Last year, Rotundo’s Oscarology performed abysmally—perhaps my worst year since I started doing these posts. So, like Shaun White, I’m looking for redemption in 2018. Here goes nothin’:
Kudos to you if you predicted Moonlight would win last year’s Best Picture award. Not many saw that one coming—especially with most of the precursor guild awards (Directors Guild, Producers Guild, American Cinema Editors, and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts) going to La La Land. I picked that film to win in a walk. Look where that got me.
This year, we have a lot more uncertainty up front. The DGA and the PGA went to The Shape of Water, but the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA gave their top awards to Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Unlike most years, we seem to have a genuine horse race going on. Will the ever-stodgy Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences deign to give its highest honor to a fantasy film, even over a topical movie? It wouldn’t be unprecedented (see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), but it would be highly unusual.
You know what else is unusual? For the director of a Best Picture front-runner like Three Billboards to get snubbed in the directing category. It’s even more unusual for such a film to win Best Picture. It’s happened before, though, and in recent memory (see Argo).
Or will all this uncertainty, coupled with the preferential ballot AMPAS uses for Best Picture, lead to an upset, with Get Out surprising everyone the way Moonlight did? This has become a popular pick among Oscar prognosticators, but I think they’re putting too much stock in the Moonlight win. Moonlight, at least, was a drama; Get Out is horror. Only one horror film has ever won Best Picture—The Silence of the Lambs—and that movie benefited from the patina of respectability bestowed by Hollywood heavyweights Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and Jonathan Demme.
I think we can also get a hint from the number of nominees each film has in the acting categories. Get Out only has one. The Shape of Water has three. Three Billboards also has three, and two of them are likely to win (see below).
Oh, and one other tidbit about SAG—I mentioned Argo earlier, that Best Picture-winning movie whose director wasn’t nominated. You know which film SAG gave its Best Ensemble award to that year? Right.
That’s it. I’m leaning toward Three Billboards.
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) won the DGA—a very accurate predictor in this category. And as mentioned above, Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards) didn’t get nominated.
Frances McDormand, SAG and BAFTA honoree for Three Billboards, looks to add another Oscar to her trophy case this year.
Normally, if Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated, I assume he’s going to walk away with the award. Not so this year. Gary Oldman won the SAG for Darkest Hour, and I think it very likely he’ll be taking home an Oscar. This one checks all the boxes: respected industry veteran, physical transformation, biopic. Yep, this one goes to Gary, and it’s about damned time. Oldman is one of our very finest actors, and this award is long overdue.
Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, for I, Tonya. She won the SAG. And how awesome will it be to finally see her pick up an Oscar?
Best Supporting Actor
The supporting categories are often fertile ground for upsets. SAG gave its Best Supporting Actor award to Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards, a decision that has stirred some controversy. So if there’s going to be a surprise in the acting categories, this seems the most likely place for it. Add to that the fact that Woody Harrelson is also nominated in this category for the same movie, meaning he could split the vote. And then there’s Willem Dafoe, nominated for The Florida Project, in seemingly prime position to swoop in and nab this one. All the pieces are in place.
But I’m not buying it. All those factors were in play at the SAG awards, too, and Rockwell won, anyway. Actors, as I’ve said many times, are the largest voting bloc in the Academy. I can’t see all the SAG voters who went with Rockwell suddenly changing their minds. So I’m sticking by Sam. (But if Dafoe wins it, don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
Best Original Screenplay
Jordan Peele’s Get Out won the Writers Guild award in this category, and has been lauded as a savage commentary on race relations in the U.S. But it’s also a horror film—as noted above, not generally a genre that Oscar loves. (Exceptions include Best Screenplay wins for The Exorcist and The Silence of the Lambs—so, you know, it’s possible.) Note, too, that Three Billboards was not eligible for a WGA nomination in this category, and that it won a BAFTA, which has some overlap with Oscar voters. But I don’t know that it’s enough overlap to make the difference, and this award may well serve as Peele’s consolation prize for missing Best Director. That’s a consolation prize I could live with. My pick: Peele, for Get Out.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Wait a minute. You’re telling me that James Ivory has never won an Oscar? Ever? Not even during the heyday of the Merchant Ivory films? And he won the Writers Guild award and the BAFTA? That’s good enough for me. Ivory, for Call Me by Your Name.
Best Animated Feature
Welcome to your Oscar Lock of the Year. Coco has won accolades from the PGA, ACE, ADG, BAFTA, CAS, and it won the Annie. Never. Pick. Against. Pixar.
