Academy Award nominations
[Images: Fox Searchlight/Getty]

The 2018 Academy Awards will unfold on Sunday night in Hollywood, and we’re still not sure who is going to walk away with the top prize.

 

To help us figure it out I spoke to Dr Sorcha Ní Fhlainn, a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University and a bona-fide Oscar expert, about the Academy Awards favorites, the possible ramifications of a “Shape Of Water” or “Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing, Missouri” Best Picture victory, Gary Oldman’s troubling sure fire triumph and why “Get Out” will make the longest lasting impact out of all the nominees.

 

 

 

What do you think will win Best Picture?

 

I would initially have said “Three Billboards.” But now I think that “Shape Of Water” might pip it. I would put it in between those two. I can’t see a dark horse taking it.

 

 

Do you think the backlash to “Three Billboards” might give “Get Out” or “Lady Bird” a chance?

I would love to see “Get Out” get it. I just don’t think it has the momentum to win Best Picture. If we were still doing the top 5 rather than top 9 I don’t think “Get Out” would have made it. Horror is so rarely recognized by the Academy. It always gets shifted off into other categories. Like “Silence Of The Lambs” being a thriller. I would love to see “Get Out” win Best Original Screenplay. That would be superb. I do think it has a good shot at that actually.

 

I can’t see anyone other than Gullermo Del Toro taking Best Director.

That’s sewn up. Christopher Nolan will get it at another time.

 

You think it will be a Best Picture and Best Director double for “The Shape Of Water,” though?

Certainly Best Director. What will tell us on the night is if the Best Original Screenplay goes to Martin McDonagh. Then [“Three Billboards”] is a Best Picture win. If it goes to Jordan Peele or a dark horse wins it then the Best Picture will go to “Shape Of Water.”

 

What’s the aftermath in Hollywood if “Shape Of Water” wins?

If “Shape Of Water” wins we are looking at this repeated thing from the Academy where they go, ‘We have dealt with it we are moving on.’ That’s not to dismiss Del Toro’s film, but it is a fantasy and escapist and isn’t dealing with the ugly side of life. If "Shape Of Water" wins it is that idea we have dealt with the crap of the last 8 or 9 months in Hollywood and now we just want to move and talk about our love of movies.

 

What about “Three Billboards”?

If “Three Billboards” wins it is going to keep that cyclone going of talking about racism and difficult subject matter. Because it is a film that is gritty in and of itself. It will get people thinking about that on a more realistic level, rather than just on the fantasy.

 

What other clues should Oscar viewers look out for on the night?

Production Design can give you clues as well. I reckon “Blade Runner 2049” will get sound design and sound mixing, I think “Blade Runner 2049” will get a lot of the technical awards. If “Shape Of Water” gets Production Design it might tell us something, simply because of the fantasy film element. I really reckon it is with the scripts for Best Picture, because they are intrinsically linked. It is the one that starts the "Big 5." I don’t think “Lady Bird” will win anything, but it will be celebrated on the night. Allison Janney is a sure thing.  

 

Surely it is a clean sweep for her, Sam Rockwell (Best Supporting Actor), Gary Oldman (Best Actor) and Frances McDormand (Best Actress).

Certainly McDormand. It is kind of a pity in a way, because dark horse actor winners are always so much more enjoyable. It is very unlikely after the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes that the vote will be split. I was surprised by James Franco not earning a Best Actor Award nomination. They say that the sexual assault allegations shouldn’t have impacted his nomination, because it broke so close to them. But I believe it was brewing in the media before it broke.

 

Do you think that the Academy would have changed or switched the nominations to make themselves look better?

I think it was just the history of the actors. It wasn’t unknown with Franco before. There have been rumors following him. Nothing like Weinstein. But it didn’t work in his favor. Funnily enough though it hasn’t affected Oldman. Because he has a history of terrible marriages, and his ex-wife has accused him of domestic abuse. Oldman has got out of this remarkably clean.

 

Why, though? Do you think that the narrative of Oldman winning Best Actor has been set in stone for months?

I find it strange. As someone who has followed Gary Oldman’s career through thick and thin for 20 years. Because it was well known that he had a lot of bad relationships and was an alcoholic. Whether it is because they were divorced, that might be why it isn’t sticking. Possibly it is being dismissed as he said she said.

 

Do you think there will be a backlash to “Three Billboards” if it does win Best Picture.

That is odd to me because McDonagh has always covered racism and sexism in his projects, it is just that this time he has sliced them into an American context. I didn’t find anything particularly racist about it. Especially in comparison to Tarantino. I am most happy about Sam Rockwell getting recognized, though, because he has been overlooked in critical circles for quite a while now as an actor not a star. He has had to go through the indie chain to then morph with public perception.

 

Talk about the long-term impact of the films nominated. Because I think that “Get Out” is the film that in 10 years everyone will still be talking about

I think so, too. Because it is a film that isn’t afraid to talk about its message. It isn’t trying to suppress its message, doesn’t give into cliché, or racist stereotypes, and what it does is amplify the hypocrisy that has been put aside in the age of Trump. Because people have felt more emboldened to be racist. They don’t have to hide behind their liberal lie. “Get Out” unmasks that liberal lie and the bits of racism that occur in everyday life in American. Then takes it to this really interesting and fantastical appropriation of literal black bodies. It is huge in the horror intellectual community. I already know people that are doing books on it, and someone who is teaching it in another university, and that is in the first 12 months of its release. I don’t think the Oscars means a whole lot to my students now. But over time, in the next 10 or 15 years, that’s when people will start to recognize the importance of these films and their quality.

 

What about in Hollywood? Who is the Oscars for there?

It is continuity. It is the continuity of history. Which is very important to the Academy. So it is about that seal of excellence, which is recognized by the studios. Because that adds to their value and their prestige and their shareholders as well. But I also think it is built into the serious actors, who see it as a life goal to win an Oscar. So agencies, representatives. Who benefits, though? Pretty much the PR companies. The studios.

 

Is that still the case in the current Hollywood climate, though?

The Oscars used to make a big difference. I don’t know if in the internal machinations now it still does because the platform has changed so much. But look at when Neil Jordan won the Best Original Screenplay for “The Crying Game” back in 1992. It was one of those films that was recognized because of its queer politics, which was a very different terrain at the time. That win allowed him to make “Interview With The Vampire,” because he really wanted to do it and had this power. And that continued a particular horror movement in the early 1990s. These things can have knock on effects that are not recognizable yet. But if Jordan Peele wins for Best Screenplay. That will have a positive effect on recognizing essentially nonwhite filmmakers, writers and directors, who can now get recognized straight out of the gate. Because Peele is a newish filmmaker and that would blow the industry wide open for new talent, because he is young and dynamic and his films are really interesting. That would be a really refreshing thing to happen. I don’t know if it will, though.


The 2018 Academy Awards will unfold from 8:00pm EST on Sunday March 4.