Welcome to the giant 2018 Oscar nominations column! We’ll be covering a lot of ground here today. First, a brief manifesto on making the Oscars more fun, then I’ll award the “Really? This film?” to the one film that, each year, somehow gets a bunch of big nominations despite being a pretty bad film. After that, I’ll go through each category, decide who should win, who will win and list whatever changes I’d make to the nominations. Let’s get going!
MAKE THE OSCARS FUN MANIFESTO
- Never take the Oscars too seriously. They are not end-all-be-all determinants for quality – keep in mind these people tried to tell you that goddamn Shakespeare in Love was better than Saving Private Ryan, that Crash was better than literally any other film released that year, and that The King’s Speech was better than The Social Network – they are simply a celebration of film. That’s it. This way, you don’t get too worked up about snubs and wins, because everything is finite and these only matter as much as we let them. The problem is they don’t do that great a job of celebrating.
- The Oscars were never all that fun, that’s why this manifesto is titled “Make The Oscars Fun” and not “Make The Oscars Fun Again”.
- The Oscars need to stop taking themselves so seriously. The easiest path to not being problematic would be for them to get weirder films in big nominations to make the ceremony most fun. They wasted a golden opportunity to not give a ton of nominations to The Witch last year, not just because it was one of the 2 best films of that year, but because they could have had an amazing sketch where they brought Black Phillip out on stage. The possibilities for that sketch are endless, it would have been so much fun. Add in a few nominations for Green Room, Swiss Army Man and Hunt for the Wilderpeople and it would have been a blast! If the Oscars take themselves less seriously, they’d be more fun and less guilt-inducing to get into.
- The Oscars might actually be fun this year! Get Out scored huge nominations! I can’t wait for my sunken place sketch! Blade Runner 2049 and Baby Driver picked up some nods, and Logan scored a best screenplay nomination! Lady Bird is the frontrunner for best picture! This is great! Just keep it going and give me more weird films in the categories! Where’s A Ghost Story? War for the Planet of the Apes is all but absent here. Split would be a blast in some categories. The Oscars could be fun this year, but just think about how much more fun they could be if they kept up not taking themselves so seriously!
- Get Eric Andre to host, and let it all burn down.
THE “REALLY? THAT FILM?” AWARD
Every year, there is one film that somehow racks up a bunch of big nominations despite not being good. For example, remember when American Hustle got nominated for like 10 Oscars? I just don’t know who watched that film and went “Give this film every damn nomination we can people”. Every year there’s a film like that. Last year it was Hacksaw Ridge, the year before that The Big Short, and the year before that it was American Sniper. This year, it’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, racking up 7 nominations! What the hell?!
Martin McDonagh’s strengths in previous films In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths were that he could make a scene simultaneously darkly hilarious and heartwrenchingly dramatic. That strength is lost in Three Billboards. It’s a tonal mess of a film that can never marry the comedic and the dramatic and all you end up with is two hours of disappointment. It’s got strong performances, but it is not a good movie. Congratulations Three Billboards on winning this year’s “Really? That Film?” award.
PICKS AND PREDICTIONS
Best Shorts (Documentary/Narrative/Animated)
I’m sorry, nobody cares about these, they’re impossible to predict what will win. They shouldn’t be a part of the ceremony, nobody has money on who will win these awards. Moving on.
Best Original Song
“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
I’m still not certain that this award should be a part of the ceremonies because it’s another category that is hard to predict, so people just pick the one they might have heard and remembered.
Who Should Win: “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan for Call Me By Your Name. Yes, I’m casting the “pick which one I might have remembered” vote. But also, would getting an Oscar make finally make Sufjan not so sad?
Who Will Win: “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. The academy loves musicals, what can I say.
Changes I’d Make: I don’t care enough about this category to make any changes.
Best Sound Mixing
Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick
Who Should Win: Dunkirk. The sound mixing is just top notch. It’s deafening without being distracting, and completely amps up the tension of the film with how it intertwines with the score. It takes the silent film construction of the film and makes it audible, I can’t describe how difficult that is to pull off.
Who Will Win: Baby Driver. When it comes to the sound awards, voters always confuse “best sound mixing/editing” with “most sound mixing/editing”, and Baby Driver had the most sound mixing. This is not a knock on Baby Driver, this is a knock on lack of the voter’s knowledge.
