Oscar Nominations: Mine vs. The Academy’s (part 2)

PJ Knapke, Contributing Reporter

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Best Actor in a leading role – My Pick

Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)

Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) (WINNER)

Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049)

Academy:

Timothée 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.

 

Basically, other than Denzel Washington, the Academy did a excellent job with their nominations for Best Actor. Daniel Day-Lewis is fantastic as always in Phantom Thread (which is no longer a novel thing to say nowadays), and Daniel Kaluuya does a lot to to create the new, exciting, and unsettlingly thrilling atmosphere of Get Out. Gary Oldman will almost definitely win the award for his incredible transformation into Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour, however I believe that Timothée Chalamet should win the award for his astounding performance in Call Me by Your Name, where he not only speaks multiple languages fluently but hits every emotion across the spectrum right on the money throughout the film. That last spot was given to Denzel Washington by the Academy, a sight seen all too often every time these awards come around. The Academy loves to nominate legendary actors who have won or been nominated multiple times over and over again, regardless if they deserved it or not (i.e. Meryl Streep, she somehow was nominated for Into the Woods and Florence Foster Jenkins, which is blasphemy in my eyes). The Academy could have instead nominated a litany of other fantastic performances riddled throughout this year in film. Ryan Gosling was fantastic in Blade Runner 2049, Hugh Jackman was great in Logan(no, not The Greatest Showman), James McAvoy was stunning as literally twenty four different identities in Split, and Robert Pattinson was surprisingly and uncharacteristically magnetic in the under-the-radar Good Time.

Best Actress in a leading role – My Pick

Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) (WINNER)

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)

Academy:

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

For the most part, the Academy and I agree across the board on the Best Actress performances from 2017. I said previously in the Best Actor section that actors like Meryl Streep are often handed nominations every year regardless of how good the film or the performance actually was. With The Post, this is not the case. She undoubtedly great in that film, however I would have switched her out with Jessica Chastain, who I also would choose as my winner if it came down to that. Her charismatic performance in Molly’s Game completely carries the film, much like Gary Oldman’s performance carried Darkest Hour, for which he will likely win. Despite this hiccup, they did a good job nominated the performances of Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird, and Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, who will likely win the award.

Best Actor in a supporting role – My Pick

Harrison Ford (Blade Runner 2049)

Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)

Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) (WINNER)

Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer)

Academy:

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

Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Academy did not do a great job on this one. Willem Dafoe and Sam Rockwell were thoroughly deserving picks, and it is difficult to argue with the inclusion of Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson. However, and maybe I am in the minority with this opinion, I believe that Christopher Plummer’s performance in All the Money in the World is nothing special. It’s not a bad performance, but Michelle Williams thoroughly outshines him (as she so often does) in a good-but-not-great film. It’s obvious his inclusion was due to the fact that he did all of scenes in basically one weekend, as the creators of the film scrambled to cut the now much maligned Kevin Spacey out of the movie, which was undoubtedly an honorable act, but he was not the only one who sacrificed for the film and wasn’t particularly remarkable in it. The biggest snub in for this award, and one of the biggest of all the nominations, was Armie Hammer for Call Me by Your Name. I don’t know what was going through the heads of the Academy, but somehow they left him off the list and in my opinion they screwed up big time. In addition, I would also remove Woody Harrelson (as it’s almost like the Steep/Washington thing) and Richard Jenkins to make room for Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Harrison Ford for Blade Runner 2049. Keoghan’s performance is one for the ages, as he is one of the most haunting personalities I have ever seen on film without physically hurting anyone, raising his voice, or changing from his deadpan tone. He still does all of this with the guise of a certain childlike innocence and eerie politeness that cause mayhem throughout the film. Harrison Ford also deserves a mention, as for the first time in years he brought a performance that showed the acting ability that made him the second highest grossing actor in history. In recent years, he has brought some performances where he seems to just be going through the motions because he doesn’t particularly care about the films he was in (i.e. Indiana Jones 4, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (sorry, but it’s true), etc.). This film is another story. He brings a depth of character and emotionality we haven’t seen in a while from him, and puts him on par with the best of supporting performances of the year. Other possible nominees include Mark Hamill for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Michael Shannon for The Shape of Water.

