The wildest part of this year’s Oscar race wasn’t the unpredictability; it was the noise. I’ve been watching the Oscars since 1997, more than half my life now, and I don’t think there’s been a race so obfuscated by feelings over facts, by reactions to reactionaries, by minute-by-minute “momentum shifts” that never really felt like they were there. Plus, Moonlight’s historic win last year over a loved—but also hated—La La Land has given professional pundits and amateur watchers pause in predicting the picture that every indicator suggests is the winner: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.
I agree with much of the Three Billboards criticism, to be sure. I also think that it’s a writer’s movie, not a director’s movie, so the fact that it doesn’t have a Best Director nomination doesn’t scare me from predicting. Not like The Shape of Water’s lack of support from both actors and Brits or Get Out’s general lack of support. If Three Bilboards loses best picture, it will make Moonlight’s supposed upset (though there were plenty of indicators that it was the more beloved picture) seem quaint.
People love Three Billboards, and even people who don’t love it (like me), get the love. Not like The Revenant. Not like La La Land. Frances McDormand’s unwavering support of the picture through the run, also gives it cache to fight back against critics. Is it an imperfect picture, to be sure it is. But so was The King’s Speech. So was Slumdog Millionaire. So was Argo. All of those films had one thing in common: They had the audience (Toronto), the actors (SAG) and the brits (BAFTA) in their corner.
You could argue that Get Out does that, too, but there’s no data to back it up and its discomfort-inducing experience, combined with a need to watch it more than once to really appreciate it, makes it something a lot of people aren’t behind but won’t say because they don’t want to be uncool.
Backlash would suggest that Three Billboards shouldn’t have won the SAG cast award. Three Billboards shouldn’t have won the BAFTA. It did both. It won the Globe. It won Toronto. It’s been a juggernaut-level front-runner all season. In a world without the preferential ballot, The Shape of Water might be your winner, like The Revenant, La La Land, Life of Pi or Gravity. But in this world, Three Billboards is the one with the numbers in its favor.
The one stat that does give me pause for Three Billboards is its lack of support from the Film Independent Spirit Awards, which has seen its Best Feature win Best Picture five of the last six years. The only exception to that was the year Argo won Oscar, but wasn’t eligible for FISA. The Spirit Awards were Get Out’s one chance to stand out. But it didn’t sweep like Moonlight and Spotlight, so again, Get Out hardly has a path to Best Picture.
So where does that leave us? With Three Billboards, a film that more than any in the race represents the time we live in, and has the broadest unwavering support.
What else can we expect? Can the Oscars for acting line up 100% with the precursors for the first time maybe ever, or will Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf or Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville pull of an upset over I, Tonya’s Allison Janney? That’s the only acting race that seems even remotely winnable because Janney’s film is weaker than the films of other likely winners.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk also looks to join the club of technically admired pictures that will sweep Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, like Max Mad: Fury Road, The Matrix, The Bourne Ultimatum. Sure, Baby Driver could zoom in and steal the editing Oscar, but Dunkirk’s domination of the guilds and the admiration of its near technical perfection makes me believe that a light flick like Baby Driver can’t withstand the powerhouse filmmaking on display.
And then there’s Get Out, a movie I love and have rewatched a number of times now. It gets better every time. It was my #3 of the year, behind Twin Peaks: The Return and Call Me By Your Name. Moreover, it feels like it could be the Bonnie & Clyde or Pulp Fiction of our time. Get Out has solidified the era of film we’re living in and changed things at the same time. More so than Wonder Woman or Moonlight or Black Panther, Get Out is a movie that we’ll never forget, that we’ll likely talk about decades from now. That we’ll study for its filmmaking, its success in the biz and its cultural impact. The downside is we don’t often see what happened until after it’s happened. Hindsight is 20/20. Three Billboards feels like In the Heat of the Night and Forrest Gump, which beat Bonnie & Clyde for Best Picture. And while Three Billboards will see history diminish its relevance, Get Out will remain.
It’s been quite a ride, for oh so many reasons, but now it all comes down to this.
- Best Picture: Three Billboards
- Best Actress: Frances McDormand
- Best Actor: Gary Oldman
- Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
- Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell
- Best Director: Guillermo del Toro
- Best Original Screenplay: Three Billboards
- Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
- Best Animated Feature: Coco
- Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places
- Best Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman
- Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
- Best Costume Design: Beauty and the Beast
- Best Film Editing: Dunkirk
- Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
- Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk
- Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
- Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
- Best Original Song: Coco
- Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
- Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049
- Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball
- Best Live-Action Short: The Silent Child
- Best Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405