Sunday March 4, 2018
Image result for academy award photos
- As everyone knows by now, there was actually more drama in the last ten minutes of last years extravaganza than was present in most of the nominated films.  Because of that Best Picture announcement snafu, in which the incorrect winner was initially announced that had the eventual losers starting to accept their precious statuettes on stage, there will probably be more folks now struggling to stay awake until the final credits.  But I doubt it.

- Jimmy Kimmel returns for a second go-round.  Now a darling of the Hollywood snowflakes for his unremitting bashing of the President and his policies from his late night platform, it was a no-brainer that he would be asked back.  He actually did a fairly confident hosting job last year and handled the disaster referred to above with admirable aplomb.  However, it is this writer's fervent hope he abandons jokes directed to the White House and instead concentrates mainly on Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.  But I doubt it.

- The Shape of Water is this years La La Land with a whooping 13 nominations, one less than All About Eve, Titanic and La La Land.  However, I predict it will win less than the six Oscars the musical won last year (becoming the 11th film to do so).  Of course, we all know how close it was to winning a seventh (see my first thought above).

- Tom Hanks, once considered an almost yearly slam-dunk to receive at least a nomination, continues his unenviable streak of being left off the final acting list.  It's been 17 years ago since he last received a nom for Cast Away.

- I'm a bit surprised that Woody Harrelson garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination for 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri over Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name).  Harrelson certainly gave a competent performance.  However, Hammer's acting chops were far superior and memorable, and Sam Rockwell, who I predict will win, was already nominated in this category for 3 BillboardsHopefully, Woody's presence on the list will not take votes away from Rockwell who gave the years best supporting performance as a racist cop in what I feel is the best film of the year (see my predictions below).

- Nice to see a female being considered for Best Director.  Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) becomes only the fifth in this category and the last since Kathryn Bigelow won in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.  And on this subject, Rachel Morrison becomes the first ever female cinematographer nominated for Mudbound.

- Meryl Streep adds to her most nominated actor total with the 21st for The Post.  However, don't look for The Academy to add to her 3 wins as Frances McDormand will assuredly place a spanking new statuette on the mantle next to her Fargo Oscar on Sunday (see my predictions below).

- And speaking of nomination totals, John Williams gets his 46th for scoring The Post (and 51st overall for 5 original songs), trailing only Walt Disney who had 59.

- Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), with his 8th acting nomination, is now the most nominated black actor, previously winning twice for Glory and Training Day.  However, don't look for that number to increase as Gary Oldman is almost certain to win.

- Composer Diane Warren tries again with her 9th nomination.  Over the years the highly successful songwriter (in the running for "Stand Up for Something" from Marshall) has fifteen Grammy noms and nine number ones on Billboards Top-100 -  but nary an AA.  

-Christopher Plummer stepped in at the last minute and replaced disgraced actor Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty in All the Money in the World and as a result becomes the oldest actor at 88 to receive an acting nom.

- Netflix finally breaks into the Hollywood party with their well-received Mudbound.  Although it failed to make the Best Picture list (a surprise to many insiders), it did get nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (songstress Mary J. Blige, who also sings the nominated song "Mighty River").

- The acclaimed Wonder Woman got totally shut-out.  Not unusual for a superhero movie but a surprise to many who sung its praises last June when it was released.

- In case you ever wondered, the 24-caret gold-plated Oscar statuette has an estimated value of $900.

- My prediction record last year:  10 out of 14 correct - missing out on Best Picture, Actor, Actress, & Editing.  (Sour Grapes comment:  The final tally should have been 11 out of 14 as Faye Dunaway got it right the first time: La La Land  was the best film of the year!  So there!!)

The envelope, please . . . 


