Oscar Quest Grand Finale: The Prediction Essay

At long last, Oscar Day has arrived. I have been watching films both in theaters and on television streaming services for weeks. It doesn’t help our cause that so many films that had finished their theater runs before the nominations came out didn’t hit the streamers until the last few days. Yesterday, for example, I watched four and a half movies on TV—well into the wee hours. I confess that I have still not seen all of the contenders, but I think I have seen and read enough to make educated predictions in most of the major categories. And so, exhilarated and exhausted, I offer you—My Predictions.

Actor in a Leading Role: My favorite in this category is Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread. But the Oscar breeze is blowing toward Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour whose channeling of Winston Churchill is mesmerizing. Denzel is terrific in Roman J. Israel, Esq. and Timothée Chalamet has a fine career ahead of him if he would just get rid of that pretentious little accent in his first name. I did not see Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out because horror films tend to resurface in the middle of my nights. I know my limits. But I know he must have been fabulous because of the company he keeps in this category. WHO SHOULD WIN? Daniel Day-Lewis. WHO WILL WIN? Gary Oldman.

Actor in a Supporting Role:  Sadly, I did not see Christopher Plummer in the role he was literally pasted into at the last minute in All the Money in the World (replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey). I will when it finally streams. But the competition here is so fierce that he would have to spontaneously combust to beat Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Woody Harrelson, while he deserves his nomination, does not play as controversial a character as his co-star and he will not win, even though his Chief Willoughby is something of a departure from type for him. I love Richard Jenkins in everything he does, but his turn in The Shape of Water, an overrated film, while lovely, isn’t really a contender here. Willem DaFoe, the beleaguered motel manager in The Florida Project who keeps his head when all around him are losing theirs might have had a chance in another year. His cool performance in a crazy world was that good. WHO SHOULD WIN? Sam Rockwell. WHO WILL WIN? Sam Rockwell.

Actress in a Leading Role: This category is all about Frances. She is the badass to beat all badasses and she will not be denied her Oscar. Even Meryl will need to concede this one without a fight. There’s just no contest. WHO SHOULD WIN? Frances McDormand. WHO WILL WIN? FRANCES McDORMAND!!!!

Actress in a Supporting Role: This is a category of fabulous performances. Mary J. Blige is loving strength personified in Mudbound as the wife and mother of a sharecropping family facing rampant and systemic racism in Post WWII Mississippi. Lesley Manville as the controlling business partner and sister of Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread rules all with an iron fist and rocks those extreme (and a little bit creepy) close ups. Octavia Spencer elevates every role she takes, but the script of The Shape of Water doesn’t give her character very much to work with. Even Octavia’s superior acting chops can’t make this Zelda an award winner. But the real competition here is between Allison Janney as Tonya Harding’s monster mom in I,Tonya and Laurie Metcalf as the this-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you mom in Lady Bird. Both deserve it. Janney will win. WHO SHOULD WIN? Allison Janney. WHO WILL WIN? Allison Janney.

Animated Feature Film:  If you haven’t see Loving Vincent, stop what you are doing, find it streaming somewhere, sit down and don’t budge until it is over. It is like nothing else I’ve ever seen, completely hand painted over live-action—like walking into a Van Gogh painting and walking around in it. When I saw it, I couldn’t believe that this film wasn’t being touted from the rooftops. I had heard nothing about it. Well, now you’re hearing it from me. See it. It should win. But it won’t. The other animated features have a lot of merit, too, and deserve their nominations, even the silly Boss Baby which was cleverer than I would have thought. I did not see Ferdinand, but my daughter did and helped me to rank it. The Breadwinner is an important film about an Afghan girl who, after her father is arrested, masquerades as a boy in order to help to support her family in the cruel, male-dominated world of the Taliban. And Coco? Coco is a beautiful film about family and music and custom and trust. It is this years’ Pixar film, filled with all the company has learned about animation since its inception. It is also a crowd-pleaser in a way much broader than any of the other nominees. I think it will be the runaway favorite. WHAT SHOULD WIN? Loving Vincent. WHAT WILL WIN? Coco (and I’m OK with that).

Cinematography: WHAT SHOULD WIN? Dunkirk. WHAT WILL WIN? Dunkirk. This film is all about its look. If we care anything about what cinematic visuals can do, we will give Dunkirk both the cinematography and the editing award.

Costume Design: WHAT SHOULD WIN? Phantom Thread. The film is about costume design, for Pete’s sake. WHAT WILL WIN? Tough one. I’m afraid it will be The Shape of Water but I hope it will be Victoria and Abdul.

Directing: Give it to Nolan, already!

Film Editing:  WHAT SHOULD WIN? Dunkirk—although Baby Driver has some pretty cool visuals and the skating scenes in I, Tonya are technical marvels. I must admit that I got so wrapped up in the other aspects of Three Billboards, that I don’t remember the editing. WHAT WILL WIN? I hope not The Shape of Water.

Makeup and Hairstyle: I didn’t see Wonder and that is my problem. I can’t go anywhere else but Darkest Hour. The transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill has to be award-winning.  WHAT SHOULD WIN? Darkest Hour. WHAT WILL WIN? Darkest Hour.

Original Score: How often are you completely unaware of the music in a film and how it is affecting you? Me, almost always—accept for the music of Phantom Thread. I’m throwing all I’ve got into this one. WHAT SHOULD WIN? Phantom Thread. WHAT WILL WIN? I cannot consider an alternative.

Best Picture: By all accounts, the real competition here is between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Minnesota. Water has the most nominations with 13 and is deserving of some of them, but it is the most overrated Oscar-level film of the season. It’s good, but it is not the best—not by a long shot. I never even squeezed out a tear! What kind of love story is that? (For the record, I wept at the end of Coco.) Billboards has met with its own backlash, so it will be hard to know which way the Academy will go. Water is by far the safer choice. I’d like to think that the Academy is braver than that. WHAT SHOULD WIN? My favorite is (any guesses?) Phantom Thread. But I wouldn’t mind seeing Dunkirk or Darkest Hour scoop it up either. WHAT WILL WIN? Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (and that would be fine).

Production Design: Darkest Hour

Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Sound Mixing: Baby Driver

Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Original Screenplay: Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri.

That’s it. Sorry for the skeleton crew at the end here, but it is almost 6pm and I still need to edit and proof so that I can post this in time for you to read it! Please note the seven categories that I have omitted—documentary feature, documentary short subject, foreign language film, original song, animated short film, live action short film and visual effects. Sadly, I did not see enough (or any) of these films to make an informed decision. Time is a stern master and I definitely came up short.

Oscar Quest is a marathon indeed. The best thing about it is this—none of these movies suck. You know when you start out that you are about to see the best movies of the year and, whether or not you like one or another of them, you know that each has merit making it worthy of your time and effort. Each one will have something of value to offer you, something artistic or historic or cultural or technical or emotional or beautiful or fun. And no matter which ones actually go home with a statue, you know that every one that you saw affected you in some small way, changed you a little, taught you something or made you look at life in a new way. The cream of the crop. The best of the best.

Who will win?  Well, we just treated ourselves to two months of some fabulous film going. So I think we have met the winner and it is us.

And we proved that it really is an honor just to be nominated.

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