Oscars 2018 (the first round)

This year has been an embarrassment of riches film-wise, especially during the final quarter of the year. From a movie-goer point of view, it is fantastic.

With The Shape of Water leading the noms this year, with 13, you’d think there are some locks, but there aren’t. There are no clear Oscar front-runners and a lot of potential upsets in the making. Who wins is going to be a strange alchemy of talent combined with the political winds of race, equality, and #metoo that may shift or split votes. It’s just reality and it already has had some affects, deserved or not.

From a predictor’s point of view, it is all a glorious kind of hell, but I’m going to continue my rather public shaming (or celebration) as I have in years past and make my predictions. Keep in mind, they are somewhat wild hare at this point, but you gotta start somewhere when analyzing what’s on offer. Expect at least one final update prior to the 4 March awards ceremony.

(or what we all care about)

Actress in a Leading Role
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)

My Choice:  There just isn’t a bad choice here. Sally Hawkins, however leads the pack for range and challenge in her role. 
Likely Winner: Sally Hawkins

Actor in a Leading Role
Timothee 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.)

My Choice: Gary Oldman just disappeared into Churchill. That is the ultimate accomplishment for any actor. He is the closest thing to a lock this year. And, despite it being Lewis’s last role, he already has several statues to play with. Kaluuya did a great job, but it was a job done within the boundaries of genre, which just doesn’t carry the same weight or allow for the same range. And Franco was frozen out, despite his amazing turn in The Disaster Artist
Likely Winner:  Gary Oldman

Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J Blige (Mudbound)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

My Choice: Up until I saw Phantom Thread, my money would have been on Metalf out of this collection of great performances. Manville, however, really does an astounding job supporting Lewis and the story. Still, in terms of range and subtlety, and if pushed to the wall (cause Janney was amazing too), I’m sticking with Laurie Metcalf.
Likely Winner: Laurie Metcalf

Actor in a Supporting Role
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)

My Choice: I know Rockwell has been snagging a number of the awards, but I was glad to see Harrelson sneak into this group. He’d been getting overlooked so far this season. Richard Jenkins, however, was my favorite performance in this batch. Again, it comes down to range, layers, and quiet control, which is harder to do well than losing it on screen. 
Likely Winner: Sam Rockwell

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

My Choice: I don’t even know where to break what I see as a three-way tie. Gerwig, Peele, and del Toro each have solid cred to walk with this award. And two are here with their, essentially, first film (Gerwig has one other co-director credit). Guillermo del Toro is my favorite, however, and he had a long history behind his talent, which helps me break the tie in his favor. Given all the other nominations for his movie, I’m expecting that will also go with him. 
Likely Winner: Guillermo del Toro

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

My Choice: There are so many ways to argue this one. Honestly, though, I think it is a death match between Shape of Water, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards. Shape of Water has one major advantage, beyond its 13 nominations. Shape is about all the things that the other films are about, all rolled into one, rather than as a single, primary theme. So I’m going with The Shape of Water, but I won’t be surprised by something else taking this home. By the time the DGAs are announced we may have a better sense of where the momentum is.
Likely Winner: The Shape of Water

Animated Feature Film
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

My Choice: I’m still catching up here, but Coco is likely the winner, despite some good word of mouth around Vincent and the political cachét of Breadwinner.
Likely Winner: Coco 

Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body And Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

My Choice: Not a clue yet. I have somehow missed all of these so far, though Square has the most recognition so far.
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.

(or what the rest of us care about)

Documentary Feature
Faces, Places
Last Man In Aleppo
Strong Island

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Documentary Short Subject
Edith and Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Animated Short Film
Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Live Action Short Film
Dekalb Elementary
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
Silent Child
Watu Wote (All Of Us)

My Choice: Not a clue yet. 
Likely Winner: Not a clue yet.  

