Oscar Nominations 2018: Reactions

Tuesday morning’s Oscar nomination announcement was mostly full of pleasant surprises. Isn’t it a little sadistic, however, of AMPAS to choose Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish to make these announcements. I feel like these two had a sort of cult following of supporters, hoping that the impossible could be made possible and that a.) Serkis could finally gain the recognition he deserves for being the prime rib (ha!) of performance capture acting; and b.) Haddish would be recognized for her breakthrough comedic performance in the raunchy and raucous Girls Trip.

Fans and critics rallied around Serkis’ performance as Caesar in 2017’s acclaimed War for the Planet of the Apes, earning him a few critics circle nominations and a Best Actor win from the San Francisco Film Critics Association. Meanwhile Haddish, too, had a surprisingly strong Supporting Actress campaign spearheaded by Film Twitter that, thus far has garnered her a win from the New York Film Critics Circle. Despite their achievements– Serkis, in what some would say singularly distinguishing an entire breed of performance as an equal form of acting, and Haddish, for her scene-stealing performance in a black girl power film few would expect an America under the Trump administration to take to summer box office glory– the two were snubbed.

As for the actual nominations, AMPAS definitely worked to avoid the “Oscars so white” backlash of last year (which in reality it’s been deserving of for some time now), which was a good move given an almost certain popular denunciation otherwise. The arts in 2017 has been fixated on interrogating our current political reality– that is, a reality in which Nazi’s have the freedom to assemble in our backyards, in which rampant sexual criminals are only now being bumped off their pedestals. It’s taken a nightmare administration’s assumption of power, and the subsequent emboldening of our country’s right-wing party, for Americans and (for the purposes of this writing) the American film industry to realize that women, black, brown, and queer people are in fact being oppressed to a degree that is worth recognizing, if not actively fighting for. That being said, my hope is that the 2018 Oscar nominations will not be an outlier going forward– an exceptional year in which the Oscars were “woke.” But rather the beginning of a new way of seeing and acknowledging excellent films, excellent technical work, and excellent performances in new terms.

Now for my reactions:

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 Scanlan

“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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

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 actually surprised they decided to award Star Wars: The Last Jedi with so many nominations. I thought the team would be snubbed, despite being considered F/X and Sound royalty. I was convinced that poor audience reviews and overall steam loss (loss of steam?) would hurt its chances, and that Wonder Woman would ultimately get all these nominations in its place. Well deserved sound nods for Baby Driver, though come D-Day I think Dunkirk should be getting all these sound awards. Will it, though? If some of these predictions are true, then The Shape of Water will be doing a clean sweep of most of the technical categories. As for F/X, too bad Dunkirk missed a nomination. Nolan’s F/X team helmed by Andrew Jackson used practical effects over CG/Digital in order to create the film’s gritty mood, modeled after real wartime and aerial footage. This sort of effort should be rewarded, but AMPAS is known for giving preference to the flashy. Perhaps the lack of green screen and CG work worked against Jackson. My money’s on Blade Runner 2049 to win F/X.

Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick

“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

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

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

I was so prepped for Bright to be this year’s Suicide Squad and get a nomination for Hair/Makeup. Phew. I’ve never seen Victoria and Abdul, but I have such a (perhaps unfounded) hatred for the film (what happened to you Stephen Frears?) because of its nearly insulting, bizarre revisionist premise (A Queen Victoria and brown man buddy film? What the hell) that I’m mad it’s even getting a nomination for something as harmless as Hair and Makeup. I was thinking I, Tonya would get a nod here, and in Costume Design. Nope. Darkest Hour is winning Hair and Makeup. As for Costume Design, I wish Lindy Hemming had gotten a nod for Wonder Woman. Jacqueline Durran, who has multiple past nominations under her belt, for Beauty and the Beast is a good bet, but I’d go with Mark Bridges for Phantom Thread because those dresses were indeed, stunning. It doesn’t hurt that the movie itself is about fashion.

As for production design, I think Phantom Thread deserved a spot for its intimate, classic set pieces that further elevated the film’s interwoven sense of restraint and the erotic. That being said, I’m not surprised with the outcome. Blade Runner 2049 should take it, but like I said before, The Shape of Water might be in for a sweep.

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

Cinematography:

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins

“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel

“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema

“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison

“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

I wish Call Me By Your Name had gotten an Editing nod, but all in all– no surprises here. Word on the street is that this is almost certainly going to Baby Driver, but Lee Smith of The Dark Knight fame might squeeze in a win for Dunkirk. In cinematography, history has been made and Rachel Morris is the first female to be nominated for Best Cinematography for Mudbound. I think its well-deserved. So far The Shape of Water seems to be raking in the precursor awards for Dan Lausten. All that being said, if Roger Deakins doesn’t win then nothing is right in this world. Blade Runner 2049 was not my favorite, but goddamn was it striking and visually compelling. Also the man has been nominated 14 times and snubbed in at least half of those (SkyfalI being, for me, the biggest tragedy). So, if anyone is simply due this year, it’s Roger Deakins.

