Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nomination Predictions for the 90th Academy Awards

For those who don't know, I was in grad school this past year, and that means that I've not had any time to maintain this blog. Sorry to my loyal readers! But, the good news is that now that we're in December, it's time for my annual overly-detailed analysis of the movie awards circuit! Time for me to spend hours poring through data to determine predictions which will ultimately be about 60% correct! Are you as excited as I am?!

This has been an exciting year for film, with some truly breakout movies emerging. I haven't had a chance to see everything I want to this year, but I must say this is the first year I've genuinely really liked all of the Awards-buzz movies that I've seen so far. That's pretty rare. Usually there are a few prestige films a year which I find to be kind of "meh," or even downright bad. But, this post is not about my personal opinions (although, don't worry, those will certainly be shared in about a month's time). This post is about what we can expect to see when the Oscar nominations are announced on January 23rd. It's certainly an unpredictable awards season. The Oscars famously ignore horror movies, comedies, and anything that's altogether too weird, but this year, some of the frontrunners that have emerged fit those categories. So, let's dive into this unusual Oscars season, and see who I think are the contenders in some of the major categories this year!

Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name, an early Oscars favorite.
Call Me By Your Name
Lady Bird
Get Out
The Shape of Water
The Post

If any of these films don’t make it into the Best Picture race, it’s going to be a bit of a shock, as all have a good amount of critical acclaim, and have been doing quite well at the awards leading up to the Oscars. Although it hasn’t been released yet, The Post has been getting strong reviews, but even if not, any film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks is bona fide Oscar fare. Call Me By Your Name had been my early pick to win the award up until it missed out on a SAG nomination for best cast, as no movie has won Best Picture at the Oscars without being nominated in that category for over twenty years. But it's still a shoo-in for a nomination, as the coming-of-age story/romance is both crowd-pleasing enough to gain mass appeal, but artsy enough for the often pretentious Oscar crowd. The Shape of Water, meanwhile, looks like it might be the first film directed by Guillermo del Toro to score a Best Picture nomination, and the Oscars love to recognize an auteur director for one of the more polished films of their career (as they did with Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel a few years ago). The other two entries on this list are particularly exciting because they’re not the typical Oscar fare. The Oscars famously doesn’t like comedies, so the fact that there’s so much love for the exquisite Lady Bird is really heartening. Especially as the industry grapples with the tide of sexism so ingrained in it, I think that a woman’s directorial debut which features women in all of the more prominent roles is the perfect movie for this year’s Oscars. And then if there’s a genre the Oscars dislike more than comedy, it’s horror, but Get Out has been riding a wave of acclaim ever since its release earlier this year. It’s such an amazing movie, which entered the national consciousness in a truly exceptional way. Get Out and Lady Bird are not the types of films the Oscars usually responds to, but given how much popular and critical success both films have, if they don’t earn nominations it will be a serious oversight on behalf of the Academy.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Florida Project
Phantom Thread

Even with the larger nomination list, this category always ends up being quite crowded. And these are all films with enough merit behind them to argue that they have a serious shot at a Best Picture nomination. Although, while I think all five of these films have a good chance of earning a Best Picture nomination, I think it’s unlikely that all five will, given how difficult it is for the Oscars to have ten nominees in this category. Phantom Thread seems like a good bet, teaming up Oscar favorites Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis, but since it hasn’t had a wide release yet, it’s tough to really know what the reaction will be to it, and whether it will buoy or muddle its Oscar chances. Mudbound has all the hallmarks of an Oscar winner, and features an insanely strong ensemble cast, but the Oscars has not proven receptive to films produced by Netflix in the past, outside of the documentary category. Remember when it snubbed Beasts of No Nation? I think Mudbound has a shot at a Best Picture nomination, but the resistance to the streaming service is real and might hold it back. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Florida Project have both been really acclaimed, but Three Billboards doesn’t have the same overwhelming support as some of my more definite bets, and The Florida Project is struggling with momentum—too many good films have come out since its release which have muddied the attention it initially received.. As for Dunkirk, Many would argue it’s one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, but it had an early release which means it has lost momentum since its release. Also, the strength of Dunkirk is that it has a wide scope and ensemble, but its lack of distinct memorable characters won’t help Oscar voters remember the film as a whole come awards time. It’ll definitely be nominated for technical awards, but Best Picture isn’t assured.

