Today’s blog post is a truly excellent Oscars predictions article by Media/Tech Services team member Jean-Luc Botbyl. He is associate editor, writer, and host of the Comics Dash podcast @wethenerdy and, as it turns out, totally underutilized by our department because the below article is pretty damn awesome. Way to create work for yourself, buddy.
You can find Jean-Luc on Letterboxd as jlbotbyl and on twitter as @J_LFett, and hopefully back on this blog in the future.
Take it away Jean-Luc!
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Jean-Luc: There’s a lot to unpack with some of these, and I’m probably going to go pretty long, so rather than write a long-winded introduction I’ll just dive right in to my predictions.
Best Picture is, in my opinion, the most hotly contested it’s been in years. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was the early favorite, winning at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. However, the film’s prospects have been hampered by a recent cavalcade of negative responses, leading me to believe Oscar voters will steer clear of it. So what will take home the top prize?
This is the prediction I’m most unsure of, but I believe the Oscar for Best Picture will ultimately go to Shape of Water. Similarly to last year’s winner, Moonlight, Del Toro’s latest offers both a strong progressive message and fits the (admittedly harmful) perception of what counts as an “Oscar film.” Sure, it’s a little on the weird side, as Oscar winners go–but it also seems to be the film with the fewest strikes against it, in the minds of the voters.
There is, however, one wild card: Get Out. The film won Best Film at last night’s Independent Spirit Awards, a ceremony with a strong track record of predicting Best Picture winners. Jordan Peele’s debut feature seemed to be out of contention thanks to unfair criticism from some Oscar voters, but this win puts it clearly back into the running.
It is worth noting that Shape of Water was not one of the nominees at the Spirit Awards, which confuses the race even further. Ultimately, I’m sticking to my guns on this one.
Prediction: Shape of Water
Unlike Best Picture, Best Director appears to be a shoe-in for Guillermo Del Toro. He’s already won a number of major awards, including the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Critics’ Choice. If there is a last minute upset, it will likely be at the hands of Jordan Peele, winning for Get Out. This is a bit of a longer shot than Best Picture, if only because the consensus so clearly indicates a win for Del Toro. Regardless, it’s hard to be unhappy with any of the nominees in this category, which features a mix of excellent debuts and career best works from established directors.
Prediction: Guillermo Del Toro
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Although Best Picture is hotly contested, this is the category I’ve had the most difficulty pinning down. Will the Academy give another nod to Daniel Day-Lewis as he exits the acting business? Or will a relative newcomer like Timothee Chalamet or Daniel Kaluuya be rewarded for fantastic performances? It’s hard to say, and as long as the winner isn’t Gary Oldman, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
If I were forced to put money on it, I think Day-Lewis would barely edge out the competition. His work in Phantom Thread approaches a career-best performance, so the award would be well deserved. Is it a safe choice? Of course. But both Chalamet and Kaluuya have long careers ahead of them, likely with other shots at this award. And if Day-Lewis is to be believed, this is his final performance–and what better way for the Academy to honor him than with one last award?
Prediction: Daniel Day-Lewis
Best Actress in a Leading Role
As much as I would like to say this is as hard to predict as the Best Actor field, Frances McDormand seems like an absolute lock for her performance in Three Billboards. Ultimately, her performance is the one part of the film everyone agrees to be award-worthy. There’s plenty of precedent for her win too–she’s emerged with equivalent awards virtually everywhere else.
Honestly, the seeming lack of competition in this category is unfortunate. Both Saoirse Ronan and Sally Hawkins are technically in the conversation, and Meryl Streep is always hard for the Academy to pass up. As much as I would love to see Ronan win for her honest, gut-wrenching performance in Lady Bird, I just don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Frances McDormand
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
A month ago, I would have told you the same things about Sam Rockwell I did about Frances McDormand. However, considering his character is central to the critiques of Three Billboards, I’m no longer as confident. Is he still the front-runner? Yes, definitely. The question becomes: who is his actual competition? Certainly not Woody Harrelson, for a solid-but-not-quite-as-good performance in the same film. Christopher Plummer? No–he stole every scene in All the Money in the World, but his nomination is symbolic more than anything. Which leaves Richard Jenkins (Shape of Water) and Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project). Of these two, Dafoe is likely Rockwell’s strongest competition. I believe Jenkins probably should win, and would take Dafoe over Rockwell. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that Rockwell’s success in equivalent categories earlier this year will culminate in a way on the largest stage.
