Portland Film Review Oscar Predictions 2018
For the first time this years, the Academy has assembled a group of directors who each served as both director and writer, or co-writer, on each of their films. It is the first time in the awards history that this category has been filled by auteurs. Guillermo del Toro has made a career of championing the stories of misunderstood people and creatures, and The Shape of Water is a masterful display of all the things that make his films tick. He is a man who is long overdue for Academy attention, and the 13 nominations for his film are a nice course correction. Yet, I find that reflecting on what each director has done, the work I am still baffled by in all the best ways is how Christopher Nolan created Dunkirk. The film is symphonic in its overlapping story lines, and “is a triumph not because it shows what people did in desperation, but rather what they did in spite of it.” It is a virtuoso work of technical filmmaking and tight storytelling, and Nolan who, like del Toro, has been eschewed by Academy voters for years, has turned in his finest work, and he has more than earned this award.
Best Lead Actor:
Should win: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
We seem to be living in a period of spoils when it comes to Winston Churchill. John Lithgow’s portrayal of the man at the end of his political career in the first season of The Crown (2016-) is affecting and emotive in how it grapples with age and a changed England. Darkest Hour shows us the man at an entirely different stage in life, when he first secured his tenure as Prime Minister. In the midst of World War II, it is stubbornness and fury that must prevail, and Gary Oldman brings both of those in great measure to his portrayal of Churchill. It is a shame that the rest of the movie fails to anything nearly as captivating, but it is a testament to Oldman’s talent that stale directing and messy plotting does not distract from what he achieves.
Best Lead Actress:
In my review of Three Billboards, I wrote that Frances McDormand “[found] the core of McDonagh’s writing,” and in that delivered a profound performance balanced by her internal battle of grief and anger. It stands as one of if not the finest performance of her career, and she has swept up award after award in its wake, making her win on Sunday night seem just about inevitable. It is a deserving performance, but what Sally Hawkins did in The Shape of Water seems to exist on a different plane altogether. The task of playing a mute woman falling in love with an amphibian man from the Amazon poses a remarkable number of performative challenges: How do you convey all that emotion and internal reflection without the aid of dialogue? How do you make us believe that you are actually in love with someone who is half fish? Somehow Hawkins does all this and more, and it is shame that she has not received the awards recognition that she deserves.
Best Supporting Actor:
Sam Rockwell has long turned in wonderful performances, like that in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) and Moon (2009), that have been missed by audiences because they appear in small pictures that are criminally under-seen. As the racist and domineering Officer Dixon in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, he delivers another standout performance that is overflowing with the best kind of bombast. It is an in your face performance that is hard to miss, and he has been rewarded for it throughout awards season. But, I think it would be a great shame if the Academy failed to recognize Willem Dafoe as the quiet and protective hotel manager Bobby in Sean Baker’s virtuoso The Florida Project. Dafoe’s performance is less visible than Rockwell’s, but as Bobby takes care of the children who live in the hotel, we watch him feel every one of their triumphs and devastations, and arrive at a moment of utter helplessness, regardless of how much he cares. It is an unforgettable performance, and on top it this is Dafoe’s third nomination though he remains winless. If the Academy truly rewarded the best performance, he would walk away with an Oscar tonight.
Best Supporting Actress:
Should win: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
I first came across Allison Janney when she portrayed C.J. Cregg on The West Wing (1999-2006). As the sharp-witted and utterly dependable press secretary, she was a pillar of moral rectitude and empathy. Every time I watch her in an episode it makes me wish I could be friends with Cregg because she seems like one of the coolest people imaginable. It is a testament to Janney’s performative ability that for all The West Wing obsession that I harbor, and all the association I have with her and that show, I hated every ounce of LaVona Harding that she brought to life. Tonya Harding’s mother is the personification of fury on two legs, and the terror with which she conducts herself is horrifying: she yells and hits and belittles her daughter, and provides a framework for understanding the person that Tonya became. Janney has won just about every possible award for this performance, and that won’t end tonight.
Will win: Get Out
Should win: Get Out
Most years, the race for Best Picture seems locked in well before Oscar night. As awards season unfolds, the ‘qualifying’ rounds of the guild awards and Golden Globes start to paint a picture of how Academy voters may fall. This year is refreshingly different. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has won most of the qualifying rounds, but there have been few years that the director who wins Best Director doesn’t also see their movie win Best Picture, which gives the edge to Guillermo del Toro. But behind all of this, the preferential ballot system for Best Picture, and a year full of films like Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Shape of Water that have inspired devoted followings, it seems anything could happen. In a slight wild card call, I think that Jordan Peele’s Get Out will pull off a surprise win. It is a blisteringly original and imaginative story from the first-time director, and it encapsulates so much of what is important about the voice that filmmaking gives to vital stories. This award could easily go to The Shape of Water or Three Billboards, but I’m locking it in for Get Out.
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
Should Win: Jordan Peele (Get Out)
While the competition in the Best Director category was especially tough this year, in my opinion the award deserves to go to Jordan Peele. Get Out is a fascinating, brilliantly-wrought mixture of comedy and horror. It is unlike any film I have ever seen, and it deserves to be rewarded for its frankness and its creativity. However, having not seen The Shape of Water, I think the award will ultimately be given to Guillermo del Toro. The Shape of Water has received countless awards and lavish praise this season, and del Toro has already been awarded the Golden Globe for Best Director, leading me to believe he will again walk away with the award tonight.
Best Lead Actor:
Will Win: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Having only seen Daniel Day-Lewis’ and Daniel Kaluuya’s performances, I don’t think I can accurately assess who deserves this award. However, knowing how much praise Oldman’s performance has received, I think he will take home the award for Best Lead Actor. Day-Lewis has already won the award thrice, and Denzel Washington has won it once. Despite the talent of Timothée Chalamet and Kaluuya, they are both young and fairly early in the careers, so my bet is on Oldman.
Best Lead Actress:
Will Win: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Should Win: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
In Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, McDormand is a force to be reckoned with. She is unyielding, violent, and downright scary and delivers what I consider to be one of her finest performances. Especially at the time of the #MeToo movement, this strong, brave woman is exactly the character we need. While the other women in this category deliver splendid performances as well, I think McDormand will ultimately take home the Oscar.
Best Supporting Actor:
Will Win: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Should Win: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
I don’t think that The Florida Project got enough recognition this year; it deserved to be nominated for many more awards, given its empathy, detail, and honesty. Dafoe’s performance is one of the many aspects of the film that make it so strong. While he said he tried to blend in with a cast that was made up of mostly novices, his dedication and exasperation nevertheless stood out and made the film even more poignant. Still, I think the Academy will give the award to Sam Rockwell, the violent and racist cop from Three Billboards. While Rockwell’s performance is comical in how over-the-top it is, nonetheless I believe that Dafoe is the actor who most deserves this award.
Best Supporting Actress:
Will Win: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Having only viewed Metcalf’s and Lesley Manville’s performances, I think that Metcalf deserves this award between the two. She beautifully melds frustration and anger with love for her daughter, letting both shine through at certain moments. In her, the complications of the mother-daughter relationship are tenderly portrayed. Yet, in the end, I predict that the award will go to Janney, especially given the many awards she has garnered so far for her performance.
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: The Phantom Thread
To be entirely honest, I think that the film from this year that most deserves the title of Best Picture is The Florida Project, but it was, sadly, not even considered for this category. The Phantom Thread is a gorgeous, extraordinary film, impeccable in everything from its acting to its score. However, though I have not seen The Shape of Water, the 13 nominations it has garnered lead me to believe that it will ultimately take home the biggest prize in a pool of extremely stiff competition.