What will win:  The Shape of Water
(Very Extreme) Upset Possibility:  Get Out
What should win:  3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
Overall, I would have renamed the award this year the Best-of-the-Very-Good Picture.  None of the nominees on the list totally bowled me over to the extent where I tend to mutter "great picture!" to myself as the credits begin to role.  And the preferential voting process, used only for determining Best Picture, makes it even harder to predict (see last years result).  That being said, I'm going with my head instead my heart and predict Guillermo del Toro's wonderful homage to The Creature From the Black Lagoon the winner based only on momentum and buzz.  It would then be the second fantasy film ever to win (the first was 2003's Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King).  However, my personal fav was 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri which had everything an ardent film goer would want:  outstanding story coupled with great ensemble acting (Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are both assured of acting Oscars - see below) and  direction - it had it all.  AA history also points out that a film where the director is not on the Best list tends to miss out on the big one.  Only 4 previous films have ever won without a Best Director nomination (Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy and Argo).  Although Irish director Martin McDonaugh deserved to be nominated, he needed more than the five slots allotted to join the list.  What could sneak in as the round of ballots roll on is the critically acclaimed horror film Get Out.  1991's The Silence of the Lambs is the only film of this genre to win BP.  In the final analysis, I feel first-time director Jordon Peele's intelligent haunting film an extreme long shot in this category.

FOR THE RECORD:  here are the nine nominated films I rated from best to least: 
(1)   3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri
(2)  The Shape of Water
(3)  Get Out
(4)  Dunkirk
(5)  Lady Bird
(6)  Phantom Thread
(7)  Darkest Hour
(8)  Call Me By Your Name
(9)  The Post

Who will win:  Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
Upset possibility:  Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Who should win:  Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo, one of the most inventive and talented directors in the business, should have no trouble winning this award.  However, the great Christopher Nolan might give him a run for his money in his spectacular WWII epic based on the Allied evacuation from the French town of Dunkirk in 1940 ahead of the Nazi occupation.  An incredible achievement in film making, Nolan equally deserves to be recognized with the award.  However, it is only a matter of time before the brilliant British director starts winning multiple Oscars.  Nonetheless, Guillermo will more than likely be giving a speech Sunday night from The Dolby Theater stage.

Who will win:  Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Upset possibility:  Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Who should win:  Gary Oldman
One of the few certainties.  Oldman gives an uncanny portrayal of the iconic late British Prime Minister.  More than an merely an impersonation, Oldman seems to embody the man and, in the process, becomes virtually unrecognizable. No other actor on the list impresses more other than possibly Chalamet (who also happened to appear in Lady Bird).  There is no question his immense acting range drives the narrative of the Indie film.  However, Hollywood will more than likely bestow the statuette to the longtime British thespian who gave the most memorable male lead performance of the year.

Who will win:  Frances McDormand (3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri)
Upset possibility:  Sally Hawkins(The Shape Of Water)
Who should win:  Frances McDormand
A virtual lock.  McDormand, married to famed director Joel Coen, is spectacularly emotive as the grieving mother whose daughter was raped and murdered, and then chooses to mock the local police department utilizing three consecutive billboards outside her town.  One of Hollywood's great character actresses, she delivers the most memorable performance of her career which is chock-full of them.  Hawkins (nominated for Mick Leigh's 2008's Happy-Go-Lucky), as the mute who falls-in-love with a sea-creature gives a solid worthy performance whose win won't surprise come Oscar time.  However, McDormand deserves and probably will win Best Lead Actress.

Who will win:  Sam Rockwell (3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri)
Extreme Upset possibility:  Wilem Defoe (The Florida Project)
Who should win:  Sam Rockwell
Another no-brainer.  Longtime Indie actor Rockwell, as the racist cop in 3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, should have no problem in this category - unless, as pointed out above, co-star Woody Harrelson takes votes away from the final tally.  However, since I feel Harrelson shouldn't have been nominated in the first place as one of the five best (Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name was far and away more deserving to make the list) I don't feel there will be enough votes to matter.  Much praise has been feast upon Wilem Defoe who ultimately may slip into the lead.  However, it would be a shame if Rockwell doesn't win as he was the more memorable and effective supporting actor.

