Updated: Dec 8, 2019
I know, everyone already had their prediction stories up at the beginning of this week. Unfortunately, I don't have the benefit of pre-screenings and a staff of writers to comb through all these films with me.
I'm promising myself that next year, I won't wait until the week of the Oscars to watch these films. I've been up long nights trying to cram as many of these nominees into my schedule (and my budget) as possible. That said, I definitely didn't get to all of them, so I've left off some categories where I either didn't watch any of the films or not enough to have an educated opinion.
Here are my predictions of who will come away with gold tomorrow at the Oscars, along with who I think actually should win in those categories (not always the same thing!)
Let us know in the comments section what you agree with or don't. If you think we're not giving enough credit in some area, tell us. Your thoughts are as valuable as mine.
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
"Call Me By Your Name"
"The Shape of Water"
What will win: "The Shape of Water"
It’s got a fairly traditional love story arc with an unorthodox context. It’s simply beautiful film in terms of the use of color and lighting through surfaces (most notably, ahem, water.) Add in, too, that the main character is a headstrong mute woman who finds agency through her love of the... I wanna say, merman? It also features a prominent gay character in Richard Jenkins’ role, a clash of ideologies between militarism and science, and an overall theme of not seeing “how we’re incomplete.”
In short, it’s a great film that’s got everything the Academy is looking for and they can do worse in terms of making a political statement. Because who are we kidding? Best Picture is a political statement, not a contest. That said, the field is tight this year, which is a good thing, so anyone’s guess is as good as mine.
What should win: “Dunkirk.”
Yes it’s just another movie by a white director featuring and all-white cast set in an era that we’re all tired of seeing by now. But this film is a masterclass in how a technologically superb film can resonate. The use of certain camerawork to heighten tension, along with Hans Zimmer’s ambient score (usually not a fan of his work) and Nolan’s nonlinear plot all add to the nuance of a film that is mostly an impeccable example of a movie that uses its budget to the fullest and crafts something unlike all the other WWII movies out there.
It’s not only got the full breadth of military warfare in land battles, air battles and sea battles, but the film is really about the civilian efforts to save their country and showcase the bravery that’s sometimes needed when your backyard becomes a battlefield.
This film should win because it found a WWII story to tell onscreen that hasn’t been done before and it blows all the competition out of the water in terms of sheer production excellence.
Honorable Mention: "Get Out"
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut did not disappoint.
It’s a psychological thriller that borrows from staples of the horror genre, while thriving on a new direction for it. It’s a horror film wrapped in a “genetic makeup” of racial tension and social awareness.
Couple this with the fact that Peele manages to make some moments humorous to cleanse the palate before or after bigger moments. Leave it to a comedian to know how to dish things out in appropriate portions and intervals.
That said, it lacks a lot of the technical and creative elements intrinsic to an Oscar-winning film. Peele has been a writer for years and filmmaker only recently. It shows.
There are moments of cinematic talent, like the visual representation of “The Sunken Place,” and the attention to small shots that lead to greater continuity (when we see his foot literally step into the wilderness early in the film,) however I wasn’t marveling so much at the filmmaking as I was at the storytelling.
It’s a tremendous feat either way! I mean, how many people get their first film ever nominated in this category? I suspect Peele will only improve in filmmaking aspects going forward, but it should be enough for this film to get this kind of attention.
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.”
Who will win: Gary Oldman
The man’s never won an oscar, he sat through more than a week’s worth of cumulative hair and makeup on the set of “Darkest Hour,” and is a prolific character actor. This is his year.
Who should win: Daniel Kaluuya
The power of that tearful armchair scene alone shows his chops, add in the fact that his performance is so unlike any other contender (due in part to unique subject matter of the role) and I think this new kid on the block deserves some gold.
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”
Who will win: Meryl Streep
To say that her performance was good would be an understatement. However, was hers the best female performance this year? I don’t think so.
Still though, this is the year of #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up’ and Streep’s been right at the center, especially with a character that so perfectly embodies the spirit of the movement.
She plays Katherine Graham, a woman thrust into a “man’s job,” in an industry led by men, whose decisions are constantly doubted and undermined by men. Still, she persisted.
This award could honestly go to the woman I think SHOULD get it - or another contender - for all the same reasons. This category is competitive this year, which is great!
Who should win: Frances McDormand
Her performance was stellar in a film that otherwise failed to live up to its potential (in my opinion.) Her lined and cracked face, stern and imposing, is reminiscent of a Dust Bowl mother who’s lived through the worst that life has to offer. Yet, she perfectly captures the humanity of a character that tries so hard to not feel fear and pain. In little moments with herself, we see the cracks of humanity and vulnerability that allow McDormand to shine.
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”
Who will win: Sam Rockwell
He’s been getting all the nods leading up to the awards and even though he plays a character that goes from bigot to just an asshole, The Academy still sees it as a risky and envelope-pushing role. That said, Rockwell is an amazing actor and did play this part to its fullest.