Changes I’d Make: Phantom Thread. The breakfast scenes are sublime.
Best Sound Editing
Baby Driver, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood
Who Should Win: Blade Runner 2049 or Dunkirk. I’ve gone over the reasons for Dunkirk in the previous category, but with 2049, it’s easy to overlook the worldbuilding that’s done with the sound. You just feel this world, and so much of that comes from the sound editing.
Who Will Win: Baby Driver. Again, it will win for “most sound editing”, and again, this is not a knock on the film.
Changes I’d Make: Phantom Thread. They really put in work on those breakfast scenes.
Best Production Design
Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau
Who Should Win: Blade Runner 2049. To watch this film is to enter another world. Each setting feels so distinct, like it has a life of its own and tells you so much about this bleak future.
Who Will Win: The Shape of Water. My thinking that 2049 should win is not a knock on the production value of this film. Guillermo del Toro’s films are always lush creations, with settings that live and breathe and are meticulously constructed down to the tiniest detail. Lock Shape of Water in for at least one Oscar with this.
Changes I’d Make: Are we sure we wanna give an Oscar nod to Beauty and the Beast? Even in one of the technical slots? ARE WE SURE??? I’d remove that film and slide in a more ambitious film like the sterile yet terrifying design of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the grimy and neon-lit streets of Good Time, or the sleek little quirks of worldbuilding in John Wick: Chapter 2.
Best Makeup and Hair
Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten
Who Should Win: Darkest Hour. They apply incredibly meticulous prosthetics to transform Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill, and here’s the thing, I never once while watching the film went “well there’s Gary Oldman in a ton of makeup”. It’s a fantastic job they do.
Who Will Win: Darkest Hour. This is the least close race in this year’s nominees.
Changes I’d Make: I only watched the trailer for Wonder and that was all it took for me to look at that and say “that’s some terrible makeup right there”, I knew I would just spend the whole film going “that is an actor with a lot of terrible makeup on him”. Why is this here? Who did this? You thought THIS was good?! Give me Star Wars, John Wick: Chapter 2, Blade Runner 2049, Wonder Woman, Split or Good Time over the terrible makeup of Wonder.
Best Costume Design
Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle
Who Should Win: Phantom Thread. The exacting and precise nature of Reynolds Woodcock is made physical in the suits he wears and the dresses he designs.
Who Will Win: Beauty and the Beast. Like the sound awards, voters typically go for “most costume design” when they fill out their ballots.
Changes I’d Make: John Wick Chapter 2. These characters can really wear a suit.
Best Visual Effects
Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist
Who Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes. With all due respect to the other nominations (except for Guardians of the Galaxy, what are you even doing here?), this is not even close. Like I wrote about in my review of Matt Reeves’ epic film, we’ve never seen visual effects as great as this. The apes simply just look and feel real, and the way they can translate the actor’s performance to the final image is just astonishing.
Who Will Win: Blade Runner 2049. No Oscar ceremony is complete without an upset! And it should be mentioned that the stuff they pulled off in the visual effects department in 2049 is just jaw-dropping. Sadly for Apes, I just don’t think the academy is ready to acknowledge motion capture filmmaking on this scale yet.
Changes I’d Make: Am I the only shocked that Transformers didn’t get a nod? I’m not saying it should be there, it’s just those films usually end up nominated in this category or the sound category each outing that I did a double take when it didn’t show up. As for changes I’d make, I’d get Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 right the fuck out of there because pee-yew that film stinks. As much as I liked Skull Island, I don’t think it can hold its own against the other nominees in the visual effects camp, so it goes too. I’d slide another nomination Dunkirk’s way here, and I’d give a nomination to A Ghost Story. It’s astonishing what trickery they pulled off with the visual effects for so little money, and it deserves recognition.
Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory
Who Should Win: Dunkirk. With all due respect to Baby Driver, this team should have been nominated for their work on Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim, this nomination feels more like an apology than a win. Lee Smith has been editing Christopher Nolan’s films for more than a decade, and Nolan’s cross-cutting and non-linear timeline storytelling here wouldn’t have succeeded without Smith’s collaboration.
Who Will Win: Dunkirk. I think this may sadly be the only award that the film walks away with.
