The race is officially off with the Gotham Awards Nominations being announced and we finally heard some word on “Phantom Thread” with the first trailer being dropped. We might or might not have heard some word on “The Post” but I am refusing to believe the negative rumors until something more concrete presents itself. So on this spooky Halloween day, take a look at where the race stands for me as October comes to a close.
*The following are Michael Schwartz’s predictions and do not reflect the thoughts of others at Next Best Picture*
I’m predicting the same group of films from the last round, with a few minor movements. The only one we are still waiting to see is Spielberg’s “The Post”. All other titles have either released or will be debuting within weeks. This is the ultimate test. Now that festivals are over, voters will have an opportunity to lay eyes on buzzed about contenders. Will they go for a sci-fi romance or a gay coming of age story? How about a socially relevant midwestern dramedy? The race is still wide open as we enter November. Now is the time to pay attention.
“Dunkirk” has one obstacle to overcome between now and the close of voting- it needs to stay relevant. This is not a film that benefits from a small screen, and it hasn’t been accessible in theaters for months. Warner Brothers would be wise to keep buzz going by screening the film in theaters for voting members. That could be key to giving Christopher Nolan his long overdue nomination for Best Director, and possibly a win for his work on the WWII epic. As for the rest of the field, no changes this time around.
Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk”
Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape Of Water”
Martin McDonagh – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Luca Guadagnino – “Call Me By Your Name”
Joe Wright – “Darkest Hour”
Don’t Count Out:
We finally got a first look at Gary Oldman’s potential competition when the trailer for “Phantom Thread” dropped. While the three-time winner looks tremendous as always, it is not a transformative role. That hurts when going up against Oldman as Churchill. There are cases to be made for people such as Jake Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale squeezing in, but I think this is our lineup when all is said and done.
The category that was once impossible to narrow down is making more and more sense by the day. I see it between eight contenders at the moment- McDormand and Hawkins represent the only two “locks” given overwhelmingly positive festival reception for both actresses and films. Margot Robbie continues to win praise for her performance as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”, but I want to wait and see how the film itself performs in wide release before making any definitive calls (one festival is not enough to go by). Save a spot for Meryl Streep, and you are left with space for only one more nominee. Will it be Judi Dench? Saoirse Ronan? Jessica Chastain? Kate Winslet? It’s anyone’s call. I’m going to be cautious and say Judi Dench sneaks in based on love from “old school” voters. Her film is a big box office success story, and she is in fine form as Queen Victoria. Don’t discount anyone, however. There’s still some movement to be had here. Who ends up winning will be a totally different conversation for another day.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe is really wonderful in “The Florida Project.” He is tender, warm, and the heart of that incredibly powerful film. He can wain, but I wouldn’t call it a done deal. Sam Rockwell has been coming on strong with his scene-stealing performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. While he doesn’t have two previous nominations like Dafoe, Rockwell has been in the trenches for nearly three decades. That’s not for nothing. I see this race playing out between the two men up until Oscar night. Filling up the rest of the five, Michael Stuhlbarg and Armie Hammer seem safe as their film prepares to open. The fans are out in force. All voters need to do is embrace the film. For the final spot, I’m inclined to predict Dustin Hoffman for his wonderful work in “The Meyerowitz Stories (New And Selected).” However, I still don’t have faith in the Netflix campaign system. There’s a world where it happens, but I’ll believe it when I see it. In the meantime, “The Shape Of Water” co-star Richard Jenkins rounds out the bunch.
Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”
Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Michael Stuhlbarg – “Call Me By Your Name”
Armie Hammer – “Call Me By Your Name”
Richard Jenkins – “The Shape Of Water”
Don’t Count Out:
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Allison Janney and Laurie Metcalf remain out in front with Melissa Leo and Holly Hunter also close behind. The most interesting development here is the first footage we’ve seen of Lesley Manville in “Phantom Thread”. No word on how big or small the role is, but Manville has been on many radars since her 2010 snub for Mike Leigh’s “Another Year”. If not Manville, I would watch for Octavia Spencer showing up for “The Shape Of Water.” The always terrific former winner could prevent yet another instance of “Oscar So White”.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Adapted Screenplay continues to stand as the thinnest major category this year. James Ivory ought to pick up his award now.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
This is a category that often rewards the “writers writer” who just also happens to be director. Spike Jonze, Tom McCarthy, Kenneth Lonergan. This year gives us contenders in Martin McDonagh, Jordan Peele, Greta Gerwig, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Sean Baker. Makes up for the lack of competition in adapted.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Coco” may not be Pixar’s most lauded film, but it certainly has fans. In a pretty weak year, that’s enough to help it cross the finish line. Plus the fact that the film celebrates Mexican culture serves as a nice boost in the age of Trump’s hateful rhetoric against
Mary And The Witch’s Flower
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Does a day go by without seeing Agnes Varda charm her way across the campaign trail? She is a legend in the perfect spot to pull off a win for “Visages/Villages”. However, National Geographic’s Jane Goodall documentary, “Jane” is also receiving stellar reviews. That must be considered as a top contender as well.
Don’t Count Out:
Hell On Earth
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
While festival buzz for “Foxtrot” has yet to quiet down, Cannes favorites such as “Beats Per Minute” and “The Square” are impressing in limited release. Another Cannes title, “Loveless”, opens next month. All four feel safe here. If the foreign language branch is able to embrace an A-list star such as Angelina Jolie, “First They Killed My Father” could contend as well. But as always, we tend to see nomination morning surprises here. Watch out for “A Fantastic Woman”, which is drawing raves for transgender star Daniela Vega.
Don’t Count Out:
A Fantastic Woman
Racer And The Jailbird
What are your thoughts on the race so far? Do you disagree with my predictions? Please let us know in the comments below and be sure to check out the rest of the team’s predictions below.
You can follow Michael and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @mikemovie