Full List of 2018’s Oscar Contenders

Look, I know that Oscar season is exhausting. To counteract that, I’ve made an exhaustive list of all the Oscar-hopeful movies that will be a part of the conversation this year, so that you know what to prioritize if you care even an iota about the Academy Awards. They’re ordered from “most likely to be relevant” to “probably not relevant at all but maybe they’ve got a distant chance of being relevant.” I’m taking all the categories into account, not just Best Picture, so there’s a couple of movies near the top of this list that probably won’t make the cut in that category but will have such a high number of other nominations that their relevance is higher than, say, Green Book, which probably can’t expect many nominations beyond the highest profile ones.

I’ve already written about the movies on this list that came out in October, November, and December, so I may not have much new to say about those movies. Enjoy!

01A Star Is Born (in theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Long shots: Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

After a high-profile no-show at the Golden Globes, getting bested by Bohemian Rhapsody for Best Actor and Drama, by The Wife for Best Actress, and by Roma for Best Director, it may be tempting to write off Star‘s chances at Oscars. But don’t fall into that trap: A Star Is Born is still the favorite. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has no overlapping membership with the Academy, but all the Guilds (Writers, Directors, Producers, Screen Actors, etc.) do, and they’re recognizing A Star Is Born across the board. It’s a shoo-in for a lot of nominations. Now whether it wins a lot is another story…

02The Favourite (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (2), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design

The Favourite is the second, uh, favorite right now.

03Black Panther (Streaming on Netflix)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects

Long shots: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

Black Panther has strong support across the board, especially from the craft guilds. A SAG nomination for the whole cast was especially helpful. It stands a great chance at having the highest number of nominations when all is said and done, and it will be the favorite to win none of them, unfortunately. But it will likely be the first superhero movie nominated for Best Picture. Richard Donner’s Superman and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight will pop some champagne in celebration.

Also, expect outrage from critics and fans alike if this doesn’t get nominated for Best Picture. I’ll be mad too, and a little surprised. The effort the Academy took to expand its membership also diversified its ranks as well, which means that a movie as significant as Black Panther for cinematic diversity that is also as good as Black Panther should get nominated. Even people who don’t like superhero movies liked Black Panther. Come on, Academy.

04First Man (In limited theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects

Long shots: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

First Man has largely fallen out of the race due to poor box office and middling reviews, but director Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic is so well-crafted, it will pick up nominations for some of the smaller awards. Claire Foy had herself a year outside First Man which has created good will for her that should result in recognition for her understated performance as Armstrong’s wife.

05Roma (Streaming on Netflix)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing

Long shots: Best Actress, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing

There were points during the lead-up to Oscar season at which critics declared Roma the frontrunner for Best Picture. That always seemed a tough sell to me; a black-and-white, Spanish-language film winning Best Picture for 2018? Unlikely. But this movie creates ardent supporters, so it might win everything else it’s nominated for, and it’s almost certain to win Best Foreign-Language Film.

06Mary Poppins Returns (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Actress, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Score, Best Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects

Long shot: Best Picture

Much like First Man, initial Best Picture buzz has wavered after mixed reviews. But Emily Blunt seems like a lock, and it will get recognized in the craft awards as well. Director Rob Marshall (ChicagoMemoirs of a Geisha) always does well with his production design across the board.

07Vice (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Long shots: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor

This is a polarizing movie, even more so than The Big Short. Enough people will love it that it will get nominated, but enough people will hate it that it won’t win much. Except, of course, Christian Bale, who seems destined to win Best Actor. Amy Adams also seems like a lock to get nominated, though unlikely to win, adding to her always-a-bridesmaid status; she’ll have 6 nominations without a win, getting close to the record for actors (8: Peter O’Toole). Adam McKay just picked up a Directors Guild nomination, so he may not be a long shot anymore. However, people don’t seem enamored with Sam Rockwell’s Dubya impression, so he’s probably out.

08If Beale Street Could Talk (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Score

Long shot: Best Director

Some Oscar prognosticators seem to be leaving this out of the Best Picture conversation, but I think they’re underestimating the respect for Barry Jenkins throughout the Academy’s newest members. Last summer, the Academy extended an invitation to 928 new members in an effort to boost its diversity numbers. Those members barely raised the percentage of women or minorities in the Academy’s full roster, but these newest members are active in the industry right now, and much more likely to feel like there is a lot at stake in their right to vote for the Oscars. If Beale Street Could Talk is a beautiful movie from a director that has already leaped into the upper echelon. Those new members are not going to ignore this movie.

09BlacKkKlansman (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

Long shots: Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Score

I have a sneaking suspicion that BlacKkKlansman, after getting nominated, is going to rise up this list. In a wide open year with a shaky frontrunner (A Star Is Born, for various reasons, seems likely to wear on voters rather than grow on them), BlacKkKlansman ticks a lot of boxes. For one thing, director Spike Lee has historically been snubbed by the Oscars. For another, BlacKkKlansman was a relatively big hit this summer as counterprogramming. Also, the fact that it was made by black people, stars black people, and is about issues important to black people will appeal to Academy voters who want to shed the #OscarsSoWhite label once and for all (even though this, like Moonlight‘s win, would ultimately only move the needle a tiny bit, but that’s a different blog post). I’m not saying it’s going to win, but the conversation will heat up after the nominations are announced.

Also, prepare yourself for awkward conversations about how the star of the movie, John David Washington, who is great, did not get nominated, but his white co-star, Adam Driver, did. Driver is good in the movie, but it’s clearly Washington’s film. However, the Best Actor field is too crowded, and the Best Supporting Actor field is not. That won’t matter; people are still going to give the Academy the side-eye.

10Green Book (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay

Long shots: Best Director, Best Film Editing

Hoo boy, lots of controversy around this one right now. It all started with star (and likely nominee) Viggo Mortensen using the N-word while explaining the impact of the movie (the context for his usage of the word is important, but also highlights his lack of self-awareness). Then the family members of the movie’s subject, Dr. Don Shirley, excoriated the movie for what they portrayed as lies about Dr. Shirley’s relationship with his family and with Mortensen’s character, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. Some racist tweets from the co-writer of the film and Vallelonga’s son, Nick Vallelonga, were unearthed earlier this week, as were previous instances of public exposure from the film’s director, Peter Farrelly. And none of this includes the criticism’s of the film’s apparently simple handling of racism from the world of film critics.

Look, I haven’t seen Green Book, and enough people I respect, both film critics and not, have liked it that I’m doing my best not to judge it before I see it. For now, all I can do is judge the conversation around it, and the truth of the matter is, they could have won Best Picture and have mishandled this at every turn.

Mahershala Ali, who plays Dr. Shirley in the movie, is well on his way to winning Best Supporting Actor, and he’s acquitted himself well, apologizing directly to the family and focusing solely on celebrating Dr. Shirley’s life in his acceptance speeches. But a movie that won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF should have been positioned as a frontrunner.

Some publications are still trying, but no frontrunner has had this kind of controversy in…well, ever, at least in recent memory. The Oscar nominations in general have generated controversy, and movies have had minor grievances brought against them for claims of stealing ideas or lack of historicity, but those were relatively small compared to the controversies surrounding Green Book.

