This is a very strange award season. On top of the slow box office and the sexual harassment allegations, each contender has a reason why it could win and a reason why it could lose. The possible contenders are listed below:
- All the Money in the World: It is a political film. In the past, the Academy has favored political films too many to list. Additionally, the fact that Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty attracted attention to it. Plummer playing a real-life person is a plus being that a lot of Oscars have gone to biographical performances. Nevertheless, the reviews for the film are not as raving as other films this year like The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, and Get Out.
- Call Me By Your Name: It is an LGBT-themed film, thereby making it “important” and “relevant.” However, being that Moonlight won best picture last year by surprise, the Academy may not want to give it to an LGBT-themed film two years in a row. This is not to say that the Oscars are homophobic but rather want to shine light on other “important political topics” such as women and sexual harassment. I will discuss this issue more when I write about Lady Bird. Whether or not Call Me By Your Name will win best picture, Timothee Chalamet is in talks to win Best Leading Actor. Then again, the fact that Chalamet is young could help or hurt his chances at winning. On the one hand, the Academy likes to create young new stars. On the other hand, it is possible they may want to award “veteran” Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour or possibly give Daniel Day Lewis his fourth Oscar.
- Darkest Hour: It is a political film about a historical figure. This is by description Oscar bait. Gary Oldman is also in talks to win Best Actor. However, the Academy may be tired of rewarding biographical performances since they have rewarded so many. This was exemplified by the loss of Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in the film Jackie last year. If Darkest Hour came out ten or twenty years ago, it might have had a greater chance. Similar to All the Money in the World, the reviews for Darkest Hour are not as strong as they are for other films this year.
- The Disaster Artist: The Oscars love movies about making movies and the entertainment industry (i.e. All About Eve, The Artist, Argo, Birdman, La La Land). On top of that, James Franco directs a film about and stars as a real life person. However, the film might be too “comedic” for the Academy’s taste.
- Dunkirk: On the one hand, the Academy may want to give Christopher Nolan a chance being that fans of his were upset when he did not receive recognition for The Dark Knight nor Inception. On the other hand, it is a World War II film and the Oscars seem to be tired of war films, particularly World War II. Last year, Hacksaw Ridge won Best Editing and Sound Mixing, but lost in the other categories. Again, like Darkest Hour, Dunkirk may have had a bigger chance of winning Best Picture if it came out ten years or twenty years ago. Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that it is a beautiful film.
- The Florida Project: Back in October, several critics were raving about this film as if it were going to be the next Moonlight. I saw it and I liked it. I respected it. However, I was not as crazy about it as other people. I think there were better films this year including The Shape of Water, Get Out, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Several people also predicted Willem Dafoe to win Best Supporting Actor, but Sam Rockwell seems to be stepping a bit ahead.
- Get Out: The racial controversy surrounding this film could make Oscar voters vote for or against it. Then again, it has won Best Picture for a lot of the small critic awards including but not limited to the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, The Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, and the Online Film Critics Society. Moreover, the Academy is not known for awarding many horror films. Rosemary's Baby, The Omen, and The Exorcist, however, are three minor exceptions. While none of these films won best picture, Rosemary's Baby got the award for Best Supporting Actress (Ruth Gordon), The Omen won Best Original Score, and The Exorcist won Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound. What makes Get Out different than horror movies previously nominated at awards is that there is a lot of social commentary behind it. Some film critics view Rosemary's Baby a social commentary on the treatment of women, but the film was not promoted that way. On the other hand, the countless online reviews of Get Out emphasize the film’s social commentary on race.
- Lady Bird: As I have stated in previous articles, I thought this film was overrated. However, this does not change the fact that it is drawing attention from the fact that it is written and directed by a female and “feminism” was the most used word of the Merriam-Webster dictionary of 2017. Many people were disappointed that Greta Gerwig was not nominated for best director for the Golden Globes. Feel free to disagree with me, but I hope that the Academy does not nominate Greta Gerwig for best director out of pity for being snubbed at the Globes. I also do not want the Academy to Best Picture to Lady Bird out of political pity. Then again, the Academy might consider it too “girly” to win best picture.
- Phantom Thread: It is supposedly Daniel Day Lewis’ last performance. This could either help or hurt his chances winning best actor. He has already won three times, so the Academy may not want to give it to him again. The Academy may want to give other actors a chance. Then again, they may want to create a “record-breaker.” So far, Phantom Thread has won a lot of awards for best original score at the small critic awards including but not limited to the Boston Society of Film Critics and the San Diego Film Critics Circle. As for its chances of winning best picture, it may be too “auteurish” for the Academy’s taste. Also, the Academy has not been particularly fair to Paul Thomas Anderson. Julianne Moore and Burt Reynolds were both nominated for supporting roles in Boogie Nights, but neither of them won. Anderson was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Boogie Nights but lost to Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for Good Will Hunting. Magnolia was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song ("Save Me" by Aimee Mann), but did not win any of these nominations. Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in The Master but ironically lost to Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln). Then again, the Academy is changing. In fact, they invited a lot of foreign artsy filmmakers into the director’s branch.
- The Post: Politics and journalism go hand-in-hand, thereby classifying this film as “Oscar bait.” Not to mention the fact that it stars record-nominee and three-time winner Meryl Streep and it is directed by Steven Spielberg. Critics are calling this film “relevant” in the age of President Trump. Nevertheless, the Academy may be tired of awarding Spielberg. Plus, the journalism film Spotlight won Best Picture by surprise two years ago. Don't forget Sidney Lumet's film Network which won Best Actress (Faye Dunaway), Best Actor (Peter Finch), Best Supporting Actress (Beatrice Straight), and Best Original Screenplay. That being said the Academy may not want to award another journalism film.
- The Shape of Water: There is no doubt that this film will get nominations in the technical categories (i.e., visual effects, cinematography, production design, etc.). Additionally, Sally Hawkins is in talks to possibly win Best Actress. Deservedly so. Then again, Best Actress is a very crowded and competitive category this year with Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), and Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird). Some people are predicting Guillermo del Toro to win Best Director. For the past few years, the award for Best Director has gone to the more “visual/technical films” like Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, Alejandro G. Inarritu for both Birdman and The Revenant, and Damien Chazelle for La La Land. Joyce Eng, an editor at Gold Derby joked that if Guillermo del Toro wins Best Director, he, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alejandro G. Inarritu could be the “three amigos” being that they are all from Mexico. The Shape of Water being one of the most loved films of 2017 could most certainly help its chances at winning. At the same time, however, it may be too “weird” or “different” for the Academy’s taste. Nevertheless, as stated previously, the Academy invited a lot of foreign directors.
- The Square: I know this film is not on a lot of people’s lists for Best Picture predictions. I have not yet seen The Square being that it is not playing anywhere locally near me other than in Manhattan. The Square has won best foreign language film at some of the small critic circle awards including the Boston Society of Film Critics, Chicago Film Critics Association, and Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. It is nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes. The Square is actually on the list of films eligible for Best Picture. The Square has a possibility of pulling an upset for a couple of reasons. First, it is a political satire. Secondly, Elisabeth Moss stars in the film. She has had quite a year with The Handmaid;s Tale and Top of the Lake. Hence, it would be interesting to see if she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in a feature film after her accomplishments with television. It is possible she could fill in a slot if Hong Chau (Downsizing) is not nominated, although Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) is most likely to fill that slot if Chau is not nominated. Finally, and most importantly, many of the foreign filmmakers in the director’s branch have had films shown at the Cannes Film Festival. The Square was this year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes. That being said, it may as well be the first time in a long while that a Palme d’Or winner wins Best Picture. Then again, it all comes down to marketing and how many members of the Academy have seen the film.
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: This is a politically relevant film being that it centers on rape and the American criminal justice system. However, the dark humor might be too vulgar for the Academy’s taste.
In retrospect, there is not only no sole front-runner for Best Picture, but in any category.