The most politically charged Oscars in years will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday evening. The ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will be broadcast in India from 5.30am on Star Movies, Star Movies HD and Star Movies Premiere HD and will also be livestreamed on Hotstar.
The nine Best Picture nominations include prestige projects (The Post, Darkest Hour), and independent and arthouse films (Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name, Phantom Thread). The Shape of Water leads the race with 13 nominations, followed by Dunkirk with eight and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with seven.
Among the frontrunners for Best Picture is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which a woman seeks justice for her daughter’s rape and murder. McDonagh’s dark comedy has divided critics because of its depiction of racism in small-town America. An anonymous voter from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Oscars, told The Hollywood Reporter that the movie’s representation of the American Midwest was “false and pretentious” and its characters were caricatures.
However, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri leads the odds to win Best Picture, according to British bookies as well as Las Vegas bookies. Best Actress nominee Frances McDormand, who won the Golden Globe for her performance, continues to be a favourite with the punters.
Another strong favourite for Best Film is Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, an altogether more wholesome affair with no jagged edges to set off a controversy. Set during the Cold War, the romantic fantasy drama depicts the relationship between a shy speech-impaired janitor (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibian creature (Doug Jones) who is locked up in a secret American research facility. Del Toro is also a clear favourite to win the Best Director award.
Gary Oldman’s prosthetic-driven performance as British prime minister Winston Churchill may finally get the actor his first Academy Award. The bookies are favouring Oldman, and he has also won the major acting awards so far at the Golden Globes, the British Academy of Film and Television Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Oldman’s rivals include 22-year old Timothee Chalamet, who has become an overnight star for his performance as a lovelorn teenager in Call Me By Your Name, and three-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays a designer who gets involved with his model in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread.
Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who has missed an Academy Award a staggering 13 times in his career, has a strong chance of winning one this year. Deakins’s sumptuous cinematography is one of the highlights of Denis Villeneuve’s futuristic tech-noir Blade Runner 2049. The movie has also been nominated in the Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects and Production Design categories.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk hit the sweet spot between critical acclaim and commercial glory (it grossed close to $525 million worldwide). Dunkirk is in the running for eight awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Dunkirk depicts the British effort to fight back German forces on the beaches of Dunkirk in Northern France in 1940. The non-linear plot, minimal computer graphics, and the use of actual World War II-era warships and fighter planes have lent the movie an air of gritty authenticity, which has had quite the effect on critics and Nolan’s legion of fans.
Actress Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut Lady Bird, with five nominations, has also been warmly received by critics. Gerwig is only the fifth woman in the history of the Academy Awards to be nominated in the Best Director category.
Saoirse Ronan’s performance as a teenager yearning to escape small-town life has earned the 23-year-old actress plaudits. Ronan is to McDormand in the Best Actress race what Timothee Chalamet is to Gary Oldman – breakout stars who have been nominated against two thespians at the top of their game.
Although Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread is in the running for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), the movie’s best chances are in the Best Costume Design category. Mark Bridges’s clothes play an integral role in a story that is set in the 1950s in the London fashion world.
Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance Call Me By Your Name is likely to get 89-year-old James Ivory his first Academy Award. Ivory has been nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, and he has won four top awards in this category at other events so far, including a Writers Guild of America award. Call Me By Your Name, the coming-of-age story of a teenager and his love for a much older man, is also in the running for other Oscars, including Best Actor and Best Song (Sufjan Stevens’s Mystery of Love).
The most American of all the Best Picture nominees is also the most topical. Steven Spielberg’s The Post revolves around the efforts of The Washington Post editorial team to publish confidential documents pertaining to the failure of America’s war in Vietnam in 1971. The film is in the running for two awards – Best Film and Best Actress (Meryl Streep).
The outlier of 2018 is comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, a horror movie that is also a searing attack on racism. Get Out has strong chances of winning major awards this year – at the very least, Best Original Screenplay, if not Best Film.
No method is full-proof enough to predict the winners on Oscars night. Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight makes predictions based on how the nominees fared in previous award ceremonies such as the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes. “For example, over the past 25 seasons, the best picture at the BAFTAs won the Oscar 12 out of 25 times, making it a fair indicator of which movies are ahead in the race,” the website’s 2018 prediction report notes.
FiveThirtyEight predicts wins for The Shape of Water in the Best Picture category with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri being a strong second favourite, Gary Oldman for Best Actor, Frances McDormand for Best Actress, Guillermo Del Toro for Best Director, Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) for Best Supporting Actor and Alison Janney (I, Tonya) for Best Supporting Actress, and Coco for Best Animated Feature.
The report acknowledges that predicting Best Film this year is particularly difficult as both frontrunners, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, are popular with different sets of groups. The Shape of Water won the most awards from guilds representing directors, producers and editors, while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has won big in the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the SAG awards.
Meanwhile, a report in The Guardian has attempted to predict Oscar winners by looking at “for your consideration” advertisements. For instance, the poster of Call Me By Your Name strongly pushes Ivory’s multiple wins in the Best Adapted Screenplay category and features the octogenarian’s face. When was the last time a screenwriter’s face made it to a film poster?
Likewise, Dunkirk’s “for your consideration” poster, has Nolan in a diving suit in the middle of shooting his visionary epic. “Look at Christopher Nolan here, splashing around in a wetsuit like some kind of hunk,” the report observes. “That perfect hair. That mysterious stubble. Ostensibly the message is: ‘Behold the struggles Nolan endured to achieve perfection.’”