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.
Call Me by Your Name
This coming-of-age romance has had a great start with critics’ awards, picking up top honors at the Gothams and now the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. I suspect pundits may be underrating its ultimate Oscar chances because another gay-themed film, Moonlight, won Best Picture last year, but in a season with no clear front-runner, Call Me by Your Name should not be discounted. Its fans, many of whom are in the industry, proselytize for the film with a passion that this year’s other Best Picture contenders must envy.
Actresses Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are receiving across-the-board raves for their work in this dark comedy, though the film itself earned skeptical reviews in key outlets, with Manohla Dargis in the New York Times and Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times both dinging I, Tonya for its uneasy blending of tones. Likely, this will be an actor-only play for Oscar.
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave The Shape of Water a critical boost over the weekend, handing the film three awards, including a Best Director tie that paired del Toro with Call Me by Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino. It had been a little quiet on this front up until now: After The Shape of Water took home the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, it wasn’t turning up in many precursor awards, leading pundits to wonder if the film was better liked than loved. Can del Toro’s passionate press tour for The Shape of Water, coupled with this well-timed laurel, push the film back into Oscar’s top tier?
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Recent Best Director races always make room for at least one or two non-Americans, and I suspect this year’s category will welcome two very different Europeans: The technically masterful Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk and Luca Guadagnino for his human-scaled Call Me by Your Name. The LAFCA honor gives Guadagnino the oomph he needs to stand out in what is likely to be a very starry race for Best Director, dominated as it is by veterans like Nolan and Steven Spielberg and charismatic actor-helmers like Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele.
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Since LAFCA convenes to vote a few days after the NYFCC, its critics often like to go their own way, reacting just as much to the precedent laid down by their East Coast colleagues as they do to their own likes and dislikes. It’s significant, then, that both coasts went for Chalamet in Best Actor. There is an excitement about this young performer and his film that could very well give presumed front-runner Gary Oldman a run for his money: For as great as Oldman is in Darkest Hour, the film is a mite too traditional in a year where audiences seem to be seeking fresh experiences. Chalamet offers that and pops up in a very different role during another Oscar contender, Lady Bird, which will help assuage Academy voters — who are often slow to acknowledge young men — that he has the range.
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
If this truly is Daniel Day-Lewis’s final acting role, I’m happy that he picked such a delicious note to go out on. As demanding couturier Reynolds Woodcock, Day-Lewis has found the perfect character to channel his Method instincts into: Just as Day-Lewis wants everything to be just so on set in order to fully inhabit his character, so does Woodcock command others’ obedience through his legendary virtuosity. Academy voters won’t hesitate to nominate the three-time winner for one last award, especially in such a thin year for the Best Actor category, though the performance may ultimately prove too intimate to launch Day-Lewis toward victory.
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
LAFCA gave Hawkins the organization’s top prize, making some noise on behalf of her mute heroine. When I saw this performance at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, I thought it was special enough to stand out in a crowded Best Actress field, though so many Hollywood headlines since then have involved actresses speaking out that I wonder whether the Academy will be as inclined to reward a silent woman. But Hawkins says quite a bit with her face and her signing hands, and though the film is a period fantasy, her character’s sexual harassment by creepy boss Michael Shannon lends The Shape of Water a crucial link to our current moment.
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
“Though hardly a physical ringer for Tonya Harding, Robbie’s makeup and posture bridges the gap, and she captures every bit of Harding’s driving athleticism,” wrote our own critic David Edelstein, who included Robbie’s figure-skating turn in his list of the year’s best performances. “She evokes — superbly — how trapped Tonya feels, how helpless to escape her past. When, late in the film, you watch her stare grimly into the mirror and smear rouge on cheeks, you see a woman longing to be storybook-pretty enough to transcend the ugliness around her.”
Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Dafoe is starting to pick up real momentum for his role as a likable motel manager in this acclaimed Sean Baker film, winning Best Supporting Actor honors from both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. This is a more muted performance than his chief rival Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — if Dafoe were to win for the first time, it would be in part a career-achievement award — but Rockwell’s film has been critically maligned in recent weeks, and neither he nor Frances McDormand are showing up on as many year-end lists as you might have assumed.
Sebastian Stan, I, Tonya
Though he’s good as Tonya Harding’s deadbeat husband in I, Tonya, Stan will likely be overshadowed by his powerhouse actress co-stars this awards season, and there are simply too many surefire Best Picture contenders vying to penetrate this category for Stand to have much of a shot. Still, it’s a pivotal role for him to demonstrate different sides that his Marvel movies don’t draw on.
Best Supporting Actress
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Janney is earning terrific reviews for her performance as the mom from hell in I, Tonya, and she wisely underplays her triple-underlined comic material. I think she remains the front-runner in this category, though she should be wary of Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf, who just picked up LAFCA’s Best Supporting Actress honor. Which overbearing mother will Oscar choose?
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
As the fiercely protective sister to Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, Manville is simply delicious, packing a lifetime into her withering stares and passive-aggressive put-downs. Industry audiences have been loving her — you can tell director Paul Thomas Anderson loves her, too, because the camera never wants to leave her face — and this could finally get Manville the Oscar nomination she once came close to for Mike Leigh’s Another Year, especially because Anderson’s films often have their best showing in the supporting categories. (At the very least, the character deserves her own Bravo show.)