Thursday, March 1, 2018

90th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

What's up everyone?  It's late February, and that means only one thing: spring is almost here!  Wait, no.....  It means the Academy Awards are almost upon us.  And for us at that means it's time for Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I to offer our predictions!

I dunno about you Mike, but for me 2017 was one of the best film years I can remember.  Between some pretty stellar "serious films" and just a bevy of quality popcorn movies (Logan, Apes 3, It, Blade Runner, Last Jedi, Guardians 2, etc.), it was hard for me to even nail down my five favorites.  More on that in a future column...

I still have some catching up to do but this year's slate of nominees is first-rate thus far (I've seen five of the nine Best Pic nominees as of now), which should make for an exciting Oscars ceremony (If you're into that sorta thing).  I'm glad Jimmy Kimmel is back as the host; I thought he was unexpectedly great in the role last year, offering his dry style of humor, and with Hollywood being so politically charged nowadays Kimmel will have the opportunity to add some heartfelt comments as he's been doing on his own show.

But let's get to the categories.

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Threat
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO

Justin: I've been impressed with the five Best Pic nominees I've seen (Three Billboards, Get Out, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, and Dunkirk), my favorite being Three Billboards, a dark comedy with sociopolitical undertones and big performances that would make the Coen Brothers proud.  Lady Bird was a wonderfully understated coming of age story, Get Out was a gleefully disturbing Twilight Zone-esque thriller, Dunkirk was an unusual take on the war genre, and The Shape of Water was another grown-up fairy tale from Guillermo del Toro.  All signs point to this being a two-horse race between Billboards or The Shape of Water, if the previous awards shows have been any indication.  I could very easily see it going either way, but with Oscar's aversion to fantasy films, and my own personal preference for Billboards, I'm going with that.

Prediction: Three Billboards

Mike:  I've only seen five as well (Three Billboards, The Post, Get Out, Lady Bird, and Dunkirk) and have also been impressed and can see why each one has received the nomination for the big prize. My favorite this year has been Lady Bird. It was an exceptionally made film that really showed the depth, quirks and love of a mother-daughter relationship, a relationship that truly hasn't been shown on film, ever. Get Out was a deftly constructed horror-ish film and a significant commentary on racism. It was thrilling, suspenseful and entertaining. Dunkirk told the story of a well known historic event in a very unique and interesting way with a cast that really brought the human, emotional punch that is needed with a military film. Three Billboards was a great dark comedy that explored the trappings of acting on anger, and you're right, this film would've made the Coen Brothers proud. It hits on every note, takes some unexpected turns and the acting is top notch, not to mention a strong, determined female lead which will go a long way with voters, especially with everything going on in Hollywood these days.

Also, please dear Lord can we not have a screw up like last year in announcing the winner?

Prediction: Three Billboards

Best Director

Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)
Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread)
Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Justin: Phantom Thread is the only one of these I haven't seen (hoping to remedy that this weekend), but all four remaining directorial endeavors have been quite admirable.  If I had my pick I'd probably go with Gerwig, for her note-perfect solo debut behind the camera.  While I wouldn't be surprised to see her take it, I think this'll be del Toro's night to grab the gold, splitting the two big categories between the two frontrunners.

Prediction: Guillermo del Toro

Mike: I've got a couple of favorites in this category. Jordan Peele absolutely did a marvelous job crafting Get Out to the point where every time you watch the film you'll pick up on something that you might've missed before. The story is thorough and the nightmare he installed with "the sunken place" still gives me chills and takes my breath away. I've been a fan of Greta Gerwig's as an actor since she was in Greenberg. As a director of Lady Bird, she hit one out of the park on her first go 'round and I can't wait to own this film and see what she does next. Everything about the film is wonderful and enjoyable. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working because he hasn't made a terrible movie from what I've seen. After being lauded and commercially successful for ages he's finally got his nomination for directing. He wields a technical mastery that is unfortunately matched by Guillermo del Toro, who is the odds on favorite in this category. In my Oscar nomination reaction piece back in January, I said that this category is Greta's to lose. Sadly, I have to go back on that and put my chips on del Toro as well.

Prediction: Guillermo del Toro

Best Actor

Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)
Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)
Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, esq.)

Justin: I suck.  I've only seen one of these performances (again, hoping that by Oscar time I'll have seen three more).  But it doesn't matter - this award is going to Gary Oldman.  Has to.  The guy's been churning out incredible performances for 25 years and has only gotten one freakin' Oscar nod, and it was for a performance that I wouldn't even consider one of his best.  But from what I've heard his turn as Winston Churchill is a new career highlight.  This is long, LONG overdue.  Give Gary the trophy.

Prediction: Gary Oldman

Mike: I've only seen two of the performances nominated here and neither have a chance at winning. This is Oldman's to lose and it's not even close. However, I do want to shout out Daniel Kaluuya's performance in Get Out. The scene where he's sitting in Catherine Keener's office for the first time and she's trying to get him to talk about his mother's death is utterly inspiring. There was so much power, emotion and guilt in that scene that I can't shake it. I think it'll be the scene they'll show when they showcase each nominee during the ceremony. Side note: Kuulya was also really good in Black Panther.

