Describe the 2018 Oscars in One Word: “Safe”

Its not a surprise at all to me that this years show was the lowest rated Oscar telecast since the Neilsen Ratings started in 1974. Jimmy Kimmel was at best average last year. The two front running movies did not make $100 million between them. And, like it or not, TV audiences are tiring of being lectured, which seems to be an awards show staple.

This year’s Oscars had lower ratings than the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. They were trying so hard to play it safe and not offend anyone and it showed in a rather dull telecast.

A few years ago, the Academy added more best pictures to the list of nominees to try and increase audience interest. If you look at the highest rated broadcasts of the last 30 years (1994 Forrest Gump, 1997 Titanic, 2003 Return of the King), they have well liked, financially successful movies at their forefront. This year, you have to go to 14th in the years box office to find a film with any Oscar possibilities (Dunkirk) and 47th for one with a real chance (Shape of Water). There were only about 7 nominations combined from the Top 10 films.

Gal Gadot and Luke Evans both gave performances worthy of Oscar consideration in blockbuster movies.

There was only one shock for me the whole night, that Kobe Bryant won an Oscar to a standing ovation in a MeToo world, which Hollywood wants to drive more than anything. Bryant was charged with rape and the charges dropped when his accuser, a 19 year old that Bryant admitted an extra-marital affair with, refused to testify in court. He later settled out of court in a civil suit. Casey Affleck’s accusations are very similar and was not allowed to even present.

There is an exceptional amount of hypocrisy in Hollywood that is emphasized by Bryant’s Oscar. MeToo voices like Meryl Streep and Oprah, some of the Hollywood’s most influential people, befriended and publicly praised Harvey Weinstein and cuddled up to him along with the Clintons and Obamas. They knew.

Ok, off my soap box.

All 8 major categories went exactly according to predictions. Maybe the only surprise of the night was Coco winning for best original song. (Same song writers that previously won for the ubiquitous ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen).

Their were two highlights for me. First was Roger Deakins. A brilliant, prolific cinematographer with 13 prior nominations, many for Best Pic nominees and a couple of winners, and no wins. Blade Runner 2049 was a superb film and he deserved this.

The second was Frances McDormand. She won her first Oscar in 1996 for Marge Gunderson, the plucky, pregnant policy chief in Fargo whose instincts both as a cop and a wife were uncanny. Also, that character has one of my favourite ever movie lines “I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work there, Lou”. She created one of the most memorable characters in all of film.

McDormand is akin (in my books) to Daniel Day Lewis. Lately she is picky about her projects, few and far between and when she takes one on, she engulfs it

I loved her speech. When she called on Meryl to stand up knowing that others would follow. And then when she said “Talk to us, we have projects we want financed”. A punch of honesty right between the eyes.

She finished her speech by saying “two words … inclusion rider”.  This is relatively new to Hollywood and is really only at the disposal of A-list stars. Its a rider on their contract that stipulates that 50% of the cast (as far as it can serve the script) and crew must be women and minorities. For a self congratulating industry that seems to still largely be in denial of its problems with abuse, racism and sexism, this may have been the most poignant and effective of any speech given yet.

McDormand used her platform not to lecture and not to give a speech full of empty slogans and platitudes but as a direct call to action for people that wield her level of influence and higher. Bravo.

For the record, I was 7 for 8 on the major categories and 17 for 24 overall. I missed both music categories and Best Picture of all things.

I love the Oscars, always have and always will. There is a growing gap between films that audiences like and those the Academy chose to honour. The more this gap grows the more less relevant that long, languid show will seem. I am not sure how, but it needs to reinvent itself.

 

Dan’s 2018 Oscar Picks

This is going to be an interesting year for the Oscar’s. The first year without Harvey Weinstein. His influence on the Oscars was legendary, he could and did make a lot of unlikely films and actors nominees and winners. For 13 straight years he had at least one Best Picture nominee and his movies won over 140 Oscars over the years. If you ever wondered how mediocre films like Chocolat, Life is Beautiful and Shakespeare in Love had their Oscar success, its the Weinstein Factor. Good riddance.

I have not seen a lot of the movies this year. My pics are based on a lot of reading from Critics and Movie insiders and various websites.

Best movie for me this year, that I have seen, Get Out narrowly edging Logan.

This does not seem to be the year of a sweep or a runaway winner. Three Billboards with 3-4, The Shape of Water with 3-4 and the rest very spread out.

I thought Jimmy Kimmel was a weak host last year and I am quite surprised he is back. Perhaps he can do something this year other than Trump and Matt Damon jokes.

All that said, here are my picks.

 

THE 8 MAJOR CATEGORIES

Best Picture

It’s a two way race between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water. Vastly different films. There has been negative talk associated with 3BB of late and Guillermo del Toro is a much loved director. Also, in a two way race, never count out the third horse, which this year is Get Out. It is fashionable lately to given the Actors film best pic and the Special Effects film best Director. I see that continuing this year.

