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Del Toro's 'Shape of Water' lands a leading 13 Oscar nods

Written by Jake Coyle/The Associated Press | Jan 23, 2018 10:04 AM
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Elisa (Sally Hawkins) prepares to put in a good word for your old buddy Gill, because the wolves are at Old Gill's door, in The Shape of Water. Kerry Hayes/Fox Searchlight

(New York) -- Guillermo del Toro's lavish monster romance "The Shape of Water" fished out a leading 13 nominations, Greta Gerwig became just the fifth woman nominated for best director and "Mudbound" director of photography Rachel Morrison made history as the first woman nominated for best cinematography in nominations announced Tuesday for the 90th annual Academy Awards.

Oscar voters put forward nine best-picture nominees: "The Shape of Water," ''Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," ''Lady Bird," ''Get Out," ''Darkest Hour," ''The Post," ''Dunkirk," ''Call Me By Your Name" and "Phantom Thread."

"The Shape of Water" came just shy of tying the record of 14 nominations by "All About Eve," ''Titanic" and "La La Land." Del Toro's dark fantasy scored a wide array for nominations for its cast (Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer), its sumptuous score (by Alexander Desplat) and technical craft.

"It is a privilege to tell such stories and to be able to make films that show there is a life beyond the life that people know -- one that is not always seen," said best actress nominee Hawkins.

The cascading fallout of sexual harassment scandals throughout Hollywood put particular focus on the best director category, which for many is a symbol of gender inequality in the film industry. Gerwig follows only Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow, the sole woman to win (for "The Hurt Locker").

Also nominated for best director was "Get Out" director Jordan Peele. He becomes the fifth black filmmaker nominated for best director, and the third to helm a best-picture nominee, following Barry Jenkins last year for "Moonlight." Following Warren Beatty ("Heaven Can Wait") and James L. Brooks ("Terms of Endearment"), he's the third person to receive best picture, director and writing nods for his first feature film.

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Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British soldier desperate to escape the beaches of Dunkirk, is safe -- for now. Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros.

Though all of the front-runners -- Frances McDormand ("Three Billboards"), Gary Oldman ("Darkest Hour"), Allison Janney ("I, Tonya"), Sam Rockwell ("Three Billboards") -- landed their expected nominations, there were surprises.

Denzel Washington ("Roman J. Israel, Esq.") was nominated for best actor, likely eclipsing James Franco ("Disaster Artist"). Franco was accused of sexual misconduct, which he denied, just days before Oscar voting closed. The category's other nominees were: Daniel Day-Lewis ("Phantom Thread"), Timothee Chalamet ("Call Me By Your Name") and Daniel Kaluuya ("Get Out").

Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey in Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World," also sneaked into best supporting actor category. Plummer was added to the film in reshoots little more than a month before the film's release.

Perhaps most unexpected was the broad success of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Phantom Thread," which scored not just a best actor nod for what Day-Lewis has said is his final performance and best supporting actress for Lesley Manville, but also nominations for best picture and Anderson's direction.

Anderson likely displaced not only Steven Spielberg ("The Post") but Martin McDonagh, the director of the film many have tapped to win best picture, "Three Billboards." His absence is a major knock for a film that has endured the harshest backlash of the contenders, with many claiming it's out of touch in matters of race.

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Swing and a Diss: Mildred (Frances McDormand) and Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) discuss Mildred's Burma-Shave-inspired quest for justice in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Fox Searchlight Pictures

Still, "Three Billboards" scored seven nominations Tuesday, behind only "The Shape of Water" and Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk." The World War II epic, thus far little-honored in Hollywood's awards season, emerged especially strong with Oscar voters, taking eight nominations, many of them in technical categories.

Though the favorites are largely independent films, a number of blockbusters fared well, including five nods for "Blade Runner 2049," four for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," three for "Baby Driver," two for "Beauty and the Beast" and two for Pixar's "Coco," which is up for best animated feature. Still, Patty Jenkins' "Wonder Woman," which became the highest grossing movie ever directed by a woman, failed to receive any Oscar nods despite an awards campaign.

But the box-office hit that carved the most unlikely path to the Oscars was "Get Out." It opened back in February on Oscar weekend, and went on to pocket $254.7 million worldwide. It scored four nominations.

Though many minorities were still absent from the acting categories, the film academy, which has worked to diversify its membership, put forward a field of nominees almost as diverse as last year when "Moonlight," ''Fences" and "Hidden Figures" powered a rebuttal to the "OscarsSoWhite" backlash of the two years prior. Four black actors -- Washington, Kaluuya, Spencer and Mary J. Blige ("Mudbound") -- are among the 20 acting nominees.

Meryl Streep, who stars as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in "The Post," notched her 21st Oscar nomination. She was joined for best actress by McDormand, Hawkins, Saoirse Ronan ("Lady Bird") and Margot Robbie ("I, Tonya").

"I am honored beyond measure by this nomination for a film I love, a film that stands in defense of press freedom, and inclusion of women's voices in the movement of history," Streep said in a statement. "Proud of the film, and all her filmmakers. Thank you from a full heart."

Last year's Oscars broadcast, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, drew 32.9 million viewers for ABC, a four percent drop from the prior year. More worrisome, however, was a steeper slide in the key demographic of adults aged 18-49, whose viewership was down 14 percent from 2016.

Though the show ran especially long, at three hours and 49 minutes, it finished with a bang: the infamous envelope mix-up that led to "La La Land" being incorrectly announced as the best picture before "Moonlight" was crowned.

This year, the academy has prohibited the PwC accountants who handle the envelopes from using cellphones or social media during the show. The accounting firm on Monday also unveiled several reforms including the addition of a third balloting partner in the show's control room. But the movie business has larger accounting problems. Movie attendance hit a 24-year low in 2017 despite the firepower of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," ''Beauty and the Beast" and "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2."

It was a dominant if bittersweet day for 20th Century Fox. Its specialty label, Fox Searchlight, is behind both "Three Billboards" and "The Shape of Water," and Fox released The Post." Yet those wins may soon count for the Walt Disney Co., which last month reached a deal to purchase Fox for $52.4 billion.

Both Amazon and Netflix failed to crack the best picture category but earned nominations elsewhere. Netflix's "Mudbound" scored four nods and Amazon's "The Big Sick" grabbed a nomination for Holly Hunter, best supporting actress, and Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon's original screenplay about their real-life romance.

"At times we worried it would be insurmountable, or would rip us apart, or even worse -- that no one would like it," Nanjiani and Gordon said in a joint statement. "The fact that it connected with audiences is exhilarating, and this nomination proves that our love is real. We have decided to stay married."

Associated Press writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

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