MCN Columnists
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

20 Weeks To Oscar: Nomination Morning

For an unpredictable season, this was pretty predictable.

The niche movies that settled early – Lady Bird, Get Out, Call Me By Your Name – got in. The rest – I, Tonya, The Big Sick, Mudbound – did not. Phantom Thread, which is in so many ways a traditional Academy film, was the surprise tag on the day. A lot of people had written off Darkest Hour, but it got the Best Picture nod, though not a surprise in other categories that would suggest it could possibly cause an upset.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, and The Post were widely expected nominees.

So now what? Probably not much, in terms of big surprises.

It’s very easy to imagine:
Best Picture: 3 Billboards
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro
Best Actress: Frances McDormand
Best Actor: Gary Oldman
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
Best Original Screenplay: Three Billboards
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Things could swing in a couple of those categories, but not by much. It’s the same list you would have expected before the nominations this morning.

On the other hand… Three Billboards is under attack from the PC police.

Universal will keep pushing Get Out hard. Focus got “do-over” opportunities for their two Best Picture nominees that many felt would not have gotten their BP slots, Phantom Thread and Darkest Hour. Warner Bros isn’t abandoning Dunkirk. And at Searchlight, they have two children, one the more cerebral (3BB) and one more of the heart, The Shape of Water, which as the frontrunner for Best Director has a legit chance of becoming the BP winner too. (And Lady Bird isn’t a dead issue to win BP either.)

Nomination morning is reset morning.

How can the consultants, publicists, and marketers turn the corner and make their movie the movie of the moment, a film of importance, a film of higher value, a film you love and shouldn’t be afraid to imagine winning?

Of course, the easy assumption is that things are now baked in an won’t change. And that may well end up being the case.

But the season is still soft.

This is when the hard-boiled will of the team behind any film can rise and change the game.

Three Billboards needs Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson out there explaining why the movie is about something profound and about moving forward, not about lingering in the pain of the moment (however long it has lasted).

Focus didn’t really explain why Darkest Hour was so much of the moment when they released this film. They could do this now.

Phantom Thread relied heavily on the shoulders of Vicky Krieps and Mark Bridges up until now… if that changes and PTA is also willing to have them explain the film a bit more, the ball can be moved.

Dunkirk‘s unique place in filmmaking can be further exploited.

Universal has done great work in positioning Get Out as more than a horror comedy (though this is probably the top of the mountain).

Context is in order for The Shape of Water… a movie about movies… Oscar loves that shit. (Also, true here.)

Lady Bird needs to stay solid and emphasize that it is about the future of a young woman… thus, the future of all women.

I am a fan of Call Me By Your Name and The Post, but neither is winning this year.

In meetings all over town, the question of whether Phase II will be a war or a love letter is being determined. Me? I think the door is open just wide enough for people to come out fighting. But we shall see… about this time next week, just before every single person alive is honored in Santa Barbara, we will know.

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7 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: Nomination Morning”

  1. The Pope says:

    While I agree Call Me By Your Name will win Adapted Screenplay, I think Lady Bird will win Original. For the simple reason that for all its inventiveness and (ticklish) offensiveness, Three Billboards, like all of McDonagh’s work, exists solely within a conceit, a construct, a frame of McDonagh’s impression of mid-America.

    Lady Bird feels authentic. Ask anyone who has been through a Sacred Heart school and they will say the same thing. Yes, Gerwig’s screenplay is charming and warm and drizzled with the clichés of final year and going to the prom, but it always feels that the characters have actually lived in real life.

    For me, Three Billboards… doesn’t deliver that experience.

  2. lockedcut says:

    Picture will be won as always by least divisive film benefitting from an instant runoff, so probably can easily eliminate from contention 3 billboards, phantom thread, and Dunkirk.

    I’m rooting for something bizarre but it’s be nice to see del toro join the other two amigos.

  3. Sam E says:

    Moonlight and Birdman were the least divisive films nominated for best picture?

  4. palmtree says:

    More fatal to 3BB than the so-called PC police is that the movie isn’t very good. I mean, well-made and well-acted and well-plotted, but the substance of the movie is a bit shallow. I mean, if they need to explain to people that the movie is really about something profound, well then…it might just mean the movie isn’t.

  5. Stephen Barrow says:

    I’m disappointed for Martin McDonagh (as director), Judi Dench, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg (if these two “split their vote” how didn’t Harrelson and Rockwell?). I’m very happy for Lesley Manville (although we haven’t had Phantom Thread in the UK yet). I’m a bit surprised by Denzel, Meryl and Christopher Plummer (did they need or even want these noms?). I have a feeling Oscar will revert to what used to be expected and Del Toro and Shape of Water will win (we haven’t had that one yet either!)

  6. Bob Burns says:

    now name the publicists running the campaigns behind all these films, so we know who to blame for the negative campaigns.

  7. Greg says:

    Still holding out hope for Laurie Metcalf.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho