90th Academy Awards: Predictions and Choices

I watched every nominee for the Academy Award for Best Picture prior to the ceremony, which is today, March 4 2018.  Here are my preferences, predictions and comments for the top eight categories in a table format.  I’ll put the movies and performances I haven’t seen at the bottom, separate from the actual rankings.

 

Best Picture

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Call Me by Your Name The Shape of Water Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Darkest Hour Lady Bird
Dunkirk Darkest Hour
Get Out Dunkirk
Lady Bird Get Out
Phantom Thread Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Post Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water Phantom Thread
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri The Post
To me, what really distinguished this year’s field for Best Picture was how they were all so… decent.  In recent years, there have been usually a few movies that I really disliked and a few that I thought really stood out.  In this year’s field, all the movies are pretty good – even my lowest-ranked The Post – but none of them really blew me away either.  That means that even though I can produce a relative ranking among the nominees (if just barely), in terms of quality they’re all pretty much clustered together.  The Shape of Water is my top pick by default, because it was slightly more enjoyable than the rest.

For the ranking, I knew which ones I wanted as my top two and which ones I wanted as my bottom three.  The hardest part was figuring out how to rank the middle four – Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – and in particular, whether to place the two World War II movies Darkest Hour and Dunkirk above or below Get Out and Three Billboards.  In the end, I decided the two World War II movies were more weighty so I put them ever so slightly ahead.

The Best Picture contest is mostly down to Three Billboards holding a small edge over The Shape of Water, with Get Out hanging in the wings to exploit a possible split in the voting.  Lady Bird and Dunkirk have small outside chances as well.  I really don’t want Three Billboards or Get Out to win so I’m hoping one of the other three will prevail.

 

Best Director

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread Jordan Peele for Get Out Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread
Jordan Peele for Get Out Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird
While I liked Lady Bird, the movie’s direction wasn’t particularly noteworthy to me.  The rest of the nominees are fine examples of great directing.  In particular, Get Out might be one of the most tightly-crafted movies I’ve seen in recent years, which somewhat made up for its iffy plot.  I thought Guillermo del Toro also did really well in The Shape of Water but in the end I have to give it to Jordan Peele by a hair, even though Get Out itself was nowhere near being my favorite among the nominees.  In any case, my very close second choice Del Toro is slated to win, with Christopher Nolan, one of my favorite directors, having an outside chance.

 

Best Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Timothée Chalamet for Call Me by Your Name Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour
Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out Timothée Chalamet for Call Me by Your Name
Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out
Denzel Washington for Roman J. Israel, Esq. [[[ Denzel Washington for Roman J. Israel, Esq. (haven’t seen) ]]]
Yes yes, we all knew as soon as we saw the first trailers for Darkest Hour that this would be the year Gary Oldman easily wins his long-overdue Oscar.  And I would agree with that choice.  But it’s funny: as I was watching Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, I was thinking, this guy is good… this guy is really good.  If there was any performer who could upset Oldman, it’d of course be Day-Lewis.  That said, while Day-Lewis is at the very least a very close second and arguably as good as or better than Oldman, I still say give it to Oldman for the way he was able to just melt into the role of Winston Churchill.  Besides, I don’t want Day-Lewis to win another Oscar because I want it to remain that only one actor has ever won four acting Oscars (brownie points if you know who it is!).  There’s been a lot of buzz around Timothée Chalamet as having an outside chance of winning but I don’t get it; Chalamet did fine in Call Me by Your Name but he didn’t seem to be particularly exceptional, and if any performance is going to beat Oldman’s it would be Day-Lewis’s.  I don’t know why Daniel Kaluuya was nominated; he did a fine job in Get Out but again, nothing terribly exceptional.

 

Best Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Margot Robbie for I, Tonya
Margot Robbie for I, Tonya Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird Saoirse Ronan for Lady Bird
Meryl Streep for The Post Meryl Streep for The Post
One positive development is that, compared to recent years, this year’s Best Actress field is quite strong.  I can’t say there’s an unworthy performance among these five – yes, not even that of Meryl Streep, who I have repeatedly maligned as being overrated and nominated out of routine rather than merit.  She was actually quite good in The Post.  Still, I’m gonna put her last anyway just because of how good the rest of the field is.  In a just world, Sally Hawkins would win – her performance was so captivating and it just blew me away.  I’m largely unfamiliar with her previous work but she’s made me a new fan of hers.  The middle three are tough to rank because they’re all so close and all so good!  At the same time, I feel like each of their characters are largely one-note: outwardly crude and angry with only fleeting hints of underlying vulnerability.

By the way, I think this is the first time in years that I’ve seen all five Best Actress performances prior to the ceremony.  That’s in large part due to the fact that four out of five of these performances are from Best Picture nominees.  That’s a sign of how strong this year’s field is.

 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Woody Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Woody Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water Richard Jenkins for The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World [[[ Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project (haven’t seen) ]]]
Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [[[ Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World (haven’t seen) ]]]
Eh, this is a weak field.  The frontrunner Sam Rockwell is my top pick but largely by default, as the other two that I’ve actually seen were not particularly exceptional.

 

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Mary J. Blige for Mudbound Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird Allison Janney for I, Tonya
Allison Janney for I, Tonya Allison Janney for I, Tonya
Lesley Manville for Phantom Thread Lesley Manville for Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water
Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water [[[Mary J. Blige for Mudbound (haven’t seen) ]]]
Octavia Spencer is a great actress, but I feel like she’s becoming the Meryl Streep of the Supporting Actress category – someone who’s being nominated for good but not great performances out of routine because there’s no one else to fill that slot.  And she’s always playing the same basic character – a sassy woman from the 1960s!

For the top spot, it’s a battle between two actresses who both played angry mothers who mistreated their daughters in their respective movies.  Frontrunner Allison Janney was very good but I’m giving the edge to Laurie Metcalf because I think her performance was more nuanced and layered.

 

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
The Big Sick The Shape of Water Get Out
Get Out Lady Bird
Lady Bird The Big Sick
The Shape of Water Get Out
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Off the top of my head this is the first time in a while that I’ve seen all the Original Screenplay nominees – four out of five being Best Picture nominees as well – prior to the ceremony, so that’s a good sign.  The Shape of Water and Lady Bird easily stand out in this field; the other nominees weren’t that great in terms of story, plot, or dialogue.  In terms of the race, Get Out is currently in the lead but Three Billboards isn’t too far behind.  That’s too bad, seeing as how those are my two lowest-ranked ones.

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees by alphabetical order Nominees by my preference, from highest to lowest My predicted winner
Call Me by Your Name The Disaster Artist Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist Logan
Logan Call Me by Your Name
Molly’s Game [[[ Molly’s Game (haven’t seen) ]]]
Mudbound [[[ Mudbound (haven’t seen) ]]]
Oh this one easily goes to The Disaster Artist.  I don’t even have to think about this one.  In fact I think The Disaster Artist is better than many of the Best Picture nominees.  But Call Me by Your Name is slated to win easily.

 

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