Oscar Predictions: Round 1 - Show Me a Hero

Clockwise from top: Dunkirk; I, Tonya; The Shape of Water;
 Darkest Hour; Three Billboards; The Florida Project
Another award season is upon us. Where do we even start after last year? The crushing defeat of La La Land by Moonlight was an upset for the ages, and it’s hard to justify any awards prognostication after that. The stats, the precursors, and the precedents are out the window. What Moonlight had that La La Land didn’t have, however, was a story.

It’s impossible to detach Moonlight from the #OscarsSoWhite narrative that engulfed the Academy Awards for 2014 and 2015. I’m not saying that Moonlight won as a kind of peace offering or tokenism—because it didn’t. I believe many Academy members approached Moonlight within the context of it being the kind of film that would have normally been overlooked, thus causing #OscarsSoWhite3, but were impressed by the performances and authenticity of the film. Whatever motivations people had for watching the film, and it’s hard to argue against circumstance benefitting Moonlight without diminishing the merit of its win.

If race and inclusion were the “story” last year, what might this year’s be? (Although this topic won’t and shouldn’t fade into the background.) Every film is a product of its time and the context in which it was received, and this year has two chief currents in the air: leadership and misogyny. With Trump in the White House and Hollywood a-Twitter over male power and entitlement, the audiences of today are looking for heroes: real leaders; people who can be looked up to and folks who will do the right thing and reflect a reality to which audience want to relate. This year’s frontrunners are tales of heroes. Let’s have a look at the three heroes potentially leading the race before the critics' prizes and noise turn up the volume.

Christopher Nolan’s time puzzle is an intricately crafted feat of bravura filmmaking. The gripping aerial sequences and breathless precision of the timing and storytelling make it a heavy favourite in technical categories. But more significantly, it’s a tale of better times when countrymen united to do what’s right. As the soldiers and civilians of Dunkirk rally on land, air, and sea for a collective fight for survival, the film becomes more compelling for its heart and united band of brothers than for its cinematic ballet. And, significantly, it creates a united front between the soldiers without sugarcoating or glamorizing war.

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour reminds audiences how a brave leader with integrity can unite a nation. Gary Oldman is the frontrunner for Best Actor for his transformative performance as Winston Churchill and could lead the film to the podium. The latest film from Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) opens in November after wowing the festival circuit, and it might eclipse the memory of Dunkirk since Oscar often favours the films seen late in the year and especially have the benefit of crossover appeal from art house and mainstream audiences. A side point of contention is the speculation that the film, or at least Oldman, won’t have support from the Golden Globes after he called them “bent.” (But who hasn’t?)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The TIFF People’s Choice Award lives up to the hype! This darkly funny black comedy from Martin McDonagh has a Best Original Screenplay win in the bag, while Frances McDormand is a major threat to win Best Actress for her deadpan funny and humane performance as Mildred Hayes, a foul-mouthed momma causing a stir in her small town when she demands justice for her dead daughter. Billboards is a riot, but it hits unexpectedly hard with a tale that should resonate strongly post Harvey Weinstein. It is, ultimately, about a mother’s quest to bring a sexual predator to justice. The final scenes in which Mildred weighs her power to choose her own path should have an impact on the industry at this time of reflection. The negative? Rumor has it that Billboards is competing as a Drama at the Golden Globes, despite being considered the frontrunner (and, really, the only contender) for Best Picture – Comedy. The only presumable explanation is that Fox Searchlight is hoping that its “comedy” Battle of the Sexes and star Emma Stone will benefit from Billboards and McDormand competing in the dramatic race. (Review coming soon!)

There are many other heroes in this race from Sally Hawkins’ fishy mute in The Shape of Water to Willem Dafoe’s award-worthy motel guardian in The Florida Project to Gal Gadot’s summer smash Wonder Woman, and Margot Robbie’s empathetic anti-hero of I, Tonya. But let’s see how the stories pan out and the prizes come in.

Oscar predictions:

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Lady Bird
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What about: Battle of the Sexes; Blade Runner 2049; Detroit; The Florida Project; I, Tonya; Mudbound; Phantom Thread;  Wonderstruck

Best Director
Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg, The Post
Joe Wright, Darkest Hour

What about: Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name; Angelina Jolie, First They Killed My Father; Sean Baker, The Florida Project; Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird; Dee Rees, Mudbound; Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread; Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049

Best Actress
Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

What about: Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool; Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game; Salma Hayek, Beatriz at Dinner; Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes; Meryl Streep, The Post; Kate Winslet, Wonder Wheel  

Best Actor
Steve Carell Bryan Cranston, Last Flag Flying
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

What about: Andrew Garfield, Breathe; Jeremy Renner, Wind River; Ben Stiller, Brad’s Status

Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Melissa Leo, Novitiate
Laurie Metcalfe, Lady Bird
Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

What about: Mary J. Blige, Mudbound, Holly Hunter, The Big Sick; Andrea Riseborough, Battle of the Sexes; Tatiana Maslany, Stronger; Julianne Moore, Wonderstruck; Rosamund Pike, Hostiles

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Mark Rylance, Dunkirk

What about: Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes, John Lithgow, Beatriz at Dinner; Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name; Bryan Cranston, Last Flag Flying; Idris Elba, Molly’s Game; Will Poulter, Detroit; John Boyega, Detroit

Best Documentary

One of Us, Chasing Coral, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS

Best Foreign Language Film
Chile – A Fantastic Woman
Denmark – You Disappear
Hungary – On Body and Soul

Other submissions reviewed: Happy End (Austria), Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium), Hochelaga, Land of Souls (Canada), Amerika Square (Greece), Turah (Indonesia), Song of Granite (Ireland), Kati Kati (Kenya), Razzia (Morocco), The Fixer (Romania)

Best Animated Film
Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Despicable Me 3
Loving Vincent

What about: Window Horses (FYC Stick Girl!)

Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory
First They Killed My Father – Angelina Jolie, Luong Ung
Last Flag Flying – Richard Linklater
Mudbound – Dee Rees
Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick                      

What about: The Beguiled

Best Original Screenplay
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What about: Beatriz at Dinner, Dunkirk, Lady Bird

Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

What about: Wonder Wheel, The Beguiled, First They Killed My Father, Call Me By Your Name

Best Film Editing
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water

What about: Atomic BlondeBattle of the Sexes, Wonderstruck; The Post; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Wonder Woman               

Best Original Score
Battle of the Sexes
Darkest Hour

Best Song
Beauty and the Beast – Evermore
Beauty and the Beast – How Does a Moment Last Forever?
Call Me My Your Name – “The Mystery of Love
Cries from Syria – “Prayers for this World
Step – “Jump

What about: Battle of the Sexes (“If I Dare”), Coco (“Remember Me”), Despicable Me 3 (“There’s Something Special”), An Inconvenient Sequel (“Truth to Power”), LEGO Batman (“Friends are Family”)

Best Costumes
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
Victoria & Abdul

What about: The Beguiled, Blade Runner 2049, MyCousin Rachel, Murder on the Orient Express, Mudbound, Wonder Wheel

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Murder on the Orient Express
The Shape of Water

Best Sound Mixing
Blade Runner 2049
Wonder Woman

What about: Atomic Blonde, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, Wonderstruck

Best Sound Editing
Blade Runner 2049
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

Best Visual Effects
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

What are you first Oscar predictions?