#OscarsSoWeird? Nominees are strange bunch, but that’s good

March 04, 2018
Sam Rockwell (left) and Woody Harrelson in a scene from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” On Sunday it is up for seven Oscars, including best picture. Some critics claimed the film problematically redeems a racist character, played by Rockwell, the likely recipient of the best supporting actor prize.Merrick Morton / Fox Searchlight via AP

In the past three years, the Academy Awards have gone from #OscarsSoWhite to #OscarsSoWeird, in a good and glorious way. Among the stories up for awards tonight in what will be the 90th Academy Awards ceremony: a woman-swamp monster romance (“The Shape of Water”), a parable on racism where the girl from “Girls” is a literal body-snatcher (“Get Out”) and two hours and five minutes of Winston Churchill trying to save the world through the power of national pride, riveting speeches and breakfast bourbon (“Darkest Hour”).

And then there’s the show itself, the first Oscars in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The Academy Awards have always been a pulpit for winners to speechify on important issues of the day, from war to human rights.

At this year’s ceremony, which begins at 8 p.m. on ABC, the talk will be about Hollywood’s human rights problem — its shameful treatment of women on- and off-screen — and the need to clean up its own house. (And speaking of cleaning up, let’s hope they’ve got the envelopes straight this year, too.)

Now, back to the films.

The only thing most of them have in common, besides the two that are literally about the same World War II battle, is their offbeatness. I dig it. As I always say, I am not a psychic, so my predictions are based on industry scuttlebutt, earlier awards this season and my own gut.

Here are the probable winners and my personal picks:

Frances McDormand in a scene from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which is nominated for an Oscar for best picture. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight via AP Photo: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

“Call Me by Your Name”

“Darkest Hour”

“Dunkirk”

“Get Out”

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“The Post”

“The Shape of Water”

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Arguably the two best movies of 2017, Netflix’s “Mudbound” and the disturbingly realistic “The Florida Project,” weren’t even nominated, so of the ones that actually got the nod, I’d give the trophy to either “Phantom Thread” or “The Shape of Water,” both surprisingly beautiful stories about finding true love by flying one’s freak flag. But “Three Billboards” has gotten a lot of pre-Oscar buzz, so I think it might just pull this thing out.

Should win: “Phantom Thread” or “The Shape of Water”

Will win: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Sally Hawkins (left) and Octavia Spencer in a scene from the film “The Shape of Water.” Hawkins was nominated for an Oscar for best actress. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures via AP Photo: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

It’s funny that the two best nominated performances are either about words or the lack of them. McDormand’s fierce warrior of a grieving mother won’t stop verbosely and perversely demanding justice for her murdered child, while Hawkins projects longing, love and growing strength in almost complete silence. I’d love to see Hawkins win, because what she does with just her face and hands is astounding. But I think it’s McDormand’s to lose.

Should win: Sally Hawkins

Will win: Frances McDormand

Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from, “Get Out.” Kaluuya is nominated for an Oscar for best actor. The film is also nominated in the best picture and best director categories.Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures via AP Photo: Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

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.”

I would not be a disaffected youth again if you paid me in gold and red wine, but Chalamet expertly sold a sexual coming-of-age story in all its wonderful, heartbreaking sensual awkwardness. But Oldman, admittedly acting his old-age makeup off as Winston Churchill, is winning all the things, so I think he’s got this too.

Should win: Timothée Chalamet

Will win: Gary Oldman

Lesley Manville plays Cyril, the sister and manager of London’s most famous fashion designer, in “Phantom Thread.” Contributed by Laurie Sparham/Focus Features Photo: Special to the American-Statesman

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

There’s not a weak performance in this whole bunch — not one — but I think it comes down to Janney (forever “The West Wing’s” C.J. Cregg to me) as the smoking, drinking sports mom from hell, and Metcalf as a hardworking mother trying to hold it together for her family, totally unappreciated by her annoying daughter. (Yes, Lady Bird is annoying. Come at me.) I preferred Metcalf’s more subtle, stoic crying-on-the-inside vibe but Janney’s gonna win. I’m pretty sure of it.

Should win: Laurie Metcalf

Will win: Allison Janney

One Oscar nominee breaking his own records? Christopher Plummer, who at 88 years old, became the oldest actor ever nominated for a competitive Oscar, breaking the record that he set in 2012 at the age of 83. His win that year — for his performance in Beginners — made him the oldest actor to win an Oscar. Could he break that record this year? We'll have to wait and find out. Photo: People Magazine

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”

Rockwell, an underrated character actor who I’ve loved since he was lipsynching to Marvin Gaye in the “Charlie’s Angels” reboot, is getting all the glory for his turn as a drunk and bumbling (drumbling?) racist cop in “Three Billboards.” But just like in the Supporting Actress category, I think subtlety is more powerful — Harrelson’s regretful, wise and matter-of-fact chief has a presence that stays with you long after he leaves the screen. Then again, Plummer conjured hatefully obsessive magic as the truly odious J. Paul Getty, and remember that dude was a replacement. That’s impressive enough to win. But I think it’s Rockwell’s.

Should win: Woody Harrelson

Will win: Sam Rockwell

Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

This is always a hard call, because of the subject of scale. I mean, what’s harder? Recreating a tense, real-life military rescue or crafting suspense out of just a bunch of guys talking about planning the same rescue? Making callow youth compelling or combining horror and deft social commentary into a sincerely scary experience? Or do you just give it to the guy who made you root for the lady who falls in love with the fish-man? You know what? I gotta go with that one.

Should win: Guillermo del Toro

Will win: Guillermo del Toro