The awards race is not static. It’s fluid. Despite how convinced people may be that the movies they care most about are great — there is more to the awards race than honoring greatness. It is not now, nor has it ever been, a pure evaluation of greatness. No, for that you need time. You need years. You need even decades before greatness can be certified.
Great movies — really great movies — age as we age, are never dated, and are as good the day you watch them in 2018 as they were in 1975. I just watched Arthur Penn’s Night Moves, which is one of the best films of 1975. But did it get anywhere near the Oscar race? Nope. Without question, the screenplay for Taxi Driver is one of the most influential pieces of writing cinema has ever known — and this isn’t even hyperbole — but do you think its writer, Paul Schrader, was nominated for a single Oscar for that or any other screenplay since? No. Spike Lee is one of the most influential filmmakers the United States has ever produced and he too has mostly been, throughout his career, misunderstood. So why is this? I started my site back in 1999 to answer these questions and I do believe that after twenty years I know what that answer is: film awards do not and cannot reveal true greatness. It’s impossible to know in the heat of the moment whether this awesome one-night stand is just for right now or whether it’s forever.
With that in mind, we must tackle predicting the awards race as mind readers, not as citizens or devotees to cinema. We must read the minds of the hive — the consensus — to find what makes people FEEL GOOD voting for and what makes them FEEL BAD voting for. Movies and performances will nestle themselves into the canon to be talked about, watched, rewatched and decided upon at a future date. What goes into the game at hand, this game of the moment? Pride, ego, a sense of belonging to something that, at least in the moment, feels right. Shame is in there too, riding shotgun for those who are left out of the awards race, as though that means anything. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t.
Damien Chazelle’s First Man is, without question, from a cinematic perspective, easily one of the great films of this year. But it “didn’t connect” with the hive of right now. It never fully hit its target. Over time, though, that will change. In the awards race you hear rumblings of “snubs” and “shut outs” — as though 90 Hollywood Foreign Press members can decide these things. They don’t. The DGA doesn’t. SAG doesn’t. The PGA doesn’t and Oscar doesn’t. Coming a wee bit closer would be the critics but even they can’t possibly know in the moment whether this juicy fuck is for real or just right now, if you’ll excuse the vulgarity, which Ryan might make me cut. [Editors note: Sounds good.]
What the Globes did today was show that more than one film by a black director can and will be considered this year. They clearly prefer BlackKklansman of the three, with Beale Street following close — Spike got director but not screenplay. Beale Street got screenplay but not director. Black Panther also was not left behind and got a Best Picture nod. BlackKklansman, If Beale Street Could Talk and Black Panther are three films by African American directors in Best Drama? That’s huge. It’s never happened before. By my count, only three films in different years by black filmmakers have been nominated in the Globes drama category at all, and not even two in the same year, let alone three. That is a testament to what a groundbreaking renaissance this year has been for black directors and the stories they tell. You have, on the one hand, a rebuke of Donald Trump in BlackKklansman. You have, on the other hand, the highest grossing film of the year in Black Panther, and in Beale Street you have a successful second movie by last years wunderkind Barry Jenkins, a love story that brings to life the words and ideas of James Baldwin. If people remember one thing from this year, this should be what they remember. Spike Lee is the sole African American nominee in directing — and that is where the seat of power is, my friends. That is why I’m more certain than ever that BlackKklansman has the stuff to bring Lee his first ever Oscar nomination for Best Director in a 30-year career. I think and hope and believe.
Vice is In
At least for now, the push by the Globes more than gives Vice all the stuff it needs to be a major contender. Because there is still a review embargo in place we don’t what the ultimate fate of Vice will be. We still have to wait and see on that. With such a strong cast, though, it looks to be headed towards SAG ensemble without breaking a sweat. That leaves us with a possible SAG ensemble lineup looking like:
The Favourite – locked
A Star is Born – locked
BlackKklansman – seems like a pretty good bet
Vice – is a maybe but a probably
Black Panther or If Beale Street Could Talk might round out the last slot.
