Someday we’ll look back on 2017 with wonderment as the year that Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Patty Jenkins, Greta Gerwig, Valerie Faris, and Dee Rees all directed formidable films. We’ll also find it staggering that there were so many movies about women rising not only to lead the Oscar race but the the box office as well, with Wonder Woman, Girls Trip, and Beauty and the Beast among the biggest money-makers of the year. We’ll also be amazed that in a single year the Best Picture race could even feature so many female-driven stories — that films as varied as The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Battle of the Sexes, The Post, Lady Bird, The Florida Project, mother!, Wonderstruck, Novitiate, and Their Finest were all in the conversation. Women behind the camera are on the rise, which inevitably means we get to see more stories about women in front of the camera.
Of course, there is a notable absence of stories about women of color, with the exception of Mudbound and Beatrice at Dinner. It seems as though Hollywood and the Oscars can’t really focus on shifting more than one important thing at a time. There are always going to be areas that need improving. This year seems particularly bad with regard to diversity, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to solve this problem any faster.
However, the supporting actress race, unlike the Best Actress race, does features a diverse array of talent, from Octavia Spencer to Mary J. Blige, to the extremely rare Vietnamese contender, Hong Chau from Downsizing. Women are also potential nominees and winners in the writing categories: Gerwig wrote Lady Bird, Dee Rees co-adapted Mudbound, Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung co-wrote First They Killed My Father, and Emily V. Gordon co-adapted The Big Sick. Liz Hannah’s script about the Pentagon Papers is now The Post, and she’s a credited co-writer. Alice Birch wrote Lady MacBeth.
There are at least two top Best Picture contenders directed by women: Lady Bird, Mudbound, and maybe even Detroit, which is still one of the most hard-hitting, powerful films this year.
But Hollywood and the Oscars are still very much about what they consider “important” or “universal” stories. Just as it is in book publishing, that usually means dudes created it and it’s about dudes. For all of the surging right now going to Three Billboards, The Shape of Water, I, Tonya, and Lady Bird, there is just as much of a shift going towards Get Out, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, and The Disaster Artist. Perhaps Best Picture will be a nice balance of these, but recent history indicates that the winner is still likely to be a film without a lead actress in it, as has been the case since 2004.
We read this race filtered through our biases because nothing has won anything yet and right now it’s still a wide open race. It’s easy to tell which movies the internet folks are enamored with. Sometimes the Oscars agree. Sometimes they don’t. Just don’t be surprised if there is a whopper of a let-down headed our way, like that Inside Llewyn Davis shut-out. Our powers to predict what will happen can only really take us so far. So many factors contribute to building a consensus frontrunner: timing, money, reputation of stars, likability, rooting factor. And many of those things won’t really start to emerge until several weeks from now.
In short, we’re still flying blind. We’re mostly wading through a painful time through treacherous seas — a time when the Oscar race could easily be upended by an unexpected story. Still, the show must… go on.
Movie City News just posted its Gurus of Gold for November showing a consensus beginning to form around Dunkirk. Because of this, in our Oscar Squad predictions (which I will post below) I think that folks should think seriously about Mark Rylance in supporting actor. Best Picture winners often have at least one acting nomination. Of course not always, but often. If they like it enough for it to win, the actors are going to have to like it, and if the actors like it they’re going to like Mark Rylance, I would think, as he’s the one standout performance in the whole ensemble cast.
A few brave souls have different films predicted to win. Glenn Whipp has The Florida Project. Dave Karger has The Post. Greg Ellwood and Nat Rogers have Three Billboards.
The key to this year, probably, is to follow the films you think will do well with SAG, as much as DGA and PGA. Dunkirk seems SAG ensemble worthy but you just never know. That is a key nomination to watch moving forward from here.
Our Oscar Squad predictions have been updated and here they are.
Looks like we’ve got Dunkirk for Picture, Director, Editing and Cinematography at the moment. I’m not sure it’s going to go that way. In recent years films that win the tech awards do not tend to win Best Picture. This might be the year that changes that trend. But really, a Best Picture nominee is often elevated to win because of the acting, the writing and the directing. Films that wow visually but do not draw the admiration of the other upper-echelon branches can’t and won’t win Best Picture.
How many Best Picture winners have also won a screenplay Oscar under the preferential ballot system?
2009 — The Hurt Locker
2010 — The King’s Speech
2012 — Argo
2013 — 12 Years a Slave
2014 _ Birdman
2015 — Spotlight
2016 — Moonlight
So literally all except 2011, when The Artist lost the original screenplay award to Midnight in Paris. The Artist was mostly a silent film so it’s understandable it would not necessarily win there. Not a lot of quotable lines in silent films. But screenplay is a big deal. So if you’re thinking Dunkirk as the frontrunner and you’re not sure about SAG ensemble and you’re not sure about WGA or a screenplay nod? Then we might be in for a surprise. What’s going to win screenplay according to our Oscar squad right now? Call Me By Your Name vs. Three Billboards.
It’s still too early to make any calls yet. We have to see what the actual people voting begin to do instead of relying on what we think. Still, keep an eye those two areas: acting and writing. Don’t give all your attention to directing.