Yesterday was the day many film fans have been waiting for: the 2018 Oscars nominations have been revealed! To celebrate and debate the (delightful and outrageous) results of this announcement are Copy Editor Calum Baker, Features Editor Cathy Brennan, and writers Jack Blackwell and Rhys Handley, with Features Editor Carmen Paddock monitoring.
Carmen: Let’s kick off – when you first saw the list, what were the overall reactions?
Calum: Occasional surprise! But only occasional. Lesley Manville was this year’s Benh Zeitlin.
Rhys: Pretty thrilled that some of my favourites are doing so well, but frustrated at the fact that half of the big ones aren’t even out in the UK yet. I am excited about Lady Bird and Phantom Thread’s successes without having seen them.
Jack: A damn great year. Loved seeing Phantom Thread all over the shop.
Cathy: Honestly surprised by how well The Shape of Water did. 13 nominations are mighty impressive.
Jack: I reckon it’s going to take Picture and Director on the night.
Rhys: I’m personally more of a Call Me by Your Name fan, but I’m thrilled The Shape of Water is doing so well because it’s so unashamedly weird.
Carmen: Let’s have a look at the Best Picture category – any surprises there?
Calum: Most surprised by Phantom Thread, followed by The Post – which is a solid and logical and unsurprising nominee but underperformed, making its Picture nod a little under-supported. It was another anti-Trump vote. Not as brazen as The Salesman [surging to win Foreign Language in protest of the travel ban] but to underperform so much and then sneak in? It feels very much like a point, for better or worse.
Carmen: The Post felt like a shoe-in, whether deserved or not – Spielberg directing, a poster that just says STREEP HANKS…
Rhys: It felt like it got in by default. It is totally an anti-Trump stab. I am thrilled at the successes of Get Out and Lady Bird here though.
Jack: Lovely to see Lady Bird and Get Out doing so well, but I don’t think either of them will win anything.
Calum: I don’t think Get Out is much of an outlier. The campaigning has been as wide and sizeable as any Oscar campaign, meaning it’s been a “thing” for a while now, but also because it’s become positioned as the monolith by which White Oscar can continue to… I hate myself for this, but… virtue-signal. We had Mudbound – did well but underperformed. We had Detroit – too incendiary. Has Get Out just, ironically, been picked up in the nebulous, insulting “black film” slot?
Rhys: I was unsurprised but saddened by the lack of both Mudbound and Detroit. But there is an impressively diverse range of stories being told by this year’s crop which I think is a very positive indicator.
Calum: Jason Mitchell was robbed somewhat too.
Cathy: I think Mudbound had the strongest opening scene of the year.
Rhys: I don’t think the Academy is quite ready for the Netflix thing yet though; not having a cinema release will have hurt it. Perhaps that’s the bigger issue with this film.
Carmen: What about the Acting categories?
Jack: Lead Actor is a great selection this year. The main robbed actor, in my view, was Michael Stuhlbarg for Call Me by Your Name (Hammer was never going to make it).
Rhys: Timothée Chalamet deserves that lead nomination for THE LAST SHOT. He would be my personal pick to win it.
Calum: Chalamet is all we need this year.
Rhys: He’s a real peach.
Carmen: I think that last shot beats Oldman’s entire Churchill.
Calum: Oldman is fantastic, but his performance doesn’t feel like the next step in screen acting.
Rhys: Oldman is a very lazy choice.
Jack: Gary Oldman will probably win and, though Darkest Hour is mediocre, I won’t mind because I’ll just pretend he’s winning it for any number of his properly all-time performances.
Carmen: I want Chalamet to win it, but I think that the one who could beat Oldman is Daniel Day-Lewis.
Rhys: It could go to Daniel Day-Lewis as it’s his last ever chance, presumably?
Carmen: I am glad Christopher Plummer was nominated (in Supporting) at the same time that Franco was ignored.
Rhys: I enjoyed The Disaster Artist, but even before the Franco allegations I never saw it as Oscar material.
Calum: I found the final act so up there. Very bittersweet, although I wonder if Franco wasn’t being disingenuous all along with regards to Tommy Wiseau.
Jack: It got that Adapted Screenplay nod though.
Carmen: The Supporting Actor category is very competitive. The Florida Project‘s only nomination is in there.
Calum: A great nomination too. That was one that didn’t quite get a campaign going and perhaps asked too many uncomfortable questions, in voters’ minds. (I wonder if this contributed also to the snubbing of Doc Feature favourite City of Ghosts.)
Jack: Florida Project being snubbed everywhere else is cruddy though. It was my favourite of all the eligible films this year.
Cathy: I think Sean Baker is one of those filmmakers who could build up a career to be an Oscar mainstay. Or he could stay making “niche” indie films. I mean decent films about trans people can’t really expect mainstream recognition, can they?
