Mid-Week Musings: What might be nominated for Oscars in 2018?

We’re just over half way between the nominations announcements of the 2017 and 2018 Oscars, a perfect time to look ahead at what films may be worth keeping an eye on for awards recognition in the new year. While I can’t predict what’ll win (that would be a foolhardy move that will result in my looking like an idiot), what I can try to predict are some of the nominees.

IS IT THE YEAR FOR SUPERHEROES?

Probably not in a big way, but if there’s any chance for this genre to break out of just the technical categories this year it’s between the two biggest success stories so far, ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Logan’.

After making a killing (no pun intended) at the box office with reviews that were more than glowing, ‘Logan’ has done very well on home release too and if it were to campaign properly, I think it could make a strong argument. Whereas last year’s ‘Deadpool’ had a little awards buzz that failed to equate to anything (except for at the MTV awards and suchlike), it possibly aimed too low-brow and crude to appeal to most Academy voters. ‘Logan’, however, to a greater extent is developed in such away that the characters being well-known comic book heroes is a bit of a side-point, it could very easily be rewritten without the X-Men aspects as a gritty action drama. If you distill the plot, a man haunted by his past living a largely solitary existence, taking on de-facto parenting responsibilities that may give him a measure of redemption, you could be describing one of last years frontrunners ‘Manchester by the Sea‘. This take on the superhero genre could have the traction that no other comic adaptation has yet managed, to get nominations beyond the technical categories, though it’s far from a perfect film and was released right at the start of the eligibility calendar so only skillful campaigning can make this happen.

Apparently, Warner are preparing to make that sort of concerted campaign for ‘Wonder Woman’, maximizing the power of its likeability and strong female lead. There’s robust discussion ongoing about the film, with controversial comments mixed in among all the praise, which does help to keep it in the minds of voters. Personally, I think it’ll be an incredible feat for Warner Brothers to manage to get this into any of the top categories, but I won’t be surprised to see the period setting of the film help get it a production design or costume nomination.

In those technical categories there’s a near-certainty of superheroes making an appearance. With so many comic adaptations released in 2017 the sheer amount alone almost means that they will get in there statistically. Plus, if ‘Suicide Squad’ can not only get a nomination but go on to win, then others like Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 or ‘Justice League’ should have a very good chance, or maybe even ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ which is a bit of a crowd-pleaser, though the effects are of the high quality we have come to expect from Marvel and nothing we haven’t seen before.

DIRECTOR-LED POSSIBILITIES

Darren Aronofsky film, ‘Mother’, starring the ever-wonderful and Academy-loved Jennifer Lawrence. It’s looking intense and strange, but even from just the trailer, it’s clear that it’s brilliantly shot and Jen’s performance will be captivating so it should grab attention, hopefully for all the right reasons.

‘The Shape of Water’ directed by Guillermo del Toro looks like it could be amazing. ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ did very well for him, though ‘Crimson Peak’ was less embraced by the Academy. It’s a strange tale but with some fantastic actors it could really surprise everyone.

‘Wind River’ has been written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, writer of ‘Hell or High Water’. Already getting recognition at Cannes, if his directing skills are as good as his writing then we could be in for a treat with this, if not then the writing itself may stand up against the competition.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ will get a nomination, though as yet I don’t know what for. I’m hoping it will be as good as Denis Villeneuve’s past work and the trailers suggest. It may be good enough to get him another ‘best picture’ nomination, though other categories have an even higher chance of success such as cinematography.

Spielberg’s method of alternating directing a box-office success and then an awards contender puts his next film ‘The Papers’ right on track for the Oscars, with a limited release set for December the timing is also clearly timed for Academy attention.

‘Dunkirk’ is an absolute certainty to be not just on the list but possibly even leading the nominations. It’s a few months earlier than prime award contention season, though that could work in its favour, standing out from the crowd in the blockbuster summer window, with a good chance of making a lasting impression that will be followed up by home media release just in time to remind voters of how good it is. War films often do well, especially when the production design and costume accurately represent history, this seems to be at the peak of that trend and I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Alexander Payne is releasing his next film ‘Downsizing’ in December. Based on the single sentence IMDb plot summary it may be a bit of a stretch to guess this will appear in the nominations, though Payne is a favourite of the Academy and his last film ‘Nebraska’ was wonderful. This film stars Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a couple who agree to be shrunken to four inches tall to help save the planet and get a bigger house! It’ll stand out, though if the ecological theories and messages are more prominent than the sci-fi elements this could be an unexpected dark horse, certainly one I’m looking forward to seeing.

I’d like to be able to say Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut ‘Molly’s Game’ has a good chance but I don’t know that it does. Maybe in the adapted screenplay category, as his writing is always excellent, though that’s always a tough race as so many films are adapted from something.

VISUAL EFFECTS AND PRODUCTION

‘War For the Planet of the Apes’ will almost certainly feature in visual effects. The visual wizards have been able to get nominations for their work on the previous two films and this one should be no exception. They have made continuous advancement with the performance-capture technology and this time they might even get the win, partly bolstered by missing out twice before because this is the culmination of three films worth of exceptional effects work.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ is another film that would love to hope for Oscars and Disney will no doubt put some of their considerable weight behind it. They included a new original song to give it shot for that category, though as I felt it was a little underwhelming and completely superfluous I wouldn’t rate its chances. Beyond the more likely category of visual effects, I’d say the production design and costumes are almost certainly the best chances it has of nominations.

ANIMATION

When it comes to animated features, without doubt, you can expect to see Pixar on the list, with (almost) certainly ‘Coco’ and possibly ‘Cars 3’ both nominated. Also, the Pixar short LOU that screens before ‘Cars 3’ is really charming and inventive, they always get at least one on the animated short list, so although I’ve not seen any others yet that’s worth a little note.

‘Despicable Me 3’ has an outside chance because people have a lot of love for the minions, though neither the first film nor spin-off ‘Minions‘ got any nominations. As this third film isn’t particularly inventive or different I think it may be pushed out of the running by some better features, but it could jostle to fill a fifth space if nothing else distinguishes itself.

There we go, just a few thoughts. These are so many months ahead of the ‘award season’ that I wouldn’t be surprised to see everything change as films are released and either prove disappointing, or conversely as others come from practically nowhere to take on the heavy hitters. I’ll revisit this in January when I’ll have a far more accurate take on the hopefuls.

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