The Big Sick
Darkest Hour
Molly’s Game
The Disaster Artist
I, Tonya
All the Money in the World
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It’s already a crowded field, but there are a few movies which might sneak into the nominees. The Big Sick and The Disaster Artist are two well-reviewed comedies that would need to rely on popular appeal to score a nomination. I, Tonya is in the awards discussion for its performances, which means that it’s already a part of the Oscars conversation, so perhaps it can piggy-back off that buzz to a Best Picture nomination (although that didn’t work for Jackie last year). Darkest Hour hasn’t had the overwhelming critical support that the producers probably hoped for, but it still feels so much like Oscar-bait, that it might sneak in on principle. Downsizing, Molly’s Game, and All the Money in the World haven’t been released yet, so like Phantom Thread, the reaction to them might help their chances, but all have enough of a pedigree behind them that they might be on the radar soon. Lastly, Star Wars: The Last Jedi doesn’t really have a chance, but given how it’s bound to generate excitement, you never know, it might make it into the race as a longshot.

My predictions: Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, The Post, Phantom Thread, Mudbound, The Florida Project, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Guillermo del Toro overseeing a scene from The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro—The Shape of Water
Luca Guadagnino—Call Me by Your Name

Everyone loves Guillermo del Toro, and this looks like his year to finally score a Best Director nomination, especially as The Shape of Water is one of his more polished films thus far. Meanwhile, even after a disappointing showing in the SAG Award nominations, I think that Call Me by Your Name is an early Best Picture favorite, which means that Guadagnino in turn would have the best shot at a director nomination, as the direction of that film has often been touted as a strength. Things will certainly become clearer after the DGA nominations are announced, but since I'm writing this before those nominations, these seem like the two most reliable bets so far.

Steven Spielberg—The Post
Paul Thomas Anderson—Phantom Thread
Christopher NolanDunkirk
As soon as these projects were announced, all three of these names entered the Best Director race. They’re all big enough names that the Oscars has to pay attention. And all three films have had a strong enough reception that they’ve remained in the conversation. The prestige alone puts them in the conversation, and the quality of their work keeps them there. That being said, these three directors aren’t infallible. Paul Thomas Anderson’s last film, Inherent Vice, was mostly ignored by the Oscars, and Steven Spielberg himself missed out on a director nomination for his last big Oscars picture, Bridge of Spies. And then there’s Christopher Nolan, who has never been nominated for Best Director. Does that make him overdue? Or will the Oscars continue to ignore him?

Greta Gerwig—Lady Bird
Jordan Peele—Get Out
Dee Rees—Mudbound
Aaron Sorkin—Molly’s Game

Gerwig, Peele, and Sorkin are all recognizable faces in entertainment, but all of them are making their directorial debuts. And while Dee Rees has directed films before, none of them have made quite as big a splash as Mudbound. So we have four (relatively) new directors with films in the Oscar conversation. This is especially exciting when we consider that, aside from Sorkin, these are all relatively young directors. And, more excitingly, none of them are white men. As the Oscars has been perpetually criticized for diversity, it would be such a shame if these directors were all shut out in favor of the three white men mentioned in my “prestige favorites” category. Frankly, I feel that Gerwig and Peele deserve better odds than they seemingly have given the sheer fanbases of their respective films, and I’m especially rooting for Dee Rees, who I think demonstrated the best direction of the year, and would just so happen to be the first woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination for directing.

Sean Baker—The Florida Project
Martin McDonagh—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Much like the respective films they directed, Baker and McDonagh’s chances here widely depend on just how strong the awards support for their acclaimed films ends up being. I would certainly not count either of them out, but it’s hard to know whether to underestimate or overestimate these films’ chances. McDonagh especially has a sleeper chance of making it into the running, considering the film's strong showing at the SAG Awards.

Denis Villeneuve—Blade Runner 2049

This movie does not deserve any Oscars, as far as I’m concerned. But apparently some people think that Villeneuve will score a nomination for his follow-up to the far superior film Arrival. So I’m mentioning him. But I really don’t see it happening. I know a lot of people liked this movie more than I did, but even so, it was SUCH a box office disappointment, that it’s hard for me to imagine the Academy taking any notice.

