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by Saibal Chatterjee February 02, 2018
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2018 Oscar nominations

Meryl Streep and Daniel Day Lewis will be in contention for their fourth Oscar statuettes on the night of the 90th Academy Awards on March 4. The former has been nominated — it is her 21st Oscar nod — for her marvelously modulated lead performance as the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s critically acclaimed The Post, while the enormously gifted Day Lewis is vying for a best actor win for his consummate portrayal of a mid-century London dressmaker in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. If either of the two wins, he/she will make a bit of history by catching up with four-time winner Katharine Hepburn. 

The much-nominated Denzel Washington is also among the 2018 best actor contenders for the title role in the legal drama Roman J. Israel, Esq. This is Washington’s ninth Oscar nomination. He has two wins under his belt: for Glory (1990) and Training Day (2002). This formidable trio represents the Oscar old guard. They will be up against a bunch of much younger competitors: a contest worth watching.     

Notwithstanding the heavy-hitters out there, 2018 could throw up a few upsets and give the world not only a glimpse of Hollywood’s future movers but also lend less fancied careers some well-deserved luster. The odds are on 41-year-old Sally Hawkins of the Guillermo Del Toro-directed fantasy romance The Shape of Water spoiling Streep’s party. Frances McDormand, Oscar winner for Fargo (1996), will be in the frame too for her sledgehammer performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Similarly, 59-year-old English actor Gary Oldman is being tipped to beat fellow South Londoner Day Lewis with his widely applauded interpretation of Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s historical drama Darkest Hour. Oldman has two nominations behind him, but a statuette has eluded him thus far.

Wouldn’t it be really great if either of the remaining two leading man nominees — 22-year-old American Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name) and 28-year-old Ugandan-British actor Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) — were to take home an Oscar?

Get Out is written and directed by Jordan Peele, who has been nominated in both categories as well as for Best Picture, making him the first-ever black filmmaker to land three Oscar nominations. Just a tad less significant but still pretty noteworthy is the fact that Get Out is the first horror film since 2000’s The Sixth Sense to find a place in the Best Picture Academy Award mix.

Nine films are in the Best Motion Picture race and the nominees add up to an excitingly diverse bunch — The Shape of Water (13 nominations), Darkest Hour, Get Out, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (5 nominations), The Post, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (7 nominations), Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (8 nominations), Phantom Thread, and Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name.

Spielberg and McDonagh are surprisingly not among the best directing nominees. Nolan, Peele, Gerwig, PTA and Del Toro are in the fray, but Spielberg, as has been the case a few times in the past, has been left out despite his film garnering a Best Picture nomination. The two-time directing Oscar winner was in a similar position when War Horse (2012) and Bridge of Spies (2016) were nominated for Best Picture.

No less mystifying is McDonagh’s absence from the directing nominees list although his work on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has attracted glowing notices. His film has earned three acting nominations — best actress McDormand and supporting actors Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson.

Three Billboards… has been steadily picking up momentum in the awards season but will have its job cut out against The Shape of Water, which, too, has three acting nominations. Besides Sally Hawkins, supporting actor Richard Jenkins and supporting actress Octavia Spencer are also in the running.  

By far the biggest Academy snub of 2018, at least from the standpoint of the film’s enormous fan base, is the one that has been heaped on Wonder Woman, 2017’s most resounding box office success. Neither director Patty Jenkins nor lead actress Gal Gadot were anywhere near breaking into the charmed circle primarily because Wonder Woman belongs to the superhero genre, a none-too-hot bet for Academy voters. Surprisingly, the film was also shut out of the technical awards and that is certainly a bit of a shock.      

Tom Hanks has received another major snub, missing out on a nomination in the best actor category for his wonderful performance as the testy Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in The Post. In fact, the two-time Oscar winner (Philadelphia, 1993 and Forrest Gump, 1994) has not been nominated since the year 2001, when he competed for an Academy Award for his role in Cast Away.       

All eyes will be on the director of Lady Bird, 34-year-old American actress Greta Gerwig, who is the fifth woman in the history of the Oscars to be nominated in the directing category. The film is her solo directorial debut. If Gerwig does win — the chances of that transpiring are, at this point, rather slim — she will become only the second woman after Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2010) to win an Oscar for directing. 

The director of photography for Dee Rees’s Mudbound, Rachel Morrison, is the first-ever woman to earn a nod in the cinematography category. The film about two families, one black, the other white, struggling to keep their heads out of the water in World War II-era Deep South, is, however, missing from the Best Picture and Best Directing categories.

Nolan, maker of such films as Inception, Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy and Interstellar, has never won an Oscar. Could 2018 be his year or will Del Toro, who too has never earned a best director victory, pull one off with his all-conquering film?

Cinematographer Roger Deakins has earned his 14th Oscar nomination this year for his work in Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049. Will it fetch him his first-ever Academy Award? Deakins won his first Oscar nomination for 1995’s The Shawshank Redemption. He has since been recognised by the Academy for films like Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Skyfall, The Reader, True Grit, Prisoners and Sicario. It would be quite a moment if he ends his 13-film losing streak this time around.     

No matter who wins the best actress Oscar, women, both in Hollywood and the world at large, could regard the five nominations in the category as a firm statement of sorts. Each of the nods has gone to a badass female character who takes on the world on her own terms.

The other two lead actresses in contention are Saoirse Ronan for the role of a troubled high school senior in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird and Margot Robbie as disgraced American figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya. It is as an open a field as there has ever been although Hawkins, one of several British talents in the Oscar contests, probably has her nose a little ahead of the others at this point.

The best actor race is no different. If Timothee Chalamet triumphs, he will be the youngest actor to win an Oscar. Similarly, if 23-year-old Saoirse Ronan wins, she would be the youngest actress. Chalamet is the first 1990s born actor to receive an Oscar nomination. Eddie Redmayne, 36, is the current youngest living actor to win an Academy Award either as a lead or a supporting actor.

Among the actresses, Jennifer Lawrence, 27, is the youngest living Oscar winner. Ronan has a pretty good chance of upsetting the calculations of Hollywood observers leading into the last week before the final Oscar votes are cast. Watch this space.
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