Who will win:  Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Upset possibility:  Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Who should win:  Laurie Metcalf
The momentum is clearly behind Janney's portrayal as Tonya Hardings dominating abusive mom.  Although memorable, to me her interpretation is more caricature while Metcalf, as the strong-willed mom of the title character, is more subtle and powerful.  That being said, it will not be a surprise when Janney ultimately mounts the stage.

What will winFantastic Woman (Chile)
Upset possibility:  The Insult (Lebanon)
What should win:  The Insult
A tough category to predict.  I absolutely loved The Insult  and considered it one of the finest thought-proving films I screened this year.  However, the first ever film nominated from Lebanon by famed director Ziad Doueiri is up against a strong contingent and personally wouldn't be surprised by any of the nominees winning.

Who will win:  Coco
Upset possibility:  (None)
Who should win:  Coco
The Pixar masterpiece should have been on the Best Picture list, joining past animations films Beauty  and the Beast (1991), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010).  So, expect it to win easily.  Although others on the list are competent, none can compete with the animation and the deeply affecting narrative created once again by the computer geniuses at Pixar.

What will win:  Faces Places
Upset possibility:  Last Men In Aleppo
What should win:   Faces Places
Long-time documentary French filmmaker (over 50 years in the business) Agnès Varda should easily win with her doc about rural France.  At 89-years-old she is the oldest nominee ever.  If Varda wins, she will also be the first woman to receive an honorary Oscar and a competitive Oscar the same year.  However, the current political climate might allow Last Men In Aleppo about war-torn Syria to appeal more to the voters.

Who will win:  Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk)
Upset possibility:  Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)
Who should win:  Hoyte van Hoytema
An absolute glorious achievement in cinematography, Hoytema's stunning recreation of Dunkirk is one filmdom's finest ever.  Yet, it would not be surprising if Laustsen accepts considering the love for The Shape of Water and his imaginative recreation of Guillermo del Toro's unique fantasy world.  Unfortunately, long-time cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049), who did an admirable job filming the science fiction sequel and is a worthy accomplishment recreating the futuristic world first spectacularly created in 1982 by cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, will have to wait yet another year to be finally honored.  His 14th nomination is the most by any cinematographer.

Who will win:  James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)
Upset possibility:  Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game)
Who should win:   Aaron Sorkin
Another tough one to predict.  Considering the almost universal love exhibited in most circles for the tale of first love, I expect James Ivory's thoughtful script based on American author André Acimen's 2007 novel to win the night in this category.  However, Sorkin's perceptive script, based on Molly Bloom's 2014 memoir of her journey from Olympic skier to high-stakes poker princess involving some of Hollywood's elite, is an upset possibility - especially since the excellent film was generally ignored and Jessica Chastain was cheated out of a well-deserved acting nomination.  Nevertheless, the voters might be inclined to lean away from the controversy and honor Ivory with the award.

Who will win:  Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water)
Upset possibility:  Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Who should win:   Martin McDonaugh (3 Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri)
The romantic fantasy written by Vanessa Taylor and director Guillermo del Torois is likely to win as it has all the elements Hollywood voters love:  fantasy, romance, and adventure.  However, my personal favorite is the original riveting drama director Martin McDonaugh created.  Director Jordan Peele wrote over 40 drafts to create his socially relevant comedy/horror script and produced one of the best films of the year.  However, the fierce competition in this group, I feel, will be too much to overcome.

Who will winPhantom Thread
Upset possibility:  (None)
Who should win:  Phantom Thread
This is a category I usually don't tackle.  However, I'm trying to up my win percentage so I am including this category.  A film about a fictional legendary British dressmaker who produces fashion from royalty to Hollywood stars better have top-notch costume design and this one delivers in spades.  If it doesn't win, it assuredly will be the upset of the night and possibly longer.