Lots of surprises this morning as the Oscar nominations were announcedby Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross.

Haven’t seen most of the films, but I will say SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is a game-changing film; its narrative — the shop-worn superhero origin — was turned on its head, and, finally, an animated film that an adult can enjoy over and over again. Although, it sort of reminds me of UNBREAKABLE (but that’s for another post).

What surprised me is that Paul Schrader received his first (!) nomination for the wrenching FIRST REFORMED. Schrader has contributed to the cinema landscape in countless ways, but his collaboration with Martin Scorsese on TAXI DRIVER will always be one of those startling and inspiring and shattering pieces of work. Throughout the 70s and most of the 80s, Schrader gave us some powerful, powerful films. Even the hot mess film he did with Lindsay Lohan probed us uncomfortably, which is Schrader’s greatest strength.

BLACK PANTHER received a slew of nods, and I’d put money on Ruth E. Carter winning Best Costumes; she outdid herself with that fabulous Wakandan garb. Best Picture? I don’t know; it reminds me of THE RETURN OF THE KING winning. But I think there’s too much-unspoken rancor at Marvel/superhero films because they’ve crowded out a great deal of other kinds of films (myths will do that), so I don’t think BLACK PANTHER will win. Plus there’s some much talk that its nomination is a “diversity/inclusion” push instead of a great film. It’s not like the film wasn’t a crowd-pleaser that shifted the way the industry and the world views Black people as entities that can control a universal narrative. It seems that people forget films like THE GODFATHER and SILENCE OF LAMBS were box office smashes that went on to win Oscar gold. As most Hollywood fare aimed to the LDC, the Oscars have become more and more “prestige” films striving for the highest form of art (which is dubious considering Hollywood eschews those kinds of films, in general).