Oscar nods take ‘Shape’: Recapping 90th Academy Award nominations

So it’s Oscar nomination morning and I have some thoughts….. Let’s get into these picks and do super early winner predictions.

Best Picture: Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

I had seven of these nine nominees yesterday when I made my final picks heading into this morning, with Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread taking spots I had slated to go to I, Tonya and The Florida Project.

At first glance, there appear to be four serious contenders — Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards — with fringe candidates in Call Me By Your Name and Dunkirk. Then there are the just happy to be there films like Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread and The Post.

Strong support in the technical categories could prove to be gamechanging for Shape of Water, which could go on a Mad Max: Fury Road like run on its way to major Oscar stagecraft wins only to fall just short in the Best Picture race. The Academy’s preferential balloting system will help a film like Lady Bird, which is a consensus favorite, but it’s still too early to see which film faces the inevitable backlash that befalls one major contender each year.

Right now, this feels like a Shape of Water victory given the film’s 13 nominations. Three Billboards could easily ride momentum from the Golden Globes and SAG Awards to win as well.

Best Actor: Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out), Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq)

This category feels incomplete with the glaring omission of Disaster Artist director/star James Franco, who may or may not have been a casualty of ongoing sexual misconduct allegations that came out after his Golden Globes win. But then again, that didn’t stop the freight train that was Casey Affleck last year for Manchester By The Sea, so who really knows?

I had Tom Hanks taking the fifth spot in this category as the standard nomination for a beloved performer in a Best Picture nominee that’s probably getting a reputation nod more than one based on merit, but apparently that spot was reserved for Washington in a film that came and went out of theaters without any fanfare or attendance for that matter.

Daniel Day-Lewis getting a nomination for his reportedly final performance seemed like a given and it’s a great accolade for Kaluuya to earn a Oscar nomination as well, but this is a two horse race between 22-year-old Chalamet and veteran character actor Oldman, who has shockingly only been nominated once for an Academy Award with 2012’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and feels well overdue for a win.

Give me Golden Globe winner Oldman with a transformative performance in an old school Oscar movie, a stuffy period World War II film where it’s impossible to recognize the actor. It’s a great turn that feels like Winston Churchill is actually there.

Best Actress: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

Best Actress always felt like the easiest category to predict and things fell into place as expected.

With Golden Globe and SAG wins, McDormand has to be the early favorite here, but this is probably the most competitive category this year and possibly the most competitive slate of actresses to be nominated in the same year this decade.

21-time nominee and three-time winner Meryl Streep is the least likely to take home a golden statuette this year. Think about that. The 2017 field is deep.

You could easily make an argument for any of these nominees that would be more than reasonable. Personally, I think this comes down to Ronan’s Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate-esque turn in Greta Gerwig’s fantastic Lady Bird and Hawkins’ spellbinding and silent mastery in Oscar frontrunner The Shape of Water.

And yet somehow, McDormand winning this category feels inevitable.

Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All The Money In The World)

Michael Stuhlbarg is outstanding in secondary roles for three different Best Picture nominees — Call Me By Your Name, The Post and The Shape of Water — and yet somehow gets left off this list. It just doesn’t feel right.

Sorry. Moving on.

Rockwell has been the favorite here for a while now, winning everywhere, but the addition of Harrelson from the same film might split votes and open the door for Dafoe’s well-received turn in an indie darling or more likely Plummer swooping in at the last minute to dominate a J. Paul Getty movie that attempted to wipe the meory of disgraced former star Kevin Spacey.

Who are we kidding? This is Rockwell’s award to lose, which feels increasingly unlikely by the second.

Best Supporting Actress: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Leslie Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Manville was the only surprise here, taking the spot I had pegged for Holly Hunter of The Big Sick.

While Blige and Spencer are solid, this comes down to a two-horse race between Janney and Metcalf with Janney the early leader.

As much as this feels like a toss-up to me, Best Supporting Actress might be the only chance to reward I, Tonya and it feels like the ultimate call.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

I love Nolan as a filmmaker and he’s certainly deserving of acclaim. The same can be said of Gerwig, whose fantastic directorial debut showcases a lot of potential.

This award has del Toro’s name written all over it, plain and simple. The Shape of Water is his magnum opus, culminating more than two decades of excellence in the industry. Any other winner in this category would be shocking and would spell doom for the film’s Best Picture chances. It just doesn’t seem very likely.

Other thoughts:

– I was happy to see well earned screenplay nominations for The Big Sick in the original category and Logan in the adapted category. Neither stands a major chance of winning (Lady Bird or Three Billboards in original and Molly’s Game in adapted).

– Roger Deakins earned his 14th cinematography nomination and yet somehow has never won. His splendid work in Blade Runner 2049 wouldn’t make a win a career achievement award, though Deakins certainly deserves it.

– Despite what anyone might tell you to the contrary, Wonder Woman did not get snubbed because it didn’t receive a nomination. Try watching the final 20 minutes of that film and then tell me it earned acclaim. Even when DC gets movies right, they still find ways to screw it up.

– As I said last year, it’s a mistake for the Academy to simply stream their nominations early in the morning and not broadcast them on national television. It’s a major disservice to the nominees and hurts the potential to reach new audiences.

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