My predictions: Guillermo del Toro, Luca Guadagnino, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Steven Spielberg

In which I make the bold and unheard of declaration that Meryl Streep might get an Oscar nomination, this time for The Post
Sally Hawkins—The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan—Lady Bird
Margot Robbie—I, Tonya
Meryl Streep—The Post

An impressive lineup, this category seems to be the most set in stone. Hawkins, McDormand, Robbie, and Ronan have all received much acclaim for their respective films, and any could potentially win (although a frontrunner will likely emerge as the awards season goes on). The unknown here is Streep as, again, The Post hasn’t been released yet, and she's the onle one here who failed to earn a SAG nomination. But, it’s never wise to bet against Streep, especially at the Oscars. This category seems pretty cut and dry.

Annette Bening—Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Jessica Chastain—Molly’s Game
Judi Dench—Victoria & Abdul
Vicky Krieps—Phantom Thread
Diane Kruger—In the Fade

But the Oscar nominations are always filled with snubs and surprises, and this category is not immune. Hell, Sally Hawkins herself was seen as the favorite to win Best Actress several years ago for Happy-Go-Lucky and didn’t even gain a nomination. If someone sneaks into the category, it will be one of these five actresses. Bening probably has the best shot, depending on how much of a campaign producers put forward for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, although Krieps might be able to ride momentum depending on how Phantom Thread does. If the Academy responds to Molly’s Game, that of course helps Chastain’s chances, while Diane Kruger’s Cannes-winning performance might translate to a performance as long as voters actually see In the Fade. Lastly, there’s Dench playing Queen Victoria, which you’d think would be a match made in Oscar heaven, but the lukewarm reaction to the film as a whole, as well as the already crowded category considering the number of strong women-lead films, has dropped her out of the conversation. Although the SAG Award definitely boosted her chances.

Kristen Stewart—Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart is so good. Personal Shopper is the latest in a string of excellent performances from her that would have scored a nomination for most other actresses. Given that Robert Pattinson also has a potential (if not likely) Oscar nomination in the works, it would be really great to see both Twilight stars deservedly redeemed by the Academy this year. But, it’s really unlikely.

My predictions: Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep

James Franco, transformed into Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist
Timothée Chalamet—Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis—Phantom Thread
James Franco—The Disaster Artist

Chalamet is the breakaway frontrunner in this category, and the newcomer seems poised to win out over several heavyweights here. The chief among them is Daniel Day-Lewis, who won an Oscar for his last film with Paul Thomas Anderson, and will likely score another nomination this year. The surprise here is James Franco, whose strong work in The Disaster Artist as the worst actor of all time has really paid off. He had initially been seen as a potential upset nominee, but his odds have improved steadily as he picks up nomination after nomination, and now an Oscars showing seems all but assured.

Tom Hanks—The Post
Gary Oldman—Darkest Hour

I have not seen The Post or Darkest Hour yet, but both of their lead actors definitely have Oscar buzz surrounding them. And I’m sure both are very good, but the buzz around their nominations does seem to have an air of resignation to it. Of course the Academy is going to nominate Tom Hanks for his Steven Spielberg historical drama. And of course the Academy is going to nominate Gary Oldman for playing Winston Churchill. But, that very inevitability is what might work against them. These are performances that seem to be well-liked as opposed to genuinely exciting. You shouldn’t bet against either of them getting a nomination, but the list does seem ripe for an upset. Especially considering that Darkest Hour is otherwise not creating much buzz, and Hanks failed to score a nomination for his last Spielberg Oscars drama.

