (surprising mostly because it then failed under best picture); Carter Burwell getting noted for Three Billboards (as was said below, Three Billboards seemed to be doing above expectations, until director came along). Oh, and thank you, visual effects branch, for not forcing me to sit through another Alien movie. Having to watch Kong: Skull Island is a small price to pay for that.
The time for discussing winners is later, but I'll say at the top I think at least half of these below-the-line categories will be competitive.
Then it was on the televised portion. I think Haddish amped up the cute a bit more for this segment -- and, really, she didn't even seem to try to get names right. How complicated is the name Weber? (To his good-sport credit, writer Weber tweeted out that she could mispronounce his name any time she wanted.)
Right off the bat, there was the happy jolt of Manville's nomination -- one I was wobbly on all the way, but which came though. I'd have preferred Hong Chau be a fifth nominee, rather than Blige, but, again, you can't have everything.
Biggest disappointment of the day, of course, was Stuhlbarg's omission. I'm going to say the insistence on running Armie Hammer in the same category was fatal to both. Three Billboards was able to break the quarter-century jinx against double nominees, but Call Me by Your Name didn't have the overall strength to do the same, and it cost both. Stuhlbarg is in three best picture nominees, but got nothing for himself (except, as Mark Harris says, the satisfaction of the fact he belonged on the list and we all know it). If you gave me the power to alter just one nomination, I'd remove Plummer and insert Stuhlbarg, without hesitation.
I presume Twitter will claim James Franco's potential nomination was lost due to misbehavior, but, as I've said, I think his vehicle was enough to bring him down on its own. As for his replacement -- is Roman J. Israel about as lame an 8th nomination vehicle as we'll ever see? Maybe Venus/O'Toole was close? (For the record, Meryl's 8th was A Cry in the Dark; Jack's was Prizzi's Honor.)
Perhaps not enough noticed: we ended up with four African-American acting nominations, only one short of last year when there was a lot more hoopla. Especially noteworthy is the fact that not one of them was a sure thing. Also: Octavia Spencer ties Viola Davis for nominations by an African-American woman -- the small number (3) is likely to grow for one or both in the coming years.
The Stuhlbarg omission made it that much more gratifying that Mystery of Love was able to crack the best song list. The roster is not nearly so obscure as usual -- we all guessed on the unknown documentary the one year it didn't happen -- and, apart from the unavoidable Diane Warren effort, it's not a disreputable bunch. I assume people view Remember Me as the favorite, but the fact that voters will need to watch Call Me by Your Name for its major categories might give Mystery of Love a shot.
The fact that The Big Sick still managed to get a screenplay nod, despite failing at film and supporting actress, convinces me I was right early on this season, when I said there were so many deserving candidates, things might not fit together as neatly as they normally do. Also the fact that Phantom Thread missed here, despite doing so well elsewhere.
The screenplay categories thus only accounted for 5 of the 9 best picture nominees -- I believe a record for this expanded field era.
And James Ivory becomes, I'm told, the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar -- an Oscar we all hope he'll win. Chrisropher Plummer is merely the oldest ever in his category.
And maybe this is the spot to note, something I picked up from Mark Harris: thanks to the breakthrough in cinematography, and the rare directing citation, there are women competing in almost every category -- apart from, of course, actor and supporting actor, plus score, and the tech boys categories of visual effects and sound mixing (but sound editing, amazingly, includes a female nominee).
Conversely, I, Tonya's failure to get a best picture nod means we won't have the expected match-up of all lead actress nominees to a best picture nominee. Oddly, just as many of the lead actors (4) match to a best picture candidate...which feels like a misleading statistic, given how the female-led films seem to dominate the roster.
When Peele and Gerwig were read out as directing nominees, I was ready to say, damn, everybody was right to go DGA -- and then Anderson's name came gloriously along. I should be unhappy that McDonagh was the victim, given it might sabotage his film's ultimate hopes, but 1) I thought of his film as more a writing than directing achievement; 2) I was SO happy Phantom Thread got this richly deserved nod; and 3) I'm delighted once again the directors' branch maintains its ability to surprise in a good way. Also, I was relieved we didn't have to go through the Twitter wars if either Peele or Gerwig were the missing.
Sabin is correct, by the way: it's amazing that Nolan finally got off his long-running schneid, and it's barely rating mention.
As was mentioned below, both documentary and foreign film categories were missing the candidates that seemed to have the potential to run away with it, making them complete wild cards. You also have to get a kick out of the fact that Ostlund, having failed to get a nod a few years back when it was expected, now succeeds when most had written him off.
Finally, best picture, which I've kind of discussed already. The Post ends up with exactly the same nominations as (drum roll) The Blind Side; not exactly what Spielberg & Co. envisioned, I'd guess. There were enough Brits to get Darkest Hour onto the list. Other than that, it was the DGA five plus Call Me by Your Name, and, did I mention, Phantom Thread got nominated! That last is my biggest takeaway of the day, and makes this a happy day despite all disappointments.
And with that exhaustively said, I'll cut this off, and get back to what others are saying.