Who Will Win This Year’s Oscars?

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Who Will Win This Year’s Oscars?

It’s that time of year again – time for my predictions of the winners at the annual Academy Awards. Most of the major honours appear fairly clear-cut at this point, with little in doubt. Nevertheless, with that said, here are my picks for who will likely take home statues this year:

Best Actor

The Field: Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”; Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”; Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”; Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”; Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Who Will Likely Win: Gary Oldman. This is a virtual lock. Having won virtually everything leading up to the Oscars, this is Oldman’s award to lose.

Who Should Win (Based on the Nominees): Gary Oldman. Despite capable performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Daniel Kaluuya, there’s really no one else in this category that can hold a candle to Oldman’s stellar portrayal of the legendary British prime minister. This is a case of the right performer winning for the right role. It’s also good to see well-deserved recognition coming the way of someone who’s long overdue for receiving it.

Who Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): Gary Oldman. Once again, Oldman’s performance is head and shoulders above virtually all of the 2017 contenders. From the first time I saw the trailer for this film, I knew Oldman would be the winner of the best actor award and deservedly so. To be sure, there were some other performers who should have been nominated in place of those who were so honored, but none of them can top Oldman in this category.

Possible Dark Horse: Anyone who isn’t Gary Oldman. Among the contenders, the leader here would probably be Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s announced his retirement from acting and giving his swan song performance in this role. In light of that, there’s a possibility (albeit slight) that Academy voters might want to honor him with “one for the road,” an honor that would make him only the second performer to win four acting Oscars and the only one ever to do so in the lead performance category. However, don’t bank on this outcome, as it’s a highly remote possibility.

Also-Rans: Anyone who isn’t Gary Oldman.

Who Should Have Been Left Out: Timothée Chalamet [and Denzel Washington]. In all honesty, this is a surprisingly weak field of nominees overall. Oldman definitely belongs, and good arguments can be made for including Day-Lewis and Kaluuya. However, Chalamet is vastly overrated[, and Washington, though capable, has definitely done better]. This/these slot[s] should have been opened up to more deserving performers.

Who Else Should Have Been Considered: It’s ironic that Academy voters have come up with such a weak field of nominees in light of the strength of the field of potential contenders in 2017. There were many fine lead acting performances, some of whom might have even given Oldman a run for his money, who were completely ignored and left out of the dance. Principal among them, in my opinion, are the three male leads in “Last Flag Flying,” Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell, all of whom are deserving and all of whom were noticeably absent from nominee lists in all of this year’s awards competitions (perhaps they canceled one another out?). Another notably missing nominee is James Franco, Golden Globe Award winner for best actor in a comedy for “The Disaster Artist,” but his absence may be attributable to off-screen allegations that have been leveled against him since his Globe victory. Beyond these contenders, others who worthy of merit include John Cho for “Columbus,” a performance in which the actor shows previously unseen depth; Timothy Spall and Colm Meaney, both for “The Journey,” performances whose merits may have been undermined by undue criticism of the film’s narrative; Harry Dean Stanton for “Lucky,” a career-topping performance for an undervalued actor in his final role; Michael Keaton for “The Founder,” the kind of role this actor was born to play; and Ethan Hawke for “Maudie,” Sam Elliott for “The Hero” and Jamie Bell for “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” all underrated performances in underrated films that, save for a BAFTA Award nomination for Bell, have all gone unrecognized.

Best Actress

The Field: Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”; Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”; Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”; Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Who Will Likely Win: Frances McDormand. This is a virtual lock. Having won virtually everything leading up to the Oscars, this is McDormand’s award to lose.

Who Should Win (Based on the Nominees): Frances McDormand, though strong cases could be made for Sally Hawkins and Margot Robbie. Even though neither of these contenders likely stands much of a chance, wins by either of them could certainly be justified. Were it not for the overwhelming strength of the McDormand juggernaut, they might be in the running (but don’t expect that to happen).

Who Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): Frances McDormand, though, again, as discussed above, equally strong arguments could be made for Hawkins and Robbie.

Possible Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan. Having won the Golden Globe Award for best actress in a comedy, there is a slight possibility Ronan could pull off an upset, though this is probably a long shot at best at this point.

Also-Rans: Essentially anyone who isn’t Frances McDormand.

Who Should Have Been Left Out: Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan.

