Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

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In the near 20 years that I have been invested in The Oscars and how they relate to the films involved, never have I had such a difficult time predicting who will win. There are really no runaway candidates. Sure, there are a couple like Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand that have taken the majority of the awards given out leading up to Sunday but I would not be shocked if someone else took home the statue in their respective categories.

While I definitely enjoy sounding like I know everything and can impress people with my cinematic knowledge, even if it is just for a few hours on one evening a year, this new feeling of uncertainness brings an excitement I haven’t felt for The Academy Awards in many years. However, that will not keep me from trying to guess who WILL win while also sharing whom I think SHOULD win.

(Note: At the time of publication, I have seen every nominee in every category except for “Faces Places” and “Last Men in Aleppo” in the Documentary Feature category or “The Insult” and “On Body and Soul” in the Foreign Language Film category. I will see “Last Men…” and “On Body…” before the ceremony. The other two are not available to view.)

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Who WILL Win: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who SHOULD Win: Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project

A theme you will see throughout this article is my disappointment in my belief that Three Billboards... will most likely win several awards. I think the film is fine but not deserving in any category in which it is nominated. The movie does not know what it wants to be or what it is trying to say but it makes you think it is more relevant than it is in today’s divided climate. Liking this film does not make up for the reality of what is happening in society. Willem Dafoe and The Florida Project are actually relevant and important in its commentary on the true struggles of the lower class in today’s America. Dafoe’s performance is the cornerstone of an excellent, inexperienced cast and just by being the only nominee from the picture, should win.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

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Who WILL Win: Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Who SHOULD Win: Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Allison Janney but this is not the role that should give her an Oscar. The film is flawed and Janney’s performance incapsulates all that is wrong with it - too big, too into itself, too unbalanced. She has been winning consistently throughout the awards circuit and each time it is over Laurie Metcalf, who is the most deserving winner out of every nominee in every category of these prestigious awards. Metcalf is pitch perfect as a neurotic mother of rebelling teenager in mid-90’s Sacramento. This is the category that should have a “shoe-in” but its not Allison Janney.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Who WILL Win: Gary Oldman – The Darkest Hour

Who SHOULD Win: Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread

Before I saw The Darkest Hour, I assumed that Gary Oldman was receiving critical praise because he gives a boisterous performance in heavy make-up. After seeing it, I want to take a couple steps back from that statement. I mean, the ball is perfectly set-up on the tee for him to win an Oscar – he is playing Winston Churchill in a fat suit that makes him unrecognizable but Oldman does deserve some credit for giving a bit of depth to a man that was known for his course nature. However, I want Daniel Day-Lewis to win in the same way that I think LeBron James should win the MVP every year; he is the best in the game and has given us no reason to think otherwise. (I would be thrilled if Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out won but he has no chance.)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Who WILL Win: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who SHOULD Win: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

Just re-read my Sam Rockwell commentary from a few categories above to see why I think Frances McDormand will win but I don’t think should. Saoirse Ronan is a star and her performance was crucial in the success of Lady Bird. There is a regular debate in the world of performance about whether someone is “acting” or just “being”, i.e. playing an amplified or tweaked version of themselves. Most “movie stars” like Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt fall into that later descriptor. You could argue that McDormand is simply a presence on screen in her movie. Ronan, though, is giving a true acting performance that deserves this kind of recognition.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

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Who WILL Win: Mudbound

Who SHOULD Win: Mudbound

This is more of picking a winner by process of elimination of nominees that are not deserving as opposed to appointing a worthy champion. Mudbound is a solid screenplay and the film is easily the overall best out of all the nominees in this category but still doesn’t feel Oscar-worthy. Molly’s Game has too many flaws and is too long. Call Me by Your Name is very pretty to look at but is inferior to its source material in a major way. The Disaster Artist is less a screenplay than a re-creation of existing material. Logan is great but still a comic book movie and won’t get enough respect from the Academy. It is my personal favorite but it has no chance of winning. So…we are left with Mudbound.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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Who WILL Win: Lady Bird

Who SHOULD Win: Get Out or Lady Bird

Please, please, PLEASE let it be Lady Bird or Get Out. They are not going to get Best Picture or Best Director and neither should be shut out. Anyone but these two would be a disappointment.

DIRECTING

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Who WILL Win: Guillermo Del Toro – The Shape of Water

Who SHOULD Win: Jordan Peele – Get Out

The Shape of Water has the most nominations and that usually means a lock in the Directing category. The winner in a perfect world is whoever loses the Original Screenplay award out of the two I picked to deserve it. Since I predicted Greta Gerwig for writing Lady Bird, I will focus my energy here on Peele. What he accomplished with Get Out is nothing short of amazing and it is his first movie! He made a horror/comedy/drama with a smart commentary on the state of race relations in today’s world. It is powerful and enjoyable and exciting and NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE. That deserves a tip of the cap.

BEST PICTURE

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Who WILL Win: The Shape of Water

Who SHOULD Win: Get Out or Lady Bird

I am really nervous that Three Billboards… will take home the headlining prize but let’s not even imagine that at this point. Instead, from the love it is receiving from within the film industry and its number of nominations, let’s pick The Shape of Water as the most likely winner. If Get Out or Lady Bird actually pull off the upset, I will throw popcorn in the air like confetti and dance a jig with my grandmother. I would also be happy with Phantom Thread or Dunkirk as well but it really should go to one of the rookie writer/directors.

BEST OF THE REST

Below is a snapshot of my ballot. The checkmarks are the ones I think WILL WIN and I circled the ones that SHOULD WIN. Some notable selections I want to highlight include:

-       Coco (Animated Feature), Phantom Thread (Original Score), and “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman (Original Song) all are expected to win and deserve to win their respective categories.

-       Sufjan Stevens (for his song “Mystery of Love”) is performing at the Academy Awards and that is exciting!

-       Baby Driver should win all editing awards but will not.

-       All of the Documentary Short Subject nominees are worth watching and quite effective (but very heavy – do not watch them all in the same sitting). The Live Action and Animated Short Films are also worth your time but especially Negative Space and The Silent Child.

All in all, this class of nominees shows us what a strong year in film we had in 2017. Let’s hope the ceremony itself matches that level of quality.