Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve officially entered Oscar season. 2017’s breakout star, Tiffany Haddish, and the world’s greatest living mocap actor (aka Supreme Leader Snoke), Andy Serkis, announced the 2018 Oscar nominations over a live-feed from Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California. And unlike an actual Oscar telecast, the presentation was brief, stayed on schedule, and featured celebrity cameos that were actually fun to watch.
The big story surrounding this year’s Oscars is Guillermo del Toro’s modern fairy-tale, The Shape of Water, which leads the pack with a staggering 13 nominations. Jordan Peele’s instant classic, the genre thriller, Get Out, continues to defy expectations, bulldozing its way into several major categories. Conversely, the Academy recognized Denis Villeneuve’s divisive sci-fi epic Blade Runner 2049, handing out nods in several technical categories. The rest of the competition aligns with what we’ve seen through award season thus far with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird being recognized in the Academy’s most prestigious categories.
As any movie nerd will tell you, award nominations and wins are arbitrary, fleeting, and a poor indicator of a film’s long-term cultural impact. No one believes that Academy recognition measures a film’s actual value. History doesn’t always look back fondly on the pictures that win (see Crash, The Artist, and Shakespeare in Love). That being said, awards do matter. A nomination/win for films like Moonlight increases exposure and solidifies a movie’s worth in the eyes of the studio bigwigs that cut the cheques. When a movie such as The Florida Project racks up award nominations it makes life a little easier for the up-and-coming Sean Bakers of the world.
Without further ado, let’s look at the most notable 2018 Oscar nominations.
“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
It’s great to see a comic book movie slip into this category. Logan burst onto the scene at the start of 2017 and wowed audiences with its fresh take on the stale comic book movie genre. From the onset, people championed Logan as a potential Oscar contender, but that dream was always a longshot. Hopefully, Logan’s box-office success and Oscar recognition will inspire other screenwriters to keep pushing storytelling boundaries in superhero movies.
When it comes to screenwriting, Aaron Sorkin sits alone atop the industry’s Iron Throne. Sorkin is an automatic favourite anytime his name shows up in the best screenplay category. However, his entry, Molly’s Game, isn’t an exceptional all-around movie, which will hurt its odds of winning on Oscar night. Look for the stink of the James Franco allegations to hurt The Disaster Artist’s chances (even though Franco himself isn’t nominated in this category), leaving the door open for Call Me by Your Name or Mudbound to take the win.
“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
The Big Sick was far and away 2017’s best feelgood movie. The film came out of nowhere, bent the rom-com genre to its will, and told a heart-wrenching and hilarious story from a new perspective. Needless to say, I’m pulling for this flick.
Take away Three Billboards’ top-notch performances and I’m not sure that the film works as well on the page. And while the movie dives headfirst into today’s topsy-turvy social climate, it’s a tough watch and an anti-feel good movie. Get Out and The Shape of Water also tackle timely themes that tap into today’s most troubling social issues, and they both pay off in ways that leave viewers walking out of theatres contemplating weighty issues and feeling good. All three films remain strong contenders come Oscar night.
“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
This race comes down to three movies: Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, and Blade Runner 2049. Christopher Nolan took on the impossible task of shooting his WWII epic on unwieldy 65mm IMAX film which makes for one of the most visually stunning and viscerally thrilling war movies ever made. What’s impressive about The Shape of Water is how Guillermo del Toro took his restrictive $20 million budget and made his movie look like it cost several times that amount. The stunning dream-like title sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
Right now, it looks like this award is Roger Deakins’ to lose. Visually, Blade Runner 2049 is on a whole other level than most films. Deakins spends more time planning how to light one shot than some directors spend on entire action set pieces. Do yourself a treat and watch some of the film’s behind the scene features on YouTube and you’ll be blown away by Deakins’ level of technical artistry. Deakins elevated the film above Ridley Scott pastiche and created a visual aesthetic that honours the original Blade Runner yet stands on its own. This award should be a lock.
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”
The big surprise here is Richard Jenkins’ nomination for The Shape of Water. Jenkins makes everything he’s featured in 700% better (the man could elevate a Michael Bay movie into a borderline arthouse picture). As much as I loved Jenkins’ turn as Elisa’s hopelessly romantic neighbour in The Shape of Water, I don’t expect to see him take the stage on Oscar night.
Woody Harrelson is great in Three Billboards but his role in the film is smaller then the trailers would have you believe — but that didn’t stop Mahershala Ali from capturing the award last year for his work in Moonlight. Harrelson’s castmate, Sam Rockwell, currently has the momentum to take home the Oscar but there is a degree of backlash forming around the film and its dicey racial politics which may cost him votes. Don’t be surprised to see Willem Dafoe creep in like The Hamburgler and steal Oscar for his performance as the warmhearted curmudgeon Bobby in The Florida Project.
