They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

90th Oscar Nods Stun Three Billboards

By J. Don Birnam

January 23, 2018

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The 90th Academy Award nominations were announced this morning and if there is something you can always count on is that there will be surprises that no one foresees. This time around, the stunner was in nothing less than the Best Picture race, were purported frontrunner Three Billboards took a huge hit when its director's name was omitted from the lineup by announcers Tiffany Haddish and Andy Serkis, as I had felt could happen. While there is precedent for a movie winning it all after having its director snubbed (Argo did it last), this certainly has to be making the people behind the race/social class movie nervous. With the move, the Oscars proved once again that the moment you think you know something, they will come out and take it out from under you. And, a corollary to that is that this prognosticator in particular will be proven wrong immediately the moment he declares he is certain about something!!

Unlike last year, when I complained a little about their insularity, this field really is a diverse field of candidates. I don't mean just in the sense of racial or gender diversity. They are honoring different stories. There is a gay love story, there is a teen full of angst, there's a drama about racial and social tensions, there are two war epics and one about a powerful woman at the head of a newspaper in a historical time, there's a suspense/thriller about racial oppression, there's a costume drama. Can you ask for more?

Benefiting from Three Billboards' apparent stumble was Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water, which led with 13 nominations, scoring everywhere it was eligible for except Best Visual Effects. Like Billboards, the movie got three acting Oscar nominations. Both movies scored for their lead actresses, while Billboards got two supporting actor nods (Rockwell and Harrelson) and Shape got a notice for Octavia Spencer as did Richard Jenkins. Shape landed nods for its director, as well as for Screenwriting (Original), Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Score, and both Sound categories. It is arguably at the very least tied for Best Picture at the moment.


Still, Three Billboards did not have a shabby showing. It still scored important editing and screenplay nominations, as well as Score, for a total of seven nods. In second place was actually Dunkirk, which did manage a Best Director nod for Chris Nolan (his first) as well as Best Picture, Editing, Score, Cinematography, Production Design and two sound categories. Although this is an impressive tally, no acting nod and no screenplay nod makes it a very tough sell. Expect it to win a couple of technical Oscars, but not much more. The race is clearly between Shape and Billboards.

The directing category's surprise was the inclusion of Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread. Indeed, that movie did a lot better than anyone expect, landing Picture, Director, Actor (Day Lewis), Costumes, Score, and Supporting Actress nods (Leslie Manville). I expected it to walk away almost empty-handed, but this is a pretty good haul. It remains to be seen whether it can collect on anything, of course.

Speaking of directing, the other nominees went as expected, with Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele become only the fifth nominee of their gender or race as the case may be, for Lady Bird and Get Out. Those movies also got screenplay and Best Picture nods, as well as lead acting nods for Saoirse Ronan and Daniel Kaluuya, also as expected.

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