Oscar Futures: Will Spielberg’s The Post Be the Second Coming of Spotlight?

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Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post. Photo: Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

On a regular basis between now and March 4, 2018, when the winners of the Academy Awards are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes in this year’s Oscars race. In our Oscar Futures column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.

Best Picture

Up

The Post

We finally got a trailer for Steven Spielberg’s journalism drama, which is set to be the very last major contender to screen. The Post looks handsome and traditional, and it’s certainly of the moment: A film about the Washington Post and the Pentagon Papers could hardly be more relevant as President Trump launches broadsides against “fake news.” I wonder, though, if the film’s superficial similarity to Spotlight may hinder it some: Could we really see two crusading-newspaper movies take Best Picture nearly one after the other? Once The Post starts to peek out, we’ll have a better sense of what it brings to the table.

Up

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This audacious dramedy, written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is thought to be one of the leaders in an unsettled Best Picture category. Reviews have been strong — it’s currently at a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes — though even some of the positive notices from top critics have a pointed criticism or two. Still, I think the sprawl and ambition of the film will strike a chord with Academy voters, who are searching for a movie that reflects the current moment and could scarcely find something more topical than this story of a woman fighting against injustice and sexual assault.

Current Predix

The Big Sick; Call Me by Your Name; Darkest Hour; Dunkirk; The Florida Project; Get Out; Lady Bird; The Post; The Shape of Water; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director

Even

Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

McDonagh may be this year’s Kenneth Lonergan: The writer-director behind a surefire Best Picture nominee and potential Best Original Screenplay winner whose presence on the Best Director list still isn’t assured. There’s nothing showy or even all that distinctive about McDonagh’s visual composition in this film, and the directors’ branch really prefers helmers with a tangible, technical point of view. Lonergan managed to make it into Oscar’s final five last year for Manchester by the Sea after being snubbed by some precursors, and McDonagh will have to hope that bodes well for him, too.

Up

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Gerwig’s coming-of-age film had a stellar opening weekend in limited release, bringing in a per-screen average over $90,000 in four theaters, the highest figure so far this year. That’s very nearly what Moonlight made in its first weekend, and that bodes awfully well for A24, which distributed both movies.

Current Predix

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water; Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name; Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk; Steven Spielberg, The Post; Joe Wright, Darkest Hour

Best Actor

Up

Tom Hanks, The Post

It seems hard to believe that this two-time Oscar winner hasn’t even been nominated for an Academy Award since 2000’s Castaway, but this could be the year to snap his cold streak. For one, the Best Actor category seems awfully fluid past the foregone trio of Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Timothée Chalamet, and I think Hanks’s “nicest man in Hollywood” reputation will count for a lot in a year where nearly every other man in the industry has been revealed to be a raging dick. The trailer for The Post goes heavy on Hanks, so he looks well-positioned for the final five.

Even

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Universal’s awards push for the year’s biggest sleeper hit has really started to ramp up, but can Get Out manage an acting nomination? There’s a chance that Catherine Keener could slip in for Best Supporting Actress, but I’d really like to see the film’s lead Kaluuya contend, and for that, Universal will have to push him nearly as hard as they’re currently touting Jordan Peele. Generally reactive performances don’t always do well in this category — the Academy prefers its leading men to be plot-drivers — but Get Out works as well as it does because of Kaluuya’s incredibly calibrated no-bullshit meter: You can read every single thing he’s thinking (especially the things he thinks but cannot say) and you’re with him a hundred percent. Plop Kaluuya in Los Angeles for the next few months and get him on every actors roundtable in town!

Current Predix

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name; Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread; James Franco, The Disaster Artist; Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour; Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Best Actress

Up

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could McDormand win? Hers is a titanic performance that’s all the more striking for being worlds away from sweet Marge, the Oscar-winning role she played in Fargo. After the fall film festivals, I thought Sally Hawkins might have the edge in this very tough category for The Shape of Water, but now I’m not so sure: McDormand’s outrage at the system that has failed her is cathartic to experience and felt deeply by many in Hollywood right now, which may mean she’s our front-runner.

Up

Meryl Streep, The Post

Streep is the one with the big emotional arc in The Post, though the trailer for the film seems to favor Hanks. Still, there’s that great little moment where Streep smiles after a man underestimates her, made all the more delicious because as any Oscar pundit knows well by now, you should never, ever underestimate Meryl Streep.

Current Predix

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water; Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Margot Robbie, I, Tonya; Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird; Meryl Streep, The Post

Best Supporting Actor

Up

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There will likely be a lot of fabulous supporting actors nominated this year, but I can’t imagine someone surpassing Rockwell’s meaty arc in Three Billboards. His cop character initially seems like a dim-bulb, racist foil for McDormand’s righteous mother to rage against, but by the end of the film, he has surprised both himself and the audience with a willingness to change. It all peaks at exactly the right time in a long, unbroken scene where this character seems to grow a spine and a heart before our very eyes. It will likely win him the Oscar.

Even

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

This has been one of the wildest Hollywood years I can remember, and the fact that Plummer has now been cast to replace a disgraced Kevin Spacey in this already-complete Ridley Scott drama is just another couldn’t-have-seen-it-coming twist. Plummer will have to quickly shoot his scenes as J. Paul Getty and there will be a lot of scrutiny over how well he fits into a puzzle that was assembled before he got there, but this is a juicy supporting role that Sony had planned to push hard. If Plummer manages to pull it off, this former Oscar winner could dart into the race out of nowhere.

Current Predix

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project; Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water; Ben Mendelsohn, Darkest Hour; Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Best Supporting Actress

Down

Abbie Cornish, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

McDonagh’s previous big-screen efforts haven’t given actresses much to do, so it’s heartening that he finally scripted a terrific leading role for Frances McDormand in Three Billboards. Still, only the white male supporting actors have much else to do in the film: The black characters are good-hearted ciphers, and Cornish as a sheriff’s wife is so underdrawn that when the film halts to give her a major scene with McDormand, it simply doesn’t work.

Up

Sarah Paulson, The Post

The supporting cast of The Post is awfully stacked, but Paulson gets a notable moment in the trailer as the wife of newspaper editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). Is there enough there for Paulson to make a go of it in a category she nearly penetrated for 12 Years a Slave, or will this be another all-too-brief wife role the likes of which Amy Ryan played opposite Hanks in Bridge of Spies?

Current Predix

Hong Chau, Downsizing; Holly Hunter, The Big Sick; Allison Janney, I, Tonya; Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread; Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Oscar Futures: Is The Post Another Spotlight?