Oscar Battle: Best Picture And Best Director

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"Dunkirk" is a strong contender in the Best Picture race.

HOLLYWOOD—Well we are less than a week away from the culmination of awards season: the 90th Annual Academy Awards. We talked about some of the big races: Best Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Actress, Actor and now it’s time to discuss both Best Director and Best Picture. Here are the ONLY two categories where the winner is not set in stone. I will admit all the other races seem like virtual locks for many of the front-runners.

However, when it comes to Best Director and Best Picture it’s a bit dicey in naming a clear victor. So let’s start the conversation off by tackling Best Director. Guillermo del Toro is the perennial favorite to win for “The Shape of Water” which leads all films with a total of 13 nominations. The movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and that deserves the accolade alone. However, when I think of Best Director I think of who did something with the camera or with a movie that hasn’t been seen before.

That immediately forces me to point my finger at Christopher Nolan for his war flick “Dunkirk.” People have called this a study in filmmaking and guess what America, it really is. This guy has been ignored by the Academy more times than I can COUNT, and the ability to craft a war film that jumps between land, air and sea is utterly phenomenal. Nolan should be winning the Oscar, but unfortunately more people are mesmerized with the tale weaved by del Toro for “The Shape of Water.” Other contenders in the race who could be dark horses include Jordan Peele “Get Out” and Greta Gerwig “Lady Bird.” Both made some history garnering nominations in 2018, but I feel if there should be a major upset it comes from Gerwig, whose coming of age tale is so enthralling that as a viewer you cannot take your eyes away from the screen. Its poignant, powerful and just a testament to stealer filmmaking. Last but not least in the race is Paul Thomas Anderson for “Phantom Thread.”

His nomination was a surprise as many expected either Steven Spielberg “The Post” or Martin McDonagh “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” to fill that fifth slot. However, the fact that the Academy’s Directors Branch, choose to include Anderson says something about the film. Does he have a shot to win? Not really. So place your money on Guillermo del Toro, but if the Academy really wants to get it right, they should be revealing Christopher Nolan in that envelope.

Now Best Picture, I love this category because it tends to be the most decisive. I’m still livid that the rules changed to include more than 5 nominees. Please go back to the basics and I will tell you why. There is no point in having 3-4 additional nominees, when none of those nominees actually have a shot at taking home the Best Picture prize. Yes, being nominated is one thing, but actually having a chance at a win is even better if you ask me. So I’m not going to sit here and discuss all the films nominated, I’m only going to pinpoint those that have a legitimate shot at a win. This really is race between five films, “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Get Out.” Now, I’m taking “Lady Bird” out of the mix because as great as it is, it doesn’t have the same momentum as “Three Billboards…” and “Shape of Water.”

Now “Dunkirk” REALLY should be a bigger player in this conversation and was a box-office hit, but the flick came out in July, similar to “Get Out” which came out NEARLY a year ago. The more current films tend to have more power to claim the prize as voters are more aware of the film. All season it has been a battle between “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” that are likely to be victories at the ceremony. “Three Billboards” has won major feats including the Best Picture prize at the Golden Globes, Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and Best Film at the BAFTA Awards. As a result the buzz is there, however, “The Shape of Water” is unlike anything seen by many members of the Academy and something fresh is always a strong pulling point, and picking up wins via the Producers Guild and Director’s Guild helps the films chances.

However, here is my biggest concern, what if both of those films spilt the vote, as members are decisive? This could lead to a film like “Get Out” taking home the Best Picture prize which I would be appalled by. I don’t care what people say, I really don’t. “Get Out” is a solid film, but when I think of Best Picture it just lacks that gut punch that “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Dunkirk” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” delivers. This is an extremely tough category for me to predict, because I feel for the first time in a very long time, the Academy is NOT going to split the vote between Best Director and Best Picture. If Guillermo del Toro wins Best Director, I can see “The Shape of Water” winning Best Picture. Let’s say Nolan Best Director, I have no idea where Best Picture would land.

So this is a huge guess, but instinct tells me while “The Shape of Water” has the most nominations, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has more weight, but do NOT be stunned if you see that enveloped opened and the name read is “Get Out.” Last year was a stunner, and I think 2018 could be one too!