Best Picture by Dajour Evans
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has had a successful awards season so far. From snagging the Golden Globe for Best Drama to receiving Best Film at the BAFTAs, this film is an unstoppable force. And it’s not difficult to see why: The movie boasts stunning performances, complicated characters, and a fearless script. With this momentum, and the fact that it’s a fantastic film, it would make sense for the Oscars to honor Three Billboards.
But Get Out, from first-time director Jordan Peele, would be the daring choice. The film, despite the Golden Globes’ categorization as a comedy, is a horror movie. The concept alone is terrifying: It’s rooted in a history of the fetishization and exploitation of black bodies in America. Giving the win to a horror film, rather than the typical drama, would be a bold move for the often stale Academy.
With Get Out being the financial success that it was, and Black Panther following suit just a year later, diversity in film has become a central topic in the industry. A Best Picture win would showcase the Academy’s commitment to recognizing films that tell stories outside of the white, male, cis-heteronormative perspective, and prove that Moonlight’s upset was not just a one time thing. Get Out is a superbly crafted film and it deserves the Oscar. Unfortunately, it probably won’t get it.
Best Director by Eman Rahman
The guard is changing in Hollywood. Christopher Nolan and Guillermo Del Toro, both receiving their first nominations, represent a new generation—one that embraces genre and formal experimentation rather than adhering to the classical Hollywood norms stereotypically associated with the Oscars. Del Toro has won the Golden Globe and the Director’s Guild of America award for The Shape of Water and will likely cap off this streak at the Oscars. The monster maestro has always had a penchant for humanizing beasts and for finding the beasts within humans. He uses the visual language of fantasy in its simplest, most familiar forms, imbuing his films with a childlike sensibility which he balances with his signature maturity.
Nonetheless, it is long past due for Nolan to be rewarded for his contributions to cinema. His author-function is defined by intellectual rigor, narrative sleight of hand, and a sternly uncompromising approach that leaves viewers staggered yet entertained. Throughout his career, Nolan has cultivated a discourse by using necessarily theatrical film technologies and geometric methods. So, it’s only fitting that he should receive the statuette for his most “Oscar-y” movie to date. Dunkirk is an extraordinary cinematic accomplishment: a mix of dizzying spectacle and spacious contemplation, always trusting the viewer to connect with its near elemental usage of visual storytelling. If there were ever a time to finally award the man for how much he’s influenced cinema, it is now.
Best Actor by Caitlin Mannering
Not only has Gary Oldman secured the Golden Globe, the Screen Actors Guild award, and the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Actor for his role as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, he has also been congratulated for his performance by Churchill’s own granddaughter. Nominated for an Academy Award only once before, Oldman seems destined to ride his momentum to the top on March 4. His transformation into Churchill is immersive and transcendent, and he fully embodies a man who has become more legend than reality.
Oldman’s competition includes Daniel Kaluuya, who gave a nuanced, chilling performance in Get Out. Three-time Academy Award-winner Daniel Day-Lewis secured his fifth Academy Award nomination in his richly textured (and reportedly final) performance in Phantom Thread.
Despite the other contenders’ lauded performances, Oldman’s greatest competitor for the award is Timothée Chalamet, the 22-year-old breakout star of Call Me By Your Name. Chalamet gives a layered performance as 17-year-old Elio, a precocious teenager who enters into a passionate love affair with the grad student staying in his family’s Italian villa in the summer of 1983. Chalamet’s every expression—especially in the five-minute close-up during the final scene of the film—bears depths of emotion. In a film filled with great performances, Chalamet’s alone makes Call Me By Your Name worth watching.
Best Actress by Claire Goldberg
This year, and every year henceforth, shall be known as the Year of the Ladies. Look no further than this year’s Best Actress category. Sally Hawkins, who plays a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with a fish-man in The Shape of Water, exudes more feeling and emotion while speechless than most actors do with full scripts of dialogue. Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya makes a seemingly deplorable character sympathetic. Saoirse Ronan plays the most relatable, yet still distinct, high schooler in Lady Bird, finding her identity even after giving herself a name of her own. And finally, Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep.
If every single one of these women could go home with the award, or share one à la the prom queen scene in Mean Girls, the world would be good. But, to pick just one to win, it has to be Frances McDormand. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a mother attempting to hold her local police accountable for the unsolved rape and murder of her daughter, and her mix of compassion and cold-heartedness may be one of the best acting performances of the decade. Surrounded by supporting characters who are equally well-known stars—Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, and Lucas Hedges, to name just a few—McDormand shines brighter than them all. McDormand should and will win, but the other women in this category are nearly as deserving.
Best Supporting Actor by Sam Charaf
With sensational performances across the board, the race for Best Supporting Actor has no clear shoo-in. The category is one of the most competitive of the year, and includes Christopher Plummer for his headline-making, last-minute replacement of Kevin Spacey in All the Money in the World. However, judging from his massive acclaim, Sam Rockwell of Three Billboards seems to be the likely frontrunner. Rockwell delivers a truly remarkable performance as Officer Dixon, a racist, bozo cop with a redemptive character arc that is well worth the hype.
Also vying for the Oscar is Willem Dafoe for his tender, down-to-earth performance in The Florida Project. Dafoe plays a warm-hearted, budget motel manager on the outskirts of Disney’s Magic Kingdom with a soft spot for his paycheck-to-paycheck tenants. His kind interactions with the motel’s youngest residents, all victims of their impoverished upbringing, are understated yet full of humanity. There’s no Oscar bait here; Dafoe doesn’t beg for attention, making his one of the most realistic, humane characters to grace the screen this year. His performance, though highly acclaimed early in the awards season by critics, has lost traction in recent weeks, and will likely lose to Rockwell’s performance in Three Billboards on March 4.
Best Supporting Actress by Susan Long
The contenders for Best Supporting Actress this year all play matriarchs in their Oscar-nominated films. From loving to opinionated to just a touch less than completely insane, the moms of the Oscars each deserve praise for their masterfully real and deeply empathetic performances.
Of all the talented nominees, Allison Janney, for her role as the mean, aggressive stage mother to the infamous Tonya Harding, deserves the win. Through her snarled remarks and chain-smoking, her hatefulness is reasoned: She seeks success for her daughter. Janney manages to make a woman who paid audience members to boo her own child empathetic. For this seemingly impossible feat, pulled off so convincingly, and, not to mention, to comedic effect, Janney should take home her first Academy Award.
Two honorable mentions include Mary J. Blige, whose nomination is quite deserved. Her transformation from wildly successful music artist to the loving matriarch of a post-World War II sharecropper family in Mudbound is impressively authentic. Jumping forward a few generations, Laurie Metcalf as the overworked, passive-aggressive mother to the impulsive Lady Bird also impresses. Her slow-burn emotional performance explodes in a beautiful expression of frustration and love in Lady Bird, and even if for just that moment alone, she deserves the nomination.