Return of the Oscars (and the Blog)

WritingIt has been a long time. I haven’t been able to write to this blog for around two years now. And a lot has happened. I will post more about that later.

Suffice to say, however, that I did not write an Oscar post last year. The problem was that I’ve been extremely busy and last year’s attempt to even watch the movies was a dismal failure. To this day, I still haven’t had a chance to see “Moonlight.” I didn’t even get to watch the Oscars last year, so I missed the whole kerfuffle about the Best Picture award. This year was different, though, which I primarily credit to Moviepass. It made it so that it was super-easy to just go see anything that I felt like, which was primarily used to watch films that were potential Oscar-nominees. As a result, I actually had half list already watched by the time the nominees were even announced. Thank you, Moviepass.

And what a year this is going to be. This year, the Oscars have the potential to be much more interesting than usual. Going into this year’s show, there’s not a clear front-runner for Best Picture because of the way it’s voted on. While “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has been winning a lot of awards, those are through simple voting systems where whoever gets the most votes wins. But for those who don’t know, the Academy’s system is different. They use a preferential voting system where voters submit a list of movies they want to win, with a first choice, second choice, and so on. The first choices are all counted up until one film gets 50 percent plus one vote. If no movie gets this amount, then the movie with the least amount of first choice votes is eliminated and those ballots’ second choice is promoted to first. This continues until that 50 percent plus one vote is achieved.

This is important because while many people have loved “Three Billboards,” there’s been a very vocal group that has absolutely hated it. I won’t go into why here since it’s been analyzed in more depth elsewhere. But that hate could affect the vote quite drastically. Many believe that this is why “La La Land” did not win last year despite early reports (not because it really was a piece crap) and Best Picture instead went to “Moonlight.” The same thing has the potential to happen this year, which is why some people believe that even “Get Out” might have the legs to win, because it wasn’t just well-liked but highly respected, which will likely put it high on several people’s lists.

So I’m going to do the best I can to analyze this, but take it with a grain of salt because I’m actually rather unsure about some movies’ chances. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out on March 4th. As usual, except for last year, I will be live tweeting the Oscars, so follow me now.

Best Picture

My pick: Phantom Thread”

What will probably win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Why: I’m actually going to stick with what many believe would be the front-runner anyway since I think that, despite the vocal minority that really hates it, it’s still got the legs to take this one. But if it were up to me, I would give it to “Phantom Thread,” which in reality has no chance of winning. Admittedly, I’m a little biased as I’ve been a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan since “Magnolia.” It’s such a great movie, from Daniel Day-frickin’-Lewis to the great score and interesting costumes, something I’m not always that big on noticing. With great performances throughout and great atmosphere, it’s a shame that this film is going to be overlooked by the Academy.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

My pick: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Who will probably win: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Why: Fairly often, when an actor, especially a woman, wears prosthetics to look completely different, they’re the ones that will win. However, Gary Oldman puts in such a great performance as Winston Churchill that he’s probably the shoe-in for this one. He works so well with the prosthetics and makeup, but changes his voice and movement so dramatically that most of the time you can’t even tell it’s him. Maybe just a couple of times around the eyes. He becomes Winston Churchill and is very deserving of this one.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

My pick: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Who will probably win: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Why: Frances McDormand has been consistently recognized and for good reason. She’s a great actress and puts in a great performance. But if I had the choice, it would be Sally Hawkins. With her character being a mute, she has to go through the whole movie without speaking. Yes, the main character in this film doesn’t speak the whole time and has to emote and use sign language to communicate and act. This is not an easy thing to do and really elevates her performance to the top for me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

My pick: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

Who will probably win: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Why: This is a hard one. Two nominees from the same movie, a last minute replacement, one from an obscure film, and one who just puts in a very touching performance. I would say that Sam Rockwell is a safe bet on winning because he’s been talked about a lot. When there’s discussion of a performance, that’s a good indication. But Willem Dafoe puts in a performance for a character that’s quite complex and layered for a supporting role. As the sometimes gruff manager of a motel in “The Florida Project,” he also shows that he does care about people and he has much more subtlety and nuance to this performance than I feel some of the others do.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

My pick: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Who will probably win: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

Why: Allison Janney is really good as LaVona Harding. She’s able to be funny and sinister at the same time. And she’s gotten a lot of buzz for this role. But my preference would be Laurie Metcalf. In this role, she plays a funny but touching and identifiable role as a mother trying to hold onto her family as they grow-up and start to leave the nest, something she really doesn’t want. But she keeps it together for their sake even though inside she’s breaking. It’s a great performance that doesn’t need to be in your face to make an impact on the film.

