From ‘Get Out’ to ‘Lady Bird’ to ‘Dunkirk’: Meet This Year’s Oscar Contenders
There’s something to be said for the excitement of awards season. While many dismiss it as pointless ego-stroking, it can also be seen as a celebration of great filmmaking – both technical and artistic – and a way to promote voices and efforts that would’ve otherwise got lost in the shuffle of an industry driven by box office receipts. Also, it’s just really entertaining to pit everyone against each other in this semi-relevant race for so-called glory.
And right now that race is wide open.
Of course, awards conversations have rightfully shifted lately – focusing on issues about representation within the voting body, nominees, and industry as a whole. Back-to-back cycles of #OscarsSoWhite in 2015/16 instigated much-needed change, and young, diverse talents began to reap the rewards of that movement in a 2017 ceremony that saw 6 non-white acting nominees and the Best Picture trophy for La La Lan Moonlight to boot.
Whether the same will be said for this year’s awards race remains to be seen. The hard work and talent both on and off screen have certainly been there (see: Get Out, Mudbound & The Big Sick, to name a few) – now it’s up to the Academy to recognize that.
Monday’s Golden Globe nominations will give us a better indication of the key players, but for now, think of this as a handy guide on what to look out for. And not as a vain attempt to predict the winner months in advance so one writer can pretend to be smart. Which it totally isn’t.
Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) | Dir: Luca Guadagnino
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more effervescent, romantic, and cinematic celebration of love in 2017 (unless Jumanji *really* exceeds expectations). A knockout hit on the festival circuit, this should be a given for Best Picture/Director nods – yet might fall just shy of winning either.
Still, it recently picked up an industry-leading 6 Indie Spirit nominations – never a bad sign. Timothée Chalamet‘s a lock for a Best Actor nod, with Armie Hammer & Michael Stuhlbarg in the mix for Supporting (both are fantastic, but Hammer’s got those sweet moves on his side). Sufjan Stevens‘ ‘Mystery Of Love’ might be the one to beat in the Best Original Song category.
Dunkirk (Warner Bros) | Dir: Christopher Nolan
Did you know Christopher Nolan (‘Big C’ to his friends) (I assume) has never been nominated for Best Director? Love him or loathe him, it feels strange this generation’s most widely discussed filmmaker has been shut out of that category. It’s probably because he calls himself Big C.
Dunkirk‘s a powerful movie – and crucially feels more in line with Academy voters’ tastes than his (truly excellent) Man In Rubber Spandex trilogy. Expect technical recognition across the board, with special mentions to Hoyte Van Hoytema‘s cinematography & Lee Smith‘s editing wizardry. A Best Picture nod should follow, and perhaps, finally, a Best Director nomination too?
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight) | Dir: Martin McDonagh
I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing this one because UK release dates suck, but almost everything I have seen about it has been glowing. Well… as “glowing” as you can be about a foul-mouthed, dark comedy about rape, murder, and deeply problematic people. See, now you mention it, the response so far hasn’t *all* been glowing…
Martin McDonagh already has one Best Original Screenplay nomination to his name (In Bruges), this could be #2. The brilliant Frances McDormand leads an incredibly tight Best Actress race in her quest to pick up her second Oscar. The film’s big win at Toronto practically guarantees it a Best Picture nomination – but only 3 of the last 9 TIFF winners went on to win the big prize.
The Shape Of Water (Fox Searchlight) | Dir: Guillermo del Toro
Yes! The mute woman/fish man sex movie! This is Guillermo del Toro at the peak of his powers – free to let his imagination run wild with a celebration of classic creature features, 50s/60s nostalgia and old school romance. It’s the most bizarre mesh of genres that – to his immense credit – amounts to something incredibly beautiful.
Adored by his peers, this could be GDT’s big shot at the Best Director statue. The film’s a technical marvel, with Paul D. Austerberry owed plenty of praise for his impeccable production design. The entire ensemble is in fantastic form – with some great work from Michael Shannon & Octavia Spencer – but it’s Sally Hawkins who stands tall, courtesy of her charming lead turn.
The Post (20th Century Fox) | Dir: Steven Spielberg
Talk about timing. There’s a reason Steven Spielberg rushed this into the production over the 38 other projects he has in development. What’s more relevant than the press fighting for their right to hold a corrupt government accountable for their actions?
If it feels a bit like Spotlight, that’s probably because it was co-written by Josh Singer, who walked away with an Adapted Screenplay trophy on that film. He & Liz Hannah will be tough to beat. Meryl Streep feels like a lock (and not just because she’s Meryl this time), but Tom Hanks hasn’t been nominated for 17(!) years. If Spielberg’s latest really clicks with voters, this could sweep.
Lady Bird (A24) | Dir: Greta Gerwig
Less of a plucky underdog, more of a bonafide contender at this point, Lady Bird‘s rocketed up the ranks in recent weeks. Greta Gerwig‘s coming-of-age marvel is a frenetic, chaotic, side-splittingly funny adventure into adolescence – and feels about as authentic as they come. Best Picture, Screenplay & Director nominations are all very possible here.
At its core, it’s a movie about mothers & daughters, and to that end, Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf can both expect to end up with Best Actress/Supp. Actress recognition. It’d be Ronan’s *3rd* nomination… at the age of 23. I am also 23, and I finally learned how to tie my shoelaces while balancing on one leg last week so I guess we know who the real success story here is.
