Movies & TV

Big questions ahead of Oscar nominations

Frances McDormand, left, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell in a scene from Oscar contender "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Merrick Morton/Fox Searchlight via AP

NEW YORK: When Academy Awards nominations are announced Tuesday morning, it might be a celebratory reprieve from industry scandal and gender equality protests, or it might just add more fuel to the fire. Will the academy field an all-male field of film directors, as it’s done in 85 out of 89 years? Will James Franco squeak into the best actor category after several women made allegations against him of sexual improprieties while filming sex scenes?

Either of those outcomes could make the Oscar nominations one more fraught chapter in the ongoing “Me Too” saga that has already shaped and contorted the Oscar race.

Here are the questions in question.

IS THERE A FRONT-RUNNER?With four Golden Globe Awards, including best dramatic feature, Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” may have finally taken the Oscar race position that no one wants: favorite.

It has the most unblemished score card of all the contenders, including nine BAFTA nods, an ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild, top award nods from the directors and producers guilds, and the often predictive Toronto Film Festival audience award.

“Three Billboards,” which many have criticized for its portrayal of a racist police officer (Sam Rockwell), has proved a lightning rod – both celebrated for the timeliness of a tale about female vengeance and derided as out of touch.

If “Three Billboards” is in front, it’s only by a hair. Guillermo del Toro’s much-admired Cold War fable “The Shape of Water” may earn the most nominations Tuesday thanks to its lavish craft and celebrated ensemble cast. Yet it crucially missed out on a SAG ensemble nomination, which historically has been a must-have for any Oscar best-picture winner. Every best-picture winner in the last 22 years first landed SAG ensemble nod. Still just as much in the mix are Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” each staking its own claim.HOW WILL ‘ME TOO’

ALTER THINGS?Oscar campaigns from Kevin Spacey to Dustin Hoffman have bitten the dust and – before he was awkwardly answering tough questions from Stephen Colbert – Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) was a borderline best actor contender, slotting in behind Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me By Your Name”), Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Tom Hanks (“The Post”).

Many Oscar votes had already been cast by the time allegations hit but a lot of academy members wait until the last minute to send in their ballots. This year, with such a never-ending stream of revelations, voters would have been advised to wait until the very last second before one final Google search.

Particular attention will be on the best-director category, where only four women have ever been nominated. Among the many statistics that depict the imbalanced maleness of Hollywood, the category is among the most telling. Gerwig, who was nominated by the Director’s Guild, is poised to be the fifth.

But it’s a competitive category, with five seats for the presumed final six: del Toro, Nolan, McDonagh, Spielberg, Peele and Gerwig.

A wild card is Ridley Scott, who has won admiration for his last-minute reshoots on “All the Money in the World” in order to replace the disgraced Spacey with Christopher Plummer.

COULD OSCARS-SO-WHITE RETURN?Last year, “Moonlight” triumphed and films like “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” led a firm rebuke to two years straight of all-white acting nominees.

Tuesday’s nominations aren’t likely to be a repeat of 2015 and 2016. However, they also aren’t likely to overwhelm in their multicultural selections.

Kaluuya, Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”) and Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) are all favored for nominations but none are considered among their categories’ front-runners. Much will hinge on how the academy receives “Get Out.”

It’s the only film currently handicapped for a best-picture nomination with a protagonist who’s a person of color. As a horror film from a first-time feature-film director, it’s far from a prototypical Oscar contender. Peele’s movie came out last year on Oscar weekend.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 22, 2018, on page 10.

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