Over the last decade, the Oscars have become more unpredictable than ever before.
There are no more “Titanic”-like sweeps. The Best Picture and Best Director prizes are getting split between two movies more and more. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are reading the wrong winners onstage. And even when they are still getting it right every once in a while (that “Moonlight” surprise win), they still, in their classic way, continue to get it so wrong (in retrospect, “Boyhood” was a much more deserved winner than “Birdman”).
Because of this chaos, I will decline to predict for you who will win. Instead I will share who would be on my ballot, if I were a Hollywood insider who got free screeners and voting privileges:
Best Picture: Get Out
“Get Out” is the kind of horror movie that is going to inspire a generation of new filmmakers. Its peek at racism beyond the white hoods of the KKK feels completely different from anything I’ve seen in movies before. And while horror is normally overlooked by the Academy, consider this: “The Silence of the Lambs,” a February release, would go on to win Best Picture. “Get Out,” another genre-altering horror movie, was also released in February. If the Academy wants to show they’re ready to do the right thing and get with the times, they know which movie they should pick.
Best Director: Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Greta Gerwig (Ladybird)
Ties have not happened many times in Oscar history. But if anything, it should happen in this incredibly stacked category, which includes Christopher Nolan’s first ever Best Director nomination, and Guillermo del Toro for making you root for fish monster sex.
But really, Joran Peele and Greta Gerwig deserve it for very different reasons. With “Lady Bird,” Gerwig shows that directing doesn’t have to be flashy to be amazing. It can just feel like the artist translating their memories onto the screen. And with “Get Out,” Jordan Peele also got personal, and translated the African American experience into pure horror. If any two unrelated people deserve to share the stage, it’s them.
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
It’s almost unfair at this point to wish three time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis would win another Oscar, but the brilliant method actor’s take on toxic genius belongs at the top of the actor’s already crowded pantheon. Only he could make the act of ordering food into something equal parts funny and mesmerizing. Day-Lewis says that he plans to retire from acting after this. I’ll believe it when I see it.
Best Actress: Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)
Frances McDormand elevated the astonishingly mediocre “Three Billboards.” Sally Hawkins is ravishing in “The Shape of Water” without saying a word. And Saiorse Ronan, my second favorite in this category, gave every kid who grew up during 9/11 and the Iraq War the hero they deserved with “Lady Bird.” I’m going to have to go with Margot Robbie, the Australian actress who’s proving she can effortlessly put on so many different American faces and accents (her Bay Ridge accent in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is unforgettable). As Tonya Harding, she gives you a woman who is just as vulnerable and misunderstood as she is untrustworthy. The movie’s attempt to reexamine pop culture history would not have worked without Robbie in the lead.
Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Willem Dafoe has a habit of seeming like a menace even when he’s playing a good guy. That’s not the case “The Florida Project,” where he plays a motel manager-turned-father figure to several of the motel’s young tenants. A scene where Dafoe addresses a group of storks by saying “hey fellas” is well worth the price of admission.
Best Supporting Actress: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)
Allison Janney is the likely winner for “I, Tonya.” Her performance is over-the-top and flashy, exactly what the Oscars always go for. And while Janney is fantastic, as always, Laurie Metcalf’s performance as Lady Bird’s mother is subtle yet greater. It might be harder to notice, but Metcalf lands some of the movie’s most devastating emotional blows.
Best Original Screenplay: The Big Sick
Unfortunately, this is the only category where the best movie of 2017 showed up. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon’s story is as funny, moving, and personal as it gets. It actually made me feel more than okay with yet another movie about a struggling standup comedian.
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Disaster Artist
“Call Me by Your Name” was beautiful and touching in every way imaginable, and “Logan” deserves credit for giving awards-level legitimacy to superheroes. But the “Room” fanatic in me will not yield. Even if “The Disaster Artist” couldn’t use every little detail from the revelatory book (like Tommy Wiseau’s obsession with ordering hot water at restaurants), Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter’s screenplay really gets to the heart of why “The Room” is more than just a so-bad-it’s-good movie. It’s a way of life.