It is, however, impossible to know what the nom com will be — which random 2000 people are selected to decide the ensemble nominees? Other possible ensemble surprises might include:
Mary Poppins Returns
Crazy Rich Asians
Best Actress OMG
Best Actress just doesn’t let up. It’s all over the map. The Globes just hoisted Rosamund Pike for Private War and Nicole Kidman for Destroyer into the race. I had a feeling Kidman would be in — no chance they leave her out — but I thought she’d get in supporting. Melissa McCarthy looks solid for a nod, thank god. Emily Blunt will now be a force to reckon with. But sadly, Viola Davis does not appear to be making the cut, unless SAG revives things.
Best Actress right now might look like:
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born – locked
Glenn Close, The Wife – locked
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Olivia Colman, The Favourite – looking like a lock
Last slot a living hell.
Emily Blunt for Mary Poppins Returns
Nicole Kidman for Destroyer
Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade
Rosamund Pike, A Private War
Best Actor likely Bale’s to lose
One thing the Vice dominance shows us is that it’s potentially probable that a film that leads the nominations will win big somewhere and most likely Bale has this in a walk. Viggo Mortensen likely wins in comedy, though Lin-Manuel Miranda is also up there.
Female Directors Once Again Get the Shaft
Unlike the Greta Gerwig flurry last year, there is no one woman that voters seem able to agree upon. Marielle Heller was your best bet but the Spirits and the Gothams ignored her, as have the critics thus far, opting instead to divide focus among a variety of women. If you ask people supposedly in the know, they will give you their favorite of the bunch but no one name seems to be bobbing to the surface.
Best Picture – We Need a Wee Bit More Intel
At some point soon we’ll be hearing from the actors, the directors and the producers. By then, we’ll have a good idea of the core five. Right now, that core “feels” like six, not five, with Vice being the wild card since we don’t know its ultimate fate:
A Star is Born
If Beale Street Could Talk
Then the stragglers that might get in without a directing nomination (although Yorgos Lanthimos is tapping at that door):
That’s ten. At least one will have to go. There is wiggle room for another film to land — like Mary Poppins Returns or whatever.
Will it be a split year or will Picture and Director stay married? Can Roma win Best Picture and Director? Can A Star is Born win Best Picture and Director? Can BlackKklansman win Picture and Director? Yeah. Yeah any one of them can. It would not only make history for Spike, but it would make Academy history, since no black director has ever won an Oscar, even though two films have won Best Picture that were directed by black directors. So yeah.
The Popular Film Oscars
I don’t know where this narrative goes after today. The Globes kind of, sort of acknowledged popular movies with Black Panther, but they’ve always had that Musical/Comedy category that could do that. It’s a perfect way to honor a movie like Crazy Rich Asians. The Oscars don’t have that and shit gets real really fast starting right now. Right now is when people really start to look at these movies, to scrutinize them closely, to see if they are deserving. Out of that bonfire a phoenix will rise. And that phoenix will “feel right” to the consensus and every time that phoenix wins? The crowd will roar with satisfaction. And so it goes.
The AwardsDaily Blues
The one thing that is always a bummer about the Oscar race is the sound of doors slamming shut, of hope extinguished. When the films you know in your heart are the best of the year are not present on these kinds of days, when the celebration for them stops – it’s a drag. I was enjoying the First Reformed wave and I hope that the industry picks up where the Globes dropped the ball. The night First Man screened in Telluride was pure magic. There was nothing like it. After seeing it I thought I’d seen one of the best films I’d ever seen, and certainly Chazelle’s best. But like so many of the movies I love it was not a sentiment that many others shared. One could take this to mean: hey, great, my opinions are unique. Or they could take it to mean: don’t listen to me because the consensus never likes the films I do. I’m old. It takes a lot to rock my world anymore. Movies you can watch once and get everything in one go are not my jam. For me, they need to be smart and deep and intricate and hard to solve. My brain is bored with most everything else. What can I say?
One day soon I will not be writing about the Oscars anymore but I will need you Oscar watchers to take with you and share the message that days like these don’t decide what is good and what isn’t. They simply tell you about the people who decide the awards. And that’s why me must, as always, remain mind readers. Loving movies must be reserved for a different muscle.