Changes I’d Make: Let’s get Three Billboards out of there because it does not deserve this nomination. Then let’s add the whip-crack, perfectly timed humor editing of Lady Bird, the insanity they pulled off in John Wick: Chapter 2, the slow pace of Blade Runner 2049, or Phantom Thread and A Ghost Story. There’s just so many better picks than Three Billboards.
Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell
Who Should Win: Jonny Greenwood. It’s about damn time the academy recognized his stellar work with Paul Thomas Anderson and gave him a nomination. He should have two nominations by now (There Will Be Blood and The Master) and one win already (There Will Be Blood). His work on Phantom Thread is a singular, inquisitive, elegant and romantic work that I can’t seem to stop listening to.
Who Will Win: Hans Zimmer. Zimmer’s work on Dunkirk is just masterful, filling in the expository spaces that the absence of dialogue creates. It’s a tense, epic and ever-present work.
Changes I’d Make: Let’s get Three Billboards right the fuck out of there, because I have a rule where if I can’t recall a single note from your score then it doesn’t get a nomination. As with all of Three Billboards’ nominations, there were just better choices available that got overlooked. Let’s slide in Hans Zimmer (for 2!) and Benjamin Wallfisch’s iconic work on Blade Runner 2049. Their score pays homage to the original Vangelis score while making it their own epic and soul-searching work. I would also add Daniel Hart’s score for A Ghost Story, a work that is operatically epic yet crushingly intimate at the same time. It would also have been fun to see Oneohtrix Point Never’s electronic odyssey of a score for Good Time get nominated, or West Dylan Thordson’s tense and emotional work for Split get noticed too.
Best Foreign Film
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)
Who Should Win: No clue. I sadly have not seen any of these because apparently I am an ignorant swine.
Who Will Win: The Square. Best Foreign Film is essentially a popularity contest, a lot of voters seem to pick whichever one they might have actually heard of, if not seen. The Square is the most well-known among the bunch, so it has the best odds of winning.
Changes I’d Make: I would have added The Age of Shadows just because I’m a huge fan of Jee-Woon Kim.
Best Documentary Feature
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen
Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes
Who Should Win: No clue. Out of these, I have only seen Icarus and thought it was just alright. The frontrunner seemed to be Amazon’s City of Ghosts, and while that film is important it’s not necessarily that well made so its exclusion actually makes sense here.
Who Will Win: Last Men in Aleppo. The academy wants to be on the right side of history, and a part of that is honoring a film about the crisis in Syria that the rest of the world seems to want to ignore.
Changes I’d Make: Does Nathan For You’s episode “Finding Frances” qualify? I don’t care, it’s the most original and challenging documentary I watched this year. Put it in there over Icarus. I also loved Barak Goodman’s Oklahoma City, and thought it’s prescience to our current climate would push it in here. It’s in my book over Icarus as well.
Best Animated Feature
The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman
Who Should Win: Listen this is pointless we all know what’s going to win.
Who Will Win: Coco. It’s their award to lose.
Changes I’d Make: Captain Underpants. I was laughing like a kid again at Uranus jokes, and it’s inventively animated. It was my favorite animated film of the year.
Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen
Who Should Win: Roger Deakins. No question. One of the Oscar’s greatest sins is that is has now nominated the greatest living cinematographer 14 times and never given him a damn win. There’s not a frame of 2049 that isn’t marvelous to behold. I wanted to weep the whole film, and a good part of that was Deakins perfection of the cinematic image. If he doesn’t finally win an Oscar here, this may be what finally pushes me over the edge and makes me lose my mind.
Who Will Win: BOY IF YOU DON’T GIVE THIS TO ROGER DEAKINS I SWEAR TO GOD.
Changes I’d Make: This is a great group of nominations! Shoutout to Rachel Morrison! She’s long been a really underrated cinematographer, and is now the first female nominated for the category for her marvelous and epic work on Mudbound. I would only add to this category, with nominations to Darius Khondji for The Lost City of Z, Sean Price Williams for Good Time, and Mike Gioulakis for Split.
Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
Who Should Win: Jordan Peele for Get Out. His script is filled with the most original and brilliant idea for a film this year, and he translates it so effortlessly into cinematic language.
