In the sociopolitical climate we’re in now, does anyone really care what will win the Oscars on March 4? Yes, they do, though the issues buzzing through our culture will certainly play a pivotal role.
To make more sense out of the annual showdown, I interviewed an anonymous Oscar voter for their take on who deserves it, who’ll win, and why. The top contenders seem to be a twisty crime piece, an oddball fairy tale, and… well, read on.
Hello, Oscar voter. Last year was the awful-yet-riveting moment where Faye Dunaway announced that the Best Picture was La La Land. Will the awards recover from that?
I think they will recover because I think Price Waterhouse did a good thing and did not fire the person whose fault it was, because it was literally a tragic mistake. They put him somewhere else, but they did not fire him. It proves it was a tragic mistake and they did not offer a sacrificial lamb to make up for this. Everyone realizes it was a mistake.
Let’s talk about this year’s Best Picture category.
What I was going to vote for was I, Tonya, but clearly that didn’t make the list. So it’s pretty much a tie for me between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water. Three Billboards is a beautifully crafted, excellently written piece that has such extreme drama with comedy that it’s a perfect combination. I saw The Shape of Water for a second time and really appreciated not only the visuals and the story, but the actual fairy tale aspects of it. There were things I missed the first time where I thought the ending was a little strange, but on second viewing, it made a lot more sense and the whole thing was a fairy tale from beginning to end.
So how are you shaping up as far as the two films?
At the moment, I am leaning toward The Shape of Water.
Do you think it’ll win?
It’s tough to say because Shape has the most nominations, but I think Three Billboards has more cachet as far as the type of film Academy members would normally vote for.
Is that film’s Frances McDormand Best Actress?
Yes. I love all three—Margot Robbie [I, Tonya], Sally Hawkins [The Shape of Water], and Frances McDormand, but when it comes down to the performances, Frances played it so pitch-perfect.
She won one for Fargo.
In Fargo, she played pretty much the complete opposite type of woman, where she was playing completely neutral throughout the whole thing. I didn’t get it. It was explained that it was about a woman who had no agenda, while everyone else who had an angle [and] was annihilating themselves. In this one, she plays the opposite. She plays a woman who is completely in the throes of the situation she’s in, she has an extreme angle, and she needs to play it with both the empathy for her dead daughter, as well as the guilt that she allowed it to happen.
So you’re not only voting for her, but you think she’ll win?
Absolutely. I think my second choice would have been Margot [Robbie].
It’s absolutely Gary Oldman. Ironically, I’ve seen Darkest Hour five times and have absolutely enjoyed it five times. The only reason I don’t think it will win Best Picture is because it’s too safe. The Shape of Water is very slick, but there’s no risk involved in Darkest Hour.
So why is Oldman going all the way?
His performance not only was absolutely incredible, but he managed to work with that makeup as if it was his own skin.
What about the supporting categories?
[For Best Supporting Actor], for me, it was a toss-up between Sam Rockwell [for Three Billboards] and Willem Dafoe [for The Florida Project]. I’m going for Sam Rockwell for the same reason as Frances McDormand. He was pitch-perfect. He had to straddle the line between monster and hero, and he did it perfectly. The Florida Project was one of my favorite movies of the year. I was disappointed it did not make the list [for Best Picture]. I thought Willem Dafoe was absolutely perfect in bridging the gap between seasoned actors and newcomers.
But Rockwell win win?
Oh, yeah. Unfortunately, because Florida Project did not get [nominated for] Best Picture or even screenplay, I think the chance of Dafoe has gone way down.
Your thoughts on Daniel Day-Lewis’ swan song, Phantom Thread?
I liked it, but it’s definitely something where the whole is a lot better than the sum of its parts. You had to sit through this excruciatingly slow film to appreciate the ending and find the film really good, while Three Billboards and The Shape of Water and most of the other nominees were enjoyable from beginning to end.
I loved it. I thought it was a great slice of life film.
I’m a bit confused by Get Out. Not by understanding the film—I understood the film fine—I’m just not 100% sure why they made that one the social statement of the year. I thought it was an intelligent, sophisticated psychological horror film. But I’m completely confused by why it got all that attention. I actually got more out of the Scream movies as far as intellectual twists on horror films, and they’re making Get Out as this huge statement, and I don’t quite see the depth of it that other people are seeing. Another film I would have definitely put on my list is Mudbound. I would have put that up for Best Picture. It did for me everything they’re claiming Get Out does.
Will The Shape of Water win the most awards? Dunkirk?
I hope it’s not Dunkirk. Between Darkest Hour and Dunkirk, I didn’t understand Dunkirk. It’s a fine battle picture, but it’s very, very confusing. They constantly switch between night and day. I wasn’t familiar with Dunkirk in my history, and I didn’t know it’s in France. And they never explained it.
I liked The Post. I know that other people had issues with it because they compared it to the actual events and to All The President’s Men, but where I was not familiar with Dunkirk, I was also not familiar with the events from The Post, and unlike Dunkirk, I was not confused by The Post and I was very enthralled by the narrative.
What about Best Director? Martin McDonagh wasn’t nominated for Three Billboards…
If it was Martin up there, I would hands-down have voted for him, and I don’t understand why he didn’t make it.
Who will you vote for?
Because of the choices they picked, it’s going to be between Greta Gerwig [for Lady Bird] and Guillermo del Toro [for The Shape of Water]. Most likely, I will do del Toro.
Will he win?
I frankly think they did a horrible job picking the five directors. If Martin was nominated, hands-down he would win. Christopher Nolan may get it because of his body of work and because of how people feel about Dunkirk. I feel the best chance is del Toro.
Do you think James Franco was dissed as a Best Actor nominee because of the accusations? The Disaster Artist only got Best Screenplay.
I didn’t realize it got a nomination. That’s great. I thought it was going to have more, but because of what happened to James Franco, I think people dismissed it.
Do you think the #MeToo campaign and the issues it represents will be the dominant force at the Oscars?
Me Too this year was like the diversity issue of last year. I believe that Me Too is a huge fundamental shift in the way we need to perceive how we operate in the movie industry, but more so, the Me Too seems to have come at a time along with the current administration, where those films seem so much more poignant this year than they would have last year, and for good reason.
By “those films”, which ones do you feel in particular are the most representative?
I think The Shape of Water is a huge one. And also Lady Bird.
And Three Billboards?
There are so many films where I thought, “Oh, my god, this is so topical, if you saw it last year, it would be different.” But not Three Billboards. Even though it’s incredibly topical and hits on issues of diversity and sexual harassment in an extreme, it is a film that would have still been as powerful two years ago as it today.