Combustible Celluloid

The 90th Academy Awards

Gold Standard: The Oscars 2017

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Here are my reviews, notes, predictions, and thoughts about this year's Academy Awards. This year's nominees were announced the morning of January 23. The Shape of Water led with 13 nominations, followed by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with nine, and Dunkirk with seven. The awards will be held on March 4. Keep checking back... this page will be updated throughout awards season!

March 4 -- I did pretty well in my predictions... I only missed 3 categories, and one of those was Documentary Short. Final counts below. That's it until next year!

Best Picture:
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is not a bad batch, even if some of my top favorites are not here. I'd heartily recommend seven of the nine. Darkest Hour is fine, but it received a token nomination here. Dunkirk is the weakest entry, impressive in many ways, but terminally flawed. Update: this race is still up in the air, and could go to either The Shape of Water, Three Billboards..., or Get Out. At the moment, I hate to predict The Shape of Water, which will almost certainly mean a shift back over to Three Billboards, but I'm gonna do it anyway.

If I Had a Vote: The Shape of Water
My Prediction: The Shape of Water
The Winner: The Shape of Water

Lead Actor:
• Timothée 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.

It's great to see Kaluuya here, with his first nomination. Chalamet also has his first, of course. Old veterans Washington (his eighth acting nomination) and Day-Lewis (his sixth) are back, but Oldman -- his second nomination -- is the one to beat this year.

If I Had a Vote: Daniel Kaluuya
My Prediction: Gary Oldman
The Winner: Gary Oldman

Lead Actress:
• Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
• Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
• Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
• Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
• Meryl Streep, The Post

It's great to see that the two top vote-getting movies were both led by strong female performances. My favorite by a small edge is Hawkins, with a delicate, Chaplin-esque turn, but McDormand is also powerful, echoing her Oscar win for Fargo. It's Hawkins's second nomination and McDormand's fifth. Robbie has her first, Ronan her third, and -- get ready -- Streep her 21st.

If I Had a Vote: Sally Hawkins
My Prediction: Frances McDormand
The Winner: Frances McDormand

Supporting Actor:
• Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
• Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
• Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
• Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
• Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

It's great to see the long-reliable Rockwell with his first nomination here. Jenkins has his second nomination, Dafoe and Harrelson their third each. Plummer is a previous winner, with his third nomination here for great last-minute work. Dafoe has been the favorite so far, but enthusiasm for The Florida Project seems to be waning. I could see Plummer winning one for political reasons, having to do with the #MeToo movement. But I think my vote would go to Jenkins for his kind, gentle work in Water.

If I Had a Vote: Richard Jenkins
My Prediction: Sam Rockwell
The Winner: Sam Rockwell

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

These are all first-timers except Spencer, who is a previous winner and has her third nomination. Blige (who is also nominated for Best Song) blew me away in Mudbound, but Spencer would be my pick here by a small margin. The others are mean characters, two mean mothers and a mean sister, all great, but not anyone I'd want to spend any time with.

If I Had a Vote: Octavia Spencer
My Prediction: Allison Janney
The Winner: Allison Janney

Best Director:
• Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
• Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
• Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
• Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
• Jordan Peele, Get Out

These are all fine picks, except I'd have swapped out Nolan for Steven Spielberg. Peele would be my close runner-up, but Del Toro is my personal pick. As of this year, Nolan has five nominations in all, two for writing and two for producing, but this is his first directing nomination. Gerwig (the fifth woman to be nominated in this category) and Peele (the fifth black nominee) have their first nominations. This is Del Toro's first as director; he had one previous writing nomination. This is Anderson's second directing nomination, but he has eight in all, four for writing and two for producing. If Del Toro wins, he would join his longtime pals Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro G. Iñárritu in a special little Oscar club. Update: I did not want to jinx this by predicting Del Toro, but it seems that he is the favorite after all. Fingers crossed!

