Candid Magazine’s Film Editor, Daniel Theophanous takes us through the 2018 Oscars.
Like clockwork, the yearly film award season is once again upon us. The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Award have just gone, solidifying the predictions, as well as the upcoming BAFTAs, all culminating towards the ultimate event, the Academy Awards. Now in its 90th year, the nominations have just been announced where all films have been chosen and voted for by the Academy’s 8,400 members. The event is set to take place on the 4th of March 2018 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
The diversity argument of recent years has been duly noted and as we see many nominations have widened their scope and have considered black, female, trans and older nominees. Also, the sexual harassment scandals that have plagued the film industry seem to have cast shadows over some nominations, with previously obvious contenders being omitted.
The Guillermo Del Toro water fantasy The Shape of Water leads with thirteen nominations, with Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk following with eight and the revenge dramedy Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri with seven. All of them for Best Film gong, along with Get Out, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour, The Post, Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread. Predictable films with historical reconstructions such as the Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, which follows the usual Working Title banalities or Steven Spielberg’s timely enactment The Post about a governmental cover-up spanning over four presidencies. These always seem to hit the spot with voters. The Post features yet another stellar performance by Meryl Streep, who never goes amiss from the Best Actress category. It’s getting to the point where it simply wouldn’t be the Oscars if Streep wasn’t nominated!
Streep will be fighting it out with the category’s favourite Frances McDormand, as the acerbic, saudade mother in Three Billboards. McDormand has already won the Golden Globe and the SAG for her role. Despite our praise for McDormand’s performance, here at Candid we found the film to be a mixed bag, you can read our review. In the same category we welcome Margot Robbie’s interpretation of infamous ice-skater Tonya Harding for I, Tonya as well Saoirse Ronan’s coming-of-age 17-year-old in Lady Bird, both nods give the category a certain indie credibility.
In the Best Supporting Actress category, the competition is perhaps more fierce – favourites Octavia Spencer as the loquacious side-kick to Sally Hawkins (also up for Best Actress) in The Shape of Water competing with Allison Janey’s stand-out performance as the chain-smoking, foul-mouthed abusive mum in I, Tonya. It is also refreshing to see Laurie Metcalfe’s comeback role in Lady Bird being noticed, as well as R&B superstar-turned-actress, Mary J Blige for her forlorn role in Mudbound, who is also up for Best Original Song for the film – a first to be nominated in both these categories in the same year. Mudbound’s director and screenwriter Dee Rees is up for Best Adapted Screenplay – the second time a black woman in Oscar history to do so. In the same category it was a surprise to see superhero-action movie Logan, a genre usually overlooked by the Academy.
The buzz seems to gravitate towards Gary Oldman for his role as Churchill in the Darkest Hour in the Best Actor category. Oldman is of course remarkable in a mediocre film; perhaps a token award for an impressive bulk of work that spans over decades or maybe the four hours of makeup he had to endure everyday did the trick. The three-times-winner Daniel Day Lewis, has also been nominated for his supposedly last role before retirement, as the obsessive tailor in Phantom Thread.
The concept and societal commentary behind Get Out and Daniel Kaluuya’s terror-stricken performance are deserved of their nomination. Get Out is one of a handful of horror films to ever make it to Best Film category, a revealing fact about the jury’s bias against the genre. A personal favourite for us here at Candid, but we have no idea of how it will pan out for him, is Timothee Chalamet’s truly exceptional awe-inspiring depiction as the lovesick 17-year-old Elio in Luc Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. Unfortunately, Guadagnino was unjustly, in our humble opinion, not recognised for his directorial efforts for Best Director.
Greta Gerwig becomes the fifth woman in Oscar history to be nominated for best director for Lady Bird competing against big wigs such as Christopher Nolan (bizarrely his first ever nomination as director), Guillermo Del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson. Get Out’s Jordan Peele is the first black filmmaker to be nominated for directing, writing and producing. Whilst the cinematographer Rachel Morrison is the first woman ever to receive a cinematography nod for her work on Mudbound. Furthermore, and rightly so, the expectedly overlooked Blade Runner 2049, receives recognition for its jaw-dropping cinematography – that Las Vegas casino desert scene was to die for, as well as Best Visual Effects.
For Best Foreign Film its delightful to see the superb Chilean film A Fantastic Woman starring trans actor Daniela Vega, a second nomination for Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev for his truly harrowing Loveless, and as well as the twisted Swedish comedy The Square, starring Elizabeth Moss. For Best Documentary the highlight is the poignant (currently on Netflix) Strong Island, which examines the violent death of a trans filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free. For animation feature, we were pleased to see our recently reviewed Disney Pixar’s Coco as well as the beautifully-crafted mature animation Van Gogh ode Loving Vincent.
The Academy has seemingly bypassed actors and films tainted by sexual harassment allegations. In 2017 the Academy overlooked allegations against Casey Affleck and awarded him the Oscar anyways. However, with the proliferation of sexual harassment and inequality claims that has dominated the media over the past year, spurred-on by high-profile cases such as Weinstein, it was bound to have a real knock-on effect. James Franco was absent for Best Actor 5-piece for his lauded performance in The Disaster Artist, with five allegations of sexual misconduct hanging over him. Previously a hot favourite The Florida Project, who’s director Sean Baker and cast (apart from Willem Dafoe) were side-lined due to a sexual misconduct of the film’s producer. Also All The Money In The World was left out, which at the last minute, replaced Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer as he was accused sexual misconduct by multiple men. Dafoe and Plummer (the oldest ever actor to be nominated, at age 88) alongside an unforgettable and contentious performance by Sam Rockwell as the hicksville police officer in Three Billboards are all up for Best Supporting Actor.
The Oscars nominations are perhaps a representative sample of the countless films we have covered at Candid over the past year. We can attest to numerous exceptional releases from around the world that are not being considered or even under the Academy’s radar. Furthermore, for a film, actor, actress, animator, costume designer, etc. from any background to be shortlisted, that in itself is a win in our books. As one award event leads to the next, the obviousness of it all becomes very apparent, but putting cynicism aside the Oscars still remain great entertainment and of course we will be watching eagerly on the night.
Words By Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_
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Main images: Call Me By Your Name