There’s still time. If they get through the next month and a half controversy-free and if the old guard finds it too appealing to pass up, it could still win. But for now, it looks like it’s just going to settle for nominations and will probably go home empty-handed- except for Ali.

11Can You Ever Forgive Me? (In limited theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

Long shot: Best Picture

I think Oscar oddsmakers were expecting a little more support from critics’ groups and the box office, given Melissa McCarthy’s stardom. But this indie hasn’t gotten as much traction in either realm, so it’ll settle for some secondary nominations, with not much chance to win any of them.

12First Reformed (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nominations: Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay

This is the one movie I would be overjoyed for if it gets nominated and wins either of these awards. I may love Christian Bale’s performance in Vice when I see it, but I’m having a hard time believing that Bale deserves Best Actor over Hawke in this movie, who is at his career best. This is the boldest movie of the year, and I’m hopeful the odds are right and it picks up these prominent nominations.

13RBG (Streaming on Hulu)

Likely nominations: Best Documentary, Best Song

RBG looks likely to be the only Documentary nominee nominated for something else; in this case, it’s “I’ll Fight” by Jennifer Hudson.

14Isle of Dogs (Streaming on HBO)

Likely nominations: Best Animated Feature, Best Score

Wes Anderson’s latest animated movie isn’t his most beloved, but it’s a visual and aural feast, so it’ll be in the Animated Feature slate for sure. Alexandre Desplat will get recognized as well.

15A Quiet Place (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Long shots: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Score

I’d love for Jim Halpert- sorry, John Krasinski’s debut film to get nominated in all the above categories. Emily Blunt, in particular, would be a wonderful choice for the Academy. But its highest chances are in its most prominent feature: sound, of course.

16Mary Queen of Scots (In theaters now)

Likely nominations: Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Long shot: Best Supporting Actress, Best Production Design

Before it premiered, Mary Queen of Scots appeared likely to land nominations for both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, but after debuting as a more middle-of-the-road period piece, just craft awards will have to do.

17Bohemian Rhapsody (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Actor

Long shots: Best Picture, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Look, I get that it won the Golden Globe, but the Golden Globes and the Academy have no overlap in their voting bodies. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which runs the Globes, supposedly has around 90 members, all journalists from other countries. Somehow, their awards became a thing, but that thing is not predictive of Oscar wins. However, they can influence the Oscars by bringing attention to movies that would not otherwise receive it.

So yes, it’s possible that Bohemian Rhapsody will get a Best Picture nomination. It’s more possible today than it was before the Globes last week. But it’s still improbable.

But Rami Malek is a lock.

18The Wife (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Actress

If there was a sure thing at the Globes last week, it was that Lady Gaga would win Best Actress in a Drama. It seemed as if the HFPA, with its obsession with celebrity, wouldn’t be able to resist putting Gaga up onstage. But they went with Glenn Close instead. All that means now is that Academy voters are even more apt to see the movie and nominate her performance. When she’s nominated, it’ll be her seventh nomination. She’s never won.

19Beautiful Boy (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

Likely nomination: Best Supporting Actor

Long shot: Best Adapted Screenplay

Beautiful Boy had higher aspirations, but Timothée Chalamet will be its only nominee. Of course, he has a leading role- just another example of category jiggling to ensure a nomination.

20Eighth Grade (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nomination: Best Original Screenplay

Support from the critics groups, Directors Guild (Best Film First-Time Directing), and Writers Guild should bring this wonderful movie a nomination for its screenplay.

21Incredibles 2 (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nomination: Best Animated Feature

Long shot: Best Sound Editing

The current Animated Feature favorite, though it’s definitely not my favorite. It’s good, but it doesn’t live up to the original.

22Cold War (In theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Foreign-Language Film

Long shot: Best Cinematography

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski directed one of my favorite movies of 2014, that year’s Best Foreign-Language Film winner, Ida. He’ll get his second Oscar nomination for this critically beloved romance.

23Burning (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Foreign-Language Film

This South Korean submission has gotten a lot of attention for the supporting performance of Walking Dead alum Steven Yeun, though he stands no chance at a nomination. The movie should get in.

24Capernaum (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Foreign-Language Film

Lebanon had its first movie nominated in this category ever last year (The Insult), and it’s well on its way to its second with this drama that made a splash at Cannes.

25Free Solo (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Documentary

I wish I had gotten to see this in theaters. By all accounts, it’s a breath-taking account of one man’s attempt to scale the El Capitan Wall in Yosemite.

26Minding the Gap (Streaming on Hulu)

Likely nomination: Best Documentary

Critics have raved about this film about a skateboarding community in Rockford, Illinois. The trailer looked a little like a show you might find on an obscure cable channel that only programs reality shows. But director Bing Liu has been feted all over the place in celebration of the movie, so maybe there’s more to it.

27Mirai (Unavailable)

Likely nomination: Best Animated Feature

Critically acclaimed, but it doesn’t have a ton of buzz. A lot of times, one anime film will get pushed to the top of the crop for marketing reasons rather than just based on quality. That’s not to say the movie isn’t good. But there aren’t a lot of animated movies release every year, so sometimes the field of nominees is less solid than you’d expect.

28Ralph Breaks the Internet (In theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Animated Feature

Again, people like this movie but don’t love it. Can’t be all killer, no filler when your choices are limited. Disney tends to get in anyway.

29Shoplifters (In limited theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Foreign-Language Film

Two of the best movies of the last ten years, Still Walking and After the Storm, were directed by Shoplifters director Hirokazu Kore-ada. I haven’t seen this Japanese submission yet, but critics are calling it his best yet.

30Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (In theaters now)

Likely nomination: Best Animated Feature

This would be my pick for Best Aniamted movie of the year over Incredibles 2. It’s got a shot.

31Three Identical Strangers (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nomination: Best Documentary

Documentary filmmaking has hit something of a renaissance. Unlike the Animated Feature category, this one has been crowded of late. Ten years ago, a movie like this one, about triplets separated under fascinating circumstances, could win. Now, it’ll have to be content just to be nominated.

32Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (Available to rent or buy)

Likely nomination: Best Documentary

It probably won’t win, but everyone I know who’s seen this paean to the one-of-a-kind Mr. Rogers loves it unequivocally.

33Ready Player One (Streaming on HBO)

Likely nomination: Best Visual Effects

Long shot: Best Sound Editing

Steven Spielberg has a habit of switching between “high-brow” and “low-brow” fare. One of those gets nominated for the big Oscars, the other settles for Visual Effects nominations.

34Avengers: Infinity War (Streaming on Netflix)

Likely nomination: Best Visual Effects

There was a time when Marvel movies could only hope for Visual Effects nominations. This year should see the end of that, but not for Avengers: Infinity War.

35Crazy Rich Asians (Available to rent or buy)

Long shots: Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

I’d be all for this movie getting more love from the Academy. Romantic comedies are an art form, as much as they’re dismissed, and Crazy Rich Asians is among the best of them. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to get anything at all.

36Widows (In limited theaters now)

Long shots: Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Had Widows received better marketing and made more at the box office, it would still be in the conversation. It’s certainly good enough to compete with any of the movies above it in these categories and would be a worthy Best Picture nominee.

37Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (In limited theaters now)

Long shots: Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

A disappointing movie will probably end up disappointed when nominations are announced. Enough of the competitors for the top awards will compete in the craft awards too that movies like Fantastic Beasts won’t be able to break through.

38At Eternity’s Gate (In limited theaters now)

Long shot: Best Actor

Willem Dafoe reportedly gives a stellar performance as Vincent Van Gogh, but its profile isn’t high enough.

39Hereditary (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Actress

The horror movie of the year really only had a shot with Toni Collette’s superb performance, but the field is too crowded.

40The Death of Stalin (Streaming on Showtime)

Long shot: Best Adapted Screenplay

I’ve heard this comedy from Armando Ianucci, the creator of Veep, is hilarious, and he’s been nominated before for In the Loop. But most of the frontrunners for the top awards qualify for this category and will fill its ranks.

41Destroyer (In theaters now)

Long shot: Best Actress

Nicole Kidman is an Academy favorite, but this indie thriller from Karyn Kusama hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention.

42Leave No Trace (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Adapted Screenplay

There have been shouts of sexism over director Debra Granik’s (Winter’s Bone) exclusion from the conversation, but it may come down to not enough people seeing the movie.

43Crime + Punishment (Streaming on Hulu)

Long shot: Best Documentary

This look at arrest quotas in the NYPD could still break through. The Documentary committee has been known to feature lesser-seen fare like this in the eventual nominees over more popular movies.

44Early Man (Streaming on HBO)

Long shot: Best Animated Feature

Aardman has had Oscar success in the past with Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and Early Man could still get in based on that goodwill.

45The Guilty (In limited theaters now)

Long shot: Best Foreign-Language Film

This Danish thriller is getting an American-made remake with Jake Gyllenhaal, which might be enough to draw attention to it, but probably won’t be.

46Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Unavailable)

Long shot: Best Documentary

An acclaimed documentary about a black community in Alabama would be a welcome addition to the slate of nominees, and there’s still a shot for the Sundance standout with the unpredictable committee.

47Never Look Away (Unavailable)

Long shot: Best Foreign-Language Film

German movie from the director of former winner The Lives of Others, Holocaust links in the story, distributed by Disney…any other year, this would be a lock by its measurables alone, but this is a crowded category.

48Shirkers (Streaming on Netflix)

Long shot: Best Documentary

Again, the Documentary category can be a little unpredictable, but this Netflix original is probably out.

49Smallfoot (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Animated Feature

This Warner Bros. release probably wasn’t quite popular enough to get enough attention from the category’s committee. Speaking of popularity, if you’re wondering why runaway hit The Grinch isn’t on this list, it’s because the committee didn’t include it on its shortlist. *shrug*

50Tito and the Birds (Unavailable)

Long shot: Best Animated Feature

I know nothing about this movie, and I’m not convinced the Academy does either.

51Ant-Man & the Wasp (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Visual Effects

It’s on the shortlist, but they’re going to go with the much higher profile and higher degree of difficulty Avengers: Infinity War. Also, someone needs to talk to Marvel Studios about how all their posters have the same design.

52Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Streaming on Netflix)

Long shot: Best Song

The Coen brothers have had a lot of success with Oscar, but usually not with movies as quirky as this anthology Western. It’s only shot is “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” by folk artist Willie Watson and actor Tim Blake Nelson.

53Border (Unavailable)

Long shot: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This Swedish Cannes standout didn’t make the Foreign Language shortlist, probably because it’s absolutely batshit crazy, but it did make this one. It would be kind of awesome to see it compete against movies like Vice and Mary Queen of Scots.

54Boy Erased (In limited theaters now)

Long shot: Best Song

Higher aspirations in the beginning for acting and screenplay nominations have given way to merely making the shortlist for Troye Sivan’s song with Jónsi, “Revelation.”

55Colette (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Costume Design

Period pieces like this one with a high-profile star like Keira Knightley can at least count on consideration for these craft awards, but Colette has barely made a dent in the conversation.

56Dumplin’ (Streaming on Netflix)

Long shot: Best Song

If it weren’t for its Dolly Parton song, “Girl in the Movies,” the Academy would have paid no attention to this down-home Netflix original.

57Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Sound Editing

Here’s your annual reminder that stunt people do not have a category at the Oscars, which makes no sense. A movie like Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which has a visceral nature to its action scenes that relies on stunt work and which is entirely different from the kinds of action you find in movies like Avengers and Ant-Man, deserves special recognition. As it is, maybe Mission: Impossible will sneak into the race with a sound award.

58Solo: A Star Wars Story (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Visual Effects

I actually liked Solo, but not many people agreed with me, least of all critics. The Academy doesn’t seem to have put much stock into it either.

59Stan and Ollie (In theaters now)

Long shot: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I think John C. Reilly is one of the more underrated actors working today, so it would have been nice for him to get more attention for this biopic of the famous comedy duo. The movie didn’t get that attention, and it probably won’t make it into this category either, even if it was shortlisted.

60Suspiria (Available to rent or buy)

Long shot: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

I’d very much like for Suspiria, a movie I haven’t seen but which looks like an absolutely crazy film, to be an Oscar nominee. Its only chance is here.

61Welcome to Marwen (In theaters now)

Long shot: Best Visual Effects



December 2018’s Contenders

December 2018’s Contenders

We’ve looked at the contenders released in November, October, and before. I thought November was stacked. So much so that I said, “November is stacked.” I even italicized it! Well, December is stacked. Goodness, that one’s bold. I must mean it. At least it’s not underlined. I don’t think I could handle that.

Some interesting things have happened in the Oscar race since my last post. For one, the release date of one of November’s contenders was moved back to December (If Beale Street Could Talk) and one of December’s contenders was moved up to November (Roma). It may ultimately mean nothing. The conversation around Roma was always going to be about if Netflix could guide a movie to a Best Picture win. But If Beale Street Could Talk‘s release date change could ultimately rob it of the chance to build good word-of-mouth with audiences. We’ll see.

I left my posts as they were. I don’t bow to the whims of movie studios, and neither should you. Fight the power!

Production note: I’m only focusing on the big awards. Some of these movies and others will compete for craft awards, but there aren’t many odds out for those yet. I’ll also be covering Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and Foreign-Language Film in a future post.

01Cold War (will release on December 21st)

Long shot: Cinematography

Director Pawel Pawlikowski made one of my favorite movies of 2014 in Ida, and the cinematographer for that movie was nominated for the Oscar. While you may not have heard of Ida or Cold War, it’s important to remember that when it comes to the nominations, each individual guild is responsible. The cinematographers are far more likely to nominate something relatively obscure like this than any other branch. It’s still unlikely, but don’t be surprised if one of the simpler-looking movies (First Man or A Star Is Born) gets ousted in favor of Cold War‘s classic palette.

02Vox Lux (will release on December 7th)

Long shot: Supporting Actress

You might be asking, why is Natalie Portman on the poster for the movie if she’s a Supporting Actress. Great question. She has top billing for the movie, but she’s in less than half of it, since the first half of the movie is about her character at a younger age as she becomes a pop star. The second half is also apparently pretty dark and may be too much like Black Swan, for which she won Best Actress. I doubt this will find much traction.

03Ben Is Back (will release on December 7th)

Long shot: Actress

Apparently Julia Roberts is dynamite in this movie about the mother of an addict (Lucas Hedges) going home for Christmas Eve after a stint in rehab. The plot and themes may be too close to Beautiful Boy to generate enough attention. Julia Roberts has been making some interesting choices lately; she’ll be nominated for an Oscar again soon, just not for this.

