East Penn Press

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Oscar in good ‘Shape’

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

The Oscars, and Hollywood for that matter, are in pretty good shape.

“The Shape of Water,” that is.

But enough philosophizing, no shoulda, woulda, coulda from yours truly. Here are my picks for the 2018 Academy Awards in the categories of the annual Lehigh Valley Press Focus section “Readers Pick the Oscar Winners” contest.

Picture: “The Shape Of Water”

This is a very competitive category with each movie having a lot going for it. “Darkest Hour” and “Dunkirk” are somewhat companion pieces, with overlapping material, and the voting should cancel each out. “Phantom Thread” is icily-efficient and won’t feel the warmth. “The Post” is an economical, but somewhat typical drama. “Call Me by Your Name” is “Roman Holiday” (1953) with a twist, but the age difference makes voters nervous (think #metoo). “Lady Bird,” “Get Out” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” are rebel film-making with causes. Still, for its deep dive into another world, albeit with a political subtext, Oscar swims with “The Shape Of Water.”

Director: Jordan Peele

The Oscar picture recipient and director recipient don’t always conincide. That’s likely to happen again in 2018. Paul Thomas Anderson (eight Oscar nominations) just doesn’t have all that interesting a story in the lovely but disturbing “Phantom Thread.” Similarly, Christopher Nolan (five Oscar nominations) with “Dunkirk,” in battle, or retreat, the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, as a film is limited (understandably so) in scope. The competition is between three horror film directors: Greta Gerwig (two first-time Oscar nominations) repurposed her personal life in “Lady Bird”; Guillermo del Toro (four Oscar nominations) metaphorically morphed “Creature From The Black Lagoon” (1954) into a paranoic 1950s’ love story, and Jordan Peele (three first-time Oscar nominations), crafted a tale tailor-made for these times. For its audacious real-life fright night, Oscar has Jordan Peele’s back for “Get Out.”

Actor: Gary Oldman

In any year at the Oscars, some categories are a lock. This is one. Daniel Kaluuya (first Oscar nomination) is totally believable in “Get Out.” Timothee Chalamet (first Oscar nomination) is the breakout star in “Call Me by Your Name.” Denzel Washington (two Oscars) for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” presumably got the James Franco “Disaster Artist” slot (read #metoo). Daniel Day-Lewis (three Oscars) has the end-of-career (so he says) slot for “Phantom Thread.” For a career-making performance (and phenomenal makeup), it’s Gary Oldman (two Oscar nominations) in “Darkest Hour.”

Actress: Sally Hawkiins

Meryl Streep has a record 21 Oscar nominations (including for “The Post”), the most of any actor, and has received three Oscars. Frances McDormand (one actress Oscar, three supporting actress Oscar nominations) is the frontrunner for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Margo Robbie (first Oscar nomination) is terrific in “I, Tonya.” Saoirse Ronan” is great in “Lady Bird” and the third time could be the charm (two actress Oscar nominations). Sally Hawkins deserves the Oscar for her remarkable, near wordless performance in “The Shape Of Water.”

Supporting Actor: Richard Jenkins

Woody Harrelson (three Oscar nominations) and Sam Rockwell (first Oscar nomination) are amazing in “Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” but votes will split their chances. Willem Dafoe (three Oscar nominations) is his naturalistic best in “The Florida Project.” Christopher Plummer (first nomination and eldest-ever at 88) accomplished an amazing last-minute feat, replacing Kevin Spacey (yes, #metoo) in “All The Money In The World.” Richard Jenkins (two Oscar nominations) gets the 2018 J.K. Simmons (supporting actor Oscar, “Whiplash,” 2014) dad-type Oscar for “The Shape Of Water.”

Supporting Actress: Allison Janney

Laurie Metcalf (first Oscar nomination) is a frontrunner for her fierce, somewhat sympathetic, turn in “Lady Bird.” Lesley Manville (first Oscar nomination) is a steady force in “Phantom Thread,” as is Octavia Spencer (supporting actress Oscar) for “The Shape Of Water.” Mary J. Blige (two first-time Oscar nominations) is a commendable surprise nominee for “Mudbound.” Allison Janney (first Oscar nomination) deserves the supporting actress Oscar for her transformation as the Wicked Mom of the Northwest in “Lady Bird.”

Animated Feature: “Coco”

This is an easy category to pick as it’s another lock, here, for “Coco,” although I want “Loving Vincent” to win because in many ways it’s the greater artistic achievement. The others: “The Breadwinner,” “The Boss Baby” and “Ferdinand” are slot-fillers. “Coco” will be a deserved Oscar animated feature recipient.