The more I cover the Oscars, the more frustrating they become to me.
Oh, don’t get me wrong: I’ve always disliked the Oscars, long before I even started this website in 2013. That’s because they have consistently snubbed the most obvious winners ceremony by ceremony, almost for as long as the Oscars themselves have existed. Perfect example: how is it that Alfred Hitchock, the iconic director behind classics such as Rebecca, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds, has gone through his ENTIRE 50-year career and never won a single Oscar? Meanwhile, Edith Head has won eight Academy Awards. Who? My point exactly.
You would think that by this point, the Academy would wisen up and make more educated decisions in their awards and nominations. But no, if anything, they’ve gotten worse. 2016 famously had that #OscarsSoWhite controversy, where they embarrassingly snubbed the cinematic epics Beasts of No Nation, Creed, and Straight Outta Compton in their acting and picture categories. They had that clumsy envelope mishap last year during its best picture announcement for Moonlight. Not to mention that it has snubbed masterpieces such as Rush, The Dark Knight Rises, Catching Fire, Captain America: Civil War, and Patriot’s Day in all of its categories from the past several years. I completely understand these movies not getting nominated for best picture or director. But seriously, not even costume design?
This year, their snubbing is arguably at their worst yet. For one thing, they’re still refusing to fill all 10 of their best picture slots, capping it off at nine nominees. Why do they keep doing this? There’s no reason to be that disinterested in a potential 10th nominee. Either go all in with your slots, or wuss out and go back to five nominees so we can all go to bed sooner. Opening a potential tenth spot just to leave it empty is like flipping the middle finger to the fans behind Blade Runner 2049, The Big Sick, Logan, War for the Planet of the Apes, Baby Driver, and so, so many others. It’s disgraceful to the film community and it’s disrespectful to the passionate fans behind it. You might as well fill a Transformers movie in the tenth slot since you’re basically eliciting the same disgusted reaction from your viewers anyway.
But nevermind the empty 10th slot. This night is about the movies that are getting recognized: the so-called “best of the year.” It would be great if anybody has seen them. Call Me By Your Name, a coming-of-age romantic Italian drama, grossed the lowest of any best picture nominee at $25 million. The other coming-of-age drama Lady Bird performed better at $48 million, but it still pales in comparison to Dunkirk’s $500 million box office numbers. Phantom Thread didn’t even break its budget price, bringing in a measly $27 million against its production costs of $35 million. Why, then, is it nominated for six Academy Awards? Because Daniel Day Lewis is in it, I guess. Although oddly enough, that excuse didn’t work for Academy favorite Meryl Streep this time around, since her film The Post is only nominated for two awards this year. Is her time in the spotlight finally up? We can only hope so.
Regardless of my annoyances with the Academy’s nomination process, these are the movies we have to pick from, and the winners aren’t going to predict themselves. Let’s hop right into this year’s Oscar predictions.
Best Picture: Predicting this category has become a crapshoot wheel of fortune for the Oscars. Half of the best picture winners from the past decade haven’t even won best director, and the rest of them have arrived to their best picture win through very strange methods. Argo won best picture in 2013 despite Ben Affleck not even being nominated for best director. 12 Years A Slave won best picture in 2014 despite Gravity sweeping the rest of the night. Spotlight won best picture in 2016 despite winning only one other award from the night for best original screenplay. And don’t even get me started on last year’s best picture mixup fiasco between La La Land and Moonlight.
The selection process for these best picture winners have become completely lopsided and unpredictable. Perhaps that’s why I’m struggling so much in my prediction for best picture this year. In previous years, best picture was usually the first category I checked off in my predictions. This year, it was my last. It’s seriously become that uncertain.
The best picture race this year has boiled down to two pictures: The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Most people believe that The Shape of Water is going to snag it, mostly because of its sweeping in the Producer’s and Director’s Guild Awards. I’m not convinced. For one thing, a science-fiction film has never won best picture in Oscar history. Not once. Not 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968. Not Star Wars in 1977. Not E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial in 1982. Not Apollo 13 in 1995. Not Avatar in 2009. Not Inception in 2012. Not Gravity in 2013. You want to talk about Oscars bias? Nominate a science-fiction film for best picture. It almost immediately dashes all hopes of a best picture win.
That being said, the genre that the Academy is consistently in favor of are dramas. Every single best picture winner from this decade has been a drama film, from The Hurt Locker all the way to Moonlight. This works in favor of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri because it is based in a realistic setting as opposed to The Shape of Water’s fantastical one.
