We have not discussed the Oscars very much in recent days, partially because I'm not quite sure how to handle this year's awards season, and partially because I'm not entirely sure I'm feeling this year's awards season to begin with. It always bears some repeating to those who know me in real life as an Oscars hounds, but the Oscars are in some ways a means to an end. Don't get me wrong, they are one of my favorite nights of the year, and more importantly Oscar nominations are probably my favorite day of the year, but that's because I love the movies. I don't love awards shows, exactly (I rarely watch, say, the Emmys anymore and never watch the Grammys), but I love movies and the Oscars are one of the few times of year that people around me want to talk about good movies, so of course it's like my Christmas in that regard. That being said, the campaign of Oscar season is upon us, and while I'll have my predictions up around Sunday or Monday of this week (I'm going on vacation next week, so I'll want this to be done in advance), I figured with the Globes happening Sunday, I'd weigh in on some of the major races and what (if any) impact the Golden Globes had on this year's ceremony.
I was texting my brother about this Sunday night, but I do still feel like the Best Picture trophy is up-for-grabs. It is commonly assumed that the winner of the Globes Best Picture also wins the Oscar, and that may have been true in the 80's/90's, but only five out of the last twelve Globes ceremonies have crowned the eventual Oscar winner (Slumdog Millionaire, The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave, and Moonlight, for the curious), so in one of the most wide-open races in recent history, I don't know that the film that will win the Oscar necessarily emerged last night.
Now, don't get me wrong-these were big wins for Lady Bird and in particular Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The former had very strong competition in the form of Get Out and I, Tonya, both in the hunt for the Oscar (the former being my prohibitive favorite up until last night), while Three Billboards put itself in a great place for the rest of the season. With Three Billboards, one could argue they now are the frontrunner simply because it's a strong possibility to win the SAG Best Cast award, making it appear like a runaway train of sorts.
But don't discount that the Oscars like their Best Pictures a bit more traditional, and though it stars Frances McDormand, this movie is not a Coen Brothers film. This is the rare moment, perhaps, where a delayed campaign strategy could work out for The Post. Spielberg is a big deal with the Academy, and with the sheen largely off of Dunkirk (I honestly wonder if Nolan is fretting over whether he'll be excluded once again), the two-time Best Director winner's flick is almost exclusively going to appeal to an older, more conservative bloc of voters that still likely dominate AMPAS voting (it's hard to get a gage on such things since they don't release membership numbers very often, but I'd assume that even a burst of diversity in recent years isn't going to shift the Oscars overnight). It's also worth noting that Get Out is still a threat considering it's the film that most captured the zeitgeist this year, and that helps. But this race isn't over, even if Three Billboards got at least something of a leg-up last night.
Honestly, the one person who could have won last night and cemented the Best Actress race felt like Margot Robbie. I haven't seen I, Tonya yet (it's on the agenda for Saturday, along with The Post as I all but wind down Oscar season), but Robbie had pretty much everything going for her in this race. She's deglam, right in the sweet spot in terms of age for Oscar (AMPAS tends to honor women in their 20's and Robbie is 27), she's playing a real person, she's in a Best Picture contender that won't actually win Best Picture, she's incredibly beautiful, and she clearly really wants to win. Some of those appear surface-level sexist because they are, but reality is an important thing to acknowledge in politics, and recent winners like Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson, and Emma Stone show that Robbie would be in their wheelhouse.
But the problem is that I, Tonya still lacks the prestige one normally associates with this category, and Robbie still needs momentum & an acknowledgement from another awards show that this is worthy of Oscar's credibility. Unlike some of the other women in this category, she's never won a statue and can't get in on name alone for the win-people are going to have to give the okay to Oscar that she's worthy of this honor ahead of time. Without a Globe nomination, she's going to have to take bets on SAG doing that for her, otherwise she'll likely be a bridesmaid this season with AMPAS.
Which means that we have a wide-open race, leading off with last night's winners Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan. McDormand, one could argue, would also be a frontrunner, albeit one who clearly hates being in that room (that she was at all proves she's out to win this thing this year), but McDormand already has an Oscar and that's going to hurt her a bit against Ronan, who would be on her third nomination in another Best Picture contender, and like Robbie is beautiful and in her twenties. Ronan has to contend with playing a role that would be basically unprecedented to win Best Actress (though they skew young with this category, when was the last time someone won for playing a teenager onscreen...if ever?). The SAG Awards could still throw a monkey wrench into this lineup (Sally Hawkins, anyone?), and if The Post takes off Meryl's always a possibility. And it's still not out of the question that Judi Dench bests any of these five women with her contingency at the Oscars and makes a seemingly five-person race a four-person race (Dench won't win). But Margot Robbie missed her shot at a stampede Sunday night, and as a result we might not know the winner of Best Actress until Oscar night.
