OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2018: The race for Best Picture

  (Image: hypable.com)

(Image: hypable.com)

PART 7: THE RACE FOR BEST PICTURE

This year returning host Jimmy Kimmel gets to redeem himself and likely make seven or more Moonlight envelope flub jokes for the banner 90th Academy Awards.  With less than a week to go, let’s breakdown predictions.  Throughout the awards season, I’ve been tallying the minor and lead-up award winners in all of the Oscar categories on the 2018 Awards Tracker as a big source of my prognostication data. In this seventh post, we look at the race for Best Picture.  As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool! 

THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST MOTION PICTURE OF THE YEAR

The nominees:  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

AWARDS TRACKER DATA:  15- Get Out, 11- Lady Bird, 8- The Shape of Water, 8- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 4- The Florida Project, 3- Call Me By Your Name, 2- Mudbound, 2- The Post, 2- Dunkirk, 2- Phantom Thread, and five more with one win

Who was snubbed:  In an inflated field of nine, it’s hard to really call any missing films true snubs.  That would be like the 65th team arguing about missing a 64-team tournament bracket.  They’re still 65th.  That said, I could trade out seven films here with ease based on my well-versed personal ranks and tastes.  I, Tonya, Wonderstruck, The Big Sick, War for the Planet of the Apes, Logan, Mudbound, and The Florida Project are legitimate 5-star films that deserved more or better consideration as Best Picture nominees.  The films that conceivably were close to making this field with Oscar voters had to be topped by I, Tonya and The Florida Project.

Happy to be there- AKA "The First Cut":  While it’s nice on some fluffy cloud of participation awards to give 4-5 more films the “OSCAR NOMINEE” or “BEST PICTURE NOMINEE” stickers for their marketing posters and future disc packages, there’s really no need to have more than five like any other Oscar category.  Let’s shave four and round this field to five.  Darkest Hour, The Post, Dunkirk, and Call Me By Your Name do not have the clout or support that the other nominees do.  If this was August, Dunkirk would be red hot, but it has faded since being seen more as an atypical summer blockbuster than an opus worthy of the top prize.  Darkest Hour is the token British Oscar bait spot.  Call Me By Your Name is too controversial and small, even by Moonlight standards a year ago.  The pedigree of The Post netted it the first major Best Picture prize of the awards season back with the National Board of Review, but it’s been silent since.  Maybe too many people (like myself) yawned at the film.   

The true finalists- AKA "The Final Five":  Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who should win:  This is as up-for-grabs and splintered of a Best Picture field as I’ve ever seen in recent years.  It genuinely feels like there is no absolute slam dunk this year.  As many as four of these final five have a legitimate shot at an upset win.  If I was a voter, my #1 film of 2017 was Lady Bird and I think has little qualities of the bests of everything without being a slam dunk.  The drama is poignant without being overpowering.  The comedy is sharp without being overly bleak or crass.  The performances are excellent across the board.  The setting, themes, and messages all hit their proper touchstones.  To me, it’s the most complete of these nominees.   

Who will win:  Of these final five, I think the least likely potential winner is Phantom Thread.  It just doesn’t have the momentum or favor as a top overall film, much like Lady Bird.  Different awards groups and ceremonies have started to back Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but there’s one huge statistical hurdle it’s lacking.  Only three times in the 89 previous years of the Academy Awards (Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, Argo) has a film won Best Picture without its director nominated for Best Director.  Without Martin McDonagh in that other category, I’m not seeing the commitment to his film for Best Picture.  I’m scratching it off, though it’s an extremely capable upset contender.

That leaves Get Out and The Shape of Water.  To me, the logic comes down to the imaginative Oscar bait versus the biting social message statement.  In a way, this feels a great deal like a rematch between La La Land vs. Moonlight last year.  Like Chazelle’s film, The Shape of Water is the top contender with the most nominations, the Vegas odds pointing to its favor, the key PGA Award win from the producers, and the right flashy touch of fantasy and old Hollywood.  The deterrent is its in-your-face R-rated weirdness.  Do its off-putting quirks turn off voters?  I’m gambling that it does just enough to split some votes.

By contrast, voting for Get Out would continue the optics of pushback against the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco from three years ago.  I think there is a sentiment that wants to show Moonlight wasn’t a fluke and that diversity continues to matter.  Beyond the underlying political commentary at its core, the film itself holds up with universal acclaim equally for what it portrays on screen as well.  Get Out has won more Best Picture prizes than any other film this awards season.  Crowning it with the Oscar gains and seals so much credibility on several fronts for the whole industry.  I’m taking the bet that this little miracle could happen.  

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