Four films reached double digits in the Oscar nominations this year, a first in the awards’ 92 year-history. “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “1917” are tied with 10 apiece, trailing nomination leader “Joker” at 11. The Oscars have twice given 10 or more nominations to three films simultaneously, for 1964 and 1978. Many years have actually seen no film hit double-digits, with “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” most recently co-leading nominations five years ago with nine each. This was normal before the last decade; no film released between 2004 and 2008 received even nine nominations.
The top four films this year are all nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and a Best Screenplay award, but the dominance by the films at the top is felt most in Best Costume Design. It is not the only category this year to nominate Best Picture nominees exclusively, but this is its the first time. The costumers’ branch has long distinguished itself by considering the craft on its own merits. Between 2004’s “The Aviator” and 2011’s “The Artist,” six consecutive films won Best Costume Design without being nominated for Best Picture. “Dolemite is My Name” won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Costume Design, then was shut out of the Oscar nominations the next morning, making this the first year that Critics’ Choice awarded costumes that did not receive an Oscar nomination.
Oscar voters seem not to have watched as many films this year, which is unsurprising during this truncated awards season. February 9 will mark the earliest Oscar ceremony ever, so nominations voting ended this year on January 7, a full week earlier than last year and before the Critics’ Choice Awards ceremony for the first time in four years.
The streaming era has brought a proliferation of content, so the problem could instead be that voters watched more films than ever. Votes might be spread too thinly beyond a few films that have been widely seen. Last year saw the most films qualify for Best Picture eligibility since 1970 and the most television programs qualify for Emmy consideration ever. Visibility has increasingly played a factor at the Emmys with nominees from shows that are up for a Best Program award trouncing standout work from shows that were snubbed in their relevant Best Program category. There was not such uniformity when the Emmys used small judging panels of volunteers to determine nominations and winners, nor are the Oscar categories that use nominating panels (for the Best Film awards that are not Best Picture) as susceptible to campaigns and visibility.
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