live and die...

Groundhog Day is playing, and I saw Foxtrot this morning, but I will probably say next to nothing about the former, and only comment on the latter briefly. See, I also just watched the Spirit Awards a few hours ago (had to put some scores in my gradebook for this semester, and help my daughter sort some songs for a theater playlist in the intervening hours), and tomorrow is Oscar day.

Groundhog Day is the welcome background noise, basically, as I elaborate on my official predictions (and my personal preferences) for this year's Oscars.

Call this PART I.

And, I might try to enlighten you a little on what some of these "lesser" awards are actually for.

First up for me is Film Editing. The nominees:

Baby Driver
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I, Tonya won today and should win tomorrow. But, for it should be noted that the ACE Eddies (the guild award for film editors) had separate categories for drama (where Dunkirk won) and comedy (where I, Tonya won). There's a chance Dunkirk could take this but it's more likely I, Tonya will take it with more scenes, more setups, and a lot of cross cutting between them.

Next up: Sound Editing--

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

--and, I am tempted to lump this in with Sound Mixing--
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

--but, interestingly, these two awards don't often go to the same film. What's the difference, you might be wondering. Well, I like Meg Shields' description over at Film School Rejects: "sound editors are like composers, sound mixers are like conductors." Or, going with a more filmic simile, the sound editor is like the screenwriter, the sound mixer like the director... I think. Shields explains further: "generally speaking, sound editors are responsible for what you hear, sound mixers are responsible for how you hear it." Maybe a better filmic comparison would be that the sound editor is the director, and the sound mixer is the cinematographer. Maybe. My predictions would be, like Shields' own predictions, Dunkirk for sound editing, Baby Driver for sound mixing. But, Blade Runner 2049 has a shot at either.

Sticking with sound for the moment, next up is Original Score--

Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I think Zimmer's score for Blade Runner 2049 was better than his score for Dunkirk but it feels like this is between him and Desplat for The Shape of Water. Greenwood's score for Phantom Thread was good but not as memorable. My prediction: The Shape of Water.

Original Song--

"Mighty River" - Mudbound
"The Mystery of Love" - Call Me By Your Name
"Remember Me" - Coco
"Stand Up for Something" - Marshall
"This Is Me" - The Greatest Showman

--feels obvious. "Remember Me" is integral to Coco in a way that the other songs just aren't. Well, except for "This Is Me" but The Greatest Showman doesn't play to the strength of that song as well as Coco plays into "Remember Me". Plus, there are different versions of "Remember Me" in the film, and--SPOILERS--Coco is going to win a bigger award later as well. That being said, while my prediction is that "Remember Me" will win, I think "The Mystery of Love" is a beautiful song and Call Me By Your Name uses it well. The other two are basically end-credit songs.

Next up: some visuals.

First, Costume Design:

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria and Abdul

This one feels easy. Phantom Thread is about the costumes. It's almost cheating. But, The Shape of Water won at the Costume Designers Guild for period film over Phantom Thread. Of course, the voting block at the Oscars doesn't overlap much with that guild. Still, it's not going to Beauty and the Beast or Victoria and Abdul, though the costumes are great. If the voters were feeling quirky, it might go to Darkest hour just because sometimes they award this one to the costumes that aren't obvious. Except, that's where The Shape of Water comes in here. Since The Shape of Water will be winning other awards, I think this might be the one bone that Academy throws to Phantom Thread.

But then Darkest Hour will have its easy win with Make-Up and Hairstyling--

Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

because making Judi Dench look even older than she is feels like old hat for Hollywood by now, and putting some prosthetics on a kid in a film almost no one saw just isn't going to cut it. For the record, I rather liked Victoria & Abdul and I thought Wonder was cute enough but a bit too wholesome-on-purpose, but this is the first of probably two awards for Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill.

