Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Surveying The Oscar Field: The 2017 Above The Line Categories (Part 3)

By Michael Schwartz

With the exception of the start of the New York Film Festival, the Oscar race hasn’t seen any sign of seismic movement since our last update two weeks ago. However, let’s use this moment of downtime to reassess where the season currently stands.

BEST PICTURE

Just like how 2016 presented us with mainstays such as “La La Land”, “Manchester By The Sea”, and “Moonlight”, the 2017 season has already introduced four contenders that are sure to remain at the top. They are Joe Wright’s “Darkest Hour”, Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”, Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name”, and Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape Of Water”. Everything outside of those four remains open for the time being. However, we have enough clues to determine what could fill the remaining slots. Not only is “Battle Of The Sexes” a strong hit with critics, but it is playing commercially as well. The timely theme and watchability factor over the coming months could make this Fox Searchlight entry a major force. Word of mouth will help this one. Speaking of audience favorites from Searchlight “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has certainly made a case for itself in top categories. The Frances McDormand led dark comedy won the coveted TIFF Audience Award and has kept the film community buzzing ever since. “Get Out” and “The Big Sick” are still floating around in the conversation, while “The Florida Project” and “Lady Bird” continue to find fans along the festival circuit. Even “Blade Runner 2049” has the reviews to compete if AMPAS members were bold enough. “Last Flag Flying” premiered at NYFF to mixed reviews and with so much competition, its chances have gone down.The only two major wild cards that remain is still Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” which we have to assume will be top contenders. All will be revealed, but the puzzle is starting to come together. Now if only we had any idea which of these films could win….

Predicted Nominees:

1. Darkest Hour
2. The Shape Of Water
3. Dunkirk
4. Call Me By Your Name
5. The Post

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
7. Battle Of The Sexes

8. Get Out
9. The Florida Project
10. 
The Big Sick

BEST DIRECTOR

​As the case has been in years past, the Best Director lineup tends to match that of the top Best Picture contenders. We have to assume Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, and Joe Wright have a seat at the table. As for remaining names, Martin McDonagh stands a strong shot for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. Just about every TIFF Audience Award winner has gone on to be nominated here. Even Lenny Abrahamson, who many were not predicting, made it in with a Best Director nomination for another TIFF Audience Award winner, “Room.” If the statistic holds, there is no reason not to consider the Irish playwright/filmmaker. Coming off his nomination for “Arrival”, Denis Villeneuve can find some love again for his work on “Blade Runner 2049”. If George Miller could get in for smart, well made blockbuster filmmaking, then there is a precedent. Even Dee Rees could contend if Netflix gives “Mudbound” a big awards push. However, more traditional names include Luca Guadagnino and Steven Spielberg. 

Predicted Nominees”

1. Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk
2. Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape Of Water”
3. Joe Wright – “Darkest Hour”
4. Steven Spielberg – “The Post”
5. Luca Guadagnino – “Call Me By Your Name

6. Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
7. Dee Rees – “Mudbound”

8. Ridley Scott – “All The Money In The World”
9. Denis Villeneuve – “Blade Runner 2049
10. Paul Thomas Anderson – “Phantom Thread”

BEST ACTOR

Gary Oldman is in it to win it. However, he is the only locked and loaded contender here. The rest of the Best Actor field does not go particularly deep. Timothée Chalamet seems to be gaining steam as he reintroduces “Call Me By Your Name”, while Jake Gyllenhaal needs to keep buzz for his film “Stronger” alive from now until critics awards. Tom Hanks is often deserving of a nomination, yet he hasn’t received any Oscar love since “Cast Away” in 2000. His success here will have to depend on how good his movie is and how strong he is in it. Finally, Daniel Day-Lewis’ “Phantom Thread” is still hidden in secrecy. But as speculated in the last edition of this column, his “final performance” may be undeniable for voters. Don’t count out James Franco for “The Disaster Artist,” Hugh Jackman for both “Logan” and “The Greatest Showman” and even Denzel Washington, who despite his film receiving poor reviews out of TIFF, could still show up for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” And then there is “Last Flag Flying” and Steve Carrell. Those who really loved “Last Flag Flying,” really were taken by Carrell’s dramatic and reserved work which had call backs to last year’s winner, Casey Affleck in “Manchester By The Sea.” Could be nothing. Could be something.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”
2. Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name
3. Tom Hanks – “The Post”
4. Jake Gyllenhaal – “Stronger
5. Daniel Day-Lewis – “Phantom Thread”

