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What Will Win: The Shape of Water
What Should Win: Dunkirk OR Get Out
Guillermo Del Toro’s cold war-set monster fantasy is the slight favourite coming into the awards. While Martin McDonagh’s black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri recently won Best Film at the Baftas, The Shape of Water’s win at Producer’s Guild Awards should push it over the edge. Three Billboards has also come under fire for its murky politics and clunky handling of a racist character’s arc which could harm its chances.The Shape of Water, while maybe not a truly great work, is so earnestly heart-swelling and with enough subversion at the same time that there’s isn’t much to find offensive. Were they to cause a minor upset, however, both Dunkirk and Get Out would be worthy Oscar winners. Dunkirk is blistering thrill ride that reimagined the horrors of war as a seemingly never ending onslaught of terror and might the be the greatest ever film made about a retreat. A win for Get Out, like last year’s victory for Moonlight, would the right message that the Academy is willing to honour progressive voices that tackle the issues that affect the marginalised. It would be no token win, however, as Jordan Peele’s film is still a finely tuned, socially conscious horror as well as a true original. It was also voted the Best Film of 2017 by this very website.
Who Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape Of Water
Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
This year might be running the strongest field of nominees in recent memory. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) were not expected to make a showing by any means but most are glad they did. The Academy went all out and recognised a diverse selection of artists that offered challenging, supremely crafted works that deserve their spot here. Del Toro is the firm favourite after his win at the Globes and The DGA’s but Christopher Nolan’s achievement in bringing Dunkirk to the screen should get the gong. The technical prowess he mustered to ensure a multi stranded narrative involving infantry, spitfire dogfights and nautical disasters was an exhilarating piece a cinema that felt seamless is for my money, the most exceptional feat in directing seen last year.
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Who Should Win: Timohthée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name.
I never thought I’d be in the position of saying that Gary Oldman should not win an Oscar, yet here we are. Oldman’s turn as Winston Churchill in the oppressively grey chamber drama Darkest Hour was the best received aspect about a film blighted by clunky exposition and a now infamously awful scene in the London Underground. Oldman will be winning for a body of work and not what’s he’s really offering here, which is a good, blubbery impression of the man in a performance aided by the makeup department. It’s Chalamet’s turn in the swooning gay romance Call Me by Your Name that should really be recognised. His Elio is a young man tortured by his crush on the older Oscar (Armie hammer), and the actor is electrifyingly, believably heart-breaking in the role. Nuanced with a simmering sense of burgeoning sexual desire and armed with a confidence that can only do so much to hide the character’s vulnerability, Chalamet is pitch perfect throughout and displays a skill well beyond his years. But as his category has notorious aversion to youth—the average age for a winner is 44—and Oldman has won everything under the sun in the run up, the star on the rise chances are slim.
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
All the acting categories have one clear favourite this year and Best Actress Is no different. Frances McDormand is on course for second Oscar after winning the BAFTA and Screen Actors guild award. Her emotionally wrenching, vengeance fuelled turn as Mildred Hayes is an excellent performance and the best thing about Three Billboards, but her work isn’t the best on offer here. Saoirse Ronan is just about flawless as Christine “Ladybird” McPherson. The 23-year-old Irish actress transforms herself into the titular teen; every eyeroll, tantrum and blemished filled expression sends the viewer right back to their own cringe inducing, but endearingly remembered years of pubescence.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Like Oldman, Rockwell has already won the Globe, Bafta and Screen Actors Guild award in his category, a fact which makes him such a red-hot favourite that the other nominees have only to practice their feigned clapping and conciliatory expressions for the night in question. Rockwell is undoubtedly good as a crooked small-town cop who develops a conscience but it’s not his best work—I would argue he was even better in McDonagh’s last film outing Seven Psychopaths—and he certainly couldn’t convince us of Dixon’s final act change in character which was such a rapid 180-turn he must have gotten whiplash in the process. That was mostly the material’s fault to be fair but If there was any justice it would be Willem Dafoe holding up that award come Oscar night. Dafoe’s restrained, deeply humanist take on the The Magic Castle’s manager in The Florida Project was an essential performance that needed to work for the film to work. Bobby Hicks was the moral centre of the picture, and Dafoe’s seemingly never ending well of empathy and understandable frustration speaks to our own limited ability in solving social failings regardless of level of sympathy. It was an injustice when The Florida Project was only nominated in a single category at this year’s Oscar’s, it will be an even greater one when it doesn’t win the one award it’s up for.
