Oscar Predictions: Round 3 - Five Categories with Women to Watch

Clockwise from top: On Body and Soul; I, Tonya; Unrest, Mudbound, First They Killed My Father, The Beguiled
What a year, what a year. A lot had happened since we last checked in on the Oscars. And I mean, a lot.

I’ve delayed updating these projections since it didn’t feel appropriate to weigh odds on who might win a trophy or two while the industry was grappling with numerous allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct coming out every other day. However, the Golden Globes marked a turning point in moving forward for this year’s conversation to focus on advancing women in film and remedy the systemic inequality that breeds the likes of Harvey Weinstein and others who’ve been toppled these past few months.

Most of this conversation, however, has focused solely on whether Greta Gerwig will receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director and increasing her status in the race. The topic even inspired Indiewire to pen what is, without a doubt, the stupidest article ever written on the Oscar race by proclaiming that Gerwig’s omission at the Golden Globes gives reason to abolish an award for Best Director altogether. For the record, I love Lady Bird and think it’s a commendable feature by Gerwig, but I think its strengths are more attributable to the quality of Gerwig’s screenplay than her direction. I’d rather see that director nomination go to, say, Angelina Jolie, who might simply be less popular with the cool kids despite delivering the best of the foreign language contenders this year or be doubly burdened by the language barrier of a foreign film and by Netflix prejudice.

I think Gerwig will be nominated and that doesn’t bother me since Lady Bird is, after all, a great film. But if she isn’t nominated, should the Twitter explode with toxic rage? There are a lot of other worthy (worthier?) women who aren’t part of this conversation altogether, like Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit), Sofia Coppola (winner of Best Director at Cannes for The Beguiled), and even Agnès Varda, who offers one of the best examples of directorial vision with Faces Places, but no documentary has ever been considered in the director category, so that isn’t happening. These three films and Jolie’s all show masterful hands for composition and greater feats of technical mastery—I mean, who doesn’t get hot just thinking about The Beguiled? I don’t say this to dismiss Gerwig’s effort on Lady Bird, but only to note that focusing solely on one director puts a lot of weight on her and doesn’t do the other women any favours by dropping them from the conversation.

One step is simply to move beyond the Best Director category. (Don’t cut it by any means, though.) There are several notable contenders hovering at the margins for a nomination and who could help shape the industry by having more exposure for women come Oscar night. Here are five categories where women could break through the pack:

Best Foreign Language Film: On Body and Soul, Hungary, directed by Ildikó Enyedi

It really surprises me that not a single expert at GoldDerby pegs Ildikó Enyedi’s outstanding On Body and Soul as a nominee. This film of staggeringly intimate, soulful beauty might be the only contender on the foreign shortlist to offer some light amidst a bleak group. The offbeat romance envelops the viewer in an intriguingly speculative tale about two employees at a slaughterhouse who forge a strange relationship when they both have dreams in which they appear as deer and become romantic partners. It’s as odd as it sounds, but Enyedi pulls it off with a buoyantly masterful tone that relies on performances that are as understated and natural as the golden light that brings the slaughterhouse to life. The scenes with the deer—real deer, not CGI—are so beautiful and impressive for Enyedi’s ability to direct the two creatures as they fall in love in a snowy thicket. Winner of four prizes at the Berlin Film Festival including the Golden Bear and the FIPRESCI prize, the European Film Award for Best Actress Alexandra Borbély, and a nominee for the ASC spotlight award after cinematographer Máté Herbai topped the Camerimage festival, On Body and Soul might have enough street cred to creep into the pack. Like last year’s dark horse nominee Tanna, it has a very small core of passionate champions.  The film hits Netflix February 2nd.

Best Documentary Feature: Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, One of Us; Jennifer Brea, Unrest

I’m not counting Agnès Varda here for Faces Places, directed with JR, since the doc is a favourite in the category. Otherwise, the documentary feature race offers two longshot contenders directed by women: One of Us by Jesus Camp directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing and Unrest by Jennifer Brea. Grady and Ewing have been here before and their compelling study of three apostates from New York’s Hasidic community poses the kinds of production challenges, ripe social issues, and great characters that often add up for recognition. However, as one of four Netflix contenders remaining, it’s sort of become the neglected child of the streaming giant, which has instead found more success with the true crime tale Strong Island, the eco doc Chasing Coral, and the doping saga Icarus. It is the least rewarded film on the shortlist despite being one of the stronger titles. On the other hand, Brea has the best story of the shortlist after making an intimate film that chronicles her own experience with chronicle fatigue syndrome and her struggle to receive proper diagnosis and treatment. While Unrest might be a little rougher of a production than the other contenders are, largely due to the circumstances in which it was made, it might not be as sexy, although one could just as easily flip the argument and be awed by Brea’s ability to connect her story with others across the world. She’s done remarkably well for a film without distribution and is the underdog of the race. Moreover, Unrest is one of the only films to add representation for filmmakers and subjects with disabilities to the conversation of representation, and that aspect is long overdue.

