It’s Oscar nominations morning once again, and the big story, from a personal standpoint, is that I’ve actually seen the movies this year! No more Well, I’ve seen two Best Picture nominees and hope to catch up with a few of the rest — I’ve seen eight of the nine. (My decision to catch The Post yesterday paid off, though there’s never any reason to regret watching a Spielberg movie.) As I mentioned in December, I am now the proud owner of a MoviePass subscription, which accounts for six of those viewing experiences. There are also a whopping nine categories for which I’ve seen all the nominated films. I feel entitled to opinions! Of course, there’s still the short film nominations for me to greet with a robust Huh? And the foreign-language films haven’t come to my area either.
Pulling back from my own negligible achievements, I must acknowledge the fraught state of the movie industry (and the nation as a whole) right now. The reckoning with abuse and virulent misogyny is still only beginning. So the milestone nominations feel more than token this year (though that feeling could wear off quickly) — the first ever female nominee for cinematography, a black man and a white woman both picked for directing. And yes, a superhero movie got a writing nomination, and Christopher Plummer’s pinch-hitting performance in All the Money in the World was rewarded, making him the oldest acting nominee ever (88). The biggest surprise of the morning was the strong showing for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread (nominated six times, including for the top prize), viewed in the critical community as the kind of artistic achievement that the Academy often neglects. The old adage is true, getting nominated is a sufficient accomplishment, but it’s still quite possible that Phantom Thread will end the evening (March 4) with zero wins. Meanwhile, the frontrunner is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, with thirteen nominations in all. I don’t think it’s a great film, but it’s an odd duck, and it’s always nice to see idiosyncrasy and passion rewarded.
- Call Me by Your Name
- Darkest Hour
- Get Out
- Lady Bird
- Phantom Thread
- The Post
- The Shape of Water
- Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
This is a respectable list, though the only film I consider among my favorites of the year is Dunkirk. (Phantom Thread is a movie I need to see a second time to solidify my opinion.) Call Me by Your Name is the only one I haven’t seen yet. Either Darkest Hour or Phantom Thread is responsible for bumping out The Florida Project, unfortunately. The most likely winners seem to be The Shape of Water and Lady Bird, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something else sneaks by with a win. I always follow these races out of the corner of my eye, and I don’t even bother to keep track of how well I do on predictions. The selectees are, as usual, clustered mostly around the end of the year, so the movies that people have been talking about for months on end (Dunkirk and Get Out) might be the victims of fatigue. On the other hand, they might come roaring back. Don’t touch that dial, etc.
- Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
- Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
- Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
- Meryl Streep, The Post
McDormand is the likely winner, which would be underwhelming. I wasn’t particularly excited by any of the performances in Three Billboards, but here it is with three such nominations. I’ll be rooting for Hawkins as a very, very sentimental favorite, although Ronan and Streep both put in strong work as well. I like Robbie too, so I’m on the fence about whether I should catch up with I, Tonya or not.
- Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
- Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
- Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
- Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
- Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
I’ve only seen three of these, and I’ll be pulling for a Kaluuya win to shake things up a bit. The Oldman performance is a good example of its genre, but come on. Meanwhile, I might be underrating Day-Lewis’s work in his final film role since he gets out-acted by two different women in Phantom Thread. Washington picks up his second nomination in a row.
Best Supporting Actress
- Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
- Allison Janney, I, Tonya
- Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
- Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
- Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Blige and Manville were both semi-surprises, and thoroughly welcome. But this is looking to be a Janney-Metcalf showdown. Spencer picks up her second nomination in a row.
Best Supporting Actor
- Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
- Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
- Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
- Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Here we have the first category for which I’ve seen all the nominees. Yay me! And yay Dafoe in The Florida Project, the frontrunner who’ll shine a spotlight on one of the most extraordinary movies of the year. Again, don’t be surprised if I’m wrong here. Plummer has the exciting backstory (replacing Spacey) on his side, so maybe he’ll win. If I had to pick one of the two Three Billboards guys, I’d go with Harrelson. The Shape of Water could very easily go home empty-handed in the acting categories while claiming some other big wins.
- Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
- Jordan Peele, Get Out
- Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
- Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
- Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Category number two on which I’m fully up to speed. Amazingly, Nolan has never been nominated before, and Dunkirk may indeed be his crowning achievement. Peele and Gerwig are both entirely lovable rising stars, and Anderson is one of the greats. The likely winner is del Toro, who put together an entertaining and visually sumptuous film.
Best Original Screenplay
- Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water
- Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
- Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
- Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Jordan Peele, Get Out
My favorite movie here is the autobiographical The Big Sick, the only one not also nominated for Best Picture. We have four writer-directors here, four confident auteurs. It’s entirely possible that this award will go to a movie that doesn’t win Best Picture or Director.
- Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
- Bruno Delbonnel, Darkest Hour
- Hoyte van Hoytema, Dunkirk
- Dan Laustsen, The Shape of Water
- Rachel Morrison, Mudbound
Morrison is already making history (long, long overdue), and I’d love to see her do it again with a win. Mudbound is marvelous to look at, and I’m annoyed that I had to use Netflix to see it. The other four movies are certainly cool-looking, but Mudbound, as the title would suggest, is a movie that uses its environment in thematic ways. Deakins has fun with color, Delbonnel with lighting, van Hoytema with scope, Laustsen with…uh…water, but Morrison should take this one. I have no idea who will.
Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing
- Baby Driver
- Blade Runner 2049
- The Shape of Water
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
That’s right, the same five movies were nominated in both these categories, making it even more important for the broadcast to explain the difference. (Different craftspeople were involved, for starters.) Baby Driver is my favorite of the five movies, but there’s no denying the immersive experience of Dunkirk. Sound design is one of the defining characteristics of Star Wars, so these latest nods for the franchise are totally expected. I’ll defer to people who know what they’re talking about with regards to Blade Runner 2049 and The Shape of Water.
Miscellaneous Other Awards (see the full list here)
I’ve seen all the movies in three other categories: Production Design, Original Score and Visual Effects. The Shape of Water actually wasn’t nominated for that last one. It goes, naturally, to a bunch of big blockbusters. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is the superhero movie nominated for visual effects, leaving Wonder Woman with zero nods. The execrable Beauty and the Beast was noticed for Production Design and Costume Design. As for animated features, I find myself entirely indifferent. Give it to the Pixar, sure. The Boss Baby isn’t even interesting enough to be outrageous. Jonny Greenwood (Best Score) is, fingers crossed, the most likely person to pick up an award for Phantom Thread. It behooves us to remember that there will be letdowns aplenty, that the historical interest of the Oscars is very inside-baseball, and that there’s more to this art form than glitz. That said, I continue to care.