We’re finally here — after months of suffering through awards bait and neverending trailers for Darkest Hour, we’ve finally gotten to the main event. The Oscars is a wonderful time of year where we all get together to celebrate a bunch of films that, for the most part, maybe 1% of the country has seen and even less care about. Back in the 70s it was pretty shocking if the biggest films of the year weren’t nominated for best picture,1 but nowadays it’s a scavenger hunt through indie theaters for films released in January in order to find the alleged “best” films of the prior year. Probably because the same people who voted in the 70s are still voting today and can’t remember things from more than 20 days ago.
But enough ranting: Silly season is upon us, so let’s take a look at what the old fogies at the academy decided to bestow upon us this year! Please note that I’m not gonna break down all this stuff, partially because I haven’t seen all the nominees for “best animated short” and “best WWII film” and partially because I, and you, don’t really care about “best sound mixing” vs “best sound editing,” so I’m just gonna skip around as I please. Don’t @ me.
Best Visual Effects
Nominees: Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kong: Skull Island, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, War for the Planet of the Apes
Who Will Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
Who Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
Ah, the annual “here’s a list of films people might have actually seen” throwaway category. Every year when they present this award you can just feel the snootier members of the voting organization thumbing their nose at all the nominees. “You like those ‘Space Wars’ movies? Fine, whatever you can have this one. Just don’t interrupt my hamfisted IMPORTANT biopics with your silly children’s films.”
That said, this year’s nominees are pretty great across the board. I had issues with Blade Runner 2049, but no one can deny how stunning it is to look at. Guardians and Kong both feature exquisite effects sequences as well, and obviously Star Wars is the series that invented this category, and The Last Jedi is just as visually striking as any of the films that preceded it. But this is an Ape world and we’re all living in it. War for the Planet of the Apes features photo-realistic ape effects while also letting the motion capture actors enough room to emote and give genuinely incredible performances. It’s a shame that the Academy refuses to acknowledge Andy Serkis’s mocap performances in the acting categories, and won’t respect the fact that War for the Planet of the Apes is better than pretty much any of the Best Picture nominees, so at hopefully we’ll at least see Weta Workshop’s Ape effects finally get some love in this category instead. APES TOGETHER STRONG!
Best Foreign Language Film
Nominees: A Fantastic Woman, The Insult, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square
I haven’t seen any of these films, because I am a bad cinephile, so I’m not going to make a formal pick. I will say, however, that I assume there’s some weird sex shit in all these films, so I’ll say the kinkiest one of these will win. How’s that for some in-depth analysis! That’s why they pay me the big bucks.2
Best Documentary – Feature
Nominees: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island
Who Will Win: Faces Places
This was actually a pretty great year for documentary filmmaking. There are a solid 3-4 films that could very easily been nominated this year—City of Ghosts and Chasing Coral were honestly shocking snubs to me. One of the best things about the streaming revolution is that it has made documentaries infinitely more accessible, and outside of Faces Places, all four of the other nominees are available on streaming platforms. So naturally the film that will win is the one that’s the most difficult to see, and we’re gonna have to take the Academy’s word for it that it’s “the bestest.”
Best Original Song
Nominees: “Mighty River,” “Mystery of Love,” “Remember Me,” “Stand Up for Something,” “This is Me”
Who Will Win: “Remember Me”
Who Should Win: “Remember Me”
Is there a more pointless category than this one? I know the entire Academy Awards ceremony is basically a giant back-patting for millionaire and billionaire celebrities, but this might be the most unabashedly star-humpy category of them all. This category only exists so that they can get people like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Common to show up and perform. Like, outside of “Lose Yourself,” have any of these songs from the past quarter century that aren’t from Disney kids’ films aged like anything but cyanide-laced milk? This is why I’m going with the Disney song here. Plus Robert Lopez wrote Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon, so that’s enough to get an eternal pass in my book.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water).
Who Will Win: Janney
Who Should Win: Metcalf
This might be the least objectionable category, as these performances are all pretty solid. I mean, Janney gets nothing to do but be a broad, comedic version of a pageant mom, but with a bird on her shoulder like she’s Ivan Vanko from Iron Man 2 as a twist, but I like Janney so I’m cool with it. Spencer is basically doing her wisecracking best friend deal, but she does it so effortlessly and is the best in the business at it. Blige is good in her limited role in Mudbound, and Manville is wonderful at portraying the put-upon, but endlessly loyal sister at the head of the House of Woodcock. Laurie Metcalf does a ton of hard work anchoring Lady Bird in reality by portraying the exasperated parent to a teenager while also being the sole breadwinner in her family. Metcalf’s performance was my favorite, so I’m rooting for her, but I won’t mind any of these films winning in all reality.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards)
Who Will Win:
Who Should Win: Dafoe
As one of the resident Three Billboards-haters, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I don’t think Sam Rockwell or Woody Harrelson gave that great of performances. Part of that is because, as I’ll note below, that Martin McDonagh’s script is tonally all over the place and characters are wildly inconsistent depending on whether McDonagh wants to make a joke or wants to make a point. But I really like Rockwell and Harrelson, so I guess I’m okay with one of them, likely Rockwell, winning. Much like Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins is really just doing a pretty standard Jenkins performance in The Shape of Water, but when you’re as good as he is at being Richard Jenkins, it’s enough. I haven’t seen All the Money in the World, and I’ve heard that Christopher Plummer is stellar in it, but lets be honest, he’s getting this nomination for being not-Kevin Spacey. Which is both awesome (Kevin Spacey is an attempted child molester and sexual harasser who tried to use coming out as gay in order to skirt responsibility. He’s the worst of the worst.) and kinda sad, because Plummer is one of the all-time greats and its a shame he’s only getting nominated because of a stunt.