Who Will Win: Jordan Peele. With all love to Gerwig and Gordon/Nanjiani, this is Peele’s award to lose.
Changes I’d Make: Time to boot out Three Billboards for another nomination it doesn’t deserve. I’d keep all the rest though, and put in Shyamalan for Split or The Safdies for Good Time.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
Who Should Win: Logan. It’s just the most fun pick out of all of these, and I’m happy I can now say Oscar Nominee Scott Frank.
Who Will Win: Congrats to Dee Rees! This race is a lot more open than others, and I think Mudbound can run away with it.
Changes I’d Make: I like this pool, but there’s a lot of candidates I would add to it like James Gray for The Lost City of Z, Michael Green and Hampton Fancher for Blade Runner 2049 or Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback for War For the Planet of the Apes.
Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe. The most human performance of the bunch, Dafoe balances doing his characters job and caring for the children at his hotel in a warm turn for an actor so often associated with creep roles.
Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell. Listen, I love Sam Rockwell more than you know, but he did not give the best performance among this crew. But he’s got the other awards on his side, winning the globe and the sag, so unless there is a huge voter shift I just don’t see anyone else winning.
Changes I’d Make: I’d add Barry Keoghan in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Patrick Stewart in Logan, Jason Mitchell in Mudbound and Buddy Duress in Good Time.
Best Supporting Actress
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf. She gives the most authentic performance with the hardest part to play of the bunch, creating a mother-daughter dynamic that just feels so real.
Who Will Win: Allison Janney. Nobody can cuss like Allison Janney, and she’s a delight to watch seemingly invent swearing in I, Tonya.
Changes I’d Make: I’m happy because I thought I’d have to sub in Lesley Manville and Mary J. Blige, but they’re already there! Success! I would like to add Dafne Keen in Logan to these nominees though as well as Sylvia Hoeks in Blade Runner 2049.
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Who Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya would be the most fun choice. It would just be radical for the academy to give an oscar to a horror performance. The nomination is the win here for him, and he totally deserves this nomination. It was one of the 5 best performances of the year.
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman. It’s the “it’s time” award to honor his career. And listen, Darkest Hour has its issues, but Oldman’s not one of them. He’s fantastic, never making the makeup on him feel like makeup, you just feel like you’re watching Churchill.
Changes I’d Make: This hurts because I love Denzel, but I’m taking him out. Do you know anybody that actually saw Roman J. Israel? I don’t. Besides, there are three phenomenal performances that belong here over him. First of all, I’d put Robert Pattinson in Denzel’s spot for Good Time. He’s just on another level in that film. Then I’d put James McAvoy for Split in there, he’s doing an insane juggling act in that film that deserves recognition. And lastly, I’d do what the Oscars are too chicken to do, and give the nomination and the win to Andy Serkis for War for the Planet of the Apes. We’ve never seen anything like what he does in that film.
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
Who Should Win: Saoirse Ronan. Congrats to her on her 3rd Oscar nod! I don’t know how to describe why she’s so great in this film, it’s just that she’s always great.
Who Will Win: Saoirse Ronan. It’s her time.
Changes I’d Make: I’d add Vicky Krieps for Phantom Thread and call it good.
Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro
Who Should Win: I don’t really know. This is tough, because all of these films were so damn well directed. Everybody that got the nomination deserves it. But when it comes down to it, I pick Christopher Nolan. I just think he did the best job of directing a film this year.
Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro. I think he’ll get the director’s guild award, and from there it’s easy flying to an Oscar. While I didn’t like Shape of Water as much as his other films, I’m very happy that one of my favorite directors is getting all this awards love.
Changes I’d Make: I’d add Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049, James Gray for The Lost City of Z, the Safdie brothers for Good Time and David Lowery for A Ghost Story.
Call Me by Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Should Win: Lady Bird. If I’m thinking objectively, the best film I saw last year is between Lady Bird, Get Out, Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049. Between those all, I just think Lady Bird deserves the award the most. It’s an authentic, warm, charming and thoughtful film that you can relate to at so many points in your life.
Who Will Win: Congrats to Lady Bird!!!! I just feel it in my soul that Gerwig and company will walk away with the big trophy. I just feel it.
Changes I’d Make: I’d remove Darkest Hour and Three Billboards, and insert Blade Runner 2049, A Ghost Story and Good Time.