The State of the Race: The Academy Awards 2018

Just like any awards season, this year’s Oscar nominations revealed no shortage of snubs or surprises when they were announced Jan. 23. But this highly competitive race will end in a photo finish, with the potential to either be frustratingly predictable or a shock to the system when the 90th Academy Awards air March 4, on ABC.

Best Picture:

The Nominees: “Call Me By Your Name”; “Darkest Hour”; “Dunkirk”; “Get Out”; “Lady Bird”; “Phantom Thread”; “The Post”; “The Shape of Water”; and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Who Will Win: This is still an open race, despite the onslaught of awards for “Three Billboards.” The film would, frankly, be as tone-deaf of a Best Picture choice as “Crash” was in 2006. Naturally, “Three Billboards” raised a lot of eyebrows due to its white-focused portrayal of race in America, which does not bode well for its chances on the Academy voters’ ballots.

Who Should Win: “Phantom Thread” or “Call Me By Your Name” would both make outstanding winners, but the true heavyweights are “Lady Bird” and “Get Out,” which both helped define the film culture of the past year.

Direction:

The Nominees: Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”); Jordan Peele (“Get Out”); Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”); Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”); and Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)

Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro is the early favorite for Best Director for his film “The Shape of Water,” which leads the pack with 13 nominations.

Who Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson, one of the rightful giants of contemporary American cinema, would also be deserving of his first Oscar for “Phantom Thread.” However, Greta Gerwig should win. Her direction of “Lady Bird” offers the subtle perfection often overlooked in favor of bombastic, masculine spectacles.

Best Actor:

The Nominees: Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”); Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”); Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”); and Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”)

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill is pure Academy bait: a respected, makeup-slathered British actor going for his first win for doing an impression of a famous historical figure.

Who Should Win: Newcomer Timothee Chalamet gave in “Call Me By Your Name” one of the greatest lead performances in recent years, including a stunning five-minute close-up that Oldman couldn’t pull off in his wildest dreams. Chalamet would also be the youngest Best Actor winner in history, at only 22 years old.

Best Actress:

The Nominees: Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”); Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards”); Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”); Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”); and Meryl Streep (“The Post”)

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, who would be the least egregious win that could go to “Three Billboards.”

Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, whose performance as the titular character in “Lady Bird” is the most complex of the bunch. Meryl Streep’s work in “The Post” is a close second and among the best of her career, which is no small praise given this is her record-breaking 21st nomination.

Best Supporting Actor:

The Nominees: Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”); Woody Harrelson (“Three Billboards”); Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”); Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”); and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”)

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, even though his role as a racist cop is easily the most controversial aspect of the film.

Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe, who plays motel manager Bobby. It’s perhaps the warmest, most nuanced performance of the nominees in all four categories and a deserving endeavor for such an incredible actor.

Best Supporting Actress:

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

Who Will Win: Allison Janney, whose performance is the kind that often thrives in supporting categories, demanding attention for just how over-the-top and cruel a performer can be.

Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf could possibly upset Janney for her role, a beautiful piece of work from one of our most underappreciated actresses. Lesley Manville and Mary J. Blige are also remarkable in their parts and deserving of victory.

Original Screenplay:

The Nominees: “The Big Sick”; “Get Out”; “Lady Bird”; “The Shape of Water”; and “Three Billboards”

Who Will Win: “Three Billboards,” although the race is extremely close.

Who Should Win: “Lady Bird” or “Get Out,” especially in the case that either misses out on Picture and/or Director.

Adapted Screenplay:

The Nominees: “Call Me By Your Name”; “The Disaster Artist”; “Logan”; “Molly’s Game”; and “Mudbound”

Who Will (and Should) Win: The category should be handily won by James Ivory’s screenplay for “Call Me By Your Name,” which is the only Best Picture nominee in the category this year. He beautifully adapted Andre Aciman’s novel in the signature style that he honed during his tenure at Merchant-Ivory productions.

Cinematography:

The Nominees: “Blade Runner 2049”; “Darkest Hour”; “Dunkirk”; “Mudbound”; and “The Shape of Water”

Who Will Win: Notorious 14-time nominee Roger Deakins will most likely pick up his first trophy for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Who Should Win: Rachel Morrison became the first woman nominated in the category’s 90-year history for her work in “Mudbound.” Her skills are by far the most exemplary of the bunch, opting for less flashy compositions that erupt with even more visual power, and hopefully she’ll go home with the statue.

Original Score:

The Nominees: “Dunkirk”; “Phantom Thread”; “The Shape of Water”; “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”; and “Three Billboards”

Who Will Win: “The Shape of Water” or “Dunkirk” should take this prize, as well as many of the other craft categories.

Who Should Win: “Phantom Thread,” whose score by Radiohead band member Jonny Greenwood is one of the instant all-time greats of the medium.

 

One major standout missing from most of the lists is “The Florida Project,” which was tragically overlooked in a clear case of the Academy’s age-old bias against less-visible films. As always, predictions should be taken with a grain of salt. Statistics be damned, since last year’s masterful “Moonlight” soared to three historic wins, including Best Picture, with almost no prior support from the guilds. It’s also of note that the Academy diversified dramatically in recent years by admitting hundreds of new members from a variety of backgrounds. Hopefully the voters will make bold, unpredictable choices rather than stick with the weak leaders elected by the more established members.

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