04Destroyer (will release on December 25th)

Long shot: Actress

The poster and promotional images for this indie thriller annoy me, because they show the most disheveled Nicole Kidman, and it feels very much like the cliché of the actress “uglying” herself up to play a normal human being and get lauded for it. I have nothing against Kidman, who, like Julia Roberts, has been making very interesting career choices about who she works with, and will be nominated again. But did they have to go so overboard with what she looks like? We can still tell it’s Nicole Kidman, guys.

Anyway, the movie looks awesome, she won’t get nominated, the field is too crowded, A for effort.

05Mary Queen of Scots (will release on December 7th)

Long shots: Actress, Supporting Actress

When the trailer for this was released in July, this looked like a shoo-in for nominations for its two stars. Now it’s screened at the last major festival of the season (AFI Fest at the beginning of November) and the performance everyone is raving about is neither of theirs. A period piece like this with two actresses playing royalty? If they’re not getting nominated, it’s probably because the movie isn’t good enough to get them the required buzz.

06Mary Poppins Returns (will release on December 19th)

Long shots: Picture, Actress

Emily Blunt’s was the performance everyone was raving about after AFI Fest. In some ways, it’s not surprising; Julie Andrews won her only Oscar in 1965 for playing the title role in the original. But Disney’s recent live-action forays into its classic catalog haven’t garnered a ton of Oscar love yet, and sequels historically don’t do well with the Academy. She’s still a long shot, as is the movie in general, but don’t be surprised if love for her and the character gets her in.

08Vice (will release on December 25th)

Likely nominations: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay

Long shot: Director

Adam McKay’s last movie was The Big Short, but the three movies he directed before that were Anchorman 2The Other Guys, and Step Brothers. McKay shouldn’t be here, but here he is. The directing field is too full, though it wouldn’t be crazy to see him sneak in over Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk).

As for the movie, this was the other film besides Mary Poppins Returns making waves at AFI Fest, albeit the more expected one. Christian Bale looks and sounds so much like Dick Cheney, Sam Rockwell’s Dubya impression is spot on, and Amy Adams is nominated for everything she does (except for Arrival, which may have been her best work, so of course). This seems like the kind of movie that is destined to garner a lot of nominations and win nothing. It’s best best is Bale. It will be him versus Bradley Cooper, and one of them doesn’t have an Oscar yet. My money would be on Cooper, but I’ll wait till I see the movie before placing my bet.*

07Roma (will release on Netflix December 14th)

Likely nominations: Picture, Actress, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography

Long shot: Supporting Actress

The buzz for Roma is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. By all measures, this movie should fall flat on its face: it’s Spanish-language, its story has no hook, it’s in black and white. But it’s directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who you’ll remember won Best Director for Gravity in 2014. He also directed Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so you’ll be forgiven if this seems like a left turn out of nowhere for him. But he’s also famous for the Mexican indie Y Tu Mamá También and for the lovely, small children’s film A Little Princess, which J.K. Rowling has called one of her favorite movies and is likely why he got the job on Azkaban.

Anyway, it would be easy to dismiss all the hype surrounding Roma as part of the Academy’s inexplicable fascination with the Three Amigos, the group of friends from Mexico who have all won Directing Oscars, including Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Guillermo Del Toro. I say inexplicable not because I don’t like them (I do), but because three Mexican directors dominating the Academy Awards over the last decade is one of the least predictable phenomena in film history. But for some reason, the Oscars have decided their movies reflect the Academy’s tastes. I, for one, am here for it.

But I don’t think it’s the Three Amigos effect garnering all the praise for Roma. People are in love with this movie, calling it unlike anything they’ve ever seen. This is from usually even-keeled, level-headed critics that I follow who are convinced this movie is going to win Best Picture, which is such an outlandish prediction that I have to take it seriously. Something about Roma must be irresistible. I’m skeptical that enough voters will see it; too many voters will be turned off by the subtitles and the black-and-white. It’ll win for Foreign Language Film without a doubt, but I don’t know about anything else.

However, as I wrote this post, it jumped up in the odds on Gold Derby in all categories. This included Yalitza Aparicio, whom no one has ever heard of before, supplanting Viola Davis in the last spot for Best Actress. The buzz is for real, so doubt Roma at your own peril.

*I won’t actually be placing any bets. I don’t know where I would place a bet. How does one bet? What is betting?

November 2018’s Contenders

November 2018’s Contenders

We’ve already looked at the contenders released in October and before, so now it’s time for November. November is stacked. We only had four total movies in October’s post, and there are seven this month. I’ll start with the long shots and end with the most likely nominees.

Production note: There aren’t odds out for all the craft awards, so I only included likely nominations and long shots for the categories I care about. Some of these movies will compete for things like Best Score or Best Costume Design, but I’m not focusing on those right now.

01At Eternity’s Gate (will release on November 16th)

Long shot: Actor

Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh in a movie by Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), whose directing style doesn’t lend itself to coherent performances. However, Dafoe is a respected veteran actor, much like Robert Redford in The Old Man & the Gun. If anyone crashes the nomination party, it’s one of those two. And after the terrible reviews of a certain rock star biopic, it’s looking like there might be some room…

02Boy Erased (will release on November 2nd)

Long shots: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay

A movie starring Academy Award-nominated Lucas Hedges with support from the Academy Award-winning duo Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe about a conversion therapy camp seems like an obvious contender, but when it premiered at Telluride in September, it was met with a muted reception. Directed by Joel Edgerton (you may have seen the well-received The Gift…I haven’t), this was apparently being edited until right before the premiere, suggesting Edgerton just didn’t really have the footage he needed to make an emotionally complete film. If anyone gets nominated, it will be Kidman, who is just churning out great performances at an unparalleled pace.

03Bohemian Rhapsody (will release on November 2nd)

Likely nomination: Actor

Long shot: Picture

Whoooooee. The reviews for this one are…well, they’re not good. Like really not good. Like so, so not good. Freddie Mercury’s story is so rich and full of life that it seems like you’d have to give only the bare minimum of effort to make an interesting and fun movie about him. This one did have some drama though, with director Bryan Singer being fired near the end of the shoot, so maybe it was unfair to expect a great movie. If there’s any silver lining though, Rami Malek is by all accounts a must-see. In the end, it comes down to this: Mamma Mia was a huge hit on Broadway, because jukebox musicals work. The average person wants to hear these Queen songs, and I doubt they want to think that hard about who Freddie Mercury was. This will still make money and get attention, and while it probably lost any shot at a Best Picture nomination, Malek is getting in.

04Widows (will release on November 16th)

Likely nominations: Picture, Actress

Long shots: Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay

I’m so excited for this movie. Director Steve McQueen hasn’t made any movies since 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture in 2014. I was skeptical that McQueen’s spare, uncompromising style would fit a studio heist movie, but it was a crowd favorite at Toronto in September. The word is that Widows is exciting, yet still socially relevant- basically a prestige heist movie, which sounds like my jam. It would help its Best Picture chances if it was a sizable hit. And even Viola Davis isn’t a lock for Best Actress; if Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is popular enough, star Yalitza Aparicio could sneak in ahead of her. But I’m optimistic.

