“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón’s love letter to his Mexico City childhood, solidified its status as the Academy Awards’ front-runner Tuesday morning with 10 nominations, including two unexpected nods for its stars Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, setting the stage for a game-changing Oscar night.
If “Roma” is named best picture on Feb. 24, it will be the first foreign-language film in the Oscars’ 91-year history to triumph in that category. The Netflix release also could make history by becoming the first Oscar champ from a streaming-TV service. While it premiered in a handful of movie theaters, the film has reached the vast majority of its audience in their homes.
“The Favourite,” a catty comedy about two cousins vying for the attention of England’s 17th century Queen Anne, matched “Roma” with 10 nominations, including star Olivia Colman, former winners Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.
Cuarón also received nominations for directing, cinematography and screenplay. He was previously named best director for 2013’s “Gravity.”
Two of the past four best-picture champs have been helmed by other Mexican filmmakers: Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Birdman.” But both were English-language films.
Another sign that the Academy is thinking more globally: Pawel Pawlikowski’s inclusion in the best director category for “Cold War,” which has been described as a Polish version of “A Star Is Born.”
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” a warped Western by Twin Cities-bred filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen that also went the Netflix route, did better than expected with three nominations, including one for the Coens’ screenplay.
Before Tuesday morning’s announcement, “Roma’s” most daunting competition was considered to be “A Star Is Born” and “Green Book.”
Both films were shut out of the best-director race, however. Only four films have ever been named best picture without receiving a directorial nod — most notably “Driving Miss Daisy,” which, like “Green Book,” suggested that racial differences could be resolved through lengthy conversations in a car.
The two films still should pick up some hardware at the Oscars. “Green” co-star Mahershala Ali is the heavy favorite to win supporting actor for the second time in his relatively short career and Lady Gaga should emerge from her egg long enough to take a bow for her best-song nominee “Shallow.”
But their snubs left room for Pawlikowski and Spike Lee, who finally received his first nods for best picture and director after a 33-year career and such landmark films as “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X.” His drama “BlacKkKlansman” got six nominations in all, including one for supporting actor Adam Driver and the screenplay, co-written by Lee. The filmmaker, who received an honorary Oscar in 2016, had been nominated only twice before, for screenplay (“Right Thing”) and documentary (“4 Little Girls”).
The director of “A Star Is Born,” Bradley Cooper, was nominated as best actor, as was Willem Dafoe, whose recognition for his role as Vincent Van Gogh in the little-seen “At Eternity’s Gate” was one of the morning’s biggest jaw droppers. Both are considered long shots. That contest is between Christian Bale, who imagined Dick Cheney as a Batman villain for “Vice,” and Rami Malek, who channeled Queen’s Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Cooper’s co-star, Gaga, has a stronger chance in the best-actress category, but it’s the evening’s hardest race to call. No pop superstar other than Cher, for “Moonstruck,” has won an Oscar for a leading role. Colman and Glenn Close (“The Wife”) have been dominating on the awards circuit.
If Close loses to “The Favourite” star, she will have the notorious distinction of being the most honored bridesmaid in Oscar history with seven nominations and zero wins. Only two actors, both male, had longer winless streaks: Peter O’Toole (eight) and Richard Burton (seven).
Chanhassen Dinner Theatre vet Amy Adams is right behind; her portrayal of Lady Macbeth — er, Lynne Cheney — in “Vice” earned her a sixth nomination in the supporting-actress category. Don’t be shocked if she goes home empty-handed again. Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) appears to have that award locked up. Then again, this category has often yielded upsets. Yes, I’m talking to you, Marisa Tomei.
Women were left out of the race for best director. The news was slightly more uplifting for people of color. Peter Ramsey is the first black director to compete for best animated feature (“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”). Two of the best-picture nominees were directed by black filmmakers, Lee and Ryan Coogler, whose “Black Panther” became the first-ever superhero flick in that category. Coogler, whose film earned seven nods, failed to make the best-director slate, however. And “Crazy Rich Asians” was shut out entirely.
If “Asians,” an international smash, had made the cut, it may have boosted ratings for the broadcast, which have slid in recent years and is facing the possibility of airing Feb. 24 without an official host. But the Academy’s semi-embrace of “Panther” should help.