Was it ever Three Billboards vs. Get Out vs. Shape of Water in the early days of the Oscar race? Remember back when the season began and The Shape of Water seemed down for the count? I remember it vividly because it had done so well in Telluride and Venice. Yet I remember how many believed it wasn’t gonna. But it did. At some point, it caught fire and has remained hot. Three Billboards had a much stranger trajectory. I’ll never forget walking in to a screening of Blade Runner 2049 and hearing every Oscar pundit I knew there talk about how great Three Billboards was and how universal its appeal would be. I remember saying, but isn’t it sort of politically correct? The answer to that was unanimous: no. But that was before a backlash bloomed online. Was the backlash going to take the movie down, La La Land style? Well, first you have to believe the backlash was what took La La Land down (I do not think it was). And second, Three Billboards’ popularity doesn’t come from publicity and hype, the frontrunner out of Telluride, predicted to not just win but to sweep. And then there’s Get Out. Underestimated out of the gate, with a few people thinking maybe screenplay, somehow appreciation for this film has only intensified a full year after the film opened.
All three of these movies are entertaining. All three are making money. All three will likely go home with at least one Oscar (or it seems so at the moment). One thing to note about them is that two will make history as films with Best Actress contenders that win Best Picture (not since Million Dollar Baby) — Three Billboards and The Shape of Water. If Three Billboards wins, and Frances McDormand wins, it will still break the same stat, from way way back in 2004. If Get Out wins, it will become the first film written by a single black writer. If Get Out wins screenplay Jordan Peele will become the first black writer to win in original screenplay.
Both Three Billboards and The Shape of Water have the editing nomination. Three Billboards and Get Out have the SAG ensemble nomination. The Shape of Water and Get Out have directing nominations. It’s by far the most confounding year since I’ve been watching the Oscars. Also worth noting, all three are rivals in original screenplay. All three could WIN original screenplay. All three could be bested by Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird in original screenplay.
All three of them deal, in some way, with America under Trump. All three depict scenes of extreme violence. All three revolve around division. All three are about outsiders. All three are about taking the law into your own hands, fighting back. All three have endings that are bittersweet.
The internet has a strong preference for one of these movies, is kind of supportive of another, and really opposed to one. But the internet — film critics and those tasked with writing about the Oscars — are not in line with what the voters are doing. In that way, it is similar to the Birdman year, except that here, voters from everywhere seem to like Three Billboards, where critics here really didn’t. It seems that the surprise of Moonlight winning, a movie people -thought had zero chance, has messed with our ability to figure out which film has the consensus — the real consensus — and what doesn’t. Voting is happening now and is almost over.
Any of these three films could win Best Picture. It’s a coin toss. For both Best Picture and Original Screenplay. It will all be over a week from tomorrow. What a ride.