Thursday, January 25, 2018
OSCARS 2018: Nominations and Predictions
I used to try and be hip and cool when writing about the Oscar nominations. “Oh,” I'd say, “I know the Oscars are bad.” “They're boring, increasingly irrelevant, opposed to public opinion,” all that shit. Well, I'm old enough now that I no longer feel the need to disguise my beliefs with trendy cynicism. I don't just like the Oscars. I fucking love them! I haven't figured out why. Maybe it's the glitz, the glamour, or my love of randomly declaring one movie is better than some other movie. Maybe it's because, at the end of the day, the Academy Awards are still the biggest, brightest film award show in the cinematic universe. Maybe that means something to a movie obsessive like myself.
Perhaps the Oscars are even changing for the better. 2018's list of nominees feature few surprises. What's fascinating is that, in many prior years, some of 2018's front runners probably wouldn't have gotten nominated at all. Times are changing, younger people are entering the Academy, and this is quickly being reflected in the list of nominated films. 2018 gives us, by far, the most woke series of nominees we've ever seen. Let's unpack this, shall we? Film Thoughts' 2018 Oscar Coverage officially begins!
Something else that is fascinating about this year's crop of nominations is that there's very few obvious winners. Unlike previous years, few consensuses appeared from the various award shows leading up to the Oscar nomination announcements.
If you had asked me two months ago who the probable Best Picture winner was, I'd would've said Steven Spielberg's “The Post.” Spielberg is always a good candidate for Best Picture. A film about the important of the press could not be any more relevant in 2018. It's the sort of serious minded, middlebrow, period piece drama that would've been a shoe-in a decade ago. And it still might win. However, Spielberg's latest doesn't have much fire in its hype, with the general consensus being that it's simply good, not great.
The other fave that I would've singled out a while ago is Christopher Nolan's “Dunkirk.” It's a war movie, always a fave among Academy voters. The film was popular with audiences, which never hurts. The film seems to be as much thrilling genre piece as powerful meditation on the woes of war craft. Nolan's film is still a possible winner, taking home quite a few other awards in the last few weeks. However, it's hype has started to cool.
Glossy period pieces certainly still have their in the Best Picture race. Paul Thomas Anderson's beguiling “Phantom Thread” was better received by the Academy then expected, considering Oscar's somewhat cool reaction to Anderson's work in the past. “Darkest Hour” likely grabbed the ninth slot, probably edging out some other movies.
However, another genre has shown a surprising hold on the Best Picture race. Here in the Year of Our Lord, 2018, two horror movies are nominated for Best Picture. Jordan Peele's “Get Out” combined comedy, body-switching horror troupes, and social relevance to become a hit with critics and audience. Despite belonging to a low genre and being a February release, “Get Out” has fought its way to the highest honor in the film world. A win doesn't seem entirely improbably either. In a year when social awareness is more important than ever, a relevant film like “Get Out” may very well be the clear winner.
Right now, if I had to bet money, I would say Guillermo del Toro's “The Shape of Water” is likely to win Best Picture. A love story riff on “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” filled with quirky elements and surreal touches, would probably not be a Best Picture frontrunner in most years. However, aside from the waves of praise and awards that its gotten, one factor elevates this movie to tis status as likely winner. In my years tracking the Oscars, the Academy has shown an obvious favoritism for movies about the magic of movies. “The Shape of Water” is primarily a love letter to del Toro's cinematic passion, making it seem like the top choice to me.
There are other potential up-sets. “Lady Bird” is one of last year's most beloved films. However, no matter how great it might be, it's probably still seen as too minor and indie to earn the top prize. “Call Me by Your Name” was slotted early on as this year's “Moonlight,” due to its LGBT themes. Despite strong reviews, its hype never reached that level. Some have suggested that “Get Out” and “The Shape of Water's” genre alliances might split the vote, allowing something like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” to win. This could very well happen. It's happened before. However, that film has proven divisive in its own way.
So who knows. It's almost anyone's game. It's going to be a very exciting race. But right now, I'm going to say that the likely 2018 Best Picture is...
“The Shape of Water...” Probably
Best Actor is one of the few categories this year that has an obvious winner. Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet's nominations were not guarantees. They aren't the flashiest performances. As I said, neither movie is exactly the typical Oscar bait. However, a win for either seems unlikely. These were star-making performances but the kind performers pick up on the way to other wins.
There are clearly some legacy nominations here. Daniel Day-Lewis is seemingly sticking to his decision to retire following “Phantom Thread.” Considering his status as one of the most highly respected performers alive, his send-off performance was obviously going to get nominated. He might win too, just for old times' sake... But D.D.L. already has three little gold men. I can see Academy voters deciding that's enough.
“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” received pretty soft reviews and flopped at the box office. But the Academy just loves Denzel so much, they couldn't resist nominating him. Some thought – I'd say wrongly but opinions vary – he should've won for last year's “Fences.” I imagine this nomination was given out more as a mea culpa than anything else. He won't win.
