The Academy Awards are back, the biggest night in the film calendar. I feel like it would be predictable journalism to start with a joke about last year’s La La Land-Moonlight debacle, but it is looking good for this year’s ceremony because it really couldn’t go any worse than the last one. The 2018 ceremony is sure to be characterised by one thing, and that is the power of women. The MeToo campaign, a celebration of women calling out against men in the film industry who have committed sexual abuse, has dominated the earlier awards shows in the season. Stars turned up dressed in black for the Golden Globes and acceptance speeches were filled with empowering support for women in the industry who have been silenced throughout history. It therefore only seems apt that most of this year’s frontrunners are led by strong female lead characters.
The first being the Golden Globe winner ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’. This black comedy-drama stars the mesmerizingly brilliant Frances McDormand, as quirky as ever, playing Mildred Hayes, a woman recovering from the rape and murder of her daughter. She positions signs on a quiet road in her town to target police chief Willoughby, played by Woody Harrelson and racist young officer Dixon, played by Sam Rockwell, who failed to solve the murder case. Both are nominated for Supporting Actor with Rockwell likely to take the prize. This would be an apt winner, with the ideas of the metoo campaign shining through. Frances McDormand is often unpredictable when in the public eye, as is director, Martin McDonagh, so expect an energetic on-stage display should it win best picture, which it could easily do.
Probably the biggest rival for Three Billboards is fantasy drama ‘The Shape of Water’. This is the tenth directorial work of Guillermo Del Toro, best known for Pan’s Labryinth. Sally Hawkins stars as a mute cleaner who discovers a mystical water creature in a tank and works hard for its survival. This film undoubtedly won’t appeal to all, but those a fan of original, non-mainstream fantasy works will love it. Should Sally Hawkins beat McDormand for best actress, she will become the first actor to win for a non-speaking role since 2012, where Jean Dujardin became victorious for ‘The Artist’. It has received the most nominations out of all the films this year with 13, only one less than the all-time record, including nods for supporting actors Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, and Alexandre Desplat’s beautiful score.
The final major contender is Lady Bird, the directorial debut from indie-comedy powerhouse Greta Gerwig. Stepping away from the starring role, in the likes of the fantastic ‘Frances Ha’ and ‘Mistress America’, Gerwig has been made only the fifth female director to be nominated in the Best Director category, and on her very first directorial production, which she has also written. Lady Bird stars Saiorse Ronan as a high school student battling relationships with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, and potential love interests played by rising stars Timothee Chalamet and Lucas Hedges. This indie flick is not typical best picture, since it seems quite minimalist and stripped back, but I could see them opting for Lady Bird this year, as a film where a woman is involved in all stages of production; the film also hits all the key nominations across the board.
However, my personal favourite film of this awards season was Call Me By Your Name, the gay romantic drama from Luca Guadinigno. This tells the story of 17 year old Elio, played by the outstanding Timothee Chalamet and his bond with a doctoral student who comes to stay with his family, played by Armie Hammer. The beauty of this film lies in its setting of 1980’s Italy, the scenography creates a perfect backdrop to the gentle and sensitive nature of the story. Set to the music of Sufjan Stevens, Call Me By Your Name provides goosebumps throughout the whole two hours, concluding with a particularly emotionally fuelled final couple of scenes. This would win best picture for me, but it perhaps is too much of an alternative arthouse choice to gain a majority with the voting Academy.
The remaining Best Picture nominees include the Winston Churchill drama, ‘Darkest Hour’, for which Gary Oldman looks the frontrunner to take Best Actor. Although, this is likely to perform better at the upcoming BAFTA’s, being a more straightforward British film; the Academy generally prefers to award a wholly unique production, as seen with previous winners Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist, 12 Years a Slave, Moonlight and Birdman. Christopher Nolan’s war drama ‘Dunkirk’ was considered the frontrunner at the early stages of the awards season, but its lack of nominations aside from in the technical categories, holds back its chances. Horror-Thriller ‘Get Out’ has overperformed, especially for a film released early the previous year, including a nomination for British lead Daniel Kaluuya, previously seen in Black Mirror’s ‘Fiften Million Merits’. As has ‘Phantom Thread’, the latest Paul Thomas Anderson, and the supposed final film ever for Oscar favourite Daniel Day Lewis. The final best picture nomination is for Washington Post drama ‘The Post’ which was only picked up one other nomination, for Meryl Streep in lead actress, but this is no surprise seeing as she is nominated for next to every film she does.
So, on 4th March expect a less glitzy and more serious night, with the focus now on the politics of film making. The host is rather boringly Jimmy Kimmel; in a year dominated by women, it would have been appropriate to choose a woman to deliver what will be a scathing opening speech about the current crisis in Hollywood. Nevertheless, it will still be a successful night in celebrating another fantastic year in film, which has seen a ground-breaking selection of films brought to mainstream cinema.
WHAT WILL WIN: THE SHAPE OF WATER
WHAT SHOULD WIN: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
WHO WILL WIN: GUILLERMO DEL TORO- THE SHAPE OF WATER
WHO SHOULD WIN: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN- DUNKIRK
WHO WILL WIN: GARY OLDMAN- DARKEST HOUR
WHO SHOULD WIN: TIMOTHEE CHALAMET- CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
WHO WILL WIN: FRANCES MCDORMAND- THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
WHO SHOULD WIN: FRANCES MCDORMAND- THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
WHO WILL WIN: SAM ROCKWELL- THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
WHO SHOULD WIN: SAM ROCKWELL- THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
WHO WILL WIN: ALLISON JANNEY- I TONYA
WHO SHOULD WIN: LESLEY MANVILLE- PHANTOM THREAD
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
WHAT WILL WIN: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI
WHAT SHOULD WIN: LADY BIRD
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
WHAT WILL WIN: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
WHAT SHOULD WIN: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME