Oscars panel: predictions in an unpredictable year

Welcome to the first discussion panel on Skooby Watches Movies! The Oscars are on March 4, and it’s one of the most unpredictable ceremonies in recent memory. So I decided to bring on two friends and fellow film lovers to predict the many ways the Academy Awards could go: Audrey Altmann and Peter Coutu.

The Big Six Categories

Actor in a Leading Role

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Jake: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

The Oscars ostensibly honor the best cinematic achievements within a calendar year. But they can also function as a way to recognize shifts in the industry, and serve as a benchmark for actors who have skyrocketed into stardom. Gary Oldman’s depiction of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour is a classic Oscar winner: a showy, costumed, biopic performance. But Chalamet broke out this year in Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name, and I think the Academy will go the way of recognizing a star of the future, not the past.

Audrey: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

I’m going to be honest. I didn’t see this movie so I have no actual opinions on Chalamet’s performance. But, I know that I’ve heard good things, and I did enjoy his part in Lady Bird. I have read that he’s a strong contender to win (on the Internet, so I know it’s true). He’s a very good-looking man and I plan on seeing Call Me By Your Name sometime soon in order to hopefully validate and confirm this uninformed decision that I have made. Oops.

Peter: Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour

Of the major categories, this one is the easiest to predict: Gary Oldman is the huge favorite to take home the prize. With wins already in the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards, he’s right on track. I’m going with conventional wisdom here and taking Oldman for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour.

Actress in a Leading Role

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Jake: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

McDormand has been the frontrunner since the beginning of awards season, and has already racked up wins at the BAFTAs and SAG Awards, two significant predictors of the Oscars. The Academy as a voting body is prone to honor prevailing narratives, and I think a movie about a tough female crusader out to take down a male-dominated system is ripe for victory. My personal pick would be Margot Robbie, who gave an incredible, complicated performance in an otherwise frustrating film.

Audrey: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

More honesty: I know this pick isn’t the most likely scenario. This one is my own selfish decision, because I really want Robbie to win. I know that Frances McDormand is practically a lock. While seeing the movie, I remember thinking that the scene in which Tonya painstakingly puts on her makeup and struggles to practice a winning smile before her chance to win Olympic gold was enough, in my book, to secure a win for Robbie. I have watched the Tonya Harding 30-for-30 documentary, countless interviews and plenty of footage from the fateful January 6, 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan. This case has always fascinated me, and Robbie was able to portray Harding in a honest, heartbreaking way that I hadn’t seen before.

Peter: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

While this will very likely go to Frances McDormand (and it would be entirely justified, she was fantastic in Three Billboards) I’m going in a different direction. Margot Robbie practically did the impossible — she made Tonya Harding likable, maybe for the first time ever. Throughout the two-hour film, Robbie made the almost universally hated Harding a deeply sympathetic character. Even knowing the story, I rooted for her the whole time. As a huge underdog, Robbie will take home the prize.

Actor in a Supporting Role

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Jake: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Rockwell is the heavy favorite for his turn as an aloof, racist, and sometimes well-intentioned cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I liked his performance a lot, and it’s nice to see a character actor I’ve long admired get his due. My favorite supporting performance this year was one that didn’t come close to making the cut: LilRel Howery’s hilarious turn in Get Out. I guess the fact that he’s the star of Uncle Drew will make up for it.

Audrey: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A heavy favorite to win, I wholeheartedly believe that Rockwell will be taking home this award. His character in Three Billboards is complicated and doesn’t present him as easily “fixable.” Jason Dixon has many sides, and we are able to see several of them throughout this film, which is no easy feat. I certainly didn’t leave the movie thinking that he was likable, but I did understand him a bit more. Rockwell was able to perfectly keep up and match Frances McDormand’s stellar performance as Mildred Hayes. The scenes of these two characters together was truly what I found most surprising and compelling about the film, as well as why I believe Rockwell deserves the Oscar.

Peter: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

This category is closer than people suspect. While Sam Rockwell has a strong case for his performance in Three Billboards, Willem Dafoe isn’t far behind. It’ll only take a few things to break Dafoe’s way for his chance at an upset win. Maybe Rockwell will split some votes with his Three Billboards co-star Woody Harrelson, or maybe some of the movie’s controversy will catch up to them. Whichever way it happens, I think Dafoe is winning.

Actress in a Supporting Role

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Jake: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

This might be more of a wish than an actual prediction, but I think Metcalf could pull out the win. It’s been a two-woman race between Metcalf and Allison Janney since the beginning. I love Janney, but in I, Tonya, her performance as Tonya Harding’s abusive mother felt flat and inaccessible. It’s a showy performance, carried as much by a pet parrot as Janney herself. Metcalf’s performance is much more understated, and much more impactful.

Audrey: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Metcalf was a last-minute choice due to the fact that I saw the movie just before writing this. She was incredible in her performance as the loving, hyper-critical, blunt, resilient, frustrating, frustrated mother figure that so many daughters battle with, but fiercely love at the same time. She moved me to tears and made me laugh at various points in the film. That is the reason that I love movies so much: characters who make me go through that range of emotions in one sitting. Metcalf skillfully does it in Lady Bird, earning my vote.

