Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Your 2018 Oscar Nominees

It's been an interesting awards season, with a lot of different narratives battling it out and a lot of different interests in play. I've been lucky enough to see most of the big contenders (reviews are forthcoming, but I have a hell of a backlog) so I feel pretty good about offering some thoughts on the nominees this time around.

Let's start right off with Best Picture. "Call Me by Your Name," "Dunkirk," "Get Out," "Lady Bird," "The Shape of Water," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," and "The Post" were pretty close to locks, so the real news here is "Darkest Hour" and "Phantom Thread" winning themselves spots. This is a pretty strong group, and the only change I'd make would be substituting "Darkest Hour" with "The Florida Project." At least it managed one well-deserved nomination for Willem Dafoe.

Best Director nominees usually point to the actual frontrunners, so "Dunkirk," "Lady Bird," "Get Out," "The Shape of Water" and "Phantom Thread" are apparently on top. However, with so much politicking around getting more diversity into this category, I wonder if Peele and Gerwig might have gotten a boost via campaigning. Meanwhile, Paul Thomas Anderson has claimed "Phantom Thread" is his swan song, which may have helped his case too. I feel Luca Guadagnino should be here, but the direction was probably the least successful part of "Three Billboards," so Martin McDonagh does not. He deserved the nomination he got, for Original Screenplay. Best Editing, another key predictor category for Best Picture, points to the real competition being between "Three Billboards" and "The Shape of Water" this year.

The acting categories offered some surprises. I suspect the controversy around James Franco cost him a nomination. Not much of a loss, honestly. I haven't seen Denzel Washington in "Roman J. Israel," but I wasn't especially impressed with Franco's Tommy Wiseau. "The Disaster Artist" only got a nomination for Screenplay, and I'm not sure it deserved even that much. Over in the Supporting Actor category, the big surprise is that Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg both lost out on nominations for "Call Me By Your Name." Instead the slots went to Woody Harrelson, who did an okay but unremarkable job in "Three Billboards," and Christopher Plummer for "All the Money in the World," the notorious rush replacement performance after Kevin Spacey had to be removed. I haven't seen Plummer's work yet, but Stuhlbarg should definitely be up there over Harrelson.

Over in Best Actress, these are the same names that have been up for awards all season long, and deservedly so. Supporting actress is more interesting, with the expected nods for Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf, who will be duking it out, but Lesley Manville edged out Hong Chau and Holly Hunter for a nomination. Also, it's a relief that the Oscars have finally settled the eligibility issues around Netflix titles. Mary J. Blige is here for "Mudbound," one of four nominations the movie received. The other big nomination "Mudbound" netted was a Best Cinematography slot for Rachel Morrison, the first female nominee in the category. I'm still rooting for Roger Deakins for "Blade Runner 2049" though.

Over in Screenplay are a good sampling of other strong contenders that didn't quite make it into the running for Best Picture, including "Molly's Game," "The Big Sick," and "Mudbound." We also got a welcome surprise nod for "Logan," which should make the comic book fans happy. It's interesting that "Dunkirk," "The Post," "Phantom Thread," and "Darkest Hour" are absent. Also note the nominations for "Baby Driver" and "I, Tonya" in Best Editing.

In the smaller categories, I'm glad to see that the rule changes in Best Animated Feature don't seem to have affected the nominations much. We still got two indie pictures alongside the usual studio pictures. "Blade Runner" managed five nominations in an array of production categories, all richly deserved. And finally, I'm ticked that Agnes Varda, grand dame of the French New Wave, got a nomination for Best Documentary Feature for "Faces Places."

Alas, nothing for "Wonder Woman," "The Beguiled," "mother!" "Lady Macbeth," "Columbus," or "Detroit," which all had elements that were very award-worthy, even if the whole films weren't. Overall it feels like a strong year, so it's hard to feel too down about snubs with so many interesting races to watch. And away we go.


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