Daniel Kaluuya—Get Out
Robert Pattinson—Good Time
Adam Sandler—The Meyerowitz Stories
Harry Dean Stanton—Lucky

All four of these nominees would be far more exciting than either Hanks or Oldman’s nominations. Pattinson scoring a nomination might be little more than a pipe dream of mine, as while his performance in Good Time deservedly earned rave reviews, that acclaim doesn’t seem to be translating into actual accolades. Similarly, Adam Sandler had a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding his career-best work in The Meyerowitz Stories, but that has failed to materialize this awards season. Then there’s Harry Dean Stanton, who gave his final film performance in Lucky, and who might be given a posthumous nomination for his strong last hurrah. But the most likely spoiler here looks like Daniel Kaluuya. When Get Out first premiered, everyone was talking about Jordan Peele, and deservedly so as Get Out is very much his vision. But in comparison, there wasn’t as much fervor about how fucking great Kaluuya is in this movie. Get Out is the rare horror movie where the hero is actually more interesting than the villains (as good as the villains are), and Kaluuya’s work shows strength, fear, and vulnerability in equal turns. Especially with a SAG nomination under his belt, it would be nice, and not inconceivable, to see Kaluuya sneak in under the wire here.

Jake Gyllenhaal—Stronger
Christian Bale—Hostiles
Denzel Washington—Roman J. Israel, Esq.

And then there are these performances. Neither Stronger or Hostiles has gained much Oscar buzz in any category outside of Leading Actor, which means that neither performance can ride on much momentum. But, both performances are acclaimed and they could easily upset here. Lastly, there’s Washington, who I would not have even considered a possibility if not for his surprising SAG nomination. But, I’m content enough to think of the SAG nomination as an aberration—people do not like that movie enough for him to really be a contender.

My predictions: Timothée Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, James Franco, Gary Oldman, Daniel Kaluuya

Mary J. Blige says goodbye to Jason Mitchell, both of whom are receiving buzz for their work in Mudbound
Laurie Metcalf—Lady Bird
Allison Janney—I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige—Mudbound
Holly Hunter—The Big Sick

Mothers seem to be the big theme of the year here, as all four names I’ve just mentioned here seem destined for the Oscars this year, and all four exist in the film in relation to their child. Metcalf, Blige, and Janney have nominations practically sewn up, and Hunter seems like a strong bet, but perhaps not as assured. As great as she is in The Big Sick, her chances are helped less by her performance, and more by the fact that there seems to not be a lot of competition in this category. Which means that the fifth spot seems almost up for grabs.

Hong Chau—Downsizing
Tiffany Haddish—Girls Trip
Octavia Spencer—The Shape of Water
Lesley Manville—Phantom Thread
Carey Mulligan—Mudbound
Kristin Scott Thomas—Darkest Hour
Lois Smith—Marjorie Prime
Kirsten Dunst—The Beguiled

The favorite amongst most pundits seems to be Octavia Spencer, but I’m not buying it. Spencer is obviously great, but her performance in The Shape of Water is not the film’s best, nor anything close to her career best. It’s good, but nothing I would deem Oscar-worthy. If she gets a nomination, it’s a show of support for the movie as a whole rather than her individual work. There’s much stronger work from Carey Mulligan in Mudbound, who definitely has a shot, but does seem to be overshadowed by her co-star Mary J. Blige in the awards conversation. If I’d put money on anyone, it would be Lesley Manville, whose chances might go way up once Phantom Thread is released. But again, this one really is a crapshoot and several performances I’ve mentioned here might sneak in. There especially seems to be support for Hong Chau, who many think is the standout performance in Downsizing, the otherwise unbuzzed about film from usual Oscar favorite Alexander Payne. And her SAG nomination The real surprise here is Tiffany Haddish. It is always unwise to bet on a broadly comedic performance for Oscar glory, but Haddish has become a breakout star with Girls Trip and has already won and/or been nominated for numerous awards by various critics. The Oscars are not out of the question for Haddish, but while I’d love to be more confident (and, frankly, should be more confident given the attention she’s received) I’ll believe it when I see it.

My predictions: Laurie Metcalf, Allison Janney, Mary J. Blige, Holly Hunter, Lesley Manville

Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project is the only sure bet in this scattered category.
Willem Dafoe—The Florida Project

Dafoe has been the only consistent name on the awards circuit in this category. As the only famous face in the film’s cast, he also is the best chance for the Academy to show love to this indie darling.

