Monday, January 22, 2018

Oscars Analysis 2017: Nomination Predictions

Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand in Oscar heavyweight "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Here we go. Couple things to remember before we dive in to this year’s Oscar predictions. First: The Academy’s membership has expanded considerably over the past year, skewing younger and more diverse, so the stereotype of the typical Oscar voter—essentially, “Old white dude who loves fusty period pieces and doesn’t like to be challenged”—may no longer hold true, if it ever even did. Second, and far more importantly: Although the ceremony will take place in 2018, the show covers movies released in 2017, so whatever film wins Best Picture must be referred to as “Best Picture winner in 2017”. Do not test my patience on this.

Call Me by Your Name
The Florida Project
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Comments: Remember, this is a floating field that can contain anywhere from 5 to 10 nominees (though I suspect 10 is a mathematical impossibility); to crack the field, a movie needs to be ranked #1 on at least 5% of voters’ preferential ballots. That usually results in either 8 or 9 films, and with the critical love being split so evenly this year—which should make for a gratifyingly unpredictable show, by the way—I’m going with 9. The four locks are Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards, though I’m reasonably confident in Call Me by Your Name as well. Dunkirk and The Post have both struggled on the awards circuit thus far, but I think they’re both sufficiently admired that they get in. I also can’t see The Florida Project being left out, given that it’s popped up at #1 on so many critics’ list (though it’s important to remember that the Academy is composed primarily of industry insiders, not critics). My biggest question mark here is Phantom Thread, since it failed to land a Producers’ Guild nomination, but I think it’s a passion play that can squeak over the 5% threshold.

Potential upsets: The biggest threat is probably I, Tonya, but I’m guessing it’s liked more than loved. Mudbound landed a Best Ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors’ Guild, but I’m not convinced that the Academy is ready to champion a Netflix release for the top prize. The Big Sick scored at both the SAG and the PGA, but I suspect it’ll be viewed as too light.

Longshots: Darkest Hour (felt like a major player before it was released, but buzz has been muted); Wonder Woman (why not?); Molly’s Game (PGA nom, but nah).

Guillermo del Toro—The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig—Lady Bird
Martin McDonagh—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan—Dunkirk
Jordan Peele—Get Out

Comments: I know it’s boring to match the Directors’ Guild quintet exactly, but I can’t decide who gets bumped off, so I’m just sticking to the script. If I had to pick someone who’s vulnerable, I’d go with Nolan because he’s always underappreciated, but Dunkirk is such a massively impressive feat of fluidly muscular filmmaking, I can’t see him being ignored.

Potential upsets: The likeliest candidate is Luca Guadagnino for Call Me by Your Name. Beyond him, don’t be surprised if any other helmers of Best Picture contenders show up: Steven Spielberg for The Post, Sean Baker for The Florida Project, Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread.

Longshots: Joe Wright for Darkest Hour; Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman.

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

Comments: Hawkins, McDormand, and Ronan are locks, and Robbie is also on solid footing. Streep is the question mark here, which is an odd thing to say about Meryl Freaking Streep, but there’s always the concern of voter fatigue. Still, she’s damn good in The Post, so I think she holds on.

Potential upsets: I’m sorely tempted to swap out Streep for Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game, but I can’t quite pull the trigger. She’s the likeliest replacement, though Academy favorites such as Judi Dench (SAG nom for Victoria & Abdul) and Annette Bening (for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool) are always in the mix.

Longshots: None. It’ll be five of those eight.

Timothée Chalamet—Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis—Phantom Thread
James Franco—The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya—Get Out
Gary Oldman—Darkest Hour

Comments: Chalamet and Oldman are in, as is Franco (remember that the allegations surrounding him didn’t surface in mainstream media until voting was nearly closed). That leaves three contenders for two spots: Day-Lewis, Kaluuya, and Tom Hanks for The Post. Kaluuya is probably the safest of the three, while the battle between Day-Lewis and Hanks is pretty much a coin flip.

Potential upsets: Hanks.

Longshots: Denzel Washington for Roman J. Israel, Esq. (SAG nod, and besides, never count out Denzel).

Mary J. Blige—Mudbound
Holly Hunter—The Big Sick
Allison Janney—I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf—Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer—The Shape of Water

Comments: Janney and Metcalf are locks and will battle it out for the trophy come Oscar night. The other three are shakier, though I’m reasonably confident in Blige and Hunter. Spencer is an Academy fave, and The Shape of Water’s coattails are likely plenty long.

Potential upsets: The biggest threat is Hong Chau for Downsizing; she scored an SAG nod, and she’s also terrific, but the movie crashed hard. If support for Phantom Thread proves stronger than expected, Lesley Manville could pop up.

Longshots: Catherine Keener for Get Out (another coattail question); Kristin Scott Thomas for Darkest Hour (BAFTA nod); Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip (do they dare?).

