The awards season is in its infant stage, its contenders eating (cocktail party appetizers), sleeping (barely) and crying (“DO I REALLY HAVE TO GO TO THE HOLLYWOOD FILM AWARDS?!”) as the races begin to take shape and solidify.
And we’re still at the point where we haven’t seen everything. We can guess that Steven Spielberg’s journalism drama, “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee, will be worthy of consideration. But it could also be a bore. You saw “The BFG,” right? Spielberg isn’t infallible.
That’s why I never make any predictions about a movie until I see it — unless it’s Daniel Day-Lewis starring in a film directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Maybe it’s Day-Lewis’ last movie. Maybe he’ll pull a Sinatra and eventually rethink the whole retirement thing. It doesn’t matter. When the world’s greatest actor works with a gifted filmmaker like Anderson, it’s an event. I still watch “There Will Be Blood” whenever it pops up on cable, and I’ve seen it dozens of times.
On the cusp: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”; Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”; Andrew Garfield, “Breathe”
Lurking: Tom Hanks, “The Post”
Analysis: Like last year,this is not a particularly deep field. With “Get Out” looking like a fairly solid bet to score a best picture nomination, you’d think some of that goodwill might spill over to Kaluuya’s deeply felt, breakthrough turn as the film’s hero. A win or two in the coming weeks with critics’ groups would help his cause.
I haven’t seen Dan Gilroy’s recut version of “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” but the quality of Washington’s performance was never an issue. Washington seems particularly invested in the movie and willing to campaign, which could score him an eighth acting nomination.
“Stronger” failed at the box office, grossing just $4 million. “Breathe” has fared even worse, managing less than $500,000 since opening. Both Garfield and Gyllenhaal have to hope academy members will give their films more of a chance than moviegoers did.
On the cusp: Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”; Kate Winslet, “Wonder Wheel”; Nicole Kidman, “The Beguiled”; Emma Stone, “Battle of the Sexes”
Lurking: Meryl Streep, “The Post”; Vicky Krieps, “Phantom Thread”
Analysis: Streep pulled inher 20th Oscar nod last year for “Florence Foster Jenkins.” Not earning a nomination yet again this year, particularly for a meaty role in a prestige picture, would be a shock.
Who would go from the women I’ve listed? I think McDormand, Hawkins and Ronan are safe bets (in that order). Critics mostly dismissed “Victoria & Abdul,” but it’s the kind of crowd-pleaser that winds up surprising a lot of people when nominations are announced. Dench is widely admired. I wouldn’t underestimate her.
“I, Tonya” was the People’s Choice Award runner-up to “Three Billboards” at the Toronto International Film Festival. The Tonya Harding biopic has its fans, though I wonder how widely the academy will embrace Craig Gillespie’s crude black comedy. It opens next month.
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”
Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
On the cusp: Mark Rylance, “Dunkirk”; Ray Romano, “The Big Sick”; Jason Mitchell, “Mudbound”; Michael Shannon, “The Shape of Water”; Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Ben Mendelsohn, “Darkest Hour”
Analysis: Several movies boast dual contenders — Hammer and Stuhlbarg for “Call Me By Your Name,” Jenkins and Shannon for “Shape of Water” and Rockwell and Harrelson for “Three Billboards.”
Of this trio of pairs, Stuhlbarg and Hammer have the best chance of both making it in, the former for a scene that might be the year’s best piece of acting and the latter for his witty and tender turn opposite Chalamet.
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
On the cusp: Melissa Leo, “Novitiate”; Hong Chau, “Downsizing”; Kristin Scott Thomas, “Darkest Hour”; Michelle Pfeiffer, “Mother!”; Kirsten Dunst, “The Beguiled”
Lurking: Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”; Carrie Coon, “The Post”
Analysis: Hunter has four nominations, including the Oscar she won for “The Piano,” but hasn’t been tapped since 2004. Her turn as the protective mother in “The Big Sick” will likely return her to the nominees’ circle.
Spencer owns an Oscar too and earned a nod for last year’s “Hidden Figures.” Playing Hawkins’ loyal friend in “The Shape of Water,” Spencer doesn’t stray far from her likable, sweet-and-sassy screen persona. But that’s OK. She wears it well.
Blige might be the most deserving of the group for her affecting work in “Mudbound.” Her nomination — as is the case with superb supporting actor candidate Mitchell — hinges on whether enough voters watch the Netflix film. That’s no sure thing, as the makers of “Beasts of No Nation” could tell you.
As for Metcalf and Janney: Both have won countless awards — but never an Oscar. One of them probably will this year.