But Willem Dafoe, man. First of all, The Florida Project got royally screwed by The Academy this time around. One nomination for what was probably the best film of the year and even that was primarily because Dafoe is a legend. Nothing for the six year old actress who acted miles around most of the other acting nominees, nothing for the cinematography which painted a magical bubblegum palace out of a slummy motel, and nothing for Sean Baker’s continued excellence at portraying impoverished and marginalized people with grace and without fetishization. And Dafoe gives one of the best performances not only of the year, but of his entire career. But I guess we’ll give it to the guy who played a racist, abusive cop who was kinda sad. Speaking of which…
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: The Big Sick, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Will Win: Three Billboards
Who Should Win: Get Out
The big question of this year is “can Hollywood honor both the #MeToo movement as well as its attempts to improve racial diversity?” The answer, my friends, is a resounding and almost comically tone-deaf “no.” Are they going to honor a female writer/director who made herself extremely vulnerable through an emotionally packed, semi-autobiographical coming of age film? Or a film written by a Mexican man and a White woman about the experience of being other-ed by a white-male-centric America? Or maybe even a couple of films about the complexities of navigating interracial relationships, using different genres to play with relevant social themes? Why not the one that is not only a great horror film with incredible social commentary, but also has influenced the zeitgeist in a way none of these other nominees have?
Nope. It’s gonna be the one where a bunch of white people use the “n-word” like they’re Jimmy from Pulp Fiction while also treating actual serious societal issues like police brutality against black people as set-ups and punchlines for “edgy” jokes.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Call Me by Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Logan, Molly’s Game, Mudbound
Who Will Win: Call Me by Your Name
Who Should Win: Call Me by Your Name
My thoughts on this group of nominees?
Call Me by Your Name is great, and I enjoyed The Disaster Artist and Mudbound well enough, but their screenplays are honestly the least interesting part of the films—and I haven’t seen Molly’s Game, but after hearing how it goes Full Sorkin my interest completely waned. And I’m honestly shocked at Logan getting a nomination since it was both the weakest comic-book film I saw last year3 and the least interesting film and screenplay that Michael Green was attached to in 2017. Must be the fact that they reference Shane a bunch. The Academy loves nothing more than movies about movies, so naturally a superhero film that’s obsessed with repeatedly beating you over the head with references to a classic western would be the first one they appreciate outside of their “visual effects.” I wish The Academy wasn’t so predictable.
CMBYN is easily the best film of the bunch, and it’s the only one where a character sticks their dick in a peach, so I’ll just go ahead and say that should win.
Nominees: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Tyler Perry’s Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman
Who Should Win: Timothee Chalamet
Gary Oldman, accused domestic assaulter, is almost certainly going to win Best Actor in the year of #MeToo. Not for something as layered as his work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or even something as fun and menacing as his role in The Professional. Nope, it’s for a performance that’s basically a shade away from an Eddie Murphy role from the 90s. Gary’s Old Man makeup job is some straight-up Klumps-level nonsense, but he’s playing a prominent Brit from the WWII era in a biopic where he does a silly voice, so he’s gonna get that King’s Speech awards love. To paraphrase his screamy delivery of fart-fueled dialogue from the trailer I’ve seen a dozen times — YOU CANNOT REASON WITH AN OSCAR!
That said, I’d like to interrupt your regularly schedule snark to actually say something nice: Timothee Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name is spectacular and is so deserving of this nomination, and that he almost certainly won’t win is a shame. Unlike our drooling ham sandwich performance above, Chalamet is incredibly understated in his role as a man coming into adulthood and his complicated sexuality. He sells all of Elio’s vulnerability, confusion, repression, and joy often without saying a word. It’s the best performance of the year, and one of the best in recent memory. So naturally he doesn’t have a chance on Sunday.
Nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)
Who Will Win: McDormand
Who Should Win: Ronan
Do you ever wonder if the Academy doesn’t even watch enough female driven films in a year so they just throw Meryl’s name on their ballots? I feel like if Meryl replaced JK Simmons as the Farmers Insurance spokesperson she’d at least get a Best Supporting Actress nomination. Also, where the hell is Vicky Krieps? She, at minimum, holds her own against Manville and Day-Lewis and honestly might give the best performance of anyone in Phantom Thread. Replace the annual Meryl-achievement-award with Krieps and this category gets infinitely more interesting.