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 Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon

“Knife Skills,” Thomas Lennon

“Traffic Stop,” Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Best Live Action Short Film:

“DeKalb Elementary,” Reed Van Dyk

“The Eleven O’Clock,” Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

“My Nephew Emmett,” Kevin Wilson, Jr.

“The Silent Child,” Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton

“Watu Wote/All of Us,” Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

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,” Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Unfortunately I know very little about this. Perhaps I can write something after the showcases come out in theaters. As for Animated Short, alls I know is that Lou is a Pixar creation and Dear Basketball is a Kobe Bryant project. I imagine it’ll be between these two (i.e. The hegemon of animation vs. newsworthy buzz).

Animated Feature:

“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito

“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo

“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson

“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha

“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

 

Academy award nominee, The Boss Baby. This is a shoo-in for Pixar’s Coco.

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 was expecting John Williams to get in for The Post, not The Last Jedi. I’m glad this is how it turned out– I absolutely prefer the music in Star Wars. The score in The Post worked to its detriment, it heightened the already overflowing Spielberg sentimentality and drowned out certain dramatic scenes that should’ve stood entirely on their own (I’m thinking of Meryl Streep’s final decision monologue). In any case, the real competition is between these three big boys of composition: Alexander Desplat, Jonny Greenwood, and Hans Zimmer. I imagine the vote was split with Zimmers’ work in Blade Runner 2049 (which was likewise, amazing), and part of me was hoping he’d get a double nod instead of Carter Burwell. Ultimately, the Zimmer score for Dunkirk was superior (somehow!), and essential to the dramatic tension of the film. I’d say Dunkirk would be another film if not for the Zimmer score. A not as good film. Alexandre Desplat seems to be winning all the precursors, so naturally he is the frontrunner. As for Jonny Greenwood– he is my personal preference. The score for Phantom Thread was delectable, and I can’t wait for it to be available to the masses.

Original Song:

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige

“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

The stars aligned and Sufjan Stevens has received a nomination! Yes, Sufjan Stevens, singer-songwriter of hits like that John Wayne Gacy song! It’s funny, because I think his music is misplaced in Call Me By Your Name, and that its bubbly mood ultimately clashes with the fever dream mood of the film. In and of itself, however, Mystery of Love is excellent, and I hope it wins.

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)

“The Insult” (Lebanon)

“Loveless” (Russia)

“On Body and Soul (Hungary)

“The Square” (Sweden)

Surprise! No Foxtrot, no In the Fade (and this is in spite of the latter winning the Golden Globe!). Nevertheless, In the Fade wasn’t certain, as some critics have dismissed it as being carried entirely by Diane Krueger’s performance. I was certain the slate would be Foxtrot, In The Fade, The Square, Loveless, and A Fantastic Woman. Instead, we have On Body and Soul (which admittedly, I’ve heard great things about), and The Insult. Who will win? My bet is on Loveless or A Fantastic Woman. How the foreign language film nominees are selected is always a mystery to me.

Best Documentary Feature:

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman

“Faces Places,” JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda

“Icarus,” Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan

“Last Men in Aleppo,” Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen

“Strong Island,” Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

No Jane, the universally acclaimed Jane Goodall biopic. This is a huge surprise. Given this omission, looks like the award will go to Agnes Varda (one would hope).

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

Adapted Screenplay voters, you’ve all done very, very well. These were the ones I expected to get a nod. I’d like Call Me By Your Name to win, though considering all the unexpected nomination love for Mudbound in several other categories, as well as its difficult multiple viewpoint narrative, I wouldn’t be surprised if Dee Rees and Virgil Williams swept in for the win.

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, Vanessa Taylor

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

I am pleased The Big Sick garnered some recognition, if at least in only one category. I wanted Phantom Thread to take the fifth slot, but oh well. The race is between the other four contenders. I think it’s a tighter race than we think it is, and the outcome will determine some big winners the rest of the night. I hear McDonagh is the frontrunner, but I hope Peele takes the Oscar.

