Thoughts and Predictions on the 2018 Oscar Nominations

As I was riding the shuttle to Glendon for my 9:00 AM class on Tuesday morning, I decided to bite the bullet and use my 3G to livestream the Oscar nominations. Nervous that my favourite films of the year wouldn’t be recognized, but excited that they might, I hung onto every word coming from the mouths of Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish, all while enjoying the category videos featuring women in the industry and groaning in frustration when the video disconnected and started again from the beginning. Surprisingly, I am pretty pleased with the nominees (you can find a list here), and I will be offering some thoughts and predictions, in case you’re planning on doing on Oscar pool and would like my professional opinion.

In what could have been another year of monotonous nominations, on Tuesday we saw more diverse than usual stories and people being celebrated with Oscar nominations, specifically women, LGBTQ+ creators and people of colour. After the nominations were announced, Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of GLAAD, said “It's a big day for LGBTQ-inclusive films at the Academy Awards. Films like The Shape of Water, A Fantastic Woman, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name not only have complex, detailed and moving portrayals, but prove that audiences and critics alike are hungry for stories which embrace diversity. These important stories move the needle forward on LGBTQ acceptance at a time when media images are often the front lines for marginalized communities.” Social media platforms also exploded with excitement as Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig became fifth black man and fifth woman, respectively, to receive nominations for Best Director, while Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography. And these are just a few of the milestones hit on Tuesday.

Source: IMDb

As exciting as the nominees are, the real anticipation is over who is going to win. Let’s start with technical categories. While I have yet to see Phantom Thread, if it doesn’t win Best Costume Design, then that pretty much means that the film was an utter failure, as it is about a fashion designer in 1950’s London. Most auditory categories will probably go to Dunkirk for its masterful handling of the sounds of war, though Baby Driver has a fighting chance as it is a film that uses sound and music as a recurring motif. I find it difficult to imagine Best Production Design going to anyone else than Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, and Shane Vieau from The Shape of Water, as production design has always been one of director Guillermo del Toro’s specialities, and this film is no exception. Described by some as a “gothic Amelie,” the use of ‘60s nostalgia, water imagery and all together fantasy that this film brings to the big screen makes it a strong contender. There were also a lot of amazingly edited films this year, and the award could likely go to either I, Tonya (my vote) or Dunkirk, though we shouldn’t count Baby Driver out just yet.

Source: IMDb

If I had to bet on what film would win Best Foreign Language Film, though I have yet to see any of them, I would have to choose A Fantastic Woman (Chile), as it is the movie I have heard the most buzz about. This film would be an amazing choice for Best Foreign Language film, as it features the story of trans woman, Marina, played by someone who is actually transgender (Daniela Vega), which, unfortunately, is usually not the case for most films with trans characters (such as Jared Leto, who won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his role as Rayon in Dallas Buyer’s Club and Eddie Redmayne, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the role of Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl). Not only was A Fantastic Woman nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, but on Tuesday, Yance Ford became the first trans director to earn a nod from the Academy when his documentary Strong Island was nominated for Best Documentary Feature. However, I would not be surprised if Faces Places takes home the Oscar, as it combines two of the film world’s favourite filmmakers; Agnes Varda and Jean-Luc Godard.

Source: IMDb

While I personally believe that Best Cinematography will go to Dan Laustsen for The Shape of Water, a number of my fellow film majors think that it could go to Hoyte van Hoytema for Dunkirk, although Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2047) has been nominated 14 times with no win, so perhaps this year The Academy will take pity and award it to him. The most exciting thing about this category, though, is that Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography for Mudbound. This is especially exciting because cinematography is known to be one of the most male-dominated areas of an already male-dominated industry, even in film schools. In fact, according to a study conducted by San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, women only accounted for 5% of cinematographers in the 250 top-grossing films of 2016. Even if she doesn’t win, Rachel Morrison’s nomination is a huge milestone in itself, and will hopefully inspire more women to pursue cinematography and prove to the people (mostly men) hiring cinematographers that it is a job that any gender can succeed at.