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
I never understood the raves Mary J. Blige received for her role in Mudbound. The movie is fine, and her performance is fine for a big screen debut, but I find her acting chops lacking when compared to the supporting actresses she’s in competition with. Octavia Spencer makes the most of her screen time in The Shape of Water as does Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread and both ladies are a joy to watch every last millisecond they’re onscreen. Spencer (who already has an Oscar on her resume) and Manville still must be viewed underdogs compared to Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf’s flashier performances in I, Tonya and Lady Bird. This two-horse race is neck-and-neck with the slight edge going to Janney.
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.”
This year’s lead actor category is a refreshing mix of Hollywood up-and-comers and veteran talent. It’s great to see new faces such as Timothée Chalamet and Daniel Kaluuya nominated alongside Hollywood royalty like Denzel Washington. But make no mistake, this is Gary Oldman’s award to lose. Critics have championed this role as Oldman’s career-defining performance since Darkest Hour premiered at Telluride back in the summer — and we know that Oscar voters love to reward spot-on performances in biopics.
If I had to bet on an upset, it would be the Daniel Day-Lewis for his work in Phantom Thread. Day-Lewis is regarded as the world’s greatest living actor and his performance in Phantom Thread only solidifies his place in the all-time great pantheon. Phantom Thread is also rumoured to be Day-Lewis’ final acting performance, so leaving the game with one last piece of Oscar hardware would make a perfect swan song. Day-Lewis versus Oldman is a like an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object and I can’t way to see how this category plays out on Oscar night.
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”
So far, Frances McDormand’s performance in Three Billboards is the odds-on favourite. McDormand is a beloved Hollywood vet with award season pedigree which will be hard for voters to overlook come Oscar night. Saoirse Ronan’s turn in Lady Bird deserves to be in the conversation but Oscar voters often pass on up-and-coming talent with the assumption they’ll snag an award somewhere down the line in their long and promising career.
The only guarantees in life are death, taxes, and Meryl Streep turning in world-class performances. Sadly, Streep is so otherworldly talented that we take her for granted so don’t be surprised when her incredible performance in The Post gets overlooked. And even though I’m in awe of Sally Hawkins’ work in The Shape of Water, I won’t hold my breath while hoping the Academy will rain praise down on a genre film about an interspecies love affair.
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
The table is set for countless debates over the merits of the five films in this revered category. Get Out is without a doubt one of 2017’s best films and its director, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut proved his chops behind the camera. Unfortunately, Get Out’s genre movie pedigree left many people doubting if it would even translate to nominations in the most prestigious categories. Now that Get Out is on the marquee with the heavy hitters I can’t shake the feeling that this is a case of “be happy just to be nominated.”
On the other hand, Dunkirk is a rousing war film that flaunts Hollywood legend-in-the-making, Christopher Nolan’s technical mastery behind the camera. As one of this era’s most esteemed directors, Nolan is long overdue for his moment of Oscar glory. Academy voters aren’t above rewarding talent for their overall careers and not necessarily the merit of the film that’s in the running — hello Scent of a Woman! I can appreciate Nolan’s work in Dunkirk, but the movie left me cold. I’m fine with industry vets, PTA and GDT, taking home top honours or watching one of the underdogs, Lady Bird or Get Out steal the win.
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
The Academy is hesitant to reward genre movies in its major categories so despite The Shape of Water’s 13 nominations don’t be surprised to see it shut out of the night’s top honours. On rare occasions, a film like Return of the King swoops in and dominates the major categories but what’s more likely is del Toro’s film goes the Avatar route and sweeps the technical categories and misses out on best picture.
There’s talk in certain circles that a number of Academy voters are pushing back against Moonlight’s win last year and looking to vote more conservatively (Hollywood isn’t the liberal bastion conservatives make it out to be). If this is the case then the deck is stacked against Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, and Lady Bird; small-scale films that showcase diversity and inclusion through casting and storytelling.
Darkest Hour features a world-class performance but it’s not a film people speak glowingly about now, and I doubt its appeal will grow in the coming years. Dunkirk is heavy on spectacle but lacks the sort of emotional resonance that wins over voters. Likewise, The Post is a film that many people like, but no one seems to love, so expect it to drop to the rear of the pack.
Don’t be shocked if Phantom Thread picks up steam over the next several weeks and leapfrogs over Three Billboards, Dunkirk, and The Shape of Water to claim frontrunner status. There’s plenty of time between now and March 04 and the only thing that’s guaranteed is that the insatiable 24-hour news cycle will chew up and spit out stories about Oscar contenders faster than we can keep up.
Otherwise we’ll see you all on Oscar night and hope you follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google + in the build up to the big show on March 4th.