05Green Book (will release on November 21st)

Likely nominations: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor

Long shot: Director

I don’t know what to make of Green Book. The trailer is inscrutable. The Driving Miss Daisy comparisons are all too easy, and usually unfavorable. Viggo Mortensen’s voice is distracting. I can’t tell if it’s trying to be funny or not. And what is Peter Farrelly (director of Dumb and Dumber, as well as the acclaimed follow-up Dumb and Dumber To) doing directing a contender? But Green Book was the winner of the People’s Choice Award in Toronto in September, and the winner of that award has gone on to be nominated for Best Picture nine out of the last ten years. So congratulations to the director of Osmosis Jones and Shallow Hal.

06If Beale Street Could Talk (will release on November 30th)

Likely nominations: Picture, Director, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography

Long shot: Actress

This is another movie that I couldn’t be more excited about. I kind of liked Moonlight, so I was looking forward to the next thing director Barry Jenkins made. When I heard it would be based on a novel by James Baldwin, I was skeptical anyone could translate his ideas to the screen. But the trailer looks like vintage Jenkins, poetry in motion. And word out of Toronto is that it’s every bit Moonlight‘s equal. I have my doubts that it will connect with audiences. The story is relevant, speaking to the failings of the prison system, but Jenkins’s style is off-putting enough to alienate a mainstream audiences. In the end, I think Jenkins has built enough goodwill with the newly diverse Academy membership. If Beale Street may not win anything in the end (except Regina King for Supporting Actress), it’ll at least score a bunch of nominations.

07The Favourite (will release on November 23rd)

Likely nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress (2), Original Screenplay, Cinematography

It’s just as likely that you’re totally surprised that The Favourite is a favorite as that you’re not surprised in the slightest. On one hand, this is a period piece starring two Oscar-winning actresses (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) about the English monarchy, which the Academy loves: 18 actors have been nominated for playing British royals, and four of them have won. On the other hand, this is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed two of the weirder movies to get awards attention in recent memory, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

But those movies did receive awards attention, and The Lobster even garnered an Original Screenplay nomination in 2017. Apparently The Favourite tones down Lanthimos’s more stilted screenplay tendencies for a story that’s more accessible and more obviously comedic. Expect The Favourite to rack up nominations, but if it still doesn’t feel like a mainstream movie, I doubt it will win any.

Contenders to Catch Up On

Contenders to Catch Up On

Oscar season is upon us, but that doesn’t mean the only contenders for 2018 will be released in the next few months. While the majority of nominations and winners get spread out among the fall and winter releases (nine of the last ten Best Picture winners have been released in the October-December window), the rest of the months of the year still have a say in what happens on Oscar night. Get Out, released in February last year, nearly stole this year’s show from Three Billboards and The Shape of Water, released in November and December respectively.

So having already posted the contenders being released in October, I thought I’d look back on the previous nine months and highlight the contenders we need to catch up on. There are several Best Picture contenders, and a lot of long shots. I’ll start with the long shots and end with the contenders for the most awards.

Production note: There aren’t odds out for all the craft awards, so I only included likely nominations and long shots for the categories I care about. Some of these movies will compete for things like Best Score or Best Costume Design, but I’m not focusing on those right now.

01The Death of Stalin (released in March) and Sorry to Bother You (released in July)

Long shots (respectively): Adapted Screenplay and Original Screenplay

02The Screenplay awards always see a couple of lower-profile movies enter the fray (see: The Big Sick and Molly’s Game from last year). Usually a Best Picture nominee will win, so for these movies, it’s an honor just to be nominated. The Death of Stalin is a comedy about Stalin, which is weird, but it’s directed by Armando Ianucci, who created the Emmy-dominating Veep and was nominated in this category for 2009’s In the LoopSorry to Bother You is a kinetic story about a black telemarketer that discovers that using a white voice gets him far, and it’ll probably end up on a lot of critics’ Top Ten lists in a couple of months. Writer-director Boots Riley has a better chance at a nomination than Ianucci, because Sorry was such a breakout indie hit, but neither should make plans to attend the ceremony just yet.

03First Reformed (released in May)

Long shots: Actor, Original Screenplay

In a perfect world, First Reformed would be the frontrunner for both of these awards with a shot at Best Picture. It is an original, bold work of art, and Ethan Hawke is astounding in it. But it’s also dark and disturbing, and its ending is hard to wrap your mind around. The Actor field is too crowded with performers from true Best Picture contenders, and the most likely dark horse nominees are older actors that voters will think are due, like Willem Dafoe and Robert Redford (see below). Its most likely chance to sneak in is Original Screenplay, if some of the Best Picture contenders have more support in other areas, like if Green Book proves to be more of an acting showcase than a good script.

04The Old Man & the Gun (released in September)

Long shots: Actor, Supporting Actress

Robert Redford has been nominated only once before, for 1973’s The Sting, so it’s fair to say the Academy hasn’t valued his acting chops very highly. That’s a shame, since he’s one of the great movie stars, but The Old Man & the Gun, while supposedly very meta and a tribute to the kinds of movies Redford did in his prime, might be too slight to garner the support he needs for a nomination. Sissy Spacek is an even longer shot, but love and respect for their careers from the Acting branch may push them both over the edge.

05Hereditary (released in June)

Long shots: Actress, Original Screenplay

Horror movies rarely ever get Oscar love, but it’s not unheard of. In fact, the Best Actress award went to an actress from a horror movie two years in a row in 1990-91 (Kathy Bates for Misery, Jodie Foster for The Silence of the Lambs), so there would be precedent for Toni Collette to get nominated. She certainly deserves it; she takes horror movie acting to an unusually high level. But that field is crowded. After Get Out‘s Original Screenplay win last year, a nomination for Hereditary in that category is a little more likely.

06A Quiet Place (released in April)

Long shots: Picture, Original Screenplay

Again, genre fare is not traditionally recognized well by the Academy. But John Krasinski’s labor of love was a huge hit in the spring, and its story and script are ingeniously structured in a way that could have grabbed voters’ attention. Look for voters to be looking for a way to nominate more popular movies so as to curb the governors’ ill-advised desire for a Best Popular Film category.

07Crazy Rich Asians (released in August)

Long shots: Picture, Supporting Actress

Michelle Yeoh is a respected veteran of world cinema (most famous in America for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and she brings a lot of gravitas to a movie that is largely light. If there’s a surprise nomination in the Supporting Actress category, it will be her. Normally, romantic comedies would not be in play for Best Picture, but the significance of the movie’s all-Asian cast and its surprise hit status make it a player, if an unlikely one.

08Eighth Grade (released in July)

Likely nomination: Original Screenplay

Long shot: Picture

People love this movie. Eighth Grade will likely clean up at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before comedian Bo Burnham’s screenplay is honored just to be nominated at the Oscars. If some of the presumed, yet-to-be-released contenders like Adam McKay’s Vice and Steve McQueen’s Widows don’t play as well as expected, this coming-of-age indie could sneak into the Best Picture slate.

09The Wife (released in August)

Likely nomination: Actress

The Best Actress field is wide open right now. For a while there, Glenn Close was the frontrunner, but A Star Is Born‘s release has changed the game a bit. Close plays the wife of a writer who is being given the Nobel Prize for Literature, though the couple is harboring a secret.