Best Achievement in Directing

My pick: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Who will probably win: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Why: I know I ranted about the Academy not recognizing Paul Thomas Anderson, who has a nomination for “Phantom Thread,” but just for directing, this one should go to Guillermo Del Toro, another director who hasn’t been recognized by the Academy until now but deserves it because, even though he makes genre films, still makes beautiful movies that have a very distinct style. In my opinion, based solely on directing, Del Toro has the edge this year.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

My pick: Get Out

Who will probably win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Why: My favorite category, this is another difficult one. The likely front-runner is “Three Billboards,” but it’s got some stiff competition. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Get Out” take this one just because it probably won’t take the other awards it’s nominated for and people want to make sure it gets some recognition, although it’s not the only reason because it’s just really good with a different and surprising story and respect for doing something new in the horror genre. However, this could be the same story with “The Big Sick,” which, while good, wasn’t great in my own opinion. I know a lot of people are upset that this is the only award that “The Big Sick” is nominated for, which might give it more votes, but still probably won’t take this one.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

My pick: Call Me By Your Name

Who will probably win: Call Me By Your Name

Why: If it wasn’t for the other nominees in the other categories that “Call Me By Your Name” is nominated for, it would have a lot more legs and likely sweep the awards. In fact, “Call Me By Your Name” is a very close second for me for Best Picture behind “Phantom Thread.” Which is what makes it so unfortunate. But compared to the others in this category, if “Call Me By Your Name” doesn’t take it, something is seriously rotten in the Academy. The writing is just that good.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

My pick: Coco

Who will probably win: Coco

Why: The fact that “The Boss Baby” was nominated for this one is further evidence that the Academy has no idea what they’re doing when it comes to animated movies (“Loving Vincent” was debatable since the entire film uses rotoscope animation; do think that should count as animation?). But “Coco” is pretty damn good, and is definitely worth it. “Coco” is the best film Pixar has produced since “Finding Nemo.” They’ve spent plenty of time in the wilderness producing disappointment after disappointment, but with “Coco” they’ve managed to hit it out of the park again and get back on top.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

My pick: The Square

Who will probably win: The Square

Why: Many feel that Ruben Östlund was snubbed a couple years ago with “Force Majeure.” This year he’s back with “The Square” and got that nomination. It’s definitely an interesting and odd film with a sense of humor. But most important to its or any film nominated in this category is accessibility. Did people even see it? “The Square” likely has the edge on this one. The other nominees have their good aspects, too. “The Insult” was interesting to finally see a film come out of the Middle East that has nothing to do with Israel. At the same time, I have to admit that I wasn’t really wowed by any of the films in this category this year, and I usually enjoy this one for the chance to see films produced outside of the Hollywood shroud. A bit disappointed overall.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

My pick: The Shape of Water

Who will probably win: Mudbound

Why: I have a feeling this award is going to be a victim of politics. Don’t get me wrong. Rachel Morrison does a great job bringing some dull scenery to life and framing the shots to produce specific reactions and feelings from the audience. But on the whole, I found “Mudbound” a little disappointing. Maybe my expectations were a little too high. Personally, I would give this to “The Shape of Water.” Dan Laustsen had a difficult job, bringing Del Toro’s artistic vision to life and going through different environments, not to mention the distinct use of color.

Best Achievement in Editing

My pick: I, Tonya

Who will probably win: Dunkirk

Why: A lot of people liked “Dunkirk” but I was rather “meh” about it. But this is the kind of film that the Academy tends to eat up and editing together Christopher Nolan’s vision of jumping back and forth through time couldn’t have been easy. But I felt that the way “I, Tonya” is edited together is probably one of the most interesting aspects of the film and would’ve likely fallen flat on its face for failing to pull off that triple axel (see what I did there?). As such, “I, Tonya” really deserves this one.

Best Achievement in Production Design

My pick: “The Shape of Water

Who will probably win: Dunkirk

Why: The sets for the “The Shape of Water” are just so interesting. The environments practically become another character in the movie. But, like I said, “Dunkirk” is the kind of movie the Academy eats up, and war movies tend to have an edge when it comes to the more technical awards.

Best Achievement in Costume Design

My pick: Phantom Thread

Who will probably win: Phantom Thread

Why: Come on! “Phantom Thread” is about the costumes! If it goes to another film, especially “Beauty and the Beast” (Ugh! That was such a piece of crap and a downright insult to the animated film), something has gone seriously wrong.

Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling

My pick: Darkest Hour

Who will probably win: Darkest Hour

Why: As I mentioned earlier, Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill is phenomenal, but it wouldn’t have been the same without the great hair and makeup work. Oldman looks absolutely nothing like Churchill in real life, and the fact that they pulled it off to make him into Churchill is no small feat.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

My pick: Phantom Thread”

Who will probably win: Phantom Thread

Why: The score for “Phantom Thread” is so good, not to mention unique when compared to the other nominees in this category. It sticks with you and haunts you. You definitely notice it without it distracting you from the rest of the movie. The other nominees in this category are frankly a bit mediocre when compared to “Phantom Thread.”

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

My pick: “Remember Me” from Coco

Who will probably win: “Remember Me” from Coco

Why: “Remember Me” has been consistently discussed and for good reason. It’s introduced as a grand and even arrogant song until we later learn that it’s supposed to be sung quietly and was very personal. It has an impact. I also like “The Mystery of Love” from “Call Me By Your Name,” but “Remember Me” definitely has the edge here.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

My pick: Baby Driver

Who will probably win: Dunkirk

Why: Like I said earlier, war movies tend to have the edge when it comes to the technical awards, but especially when it comes to sound. However, the sound mixing pretty much makes “Baby Driver,” even if it is mostly music.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

My pick: The Shape of Water

Who will probably win: Dunkirk

Why: Like the Sound Mixing award, this will likely go to the war movie “Dunkirk”. But the sound editing (which is the creation of sounds, whereas sound mixing is editing in the sound into the movie; yes, it’s confusing) for “The Shape of Water” is unique, particularly when it comes to creating the sounds for the creature. This uniqueness and artistry really deserves the recognition, although I doubt it will get it.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

My pick: Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Who will probably win: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Why: Everyone has a soft spot for Star Wars. It’s the scifi/fantasy franchise of our childhood. But if I had to pick, I would give the award to “Guardians” because of the sheer artistry and creativity involved. Creating something unique with visual effects is important, and in this case they literally created worlds, something that should not be overlooked.

Best Documentary, Feature

My pick: Icarus

Who will probably win: Visages Villages (Faces Places)

Why: “Icarus” is different from your normal documentary. It appears like it was intended to be a different film, something more akin to “Super Size Me,” where the filmmaker was going to document his attempt at doping and competing, but the movie quickly morphs into more of a thriller where it seems that people are genuinely in danger after exposing alleged government-ordered doping in Russia. Even though, like the Foreign Language category, accessibility tends to be the name of the game, another aspect seems to be how it makes the audience feel. Fairly often, tense documentaries don’t get the win and it usually goes to something that gives more of a warm and fuzzy feeling. That would be “Faces Places,” which is really quite good if not at the top of the list for me. “Faces Places” is a very artsy picture that has a sense of humor, something very much missing from the other nominees, which likely makes the film more accessible to a general audience.

Best Documentary, Short Subject

My pick: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Who will probably win: Heaven is a Traffic Jam of the 405

Why: Again, accessibility is the name of the game, and this one is available to watch online. It’s an interesting story and doesn’t have the darkness and seriousness present in the other nominees. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its down parts, but on the whole, it’s accessible not just in being able to watch it but keeping the audience open to it and not so guarded.

Best Short Film, Animated

My pick: Garden Party

Who will probably win: Lou

Why: “Garden Party” was the most interesting of the nominees in this category, following a group of amphibians around a house and garden as you start to notice that something isn’t quite right here, leading to a mystery. The animation quality is amazing. At first, I seriously thought it wasn’t animated, the quality is that high, and having studied computer animation in college, I can tell you that a lot of effort went into this. However, as I said the academy tends to not know what it’s doing with animation, and this will probably go the cutesy Pixar entry “Lou.” Because Pixar.

Best Short Film, Live Action

My pick: The Eleven O’Clock

Who will probably win: The Eleven O’Clock

Why: Of the nominees for Best Live Action Short, “The Eleven O’Clock” is the only one that goes for humor and doesn’t have an underlying message to it. As the saying goes, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard” (often attributed to Edmund Kean). The fact that they went for comedy, comedy that almost seems to be an homage to Abbott and Costello at times, they took a huge risk and pulled it off making a genuinely funny short film.

And that pretty much sums it up. We’ll see how this plays out tomorrow.

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