Opening Up the Oscars: What Will and Should Win



An Academy Award

By Josh Petersen, Digital Managing Editor

There are many unknowns at the Academy Awards, which will be presented tomorrow night. How will the ceremony respond to the storm of controversy surrounding the White House and sexual harassment in the workplace? How many women and people of color will get the chance to take the stage? Will Jimmy Kimmel, this year’s host, be funny, distasteful or both?

While these mysteries wait to be solved, I will bide my time looking at the nominees of the eight major categories, predicting what will win and state what I think should win. Of course, art is much more interesting and varied than big awards shows would lead you to believe, and it is never worth getting worked up over the unworthy winners or inexplicable snubs. However, if “Lady Bird” goes home empty-handed, the only appropriate response is rioting in the streets.

Best Adapted Screenplay
“Call Me By Your Name” – James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist” – Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
“Logan” – Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game” – Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound” – Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

What will win: “Call Me By Your Name” – James Ivory
What should win:
“Call Me By Your Name” – James Ivory

This is the category I’m least qualified to talk about, as I’ve only seen two of the nominees. Luckily, the obvious winner here, and the only Best Picture nominee in the bunch is a knockout. James Ivory’s work here is poetic, understated and beautiful. Michael Stuhlbarg’s climactic speech has already won the Academy Award for “Most Likely to Make Me Tear Up While Having an Existential Crisis.”

Best Original Screenplay
“The Big Sick” – Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
“Get Out” – Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird” – Greta Gerwig
“The Shape of Water” – Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Martin McDonagh

What will win: “Get Out” – Jordan Peele
What should win: “Lady Bird” – Greta Gerwig

This is a loaded category, filled with intelligent and groundbreaking screenplays. Well, four intelligent and groundbreaking screenplays and “Three Billboards.” This makes it tough to predict — any of these could win besides “The Big Sick,” which is a great, underrated film that should have gotten more nominations than just one. Whoever wins will have a big advantage for “Best Picture.” I think “Get Out” ekes out a victory, but I am rooting for “Lady Bird.” Gerwig’s writing is funny, and while it is specific, it is universal and engaging from start to finish. No scene in “Lady Bird” is wasted — each crackles with unmistakable life.

Best 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”

Who will win: Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Who should win: Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”

Rockwell is a near-lock here, having won all of the major precursor awards. It’s too bad, because his performance is hardly the most accomplished of the bunch, mostly because his character is all over the place. Rockwell tries his damnedest to adapt to the film’s whiplash-inducing shifts in tone and content, and the results feel more confusing than complex. I would much rather see a win for Dafoe or Jenkins, who both find notes of empathy and grace in their beaten-down characters. I’ll give the edge to Dafoe, who gives the definition of a great supporting performance – he works quietly and patiently, but in the end, you realize that the film could not survive without him.

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”

Who will win: Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
Who should win: Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”

While Janney probably has a better chance at this than Metcalf, I’ll go against conventional wisdom because I think at least one underdog will slip through and voters will probably want to find some way to reward “Lady Bird.” Both actors give very different takes on prickly mothers struggling with economic hardship. Janney is all sharp edges and monstrosity, while Metcalf is a cocktail of quiet compassion and numbing anxiety. Janney is wildly fun to watch, but she doesn’t get the chance to go particularly deep. Metcalf, meanwhile, gives a performance that breaks your heart with its subtlety.

Best 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.”

Who will win: Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”
Who should win: Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name”

Oldman as Winston Churchill is Oscar voter catnip. It’s a respectful, technically impressive depiction of a great historical figure that is also boring. Chalamet, meanwhile, is truly original and thoroughly convincing. His vulnerability is so open and painful that you would almost feel obligated to look away if his presence weren’t so magnetic. Oscar or no Oscar, Chalamet should be looking forward to a long, exciting career.

Best 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”

Who will win: Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Who should win: Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”

This is another category where it’s hard to go wrong. Do you choose the supernatural poise of Streep? The gritty transformation of Robbie? The silent beauty of Hawkins? The headstrong strength of Ronan? The unapologetic ferocity of McDormand? All are worthy, but only one made me want to call my parents and listen to Dave Matthews Band.

Best Director:
“Dunkirk” – Christoper Nolan
“Get Out” – Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird” – Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread” – Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water” – Guillermo del Toro

Who will win: “The Shape of Water” – Guillermo del Toro
Who should win: “Get Out” – Jordan Peele

Guillermo del Toro is an obvious and respectable choice: “The Shape of Water” is imaginative, gorgeously realized, and visually stunning. However, no one this year felt as visionary as Jordan Peele. “Get Out” works on so many levels — it is funny and scary, thought-provoking and entertaining, engrossing and complex. Peele’s ability to juggle all of these ambitions so naturally with his debut film is simply astounding.

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”

Who will win: “Get Out”
Who should win: “Lady Bird”

This category remains a nail-biter, with several probable scenarios and no clear frontrunner. “Darkest Hour” and “The Post” will not win, and it was a surprise that “Phantom Tread” was nominated in the first place. The remaining six have a real chance. “Dunkirk” is fighting an uphill battle without writing or acting nominations, but the subject matter is typical Oscar-bait and there is a sense that Christopher Nolan is long overdue. Both “Call Me By Your Name” and “Lady Bird” have not won a lot of major precursor awards, but they have passionate fans, critical acclaim and wide support from younger viewers. If either of them wins a Screenplay award, they could sneak in a surprise upset.

The race for frontrunner is neck-and-neck between “The Shape of Water,” “Get Out,” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” “Shape” has wide support — it’s a film that is hard to truly hate — and is on track to win Best Director and a few other technical categories. This is a good sign, but in the past few years, flashy special effects heavy showcases like “Life of Pi,” “Gravity” and “The Revenant” have won Best Director while losing Best Picture to screenplay-driven dramas. “Three Billboards” has been an Awards darling all season, but Martin McDonagh missed a key Best Director nomination. Furthermore, the film has attracted significant controversy for its handling of racial issues. It is certainly possible that voters will shy away from this backlash or the film will be too polarizing to gain traction. That leaves “Get Out,” which, as a horror-comedy about race released in February, is hardly what one would expect to gain the Oscars’ biggest prize. This perception is one of the many obstacles “Get Out” must overcome, but by pure gut reaction, I feel that this film is too bold, beloved and culturally relevant to ignore, much as “Moonlight” was last year. It would certainly be an idiosyncratic and worthy choice for victory.

Catch up with The Chronicle’s Academy Awards coverage about each Best Picture nominee here:

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour

Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Follow @TheChrony on Twitter for live tweet updates during the ceremony tomorrow night.

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