Peter: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Allison Janney will win. She was fantastic and won virtually every other major award for best supporting actress for her performance in I, Tonya prior to the Academy Awards. Next in line would be Laurie Metcalf.

Directing

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Jake: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Aside from Best Picture, this is the most difficult category to predict. I had Christopher Nolan in this category until very recently, and I still think there is a good chance he wins. Dunkirk is the kind of cinematic spectacle the Academy tends to swoon over. But The Shape of Water earned 13 nominations; it’s a critical darling, and a movie perfectly curated for people who live and breath movies. I’m not picking The Shape of Water to win Best Picture, so I think I have to pick it to win the other major category; Directing and Best Picture often split. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele win, though. This one is wide open.

Audrey: Jordan Peele, Get Out

This is another pick that I am not entirely sure is likely, but I hope that I’m wrong. Peele’s horror project came after many years of sketch comedy work, so I was very surprised (maybe that’s just me). But it goes without saying that the movie was hugely successful and earned Peele a place as a serious filmmaker. As the marvelous Jake Skubish wrote, Get Out “will likely be the movie that comes to define 2017.” While there are many reasons why this is true, I believe that Peele is the primary one. This appears to be the year that many in Hollywood have caught up and began to grasp the idea that representation matters -- and is, in fact, profitable. I hope the Academy recognizes that, and that Peele becomes the first African-American director to win in this category.

Peter: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

Since 2003, the Academy Awards and the Directors Guild of America have disagreed just once about who is the year’s best director. This year, the Directors Guild of America chose Guillermo del Toro for the prestigious award. On Sunday, he’ll take the stage again to accept the Academy Award for best director. Christopher Nolan is probably the second closest, but it’s a distant second.

Best Picture

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Jake: Lady Bird

Ughhhhhhhhhhh. I don’t know. This is the most wide-open race I can remember in recent history; I wouldn’t be totally surprised if six of the nine films won (it’s highly unlikely that Phantom Thread, The Post, or The Darkest Hour win). And with nine nominees and a secret, rank-order voting system, it’s really difficult to see the mechanics of how a film wins Best Picture. Lady Bird is a small movie, but it also feels like the safest. Everybody loves Lady Bird, and I suspect that the rank-order voting will carry it to the end of many members’ ballots. Don’t sleep on Get Out and Dunkirk, though.

Audrey: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This film gets my choice for Best Picture because of its extraordinary use of anger. In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, this year has been marked as the year that people, specifically women, have used their anger to launch concrete efforts against those who have carried out sexual, physical and emotional abuse. We have seen movies about people whose lives have been affected by sexual assault, but this is one of very few films that I have ever seen that presents us a female main character who is angry and makes no attempts to apologize for that fact. Due to its timeliness, not to mention the remarkable performances by this cast, I think and hope that Three Billboards will take home the top honor.

Peter: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I wanted to pick Get Out, I really did. Especially after last year’s upset win in the same category. But realistically, Get Out is probably in the middle of the pack. Right now, it looks like a race between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. For my money, Three Billboards was the better movie.  

The two movies have split other major awards pretty evenly. The Screen Actors Guild and the BAFTAs chose Three Billboards; the Producers Guild of America and Critics’ Choice selected The Shape of Water. I’m not entirely sure why, but I think Three Billboards will be the Academy’s choice for the best film of the year.

The Rest

Animated Feature Film

Jake: Coco

Audrey: Coco

Peter: Coco

Cinematography

Jake: Blade Runner 2049

Audrey: The Shape of Water

Peter: Blade Runner 2049

Costume Design

Jake: Phantom Thread

Audrey: Beauty and the Beast

Peter: The Darkest Hour

Documentary (Feature)

Jake: Faces Places

Audrey: Last Men in Aleppo

Peter: Icarus

Documentary (Short Subject)

Jake: Edith + Eddie

Audrey: Traffic Stop

Peter: Edith + Eddie

Film Editing

Jake: Dunkirk

Audrey: I, Tonya

Peter: Dunkirk

Foreign Language Film

Jake: A Fantastic Woman

Audrey: The Square

Peter: A Fantastic Woman

Makeup and Hairstyling

Jake: The Darkest Hour

Audrey: Wonder

Peter: The Darkest Hour

Music (Original Score)

Jake: The Shape of Water

Audrey: Dunkirk

Peter: The Shape of Water

Music (Original Song)

Jake: "Remember Me," from Coco

Audrey: "Mighty River," from Mudbound

Peter: "Remember Me," from Coco

Production Design

Jake: The Shape of Water

Audrey: The Shape of Water

Peter: The Shape of Water

Short Film (Animated)

Jake: Dear Basketball

Audrey: Lou

Peter: Dear Basketball

Short Film (Live Action)

Jake: The Silent Child

Audrey: My Nephew Emmett

Peter: The Eleven O’Clock

Sound Editing

Jake: Dunkirk

Audrey: Blade Runner 2049

Peter: Dunkirk

Sound Mixing

Jake: Dunkirk

Audrey: The Shape of Water

Peter: Dunkirk

Visual Effects

Jake: Blade Runner 2049

Audrey: Blade Runner 2049

Peter: War for the Planet of the Apes

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Jake: Call Me By Your Name

Audrey: Call Me By Your Name

Peter: Call Me By Your Name

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Jake: Get Out

Audrey: Get Out

Peter: Get Out