Who should win: Christopher Plummer
I confess, I didn’t even see “All the Money in the World." But if you’ve been tuned in to anything that happened on the set of that film, you’ll know that Plummer took over for Kevin Spacey when the latter was fired from the set amidst sexual assault allegations last year. Plummer came in and re-shot the whole part in a few weeks, leaving his own stamp on the film. In terms of basic production acumen and efficiency, that’s an Oscar-worthy feat in and of itself.
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Who will win: Allison Janney; the woman’s so fucking talented and never even been nominated, but her turn as Tonya Harding’s mother in “I, Tonya” is haunting and immersive.
Who should win: Janney. Seriously, I love her! Also, is anyone else noticing the "West Wing" alums (Bradley Whitford in "Get Out") in Oscar films this year? Just me? Okay...
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird," Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro
Who will win: Guillermo Del Toro
The man’s never compromised his surrealist style for the sake of Academy honors. While you could say this is his most watered down work (pun intended) to please Oscar voters, I think the reality is more that he’s run the gambit of weird, out-there cinema to the point that this is just more interesting to him. Plus, he’s come away with a Golden Globe already, which I know, means nothing, but the tide’s on his side.
Who should win: Del Toro.
Honorable Mention: Greta Gerwig
You'll notice the lone female name in this category, which speaks volumes about the institutional problems in Hollywood. For that reason alone, in the context of the Times' Up movement, Gerwig could walk away with gold in this category or in Best Picture. I doubt it, but it could happen.
She definitely deserves the nod for creating a film that's not a bland coming-of-age story and actually gives female characters something to do. I don't think she deserves the award from a purely cinematic standpoint, but her influence on this Academy Awards will be huge nonetheless.
"The Boss Baby"
What will win: “Coco”
I mean, is this even a question? “The Boss Baby” should never have been made and “Ferdinand” is a reboot nobody asked for (well, except maybe John Cena.) “The Breadwinner” is a GREAT animated movie, but it lacks the artistic flash and studio-backing that Oscar loves so dearly. I’d also argue it still doesn’t eclipse Pixar’s latest feature.
“Coco,” aside from being simply gorgeous to look at, is a heartfelt and culturally rich story that celebrates not just Mexican heritage but music and what it means to honor your ancestors.
What should win: “Coco;” because, I mean, duh.
Honorable Mention: "Loving Vincent"
A film that showcases Van Gogh's unique style is a worthy undertaking, though finding a way to animate a medium that was always intended to be still somewhat defeats the purpose. The Dutch extraordinaire's work was so heralded because his brush strokes often gave a still painting the illusion of motion and fluidity.
“Dear Basketball,” Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
“Garden Party,” Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
“Lou,” Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
“Revolting Rhymes,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer
What will win: “Dear Basketball”
With all the talk surrounding this short film you’d be forgiven for not knowing that there are any other nominees in this catgory. It'll probably win.
What should win: Anything that doesn’t have Kobe Bryant’s name attached to it. Y’all may have been able to forgive him for being a shitty person because he was good on the court, but I refuse to give him a pass in Hollywood. It would be tone deaf to give a sexual abuser an award any year, but particularly this one.
“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
Who will win: “Call Me By Your Name”
Oscar loves a love story, as they say (ugh, sorry for the cliche.) But aside from that, this film is one of the best reviewed films of 2017 and may very will be eclipsed in all the other major categories by some heavyweight competition. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one come away with a screenplay award, especially if it doesn’t pick up any statues elsewhere.
Who should win: “The Disaster Artist,”
This film is marred by James Franco’s latest scandal (I say latest because he’s hardly a stranger to it) but this is an area where the award has nothing to do with the leading man.
Neustadter and Weber created a hilarious screenplay that highlights some of the out-there and bizarre qualities of its subject, Tommy Wisseau, who directed the cult turdbomb that is “The Room.”
Sure, the story glosses over some of the horrible parts of Wisseau’s character for the sake of showing him for all his passion, but that’s the only way this movie would have gotten made. Finding a way to thread the needle so that we can all see a retelling of how this weirdly awesome piece of shitty cinema got made is a great feat. With the fact that this is really just a film about a guy with a dream, it’s got all the sappy staples of what makes for an enjoyable film.
“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
Who will win: “Get Out”
The writing is where this film shined brightest and the nominations in other marquee categories is evidence that this film deserves high honors. But I don’t think it will get the bigger awards. It’s just not as great a film as some of the others in Best Picture and Peele is simply too fresh to the industry to get a Director statue. It’s a great movie, don’t get me wrong, and really groundbreaking. But it’s also obvious throughout that this is Peele’s debut film. He’s got some edges to soften, but this film has the best screenplay this year.
Who should win: “Get Out.”
A horror film about the hypocrisy of ‘wokeness’ that features black actors can’t NOT win.
Honorable mention: Gordon and Nanjiani’s “The Big Sick”
This managed to be a comical autobiography of a painful period in their past: When the pair began dating and Gordon had to be induced into a coma due to a rare disease. It’s one of those scripts where people won’t recognize it as great because this actually happened to them, but writing real life is often harder than creating fiction, even more so when it can be so painful to relive. The result is a rom-com that is unlike any other, and the screenplay is the beating heart of this love story.
