With the Oscars coming this weekend, here are our picks for Best Director, The Screenplay Categories and Best Foreign, Animated and Documentary features. Included are also some thoughts on each category and some suggestions in regards to betting the Oscars.
Note that money pick denotes the pick that offers the best risk/reward ratio maximizing return on investment where applicable. Obviously picking the favorite here would be counterintuitive as the line set on the favorite typically offers very little value.
BEST DIRECTOR (AKA THE OSCARS LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD)
I, as much as anyone would love to one of the first time directors in Gerwig or Peele win here but the Academy has typically not rewarded fresh faces here instead opting for veterans. This was the case for industry legends such as Spielberg and Scorsese so as great as both Gerwig and Peele were in their debuts their chances of winning are slim.
For Paul Thomas Anderson, his resume should qualify him at this stage of his career but once again, the Oscars have typically not rewarded the art-house auteurs. For reference, the likes of Kubrick, Godard, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Tarkovsky, and Bergman (all names that your cinephile friend raves about – and rightfully so) all don’t have Best Director Oscars so it seems fitting that PTA – one of the finest of his generation should be resigned to the same fate.
PREDICTION: GUILLERMO DEL TORO
MONEY PICK: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (40/1)
That leaves Guillermo Del Toro and Christopher Nolan to duke it out. However, in the case of Best Director seniority reigns supreme. Nolan remains an intriguing money pick at 40/1 but by all accounts, it will be going to Del Toro in a legacy move that some predicted months ago. But hey, Nolan will forever have the undying loyalty of fanboys who will literally murder you if you even try to tell them that The Dark Knight isn’t the greatest cinematic achievement ever or Inception is a lesser version of Satoshi Kon’s Paprika. Who needs Oscars when you have that?
REDEMPTION IS IN THE WRITING
If there is any redemption to be had for Gerwig and Peele likely losing out for Best Director, it will come in the form of Original Screenplay. Here is where you have traditionally seen films that don’t necessarily fit the Academy’s usual tastes get thrown a bone – almost as a consolation prize for losing Best Picture. The likes of Spike Jonze’s Her, Diablo Cody’s Juno, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation have all won here creating arguably a better pool of winners than those that have won Best Picture (but to each their own).
Unfortunately only one of Gerwig or Peele can win here making it an interesting Sophie’s Choice. Ultimately I think it will go to Gerwig not because it is far and away better but because the Academy seems to have a warped view of Peele’s subject matter in Get Out. Some anonymous voters seem to completely miss the social commentary and some seem to see it as a personal insult (???) – either way, the optics of the internal politics behind it hurt Get Out’s case. Oddsmakers disagree with me though listing Get Out being the favorite (maybe they feel the Academy will vote just to avoid backlash?) which makes Lady Bird a fantastic contrarian money pick at 18/1. Either way, both deserve it and I wish the two could just split it Mean Girls style.
PREDICTION: LADY BIRD
MONEY PICK: LADY BIRD (18/1)
PREDICTION: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
MONEY PICK: N/A
As for Adapted Screenplay, here is where the Academy will reward Call Me By Your Name which quite frankly deserves more attention in my books but with all due respect to Sorkin and Molly’s Game, it is a lock for Call Me By Your Name in this category.
HOUSE OF MOUSE MONOPOLY
Inexplicably missing the likes of LEGO Batman and Mary and the Witch’s Flower, none of that really matters though because Coco is running away with this. We really need Studio Ghibli to come back or this category will be an annual copy and paste victory for whatever Disney/Pixar vehicle is out at the time.
The distribution of foreign films is an issue that needs to be addressed because there are a lot of excellent films out there in foreign markets that are simply not made available. With that being said, Daniela Vega’s performance as a transgendered woman dealing with discrimination in A Fantastic Woman is one that could easily have been nominated for Best Actress but she will have to settle for winning Best Foreign Film instead.
Ruben Ostlund’s The Square is a decent money pick here for you gamblers out there as the wild Swedish film is boosted by Ostlund’s more established name and the fact that American actors Elisabeth Moss and Dominic West star in the film.
PREDICTION: A FANTASTIC WOMAN
MONEY PICK: THE SQUARE (6/1)
ALL HAIL QUEEN VARDA
Unlike the foreign films, streaming services Netflix and Amazon have actually done quite a good job making the nominees for Best Documentary Feature available to wider audiences. The field is strong but I don’t think there is a film as heartfelt as Agnes Varda’s Faces Places.
Of all the awards to be handed out Sunday, I am most excited to hear Varda’s speech. A legend of the French New Wave and a pioneer of feminist filmmaking, Varda’s influence is vast and endless. If Faces Places is not available in your area, I highly suggest watching her most famous film Cleo From 5 to 7 (available on Filmstruck) or her autobiographical documentary The Beaches of Agnes that will give more insight into this fascinating figure.
PREDICTION: FACES PLACES
MONEY PICK: N/A
If Roger Deakins fails to win the Oscar for Cinematography yet again, I suggest we riot until the decision is overturned. His work on Blade Runner 2049 is stunning and could easily fit in the Museum of Modern Art. Even beyond that though, how does this man have to wait this long to win an Oscar? Sicario, No Country For Old Men, Skyfall and Fargo highlight some of his work among a long long list of greats so hopefully this is the year he breaks the drought.