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name” James Ivory
The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

My Choice: This is a challenging category this year.  I recently rewatched Logan and was, again, impressed with its tale and emotional power. Disaster Artist also surprised, but can’t say it was a great script, more just surprising. Mudbound, honestly, just isn’t that good a script, nor is Call Me By Your Name, for all its attention. Sorkin is the best of the writers and the most intense of the scripts in terms of sheer compacted information and energy, not to mention shape. This is also probably Molly’s Game only chance for an award and while Sorkin surely showed his directing chops here too, this is the bailiwick that folks like to reward him in.
Likely Winner: Molly’s Game

Original Screenplay
The Big Sick,” Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out,” Jordan Peele
Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

My Choice: This is really a battle between Shape of Water and Get Out, to my mind. Each has things recommending it, but, again, Shape actually includes a lot of the same themes in different, and more complex, ways. Given it’s other 12 nods, and how much I enjoyed it, I’m going with Shape of Water.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

Original Song
“Mighty River” (Mudbound), Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” (Call Me By Your Name), Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” (Coco), Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” (Marshall), Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” (The Greatest Showman), Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

My Choice:  In years past, I’d have said Remember Me had a lock on the award. It was seen by so many people, figures heavily in the plot, and is a catchy tune. But this is a different kind of year. While This is Me certainly states out the themes of Greatest Showman, it is only heard the once in the story. Neither is particularly ground breaking or, at least for me, memorable. This is Me probably has more impact for me.
Likely Winner: Given the climate, I’m going with This is Me

Original Score
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Choice: Hands down, Dunkirk has the most effective score this year, but it may have been too subtle to win.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

(or what we should all care about)

Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour)
Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk)
Rachel Morrison (Mudbound)
Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

My Choice: Dunkirk has a great shot here; Nolan is nothing if not a brilliant framer and Hoytema’s work and challenges were huge given the various environments he had to navigate. However, for beauty and support of the story, Shape of Water and Blade Runner beat him out. Deakins, in particular, had to both create his own language as well as match the original enough to evoke the connection, which has me picking Blade Runner 2049 as my choice, though I don’t know think it will win.
Likely Winner: Dunkirk

Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast
The Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

My Choice: Typically, this would go to a period piece (like old period). That thinking would put Victoria & Abdul in the front. But this year’s cadre are all over the place on era’s. Phantom Thread boasts some incredible 40s/50s creations. Beauty fantastical imagination. Shape of Water a range of clothing, much like Darkest Hour. For me, the invisibility of the costumes in Shape of Water is the most impressive of the lot.
Likely Winner: The Darkest Hour

Makeup and Hairstyling
The Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

My Choice: Though Wonder has some impressive make-up, Oldman’s transformation is jaw-dropping and seamless. Going with The Darkest Hour.
Likely Winner: The Darkest Hour

Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
The Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

My Choice: Wow, you could just hit your head against a wall for ages trying to pick one here. Each film created solid, believable worlds. For complexity, Shape of Water and Darkest Hour had the most difficult challenges. While Darkest Hour brought the 40s back to life, Shape of Water did similar for the 50s but also added a hint of magic to it. And Blade Runner 2049 had to recreate a world and, as mentioned before, still do something unique on its own. My pick on this is Shape of Water for riding both the real and fantastical lines down to the tiniest detail.
Likely Winner: Shape of Water

Film Editing
Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

My Choice: Much like The Big Short, I, Tonya is a movie made by its editing. I’ve gone this route before and lost, but out of this field, it is the movie that stands out for me in this aspect of the craft. It isn’t subtle, but it builds the story out of snippets and pulls you along. Baby Driver has a good amount of effort in there as well, but it doesn’t stand out for me here. Similarly, Dunkirk. Shape of Water has an ethereal sense to its editing that may win voters as it added to the feel of the tale nicely.
Likely Winner: Dunkirk

Sound Editing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Choice: Editing and mixing are often the most troublesome picks to make. Each movie here had its challenges, but Baby Driver delivered one of the most interesting results in both categories. So Baby Driver for me on this one.
Likely Winner: Baby Driver (low confidence here…suspect Dunkirk takes it)

Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

My Choice: Baby Driver again here for me, Even more so than editing, the movie had to navigate a lot of layers and not lose us at the transitions. More confident the Academy will see that in this case than the previous.
Likely Winner: Baby Driver

Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

My Choice: Lots of choices here, but War of the Planet of the Apes, for all its accolades, has few opportunities and this is likely going to be the one folks would give it. The seamless world it created out of our own probably beats out the broader worlds that are more obviously CGI.
Likely Winner: War of the Planet of the Apes

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