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”

Jesus. In the Oscar nomination video yesterday morning, they didn’t announce Sam Rockwell’s name till the very end, giving me that inkling of hope that AMPAS would give him a big ol’ snub. This is less on account of my disdain for Rockwell than it is my staunch belief that Willem Dafoe IS the Best Supporting Actor of 2017. Given the Golden Globes, SAG, and the Critics Choice Awards– Rockwell is almost certainly winning for his rendering of a doltish, racist cop that (sort of) grows a conscience near the end of the film. Meanwhile Dafoe’s deeply human performance of a motel manager grappling with the demands of his job and his conflicting impulse to care for the needy individuals living under his supervision, will be sidestepped for black comedy. “Gary Oldman’s Oscar is long overdue” they say. Why aren’t they saying that about Willem Dafoe? I am baffled.

Oh and I suppose I’m surprised about Christopher Plummer. I would’ve liked Armie Hammer, but I suppose if you rescue a film from a black hole of notoriety in a mere month, you should get some recognition, especially if you’re one of the only great things about said film.

Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick and Hong Chau in Downsizing seem to be the two notable snubs in this category, though neither of them were going to win. I like to think the race is still between Metcalf and Janney, though in reality Janney will likely take the win. I think this is how AMPAS will reward I, Tonya. The Academy loves Octavia Spencer, she will get nominated every year if she feels like it. As for Mary J. Blige, this seems like a natural extension of the recognition Mudbound has been getting in several other categories. I was originally all in for Metcalf, but now that Manville is in consideration… I am very into that. As in her role in Phantom, hers might be the most controlled, nuanced performance of the nominee bunch.

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.”

Is Denzel Washington the new Meryl Streep of filler Oscar nominations? Mind you, her nomination for The Post is well deserved. She is in my opinion, the best thing about that movie. I’m talking the filler Streep of such nominations for her performances in Into the Woods or Julie & Julia. Anyway, while Denzel should’ve won last year for his performance in Fences, this year he seems to have taken the place of what would’ve been James Franco in The Disaster Artist, had he not been outed as an asshole pervert. Not that the accusations against Franco should’ve been overlooked– but why Denzel? I can think of several other Lead Actor performances this year that could’ve taken Franco’s slot. Robert Pattinson in Good Time. Jake Gyllenhaal in Stronger. Washington’s nomination is just a testament to AMPAS’ creativity deficit.

Gary Oldman is slated to win Best Actor, according to essentially every important precursor. I’ve not seen Darkest Hour, but I’m sure he reaffirms his reputation as one of the great character actors of today. The #TimesUp movement has been successful in mobilizing AMPAS voters to reject the institutional recognition of James Franco’s admittedly hilarious performance in The Disaster Artist, so I’m not sure why voters, and the media for that matter, have been turning a blind eye to Gary Oldman’s history of domestic abuse. I think Hollywood has been problematically selective in this regard (i.e. Woody Allen). In general though, Gary Oldman seems like a terrible guy. Not only is he known for making on the record misogynist denunciations of women like Nancy Pelosi, but (and this I just learned), apparently he left his former wife Leslie Manville for Uma Thurman the day after she gave birth to their child. It’s kind of tough to consider the work separately from the artist when the artist seems like a long-term shitty person on several female-related fronts (you choose your poison).

Besides, the true revelation of 2017 is Timothée Chalamet’s performance in Call Me By Your Name, one of the greatest coming of age performances in recent memory. Chalamet’s Elio embodies all of the unbearable and yet wonderful interpellating contradictions of late teen-hood: naivete and wisdom, restraint and abandon, insecurity and confidence. Naturally, I think he deserves to win.

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”

No surprises here. I like to think it’s still between Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand, but in all likelihood the Oscar will go to McDormand given her dominating precursor streak. I’d prefer Hawkins, whose sensual, delicate, and yet willful role as the mute Elisa Esposito is practically the antithesis to McDormand’s spitfire, calloused Mildred Hayes.

Director:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan

“Get Out,” Jordan Peele

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

If anything could stop the Three Billboards takeover, it might be the exclusion of Martin McDonagh for Best Director. Personally, I am very pleased. I’m glad to see Nolan receiving his first nomination, which is long overdue, but I’m doubtful he’ll win. He’s the sort of nominee voters are fully aware will continue to make this list in the future. Given the Globes, the PGA’s, and other precursors– it’s Del Toro’s to lose. If Lady Bird or Get Out have a better night than expected, than I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Gerwig or Peele up on stage. All of this aside, it’s amazing to finally see such an important category reflect the diversity we need in film.

Best Picture:

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

The Shape of Water or Three Billboards will be the winner, with Lady Bird as a potential shock win. The Post and Darkest Hour have been rewarded with nominations, but that’s it. Unfortunately Call Me By Your Name has pretty narrow chances as well, considering its miss on nominations for Director (Guadagnino), Supporting Actor (Hammer, Stuhlbarg), and Editing.

The Academy Awards will take place on March 4, 2018 (5:00PM PST).

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