Pre-Christmas Look at the Top Races

Big Magilla
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Re: Pre-Christmas Look at the Top Races

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Dec 24, 2017 3:22 am

Excellent analysis as usual, Tee, with one caveat.

Three Billboards is a U.K./U.S. co-production. The Brits love it. The London Critics have nominated both Hawkins and Ronan for Best English/Irish actress, but only Hawkins for Best Actress where she faces a tough battle with McDormand. I think BAFTA will be a three-way race between all three.
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Mister Tee
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Pre-Christmas Look at the Top Races

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:12 am

January 4th – that’s the day the Oscar race revs up again, with WGA nominations rendered, followed quickly by PGA, and the Globes on Sunday the 7th. After that, we’re off to the races: developments nearly every day between then and the nominations on January 23rd. (A weirdness of the year’s calendar: because the Olympics have pushed the Oscars into early March, both SAG and PGA will present their final awards prior to Oscar nominations.) Since we’re in a bit of limbo right this moment, with so much still to come, I thought it was a good time to toss out some thoughts about this potentially interesting race.

First thing: we ought to cherish where we are in the best picture contest. Generally, by now we’ve reduced the competition to maybe three films – La La Land/Moonlight/Manchester last year, Spotlight/The Revenant/The Big Short the year prior, Boyhood/Birdman/Grand Budapest in 2014. (Sometimes even fewer: in 2010, we were down to the binary Social Network/King’s Speech choice by this point.) The only recent year where things seemed truly wide open was 2012, where arguments could have been made at year’s turn for Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miz, Silver Linings Playbook or ultimate winner Argo.

That race, as it happened, fizzled in the end, with Globes/Broadcasters/BAFTA, plus every Guild, all falling in line behind Argo; only the directing omit from AMPAS raised the slightest, temporary doubt. There’s always the possibility such a suspense-killing thing could happen again. But, for the moment, this year is chaos – you can easily make a case for Get Out, Lady Bird, Three Billboards, Dunkirk, Shape of Water or The Post as final winner. Some will want to discount the chances of the last three, on the “must have SAG Ensemble” principle, but you can grant an exemption to Dunkirk on the basis of “not an actors’ movie”, and to The Post because of late screening, a traditional handicap at SAG. As for Shape of Water – isn’t it hard to toss aside the chances of a film that led nominations for both the Broadcasters and Globes, and seems likely to do the same at AMPAS? It may be, as I argued a week or two back, that there are just so many candidates this year, we can’t take any one exclusion as fully disqualifying. (Anyway, however solid the SAG Ensemble correlation has been, it only goes back 21 years – 14 fewer than the “must have an editing nomination” rule held sway, until being shattered by Birdman.) Each year is different, this year maybe more than others.

Parenthetically…I wonder if we’ll ever have a year again where there’s just an obvious “critics and public both love it/plus it seems to have heft” choice. There were many such winners in the 40s through 70s – The Best Years of Our Lives, From Here to Eternity, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Man for All Seasons, The Godfather, Kramer vs. Kramer are just a few examples. By the 80s and 90s, it felt like this type of movie had descended into self-parody, and we got regrettable choices like Gandhi and Braveheart. But, even in that era, Terms of Endearment, Unforgiven, Schindler’s List, The English Patient and Titanic fit the old parameters and ranked as perfectly admirable choices. When I wrote that Oscar-history-of-Spielberg piece a number of years back, Eric pointed out that, whatever you think of the two films involved, Shakespeare in Love’s defeat of Saving Private Ryan shattered that long-time paradigm – Ryan had got 1998’s best reviews, won both the NY & LA Critics prizes, and been the year’s box-office champ; by all rights and precedent, it should have coasted to victory. At the time, the Shakespeare win seemed a one-off (and, for his detractors, the epitome of Weinstein evil). But I wonder if it was more a sign of things to come. Just as we’re no longer a nation that gets our information from the 6:30 News on three television stations, maybe we’re also no longer one that agrees on one film to represent the industry at its peak. Post-Ryan, the only movie I can think of that seemed to select itself out as the clear best and rode that all the way to Oscar is The Return of the King, which had its unique three-part history on its side. Several films SEEMED headed in that direction – Brokeback Mountain, The Social Network, Boyhood – but each stumbled someplace before the finish line. And one film that seemed to fit the profile – 12 Years a Slave – did manage to win best picture…but look how much trouble it had along the way, failing at the three old-line critics’ awards, winning only ½ of one of the three Guild prizes, losing best director. As someone who’s almost always in favor of wide-open Oscar races, I’m hardly complaining about this – I’m almost giddy about the uncertainty of this year’s race. But part of me wishes that, one year or other, we do come up with a film that meets the classic criteria and becomes a juggernaut, not because the bloggers decree it, but because it flat deserves it. We could use another Schindler’s List at some point, to class up the best picture roster.