Source: IMDb

The nominees for best screenplays are also another exciting place to find, the often lacking, diversity at this year’s Oscars. Call Me By Your Name, a love story between two bisexual men, will most likely win the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, though the most noteworthy nomination in this category is for Mudbound, written by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees, making Dee Rees (also the director of Mudbound and an out-lesbian), the first black woman to receive this nomination. If you look in the Best Original Screenplay category, you will also see that two more women have been nominated; Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird and Emily V. Gordon for The Big Sick. Emily V. Gordon’s writing partner and husband, Kumail Nanjiani, was also nominated alongside her, becoming the second Pakistani to be nominated in this category. In an ideal world, Jordan Peele would win Best Original Screenplay for Get Out, but this award will most likely go to Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, an award circuit favourite.

Source: IMDb

The next logical jump is to the Best Director, where we find many of our Best Screenplay nominees (interestingly enough, the ones that subvert the “white and male” club that this category has become; Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, and Guillermo del Toro). Greta Gerwig, famously snubbed at the Golden Globes despite winning Best Comedy or Musical Motion Picture, is the first woman to be nominated for Best Director in eight years, the fifth woman to be nominated in total, and, if she wins (which is a big “if”), the second woman to win the award. As much as I enjoyed Lady Bird, I do think that this award should go to Jordan Peele, who is the fifth black man to be nominated for Best Director and would become the first to win. However, this award will most likely go to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water, which I agree is a beautiful film, and his most personal yet.

Source: IMDb

Of course, some of the biggest awards of the night go to the people on the screen. With her Best Actress in a Supporting Role nomination, Octavia Spencer has made history by becoming the first black actress to receive two consecutive Oscar nominations (Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water) after winning one (The Help). Another strong contender in this category is Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird, however I am quite sure that Allison Janney will win for her role as LaVonda Harding in I, Tonya. She already has the Golden Globe and SAG in her back pocket, and will probably win the Oscar for her amazing performance, as well. In terms of Supporting Actor, I have a strong feeling that this award will go to Sam Rockwell for his performance in Three Billboards, for which he has been receiving a lot of praise and has already been awarded the Golden Globe and SAG Award, as well.

Source: IMDb

In my opinion, one of the strongest categories this year is Best Actress in a Leading Role. If any of these five women won the award, I would be happy, though I think the winner is pretty obvious; Frances McDormand. Everyone loves when their favourite actor from the past reemerges in a new and perfect role, and the Academy is no exception. Best Actor in a Leading Role, however, does not appear as strong. In a perfect world, this award would go to Daniel Kaluuya for his amazing performance in Get Out, but in all likelihood will go to one of the more lackluster performances by the other men in this category. The most likely candidate is probably Gary Oldman for The Darkest Hour, as the Academy has certain tropes that it loves, and historic biopics of white men seems to be one of their favourites.

Source: IMDb

Just like the ceremony itself, I have left the most anticipated category until last. There were a couple of unfortunate snubs, such as The Big Sick, The Florida Project, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, as well as movies that, while I never expected to get nominated, are still better than some of the films chosen, like Wonder Woman, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, and The Beguiled. (Also, why wasn’t It nominated for Best Makeup and Hair? There are only three nominees.) This year there are, unnecessarily, nine Best Pictures nominees, and although I have some suspicions, there is not one that I would guarantee as a shoe-in winner. Before we get into that, I’d like to point out how nice it is that certain aspects of the queer experience have been highlighted by some of these films, such as the whole of Call Me By Your Name, Lucas Hedges’ coming to terms with his sexuality in Lady Bird, and Richard Jenkins navigating life as an older gay man in the ‘60s in The Shape of Water. While it is exciting to note that there are more queer storylines this year than last year, these stories are still mostly in the background, and very white. In fact, most of the films this year are incredibly white-centric. I haven’t seen three of the best picture nominees yet, but from what I can tell The Shape of Water and Get Out are the only two films that feature significant characters of colour. In my humble opinion, Get Out was the best film of 2017 and deserves as many awards as we can pile onto it, however I realize that it is very unlikely that the Academy will choose a film that criticizes (and makes fun of) rich, old, white people. The two strongest contenders are Three Billboards (which I believe has the upperhand) and The Shape of Water.

Source: IMDb

But I guess you’ll just have to tune in on March 4th to find out. Hopefully this article has assisted you with filling out your Oscar pool ballot, or just helped you realize how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go, when it comes to diversity and equity in front of and behind the screen.