Production Design--

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

is another category where the larger voting block of the Academy might outvote the guild, sort of. The Art Directors Guild gave a period award to The Shape of Water and a fantasy award to Blade Runner 2049. Critics Choice gave this to The Shape of Water as did the BAFTAs. And, honestly, I think the sets and design work in The Shape of Water is amazing.And, mother! should have been on this list. But, I'm feeling--and I'm not even sure why, maybe fragmented statues in the desert are just more evocative to me than large pipes--like this might be Blade Runner 2049's award. Well, one of its awards.

Visual Effects--

Blade Runner 2049
Guardian of the Galaxy Vol 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

--should be easy. The sheer volume of effects, believable effects, in War for the Planet of the Apes should be an obvious win. But, Rise of the Planet of the Apes lost to Hugo and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes lost to Interstellar. Both, like War this year, won the top prize from the Visual Effects Society. But, it's like having multiple mo-cap characters isn't any more impressive to the Academy than just one (Gollum absolutely drove home the win for Return of the King in this category). The question is, will Blade Runner 2049 feel like more of a serious film than War for the Planet of the Apes? For that matter, while War had better box office, does that mean Academy members even saw it? I think the Academy will leave the Apes franchise aside again and give this one to Blade Runner 2049.

Finally, Blade Runner 2049 should, and probably will, win for Cinematography--

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

although I would love it if either Dunkirk or Mudbound won this one.

Animated Feature--

Boss Baby
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

--is another easy one. Coco will take this one. Even though Loving Vincent was a visually beautiful thing that took a lot of work, its story was too slight.

And then there's the short films. Animated Short--

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

is interesting because Garden Party is visually impressive but too short on story. Dear Basketball has some meaning to it, but doesn't really tell a story. I've seen predictions from others that it might win, though. I didn't care for it much. Negative Space is a great little story, but maybe too short for its own good. Revolting Rhymes is the longest, but also not very novel. So, I say it comes down to Lou. It tells a story, it makes you feel good. That it has actually been seen by the public won't actually give it any advantage, though, as the final voting in the short film categories is restricted to Academy members who have actually seen all the films. i.e. not the whole membership, so public notice doesn't matter. Still, I feel like the feel-good film wins in short film categories more often than not. (Not having done a serious study of it, of course.)

Live Action Short--

DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmet
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

has an entertaining but silly pick in The Eleven O'Clock--structurally more of a long joke than a story. The Silent Child is great but has a downer ending. My Nephew Emmet is (deliberately) mostly buildup. DeKalb Elementary shows its lack of budget a little much in isolating all of its action to a singular interaction that doesn't tell a very complete story. I'm figuring the Academy members (who saw the films, mind you) may split the difference and vote for Watu Wote, which has some feel good to it, some depressing to it, and is built on real events, a sort of combination of what the other four films have going for them.

Documentary Short--

Edith + Eddie
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

--has some good stuff this year. Knife Skills makes for a more feel good take on do-gooders than Heroin(e), Traffic Stop tells one side of a story really well, but necessarily (because its central events are too recent) had no real access to the other side, and Edith + Eddie offers up a cute old couple but it's basically a slow trod to a downer ending. Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 tells a riveting story, offers up some darker details, but ultimately, offers some optimism. I expect it will win.

Finishing out PART I, there's is Documentary Feature--

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

--and Foreign-Language Film--
A Fantastic Woman
The Insult
On Body and Soul
The Square

--and I think the winners are easy picks, even though I've seen others predicting differently. Faces Places is the feel good documentary and it offers up a good story with depth and meaning. Icarus maybe feels more topical, and has an interesting structure as it starts as one kind of documentary and turns into another, and Strong Island, I've read, may have enough of a push from Netflix to get noticed. But, Faces Places won the Spirit Award today and should win tomorrow (not that the two awards are linked in any way that makes it a shoe in). Meanwhile, A Fantastic Woman feels like it would put off the older Academy members, as would The Square. On Body and Soul is almost too simple a story, Loveless is fucking depressing, but The Insult feels topical, offers up large-scale themes in an intimate-scale story, and should appeal to older voters. That being said, I really wish Foxtrot had made the cut here, because it combines a little bit of topicality with a little bit of depressing and structures itself in an interesting way.


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