Best Supporting Actress
Who Will win: Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
If I had my way Vicky Krieps would have been dominating the supporting actress category this awards season but her Phantom Thread co-star Lesley Manville, who make no mistake deserves her spot, got the nod instead. At the moment, it’s Alison Janney’s to lose. Her performance as Tonya Harding’s acerbically cruel and acid-tongued mother has felt like the one to beat since she took the Golden Globes. Metcalf, however, is the best of the lot in terms of ability. Also playing a mother of a best actress nominee’s character, her Marion McPherson is more complex figure than Janney’s LaVona Fay Golden. An overworked nurse who works double shifts to provide for her daughter, Mc Pherson’s overbearing but never wholly unreasonable treatment of Ladybird offers Metcalf a range of emotions to sink her teeth into. She deserves the Oscar just for that 30 second journey she takes from bitterness to regret after dropping Ladybird off at the airport.
Best Original Screenplay
Who will Win: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Who should Win: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
The two frontrunners in this race are Jordan Peele and Martin McDonagh for his Three Billboards script. Peele is the most likely contender after his win at the writer’s guild awards. The screenplay for Get Out needed to be just right for the blend of horror and comedy to work and his oft-humorous, grounded and tight script nails the tone required. For me though it’s Gerwig whose work most impresses here. Lady Bird is only 90 minutes, feels like it’s much longer and yet somehow that’s a good thing. There are a host of side characters in Gerwig’s film, and she makes sure each and every one feels rounded even if screen time is limited. Ladybirds’ characterisations feel alive and its’ jokes and pathos always land in equal measure.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Who Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name
Who Should Win: James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name
Adapted Screenplay often has one big hitter that sticks out like a sore thumb amongst some ‘out there’ genre choices that get a look in a category that allows for some refreshing appearances. Other nominees this year include a superhero film (Logan), a bizarre comedy (The Disaster Artist) and a Netflix film (Mudbound). James Ivory is the clear favourite, however, considering how well Call Me by Name did overall and is the only one here that is also a best picture nominee. The 89-year-old would be the oldest ever Oscar winner if he does take home the award and he would deserve it—his script was a serene gift that found it’s emotional charge in its quieter moments.
Best Foreign Language Feature
What Will Win: A Fantastic Woman
What Should Win: Loveless
Chilean Sebastián Lelio’s film is just about the favourite at the moment in what is a traditionally an unpredictable category. Starring Transgender actress Marina Vidal, the acclaimed A Fantastic Woman is a stirring portrait of LGBT+ based prejudice that makes sure to be life affirming while still acknowledging the realities of marginalization and oppression. In this climate It would a great sight if Vidal went up on the Oscar stage to accept the award with the director. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s morbid, masterful Loveless is the best film here and might be the most deserving on merit. It’s cruel characters may offer too grim an analysis of humanity for the academy to swallow, however, and Zvyagintsev will probably go home empty handed.
Best Documentary Feature
What Will Win: Faces, Places
What Should Win: Strong Island
After last year’s win for what was basically a TV show (OJ: Made in America ran in at 7 hours plus), the rules have been changed and It seems were back to normal. There is however no single contender that stands out. Sports doping-doc Icarus is the closest one to the zeitgeist pick but it’s middling reception upon release harms its chances. Beloved veteran and outsider auteur Agnes Varda is the most likely Oscar winner for Faces Places, a charming doc she made with street artist JR about communities in rural France. My own pick would be for the gut-wrenching Strong Island, a document of cruel injustice and state sanctioned murder made by black transgender Yance Ford.