Prediction: Gary Oldman

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)
Frances McDormand (Three Billboards)
Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)
Meryl Streep (The Post)

Justin: Well I've seen three of these, not too shabby.  Hawkins was emotive and sweet as the mute lead character in Shape, Ronan was wonderfully authentic as the socially clumsy teenaged Lady Bird, but this category is McDormand's to lose.  This woman was a force of nature in Three Billboards, delivering a completely different but equally incredible performance to her previous Oscar-winning turn in Fargo.  If Frances doesn't take this award I'll be shocked.  And kinda pissed.

Prediction: Frances McDormand

Mike: Alright, let's get this out of the way. It's been well documented that I think Meryl Streep, despite being one of the greatest actors EVER, has been seriously over nominated for Best Actress by the Academy throughout her career. In my reaction to the nominations being announced, I again went on a tiny rant on the subject. Then, I actually went and saw The Post and I have to say, this was a year when Streep actually deserved the nomination. She was great. Okay, now that that's out of the way, I loved Saoirse Ronan's performance in Lady Bird and it just confirms that she will one day win Oscar gold. It's really hard to go against Sally Hawkins who plays a mute in The Shape of Water but Frances McDormand's performance in Three Billboards just takes the cake here. She's a strong, determined woman seeking answers regarding the brutal rape and murder of her daughter, and she channels that anger to make you feel what she is feeling. She's got some of the greatest one liners in the movie. Yep, it's hers to lose.

Prediction: Frances McDormand

Best Supporting Actor

Willam Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards)

Justin: Woody Harrelson is another great actor who's never won the big gold statue, and I always forget just how good he is until I watch one of his films.  Very glad to see he wasn't overlooked for his performance as Chief Willoughby.  That said, this category belongs to his Deputy, Sam Rockwell.  Rockwell nearly stole the show as this dimwitted, bigoted meathead of a character, finally achieving a career-defining performance after two-plus decades of solid character acting.  Just a fantastic portrayal that serves as a counterpoint to McDormand's.

Prediction: Sam Rockwell

Mike: Yeah, you're right, Woody does get overlooked a lot for his performances. His range and talent is very underrated. I'd love for him to eventually take home a statue. Willem Dafoe's performance as a motel manager outside of Disney World was tremendous. He plays his character with such depth and care that you subtly understand how much he cares about his residents even though he's strict, firm with the rules and regulations, and they constantly give him a hard time about some dumb shit. Anyways, I loved him in this film. The category will go to Sam Rockwell though who, like Harrelson, is an underrated genius actor. I remember first seeing him in The Green Mile and loved him, but it wasn't until I saw his work in Moon that I was utterly floored by the man's ability. First off, if anyone hasn't seen Moon just go ahead and punch yourself in the face. Second, check out Moon! Rockwell's turn as racist bumpkin deputy Dixon definitely deserves to take home Mr. Oscar.

Prediction: Sam Rockwell

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)
Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)
Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Justin: I've only seen two of these - Metcalf and Spencer - but hope to see Janney's performance as soon as possible.  I'm beyond thrilled that Laurie Metcalf has finally gotten the chance to deliver an Oscar-caliber film performance, as I've been a big admirer of her work since the heyday of Roseanne.  She's a truly gifted, natural actress I always felt was very underrated.  But I have a feeling Allison Janney will be repeating her Globes win here.  From the looks of it, this award will be well-deserved.  Interesting side note: the first time I ever laid eyes on Janney was in the trailer for Howard Stern's Private Parts, and I initially mistook her for Laurie Metcalf.

Prediction: Allison Janney

Mike: I've only seen one of these performances and it was Laurie Metcalf who was unbelievable in Lady Bird. People know her from Roseanne but most people don't realize how much of an accomplished actor she really is which is unfortunate. I'm glad she's getting some Oscar consideration this year. Hopefully there's more to come for her. Allison Janney is one of my favorite actors and is in some of my favorite movies like Juno, The Help, Away We Go and Drop Dead Gorgeous. She was incredible in American Beauty and, of course, The West Wing. Like you said, she grabbed a Golden Globe for this performance so it's difficult to believe she won't take home the Oscar.

Prediction: Allison Janney

Best Original Screenplay

Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick)
Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor (The Shape of Water)
Martin McDonough (Three Billboards)

Justin: I've actually seen all five of these!  Bully for me.  All of these nominees have their merits and are thoroughly deserving of this nod.  The Big Sick is sweet and hilarious, Get Out is taut and unnerving, Lady Bird is quirky and real, Shape is fantastical and engaging.  But Three Billboards is a powderkeg of dark comedy and heavy drama, somehow finding exactly the right tonal mix.  That's my pick.