Best Actress in a supporting role – My Pick

Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) (WINNER)

Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)

Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)

Academy:

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

Allison Janney – I, Tonya

Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird

Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Well would you look at that! We agree across the board for once! Despite our identical list of nominees, I would anticipate that the Academy is going to choose Allison Janney as the winner, which is totally reasonable. However, I myself would choose the inimitable Octavia Spencer. Without her gentle, humorous, and strong-willed presence in The Shape of Water, I believe that the film would stand on unsteady ground and would be at risk of collapsing entirely. Simply put, she brings life to the film in a way that supersedes the other nominees on this list in my opinion. However, the other nominees are still great in their respective films, with Laurie Metcalf’s performance in Lady Bird being the standout of the rest for me.

Best Adapted Screenplay – My Pick

Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory

Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin

Logan – Scott Frank, James Mangold

Blade Runner 2049 – Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

Mudbound – Virgil Williams, Dee Rees (WINNER)

Academy:

Call Me by Your Name – James Ivory

The Disaster Artist – Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber

Logan – Scott Frank, James Mangold

Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin

Mudbound – Virgil Williams, Dee Rees

The screenplay awards generally over the years have gone to films that everyone sees as undeniably deserving of recognition, but were overshadowed or weren’t awarded anything else for whatever reason. All of the films that the Academy nominated this year for adapted screenplay seem to fit that bill this time around. Call Me by Your Name and Mudbound have a few other nominations, but likely will not win for any of them, while Logan, The Disaster Artist, and Molly’s Game all were snubbed of other nominations. Call Me by Your Name seems to be the likely frontrunner, with Mudbound being the next best guess. I would go with Mudbound, as its writing is its real strength for me, while Call Me by Your Name is wonderful for other more prominent reasons. It would be fantastic to see a superhero film get a win, especially with Logan being unlike any other superhero film I have ever seen. Aaron Sorkin also has a good chance of winning (he does almost any year he writes a film), with Molly’s Game showing his masterclass in the swordfight of dialogue and character. The Disaster Artist was certainly a well written film, but I would switch it out with Blade Runner 2049, as Hampton Fancher and Michael Green somehow beautifully built on the story of the original unlike any other sequel I have ever seen.

Best Original Screenplay – My Pick

Wind River – Taylor Sheridan

Get Out – Jordan Peele (WINNER)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – Noah Baumbach

The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos

Academy:

The Big Sick – Emily Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani

Get Out – Jordan Peele

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Martin McDonagh

The story is the same with original screenplay as it is with adapted, as much of the time the award is given to an overlooked film that hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserved from the Academy. This is most notably the case with The Big Sick this year, as it is its only nomination. While it is certainly a palpable showcase of comedy, romance, and tragedy all wrapped into one, there were a few other films in which the writing was particularly notable. The Shape of Water is certainly a great film, however its writing is in no way its strength in my opinion. Lady Bird on the other hand does deserve its nomination here, yet I still would have replaced it with a more unique, creative, and underappreciated piece from the past year. In place of those three films, I would have selected the masterful Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, Noah Baumbach’s rarely uber-realistic family piece The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), and Yorgos Lanthimos’ chilling, deadpan thriller The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The frontrunner for the award is likely Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, however I would love to see Jordan Peele’s Get Out come out with the victory, and there is a decent chance that might still happen.

Best Original Score – My Pick

Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch – Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk  

Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

Jonny Greenwood –  Phantom Thread

John Williams – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Academy:

Hans Zimmer – Dunkirk

Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread

Alexandre Desplat – The Shape of Water

John Williams – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Carter Burwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Overall, this year was a particularly good year for original scores. Hans Zimmer gets his 11th nomination, for which he has only won once, back in 1995 for The Lion King. John Williams gets his freaking FIFTY-FIRST nomination for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, making him the second most nominated person behind Walt Disney. The frontrunners this year are likely Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water, with his dark and eerily curious score allowing the atmosphere set up by del Toro to flourish, and Jonny Greenwood for Phantom Thread, whose use of motive and quieter pieces seemingly always lying in the background of scenes setting the emotionality of scenes throughout the film beautifully. Out of the Academy’s nominations, I would go for Greenwood, with Zimmer coming in at a close second. However, the irrefutable best score of the year was Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s Blade Runner 2049 score. Their use of waxing and waning retro-synths to emulate and build upon the legendary Vangelis score of the original Blade Runner was unparalleled this year, and I would much rather have seen Zimmer won for this instead of Dunkirk. Somehow, Carter Burwell’s score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri got the nomination instead, which for me and many others was completely unnoticeable or pedestrian at best.