I have no idea who is going to win best picture this year on Oscar night. The confusion from previous ceremonies has completely dashed my confidence in predicting this category. But if we’re basing our decision solely on trends repeated throughout Oscar history, then Three Billboards is the safest choice. I will be fuming if The Shape of Water becomes the first science-fiction film to win best picture over Star Wars.
Best Director: Guillero Del Toro won the DGA award, which means he’ll also win the best directing Oscar for The Shape of Water. I’d prefer it go to first-time writer-director Jordan Peele, whose horror-satire film Get Out was a clever and ingenious look at race culture and how neo-liberalism negatively impacts minority communities. However, Del Toro did deserve an Oscar years ago for Pan’s Labirynth and was wrongfully snubbed against Germany’s The Lives of Others. I guess this year will give him the recompense that he’s so desperately deserved this entire time.
Best Actor: No contest, Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour. Not only does it take a lot of talent and dedication to portray a historical figure as significant as Winston Churchill, but Oldman is another actor that the Academy has disregarded time and time again for the past several years. He didn’t even get his first nomination until 2011 for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. His win for Darkest Hour will make up for all the years the Academy has snubbed him.
Best Actress: While Sally Hawkins’ performance was the best thing to come out of Guillero Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, I highly doubt the Oscar will go to her, especially since a best acting award hasn’t gone to a non-speaking role since Jean Dujardin for the silent film The Artist in 2011. Since this is the case, I’m going to go with my runner-up option with Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Her strained performance as an grieving mother devastated by the loss of her daughter was beautifully poignant and tragic, not to mention that sassy spunk she threw around at anyone in her general direction. Her character was one of the most memorable figures to come out of cinema this past year. I will be infuriated if the Oscar is awarded to anyone else besides McDormand or Hawkins.
Best Supporting Actor: Forgiving the fact that Bill Skarsgard was unforgivably snubbed for his performance as the creepy titular monster in Stephen King’s It, we have a toss-up in this category between Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Williem Dafoe for The Florida Project. I’m going with Rockwell for Three Billboards. His performance as a spoiled, self-centered police officer who doesn’t deserve a badge or a gun was both wildly entertaining and intimidating. You couldn’t really predict what he was going to do next, whether he was jamming to his earbuds in the police station or throwing an advertising manager out of a two-story building. His wildcard of a character won me over, and I would be seriously surprised if the Academy decided to skip over him.
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney for I, Tonya. Not only does she look disturbingly immaculate compared next to Tonya Harding’s real-life mother LaVona Golden, but her genuinely tense and unfiltered presence fueled Tonya Harding’s drive throughout the picture. Boy, am I grateful that she’s not my mother.
Best Animated Feature: While Loving Vincent was a beautiful love letter to Vincent Van Gogh and features over 65,000 frames of oil paintings on canvas, it’s very hard to see this film beating out Pixar’s Coco, especially when you consider how much today’s social climate is stacked against Mexican immigrants. I have to go with Coco for its representation and wonderful tribute to Mexican culture.
Best Documentary Feature: I was surprised to find that Jane and Step weren’t nominated for best documentary this year despite their outstanding performance during their theater run. But nevermind, I haven’t seen any of the nominees this year for best documentary anyway (shocking, I know!)
My first prediction for this category would have been Last Men In Aleppo. Not because I know whether the movie is any good or not, but only because it reminded me of Gary Johnson’s embarrassing “Aleppo” moment in 2016. Political blunders aren’t enough to hand out Oscars, however, but they are enough to hand out Raspberry Awards. With any luck, Johnson might soon be able to put “Razzie Award-Winner” on his resume.
My best guess is that Faces Places will win best documentary. The reason why is because the premise is that its filmmakers JR and Agnes Varda travel around France creating portraits of the people that they come across. I haven’t heard of a premise so heavily engrossed into its filmmakers since Banky’s Exit Through The Gift Shop in 2011. So for the sake of its immersion and first-person perspective, I’m going with Faces Places.
Best Foreign-Language Feature: I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Square, and early on in awards season it looked like it might sweep at the Oscars. But nah, if we’re predicting the winner solely based on relevance, I’m going with A Fantastic Woman. A film about a transgender woman mourning over the death of her husband while being alienated by his family could not be more pertinent in today’s hateful and divisive society. A Fantastic Woman? Indeed.
