Award season is well and truly underway. With the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards in every cinephile’s rear view window, the Oscars will soon be upon us. The prevailing theme of this year’s award season is that every films nominated is getting a little piece of awards pie; there is no singular film expected to win awards across the board. Though attempting to predict how the Academy will vote may be futile, here is a summary of the apparent leaders and loveable underdogs of the main Oscar categories.
2018 was an annus mirabilis of diverse and divisive films and no category epitomises this better than Best Picture. This time last year, the category was a definitive stand off between Moonlight and La La Land. This year, however, there is no definitive leader of the nominations pack. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won at the Globes, while The Shape of Water triumphed at the Critics Choice Awards. Dunkirk and The Post are typical Academy favourites. Get Out, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name have stolen hearts on their long journeys from the festival circuit to theatrical release. Although Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread seem like the least likely winners, it’s been too unpredictable an award season already to rule any film out entirely.
Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig have already made history with their nominations, becoming the fifth black man and the fifth woman, respectively, to ever be nominated for Best Director. This is Christopher Nolan’s first director nomination and he may become the Leonardo DiCaprio of 2018; voted for, not specifically for his work on Dunkirk, but rather because his entire filmography is deserving of an Oscar. Steven Spielberg and Martin McDonagh were surprisingly snubbed in favour of Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread. But Guillermo del Toro has picked up this award at nearly every show, and giving beautifully passionate acceptance speeches, making him the most likely winner.
In the past, the Academy has been hesitant to acknowledge young male actors, but it’s clear that Oscar habits are changing. Hollywood’s new It-boy Timothée Chalamet is only twenty-two years and the youngest lead actor nominee since 1944. Fellow nominee Daniel Kaluuya is only six years older. But these young faces are nominated alongside some titans of the industry; Daniel Day-Lewis, the only actor to win this category three times, Denzel Washington, who has been nominated eight times, making him the most nominated African-American actor, and the likely winner Gary Oldman for his raucous performance as Winston Churchill.
Possibly the most competitive category this year, critics have been finding it tough to decide between the myriad of superb performances by female actors last year. The current, but potentially fickle, rankings see the ferocious Frances McDormand in the lead, Ireland’s own pride and joy Saoirse Ronan in a very close second and Oscar icon Meryl Streep coming in third. Sally Hawkins is the dark horse of this race, having given the most stunning and emotive performances of the year as a mute woman that falls in love with a sea creature in The Shape of Water. Lastly, Margot Robbie fills out the category for her role as Tonya Harding.
Best Supporting Actor
Hollywood loves Sam Rockwell, despite the controversy of his character in Three Billboards. The nomination of his cast mate Woody Harrelson signals that Rockwell is the likely winner. But his main competition comes from Willem Dafoe, who has become the face of the beautiful underdog film of this awards season: The Florida Project. The category is filled out by the formidable Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water and Christopher Plummer, who replaced Kevin Spacey in All The Money in the World, who is now the oldest ever nominee at 88 years old. The double nomination for Three Billboards in this category means that critical favourite Call Me By Your Name’s Michael Stuhlbarg, sadly, did not get a nomination.
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer’s nomination in this category means that she is now tied with Viola Davis as the most nominated black actress, while Mary J Blige’s (pictured) nomination makes her the first person to ever be nominated for an acting performance and song in the same year. Ultimately, this category is a two person race between I, Tonya’s Allison Janney and Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf, with Janney holding a slight lead.
Best Original Screenplay
Last year was dominated by original screenplays, so it was heartwarming to see indie romcom The Big Sick get a nod in this category. It’s chances of winning are slim as it’s up against four of the best picture nominees: Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Jordan Peele’s racially driven psychological thriller deserves this award, but Three Billboards, outside Ebbing, Missouri might just steal it from him.
Best Adapted screenplay
Mudbound’s Dee Rees is the second ever black woman to be nominated in this category, while Logan is the first live action superhero film to appear in this category. James Franco’s labour of love The Disaster Artist was shut out of most categories, but managed to hang on to a screenplay nomination. Call Me By Your Name is a shue in, it would be shocking if James Ivory doesn’t win for his adaption of the Andre Aciman novel.
The Best Song category often nominates the most divergent competitors. This year is a choice between epic civil rights ballads from Mudbound and Marshall, a typical musical number from The Greatest Showman, the joyous latin song from Coco and the eccentric Sufjan Stevens’ acoustic addition to Call Me By Your Name.
Mudbound’s Rachel Morrison is the first woman to ever be nominated for cinematography, though she is not likely to win, it’s a monumental achievement in itself. Baby Driver was a surprising and deserving addition to the editing category, even though the technically exquisite Dunkirk looks set to win all the editing and sound awards. Ireland’s own Consolata Boyle is nominated in this category for her work on Victoria and Abdul, Phantom Thread is expected to win. Make-up and hair will most likely be awarded to Darkest Hour for the feat of making Gary Oldman look like Winston Churchill.
Muireann O’Shea – Film Editor