Rhys: I’d love Willem Dafoe to win it. Without Michael Stuhlbarg in there I don’t see any other clear frontrunners.
Jack: It’s a sublime performance and should win, but Rockwell looks like he’s going to snatch it.
Calum: Rockwell speaks to what I see as something distasteful in terms of racial insensitivity within this general collection of Oscar nominations, although that’s not to say he isn’t perfectly excellent in Three Billboards. Harrelson does have more complexity to work with.
Rhys: Frances McDormand could easily take Lead Actress and would deserve it (though I’m split now I’ve seen Sally Hawkins), but I don’t think Three Billboards deserves many other wins over its competitors. Three Billboards’ racial politics is embarrassingly thin on the ground. If they wanted to include that thread, do it properly, otherwise you’re just undermining a perfectly good film about grief and retribution. Police brutality should not be a kooky character quirk in 2018, which is what Rockwell’s performance partly rests on, so while he would deserve it for any number of other performances, this isn’t the one he should take it for.
Carmen: It’s disappointing, especially when Get Out is miles ahead in that regard
Calum: It’s not so much that Three Billboards is qualitatively bad or ultimately out-and-out racist. That’s a dangerous simplification of its issue which is basically that it gives us this theme [of racially-motivated police brutality], then just ignores it. Rockwell’s character is obviously not “the good guy” at the end, and yes, we love and respect moral ambiguity and the good in people – except no, he is a good guy at the end and we’ve forgotten all about his crimes! And it’s the ignorance of this major thing in the major frontrunner film, at the same time as nominating Get Out, that makes Oscar’s ongoing progression into the modern world a bit of a dark joke for me overall. I mean, Peele quite legitimately calls his film a documentary – and lo and behold, so much of this ceremony is basically the real-life version of “I would’ve voted for Obama a third time”.
Cathy: I agree with you Calum. Although I don’t think Get Out’s legacy needs the win anyway.
Calum: What’s the biggest potential “classic” of all the nominees?
Rhys: I feel like films like Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, and Lady Bird might not get as many wins but they’ll last longer in collective memory than the winners. But things like The Post, Three Billboards, Darkest Hour, are likely to disappear. My personal absolute classic is Call Me by Your Name, but Get Out is the most important one on the list perhaps.
Jack: I think Shape of Water will be a huge winner and be remembered. No one’s going to be talking about Darkest Hour or The Post in even six months, let alone many years down the line.
Cathy: I disagree. The Post will be rediscovered as an underrated Spielberg.
Carmen: I think Three Billboards might be held up a bit as a timely film among the #metoo movement, but definitely agree with the others. Let’s move onto the actresses and supporting actresses.
Calum: Gotta feel for Holly Hunter. She was Lesley’s casualty.
Cathy: It’s telling that the only women of colour were in the supporting category.
Rhys: I’d give it to Mary J. Blige, but you’re right that it stinks.
Calum: That’s true. And Mary J. Bilge was essentially a cipher for the whole-cast nomination that couldn’t be.
Jack: Best Casting should be an Oscar category.
Calum: Oh, no Tiffany Haddish [for Girls Trip]. That was a thing that nearly happened.
Rhys: My Lead Actress picks are Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins and whoever loses will devastate me. I loved them both massively.
Cathy: Sally Hawkins deserves it for her career. She’s been working magic for years; give her the recognition.
Jack: McDormand will almost certainly take Lead, and Support is, I reckon, a toss-up between Janney and Metcalf.
Carmen: Let’s go through those Screenplay nominations, seeing that Chastain’s Molly’s Game was nominated in the Best Adapted category.
Calum: Paul Thomas Anderson, five-time nominated screenwriter, getting Picture and Director nominations but… not Screenplay?
Jack: Logan. Big surprise.
Rhys: I’m not sure Screenplay is the nod I’d have given Logan if I were to throw it a bone.
Calum: No, agreed. But then it’s a real skill to write action, in the same way that the not-so dialogue-heavy The Artist, for instance, was nominated; with Logan it was about the thematic choreography and the structure of the fight sequences perhaps.
Jack: But Logan’s script has this annoying self-aggrandising disclaimer written into it that essentially says “this ain’t your daddy’s superhero movie” for a whole page.
Rhys: It felt like a “let’s give them something” move. Call Me by Your Name has real poetry to the dialogue that jumps out to me, without being too showy. Something needs to come out of that Stuhlbarg monologue, for goodness’ sake.
Calum: James Ivory, an influential master of cinema, finally doing something that feels contemporary. And wears its heart on its sleeve rather than layered beneath crushing piles of repressed Britishness, which was previously his (spectacular) forte.
Rhys: I’d really like Original Screenplay to go to The Big Sick. I don’t think it will, but I’d like it to.