That leaves Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.” From very early on, Oldman was singled out as the favorite for Best Actor. Oldman is a beloved character actor who has never won before and has only ever been nominated once before. In “Darkhest Hour,” he plays an important historical figure and underwent a heavy make-up job/physical transformation for the part. Some things have changed but this stuff will always be catnip for Academy voters. Oldman seems very likely to win.
Gary Oldman for “Darkest Hour”
Best Actress is a less clear-cut category. Meryl Streep got nominated for “The Post,” because of course she did. Oscar really wants Meryl to date him and will never stop nominating her for anything and everything, until she finally settles down with him. That obsessive love is always capable of throwing off voters, giving Streep the win. Hopefully, that won't happen this year.
Margot Robbie in “I, Tonya” would've been a clear winner in past years. It's a flashiest performance as a flashy historical figure, albeit a somewhat irrelevant one. Robbie hasn't earned her dues as a critical performer yet, so a win is unlikely. Saoirse Ronan has earned those dues and probably deserves a win. However, I don't think this is her year. Expect Ronan to pick up a legacy award many years later down the line.
From where I'm sitting, two actresses are the possible winner. The Academy has shown a love for Frances McDormand before. Her fiery performance seems to be the highlight of “Three Billboards.” In a year largely about women standing up against social injustice, McDormand playing a role all about that seems a probable winner.
However, Saly Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” may steal the award from her. She's playing a character with a disability. We know the Academy loves that. The Academy seems to love “The Shape of Water” and that very well may rub off on Hawkins. Right now, I can't pick between the two of them.
Hawkins or McDormand
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Christopher Plummer getting nominated for “All the Money in the World” strikes me as amusing. Plummer was inserted into the movie following Kevin Spacey's transformation into persona non grata, thanks to some speedy re-shoots. In other words, Plummer did a few days of last minute work and got an Oscar nomination for it. Because Christopher Plummer is a bad ass.
He probably won't win though. Richard Jenkins getting nominated for “The Shape of Water” was a surprise, since he had the least hype out of the film's main performances.
Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell both got nominated for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” That very well may split the votes, allowing Willem Dafoe a win for “The Florida Project.” Like Oldman, Dafoe is a beloved character actor who has never won an Oscar before. “The Florida Project” was a critically praised film largely snubbed by the Academy, which might work in Dafoe's favor. However, Rockwell seems to have the most hype, picking up a few previous awards during the run-up to Oscar night.
So Rockwell is my choice to win. He does, after all, rock and rock well. And his dad is super sweet. Dafoe might snatch it away from him, so stay tuned.
Sam Rockwell, with DaFoe as a possible dark horse winner
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
“Phantom Thread” was always going to be one of those movies that got a lot of nominations but probably few wins. However, Lesley Manville – still a relative unknown – getting nominated was a surprise. So was Mary J. Blige, becoming the first person to be nominated in both the acting and music categories. “Mudbound” was really well-liked but largely overlooked by the Academy, so Blige sneaking through is kind of cool, I guess.
Octavia Spencer is quickly becoming an Academy favorite too. She has one win already and earned another nod last year for “Hidden Faces.” That momentum, along with the film's general reception, earned her another nomination for “The Shape of Water.”
However, this race is mostly coming down to two names. Both of whom, it's funny to say, are probably better known for TV sitcoms then film roles. Laurie Metcalf's role in “Lady Bird” has generally been declared delightful. The narrative of Metcalf, a working actress who has been around for years, finding the perfect role in this film and winning an Oscar for it is a powerful one. She is very likely to win.
However, pretty much from the moment people laid eyes on the movie, critics started declaring Allison Janney a likely winner for “I, Tonya.” Unlike a lot of hype bandied about earlier last year, this prediction has seemingly held true. Janney is about as loved as Metcalf too and that goes a long way with Academy voters. However, I think the flashier aspects of “I, Tonya” will nudge Janney into the winner's circle.
Allison Janney for “I, Tonya”
Aside from Picture, Best Director is the hottest race this year. It's by far the most diverse line-up of nominees in this category we've ever seen. A black filmmaker, a Mexican filmmaker, and a woman stand alongside two of the most praised directors of the current generation.
And none of them are quite clear winners. Wins for Greta Gerwig and Paul Thomas Anderson do not seem too likely. An indie comedy like “Lady Bird” isn't the type to usually win Best Director. I also, sadly, foresee Anderson going his entire life without winning a statue.
That leaves three possible winners. Being the current director of the Best Picture front-runner, a win for Guillermo del Toro seems possible. It's overdue too, considering del Toro is awesome and highly imaginative. However, even if “Get Out” doesn't win Best Picture, Jordan Peele might grab the award. This is the year of wokeness and Peele is, by far, the wokest choice.
