OSCAR PREDICTIONS 2018: The writing and directing categories

  (Image: hypable.com)

(Image: hypable.com)

PART 4: THE WRITING AND DIRECTING AWARDS

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 fourth post, we look at the screenplay and directing awards.  As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The nominees:  Jordan Peele for Get Out, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor for The Shape of Water, Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani for The Big Sick

AWARDS TRACKER DATA:  32- Get Out, 10- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 8- Lady Bird, 2- Phantom Thread, and three others with one win.

Who was snubbed:  These nominees are a strong final five that feels pretty fair and complete.  One could make a decent case for Paul Thomas Anderson earning a nomination, but I feel the strength of Phantom Thread is more in his direction than his writing.  I don’t what screenplay loses to make room for PTA.  

Happy to be there and who should win:  This time around, I don’t want to talk about some lesser film that shouldn’t be in the Oscar field.  Instead I want to emphasize the happiness part.  I’m pleased as punch the husband-and-wife team of Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani behind The Big Sick were properly honored with an Academy Award nomination.  More than that, they should outright win.  No original screenplay this past year had a better combination of sophistication, heart, and overall balance than The Big Sick.  

Who will win:  There is a late surge in this category for Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, especially with McDonagh left off the Best Director race (more on that later).  I don’t think what McDonagh has going is enough to pass Jordan Peele and Get Out.  His thriller, with its huge box office win and nearly perfect Rotten Tomatoes score, is the message film of the year with the strongest biting commentary among these nominees.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The nominees:  James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name, Aaron Sorkin for Molly’s Game, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Disaster Artist, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green for Logan, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees for Mudbound

AWARDS TRACKER DATA:  14- Call Me By Your Name, 10- The Disaster Artist, 3- Mudbound, 2- Logan, and three others with one win

Who was snubbed:  Not a soul was snubbed over these five.  It would have been fun to see Michael Green be a double nominee joining Hampton Fancher’s credit on Blade Runner 2049, but that’s not a film celebrated for its writing.  Don’t even get me started on considering Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou for the second year in row, this time for The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  The Lobster last year was enough.

Happy to be there:  For the second category in a row, the happiness is coming out with two glass ceilings being broken.  First, it’s wonderful to see a Netflix film like Mudbound get admiration in a major category.  The second is Logan becoming the first comic book film to be nominated as an adapted screenplay, finally acknowledging the unique skill required to deftly adapt the combination of visual and written storytelling from graphic novels that has been grossly underappreciated for decades.  

Who should win and will win:  I will fully admit that giving James Ivory the Oscar for Call Me By Your Name probably looks a resume win and career-capper for one-half of the revered Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team. You can take it that way all you like, but, controversy aside, the Italian-set 80s romantic drama was a feat of complicated passion written with a smooth and patient pen. With the love for all things connected to The Disaster Artist fading, this Oscar goes to Ivory and another victory moment for LGBTQ stories.

BEST DIRECTOR

The nominees:  Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk, Jordan Peele for Get Out, Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird, Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread, Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

AWARDS TRACKER DATA:  16- del Toro, 10- Gerwig, 10- Nolan, 8- Peele, 4- Anderson, 3- Sean Baker for The Florida Project, and six more with one win.

Who was snubbed:  I really wish more people, and more voters for that matter, could have seen The Florida Project and the gifts of Sean Baker.  What that man does artistically with a shoestring budget is extraordinary.  He deserved to make this feel.  Echoing earlier buzz I’ve posted, you could nearly fill this entire field with women and it would still be a worthy five.  Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Dee Rees (Mudbound), and Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled) could have joined Gerwig in this Year of Women.  You may notice that I won’t call Martin McDonagh of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as a snub.  It's a writer's gem and an actor's showcase, not particularly a directing one.

Happy to be there:  I know I’m in the minority, but I found Dunkirk to be Christopher Nolan’s least (I shouldn’t say “worst”) film in quite some time.  Don’t get me wrong, his least is better than 90% of everyone else’s best.  I’d still rather have Baker get the honor.  Nolan will make his masterpiece someday, but it’s not Dunkirk.  

Who should win:  Get Out may have been Jordan Peele’s first feature, but, gosh, the boldness of his creativity, effort, and choices comes out in every aspect of the film.  The same kind be said on a more veteran level for Phantom Thread.  The meticulousness of the film’s main character matches the traits of director Paul Thomas Anderson, who put every stitch of his superior talent into his work.  Both would be excellent winners, but they’re not taking home the trophy this year.

Who will win:  This is simply Guillermo del Toro’s year.  The Shape of Water is the overall nominations leader and del Toro’s widest and most approachable work to date, even with the film’s fishy naughty business.  He’s won most of the major lead-up awards, including the DGA Award from his peers from the Directors Guild of America.  That’s enough to separate Guillermo del Toro as the odds-on winner.

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