Prediction: Three Billboards

Mike: I've seen them all except The Shape of Water. I've become quite the fan of Kumail Nanjiani's ever since I saw him in the show Portlandia as the cell phone dealer. He had me laughing so hard I was in tears. I discovered his stand up act and his other acting credentials and just simply enjoy him all around. The story of his relationship and subsequent marriage to Emily V. Gordon is very interesting and incredible. The script was really well done and full of heart and warmth, as well as showing a Muslim family being like any other family. That was refreshing to see on screen. Greta Gerwig has always been an amazing writer. She knows how to vividly draw out her characters, convey their inner conflicts so perfectly, and craft a unique story. Lady Bird is a tremendous film in that regard. This category is going to come down to Three Billboards and Get Out. McDonough's screenplay is really well thought out, deeply serious and filled with great humor that tends to lighten up the mood. However, Jordan Peele's Get Out is downright brilliant. He managed to put his commentary on racism in America, using the look and conventions of the horror genre, and making it a mainstream success. Like I said in the Best Director category, he was so focused on the small details of the story that every time you watch the film you find something that you missed. I'm going to differ with you here.

Prediction: Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay

James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (The Disaster Artist)
Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green (Logan)
Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game)
Virgil Williams & Dee Rees (Mudbound)

Justin: Dude, how cool is it that Logan is nominated?  What a great, unusual take on the Wolverine mythos that overshadowed almost every previous X-Men film.  Let's see more risk-taking in these superhero adaptations.  I don't think Logan's winning this though - the nomination itself is all the acknowledgement the Academy is willing to grant at this point.  I'm banking on James Ivory taking this one.

Prediction: Call Me By Your Name

Mike: It was a pleasant surprise to see Logan nominated. I agree more risk taking for superhero adaptions can only stand to benefit the genre and make me more into a comic book movie fan. The rest of field seems kind of boring to me. All of these adaptions are very strict and traditional. Call Me By Your Name stands out in this field and with all of the critical acclaim the movie and the story has garnered, it's a sure bet.

Prediction: Call Me By Your Name

Best Cinematography

Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049)
Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour)
Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk)
Rachel Morrison (Mudbound)
Dan Laustsen (The Shape of Water)

Justin: My personal preference would be Blade Runner all day long.  This is an absolutely gorgeous film that honors Ridley Scott's original while carving out its own style.  I could look at these visuals till the cows come home, whatever that means.  But The Shape of Water is taking this - Best Cinematography more often than not is either a way to pad the Best Pic winner's resume or to offer a consolation prize to the runner-up.

Prediction: The Shape of Water

Mike: I'm actually going to go with your personal preference here. I haven't seen Blade Runner 2049 yet, even though it's sitting in my Google Play queue ready to be played, but even the trailers for the movie look awesome. I'm going with Deakins because historically he just can't seem to get an Oscar to save his life. The man's been nominated fourteen times for his cinematography work on films such as Skyfall, Sicario, Prisoners, No Country For Old Men, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption. It's time the man got his due.

Prediction: Blade Runner 2049

Best Original Score

Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk)
Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread)
Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)
John Williams (The Last Jedi)
Carter Burwell (Three Billboards)

Justin: What a stacked category this is.  Zimmer and Williams are both film scoring legends, Greenwood's bizarre sensibility has made him Paul Thomas Anderson's go-to guy, Carter Burwell has repeated the successful formula he's offered the Coen brothers so many times, and Desplat builds on his already huge, diverse resume.  In the end I think he'll take this one.

Prediction: The Shape of Water

Mike: There are a few legends in this category and they've all done fantastic work. My prediction for this category also takes into consideration the story of the film. Since The Shape of Water has two central characters that can't speak, it only adds to the importance of the score to help build that emotion, suspense and wonderment.

Prediction: The Shape of Water

Tie-Breaker: Best Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Justin: I chose Best Visual Effects as this year's tie-breaker because I actually have a little somethin-somethin to say about it.  Kong is the only one of these I haven't seen, but the other four all boast fantastic effects, in service of popcorn movies with substance.  BR49 as I mentioned is a beautiful-looking film and the effects are a mix of old-school model work and modern CG.  GOTG2 looks like your typical superhero fare, effects-wise, but it works as well as any in the genre.  The Last Jedi is full of dazzling space battles and unusual locales, and most of it is quite seamless.  But WFTPOTA is a spectacular achievement in motion-capture technology.  Andy Serkis and his fellow "apes" deliver heart-melting performances, and the effects team has taken those cues and created amazingly rendered digital characters that look so real I often forgot I was watching a collection of 1s and 0s.  Perhaps no other film with CG characters has so skillfully avoided the uncanny valley.  I have no idea if this will win, but it deserves to.

Prediction: War for the Planet of the Apes

Mike: I know this is a tie breaker category and I really hate to agree with your prediction on this but it's difficult to see another film taking the Oscar. Serkis is a legend ever since his performance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and there's been a growing movement to take these roles a little more seriously within the Academy. Alright, let's have a little fun here dammit.

Prediction: Blade Runner 2049

There's our picks for the 90th Academy Awards.  Hope you enjoy the show - we'll be back on Monday with a recap.

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