Best Foreign Language Film
Once again, your most wildly unpredictable category proves . . . wildly unpredictable. I’m leaning toward Chile’s A Fantastic Woman. Its transgender lead, Daniela Vega, is a presenter at the Oscars this year, which might indicate how AMPAS feels about the film in general. Also, my tea leaves this morning formed the shape of Chile.
Man, I’m really torn here. The American Society of Cinematographers once again gave its top award to Roger Deakins, for Blade Runner 2049. Yet despite being nominated what seems like a few million times, he has never won an Oscar. I’ve picked Deakins before on the basis that he’s really, really due—and I’ve been burned. But sooner or later, the losing streak has to end, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, The Shape of Water was often gorgeous to look at, including that terrific opening shot. And it’s a Best Picture contender. And it got the most nominations overall. One ignores these facts at one’s peril.
On the third hand, Rachel Morrison, for Mudbound, is the first woman ever to be nominated in this category, right at the same time as the #MeToo movement.
Some good news for Deakins this year: None of his competition features groundbreaking 3-D work (as in past winners Avatar, Hugo, and Life of Pi) or flashy tracking shots (as in past winners Gravity, Birdman, and La La Land). So maybe he’ll finally catch a break. I’m taking a deep breath and going with Blade Runner 2049.
Best Production Design
I’m going with Art Directors Guild winner The Shape of Water here, mostly for that laboratory set.
ACE winner Lee Smith (Dunkirk) put on a bit of an editing clinic, juggling three separate plotlines, each with its own timeline, all intersecting at the climax. I can see Oscar voters rewarding that.
Best Costume Design
Period pieces do well here, and the Costume Designers Guild gave its award for Period Film to The Shape of Water. But then, Phantom Thread won a BAFTA. And wouldn’t a movie about a fashion designer seem to be kind of a natural for this category? It sure would. Maybe. I think. Anyway, that’s what I’m picking to win.
Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Oscar Lock of the Year, part 2: Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick turned good-looking Gary Oldman into Winston friggin’ Churchill, people. Darkest Hour won a BAFTA in this category and the Makeup & Hairstylist Guild award, and will win an Oscar, too.
Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, for The Shape of Water, is my guess. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hans Zimmer win for Dunkirk.
Best Original Song
This category was originally created for musicals, which used to be a lot more common than they are these days. So I always look for songs that are actually performed during the movie (as opposed to running over the end credits, say). That would narrow the list to two: “This Is Me,” from The Greatest Showman, and “Remember Me,” from Coco. And did you know that “Remember Me” was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the team that won an Oscar for Frozen’s “Let It Go?” True! I’m going with “Remember Me.”
Best Documentary Feature
Jane, the documentary about Jane Goodall, has been wiping up the competition this awards season, including a PGA win. Should be an easy pick for an Oscar, too—except that it wasn’t even nominated. So who the hell knows?
Of the films that did get nominated, the buzz seems to favor Faces Places, based largely on the appeal of veteran documentarian Agnès Varda. But you know, Last Men in Aleppo is about the White Helmets, the internationally recognized rescue organization. And can you name last year’s winner for Best Documentary Short? Hint: The White Helmets. Coincidence? I think not.
I dunno. I’ll follow the buzz, I guess. Faces Places.
Best Documentary Short
My neighbor’s dog told me to go with Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405. When my neighbor’s dog speaks, I listen.
Best Sound Mixing
I’ve noted in previous years that war movies do well in this category. To be a little more precise, loud movies do well in this category (as you might expect). Do we have any loud war movies among the nominees? Maybe one that won the CAS and the BAFTA in this category, and is also a Best Picture nominee? Hmmm . . . could it be . . . Dunkirk?
Best Sound Editing
I’m thinking Dunkirk here, too. See above.
Best Visual Effects
What to do, what to do. Blade Runner 2049 took home a BAFTA in this category, but the Visual Effects Society gave its top honor to War for the Planet of the Apes. VES did the same thing for both previous Apes films, though, and Oscar stubbornly (and bafflingly) refused to follow suit. What to do, what to do. Will AMPAS finally recognize the tremendous work Weta has been doing in the Apes saga? I have my doubts. I’m going with War for the Planet of the Apes, but I would not at all be surprised to see it go to Blade Runner 2049.
Best Short Film (Live Action)
DeKalb Elementary tackles the subject of school shootings. Can’t get much more topical than that, can you? It’s my pick.
Best Short Film (Animated)
The Pixar entry in this category is Lou, but Pixar doesn’t do nearly as well here as it does in the Animated Feature category. Dear Basketball, on the other hand, won an Annie, and was drawn by Disney vet Glen Keane. So that’s my pick.
And there you have it—my bid for Oscarology redemption. If I bomb out again this year, maybe I’ll just hang it up.
Nah, probably not. See you next year.