This Oscar season feels more interesting than usual. Maybe it’s because of the Academy member shakeups that we’ve suddenly seen a slew of unique and interesting nominees. Or maybe it’s because the nominated films bear such a strong personality, each with a powerful sense of perspective. Or maybe it’s because there really aren’t any shoo-ins (at least for best picture). There aren’t really any nominees this year that lead the pack, rather, each film feels like they’re on an even playing field.
Best Adapted Screenplay: James Ivory for “Call Me By Your Name”
Out of any of the nominees in this category, James Ivory’s screenplay for “Call Me By Your Name” is a clear frontrunner, stitching together an eloquent tapestry that follows a teenager through his sexual awakening. Imbued with an intricate attention to detail regarding the characters, James Ivory manages to create fascinating drama through simple interactions. It’s only real challenger would be “Mudbound.” Virgil Williams’ and Dee Rees’ script is impressive in its own right, however, a lack of nominations in other categories, plus a potential anti-Netflix bias, may make “Call Me By Your Name” the eventual winner.
Best Original Screenplay: Martin McDonagh for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
The Original Screenplay category tends to be where the Academy Awards the riskier films. And, in a year filled with risky films, there is none more button-pushing than Martin McDonagh’s riveting black comedy. Stuffed to the brim with sharp one-liners, memorable characters, and shocking plot developments, “Three Billboards” is the unique social issues movie that has a message reaching beyond the surface level. “The Big Sick,” “Ladybird,” and “Get Out” may give it some competition, but McDonagh’s attention to dialogue may give “Three Billboards” the edge it needs.
Best Original Score: Jonny Greenwood for “Phantom Thread”
After being unfairly snubbed by the Academy for his masterworks in “There Will Be Blood,” “The Master,” and “Inherent Vice,” Jonny Greenwood finally gets his time in the spotlight for his score in “Phantom Thread.” I’m going to be blunt here: the soundtrack to this movie is phenomenal. Featuring beautifully arranged orchestral pieces that have the depth and complexity of classical music, Greenwood’s music doesn’t just enhance the film, it stands alone as an impressive work of art. After his many snubs, the Academy will probably give Greenwood the award just to make up for their unfair treatment of him. The only real competition I can see is Hans Zimmer’s propulsive score for Dunkirk. Zimmer might be an Academy favorite. However, his score, while still well-made, doesn’t feel as memorable as some of his previous works. But Greenwood’s music manages to stick with you long after the credits roll.
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins for “Blade Runner 2049”
This category is probably the easiest to predict this year. After 14 (!) nominations, Roger Deakins might have finally struck a home run with his incredible work on “Blade Runner 2049.” The veteran cinematographer has always stood on the brink of success regarding the Oscars, but the award always seemed to slip through his grasp. But this year, his work can’t be contested. Seemingly given an unlimited budget to stretch his imagination to its limits, Deakins creates “Blade Runner’s” atmosphere through a series of incredibly creative and visually stunning shots. Whether it’s the shimmering golden light fixtures in the Wallace Corporation, the bleak greys, and greens of scrap yards, or the oceanic blues of the streets, “Blade Runner 2049’s” vivid look was entirely dependent of Roger Deakins’ work. The only real competition would be Hoyte van Hoytema’s awe-inspiring work on Dunkirk. But, after so many nominations, the Academy must realize that it’s about time Deakins gets his due.