Every year your favourite films are robbed (robbed, you hear me!) of the little gold statues they deserve. And we all know why.
Despite the bold changes begun in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite, the Academy still tends to reward a certain kind of performance, a certain kind of genre, and a certain kind of film. Over the next few scrolls of your mouse, our writers fight for a better, brighter future. A future where Andy Serkis finally gets that goddamn Oscar.
Best Director: Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled)
The Beguiled feasibly has a shot in Costume or Production Design for its lavish realising of the Civil War-era Deep South. Hopes for its director are slim, but Sofia Coppola’s work here is deft and laser-accurate. She conducts early proceedings with lush, Instagrammable beauty before delicately ratcheting up the tension into full-on revenge horror. Her technique is subtle and unobtrusive, leaving plenty of room for themes and firecracker performances to fill the directorial spaces she meticulously constructs. We’ve watched her abilities develop onscreen since her 1999 debut; now Coppola is at the absolute height of her powers.
Best Cinematography: John Wick: Chapter 2
The second instalment of the Keanu Reeves hitman franchise is beautiful (if often terrifying) to behold. From the gunfight in the mirror gallery to that fucking pencil, Dan Laustsen captures and heightens the hyper-stylised glamour, intrigue and tongue-in-cheek touches offered by the cast’s performances, Chad Stahelski’s direction, and Darrin Prescott’s fight choreography. He uses the sumptuous sets – such as the Coliseum’s avant-garde concert and this universe’s unfeasibly pristine New York – to frame the proceedings in an appropriately mythical atmosphere. The end result is a visually stunning action piece that consistently and thoroughly owns the world it has created.
Best Supporting Actor: Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer)
I can’t think of any other piece of acting in 2017 that so deserves awards and yet is so guaranteed to be ignored. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a film that few Academy members are likely to have seen, let alone enjoyed, but it is brilliant, and Barry Keoghan’s performance is at the heart of that. He’s a terrifying villain, but Keoghan brings a pathetic misery to the part that makes it unforgettable. Whether he’s seducing Colin Farrell’s teenage daughter or mutilating himself with his own teeth, Keoghan glues you to scenes that you’d rather look away from.
Best Lead Actress: Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper)
Little-seen outside of the European arthouse circuit of which director Oliver Assayas is something of a darling, Personal Shopper is exactly the kind of film, and containing exactly the kind of performance, that sadly tends to go completely disregarded by awards bodies. Both film and star are twitchy bundles of raw nervous energy, constantly on the verge of total breakdown. Yet Personal Shopper would amount to little without Stewart’s imperious central turn – here, she is a magnetic presence as an anxiety-ridden introvert barely able to keep herself together. It’s stunning how she is able to do so much with so little.
Best Editing: Elliot Graham, Josh Schaeffer and Alan Baumgarten (Molly’s Game)
Aaron Sorkin’s feature directorial debut Molly’s Game is held together thanks to Jessica Chastain’s ability to find the humanity in every situation her character faces, and, of course, great scriptwriting. However, Sorkin’s direction relies heavily on the film’s editing by Elliot Graham, Josh Schaeffer, and Alan Baumgarten.
Each editor commits to ensuring Sorkin’s film is told in an experimental way, with their non-linear narrative choices tied together by Molly’s fast-paced narration, guiding the viewer from past to present to past again. By linking Molly’s narration to each storyline, the editors reveal to the viewer her sense of control.
Best Lead Actor: Andy Serkis (War for the Planet of the Apes)
You can keep your Oldmans and Day-Lewises; for my money, our greatest living actor is Andy Serkis. Unfortunately the Academy has yet to recognise this, because he does his best work in a grey Lycra suit covered in ping pong balls.
Serkis’ turn as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes is undoubtedly a technical marvel, but all the pixels in the world mean nothing without a performance to hang them on. Caesar’s transformation from reluctant leader to heroic martyr is a deeply moving one, and it’s all down to Serkis’ unmatched skill as an actor. Admit it: he’s deserved this gong since Gollum.
Phil W. Bayles
Best Supporting Actress: Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z)
As Nina Fawcett, Miller embodies the old-but-new spirit of James Gray’s underseen exploration epic. While husband Percy gallivants around the Amazon, Nina is stuck being a progressive woman in Edwardian England. Miller projects all the ambition and frustration of a woman restrained by society, making her the most immediately relatable figure on screen. She perfectly layers Nina’s social conscience with her love for Percy, and gives the audience sympathy pangs whenever he excludes her from his adventures. Miller’s bold performance propels Nina out of her husband’s shadow to become an equally compelling character with a third of the screen time.
Best Adapted Screenplay: It
In adapting It for the silver screen, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman had to contend with both the legacy of Stephen King’s novel and Lawrence Cohen’s celebrated adaptation for television – a medium that the novel feels predisposed towards. Palmer and co have successfully condensed It into a thrilling and pacy horror, extricating one half of the novel’s dual-narrative and letting it stand alone, paying homage to a larger whole without feeling like build-up to a superior sequel. It also, like any good adaption, understands when to shift from the source material, updating and refreshing some horror cliches and removing the most controversial and ill-fitting elements entirely.
Best Picture: The Big Sick
The Academy don’t generally do comedy. For an industry built on the foundation of entertaining people it’s odd to remember that the last pure comedic film to win Best Picture was 1977’s neurotic, philosophical Annie Hall.
The Big Sick won’t be the film to change that 40-year streak despite becoming one of the most beloved films of 2017. It manages the balancing act of simultaneously being a heartbreaking love story about a traumatic subject and delivering some of the most cathartic and surprising comedy of the year. If laughter is the best medicine then nothing would be a better Best Picture winner for 2018 than The Big Sick.