AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And leading the pack with today's Oscar nominations - "Roma" and "The Favourite." And here's a quick sampling of the eight contenders for best picture.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE FAVOURITE")
RACHEL WEISZ: (As Lady Sarah) You have become close to Abigail. She is a viper.
OLIVIA COLMAN: (As Queen Anne) You're jealous.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREEN BOOK")
MAHERSHALA ALI: (As Don Shirley) Do you foresee any issues in working for a black man?
VIGGO MORTENSEN: (As Tony Lip) You in the Deep South - there's going to be problems.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ROMA")
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACKKKLANSMAN")
JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON: (As Ron Stallworth) We'll need a white officer to play me when they meet so there becomes a combined...
ADAM DRIVER AND JOHN DAVID WASHINGTON: (As Ron Stallworth and Flip Zimmerman) Ron Stallworth.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) You're a legend, Fred.
RAMI MALEK: (As Freddie Mercury) We're all legends.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE WILL ROCK YOU")
QUEEN: (Singing) We will, we will...
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLACK PANTHER")
DANAI GURIRA: (As Okoye) Wakanda forever.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "VICE")
CHRISTIAN BALE: (As Dick Cheney) The vice presidency is a mostly symbolic job. However...
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A STAR IS BORN")
LADY GAGA: (As Ally, singing) I'm off the deep end, watch as I dive in. I'll never meet the ground...
CORNISH: All right, working backwards, that's "A Star Is Born," "Vice," "Black Panther," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "BlacKkKlansman," "Roma," "Green Book" and "The Favourite." We're joined by Linda Holmes, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Hey there, Linda.
LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: And NPR movie critic Bob Mondello - welcome to the studio, Bob.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Great to be here.
CORNISH: OK, I want to start with the blockbusters. Among the eight nominees for best picture, there were several blockbusters. That's not normally the case. I remember there was this big hullabaloo about whether or not there should be a special category...
MONDELLO: Best popular film, right?
CORNISH: Yeah, exactly (laughter).
MONDELLO: Crazy, and they ended up not needing one. I mean, this year, they nominated "Black Panther," which made $700 million and is the biggest picture of the year, also "Star Is Born" and "Bohemian Rhapsody," both of which made a freaking fortune. They basically have sold more tickets than anything since the year of "Avatar" a decade ago. So usually at the Oscars, you complain that the - nobody saw the movies and so...
CORNISH: Yeah, that's a running joke usually by the host.
MONDELLO: Right, and so that's why nobody's watching the Oscars. This year, they'll have to blame the fact that there is no host (laughter).
CORNISH: Yeah. I want to follow up on "Black Panther" for a second because - obviously nominated for best picture. And then "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" was nominated for best animated feature. And, Linda, is this kind of a moment for this particular genre?
HOLMES: I think it is. And back when they expanded the best picture field from five to up to 10, one of the things they wanted to do is make room for maybe a really great superhero film, but we haven't quite had that happen until this year with "Black Panther."
And then if you look over at "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse," that's, you know, alongside "Incredibles 2," but "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" is so distinctive in its visual approach as well as its narrative approach. And "Black Panther" has a really different POV and a really different aesthetic. And so I think you're seeing that they absolutely are willing to recognize superhero films, but it's great to see them recognizing two that are very different from the kind that we've gotten in the past.
CORNISH: I want to talk about the film "Roma." It has 10 Oscar nominations. It's the first time a Netflix film is up for best picture, though not for lack of trying - right? - on Netflix's part.
HOLMES: Right, right.
CORNISH: How big a deal is this for Netflix, Linda?
HOLMES: Well, it's a big deal for them - definitely a big deal. This is one of the things they've been going for. In some ways, this film is a really obvious Oscar contender. The director is Alfonso Cuaron, who also directed "Gravity." He's a hugely respected director. But on the other hand, Netflix is a - has only been distributing sort of high-profile movies for a few years. And for them, this is enormously significant because it's a step in this direction.
And also I think for movie audiences, you know, Cuaron has made the point that for all that people may not like Netflix as a film distributor, more people are going to have easier access to this film than a lot of past sort of art movies that have been nominated for Oscars.
MONDELLO: Yeah, and you can actually argue that that's also true for documentaries, that it's true for foreign films in general, that the audience in out-of-the-way places or simply anywhere other than New York probably couldn't see most of those movies in years past. And now they are going to have the option of seeing them in streaming.
CORNISH: People can't help but ask about the films that were snubbed (laughter). For you, what are the surprises?
HOLMES: Well, for me, it's "If Beale Street Could Talk," the Barry Jenkins film that I think is one of the most beautiful and technically brilliant films of the year as well as being incredibly emotional. I wanted it to be nominated for best picture, and it wasn't, which I think is very odd. I really wanted him to be nominated for best director, and he wasn't. So those are both really, really disappointing to me.
MONDELLO: Well, they left out a documentary that I think everybody thought was going to be nominated, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" And this upsets me not merely because it's a good documentary and it's...
CORNISH: And this is a documentary...
MONDELLO: ...About Mr. Rogers - but also because our own Susan Stamberg was in it, and she doesn't get a chance to wear a beautiful gown and attend the Oscars, and that's very frustrating.
CORNISH: Movie critic Bob Mondello and Linda Holmes, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, thanks so much.
MONDELLO: Great to be here.
HOLMES: Thanks, Audie.
(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI'S "CHARLIE BROWN'S WAKE-UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.