Willem Dafoe—The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins—The Shape of Water
Sam Rockwell—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Stuhlbarg—Call Me by Your Name

Comments: This could get ugly, as Dafoe and Rockwell are the only two locks. Harrelson is likely, but there’s always the concern that voters won’t want to pick two players from the same movie. Speaking of which, Stuhlbarg may split votes with co-star Armie Hammer, though the latter is clearly a co-lead even if he’s being pushed for supporting. As for Jenkins, I’m plainly riding the Shape of Water bandwagon, though it’s possible he could also suffer from a split vote if Academy fave Michael Shannon gets some play.

Potential upsets: Beyond Hammer and Shannon, Christopher Plummer has a BAFTA nomination for his highly publicized replacement turn in All the Money in the World, so he’s definitely in the mix. Steve Carell scored an SAG nod for Battle of the Sexes, though buzz has been quiet since.

Longshots: Bradley Whitford for Get Out; Jason Mitchell for Mudbound; Ray Romano for The Big Sick.

Get Out—Jordan Peele
Lady Bird—Greta Gerwig
The Post—Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
The Shape of Water—Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—Martin McDonagh

Comments: I’m confident in four of these: Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards. The fifth spot is dicier. I’m going with The Post, which is both topical and dialogue-driven, but it’s basically a dart-throw.

Potential upsets: I, Tonya scored at both the BAFTAs and the Writers’ Guild, so it could easily replace The Post. Keep your eye on The Big Sick as well, a crowd-pleaser in a category where the Academy is more inclined to skew comic.

Longshots: Dunkirk (not enough “writing” for the Academy’s taste); The Florida Project; Phantom Thread.

Call Me by Your Name—James Ivory
The Disaster Artist—Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Molly’s Game—Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound—Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
Wonder—Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad, Jack Thorne

Comments: As with its counterpart, four of these are solid: Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Molly’s Game, and Mudbound. The fifth is a complete mystery, but unlike in the original category, that’s due to a shortage of strong candidates rather than a surplus. I’m going with Wonder, because what the hell.

Potential upsets: Logan has a WGA nod, but I’m not convinced that voters are ready to reward the superhero genre here; the same logic applies to Wonder Woman. I was tempted to pick Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, but it seems to have fizzled despite some ardent defenders.

Longshots: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (BAFTA nod—also, this is apparently a real movie).

Blade Runner 2049—Roger Deakins
Call Me by Your Name—Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Darkest Hour—Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk—Hoyte van Hoytema
The Shape of Water—Dan Laustsen

Comments: Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk are locked, and I think Darkest Hour and The Shape of Water are fairly comfortable as well. For the fifth spot, the guild went with Mudbound, but I’ll go with Call Me by Your Name as an upset pick.

Potential upsets: Mudbound.

Longshots: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (for the window sequence alone, I suppose); The Post.

Blade Runner 2049—Joe Walker
Dunkirk—Lee Smith
I, Tonya—Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water—Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri—Jon Gregory

Comments: Dunkirk and The Shape of Water should be fine. I suspect Blade Runner 2049 will perform well in the craft categories, so I think it lands here despite its lack of top-tier buzz. I’m less sold on Three Billboards, but in the end I think its coattails are long enough. My “upset” pick is I, Tonya, whose bounce-around structure should appeal to voters.

Potential upsets: Take your pick. Molly’s Game and The Post both scored with the Guild, Get Out and Lady Bird are Best Picture heavyweights, Baby Driver earned a BAFTA nod… I mean, really, who the hell knows.

Darkest Hour—Dario Marianelli
Dunkirk—Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread—Jonny Greenwood
The Post—John Williams
The Shape of Water—Alexandre Desplat

Comments: Dunkirk and The Shape of Water are definitely in, and Darkest Hour is pretty solid. The risk with Phantom Thread is whether voters actually saw it, but I think it sneaks in. As for The Post, who am I to bet against John Williams?

Potential upsets: If Zimmer weren’t already up for Dunkirk, I’d have picked Blade Runner 2049 in place of The Post.

Longshots: Wonderstruck (come on, people, did you even see this movie?).

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

Comments: I feel… weirdly confident about this?

Potential upsets: The Post, Downsizing, Wonder Woman, The Greatest Showman.

Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Comments: I’m sold on Blade Runner 2049, The Last Jedi, and Planet of the Apes. For the final two spots, I’ll go with the Best Picture nominees.

Potential upsets: Remember that this is being whittled down from a shortlist of 10, which minimizes the unpredictability a bit. Of the remaining five on the shortlist, the biggest threat is probably Okja with its giant CGI pigs. The other contenders are Alien: Covenant (nah), Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (maybe?), Kong: Skull Island (hmm), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (if only).

OK, that’s a wrap on our nomination predictions. We’ll be back tomorrow to see just how badly we did.

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