The past few years have been thrillingly turbulent for the top Oscar category, with surprise last-minute upset wins by Spotlighttwo years ago and Moonlight last year.
But in both of those cases, we had a clearly established frontrunner (The Revenant in 2015; La La Land in 2016) that got overtaken by a stalking horse. That’s not the case this year. While you could make the case for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water as a frontrunner, that’s kind of the point: you can make the case for either one of those movies. Or Get Out. Or Lady Bird. Or Dunkirk.
What looked like a fairly straightforward split between the nomination leader / technical masterpiece / likely Best Director winner The Shape of Water and the hit-a-nerve acting/story showcase / likely Best Picture winner Three Billboards got thrown into chaos when Martin McDonagh, the Three Billboards director, was left off the Best Director ballot. Suddenly, everything was wide open.
Who Can We Rule Out?
This seems easy, though it should come with the caveat that with a race where votes are as spread out as we expect the votes here to be, a lot of very strange things could happen. Still, it feels like movies like Darkest Hour and The Post, both well-made films about big, important political concerns being dealt with on a granular level, would be competing for the same votes, and neither one of them appears to have captivated wide enough segments of the audience to accumulate the votes they’ll need.
Call Me By Your Name was subjected to a disastrous rollout from Sony Pictures Classics that kept it out of theaters forever, and while Oscar voters all got screeners, sure, the refusal to just LET AMERICANS SEE THE DAMN MOVIE completely sapped it of any kind of popular momentum.
Phantom Thread, meanwhile, was a surprise Picture/Director movie and, while proving incredibly popular with critics and Paul Thomas Anderson partisans (a Venn diagram that is essentially a circle), this will likely only serve as further ammunition for when PTA finally does get his Oscar in some future year.
A Lady Bird win would be shocking historically simply due to its subject matter. Family dramadies, contemporary stories about teenage girls, small and personal films that don’t have death or disease or addiction at their core … these movies barely ever get nominated, much less win. But Lady Bird has been defying those very odds all season, mostly because people just tend to love it. And year after year, whenever Oscar “rules” end up broken, the simple explanation is usually “voters just loved it more.” Lady Bird is fighting some Oscar history here, as movies without any nominations in the so-called “tech” categories (your cinematography, your production and costume design, your sound and visual effects and editing and makeup) hardly ever win. The largest voting body within the Academy is actors, sure, but the tech branches together are a significant enough bloc that it’s pretty tough to win without impressing them even a little. Still, the case for Lady Bird remains that it could be the last film standing if the other frontrunners split their vote.
(Excerpt) Read More at: Decider.com