Jack: Best category for me is Director, because any winner there would make me happy.
Rhys: True; even the least inspired choice – Christopher Nolan – deserves a pop at that.
Calum: Nolan was tiringly inevitable.
Jack: Dunkirk was a banger and this is his first Director nomination!
Carmen: Is there anyone missing from that list in your opinions?
Calum: Luca Guadagnino.
Jack: Sean Baker.
Cathy: Trey Edward Schultz (It Comes at Night) might be a future Best Director.
Jack: David Lowery (A Ghost Story) didn’t stand even the smallest chance of getting a nom, but he did a brilliant job.
Rhys: When people stop working with Casey fucking Affleck, they can have their nominations back.
Cathy: Do you think Affleck will be a no-show at the ceremony? If he doesn’t show, who’d present Best Actress? They’d HAVE to address his BS.
Calum: I hope he wears a pin.
Carmen: Gary Oldman‘s going to be there, walking proud…
Calum: Oldman accepting an award from Emma Stone. Frances McDormand accepting one from Casey sodding Affleck.
Rhys: Brie Larson should present all the awards with her magnificent scowl from last year.
Jack: Might be quite funny to see McDormand take an award out of Affleck’s hands.
Calum: We’ll have the Big Moment for #metoo. McDormand punching Casey Affleck. While Ben looks on.
Carmen: It feels like many nominations are correcting the Golden Globes’ sins, which is not a bad thing.
Calum: It is, ultimately, nearly the perfect Year One (after last year’s Year Zero) for a more inclusive and interesting approach in Hollywood. Even Three Billboards is a wonderfully individual, incredibly strong-willed, and largely moral film about this present nonsense.
Carmen: The fact that we’re considering some of Three Billboard‘s racial politics poorly judged is neat – in previous years it would have been one of the most astute nominees by miles.
Calum: 12 years ago the winner was Crash, written and directed by the skeezy Paul Haggis. Three Billboards does feel very specific to major social issues (much like the more cohesive Florida Project) – which is why its police brutality blindness is such a huge shame.
Cathy: The era for films like Crash is hopefully coming to an end.
Calum: He’s always being robbed.
Rhys: I love Star Wars but it does not deserve a performer of his immense calibre.
Jack: Honestly would have much rather had The Last Jedi than Logan as the token action movie in Screenplay.
Cathy: Last Jedi was going to get shafted into Visual Effects.
Calum: Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars are having a real below-the-line battle.
Jack: Come on Deakins, win that Oscar. 14th time lucky.
Rhys: Sound Mixing should go to The Last Jedi, for the Holdo hyperspace kamikaze, and Sound Editing to Baby Driver. Baby Driver needs a win; poor Edgar Wright got lumped with a poisoned chalice he doesn’t deserve because of Spacey.
Carmen: Are there any surprises or snubs among the other categories, or any you want to expand upon?
Calum: I think Yance Ford, in Documentary Feature, is the first ever out transgender director to be nominated and it’s so well deserved [for Strong Island].
Jack: Ditch Darkest Hour in Cinematography for Florida Project. Florida Project had actual colours in it and it made a shabby motel look like it contained the whole world.
Calum: I did love the way that, where most great (and “great”) DoPs use shade for their textures (including Bruno Delbonnel on the very beautiful Darkest Hour), the Florida Project DoP [Alexis Zabe] instead uses light as the primary colouring-in technique. Very interesting and underused skill.
Jack: My main thought is that any film where Willem Dafoe talks to herons like they’re his friends should be nominated in every awards category.
Carmen: Any last remarks on the nominees? Or what you want to see at the ceremony?
Cathy: I want to see Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan being BFFs.
Jack: Nothing from me other than I already know what film will make me mad when it’s inevitably snubbed at the 2019 Oscars – You Were Never Really Here.
Calum: On Body and Soul was a slight surprise in Foreign Language Film; it’s my personal favourite of every nominated film apart from Get Out and Call Me by Your Name. It’s like a female response to the best of Buñuel, but nothing like Buñuel.
Rhys: For the ceremony, I would like it if the men in attendance would double-check they don’t have shady shit in their pasts before piggybacking any anti-sexual assault campaigns. For the awards, I really want Call Me by Your Name to sweep and I’m really rooting for Lady Bird (blindly) and Get Out.
Carmen: I for one hope all these things happen, even if it’s impossible for Lady Bird and Get Out to simultaneously win Best Picture.
Calum: I mean… No, yeah, it’s supposed to be embedded in the system that that’s impossible for the main prize. Other categories maybe.
Rhys: One may well La La Land the other.
Calum: Final shout-out: I’ve been saying for 11 months that Daniel Kaluuya gave one of the best performances I’ve seen in years and he’d be totally ignored at the Oscars. So boy, did his announcement feel good!