By Dorian Grayson
The Oscars this year were later than usual, meaning we knew what was likely to win each category going in. The results, however, were surprising and didn’t follow predictions exactly.
If the Oscars were to be represented by only one award, it would be Best Picture. No award receives as many predictions, hype and scrutiny as Best Picture. This year it looked like there were three main competitors for the title: “Lady Bird,” “Get Out” and “The Shape of Water.” “Lady Bird” seemed like the safe, likely choice, as it was a low-stakes coming-of-age drama. “Get Out” is the movie from 2017 that will be remembered and would be the reflective-of-zeitgeist choice. “The Shape of Water” is also an anti-establishment drama, but also seemed like a long shot because it has a fish- person and interspecies sex. “The Shape of Water” won, though, celebrating del Toro’s work and rewarding the movie’s simple message of love.
The expectation going into the awards was that whoever won Best Picture, the other two would win Best Screenplay and Best Director. If “The Shape of Water” were to win, for instance, Jordan Peele would win Best Director for “Get Out” and Greta Gerwig would win Best Original Screenplay for “Lady Bird.” This was not the case. Del Toro and “The Shape of Water” won both Best Picture and Best Director, while Peele won Best Original Screenplay for “Get Out.”
Gerwig and “Lady Bird” won no awards, which was very surprising, as “Lady Bird” seemed so safe and “Get Out’s” script wasn’t as strong as Peele’s directing. “Lady Bird” was a very personal story about coming of age, which the Academy tends to reward, however, they also have a history of excluding women from prestigious production awards.
On to the actors. Despite Timothée Chalamet’s career-making performance in “Call Me by Your Name” and Daniel Day Lewis’s supposedly career-ending performance in “Phantom Thread,” the Academy gave Best Actor to Gary Oldman for “Darkest Hour,” in which he played Winston Churchill with the assistance of latex makeup to make him look the party. Unsurprisingly, “Darkest Hour” won Best Makeup as well. I, personally, was hoping for Chalamet to win, as this was one of Gary Oldman’s weaker performances and he has been accused of abuse by his former spouse.
McDormand won Best Actress for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which surprised no one. To start, the Academy likes to give awards to older individuals, as they figure they’ll have more chances to reward the younger ones. In addition, Meryl Streep is not doing anything in “The Post” that we haven’t seen her do before. The award of Best Supporting Actor was correctly predicted as going to Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” because the Academy has been waiting to give him an Oscar for a while. Nobody else in these categories stood much of a chance.
The Best Supporting Actress award was similarly predictable, as the Academy usually gives the award to older actors who play mother-like characters, as a reward for a historic career. The two real competitors in the category were Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” as Tonya Harding’s mother and Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird” as Lady Bird’s mother. The Academy chose to give it to Janney. Not enough people saw “I, Tonya,” but those that did know that Janney pulled off an incredible balance of funny and horrifying that really earned her the gold.
In the end, these Oscars will get glossed over when compared to last year’s historic mishap in presenting Best Picture. It does provide even more evidence that the Academy follows a very regular pattern in their awards, but also shows that they are willing to not always go with the safe pick, even if they didn’t give “Get Out” the deserved honor of Best Picture.