Reviews laud Close’s performance as a career best, which is saying a lot. For anyone that grew up in the ’90s, you may only know her as Cruella de Vil, which is a shame. She was one of the big movie stars of the ’80s, a decade in which she was nominated for five Acting Oscars. She was perhaps most famous for Fatal Attraction, in which she boils a pet rabbit. The ’80s were crazy.

Right now, Close is almost assured a nomination. Her campaign will play the “she’s due” card, which is hard to argue with. Lady Gaga is a force of nature in A Star Is Born, and Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Olivia Colman in The Favourite are right behind them. The race to win will be hard to call, but Glenn Close will definitely get her seventh nomination in January.

10Black Panther (released in February)

Likely nomination: Picture

Long shots: Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography

This may seem like wishful thinking. After all, no Marvel movie has been nominated for Best Picture yet. Indeed, no superhero movie has ever been nominated for the big one, which is a great reminder that the Academy thought The Reader was a better movie than The Dark Knight back in 2008. PSA for the Academy: just because a movie uses the Holocaust as part of its plot doesn’t mean it’s a good movie.

Anyway, barring any unforeseen circumstances, Black Panther will land a Best Picture nomination in January. It has no chance of winning, but it’s almost universally beloved as a blockbuster. Also, its technical achievements go beyond special effects to the level of detail given to the costumes, music, and production design, especially for a superhero movie. The support of all the craft guilds, along with the more diverse Academy voting body, should get it in the race.

Other top awards are less likely, but still possible. Director Ryan Coogler is popular, and he has the reputation of a cinematic pioneer within the industry, turning tentpoles into must-see, prestige events. The cinematography is meticulous and beautiful, and the screenplay is remarkably coherent and meaningful. But the best chance Black Panther has at another top award is for Michael B. Jordan’s performance as the movie’s villain. If Sam Rockwell’s turn as George W. Bush in Vice is more caricature than performance, Jordan will take his place and earn his first nomination.

11BlacKkKlansman (released in August)

Likely nominations: Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay

Long shots: Actor, Supporting Actor

BlacKkKlansman is the biggest contender that’s already been released this year, which is somewhat surprising. The movie was branded as a comedy, and comedies don’t often get the critical or awards attention they may deserve. And while Spike Lee has the reputation of a directing icon, he’s never been nominated for Best Director. That’s right- they have never nominated the man who directed Do the Right Thing (1989), Malcolm X (1992), and 25th Hour (2002), all of which are legitimate contenders for the best movie of their respective decades.

But that should change this year! BlacKkKlansman was a big hit at the Cannes Film Festival in May, winning the Grand Prix, which is effectively second place to the Palme d’Or. It went on to gross $48 million, which makes it the biggest movie Lee has made since 2006’s Inside Man. Not everyone loved it, but I think BlacKkKlansman is the best fiction film he’s made in 20 years (since the pretty great He Got Game).

The movie has a clear message that’s easy to sell to voters: the Klan was bad in the ’80s, and things aren’t much better now. Lee makes some directorial choices that add to this message at the risk of muddying the narrative, but those choices make the film stronger in the end. I’m excited for this movie to get more attention during awards season, because it deserves it.

October 2018’s Contenders

October 2018’s Contenders

October is the official beginning of Oscar season- meaning the months in which studios (both major and indie) plan movie releases with awards in mind. Most of the movies gunning for awards inclusion have been screened at festivals (Toronto, Telluride, New York, etc.) over the last two months to varying degrees of hype. Only movies released in a theater by December 31st will be eligible for nominations, which will be announced on January 22nd. The ceremony takes place on February 24th.

Some of you couldn’t care less about the Oscars, which is fine. I pay far too much attention to the Oscars, because I think they’re historically a good way to find quality stories I may not have otherwise sought out. I also think the movies that end up getting attention during the Oscar telecast are made by filmmakers who are really going for it, which leads to either momentous or disastrous results.

Anyway, I’m going to embrace the fact that I know too much about the Oscars, and the fact that I included the word “contender” in the name of this blog, and finally devote some space to Oscar predictions and explainers. We’ll start simple and useful- what movies coming out in October will likely be nominated come January? I’ll start with lowest number of likely nominations and end with the highest.

Production note: There aren’t predictions out there for a lot of the craft awards, so I’ve stuck to the categories I care most about. And I’m taking “likely” at face value; there are a lot of movies in the running, but only a few make it to the finish line.

octobercontenders02Beautiful Boy (released wide October 12th)

This looks very depressing, and like the kind of typical Academy Award fare that makes many people skeptical about the Oscars. Steve Carell stars as the father of a young man (Timothée Chalamet) who is stuck in the cycle of addiction and recovery. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a major landing ground for awards contenders, to decidedly mixed reviews, though by all accounts the performances are good.

Likely nominations: Supporting Actor.

Chalamet was nominated last year for his breakout turn in Call Me by Your Name, and he seems to be a star that Hollywood wants to anoint. Even though most people didn’t love the movie, Chalamet is the favorite right now to win Best Supporting Actor.

By the way, he’ll be 23 years old on Oscar night, but he won’t be the youngest Supporting Actor winner ever. That honor goes to Timothy Hutton, who won in 1981 for Ordinary People (directed by Robert Redford). Hutton’s best known now for his role on the TNT show Leverage. I’m not convinced this is a real show. He was very good in Ordinary People, when he was 20.

So Chalamet will only be the second youngest performer to win Best Supporting Actor. Should have tried harder earlier, my dude.

Long shots: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay.

The movie probably won’t have enough broad support to factor in the Best Picture race, but that competition is very top-heavy (with RomaA Star Is BornFirst Man, and The Favourite as the co-favorites), so if the Acting Branch of the Academy voters gets behind Beautiful Boy, it could sneak in a field that could be anywhere from five to ten nominees, depending on the weight of the voting.

Carell is getting very good reviews, but the Actor category, as always, is crowded, and Chalamet reportedly steals the show. Beautiful Boy is based on memoirs by a father and son, so if the Writing Branch appreciates the difficulty in adapting these two stories fairly, maybe the screenplay gets nominated.

octobercontenders03Can You Ever Forgive Me? (released wide October 19th)

Melissa McCarthy stars in the based-on-a-true-story story of a biographer who falls on hard times and begins forging rare literary letters. I’m surprised this is receiving as much attention as it is. The trailer (see the link above) does not look like your usual Oscar fare, and there’s no one involved (besides McCarthy, of course) who has a past filled with Academy love. It’s directed by Marielle Heller, who made the well-received The Diary of a Teenage Girl in 2015, and written by Nicole Holofcener, a comedy director with a lot of critic love, but neither has ever been nominated for anything…

Likely nominations: Actress, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay.

…which is probably why the main contenders here are performers. McCarthy was nominated once before for her hilarious breakout role in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Richard E. Grant, a veteran British actor, has never been nominated, but reports are that their chemistry elevates the movie. Also, the script played well at Telluride and Toronto, and it seems like the most likely way Academy voters will honor the movie.

