The Shape of the Boards: OSCARS 2018

The past year has offered visual extravaganzas, quirky indies, and acting milestones. The most-talked-about movie of the year, Get Out, offered an inter-racial horror delight that was as smart as it was entertaining, and puts director Jordan Peele on the radar. Then, Martin McDonagh’s witty dark-comedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, swept tons of prizes at the Globes earlier this year. Guillermo Del Toro’s stylish creature-romance, The Shape of Water, dazzled critics with its gloriously inventive visuals, and is being hailed by many as the best film of the year. And, of course, there’s the much-awaited P.T. Anderson/ Daniel Day-Lewis reunion, Phantom Thread! We pick our favorites at the 90th Academy Awards.

Text: Eliz Manandhar

Best Director

We absolutely loved Phantom Thread, and definitely think that the manic P.T. The award is surely going to go to Guillermo Del Toro, then, for his much-talked-about fantasy, The Shape of Water, an outlandish creature romance that honors Del Toro’s tradition of orchestrating films with visually-groundbreaking aesthetics. Del Toro has been in the business a very long time (Pan’s Labyrinth, in our opinion, is one of the best films ever made) and this is his first Best Director nomination. He is definitely going to win, though, with all the buzz surrounding the film.

Best Picture

A battle between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. While the former is more Oscar-friendly, with its fairy-tale romance, a mute central-character, and nods to long-gone Hollywood musicals, it could also be a turn-off at the orthodox Academies due to its bizarre creature-human romance. That being said, it is a really good film, and extremely beautiful to look at, with drop-dead visuals and top-notch acting (check out the talented Michael Shannon as a devilishly sadistic guard). We’re going with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missour, though, as it is a more complete film, with even better performances all around, and a darkly witty script. It boasts the finest ensemble performance you will see all year, and also won Best Picture at the Golden Globes earlier this year.

Best Supporting Actress

Tough one! Is it going to be Allison Janney as the noxious, acid-tongued mother of a disgraced skater in I, Tonya, or Laurie Metcalf as the exasperated mother of a teenager in Lady Bird? We want Metcalf to win for her exquisitely subtle role as the judgmental mother constantly warring with her teenaged daughter in Lady Bird, but the Oscars are definitely going to award the foul-mouthing, whiskey-swigging, parakeet-toting Janney in the average I, Tonya. Janney underwent a major transformation for the role (weight-loss, repulsive hairdos, face-lifts, and what-have-you!), which bolsters her win, and it’s an incandescent and Oscar-friendlier performance than Metcalf’s nuanced performance in Lady Bird.

Best Supporting Actor

Have you witnessed (yes, witnessed!) Sam Rockwell’s performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? If you haven’t, then let me tell you this—it’s the best performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role not only this year, but in the past decade or so (with only Javier Bardem matching an equally memorable and characterized performance in the Coen Brothers’ 2007 epic Western-thriller No Country for Old Men). Sam Rockwell is easily one of the most underrated actors of his generation, and his performance as a lonely astronaut battling a personality disorder in space in 2009’s awesome Moon deserved an Oscar nomination. Rockwell plays the role of violent cop Jason Dixon with much gusto: his character is so heartfelt and well-developed that it would be infuriating to watch him lose. Watch him hurt in Three Billboards and tell us it didn’t move you!

Best Actress

This is another tough one, with two performances vying for the top-spot. Frances McDormand puts on the best performance of her career (better than her Oscar-winning role in Fargo) as a seething, stoic divorcee seeking her daughter’s killer in one of the best films of the year, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, while Sally Hawkins equally dazzles as an imaginative and lonely mute janitor in Guillermo Del Toro’s audaciously inventive and visually striking fairy-tale, The Shape of Water. With both performances equally matched, we’re predicting (and rooting for) McDormand to clinch this one. Whether it’s ventriloquizing her furry slippers, shamelessly hitting back at a priest, or humiliating a sensitive midget, McDormand blends rage with wry-humor, and delivers a cathartic performance for the ages. Also, have you seen her Golden Globes speech when she picked up Best Actress there? That in itself deserves some kind of an award!

Best Actor

While we so desperately want Daniel Day-Lewis to win in what is being deemed his swan-song in P.T. Anderson’s Phantom Thread (just watch it already!), the award has been booked by a fellow veteran-Englishman, the chameleon-like Gary Oldman, in a Winston Churchill role that makes Oldman look more Churchill than Churchill himself! In Darkest Hour, Oldman is Winston Churchill. Embodying layers of make-up and prosthetics, putting on a ton of weight, and playing a legendary figure are definitely makings of an Oscar-winner, but Oldman is equally convincing in the ways he inhabits Churchill with dead-eyed conviction—adopting the cigar-chewer’s manners and nuances with much pomp and flair.