Best Film Editing: Tatiana S. Riegel, I, Tonya

Women generally perform better in the editing category than they do in some of the other categories, like directing and cinematography, although their presence is still disproportionately small. From as early as 1940 to as recent as 2015, women like Anne Bauchens (North West Mounted Police) to Margaret Sixel (Mad Max: Fury Road) have taken home Oscars in this category with Adrienne Fanzen (Gigi), Claire Simpson (Platoon), and three-time winner Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Aviator, The Departed) among the others joining them along the way. This year, I, Tonya’s Tatiana S. Riegel is the only woman to have a solo film nomination from the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards (The Post’s Sarah Broshar shares hers with Spielberg regular Michael Kahn.) Riegel’s work deserves recognition here since much of I, Tonya’s balance of comedy, violence, and darkness comes in the editing. The way Riegel cuts on the action adds to the visceral sting of the punches while using comedic timing as a left hook. The documentary-style sequences add to the complexity of the film as Siegel fuses different forms and rules of editing, accentuating I, Tonya’s play on the elusiveness of truth by presenting shards of stories that are refuted and refracted. The film is gaining heat on the strength of its performances and I think I, Tonya could be this year’s Dallas Buyers Club to surprise on the morning of the nominations. If I, Tonya makes the cut for Best Picture and Margot Robbie lands her all but assured Best Actress nomination, then she makes history as the first woman to score nominations for acting and producing the same film.

Best Cinematography: Rachel Morrison, Mudbound

Rachel Morrison made history by becoming the first woman nominated for the American Society of Cinematographers award this year and there’s a good chance she’ll achieve the same milestone with the Oscars on January 23. (Mandy Walker should have had the honours for Down Under dramas Australia and Tracks.) The director of photography is earning raves for her classically composed view of the mud-soaked and sweaty south in this drama by Dee Rees, and it really is important for a woman to be recognized in this category since recent numbers show that only four percent of cinematographers are women. Four percent! That’s a terrible stat by any measure and one that even Morrison struggles to explain in a recent interview with Scott Feinberg for his podcast Awards Chatter. The talk is also very insightful for Morrison’s account of the difficulties she had shooting the film and overcoming the limitations of the budget to lens the film. The biggest hurdle for Morrison, however, might be the fact that Mudbound is Netflix’s big dramatic push. The small-screen streaming giant could face resistance from cinematographers, whose work is arguably the effort that gets diminished the most when one removes the theatrical experience from the equation.

Best Adapted Screenplay Angelina Jolie and Luong Ung, First They Killed My Father; Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled

Finally, Dee Rees can expect to share a nomination with Virgil Williams for their Mudbound adaptation, but three other women have been almost entirely absent from the relatively weak pool of contenders for Best Adapted Screenplay: Angelina Jolie and Luong Ung adapting Ung’s book First They Killed My Father and Sofia Coppola for her revision of The Beguiled. The paltry field of contenders, and problematic pool of voters, is evident in the fact that Logan, of all movies, received nominations from both the Writers Guild of America and the USC Scripter. Imagine a Marvel movie up for Best Screenplay! Anyways, Jolie and Ung bring her true story to the screen with humanist sensitivity that draws audiences into Luong’s journey as a refugee during the onset of the Cambodian genocide. The adaption excels with the tricky feat of conveying a complicated slice of history by zeroing in on the family matters at hand. Coppola, on the other hand, injects The Beguiled with feminist sensibility as Nicole Kidman and company get hot in the company of Colin Farrell’s soldier and take control of the situation with ladylike double-entendres. By moving the story post-emancipation, moreover, and leaving the women to tend to their own meals and yard work, Coppola situates the vengeful bitches in a decaying a way of life.

