Jonah's Oscar picks
Best picture: “The Shape of Water”
Best actor: Gary Oldman
Best actress: Frances McDormand
Best supporting actor: Sam Rockwell
Best supporting actress: Allison Janney
Best director: Guillermo del Toro
Best animated picture: “Coco”
Adapted screenplay: “Call Me by Your Name”
Original screenplay: “Get Out”
Documentary: “Faces Places”
After last year's mess at the end of the Academy Awards ceremony, when “La La Land” was erroneously called up to the stage instead of the more deserving, and actual winner, “Moonlight” and the audience was left hanging for a couple of the most awkward moments in live network TV history, it seems like the word everyone is avoiding for tonight's ceremony is “surprise.”
But for the avid Oscar viewer (and I consider myself in this bunch), surprise is the reason to watch the ceremony in the first place; we like unpredictability, we like being wrong.
I have been writing these Oscar prediction pieces for six years, and it makes me delighted that my accuracy is about 60 percent. With changes to both the makeup of the voting body of the academy, as well as the films being nominated, the ceremony has begun to drift away from tried-and-true prediction models into something that makes guessing winners a little less certain.
And with that in mind, my first prediction, in the category of best actor, by all accounts, seems to be a real layup for the night.
Daniel Day-Lewis reported that “Phantom Thread” is his final film, making voters pay extra attention to his performance. Also, Timothee Chalamet is revered as a real revelation from “Call Me By Your Name.” However, only one actor is racking up win after win in the awards leading up to tonight's ceremony and that is Gary Oldman, portraying Winston Churchill, in “Darkest Hour.” It is cliché now to point out how biopics and performances based on real individuals are favored by the academy voters, but Oldman has captivated everyone by his transformation into the former British prime minister.
Almost as certain as Oldman's win is Frances McDormand's, who will win best actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Personally, I found both Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird” and Margot Robbie in “I, Tonya” just as deserving, but McDormand has already taken home both a BAFTA and a SAG award, which generally are the best indicators for who is taking home the gold statue.
Even though Robbie will not being taking a trip to the podium, her “I,Tonya” co-star Allison Janney will be when she wins best supporting actress. The only other person in her category who comes close to having the emotional impact, while remaining almost drastically human, is Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird.” They both portray mothers who are willing to go to great lengths to ensure the success of their daughters, however, Janney's role just had more meat on the bones, along with a little scenery.
When it comes to best supporting actor, my personal pick is “The Florida Project's” Willem Dafoe as the flawed but sympathetic Bobby, who manages a motel where longtime tenants are families in economic distress. Dafoe gave the film a believable grounding with its cast of mostly untrained actors. But, with his SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe awards, it is inevitable that Sam Rockwell will win for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Rockwell is a favorite of mine, and if you want to see some of his best work, check out the underrated “Moon” or working opposite Nicolas Cage in “Matchstick Men.” Hopefully his win will catapult him into another tier of acting opportunities so more of the world can appreciate his interesting style.
The contest for best director is by far one of the more competitive categories.
Christopher Nolan more or less made an experimental World War II film with “Dunkirk” and really created an experience that was wholly unique at movie theaters in 2017. One of my favorite 2017 film-going experiences was to see “Get Out” in a crowded theater, and I am hoping Jordan Peele gets the win for giving me that time at the movies. “Lady Bird” was a great film, and the performances from its leads were effective by great direction from Greta Gerwig. However, with a Directors Guild of America award, along with the BAFTA, I think Guillermo del Toro will win for “The Shape of Water.”
One of the most fun categories this year is for best animated feature, in which the nominated films include both “The Boss Baby” and “Loving Vincent.” It is never a good idea to bet against Pixar in this category, and so I will not be surprised when “Coco” wins. I really enjoyed “Coco” and think it was one of the best films of the year, and I am a little surprised it wasn't nominated for best picture since it was one the most beautiful films in recent memory with a real emotional punch at the end.
There is an exceptional amount of excitement for the film “Call Me by Your Name,” and for good reason, it was a really good movie. The one Academy Award I believe it will pick up is for the James Ivory script in the best adapted screenplay category. Ivory, at age 89, is a giant in the art house-cinema world, and though the film was lauded, I think this award will be a bit of a lifetime achievement for the writer. Sure, it was fun that Michael Green and Scott Frank's screenplay for the superhero flick “Logan” was nominated, but I think that was more of a nod for adding substance to the genre more than anything.
The best original screenplay category is extremely competitive with the slight favorite going to Martin McDonagh's script for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDonagh is a force of nature with his pen, as an extremely accomplished screenwriter and playwright. However, I am predicting an upset (after all, there has to be one, right?) and saying Peele will win for his script for “Get Out.” The horror film with an effective social commentary was just too much of a sensation for it to not win anything this year. The writing worked on several levels, and it led to great plot twists, and chances for its actors to be funny and menacing, which will draw the votes from many members of the academy.
As of right now, the best documentary category could really go to any of the nominations.
The documentary film world is transforming, and academy members are just as likely to discover the nominated films on streaming platforms the same day the rest of us can catch them. Unfortunately, it is now very difficult for a documentary to rise to the top of the heap and find a larger, general audience.
“Faces Places,” which chronicles a road trip with the renowned French director Agnes Varda, has slightly more recognition, and the film I choose for the category. But, with the Russian sports doping doc “Icarus,” and the acclaimed “Last Men in Aleppo,” a winner could just as easy be called from a coin flip.
Finally, I come to the best picture winner.
This year there are nine nominations and every one is worthy. If the academy goes for spectacle and craft, then they will have to go with “Dunkirk.” I really don't think they will go this route. My favorites are “Lady Bird” and “Get Out,” but neither has received much love from the awards circuit leading to tonight's big show.
The meta-story of this year's Oscars has led to “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water” as the two films battling it out for the best picture award. While actors seem to love “Three Billboards” and have shown a lot of love to its cast, I think we have to look past the acting bodies. The Producers Guild of America and Directors Guild both named “The Shape of Water” as the best picture and so will I. But, this is a new world we are in, and if last year proved anything, it is that we can't predict solely on past wins. That is all I have, though, and I think it will cap off a perfectly respectable Oscar night.
Jonah Crismore is programming director at the Embassy Theatre and a movie buff.