Mudbound (Netflix) | Dir: Dee Rees
The big enigma. It certainly has the makings of an awards juggernaut: a historical epic that hones in on familial and racial tensions in the deep south in the wake of WW2. It’s directed to perfection by Dee Rees – who stages individual scenes like a play, brimming with raw emotion, bolstered by powerful turns from a talented ensemble.
It’s also a Netflix movie, a format Academy voters have not yet deemed worthy of their attention (just ask Idris Elba & Beasts Of No Nation). To see Mudbound denied awards love for that reason would be a huge shame – Jason Mitchell & Mary J. Blige deliver a pair of outstanding performances, while DoP Rachel Morrison just might be the only truly worthy threat to Deakins.
Darkest Hour (Focus) | Dir: Joe Wright
By all accounts, this is the Gary Oldman show. I can’t confirm that because this super British movie hits UK cinemas two whole months after it debuts in the States. Not that I minded at first? I was ready to write this off as an overplayed piece of awards bait – the kind that always tends to creep into the conversation every year. Apparently, there’s more to it?
I have to admit, that trailer‘s close to winning me over. At the very least it’ll sweep the BAFTA nominations. We’re very predictable like that.
Phantom Thread (Focus/Annapurna) | Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
The medium-sized enigma? When all’s said and done, Paul Thomas Anderson might just go down as the most celebrated director of his generation. And yet he’s only ever flirted with Oscar glory once: in 2007 with There Will Be Blood. While it lost out on the big prize to the Coen’s No Country For Old Men, it did net Daniel Day-Lewis a win for Best Actor.
Incidentally, Phantom Thread happens to star DDL – in his last ever performance. A fourth trophy would make him the most successful male actor in Oscar history. The script’s writing itself at this point… but until very recently, nobody had seen the film. Fortunately, it seems to have emerged from the first round of reviews as a contender – but just how big?
Get Out (Universal/Blumhouse) | Dir: Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele clinically married modern day American horrors with biting satire, serving up a piece of crowd-pleasing entertainment with a dose of chilling reality. He will be an Oscar nominee by the time this awards season’s over – whether it’s for Best Original Screenplay or Best Director is the big question (Both. Both is good). I’m not quite as confident about Daniel Kaluuya‘s chances in the Best Actor field – even though he’s just as deserving.
Horror’s always had a hard time at the Oscars. In the 26 years since Silence Of The Lambs swept the ‘Big 5′ awards, the genre’s only yielded one other BP nominee. There’s a tendency to dismiss these films as ‘low-brow’, yet the direction the genre has moved over the last 5 years is anything but. We’re seeing wave after wave of smartly-scripted, features, spotlighting some of the most exciting talents this industry has to offer. Perhaps it’s time the Academy acknowledged that.
In the incredibly unlikely event of The Academy nominating 10 Best Picture nominees, those would be my frontrunners – but the chasing pack isn’t far behind.
Molly’s Game (STX) | Dir: Aaron Sorkin
One that’s been hard to pin down is Aaron Sorkin‘s directorial debut, which should throw Jessica Chastain & Sorkin himself in the mix for Best Actress & Adapted Screenplay. I need to mention Idris Elba too. He’s not being talked about at all, but I thought he was fantastic.
I, Tonya (Neon) | Dir: Craig Gillespie
Margot Robbie is currently hurtling towards her first Oscar nomination. I can’t see her winning over McDormand, but by all accounts, she’s produced something special here. Meanwhile, Allison Janney feels like Mary J. Blige’s biggest threat in the Supporting Actress category.
The Big Sick (Amazon/Lionsgate) | Dir: Michael Showalter
Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon: Love them. Love this. Would love nothing more than to see them pick up a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination (/award). And I could say the exact same thing for Holly Hunter for Supporting Actress.
The Florida Project (A24) | Dir: Sean Baker
I thought this might get forgotten, but momentum’s shifted towards Sean Baker‘s heartbreaking hidden homeless movie lately (which scored love at the Gotham, Indie Spirits & Critics’ Choice Awards). A truly brilliant Willem Dafoe looks like the man to beat for Best Supporting Actor.
The Disaster Artist (A24) | Dir: James Franco
The hype is so real. What starts as a cheeky comedy with some great callbacks to The Room, morphs into a soul-stirring, heart-wrenching tale about the highs and lows of making movies. And to see James Franco get nominated for his pitch-perfect portrayal of one of the worst performances in history… what a story indeed, Mark.
Outside bets? There are too many! Logan & Wonder Woman felt like they could go the distance at one point (and probably still will in the tech categories), but I can’t see a superhero film breaking through here (even if I’d give Hugh Jackman all the awards). Detroit‘s impossible to gauge. It feels like its momentum has died – but Algee Smith or Will Poulter could pick up a nod?
There are dozens of individual performances in the mix as well, including: Salma Hayek (Beatriz At Dinner), Annette Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool), Robert Pattinson (Good Time), Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman), Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul), Bryan Cranston (Last Flag Flying), Kate Winslet (Wonder Wheel), and a shockingly deserving Adam Sandler(!) (The Meyerowitz Stories).
And finally, there’s Blade Runner 2049 – another technical heavyweight (and a brilliant piece of filmmaking), but you can blame its poor domestic box office showing for its lack of ‘contender’ status. Fans of the film, take solace in the fact that this is finally Roger Deakins’ year.
Which films would you like to see receive some love from The Academy? Let me know in the comments below – or on Twitter (@mintsanity), where you can find me spouting similar nonsense in far fewer characters.