Sam Rockwell—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Michael Stuhlbarg—Call Me by Your Name
Armie Hammer—Call Me by Your Name
Jason MitchellMudbound
Mudbound has been having a bafflingly inconsistent awards run so far, with some ceremonies showering it with praise, and others ignoring it entirely. But where it’s recognized, it’s consistently recognized for its cast, and along with Mary J. Blige, Straight Outta Compton star Jason Mitchell has been identified as a standout. Similarly, Sam Rockwell has been having a good run with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and it looks likely that he’ll gain his long overdue first Oscar nomination for the film. And then there’s Call Me by Your Name. Armie Hammer should really be entered as a lead (and, frankly, I think he should be getting the buzz instead of Chalamet) but since he’s entered in the supporting category, you’d think he’d be a lock given the film’s acclaim. But, surprisingly, the awards ceremonies seem to be consistently recognizing Michael Stuhlbarg’s performance in a significantly smaller role instead. Then again, not only does Stuhlbarg steal the movie in one scene, but that scene is nothing but Stuhlbarg sitting on a couch talking. He’s great, and I honestly hope that both actors from the film can be recognized here.

Richard Jenkins—The Shape of Water
Woody Harrelson—Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Tracy Letts—Lady Bird
Ben Mendelsohn—Darkest Hour
Ray Morgan—Mudbound

It’s always dangerous to set anything in stone, and if there’s an upset, it’s going to be one of these five, all of whom do really strong work in films that have Oscar buzz for other performances. Stuhlbarg beats Letts in the “quiet fathers in an acclaimed coming-of-age story” narrative, and Harrelson’s performance has been forgotten by the Three Billboards producers campaigning for Rockwell. It’s shaky how much the Academy is going to respond to Darkest Hour at all, but if they’re paying attention, maybe they’ll also notice Mendelsohn, and Richard Jenkins does wonderful work in The Shape of Water and could ride that film’s momentum (as well as his surprisingly SAG nod) to a nomination. Lastly, there’s Rob Morgan. No one is really talking about him, and I probably have no business putting him on this list, especially since he’s competing against co-star Jason Mitchell. But, while Mitchell gives one of the best performances of the year, Morgan’s is even better, and I found him to be the single most standout member of Mudbound’s excellent ensemble cast. I’d love to see him and the film get more recognition than expected.

My predictions: Willem Dafoe, Sam Rockwell, Michael Stuhlbarg, Armie Hammer, Jason Mitchell

Get Out has awards buzz for its screenplay early on, and that buzz has since transformed into Best Picture buzz as well.
Lady Bird
Get Out
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Post
The Big Sick
The Florida Project
The Meyerowitz Stories

What a fucking incredible category. This year featured numerous amazing original screenplays, with films that pushed boundaries and defied conventions. The word “original” in the category means simply that the script is not based on other material. But many of the screenplays this year were original in a grander sense. The five screenplays I listed as probable seem to be the five most likely candidates, but I could easily see The Florida Project sneaking into the nominations. I also expect that most of The Big Sick’s Oscar campaign is going to be based around the strength of its screenplay, and I imagine it would have better chances in a year where the field wasn’t so strong. Then there’s The Post, whose screenplay seems to be less noticeably strong than many of the other contenders here, but is the kind of historical Oscar bait that the Academy often recognizes over more unconventional work (see the win and nomination for The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything). Lastly, we have The Meyerowitz Stories and Downsizing, which shouldn’t be counted out if only for the fact that Noah Baumbach and Alexander Payne are often recognized in this category by the Academy.

My predictions: Lady Bird, Get Out, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Me, writing about the Adapted Screenplay category, as opposed to the Original Screenplay category.
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist

Molly’s Game
The Beguiled
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
First They Killed My Father
Last Flag Flying

This is a far weaker category than Original Screenplay. I don’t even have much to say about it. The most exciting thing is that because of how weak the category seems to be, it opens up the possibility for a lot of surprising picks that the Academy might not otherwise recognize. I’d love to see Logan score a nomination for example.

My predictions: Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Mudbound, Molly’s Game, Logan

All my predictions aside, there's of course a chance that all the nominations will actually go to Boss Baby.

So, there you have it! My predictions in some of the Oscars' most prominent categories. What do you think? Are there movies and performances you think have a better chance than I'm giving them? Or are there predictions here which you think I'm dead wrong about? Let me know in the comments!

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