Lastly, there's Christopher Nolan. Like I said, “Dunkirk” still has a good shot at Best Picture. Despite being an auteur adored by fan boys world over, Nolan has somehow never been nominated for Best Director before. It's possible, regardless of “Dunkirk's” quality, the Academy will think Nolan is owed a statue by now.
So, here we are, three choices for Best Director and honestly any of them might get it.
Probably Peele, maybe del Toro, Nolan as a distant third.
BEST WRITING (Original and Adapted):
Despite being the genre that defines modern studio filmmaking, the Academy is still slightly cold to superhero movies. Look at how “Wonder Woman” was completely snubbed this year and how Marvel movies are never nominated outside the technical categories. So “Logan” grabbing a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay was a nice surprise. It probably won't win it's neat that the third entry in a spin-off series to a long-running spandex franchise is cool.
We now live in an age where men and sexual predators finally see consequences for their sleazy actions. In the wake of his Golden Globe win, a scandal surrounding James Franco essential sank his Oscar chances. (Also robbing us of the delightful sight of Tommy Wiseau being on-stage at the Oscars) “The Disaster Artist” still earned a nod in this category. I would've declared it the probable winner if it wasn't for Franco sullying the whole project.
However, the Academy fucking loves Aaron Sorkin. His hyper-verbal scripts have won before and he's frequently seen as the Writer's Writer. My gut is telling me that this will likely give “Molly's Game” the win.
The original category is largely filled out by Best Picture nominees. “The Big Sick” is the sole outsider. It's totally possible that “Three Billboards,” “Get Out,” and “The Shape of Water” could grab this statue, depending on how they are received overall in other categories. However, my gut is leaning towards “Lady Bird.” Smaller, more character-focused films like this tend to be the favorite in this category. It's the movie's best shot at an Oscar, I think, and the Academy might go for it. I could be full of shit though.
My gut is telling me “Molly's Game” and “Lady Bird.”
OTHER FILM CATEGORIES:
2018 is a year largely free of super egregious bullshit, a lot of people agreeing that most of the nominees actually deserved to be signaled out. Except in the Best Animated Feature category. “The Boss Baby,” a movie so ludicrously shitty that its shittiness practically became a meme, somehow stole a nominee from “The Lego Batman Movie” and “Mary and the Witch's Flower.” I knew the Academy hated anime but, considering “The LEGO Movie” was also snubbed in this category a few years back, I guess we now know Oscar hates Legos too.
Otherwise, the nominees are pretty standard. “The Breadwinner” and “Loving Vincent” were decided as the left-field, indie picks in this category for a while. “Ferdinand's” nomination was kind of unexpected, considering soft reviews and box office. But I certainly prefer it getting in over stuff like “Captain Underpants,” “The Smurfs” or “Cars 3.” Anyway, none if matters because “Coco” is going to win. Pixar usually wins and “Coco” was great. It's victory is secure.
Let's secure are the Best Documentary and Foreign language film categories. As is usually the case, I'm not very familiar with the nominees in either of these categories. I haven't heard of any of the nominated documentaries. If I had to make a blind guess, I'd go with “Last Men in Aleppo,” the sort of politically serious fare that frequently wins this category.
As for Foreign Language film, this is the first time I've heard of most of them as well. “A Fantastic Woman,” “The Insult,” “Loveless,” and “On Body and Soul” all sound like exactly the kind of films to be nominated in this category. Parental strife, autism, personal tragedy, and war are all topics on display. However, “The Square” got a lot of great reviews last year. I'm going to guess it might win. Who knows?
At one point, “Baby Driver” was considered as a possible dark horse candidate in the top tier categories. Everyone loved it, after all. However, considering Wright has always been ignored by the Academy before, I'm just happy the movie scored nominees in Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Mixing. It certainly seems likely to take on one of those, probably Best Editing, though its facing heavy competition in all categories.
Roger Deakins is widely recognized as one of the greatest cinematographers working today. Yet he doesn't have an Oscar, despite multiple nominations. The visually gorgeous “Blade Runner 2049” could very well finally get him that statue. However, “Dunkirk” and “The Shape of Water” may very well steal it away.
After last year's win for “Suicide Squad,” I've given up on the nominees for Best Make-Up ever being good again. This year's line-up is super weak too. “Darkest Hour” will probably win for transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. The Visual Effects category is slightly stronger. Both ape-themed films featuring references to “Apocalypse Now” got nominated and I'm hoping “War for the Planet of the Apes” wins it.
Despite doing a just okay job last year, Jimmy Kimmel was invited back to host the Oscars this year. I'm expecting lots of jokes about last year's Best Picture mix-up and probably a few uncomfortable references to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. The ceremony is also going down in March this year, totally fucking up my personal time table.
As has become tradition around here, I'm going to try and watch as many of the nominees as possible before the ceremony. I'll wrap up a month of Oscar reviews by live-blogging the ceremony. You probably knows this already. I'm looking forward to it. Really! Stay tuned.