Regarding Streep: As I’ve written in the past, I’m a huge fan of the actress, who is arguably today’s best living leading lady. Even a weak performance by Streep’s standards is usually far better than the best most actresses are capable of. However, given that she can’t realistically be named the winner for each of her portrayals, it seems equally unrealistic to keep nominating her – almost annually – for performances for which it’s obvious she’s not going to win. Admittedly, this probably means unfairly subjecting her to a higher standard than that accorded her peers. However, automatically nominating her even when she’s merely adequate denies other actresses an opportunity for nominations and valuable exposure. Streep’s performance in “The Post,” though capable, certainly meets these criteria. In my opinion, this is an instance where Academy voters should have resisted the temptation to give her yet another knee-jerk nomination to open up the field to others more deserving of such an accolade.

Regarding Ronan: In my opinion, this was an egregious case of miscasting. Ronan is clearly too old to be playing a teenager (especially after having previously played a twenty-something in “Brooklyn” (2015)). What’s more, I believe that the performance itself is highly overrated. Perhaps that’s because the material she was working with wasn’t that strong to begin with, and, even though she did her best to cover that, I still didn’t see what all the fuss was about where her performance was concerned. She, too, should have been excused from this category in favor of others more deserving.

Who Else Should Have Been Considered: A number of veteran nominees and several newcomers certainly merited consideration. Worthy candidates among those having received awards and/or nominations previously include Judi Dench for “Victoria and Abdul,” Emma Stone for “Battle of the Sexes,” Annette Bening for “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” Salma Hayek for “Beatriz at Dinner,” and Jessica Chastain for both “Molly’s Game” and “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” all of whom turned in fine performances in roles they seemed destined to play. Another acting veteran worthy of consideration – one who has somehow managed to never receive an Oscar nomination – is Lois Smith for “Marjorie Prime,” an outstanding portrayal that is perhaps the best of her career. As for newcomers, there’s child star Mckenna Grace, who turned in a superb performance in “Gifted,” Aubrey Plaza, whose scathingly hilarious turn in “Ingrid Goes West” deserves more attention than it receives, and Diane Kruger, who gives an impressive lead performance in the German thriller “In the Fade.” Lastly, there’s Sally Hawkins’s other stellar 2017 performance in the independent Canadian drama, “Maudie,” in which the actress turns in a portrayal on par with the role for which she was nominated.

Best Supporting Actor

The Field: Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”; Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”; Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”; Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Who Will Likely Win: Sam Rockwell. This is a virtual lock. Having won virtually everything leading up to the Oscars, this is Rockwell’s award to lose.

Who Should Win (Based on the Nominees): Sam Rockwell, though a strong case could be made for Christopher Plummer. As worthy as Plummer’s performance was (turned in under unusual extenuating circumstances at that), it’s unlikely he’ll be able to secure a victory, partly from having won not long ago for his portrayal in “Beginners” (2010) but also due to the strength of Rockwell’s momentum.

Who Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): Sam Rockwell, though, again, a strong case could be made for Christopher Plummer. Given the prolific nature of the octogenarian’s career in recent years – not to mention the strength of his performances – it’s obvious the Academy would like to honor Plummer for a portrayal truly worthy of the award (something that can’t necessarily be said for his comparatively lightweight role in “Beginners”), and his performance in “All the Money in the World” is the kind of part that rises to that standard. Unfortunately, as strong as his performance is, it’s unlikely that it has enough juice behind it to unseat Rockwell as the favorite.

Possible Dark Horses: Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer. Having entered awards season as the leading contender in this category, Dafoe seemed a shoo-in, especially after capturing top honors from the National Board of Review. However, given Rockwell’s success in competitions since then, it would appear Dafoe’s star has faded, and it seems unlikely that he’ll get that momentum back; expect him to remain seated in the audience on Oscar night. As for Plummer, see the discussion above.

Also-Rans: Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson. Despite the strength of their performances, Jenkins and Harrelson should consider their nominations their awards.

Who Should Have Been Left Out: This is a good field, and it’s hard to imagine any of the nominees being left out. However, as noted below, there are many other supporting actors who could have easily qualified for nomination in this category with no disrespect toward any of the candidates who made the cut.

Who Else Should Have Been Considered: 2017 was a very strong year for supporting actors, and many contenders easily could have qualified. Christopher Plummer, for example, who actually did earn a nomination, easily could have qualified on the basis of two additional performances in “The Man Who Invented Christmas” and “The Exception” (even though the films themselves weren’t overly compelling). On top of that, others who merited consideration include the comedic performances of Steve Carell for “Battle of the Sexes,” Ray Romano for “The Big Sick,” Daniel Craig for “Logan Lucky,” Paul Walter Hauser for “I, Tonya,” Eddie Izzard for “Victoria and Abdul,” and Jeff Goldblum and Tom Hiddleston for “Thor: Ragnarok”; the dramatic turns of  John Lithgow for “Beatriz at Dinner,” Daniel Brühl for “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” Will Poulter for “Detroit,” Benny Safdie for “Good Time,” Bob Odenkirk and Bruce Greenwood for “The Post,” and Idris Elba, Michael Cera and Bill Camp, all for  “Molly’s Game”; and the sci-fi performances of Harrison Ford and Jared Leto for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Best Supporting Actress

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

Who Will Likely Win: Allison Janney. This is a virtual lock. Having won virtually everything leading up to the Oscars, this is Janney’s award to lose.