If I Had a Vote: Guillermo Del Toro
My Prediction: Guillermo Del Toro
The Winner: Guillermo Del Toro

Animated Feature:
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

I don't know what the heck happened here. I didn't even see two of these because they looked awful, and we certainly did not get awards screeners for them. We also did not get a screener for The Breadwinner. Loving Vincent looks great but is lacking in the story department, which leaves only Coco as my default pick. Where the heck is The Lego Batman Movie? What does the Academy have against Legos?

If I Had a Vote: Coco
My Prediction: Coco
The Winner: Coco

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

They say that the 89 year-old Ivory is the favorite for this. It's his fourth nomination in a long and highly admired career, although the other three were for directing. I'm very happy to see Mudbound here, but my favorite has to be Logan.

If I Had a Vote: Logan
My Prediction: Call Me by Your Name
The Winner: Call Me by Your Name

Original Screenplay:
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

This is the much stronger category, which only goes to show that there are still some great ideas out there. I know I have been all over Shape of Water so far, but my pick here goes to Peele. My early prediction for the winner leans toward Three Billboards for its heavy, funny verbiage. Update: changing my prediction to Get Out... just a gut feeling.

If I Had a Vote: Get Out
My Prediction: Get Out
The Winner: Get Out

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

On an exciting note, Morrison is the first woman, ever, to be nominated in this category! But she's up against Deakins, who has his fourteenth nomination here and has never won. He's one of the best in the biz, and I think this one may be a slam dunk.

If I Had a Vote: Roger Deakins
My Prediction: Roger Deakins
The Winner: Roger Deakins

Best Documentary Feature:
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Last Man in Aleppo
Strong Island

No matter how hard I try, the Academy rarely nominates documentaries that I've actually seen. I've got screeners for some of these, and Strong Island is on Netflix. My favorite by far is Agnes Varda's wonderful Faces Places, but this award usually goes to more serious work. I'll have to come back to this one. Update: going with Strong Island because it seems topical and because it's on Netflix.

If I Had a Vote: Faces Places
My Prediction: Strong Island
The Winner: Icarus

Best Foreign Language Film:
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

If you're one of my regular readers, you know how much this category drives me around the bend. Each country submits an "official" nominee, and they tend to be upright, proper, and excruciatingly dull things that make each country look good. Meanwhile, real works of art are not even being distributed because they don't have the "official Oscar submission" tag. So... what do we have here? I've seen three of them (reviews coming soon), and they're not bad, but nothing terribly memorable.

If I Had a Vote: A Fantastic Woman
My Prediction: A Fantastic Woman
The Winner: A Fantastic Woman

Film Editing:
Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

Pretty good job here... my personal credo is that, with few exceptions, no film that lumbers well over two hours deserves a Best Editing Oscar. I'd argue that Dunkirk is a failed experiment in editing, since those three time periods never really cross over very clearly, but that Baby Driver is a crisp, kinetic -- and clear -- action movie, so I'd go with that. Yet, I'd bet that because Dunkirk pleased/fooled so many, it's a major possibility as the winner.

If I Had a Vote: Baby Driver
My Prediction: Dunkirk
The Winner: Dunkirk

Sound Editing:
Baby Driver, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

I just looked this up, and apparently Sound Editing consists of all the choices made in terms of sound, and Sound Mixing determines the levels of all that. For me, Dunkirk was just very hard to understand, and the battle noises usually drowned out the dialogue. For fun, and just because I enjoyed it so much, I think I'll choose Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

If I Had a Vote: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
My Prediction: Dunkirk
The Winner: Dunkirk

Sound Mixing:
Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

I'm going to get creative here and choose The Shape of Water, thinking of just how all that water swishing around sounds exactly right. I have no idea how the voters will go... usually these kinds of awards go to more "technical" marvels like Dunkirk, Blade Runner 2049, or Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

If I Had a Vote: The Shape of Water
My Prediction: Dunkirk
The Winner: Dunkirk

Production Design:
Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

This award usually goes to the most Production Design. I can't understand why Dunkirk is here... it was a beach, a plane, and a boat. Also, I'm not sure why Phantom Thread was left out of this category in particular; to me, that house was one of the best things in the movie, a fourth character in the narrative. So I'll choose The Shape of Water because it did the most with shadows and near-empty spaces.