“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
Who will win: Dunkirk
Honestly, this is another one that could go to my preference, but my gut tells me that, if "Dunkirk" doesn’t win Best Picture, it’ll win here because the cinematography is what stands out the most in this film. The camera work and technical planning of "Dunkirk" add to the tension of the story in a masterful way. It certainly would deserve the award if it wins.
Who should win: Blade Runner 2049
The film had no hopes of getting onto the bigger categories, not because it isn’t a spectacular film (in every sense, including the literal) but because it simply didn’t play with audiences. However, Roger Deakins mapped out a film that, from start to finish, delivers some of the best eye candy ever to grace the silver screen. From the awe-inspiring use of color, to impeccable lighting and framing and yada yada - I could seriously fawn over this film for hours. I will simply say that this film deserves at least one statue this year, box office be damned.
“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory
Who will win: Lee Smith
While he's a perennial collaborator of Christopher Nolan, the guy's got some other chops to show for. With work including "The Truman Show," "Elysium" and "Spectre," he has become one of the most respected editors in the business. While this category can sometimes be close, this year's really comes down to two candidates.
Who should win: Sidney Wolinksy
One of the bigger strengths of "The Shape of Water" comes from it's ability to connect images together to make a scene move or hammer home a point. With a mute lead role, this is important. I think Wolinsky's work speaks for itself.
“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green
“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King
“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood
Who will win: “Baby Driver.”
This film was great, but it was greatest in the fact that the picture and sound move as one, tying in the main character to the plot and the audience to the mood. Slater deserves something for his efforts, as I don’t envy how many hours it must have taken to get this final product.
Who should win: “Baby Driver.”
“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick
Who will win: I honestly don’t know, this category always depends on the outcome of the Sound Editing award, because they can be so closely related and often what makes one great is the same about the other. In short, if “Baby Driver” doesn't win sound editing, it will win here. But this could also go to “Dunkirk” or “Blade Runner 2049.”
Who should win: “Dunkirk”
With that rambling answer above out of the way, let me tell you what the difference is between mixing and editing. Sound mixing means layering multiple sounds together on the track, while editing encompasses the whole breadth of how the soundtrack interacts with the rest of the movie, in picture, cuts and pacing.
“Dunkirk” masterfully layers sounds onto each other and is the best example of how good mixing can be sometimes be better than an overall soundtrack.
When you have the voices of hundreds of men screaming and being engulfed by the waters of the English Channel, there’s a lot of different sounds going on at once. Weingarten, Landaker and Rizzo use sound in key ways to really suck us into scenes and raise the stakes. While an often overlooked category, sound is more important to a film than people think. This film shows why.
“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Who will win: “Dunkirk.”
While this film could make out with production awards either way (because it certainly should!) I think this all hinges on where Best Picture goes on Sunday. If “Dunkirk” wins it, they wouldn’t dare snub “The Shape of Water” or even “Darkest Hour” (which doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning Best Picture.) My gut tells me though that Best Picture will go to one of the other films, and “Dunkirk” will come away with a lot of the production awards, because it so clearly outclasses the rest in those terms.
Who should win: “Dunkirk”
“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell
Who will win: Hans Zimmer
While I'm not usually a big fan of his work, the score in "Dunkirk" does add a lot to the film. In terms of a score that accomplishes the most, Zimmer's is the clear winner, though I feel like the score here was even more ambient and effects-driven than his work usually is, which is saying something.
Who should win: Alexandre Desplat
"The Shape of Water" has a phenomenal score, one that is both traditional in its sweeping orchestra to lift those romantic moments, and is unique in adding to certain characters, like the ominous Strickland (played by Michael Shannon.)
For a movie that is so inherently visual, the score can tend to be lost in the shuffle, but Desplat's work manages to be a welcome addition.
Makeup and Hair
“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten
Who will win: Tsuji, Malinowski and Sibbick.
The sheer effort involved in turning skinny Gary Oldman into toady Winston Churchill is not lost on me. It took a lot of talent and patience every single day, and Tsuji even came out of retirement to participate in this film. This team deserves it, though I should say that for all their efforts, the result still doesn’t look all that much more like Churchill than John Lithgow’s turn as Churchill in “The Crown.” One asks why it was worth all the effort.
Who should win: “Darkest Hour.”
“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan
“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist
Who will win: “Kong: Skull Island,” This film is, like all Kong reboots before and after it, plugged into the Hollywood zeitgeist. It had some great effects, don’t get me wrong, but it will win not for it’s merits, but because all the most powerful people in the Academy were behind this movie. Hey, sometimes it’s a popularity contest.
Who should win: “Blade Runner 2049,” Show me another film that melds two people’s faces together in the way this movie did for a love scene and I’ll happily say it’s as groundbreaking in terms of visual effects. I’ll wait.
Thanks so much for reading! If you think one of these films deserves it's own film review, shout it out in the comments.
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