6. James Franco – “The Disaster Artist”
7. Denzel Washington – “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
8. Andrew Garfield – “Breathe”
9. Steve Carell – “Last Flag Flying
10. Hugh Jackman – “The Greatest Showman”

BEST ACTRESS

While the Best Actress category remains ridiculously crowded this year, we are beginning to come to some sort of consensus. Nothing is a lock when the contender’s list stretches beyond ten, but Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins seem like safe bets. Both actresses have received raves for their work and films. It helps also, that their films are potential Best Picture nominees. Next in line is Emma Stone, who is receiving even better reviews for “Battle Of The Sexes” than she did for “La La Land”. Kate Winslet in “Wonder Wheel” and Meryl Streep in “The Post” have yet to present themselves on the awards scene, but these are two names always worth keeping in contention. Beyond those five, we still have everyone from the overdue (Jessica Chastain, Annette Bening and Saoirse Ronan) to the never nominated (Margot Robbie), to the veteran (Judi Dench). Nothing is secure, but the race seems to be boiling down to these ladies.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Kate Winslet – “Wonder Wheel”
2. Meryl Streep – “The Post”
3. Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”
4. Sally Hawkins – “The Shape Of Water”
5. Emma Stone – “Battle Of The Sexes

6. Jessica Chastain – “Molly’s Game”
7. Margot Robbie – “I, Tonya”
8. Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
9. Judi Dench – “Victoria And Abdul
10. Annette Bening – “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Just like Best Actress, Supporting Actor is yet another stacked category. Remember that this is where veterans and villains tend to thrive, so save space for Willem Dafoe, Sam Rockwell, and Michael Shannon. Character actor Michael Stuhlbarg is said to have an incredibly impactful scene in “Call Me By Your Name”. Consider him after nearly a decade of memorable supporting roles after his 2009 breakout in “A Serious Man”. Rounding out the five, I want to be able to predict Dustin Hoffman for “The Meyerowitz Stories”. However, I don’t have complete faith in Netflix campaigns after their shocking inability to find Oscar success for Idris Elba back in 2015 for “Beasts Of No Nation.” Speaking of Elba, he’s back with Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game”, for which he received strong notices. Richard Jenkins is said to be one of the many elements contributing to the heart of “The Shape Of Water”. Scoring a surprise Best Actor nomination back in 2008, it’s clear that he has his fans. TV crossover performers Bryan Cranston (“Last Flag Flying“) and Ben Mendelsohn (“Darkest Hour”) seem primed for Oscar glory at some point in the near future, while former winners Mark Rylance and Kevin Spacey could even be in the hunt depending on how things shape out. Lots of fluidity here in a race that hasn’t been this exciting in years.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project
2. Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”
3. Michael Stuhlbarg – “Call Me By Your Name
4. Michael Shannon – “The Shape Of Water”
5. Kevin Spacey – “All The Money In The World”

6. Jason Mitchell – “Mudbound”
7. Ben Mendelsohn – “Darkest Hour”
8. Armie Hammer – “Call Me By Your Name
9. Idris Elba – “Molly’s Game” 
10. Bryan Cranston – “Last Flag Flying

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

When an actor spends their career working across mediums of film, television, and theatre over a series of decades, they tend to build up goodwill. When it comes to the Oscar conversation, that goodwill tends to come in handy along the campaign trail. Such is the case this year for two contenders – Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) and Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”). Both performers come from similar entertainment backgrounds and have received acclaim going back over twenty years. However, neither have found themselves at the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night. Now with both actresses turning in performances that have become festival favorites, the time may have arrived for them to elevate beyond Emmy status. What makes this race so unique is that the biggest competition for Janney and Metcalf seems to be made up of three former winners – Melissa Leo, Octavia Spencer, and Holly Hunter. Funnily enough, three of these actresses are contending for playing mothers (Four if you count Leo’s Mother Superior). This is a far more interesting race than it seemed to be a month ago with other contenders also in the mix such as Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound” and Hong Chau for “Downsizing.”