Who Should Win (Based on the Nominees):

Who Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): Allison Janney. Like Gary Oldman in the lead actor category, this is another case of the right performer winning for the right role, with well-deserved recognition coming her way at last.

Possible Dark Horse: Laurie Metcalf. Having entered awards season as the leading contender in this category, Metcalf seemed a shoo-in, especially after capturing top honors from the National Board of Review. However, given Janney’s success in competitions since then, it would appear Metcalf’s star has faded, and it seems unlikely that she’ll get that momentum back; expect her to remain seated in the audience on Oscar night.

Also-Rans: Mary J. Blige, Lesley Manville and Octavia Spencer. While it was gratifying to see these actresses receive their nominations (especially Manville, who had been largely overlooked in prior competitions), they should consider this recognition their awards. Having won not long ago for “The Help” (2011), Spencer is unlikely to capture another statue so soon. And, as for Blige and Manville, they should look upon their nominations as down payments toward future recognition, as both are strong contenders to take home awards at some point. In any event, despite the strength of their portrayals, it’s virtually impossible that they’ll be able to overtake Janney.

Who Should Have Been Left Out: This is a good field, and it’s hard to imagine any of the nominees being left out. However, as noted below, there were a number of other qualified supporting actresses who could have easily qualified for nomination with no disrespect toward any of the candidates who made the cut.

Who Else Should Have Been Considered: With the exception of Holly Hunter in “The Big Sick,” the supporting actresses who I believe deserved consideration appeared in roles that, for whatever reason, didn’t generate much buzz. Nonetheless, these performances were noteworthy and, in my opinion, merited attention. The contenders include Sarah Silverman for “Battle of the Sexes,” Dafne Keen for “Logan,” Lindsay Duncan for “Gifted,” Brooklynn Prince for “The Florida Project,” Kristin Scott Thomas for “Darkest Hour” and Elisabeth Moss for “The Square.” Even a few offbeat roles that might prompt others to ask “What is he thinking?” were worthy of consideration, including Robin Wright for “Blade Runner 2049,” Cate Blanchett for “Thor: Ragnarok,” Dolly Wells for “I Do…Until I Don’t” and (dare I say it) Michelle Pfeiffer for “Mother!” (despite the overall detestability of this production).

Best Director

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

Who Will Likely Win: Guillermo del Toro. This is a virtual lock. Having won virtually everything leading up to the Oscars, this is del Toro’s award to lose.

Who Should Win (Based on the Nominees): Guillermo del Toro, though credible arguments could be made for Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele. Even though neither of these contenders likely stands much of a chance, wins by either of them could certainly be justified. Were it not for the overwhelming strength of the del Toro juggernaut, they might be in the running (but don’t expect that to happen).

Who Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): Guillermo del Toro, though, again, credible arguments could be made for Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele. Nolan knocked it out of the park with “Dunkirk,” and Peele made an impressive debut with “Get Out” (it’s remarkable that a film released so early in the year was even remembered at awards time, let alone that it received the recognition it has, and that’s largely attributable to Peele’s excellent directorial work).

Possible Dark Horses: Greta Gerwig. The “Lady Bird” has become something of a Hollywood darling in recent months, and, as the only woman nominated in the category in a year in which women’s empowerment is being celebrated, there’s a chance (albeit an outside one) that Gerwig might be able to pull an upset (though don’t expect it).

Also-Rans: Paul Thomas Anderson. Though he has crafted a gorgeously photographed, well-acted, beautifully scored, exquisitely costumed and produced film, the director has also created a picture with a story about which it’s difficult to figure out why anyone should care. “Phantom Thread” is one of 2017’s most overrated offerings, and, as master of the helm, Anderson is responsible for the final product – one that doesn’t live up to its hype. If the indifference that many audience members have shown for this film is reflected in the voting, Anderson will be watching someone else walk up to the stage to collect his or her hardware.

Who Should Have Been Left Out: Greta Gerwig and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Regarding Gerwig: While “Lady Bird” has its moments, much of it reminds me of any number of Gerwig projects in which she appears before the camera; the only difference this time is that she’s behind it, directing others to do what she usually does. To me, that’s not enough to land her on the list of contenders. In my view, she’s in need of finding a new direction (pun intended).

