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Friday, March 02, 2018

90th Academy Awards: Best Director, Picture

At this year's Academy Awards, the Best Picture winner will still be in suspense up to the moment the envelope is opened (and given that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are being brought back to reveal the winner, who knows what can happen?).

Up until the beginning of this century, it was a fait accompli that Best Director and Best Picture would match. Only seven times would they not. But since 2000, it's happened another seven times. This is most likely due to the new preferential voting system for Best Picture. All categories except Best Picture simply go by who gets the most votes, but in order to gather more of a consensus, the Best Picture category asks voters to rank their candidates, and it's not until a nominee gets fifty percent of the vote that a winner is declared.

So if we start with Best Director, we can safely assume that Guillermo Del Toro will win for The Shape of Water. He won the DGA award, the most reliable bellwether for any Oscar precursor. But, an we be sure The Shape of Water will win Best Picture? Absolutely not.

The other Director nominees include the fourth black person (Jordan Peele for Get Out) and the fifth woman (Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird) nominated in this category. One of them may win for Best Original Screenplay, but not here. Christopher Nolan, after many years of being passed over, finally got a nod, this time for Dunkirk, but he will not win. And Paul Thomas Anderson gets his second Oscar nomination in this category for Phantom Thread, but his nomination was something of a surprise (edging out Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, most likely).

Sometimes the Best Director award is just a matter of timing. Del Toro, who has moved from personal, more idiosyncratic films such as The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, to big budget Hollywood films like Pacific Rim, is well regarded as a student of cinema. The Shape of Water, which though in English and from Hollywood, has the stamp of the personal, reflecting Del Toro's interest in monsters and an homage to films like Creature from the Black Lagoon.

But will it win Best Picture? It is, technically speaking, a genre picture, featuring a woman falling in love with an amphibian. Will that be too outre for Academy voters?

We start by eliminating the films that do not have a Best Director nomination. Only twice since 1932 has a film won without one--Driving Miss Daisy and Argo. So farewell to The Post, getting only two nominations total; Call Be By Your Name, though well regarded by the young Oscar ninnies of the Internet, and Darkest Hour, which will get a couple of awards (Best Actor and Best Makeup). Ordinarily we could eliminate Three Billboards, but wait!

Three Billboards is the main competition for The Shape of Water, even though Martin McDonagh was not nominated. It won the Golden Globe, the SAG ensemble, and the BAFTA. If McDonagh had been nominated, I'd be making an argument right now for it to win, but his omission does not doom it. If we look at numbers, we can come up with a reason why none of the remaining movies will not win.

The Shape of Water did not receive a SAG ensemble nomination--the last movie to win without one was Braveheart.

Get Out has few than five nominations total. The last movie to win with that few was Cavalcade, in 1933!

Lady Bird does not have an editing nomination. The last movie to triumph without one? Ordinary People in 1980.

Dunkirk does not have an acting nomination or a screenplay nomination. It's been 85 years since that was overcome.

Phantom Thread also does not have an editing nomination, and seems to have slipped in through the back door.

I'm puzzled by the adulation for Three Billboards, as it was entertaining but didn't feel like a Best Picture, and seems like a foreigner telling us what America was like (I haven't spent much time in Missouri, but that didn't seem authentic to me). Of these films, The Shape of Water, despite it's veering into bestiality, may be the most traditional.

My advice, don't turn off the TV until after the last envelope is opened, and not even then.

Here are my predictions for all the nominees:

Best Picture: The Shape of Water
Best Director: Del Toro
Best Actor: Gary Oldman
Best Actress: Frances McDormand
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
Best Original Screenplay: Get Out
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Foreign Language Film: The Insult
Best Animated Film: Coco
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Editing: Dunkirk
Best Production Design: Blade Runner 2049
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Song: "Remember Me"
Best Musical Score: The Shape of Water
Best Documentary Feature: Icarus
Best Documentary Short Subject: Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Best Makeup and Hairstyles: Darkest Hour
Best Animated Short Subject: Dear Basketball
Best Live Action Short Subject: The Eleven O'Clock
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

1 comment:

  1. I did pretty well this year: 21 out of 24. Which just shows how predictable the awards were.