Predicted Nominees:

1. Allison Janney – “I, Tonya”
2. Melissa Leo – “Novitiate”
3. Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
4. Holly Hunter – “The Big Sick
5. Octavia Spencer – “The Shape Of Water”

6. Mary J. Blige – “Mudbound”
7. Kristen Scott Thomas – “Darkest Hour”

8. Hong Chau – “Downsizing”
9. Tatiana Maslany – “Stronger
10. Brooklyn Prince – “The Florida Project

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” premiered at the New York Film Festival last week to mixed reviews. Those who love it really love it, however. With the adapted race looking so incredibly paper thin this year, I think he automatically gets a nomination on name recognition alone. But this is likely James Ivory’s to win for “Call Me By Your Name”.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Call Me By Your Name
2. Molly’s Game
3. Last Flag Flying
4. All The Money In The World
5. Mudbound

6. Blade Runner 2049
7. Wonderstruck
8. The Disaster Artist
9. Victoria And Abdul
10. The Beguiled

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

If the Adapted Screenplay category is lacking in formidable contenders, Original certainly picks up the slack. Looking for films from the “writer’s writer” is always helpful here. Think last year’s winner “Manchester By The Sea”. This year’s candidate for that slot is Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, which seems to be both timely, provocative, and a “writer’s movie”. Other contenders will likely include Best Picture candidates “Darkest Hour”, “The Shape Of Water”, “The Post”, and even “Get Out”. Looking further down the list, we have “The Big Sick” and “Lady Bird”, “Battle Of The Sexes” and “The Florida Project”, and of course writing favorite Woody Allen with “Wonder Wheel”. And don’t forget to watch out for Paul Thomas Anderson, who proved his status within the branch back in 2014 with his surprise nomination for “Inherent Vice”.

Predicted Nominees:

1. The Post
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
3. Get Out
4. The Shape Of Water
5. Darkest Hour

6. The Big Sick
7. The Florida Project
8. Lady Bird

9. Wonder Wheel
10. Phantom Thread

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

I’m still betting on Pixar’s “Coco” to sweep through the season. No changes from the last update.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Coco
2. Ferdinand
3. Cars 3
4. The Breadwinner
5. Mary And The Witch’s Flower

6. The Lego Batman Movie
7. Loving Vincent
8. Captain Underpants
9. The Lego Ninjago
​10. Despicable Me 3

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Agnes Varda continues to charm audiences with her TIFF award-winning entry “Visages/Villages”. Also, it helps her chances that she will be receiving an honorary Oscar this November.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Visages/Villages (Faces/Places)
2. Icarus
3. Step
4. Whose Streets?
5. City Of Ghosts

6. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken
7. Jane
8. Bobbi Jene
9. Kedi
​10. Hell On Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise of Isis

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

While Angelina Jolie’s “First They Killed My Father” received raves upon release on Netflix, the big news here is that Sony Pictures Classics has acquired Israeli entry “Foxtrot”. The film is yet another festival favorite and could prove to be our winner here.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Foxtrot
2. First They Killed My Father
3. Loveless
4. The Square
5. Beats Per Minute

6. Happy End
7. A Fantastic Woman
8. In The Fade
9. The Divine Order

​10. Thelma

What are your thoughts on the race so far? What re you currently predicting in the above the line categories? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to take a look at our current Oscar predictions in the above the line categories below!

BEST PICTURE

BEST DIRECTOR

BEST ACTOR

BEST ACTRESS

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

You can follow Michael and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @mikemovie

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