Best Editing: Lee Smith for “Dunkirk”
Here’s a particularly stacked category. From the creative kinetics of “Baby Driver” to the anarchic “I, Tonya,” to the swoon-worthy “The Shape of Water,” to the simple-yet-powerful “Three Billboards: each nominee seems worthy of an Oscar. However, none of them can compete with Lee Smith’s virtuosic work on “Dunkirk.” Mark my words, the structure of “Dunkirk” is going to be studied for generations. Taking nonlinear storytelling in a radically new direction, Smith manages to fold various time periods into one interwoven narrative, all the while making the actual story of the film cohesive and understandable. It’s an astounding technical achievement, one that propels the war film, and the suspense film in general, in an exciting new direction.
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour”
Another case of a hardworking actor finally getting his due, Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill is sure to net him an Oscar. It ticks off many of the Academy’s checkboxes: it’s about an important historical figure, it features many scene-chewing opportunities, and the actor is barely recognizable. Oldman is an actor who should’ve gotten an Academy Award a while ago, and this is the performance that might finally give him what he deserves. His only real contestant is Academy favorite, Daniel Day-Lewis. Not to take away from his great performance in “Phantom Thread,” but Day-Lewis may have been a bit too subtle for the Academy’s tastes. Oldman gives them what they want, a larger than life character that dominates the screen.
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
It’s time that the world recognizes Frances McDormand as one of the greatest actresses who has walked this Earth. After receiving accolades for her groundbreaking turn in “Fargo,” McDormand seemed to have been sidelined by the moviegoing public. Now, finally given the chances to sink her teeth into a richly detailed role, she turns in the best performance of her career. Balancing a biting humor with a palpable sense of grief, McDormand is never overly sentimental, nor too aggressive. She strikes just the right note, creating a character that will be remembered in the decades to come.
Best Director: Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk”
After putting out hit after hit, it’s finally time for Christopher Nolan to get the Academy recognition he deserves. It’s shocking that the director has gotten so little Oscar love, as he’s managed to score with both audiences and critics on a regular basis. But with “Dunkirk,” a WWII film (always a favorite of the Academy), Nolan stands a strong chance of winning. Choreographing practical action sequences (which must have been a nightmare to manage) while also spinning a unique and downright experimental narrative, “Dunkirk” stands as the most loudly impressive directorial achievement of the year. Each of the nominees this year are deserving, but Christopher Nolan is the most obviously deserving.
Best Picture: “Lady Bird”
Predicting the best picture for any year is always a bit of a crapshoot. As opposed to the other categories, which may be more easily judged, Best Picture always feels a bit on the vague side. Last year’s surprise win with “Moonlight” cemented that. The previous year’s Spotlight winning after winning no other nominations stuck out to me as an even bigger surprise. One theory floating around made the most sense to me: the year’s best picture typically tends to be the movie with the most amount of fans, not the film with the most hardcore fans.
This is why I think Lady Bird is going to win: it is the only picture out of the whole bunch that hasn’t had any controversy whatsoever. That’s not to take away from what Greta Gerwig has done. Lady Bird is one of the best coming-of-age stories I’ve seen. It’s told with such a strong sense of perspective and an incredibly nuanced understanding of character dynamics. The plot never seemed to hold our hand or unbalance its tone – – a typical hurdle for these kinds of movies. And there’s a whole bunch of great performances that really gripped me. “Lady Bird” might win because it’s the least offensive, but you can’t deny that it isn’t a great work of art.