Regarding Anderson: See above.

Who Else Should Have Been Considered: While it’s refreshing to see some new faces being honored in this category, there’s room for others, and many of 2017’s best pictures were directed by little-known or unsung talents. Among those who merited consideration for this honor include relative newcomers/unknowns James Mangold for “Logan,” Matt Spicer for “Ingrid Goes West,” Kogonada for “Columbus,” Dave McCary for “Brigsby Bear,” Martin McDonagh for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Craig Gillespie for “I, Tonya,” Michael Showalter for “The Big Sick,” John Carroll Lynch for “Lucky,” Michael Almereyda for “Marjorie Prime,” Miguel Arteta for “Beatriz at Dinner,” Paul McGuigan for “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” Brett Haley for “The Hero,” and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for “Battle of the Sexes,” as well as veteran filmmaker Richard Linklater for “Last Flag Flying.”

Best Picture

The Field: “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 Likely Win: This is the most difficult category to handicap, with much depending on the mood that Academy voters are in at the time they cast their ballots. I basically see this as a two-horse race between “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water,” with a slight edge to “Three Billboards.” As the winner of the Golden Globe Award for best dramatic picture, it bested its chief competitor in that category (even though the reverse was true in the Critics Choice Award contest). However, “Three Billboards” also captured the Screen Actors Guild Award for best acting ensemble, an often-reliable indicator of which picture captures the top prize at the Oscars (and a category in which “The Shape of Water” wasn’t even nominated). Of course, as noted above, much depends on the mood of Academy voters: Will they opt for a film that has a warm, fuzzy, compassionate feel to it (as is the case with “The Shape of Water”)? Or will they go for something with a powerful though grittier edge (as is the case with “Three Billboards”)? Interestingly, both pictures feature strongly empowered women (a real plus for these films in a year in which that movement is being celebrated), but they each take very different approaches in addressing that subject. If I follow my gut, I believe that the Academy will opt for the offering with the more substantive message, and that’s “Three Billboards” (though don’t be surprised if things just as readily go the other way).

What Should Win (Based on the Nominees): “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” I’m a big fan of this release, having ended up as the #2 movie on my list of 2017’s top 10 pictures. [http://content.brentmarchant.com/2018/01/14/best-worst-2017/] In my view, this film is worthy of whatever recognition it receives.

What Should Win (Based on All Eligible Candidates): “I, Tonya.” I was disappointed that this knockout of a film didn’t grab a best picture nomination, as it certainly deserved one. The picture took the top spot on my list of 2017’s Top 10 movies [http://content.brentmarchant.com/2018/01/14/best-worst-2017/] and deservedly so. With excellent performances, writing, editing, cinematography, production design, etc., etc., etc., this offering should be at the top of the heap, in my view.

Possible Dark Horses: “The Shape of Water” and “Lady Bird.” It’s something of a misnomer to call “The Shape of Water” a dark horse, given that it could topple “Third Billboards” in the end, as noted above. But “Lady Bird,” on the other hand, is a bona fide dark horse at this point, given that it’s on the outside looking in. However, of all the long shot contenders, it probably has the best view. As the winner of best comedy picture at the Golden Globe Awards, it has the potential (albeit slight) to pull off an upset (though I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it).

Also-Rans: “Call Me By Your Name,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “Phantom Thread” and “The Post.” These films should consider their nominations their awards.

What Should Have Been Left Out: “Call Me By Your Name,” “Phantom Thread” and “The Post.” As noted in my best director discussion, “Phantom Thread” is clearly overrated. The same can be said of “Call Me By Your Name” for roughly the same reasons. As for “The Post,” it, too, should have been left off on the list, given that it’s a good – though not great – film, one that doesn’t quite live up to its potential. It’s hard to fathom how a picture that only captures one other nomination somehow manages to end up in this category as well. No matter how it got here, though, it doesn’t belong.

What Else Should Have Been Considered: Given the number of films that should have been left off the list, there’s plenty of room for alternate selections, Among those worthy of merit are “Logan” (especially its black-and-white version, “Logan Noir”),“Ingrid Goes West,” “Columbus,” “Brigsby Bear,” “I, Tonya,” “The Big Sick,” “Lucky,” “Marjorie Prime,” “Beatriz at Dinner,” “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” “Battle of the Sexes” and “Last Flag Flying.” Any of these offerings would have made fine additions to the category.

The Oscars will be handed out in televised ceremonies on Sunday March 4. I’ll post my report card on these predictions thereafter. Enjoy the show!

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