A chaotic year in Hollywood has led to a fairly bland awards season, as many of the favorites in major categories have dominated the early accolades. That is, except for Best Picture. That’s anyone’s guess, and what fun it’s been to trace that race’s trajectory this year.
Of course, there’s more reason to watch the Oscars than just the awards. There’s the fashion. The tradition. Host Jimmy Kimmel. This year, the 90th Academy Awards falls on Sunday night, March 4, on ABC. Also, more important, there’s the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, which we can expect to be addressed throughout the night.
We already know it’s affected the Oscars in a few ways: Tradition holds that acting winners from the previous year return to present the same award to the other gender, but last year’s Best Actor winner Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) will not return. You may recall he financially settled sexual misconduct allegations made against him during production of his film I’m Still Here (2010), so he voluntarily bowed out of the obligation. Similarly, James Franco was thought to be a shoo-in for a Best Actor nomination for his great work in The Disaster Artist, but sexual misconduct allegations from five women shortly before Oscar balloting closed likely eradicated his chance at a nomination.
Speaking of the acting categories, they’ve been a foregone conclusion for months. This year is the first time the same four actors won all the main precursors that foretell Oscar glory: the Critics Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and British Oscars (BAFTAs). SAG and BAFTA are the most important because they comprise industry professionals, and some members also vote for the Oscars. However, this doesn’t mean all those nominated should be the winner; I’ll go through the “big six” categories and tell you who should win and who will win each.
For Best Actor, Gary Oldman has been winning all season long for his work as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. It took him three hours every day to have his makeup and hair applied (the film will win an Oscar for that, too), then another half-hour to get him in his costume. Then he’d go shoot for 16 hours. This is a tour-de-force grand slam performance, one to be admired as a career-topping achievement most actors only dream of. He’s competing against Daniel Day-Lewis (going for a record-tying fourth Best Actor win) for Phantom Thread, Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out, Denzel Washington with his ninth career nomination, for Roman J. Israel, and the tremendous Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name. Will win: Oldman. Should win: Oldman.
Similarly, Frances McDormand is the strong favorite for her force-of-nature turn as an angry, grieving mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. She is phenomenal here, and if/when she wins, it’ll be her second Best Actress Oscar after Fargo (1996). Her opposition is Sally Hawkins from The Shape of Water, Margot Robbie for I, Tonya, Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird and Meryl Streep, with her 21st career nomination, for The Post. Will win: McDormand. Should win: McDormand.
Sam Rockwell has been on a streak of Supporting Actor wins for Three Billboards, and many expect the streak to continue. To win, he’ll have to defeat his co-star in the same film, Woody Harrelson, who brought much-needed humor and poignancy to the story. Also nominated are Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World, Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water, and Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project. Will win: Rockwell. Should win: Harrelson.
If there’s an upset to be had in the acting races, it’s in Supporting Actress. Allison Janney is the favorite for her unforgettable work as Tonya Harding’s mother in I, Tonya, and she’s campaigning hard to add an Oscar to her stash of seven Emmys. She faces stiff competition from Laurie Metcalf as a struggling mother in Lady Bird, as well as Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread, Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water, and Mary J. Blige in Mudbound. Will win: Janney. Should win: Janney.
The Shape of Water director Guillermo Del Toro won the Golden Globe, Director’s Guild (DGA) and BAFTA, so he’s a lock for Best Director. The film is bold, visionary and, since it’s about a woman who falls in love with a sea creature, yes, a bit strange. But it’s also beautifully made and wholly impressive. Christopher Nolan’s accomplishment with Dunkirk was so technically proficient in terms of sound and editing, it’s truly a filmmaking marvel. Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman in Oscar history to be nominated for Director; only Kathryn Bigelow has won (for The Hurt Locker in 2009). Similarly, Jordan Peele is only the fifth African-American to be nominated for Director; no African-American has ever won. Paul Thomas Anderson rounds out the five nominees for Phantom Thread. Will win: Del Toro. Should win: Nolan.
I’m so grateful the most prestigious category of the night is also the most competitive. The early awards split fairly evenly among three of the Best Picture nominees: Get Out, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards. Get Out won the Writer’s Guild, which Moonlight also won last year on its way to taking Picture. The Shape of Water won the Producer’s Guild and DGA, but was not nominated for the SAG Ensemble won by Three Billboards; the last film to win Picture without at least a SAG Ensemble nom was Braveheart in 1995. Three Billboards also won the BAFTA, but it doesn’t have a Director Oscar nomination, which can be a kiss of death: Only four films in 89 years of Oscars have won Picture without a Director nomination, the last being Argo in 2012. Could another film slip in for an upset? Call Me By Your Name will likely win Adapted Screenplay; Darkest Hour will win Best Actor and Makeup; the eight nods for Dunkirk are the second most this year; Lady Bird could ride the #MeToo movement to victory; Phantom Thread came out of nowhere the morning of the nominations, and could do so again when it matters most; and The Post was made by Hollywood heavyweights (Spielberg, Streep, Hanks). It’s a tough call, so I’m going with my No. 1 film of 2017, Three Billboards, to win it all. Will win: Three Billboards. Should win: Three Billboards.