Long shot: Picture.

octobercontenders04First Man (released wide October 12th)

Perhaps best known for a fake controversy surrounding the supposed exclusion of the American flag (which, come on, it’s in the movie), First Man tells the story of Neil Armstrong’s (Ryan Gosling) journey from grief over a lost child to the moon. This seems a little bit been-there-done-that to me, since this is basically the plot of Gravity, but perhaps the true-to-life nature of it all will lift up the material.

Likely nominations: Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography.

My skepticism notwithstanding, First Man looks to clean up in nominations come January. It premiered in Venice in August to great reviews. Director Damien Chazelle (who looks like he’ll help whoever’s next at the Genius Bar) already has an Oscar (he was the youngest ever to win Best Director two years ago at the age of 32), but will likely be nominated again as a producer and director. The action sequences are supposed to be very harrowing, like Dunkirk, but in space. Ryan Gosling impressed in an understated performance as Neil Armstrong, and Claire Foy looks to be playing that role of worried wife that gets the older, male Oscar voters’ dander up every time.

octobercontenders05A Star Is Born (released wide October 5th – today!)

I saw this last night with my wife, Vicky, and I want to make big pronouncements that First Man might clean up with all the nominations but A Star Is Born will clean up with all the wins, but I haven’t even seen First Man and February is a lifetime away. A Star Is Born follows Lady Gaga as Ally, an amateur singer who gets discovered by Bradley Cooper’s country-rock star Jackson Maine. They enter a relationship through their music, and as her star rises, his falls.

This is the fourth time this story has been told under this name- the first starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in 1937, the second starred Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, the third starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976. (Why didn’t someone complete the circle by making one in the ’90s, I wonder?) All three were nominated for multiple Oscars, the 1937 version at the most with seven, including Picture, and winning for Original Story, a defunct category.

This version will almost certainly have more than seven nominations.

Likely nominations: Picture, Director, Actress, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography.

Lady Gaga isn’t the frontrunner for Best Actress yet- that honor belongs to Glenn Close for something called The Wife. But Gaga will be after this scores big at the box office this weekend and holds well into November. Our screening was packed, and people laughed through the whole movie and cried at the end. The movie is exactly what you expect it to be, but it just works. Unless Black Panther is nominated, it will be the most popular Best Picture nominee by far. Add that to its prestige roots- directed soulfully by Bradley Cooper, who just wanted to make art, dammit- and it deserves to be the frontrunner.

By the way, if Cooper is nominated for both Director and Actor (he will be for Acting; the Directing category is even more stacked- but the Academy loves actors who direct), it will be the 11th time someone has been nominated in both categories for the same film. No one has won both. He’s the Actor frontrunner right now.

The 2018 Academy Awards

The 2018 Academy Awards

Every year is a good year for the movies. Even while certain segments of the blogosphere were declaring the death of cinema while television reached a fever pitch of popularity, there was always a plethora of great movies being made. If you know where to look and pay attention in any given year, you’ll find that the end of movies as a great art form has been greatly exaggerated.

However, sometimes the great movies within a year have a higher profile, and that year seems to be a better year for cinema as a result. 2017 was such a year, and you only have to look at the nominees for Best Picture as evidence. I still haven’t seen a lot of them, but, for my money, there are at least 3 masterpieces (DunkirkGet OutCall Me by Your Name) among the nominees I’ve seen, and, by reputation, 2 or 3 (Lady Bird and maybe The Shape of Water or Phantom Thread) among the ones I haven’t. That’s crazy. Last year, there were maybe 3 (MoonlightArrival, and La La Land and Manchester by the Sea are toss-ups). The year before that there was only 1 (Mad Max: Fury Road).

Your mileage will vary on these movies from mine, and that’s okay. But this was an extraordinary year for movies. You could replace all 7 of the Best Picture nominees with other movies from the top 25 grossers of the year to go with Dunkirk and Get Out, and you’d still have a worthy slate of Oscar contenders. Heck, let’s do it: Star Wars: The Last JediWonder WomanItThor: RagnarokLoganCoco, and Split. There. I mean, none of those would beat Dunkirk or Get Out, but they’re awesome.

Whatever happens Sunday night, 2017 was amazing. Even if both Get Out and Lady Bird get shut out and the internet goes bonkers, it won’t change the fact that 2017 was a particularly good year for movies that are going to be special to people for a long, long time.  Let’s not lost sight of that.

*Indicates a movie I have not seen yet.

Best Picture

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour

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

Will win: The Shape of WaterThree Billboards is right there with Guillermo del Toro’s watery fable, but the backlash against Billboards has been louder. Also, Three Billboards doesn’t have a directing nomination for Martin McDonagh, which would suggest that history is against it. The spoiler is Get Out, which would be awesome, but it only has 4 nominations. Its support is probably mostly from new membership, and it won’t be enough.

Should have been nominated: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The only Star Wars movie to be nominated for Best Picture was 1977’s A New Hope, and Last Jedi is better. *ducks*

Best Directing

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

Will win: The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro. I’m not entirely sure why the narrative here is that “it’s his time,” when this is first directing nomination in his career. But people in Hollywood do love him, and The Shape of Water is a celebration of movie history.

Should have been nominated: Logan, James Mangold. The screenplay is nominated (which is crazy!), but I think Mangold’s direction did the heavy lifting. He had to walk a tightrope of making a character study out of a superhero movie, and it was a huge success.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

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.*

Will win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. It truly is a great performance, though the Academy will give it to Oldman because it’s the biggest performance. This award should be Chalamet’s.

Should have been nominated: James McAvoy, SplitGet Out is probably the closest the Academy was going to come to embracing genre fare, but Split is a tension wire of a movie, and McAvoy’s performance is what keeps it from breaking.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

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

Will win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This performance is as much of a shoo-in to win as Oldman’s.

Should have been nominated: Zoe Kazan, The Big Sick. The movie didn’t have quite enough support to garner any acting awards, but Kazan’s performance stuck with me more than almost any other I saw from 2017.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

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*

Will win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The acting races just aren’t interesting this year. This is Rockwell’s award to lose.

Should have been nominated: Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name. Chalamet getting nominated is a win for the movie, but Hammer’s performance, while less devastating, is just as crucial to understanding the romance at the heart of the movie.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

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

Will win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya. Janney has the lowest odds of all the acting locks, probably because Laurie Metcalf’s performance is so beloved…but Janney’s still a lock.

Should have been nominated: Nicole Kidman, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. This is the second year in the row that a great Yorgos Lanthimos film gets overlooked, as well as its best performance.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist*

Molly’s Game*

Will win: Call Me by Your Name. It’s the lone Best Picture nominee here, so it’s the frontrunner. It’s also written by James Ivory, who has adapted classics recognized by the Academy for over 30 years. It’s also beautiful.

Should have been nominated: It. Again, the Academy is generally not about genre fare, but if we can get Logan nominated, why not one of the most popular movies of last year, adapted by a best-seller from one of the most popular authors of all time? It was a great horror movie, yes, but it was also a great coming-of-age movie, and making a great coming-of-age movie out of a thousand-page book is quite a feat.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

The Big Sick
Get Out

Lady Bird*
The Shape of Water*
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri*

Will win: Get Out. This is the one award Get Out will win. The “old white man” segment of the Academy is severely underrating this movie, but enough members will want the movie to win something, and this is the most logical place at which to make that happen.

