The Academy Awards

Get that gold

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

It is a generally accepted truth that at least part of the reason why people go to the movies is to escape the real world. However, 2017 was the year the movies and the real world collided head on, thanks in no small part to a sentient bathrobe filled with garbage named Harvey Weinstein.

Given that Hollywood is the initial detonation site for the cultural bomb that has spawned the Me Too and Times Up movements, this year’s Academy Awards ceremony figures to be more politically and socially charged than most. If this year’s other awards shows are any indication, we’ll see attendees wearing black and winners using their allotted speechmaking time for something more significant than thank yous.

What we’ll also see for the first time in Academy Awards history: a ceremony focused squarely on what women have to say.

It’s been a long time coming, ladies.

Of course, the nominees themselves remain overwhelmingly white and male, proving progress, when it happens, comes in fits and starts. But the nominations did contain some encouraging surprises. Get Out was nominated for four Oscars—and in the heavyweight categories of Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, making Jordan Peele the first African-American to be nominated in the latter three categories. Greta Gerwig got a Best Director nod for the practically perfect Lady Bird, making her just the fifth woman in 89 years to be nominated in that category. And Rachel Morrison became the first woman in Oscar history to be nominated in the Best Cinematography category.

All of that aside, 2017 was a truly excellent year at the movies and the Best Picture nominees are a decent cross-section of the depth and breadth of cinematic options that were available. Unconventional love stories, war, horror, high fashion, truth and at least a few fierce mamas comprise the subjects and subject matter of the films the Academy has deemed worthy. As always, I have my own predictions and opinions as to who deserves a date with Oscar, and I’m only too happy to share.

Best Picture
Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Will Win: According to my main nerds at FiveThirtyEight who use a weighted data aggregator to predict Oscar winners (with great accuracy, I might add), the clear advantage goes to The Shape of Water, and conventional wisdom also has the trophy going to Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous and transportive love story between a mute woman and a merman. With 13 nominations and having racked up an impressive number of awards-season accolades already, it certainly seems like the movie to beat. But don’t count Three Billboards out of this race yet. Martin McDonagh’s pitch-black dramedy comes into the night with seven nominations of its own, and has a fair amount of wins and momentum on its side as well. As for the remaining films, while there’s not a dud in the bunch, it seems highly unlikely any of them will pull off an Oscar-night spoiler.

Who Should Win: I confess that my heart is with Three Billboards, but even I cannot deny the power and beauty of del Toro’s imagination and vision. 

Who Was Snubbed: I guess we’re supposed to be upset that Wonder Woman didn’t get nominated, but come on, it wasn’t that good. The movie is important for enough other reasons. But what did The Florida Project, onetime presumed frontrunner, do to piss off the Academy?

Best Director
Nominees: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro pretty much has this one on lock—for good reason. His is the kind of original cinematic thinking that should be rewarded as often as possible. And with Three Billboards’ McDonagh inexplicably shut out of this category, del Toro has no real competition here. When he wins, we’re all going to pretend this is also the Oscar he should’ve won for Pan’s Labyrinth.

Who Should Win: Everyone who knows me expects me to make a case for my beloved and oft-snubbed Christopher Nolan (now just earning his first nomination), but Jordan Peele made one of the smartest and most multi-layered movies I have ever seen about racial issues—and it’s a horror comedy. That shit is impossible. I don’t know how he did it. Give that man an Oscar.

Who Was Snubbed: As mentioned above, Three Billboards’ McDonagh is the head-scratcher in this category. No one would’ve been surprised to have seen Steven Spielberg included for The Post, but that’s a lesser omission.

Best Actor
Nominees: Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman is far and away the presumed winner in this category, and to be the night’s surest thing is a big deal at any Academy Awards ceremony, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you’re up against the world’s greatest living actor, Daniel Day-Lewis. This speaks to Oldman’s totally immersive turn as Winston Churchill and the power of his astonishing performance. When he wins, it will be Oldman’s first Oscar, a fact that should shock one and all given his body of work.

Who Should Win: I really want Day-Lewis to emerge the victor, simply because he’s retiring and another Oscar would make him the winningest Best Actor in Academy Awards history. But I can’t disagree with the strength of Oldman’s monster performance.

Who Was Snubbed: I guess James Franco was snubbed for The Disaster Artist because of allegations of sexual misconduct and try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to be upset about that.

Best Actress
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

Who Will Win: Three Billboards was a totally chaotic, wholly unhinged movie from beginning to end. The only thing that kept the insane rollercoaster on its tracks was Frances McDormand, who reminded us with every scene that there was a real human at the heart of the midget jokes, Molotov cocktails and sheer madness. If a woman could win an Oscar for a steely-eyed gaze, McDormand would have this one sewn up, but the genius of her turn as the vengeful mother of a murdered daughter trying to get justice from a bumbling, small-town police force, is in the emotions that flit just beneath the surface and those times she allows them to emerge. It’s a helluva performance and this movie wouldn’t be nominated for seven Oscars without it.

Who Should Win: I deeply and truly wish for the work of both Sally Hawkins and Saoirse Ronan to be recognized by the Academy at some point, but this is McDormand’s year.

Who Was Snubbed: In my opinion, the Academy got this category right this year. I may never type those words again.

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell has been raking in awards all season long for his portrayal of a racist police officer in Three Billboards. Although he’s received some backlash for making his character appear “too sympathetic” (newsflash: Not every racist is a caricature of George Wallace. That’s why they can be so hard to spot. Some of them seem like real people), I don’t think the late-breaking controversy will affect his chances. The consummate character actor, Rockwell is a gem in every movie in which he’s ever appeared, and it’s great to see him finally getting the chance to do a long-deserved victory lap.

Who Should Win: Sam Rockwell rules. But if Willem Dafoe pulls off an upset, his win will stand in for all those Oscars The Florida Project somehow was not nominated for.

Who Was Snubbed: With roles in The Shape of Water, The Post, and Call Me By Your Name Michael Stuhlberg gave us some of the year’s most powerful cinematic moments, particularly in the latter film. 

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Who Will Win: Allison Janney is a gift. Like a lot of people, I fell hard for her as C.J. Cregg on The West Wing and my love for her has not waned since. In playing Tonya Harding’s mother in one of the year’s most unexpected and refreshing films, I, Tonya, she provided the foil that helped Margot Robbie secure her own Oscar nod in the Best Actress category. She seems to be the forerunner in this category, but my gut tells me there’s an outside chance the gold guy could go Laurie Metcalf’s way as well. We shall see.

Who Should Win: Allison Janney should win it all, every time. Is it wrong to want her to perform “The Jackal” during her acceptance speech?

Who Was Snubbed: After a months-long buildup during which it seemed Girl Trip’s Tiffany Haddish was going to thaw the Academy’s icy outlook toward comedic performances, the actress was tapped to help announce the Oscar nominees—including the category she did not end up being nominated in. That’s cold as ice, Academy.

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