Best Original Screenplay: Another category with some fantastic frontrunners that’s hard to choose from. The Big Sick was a poignant and darkly humorous observation on the fragility of human life and how fleeting moments of happiness and love really are. Get Out was a creative and captivating horror-comedy on the impacts of white supremacy against minority communities. And Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was a tragic dramedy that profoundly elaborated on rape culture, police brutality, racism, and homophobia fantastically wrapped into one immediately moving package. All of these nominees are worthy contenders in this category. The question is who will be the winner?
A lot of eyes are on Get Out since Jordan Peele recently won the WGA award for best original screenplay. However, the WGA’s are not the most consistent when it comes to predicting this Oscar category, especially with last year’s mixup when Manchester By The Sea won against WGA winner Moonlight for best original screenplay, which in turn won against WGA winner Arrival for best adapted screenplay. How can Moonlight be nominated for both original and adapted screenplay, you ask? Great question. I wish I could give you an answer that made any sense.
Since this category is seriously confused to begin with, I’m going with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as the winner for best original screenplay. It covers just as much ground as Get Out does, except it does it in a much more realistic, practical setting as opposed to the horrific confines of a white supremacist family’s mansion. No, I’m not saying the satirical tone works against Get Out’s favor. I’m saying Three Billboards is more believable than Get Out is, although that doesn’t make either of them any less important. I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if Peele ended up taking home the Oscar for Get Out, but my money is on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. God help me if The Shape of Water ends up being the winner.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Let’s get one thing straight here: Logan deserves to be the winner of this category, hands down. Taking the superhero genre and flipping it on its head into a somber dystopian tragedy, Logan is one of those films that shows our iconic blockbuster heroes as older, crippled versions of their former selves, reflecting on their broken identities as they use the last of their days to give Logan’s daughter a chance at life. By every definition, it is one of the best films of the year and definitely one of the best superhero dramas of all time.
It deserves to win the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. It absolutely will not win it.
First of all, while it’s tonally different from the rest of the genre, it’s still technically classified as a superhero movie. That’s works against itself at the Oscars, because the only genre that the Academy is more biased against besides superhero movies are horror movies. A superhero film has never been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. Not once. Not Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Not The Dark Knight in 2007. Not even Wonder Woman or Logan this year.
The Academy just does not like to recognize superhero movies, plain and simple. That bias is exactly why Logan will not win best adapted screenplay at the Oscars. A sham, but not surprising with the Academy Awards involved.
However, there is one genre that the Academy loves to lap up, and that is LGBT dramas. The Imitation Game won best adapted screenplay in 2015, while the fantastic Moonlight also won best adapted screenplay last year. I haven’t seen Call Me By Your Name, but given the Academy’s recent track record with LGBT representation, I think it’s a safe bet for this year’s Oscar ceremony. Call Call Me By Your Name the winner for best adapted screenplay.
Best Film Editing: I’ll give Lee Smith this much credit: when we’re in the heat of battle in Dunkirk, the action flows effortlessly, and Smith does a great job cutting from shot-to-shot, giving us multiple perspectives at once while at the same time making the action fluid and coherent. The problem as I’ve outlined in my review is that the rest of the film’s assemblage is chaotic, nonlinear, and incomprehensible, jump-cutting from multiple different passages of time at once and overlapping their events one on top of the other. I don’t blame Smith for this as much as I do Christopher Nolan however, as this confusion was the creative decision he made through writing his screenplay. Fun fact: Nolan originally considered not writing a screenplay at all for Dunkirk. Appropriate, since he rightfully isn’t nominated for best original screenplay this year either.
Anyhow, back to editing. The rightful winners in this category are Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos for Baby Driver, as the way they timed their editing and Baby’s driving to the tunes of 1970 hits was clever, skillful, and captivating all at once. First-time nominees are less likely to win in this category, however, and this is both Machliss and Amos’ first Oscar nominations.
Smith, however, has been nominated twice before in previous ceremonies, once for Master and Commander: Far Side of the World in 2003 and once for The Dark Knight in 2008. Couple that with the fact that action films are a genre favorite in this category (Hacksaw Ridge won this award last year, and Mad Max: Fury Road won the year before that), and you have this year’s best film editing winner in Dunkirk.
Best Cinematography: Before Leonardo DiCaprio, cinematographer Roger Deakins was the most snubbed nominee at every single Oscar ceremony. He should have won with his first nomination in 1994 for The Shawshank Redemption, but he lost to John Toll for Legends of the Fall. He was nominated in 2007 for No Country for Old Men, but lost to Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood. And he was nominated again in 2012 for the James Bond film Skyfall, but lost to Claudio Miranda for Life of Pi. He’s been nominated 14 times now and has never won once.