While two categories got less predictable, two others felt more solidified. While nominations in Best Supporting Actor & Actress are still anyone's guess (both have about eight names that feel in the hunt), the winners at the Dolby in a few weeks sure seem like they'll look like Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell. They gave big speeches, and the audience seemed to really like both wins, showing that this might be a rally behind two longtime character actors who have always felt Oscar-adjacent, even if they've never been given the roles that would catapult them to such recognition until now.
Rockwell is arguably the less solid of the two, if only because he was the underdog before last night (I've been saying for months that Janney is winning this trophy). He's still got to defeat Dafoe at the SAG Awards and one could argue that he might split the vote with his costar Woody Harrelson, who is getting enough awards press that I wonder if he might be up for Oscar (he's nominated at the SAG Awards). But Rockwell is more publicly gregarious than Dafoe and while the latter leans into the subtle, Rockwell goes for the gusto and Oscar has proven that they like such things. Rockwell's also in a film that probably will be a major Oscar Best Picture contender so they'll want to honor it somewhere even if they don't go with the top prize; that might be Best Screenplay, but Supporting Actor is an easy place to do it. Plus, he's basically the co-lead in the film, and he's worked with virtually everyone in Hollywood-I'd say he's the out-front frontrunner right about now.
Janney, on the other hand, is impossible not to love. She's incredibly famous but never won these kinds of film awards, she's shooting for the rafters in I, Tonya, and she's going to give great speeches all season long. Yes, she's missed out at the critics prizes, but that didn't matter the second CJ Cregg stepped on-stage and everyone was reminded why we love watching Janney win prizes. Metcalf is a very good actress, and could still gain plaudits based on that, but she's not as famous as Janney & she's not playing as bawdy of a character. I'd be absolutely stunned if Janney doesn't steamroll through this season, as it was always going to be Metcalf looking over her shoulder from the pole position considering their roles and celebrity statuses, not the other way around.
I think when it comes to Best Actor, last night probably cemented Oldman's march to the Oscar. This is the sort of Oscar-bait role that no one can ignore, and it's not like James Franco is winning for The Disaster Artist (I mean, right?). However, it's worth noting in the environment of #MeToo and #TimesUp, that Oldman's publicist could become the hardest-working person in show business in the next few weeks, and that may impact this race more than anything else.
After all, Oldman's record with women and with avoiding controversy is hardly spotless. In his 2001 divorce proceedings, his then-wife Donya Fiorentino alleged that Oldman beat her with a phone receiver (allegations that Oldman vehemently denied). Oldman also has a long history of defending unfortunate actors (Mel Gibson being at the top of that list), and using incendiary language when it comes to persons of color, LGBT communities, women, and Jewish people. Frequently these are meant to come from more an academic than an accusatory angle (saying "what if I used term X" rather than "you are an X" situations), but it still tows a line that could be rife for digging up in a press that seems to cater to such controversies.
I'm not saying these things should factor, but it's easy to assume that they could. One could argue that it might not matter-Mel Gibson was an Oscar nominee just last year, and last year's Best Actor winner Casey Affleck also has a questionable past. But perhaps what will matter most for Oldman is if no alternative emerges. Franco, one could argue, has similar potential demons in his closet, Kaaluya is very young & based on his dour expression last night is wholly uninterested in this celebrity cavalcade, and Washington/Hanks/Day-Lewis all feel like bridesmaids, not brides. About the only contender that could give him a run-for-his-money is Timothee Chalamet, who is very, very young to win an Oscar for Best Actor (in Best Actress, this would be a different conversation). As a result, Oldman may be in a situation where he simply can't win, particularly if CMBYN misses in Best Picture. But I'd be stunned if these past incidents don't become a conversation.
For all of the wonder of Oprah's speech (I'll go there tomorrow if I have time), no non-competitive winner may have made a bigger impact on the Oscars last night than Natalie Portman. Following Winfrey's speech, Portman snuck in a cut about the Best Director field, stating before Ron Howard started the list of nominees that these were "the five all-male nominees." In a year that has focused intently on honoring the voices of women, it cannot be denied that the bosses on film sets are still predominantly men, as is evidenced by no female nominees this year.
I think that Hollywood and the director's branch is going to take note of that and nominate the one viable contender in their field (sorry, Ree Dees, but Netflix bias is too much to overcome here): Greta Gerwig. She headlined a film that is almost certain to be nominated for Best Picture, and has proven even with one picture that she has an auterist voice that could be the markings of a new, great filmmaker. Oscar has been resistant to women nominees for Best Director in the past, and despite their penchant for actors-turned-directors, have been particularly averse to actresses-turned-directors, ignoring the likes of Barbra Streisand, Angelina Jolie, and Jodie Foster in the past (yes, Sofia Coppola is technically under this lens, but even in 2003 few thought of her as an actress and more as a writer). Streisand herself said the fact that she is the only woman to have won Best Director at the Globes is ridiculous, and I quite agree (and I think AMPAS will too). Oscar loves nothing more than self-congratulations, and while this is doing the bare minimum (most directors with Gerwig's profile and Best Picture contender would make it), they'll still take the applause, and Gerwig will get her nomination.