If I Had a Vote: The Shape of Water
My Prediction: The Shape of Water
The Winner: The Shape of Water

Original Score:
Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

I listened to a lot of scores this year, and it's disappointing how many of the really enjoyable ones were not nominated, such as Carter Burwell's Wonderstruck, Daniel Hart's A Ghost Story, Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch's Blade Runner 2049, Michael Giacchino's War for the Planet of the Apes, and, heck, even Danny Elfman's Justice League. At first I confess I found Desplat's work on Shape of Water a bit twittery, but it has grown on me, and of course a Williams Star Wars score is always welcome. Greenwood's Phantom work is one of the best things about that movie, although I'm not sure how listenable it is on its own.

If I Had a Vote: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
My Prediction: The Shape of Water
The Winner: The Shape of Water

Original Song:
• "Mighty River" from Mudbound - Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, Taura Stinson
• "Mystery of Love" from Call Me by Your Name - Sufjan Stevens
• "Remember Me" from Coco - Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
• "Stand Up for Something" from Marshall - Diane Warren, Common
• "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman - Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

This category again. But this year, aside from The Greatest Showman, we have some good songs! I have to say, the one that probably affected me the most, and gets points for actually being used during the movie, is Stevens's.

If I Had a Vote: "Mystery of Love"
My Prediction: "Remember Me"
The Winner: "Remember Me"

Makeup and Hair:
Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

Now we're in foreign territory for me, but I guess Gary Oldman's makeup for Darkest Hour is pretty... thick.

If I Had a Vote: Darkest Hour
My Prediction: Darkest Hour
The Winner: Darkest Hour

Costume Design:
Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

Again, I know very little about this category, unless I -- like I suspect most of the voters do -- look for the prettiest dresses, or the largest number of them. So since Phantom Thread is actually about clothes, it's the only choice.

If I Had a Vote: Phantom Thread
My Prediction: Phantom Thread
The Winner: Phantom Thread

Visual Effects:
Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Digital effects are getting better and better, but they still have a digital quality to them. In this category they are used mainly for monsters or creatures, as much as I enjoyed all of these movies. Blade Runner 2049 gets points for its creative use of effects, but so does War for the Planet of the Apes for creating a powerful digital hero that we actually cared about. Since, I think, Blade Runner kind of gets all mixed up in its effects, production design, and cinematography (where does one start and another end?) my vote goes to Apes.

If I Had a Vote: War for the Planet of the Apes
My Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
The Winner: Blade Runner 2049

Animated Short:
Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes, Jan Lachauer, Jakob Schuh

I've seen Lou -- which screened with Cars 3 -- and I think its pure loveliness. I'm going to try to catch up with the others soon. Update: I have seen all five, and I like them all, with Garden Party leading by a small margin and Lou not far behind, with Dear Basketball a solid third.

If I Had a Vote: Garden Party
My Prediction: Dear Basketball
The Winner: Dear Basketball

Best Documentary Short Subject:
Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion, Kerrin James Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Always a lost category for me, as there's frequently not much chance to actually see these. However, Heroin(e) is streaming on Netflix, so maybe I'll try to watch that. (It's 39 minutes long, though... very long for a "short").

If I Had a Vote: ?
My Prediction: Edith+Eddie
The Winner: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Best Live Action Short Film:
DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O'Clock, Derin Seale
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.
The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath

Update: I've seen these five shorts, and four of them are message movies (most of them with informational texts at the end, telling us more about the injustices we've seen), and only one comedy, The Eleven O'Clock; it's fun and pretty smart, and it's my favorite. But I suspect the winner will be DeKalb Elementary.

If I Had a Vote: The Eleven O'Clock
My Prediction: DeKalb Elementary
The Winner: The Silent Child

Final Counts:
The Shape of Water - 4
Dunkirk - 3
Blade Runner 2046 - 2
Coco - 2
Darkest Hour - 2
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - 2
Call Me by Your Name - 1
A Fantastic Woman - 1
Get Out - 1
Icarus - 1
I, Tonya - 1
Phantom Thread - 1
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, The Silent Child, and Dear Basketball - 1 each.

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