Enough is enough. If Roger Deakins doesn’t win this year for Blade Runner 2049, I’m going to flip a lid. I suspect I wouldn’t be the only one.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: The first time I saw a still of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, I thought he had purposefully put on a lot of weight for the role. Turns out he just had a lot of prosthetic makeup on, and good gravy did it have me fooled. While Victoria & Abdul and Wonder also had some great makeup work, neither of them convinced me that their actors were entirely different people. So that settles it for me: Darkest Hour will take home the Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling. I’m still bitter that It wasn’t even nominated in this category, however.
Best Costume Design: It would be pretty pathetic if a film about a dressmaker didn’t win best costume design at the Oscars, now wouldn’t it? I loved the costumes in Victoria & Abdul, and the live-action Beauty and the Beast remake struck out in its visual design as well. But if Phantom Thread was going to win any award at the Oscars this year, it would be for costume design. So that’s the one I’m going with.
Note: Wonder Woman is missing in this category. I just needed to point that out.
Best Production Design: This is actually one of the tougher categories to predict this year, because the truth is I love all of the nominees here. Beauty and the Beast looked gorgeous in the design of its magnificent castle and its inanimate inhabitants, while Blade Runner 2049 magnificently recreated the bleak, dystopian future that we first got exposed to in the original Blade Runner 30 years ago. Both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour accurately depicted the WWII era, with Dunkirk going as far as to use real 1940’s British planes and seaboats for the film.
Nothing, however, visually encapsulated me like the colorful 1960’s designs of The Shape of Water’s city streets, the dark, opaque laboratories, or the dimly lit movie theater resting below Elise’s apartment. I’m split in this category because all of the nominees are equally outstanding, but if I picked the one that I recognized the most while watching, it’s not even a contest. The Shape of Water wins.
Note: Again, Wonder Woman is missing in this category.
Best Musical Score: Alexandre Desplat won his first Oscar in 2014 for scoring The Grand Budapest Hotel, a quirky and loveable picture whose music perfectly matched the introverted tone that it was going for. This year he’s nominated again for scoring Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, and his music beautifully captured the intrigue and mystery behind this underwater sea creature discovering his feelings for another mortal. His music is completely encapsulating every time you listen to it. For that reason, I have to go with The Shape of Water.
Another Note: Do I really have to spell it out for you at this point? WONDER WOMAN.
Best Original Song: If you didn’t cry during that moment in Coco where Miguel sang “Remember Me” to his Great-Great-Grand-Mama, I’m convinced you have no soul. It was a beautiful, simple song, one that pays respect to the Mexican-American culture and to remembering our heritage. I suspect there will be a lot of outrage if anything but “Remember Me” wins best original song, so I’m going to play it safe and go with Coco.
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk, hands down. The first ear-screeching “BANG” that echoes in the theater hummed in my ears as if I had just dodged a bullet, and the rest of the film pays as much attention to the haunting sounds and noises of the battlefield. I remember very few films that were as masterful in their sound work as Dunkirk was, so I must advocate for its win in this category.
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk again. The way Christopher Nolan uses different sound effects in building up tension and unease in a scene is truly masterful, and the sound engineers did a fantastic work at incorporating all of the sounds together in the film. I do love Baby Driver for how it incorporates classic songs into its high-octane action and stunts, but if we take that film out as a possible upset win, the clear frontrunner is Dunkirk.
Best Visual Effects: Viewers were frustrated in 2015 when Christopher Nolan’s space exploration film Interstellar won the best visual effects Oscar over Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This year will give them the recompense that they need. While Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi sported some of the most visually spectacular moments of the year, nothing surpasses the visual effects team’s efforts behind the digital recreation of primate animals and their behavior in War for the Planet of the Apes. I can potentially see one of the other nominees possibly taking home this award in an upset win, but when I really think about it, no one else could be more deserving. War for the Planet of the Apes will win best visual effects.
On a side note, who on Earth thought it was a good idea to nominate Kong: Skull Island for this award? Did nobody see Wonder Woman? Beauty and the Beast? Thor: Ragnarok? Spider-Man: Homecoming? Alien: Covenant? Wolf Warrior 2? Boss Baby?
And finally we come to the forever-dreaded short categories, the nominees which nobody has seen, but for some reason are always expected to predict anyway. I’m just going to rattle off my answers and shove them out of the way. Dear Basketball, Heroin(E), and The Silent Child.
That’s all for me, folks. See you on awards night where I will no doubt be shaking my fist at Wonder Woman’s absence.
– David Dunn