On to the actors:

Best actor hasn’t changed over the course of the month: there’s still no really defensible alternative to Gary Oldman, but there’s also no sign of any enthusiasm for his performance outside of Sasha Stone. I remember our old pal Dennis Bee describing the best picture contenders of 2005 as “joylessly nominated” – that’s the position I see Oldman as being in. Which isn’t to say he won’t sweep the TV prizes in the next two months…he may well, and if he does, the Oscar is almost surely his. He’ll no doubt win the Broadcasters – whose very job is to reflect blogger consensus – and you have to figure BAFTA’s in the bag as well. So, it probably comes down to the Globe: if Chalamet (the most logical challenger) wins there, it becomes interesting, with SAG then a major battlefield. But an Oldman win at HFPA for his film’s sole nomination would mean the decision’s been made and won’t be changed.

A seemingly competitive best actress race two years ago was drained of its juice when all four TV prizes went to Brie Larson. Can the same thing happen this year? As I see it, Saoirse Ronan, Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand stand on basically equally footing today – excellent performances, in films likely to get Oscar nods in top categories including best picture. (Some people want to keep Margot Robbie in the picture as well, but I think her film’s lesser prominence, plus her “I was a bimbo just ten minutes ago” profile, puts her a bit below; I reserve the right to change my opinion once I’ve seen the film.) I have no idea who the Broadcasters will go with – maybe they’ll pull one of their infamous ties, to hedge the bet as much as possible. As for the Globes, Ronan will probably win on the Comedy side, but one of Hawkins/McDormand has to lose (barring an uncommon tie there). But each of them has a chance to recoup with the next two presentations. You’d figure Hawkins and Ronan, as local-ish gals, each have a shot at BAFTA, and SAG could go any which way (McDormand is shooting to be the first two-time lead actress winner; if Three Billboards turns into the Ensemble favorite, she could pull it off). Unless some secret cabal has got together and decided one of these ladies will now go on a Larson-like run, this could remain a race right up to March 4th.

When last we looked, Willem Dafoe was winning every critics’ prize in sight. That run did finally slow down some, at the lesser critics. While Dafoe won the important races in NY and LA, plus another dozen lesser ones, Sam Rockwell did surprisingly well at those second-/third-tier venues, coming up with, by my count, 9 citations. (Woody Harrelson and Richard Jenkins each won one random prize.) I note this not because these critics are important, but because, in the past, they’ve got lazily in line to echo choices like Jared Leto, J. K. Simmons and Patricia Arquette (not to mention Christoph Waltz and M’onique), turning the TV awards into seeming inevitabilities, and leading to slam-dunk Oscars. Dafoe of course might still run the TV awards, but he’ll have to do it without this sense of full unanimity among the me-too critics – or much support from his film, which has failed to score in other important categories at SAG or the Globes. The Broadcasters will probably go for him, simply following critical trends, but the Globe is iffy, SAG supposedly hasn’t received Florida Project screeners, and god knows what BAFTA will make of such an American indie. If Dafoe doesn’t pull the full sweep, the Oscar race becomes far more interesting. He can definitely win even without it (especially if Florida Project does surprisingly well in Oscar categories like film or director, something I think possible). But it won’t be a coronation, which makes it a lot more fun for us.

Second verse, almost same as the first, for Laurie Metcalf, who dominated the critics far more than I’d expected, but, like Dafoe, didn’t quite get the rest of the field to surrender. Metcalf won about 2/3 of the critics’ prizes, but Allison Janney won pretty much all the rest, so she’s still in it. Again, I’d expect the Broadcasters to ape the prestige critics and choose Metcalf, but I think Globe and SAG voters are really familiar/friendly with Janney and might go her way -- at least enough to offset Metcalf’s advantage of having a more overall-admired film. (I, Tonya probably needs a Robbie nomination at AMPAS, and maybe makeup or editing, to get itself on semi-equal footing with Lady Bird.) If Metcalf sweeps the four TV prizes, obviously she’s in; if Janney sweeps all four, she becomes the favorite, though perhaps not as strong a one; and if the prizes are split, we could have a delightful race all the way to the Oscars.

Best director, as we’ve discussed, is hellacious to handicap. I’m ready to predict Nolan and del Toro as sure nominees, and after that it’s spin the wheel – McDonagh, Gerwig, Spielberg, Peele, Guadgnino, Baker, PTAnderson all fighting for those three other spots. (Of course, if we recall that crowded 2012 race, sometimes such traffic jams can result in seeming sure things being the omittees.) Imagine if we had only five best picture slots available this year – what a train-wreck it would be.

Speaking of train-wrecks, prepare yourself for this: imagine if, on January 23rd, the nominees for best director are Nolan, del Toro, McDonagh, Guadagnino and Anderson. That would be an auteurist’s dream list – five imaginative creative artists, cited for widely praised films in tune with the zeitgeist. And what would the Twitter reaction be? Oscar Nominates Five White Guys (discounting del Toro’s Latin background for the headline); Gerwig and Peele “Snubbed”.

I don’t have the time or energy to delve into the below-line categories just now, but I’ll repeat what was said a few weeks ago: the only category I’d bet the rent money on is Animated Feature to Coco. This could be one of the most competitive Oscar nights in a long while.
Last edited by Mister Tee on Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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