Dan’s Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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Best Director

Best-Director

Jordan Peele proved he belongs in this group.

What a strong category. I am still in awe that Jordan Peele is an nominee. Greta Gerwig made a well loved, touching real life movie. Christopher Nolan has the Midas Touch and should have an Oscar by now. Paul Thomas Anderson makes consistently interesting and original films. Guillermo Del Toro has made some questionable films but never a bad or dull one. Hellboy, Blade II and Pacific Rim and all super fun even if they are not high art. Pan’s Labrynth is among my Top 100 favourite films, its pure genius. He is well liked and will take home the trophy.

Dan’s Pick: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

 

Best Actor

Here is one where you bet the farm.

Dan’s Pick: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

 

Best Actress

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Frances McDormand is the favourite but any winner from this group would not be a surprise.

There is more talk in this category than any other of the majors. Margot Robbie made a sympathetic character out of Tonya Harding. Sally Hawkins is a brilliant actress, long overlooked. Meryl is Meryl, perhaps the greatest of all time and can never be counted out. Saorise Ronan gained acclaim and her third nomination for Lady Bird and she is brilliant. Her time will come. Frances McDormand as an all new kind of grieving mother will win.

Dan’s Pick: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actor

For the longest time, everyone favoured Willem Dafoe in the Florida Project. I love his work but that small film did not mount much of a campaign. Sam Rockwell now seems to have momentum.

Dan’s Pick: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actress

Everything I read everywhere points in one direction. If there is a upset it will be Laurie Metcalf in Ladybird

Dan’s Pick: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

 

Adapted Screenplay

Logan created a superhero film that defies the genre with heart and pathos. It will not win but perhaps should. The Disaster Artist is out of the question. Look here for Call My By Your Name to win its one and only award.

Dan’s Pick: Call Me By Your Name

 

Original Screenplay

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Oscar Nominee Daniel Kaluuya in what has become an iconic shot from Get Out.

Wide open, I think. The Big Sick will not win, any of the outer four could. I see the Academy wanting to honour Jordan Peele’s fascinating and horrifying Get Out. Either that or Ladybird.

Dan’s Pick: Get Out

 

The Runner Up Categories

Best Cinematography

If you have seen more than 10 movies in the last 20 years, chances are one was filmed by Roger Deakins. Proflic and brilliant, he has 13 prior nominations and could have won for any of them. He should have won for Fargo and Skyfall and arguably Shawshank. He is long overdue and his work here is among his best. Possible upset, Rachel Morrison, the first ever-female nominee in this category for Mudbound. (She also filmed Black Panther).

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Everything about this short from Blade Runner 2049 is perfect. Deakins’ attention to the tiniest detail is legendary.

Dan’s Pick: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Costume Design

I am going to take the easy route and pick the film about a clothing designer

Dan’s Pick: Mark Bridges, The Phantom Thread

 

Production Design

I almost always get this wrong so maybe I should go against my instincts. The team of Katie Spencer and Sarah Greenwood have done some brilliant work and are nominated twice this year. Blade Runner 2049 was close to perfect. The team from Shape of Water are all first time nominees in a category of Oscar veterans. I see them winning:

Dan’s Pick: The Shape of Water

 

 

Film Editing

Hard to pick here. For decades, editing and best picture went together. Not so much in recent years. Coin toss for Baby Driver, Dunkirk and The Shape of Water. Lee Smith should have won for The Dark Knight.

Dan’s Pick:      Lee Smith, Dunkirk.

 

Best Original Song

The year was short on musicals. This is Me from The Greatest Showman is the only real musical song nominated. Wouldn’t it be great to say “Oscar Winner Mary J Blige”?? That said, Common has won before, but Diane Warren is 0 for 8 coming into this show.

Dan’s Pick: Common and Dianne Warren, Stand for Something from Marshall

 

Original Score

There is zero change John Williams will win but the music for Last Jedi was perfect. Alexandre Desplat seems to score one out of very three movies these days. Carter Burwell has done most of the Coen Brother’s films but is rarely acknowledged. This is also a tough category.

Dan’s Pick: Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Animated Feature

I have not seen it yet but Pixar’s Coco got great reviews and seems to be the consensus pick. Could The Boss Baby win. Three words, Big Hero 6.

Dan’s Pick: Coco

 

Foreign Language Film

Dan’s Pick: The Insult (Lebanon)

 

Technical Categories

 Best Sound: Dunkirk

Best Sound Effects Editing: Dunkirk

 Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

 Best Make-Up and Hair: Darkest Hour

 

The Educated Guesses

Documentary Short: Edith + Eddie, true story of a nonagenarian newlywed inter-racial couple

 Documentary Feature: Faces Places. Celebrated French Director Agnes Varda becomes the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar. She is receiving an Honorary Award as well.

 Live Action Short:: Dekalb Elementary. About a real life 911 call placed during a school shooting in Georgia.

 Animated Short: Dear Basketball (In a #MeToo world, I find it hard to see Kobe Bryant winning an Oscar but this is the popular pick).