‘Shape of Water’, ‘Three Billboards’ lead best picture race after Oscar nominations

Fox Searchlight’s fantastical romance “The Shape of Water” and its dark comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” emerged as front runners for the Oscar best picture prize on Tuesday after capturing nominations in all of the major categories.

“The Shape of Water” earned a leading 13 nominations, including nods for best picture, screenplay, director Guillermo del Toro and actors Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer.

The nominations for the Oscars, the highest honors in the industry, were notable for their wide range and for embracing stories about and by women and people of color.

“I’ve never seen such variety that I can remember. There’s something in there for everybody,” said Laurie Metcalf, nominated for her supporting role in “Lady Bird.”

“Shape of Water” has been celebrated as a visual feast about a woman who falls in love with a strange river creature.

“For 25 years, I’ve been preaching that the dark poetry and emotion of my stories are fairytales for modern times,” Mexican director del Toro told Reuters.

Jenkins called it a film “about love and acceptance and empathy and not being judgmental.”

Sweeping British World War Two drama “Dunkirk,” from Warner Bros., followed with eight nominations, including for director Christopher Nolan.

But Fox Searchlight’s quirky “Three Billboards,” about an angry woman seeking justice for her daughter’s murder, has dominated Hollywood’s awards season so far, winning the top prize at the influential Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday.

It got seven Oscar nods, with Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild winners Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell competing in the acting race, along with Woody Harrelson.

European betting firm Betway made “Three Billboards” favorite on Tuesday to win best picture, closely followed by “The Shape of Water.”

The awards will be presented in Hollywood on March 4, hosted for a second year by late night TV star Jimmy Kimmel.

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