Best Cinematography – My Pick

Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)

Hoyte Van Hoytema – Dunkirk

Rachel Morrison – Mudbound

Thimios Bakatakis – The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom – Call Me by Your Name

Academy:

Roger Deakins – Blade Runner 2049

Bruno Delbonnel – Darkest Hour

Hoyte van Hoytema – Dunkirk

Rachel Morrison – Mudbound

Dan Laustsen – The Shape of Water

It is my belief — and one shared by almost everyone who knows his name– that Roger Deakins is the greatest cinematographer of all time, and the craft’s closest example of a household name. While some might bring up names like Vittorio Storaro, Sven Nykvist, Freddie Young, Gregg Toland, etc. in dispute of this claim. However, he is only cinematographer who has successfully put together the particular masteries of each of these DPs. His stunning widescreen tableaus are evocative of Young, his bold colors of Storaro, his naturalistic lighting of Nykvist, and his patient, yet methodical camera movement of Toland. Despite of all of these factors, his previous 13 nominations have proved barren of true recognition of his mastery. This year, though, his work on Blade Runner 2049 combines all of the previously stated aspects of his work unlike ever before, and I have a feeling that this is his year to finally be recognized for his contribution to filmmaking. On another note, it is great to see that the Oscars finally nominated a female DP (yes, this is the first time ever, somehow), and Rachel Morrison is thoroughly deserving from her work on Mudbound. Hoyte van Hoytema also impressed with his stunning IMAX spectacles in Dunkirk, Bakatakis evokes the chillingly voyeuristic tones of The Shining in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Mukdeeprom portrays a simple elegance, not lacking in beautiful light. Unfortunately, the latter two were not recognized with a nomination, but Laustsen and Delbonnel are fair inclusions among the list.

Best Original Song – My Pick

“Visions of Gideon” Sufjan Stevens – Call Me by Your Name (WINNER)

“Remember Me” Gael García Bernal – Coco

“Mystery of Love” Sufjan Stevens – Call Me by Your Name

“Mighty River” Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

“It Ain’t Fair” The Roots – Detroit

Academy:

“Mighty River” Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

“Mystery of Love” Sufjan Stevens – Call Me by Your Name

“Remember Me” Gael García Bernal – Coco

“Stand for Something” Diane Warren, Common – Marshall

“This is Me” Keala Settle – The Greatest Showman

This award will likely go to “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman, or slightly less likely to “Remember Me” from Coco (which, in my opinion, would be a good choice). “Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name is also great, but likely will not win, unfortunately. One song that was tragically left off the Academy’s list was another Sufjan Stevens’ melody from Call Me by Your Name: “Visions of Gideon.” This song, along a few others including the previously mentioned “Mystery of Love,” combine to evoke emotion in manner most reminiscent of Elliott Smith’s wonderfully moody and melodic tunes from Good Will Hunting. “Visions of Gideon,” especially in context of the scene it’s in, does this masterfully in my opinion, and stands on its own as a fantastic song as well. When it comes down to it though, this category is not super important to me, and I won’t be too disappointed with the Academy’s choice in this regard.

In conclusion, this award season seems to particularly be an underwhelming one, as many of the film I wanted to receive recognition went under the radar instead. This feeling could be do to the fact that this is the first year in which I have seen every feature nominated and then some, so maybe it is like this every year (I hope not). Obviously, though, a lot of this feeling can be attributed to my own personal taste as compared to the Academy’s, which clearly are not always the same. I chose not to do Best Animated Feature as I have only seen Coco, and the prospect of The Boss Baby winning an Oscar is a terrifying one for me (it probably won’t). Overall, 2017 was a marvelous year for film, and I am looking forward to see it celebrated on March 4th.  

 

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