Prediction: Sam Rockwell
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
It’s gotta be Laurie Metcalf right? Ultimately, her character is central to Lady Bird’s success, making up a significant portion of the film’s potent emotional core. In a field as stacked as this one, she certainly doesn’t have it locked up. The win could easily go to any of the other fantastic actresses nominated. That said, the excitement surrounding Metcalf’s performance has been intoxicating, and I feel safe predicting her win.
Prediction: Laurie Metcalf
Best Animated Feature Film
Ah yes, the category allowing everyone to ironically attach the rider of “Oscar nominated film” to every future reference made to Boss Baby. Was it really so difficult for the Academy to nominate…. just about any other animated film? After all The Lego Batman movie did come out in 2017.
So yeah, I’m a little bugged that it got snubbed. Even if it were to have been nominated, it wouldn’t change my predictions–this is ultimately a two film category. Coco and Loving Vincent are the two front runners, and both are treasures. Loving Vincent is truly unique among its peers, but if there’s one thing the Academy loves to honor, it’s Pixar. In addition to being a Pixar film, Coco represents an upswing in quality after The Good Dinosaur and Finding Dory, both of which received lukewarm responses. I would expect the lauded animation studio to pick up yet another award.
I legitimately have no idea which film wins this category. I think, again, Three Billboards is out of contention. The Big Sick’s writing is snappy and fun, but I’m not convinced it’s what the Academy is looking for. Which leaves Get Out, Shape of Water, and Lady Bird–all of which are tremendous for a range of different reasons. I’m firmly in Lady Bird’s camp (though that’s true of every category it’s nominated for), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it loses to either Get Out or Shape of Water.
Prediction: Shape of Water
I didn’t much care for three out of the five films nominated in this category. Aaron Sorkin has never done anything for me, the best things about Logan have nothing to do with the script, and the Disaster Artist was competent at best. Of the two that remain, I prefer Call Me By Your Name to Mudbound, and believe the Academy will feel similarly. The film lives and dies on its screenplay, which may well be the year’s best overall.
Prediction: Call Me By Your Name
Even as someone who wasn’t as taken by Blade Runner 2049 as everyone else seemed to be, I was consistently impressed by just how beautiful the film was to look at. In large part, I have Roger Deakins to thank for the state of awe I was in as the film committed a range of excellent moments to film. In my mind, there’s no real competition in this category.
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
Phantom Thread is a movie about fashion. Well, and a whole lot of other things, but c’mon. The protagonist (or antagonist, depending on how you look at things) is literally a designer! Yes, Beauty and the Beast was evocative of the animated film in the best ways, and Shape of Water’s costumes captured the era perfectly, so it’s hard to say for sure. Regardless of the competition, I’m going with Phantom Thread here.
Prediction: Phantom Thread
For as much as I love Star Wars, this is another category where Phantom Thread should pull through easily. Hans Zimmer did career-best work on Dunkirk, crafting a score woven into the film so seamlessly it became a storytelling device. Nevertheless, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood put together a score just as essential to capturing the context and tone of Phantom Thread.
Prediction: Phantom Thread
Unfortunately, I can’t make well-informed predictions about Foreign Film, Documentary, or any of the Shorts categories. I wish I could, but they’re just starting to become readily available, and I simply haven’t been able to see enough of them yet. I was hoping to get through all of them before the Oscars, but unfortunately it looks like I won’t have all of them under my belt until the end of the month.