Updated Oscar Predictions:

Overall, I think it's really close in many categories. There could be a strange spread of nominations depending on how numbers fall. Personal bias has me holding onto The Post in several categories, but it's also Spielberg and it could be a late-breaker like American Sniper that misses with most of the guilds but hits the target that counts most. My inclusion of Spielberg over Peele in the director category is solely attributable to the fact that the Academy traditionally shies away from horror films. 

*New or moved

Best Picture

What about: The Florida Project; Mudbound, Molly's Game*, Phantom Thread

Best Director
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta GerwigLady Bird*
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Steven Spielberg, The Post

What about: Jordan Peele, Get Out, Sean Baker, The Florida Project; Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name; Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread; Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049; Joe Wright, Darkest Hour*

Best Actress
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

What about: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game; Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul 

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Tom Hanks, The Post
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out*
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

What about: Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.; James Franco, The Disaster Artist; Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger*

Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound*
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick*
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

What about: Catherine Keener, Get Out*, Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip*; Hong Chau, Downsizing*, Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread*

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water*
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri*
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World*
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

What about: Bob Odenkirk, The Post; Mark Rylance, Dunkirk*; Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name*, Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name*

Best Documentary
Strong Island

Also shortlisted: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Chasing Coral, Ex-Libris, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Icarus, LA 92, Last Men in Aleppo, Long Strange TripOne of Us, Unrest

Best Foreign Language Film
Germany - In the Fade*
Hungary – On Body and Soul
Israel - Foxtrot 
Lebanon - The Insult*
Russia - Loveless

Also shortlisted: The Square (Sweden) A Fantastic Woman (Chile), Félicité (Senegal), The Wound (South Africa)

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), Thelma (Norway), Birdshot (Philippines), Saint George (Portugal), The Fixer (Romania), The Square (Sweden), The Divine Order (Switzerland)

Best Animated Film
LEGO Batman
Loving Vincent

What about: Despicable Me 3 (but it's really terrible), LEGO Batman, Window Horses (FYC Stick Girl!)

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Beguiled - Sofia Coppola
Call Me By Your Name – James Ivory
The Disaster Artist - Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber*
Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin*
Mudbound – Dee Rees

What about: First They Killed My Father – Angelina Jolie, Luong Ung*; Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick

Best Original Screenplay
Get Out - Jordan Peele
I, Tonya - Steven Rogers
Lady Bird - Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water - Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri - Martin McDonagh

What about: Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, The Big Sick*, The Post*

Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

What about: The BeguiledFirst They Killed My FatherCall Me By Your Name, Hostiles, Wonderstruck, The Post

Best Film Editing
Baby Driver*
Blade Runner 2049
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water

What about: The Post*, Get Out*, Darkest Hour, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, MissouriWonder Woman         

Best Original Score
Phantom Thread*
The Post*
The Shape of Water

What about: Coco*, Hostiles*, Beauty and the Beast*, Battle of the Sexes*, Jane*, Three Billboards*, Darkest Hour*

Best Song
Beauty and the Beast – How Does a Moment Last Forever?
Call Me My Your Name – “The Mystery of Love
Coco, “Remember Me”*
Cries from Syria – “Prayers for this World
This is Me” from The Greatest Showman

What about: Battle of the Sexes (“If I Dare”), Beauty and the Beast (“Evermore”)*, Despicable Me 3 (“There’s Something Special”), An Inconvenient Sequel (“Truth to Power”), LEGO Batman (“Friends are Family”), Step (“Jump”)*, Call Me By Your Name ("Visions of Gideon")*

Best Costumes
Beauty and the Beast
The Greatest Showman*
Muder on the Orient Express*
Phantom Thread
Victoria & Abdul

What about: The BeguiledBlade Runner 2049, My Cousin Rachel, Mudbound, Wonder Wheel, Hostiles*, Wonderstruck*, Darkest Hour*, I, Tonya*

Best Make-up
Darkest Hour*
I, Tonya*

Also shortlisted: Bright*, Ghost in the Shell*, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2*, Victoria & Abdul*

Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
The Greatest Showman*
Murder on the Orient Express
The Shape of Water

Best Sound Mixing
Baby Driver*
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water*
Star Wars: The Last Jedi*

What about: Atomic Blonde, Darkest Hour, Wonderstruck. mother!*, Detroit*, The Post*, Wonder Woman*

Best Sound Editing
Blade Runner 2049
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman

Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water*
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Also shortlisted: Alien: Covenant*, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2*, Kong: Skull Island*, Okja*, Valerian*

What are you feeling on the Oscar front?