Should have been nominated: After the Storm. Writing nominees tend to be pretty white. The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani is only the 5th nominee of Asian descent in Oscar’s history, and the only Asian-language film to be nominated in this category was Letters from Iwo Jima, which is a Clint Eastwood movie. Suffice it to say, a Japanese drama like After the Storm never would have been nominated. But its unlikelihood doesn’t make it right. After the Storm writer Hirokazu Koreeda has a history of getting at the things families never communicate to each other, and this movie is no different.

Best Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour

The Shape of Water*

Will win: Blade Runner 2049. It’s a beautiful movie to look at. But more importantly, its cinematographer, Roger Deakins, has 14 nominations for The Shawshank RedemptionFargoKundunO Brother, Where Art Thou?The Man Who Wasn’t ThereNo Country for Old Men and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in the same year (!), The ReaderTrue GritSkyfallPrisonersUnbrokenSicario, and now BR 2049, but he has never won. He’s…what’s the word…due.

Should have been nominated: War for the Planet of the Apes. For some reason, the Academy hasn’t recognized the extraordinary achievement that is this franchise. It really shouldn’t have worked- ask Tim Burton- but director Matt Reeves made it work. He made it look good in the process as well, with the help of cinematographer Michael Seresin, who also worked on Dawn.

Best Animated Feature

The Boss Baby*
The Breadwinner*

Loving Vincent*

Will win: Coco. It’s well-deserving, even though I haven’t seen the others, just for its visuals alone.

Should have been nominated: I didn’t see a ton of animated movies this year, but it baffles me that The Boss Baby is on this list over The LEGO Batman Movie.

Best Documentary (Feature)

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail*
Faces Places*

Last Men in Aleppo*
Strong Island*

Will win: IcarusFaces Places has the lowest odds, and it would be kismet with director Agnes Varda winning an honorary Oscar this year. But I find it hard to believe Academy members really get Varda. Icarus is the most accessible of this group, and its the most timely, since it’s about the Russian doping scandal.

Should have been nominated: City of Ghosts, a tense look at refugee activists reporting to the world on the heinous acts ISIS is perpetrating in Syria. Last Men in Aleppo probably siphoned attention away from it.

Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)*
The Insult
Loveless (Russia)*
On Body and Soul (Hungary)*
The Square (Sweden)*

Will win: A Fantastic Woman, about a transgender woman struggling with the death of her partner, is the most zeitgeist-y. The Square, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year, might squeak by, but it’s pretty weird. A Fantastic Woman is more straightforward.

Should have been nominated: I haven’t even seen the nominees, let alone any foreign-language films that should have been nominated.

The 2017 Academy Awards

The 2017 Academy Awards

I say to my wife almost every year (she probably doesn’t even notice I say it anymore) that the Oscars are my Super Bowl. I’m well aware that the actual show is usually kind of boring. But I’m nonetheless fascinated by what upsets will take place, what winners will say onstage, and who the last tribute will be in the In Memoriam montage. I find a lot of joy in the movies, and I appreciate the Oscars as a celebration of that.

This year, they feel like the Super Bowl in more ways than one. For one, they feel unnecessarily politicized. During the Super Bowl, I fell into the trap of rooting against the Patriots because of Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s ties to President Trump- as if there aren’t myriad other reasons to root against New England. That almost ruined my enjoyment of what ended up being the Pats’ historic comeback.

The Oscar layperson won’t think about this, but anyone following the pre-ceremony hype will have seen thinkpieces aplenty about the supposed La La Land vs. Moonlight rivalry. The two movies are being pitted together much like New England and Atlanta- white vs. black, Trump’s America vs. the Resistance, evil vs. good.

That’s stupid, and frustrating. Both are great movies. Both have zero to do with the politics of our time, at least directly. It would be a stretch to make an argument that either is attempting to participate in current polemics one way or the other.

Moonlight‘s very existence and the attention it is receiving is a political statement within the industry, but that’s about it. Moonlight‘s director, Barry Jenkins, has spoken about the La La Land backlash and clearly respects the art that Damien Chazelle and his team created. The movies exist apart from any faction or political ideology. They are both moving, complex, life-affirming works of art that deserve more than easy narratives.

Narratives aren’t necessarily bad, but in this case they are unnecessary. They make cultural events like the Oscars and the Super Bowl more accessible, and they often add stakes to the proceedings. But tomorrow, forget the political narrative, and just appreciate that whatever wins Best Picture this year will likely be worthy of the distinction.


Best Picture

Hacksaw Ridge*
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea*

Will win: La La LandMoonlight or Hidden Figures could upset, but movies don’t get 14 Oscar nominations without winning. First time for everything though…

Should have been nominated: Zootopia. Animated movies never get enough respect, but Zootopia deserved a place in the sun.

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Best Directing

Arrival, Denis Villeneuve*
Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson*
La La Land, Damien Chazelle
Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan*
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Will win: La La Land, Damien Chazelle. If the La La Land backlash has retained its full force, Jenkins could upset.

Should have been nominated: Kubo and the Two Strings, Travis Knight. Again, animated movies don’t get their due. The degree of difficulty on a stop-motion movie like Kubo is so high, how is the industry not better about rewarding directors of such movies?


Best Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea*
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge*
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic*
Denzel Washington, Fences*

Will win: Denzel Washington, Fences. Affleck’s sexual assault will linger in too many minds, and Denzel is too much of a force of nature. He’s given voters enough of an alternative to Affleck to ease their consciences.

Should have been nominated: Colin Farrell, The Lobster. It’s an awkwardly earnest and selfish character that anchors one of the year’s most overlooked movies.


Best Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert, Elle*
Ruth Negga, Loving*
Natalie Portman, Jackie*
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins*

Will win: Isabelle Huppert, Elle. Where there’s an easy way not to vote for La La Land, I think people who believe in the backlash will take it. Huppert is a legend, and many will think it is her last chance to win.

Should have been nominated: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch. Horror movie acting is probably supposed to be easy, but existential dread isn’t. She did both beautifully in 2016’s breakout horror film.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea*
Dev Patel, Lion*
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals*

Will win: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight.

Should have been nominated: Anton Yelchin, Green Room. This isn’t just a reaction to his tragic death. His performance in Green Room is visceral and a career best.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis, Fences*
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion*
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea*

Will win: Viola Davis, Fences.

Should have been nominated: Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures or Moonlight, take your pick.


Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Hidden Figures

Will win: Moonlight.

Should have been nominated: I dunno…Sully, I guess?


Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea*
20th Century Women*

Will win: Manchester by the Sea.

Should have been nominated: Hail, Caesar!


Best Cinematography

La La Land

Will win: La La Land.

Should have been nominated: The Witch.


Best Animated Feature

Kubo and the Two Strings
My Life as a Zucchini*
The Red Turtle*

Will win: Zootopia.

Should have been nominated: Eh, nothing I saw.


Best Documentary (Feature)

Fire at Sea*
I Am Not Your Negro*
Life, Animated*
O.J.: Made in America*

Will win: O.J.: Made in America.

Should have been nominated: Under the Sun.


Best Foreign Language Film

Land of Mine (Denmark)*
A Man Called Ove (Sweden)*
The Salesman (Iran)*
Tanna (Australia)*
Toni Erdmann (Germany)*

Will win: The Salesman.

Should have been nominated: Microbe & Gasoline (France).