Anywho, this one is pretty much McDormand’s to lose and she gives easily the most interesting and complex performance in Three Billboards, so I’m not going to cry about it if she wins. That said, her character, much like her male counterparts, suffers from script and tonal issues out of her control, not to mention having to act opposite a CGI deer that makes the crocodiles from Eraser look photorealistic.
That said, Lady Bird, which was the film that hit me like a ton of bricks and forced its way to the tippy-top of my year end top 10 list, wouldn’t be half as good without Saoirse Ronan in the titular role. It’s a performance that relies on earnest teenage angst and Ronan sells ever one of her youthful struggles. She’s charming, funny, mean, sensitive, and shows moments of weakness and tenderness. It’s a complete performance from an actress who, based on her 3 Oscar nominations at age 23, will probably be the next lazy, automatic nomination once Meryl hangs it up. Hooray!
Nominees: Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro
Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro
Who Should Win: Guillermo del Toro
I should note that I 75% expect the academy to call an audible at the last second and award this category to Alejandro González Iñárritu, as all of these films fit under genre labels, “and the problem with genres is that it comes from the word ‘generic’.” He is the greatest director who ever lived according to every film school dropout who treats watching a tracking shot like they’re mainlining heroin. I’m definitely not still bitter that he beat out George Miller two years ago. Nope, not at all.4
Now, for the actual nominees I have to say that this might be the best lineup in recent memory. Christopher Nolan answered all of his critics who said he can’t make films about characters, women, emotions, or sexuality by making a film that features a negative number of these elements, but Dunkirk is still a visually grand film even if it’s Nolan Nolan-ing all over the place. Peele’s debut with Get Out is an essential work of modern horror that manages to feel both completely fresh, while also perfectly in line with the prior works of the former sketch comedy giant. Lady Bird is probably the big underdog in this race as Gerwig’s work isn’t nearly as flashy and ostentatious as her colleagues, but the film is perfectly paced and the montage-like quality of the scene transitions is something that easily could have faltered under a less adept filmmaker. And Paul Thomas Anderson might be the best filmmaker of his generation, and Phantom Thread is another zag in a career that has really never zig-ed — not to mention Phantom Thread is a Barry Lyndon–esque masterful bait-and-switch that has all the trappings and surface qualities of a prestige period drama, but a dark, comedic, and downright psychotic beating heart. All of these directors are probably worthy of the award.
But none of these films are nearly as personal as The Shape of Water is to Guillermo del Toro. Literally no one else in the world would come up with a film entirely about wanting to have sexual relations with The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Maybe Dunkirk or Phantom Thread are the more polished films, and Get Out or Lady Bird the more fascinating. But del Toro made a $15 million film about how he’s horny for classic movie monsters that is also thematically melded into a film about the struggles of being a non-white, non-disabled, non-cis male. But mostly it’s about wanting to bang a fishman. Have you seen the fishman? Who can blame him? [Ed. note: We apologize for Kevin’s assertion that everyone would like to make love to an amphibious humanoid. He has assured us that he will not bring this topic up again]
Nominees: 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
What Will Win: Three Billboards
What Should Win: The Book of Henry
Who really cares?
At this point in the night, I’m either going to be asleep5 or will have finished a nice bottle of cheap wine so I, like most of America, won’t care about what is happening in the Dolby Theatre. Best picture, with the exception of last year’s insane envelope mishap, is almost always the least interesting part of the evening because everyone except the nominees are ready to be done with the proceedings and get on with their evening of parties, cocaine, orgies, and other debauchery. The winner almost always immediately goes from beloved critical darling to cultural punchline, and this year that honor will likely be bestowed upon a film I couldn’t care less about. So whatever.
Now, if Get Out wins I’m going to be quite happy. And if The Shape of Water wins I’m going to go find me a fishman to[Ed. note: this was deleted for the children. We apologize for not following through on our promise not to let Kevin tell us about his fish fetishes]. Even Phantom Thread or Lady Bird or Call Me by Your Name would make me happy. I wouldn’t even mind if that Spielberg movie about a lightpole who wished he was a real boy won. Even Christopher Nolan’s 18th film about the masculine struggle to overcome nonlinear narratives wouldn’t upset me.
Three Billboards will probably end up winning, which is fine I guess. None of this really matters. Everything is awful, we’re all going to die, and nothing we do will be remembered after the heat death of the universe.
Enjoy the Oscars!
- Only 1978’s Grease and 1974’s Blazing Saddles topped their respective year’s box office without being nominated for Best Picture, with films like The Godfather, The Sting, Rocky, and Kramer v Kramer both topping the box office and winning the ultimate prize.
- Apparently Shannon liked The Square, so do with that what you please. I hear he’s into some weird shit.
- Because I’m not a masochist, I haven’t seen Justice League. [Ed. note: Don’t kink shame me.]
- I’m being told that Iñárritu is being awarded an honorary Oscar this year and… I got no joke for that. I’m going to spend the whole time rolling my eyes so hard they break an optic nerve
- My bedtime is 9pm on weeknights, because I’m an old man who has shit to do in the morning.