It’s shaping up as an exciting Academy Awards race; so many different films have been honored by different groups that three or four movies have a legitimate chance to win Best Picture. I’ve been watching the Oscars since the late 1970s and I can only remember one instance when there were more than two films that had a serious shot at the top award: 1981, when everyone thought the only two contenders were On Golden Pond and Reds, but Best Picture went to Chariots of Fire instead. This year I’d give The Shape of Water a 45 percent chance of winning the Oscar. I’ll give Lady Bird a 25 percent shot and Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri roughly 10 percent each. (The other films nominated for Best Picture are Call Me By Your Name, The Post, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread.)
In such a highly politicized year, I explained in a piece today that I think the Academy voters are going to be very eager to send a duly left-wing cultural message and The Shape of Water has that in buckets (whereas Lady Bird is completely apolitical and both Dunkirk and Darkest Hour lean conservative). It’s a weird movie thematically but in its favor it’s also a very artsy one, with moody music and just-so cinematography and sets. It also won the Producers Guild of America award, which is a key clue to the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner. (Six of the last eight PGA winners have gone on to win Best Picture). Three Billboards, which is about a vengeful feminist looking for answers after her daughter’s murder and also has a racist character, is just as woke as The Shape of Water and won the Golden Globe award, which doesn’t matter that much since Globe voters are not Oscar voters, then won the Screen Actors Guild’s highest honor — which matters a lot because there is a lot of overlap between SAG members and Oscar voters. However, only 11 of the last 22 SAG winners have gone on to win Best Picture and also Three Billboards did not receive a Best Director Oscar nomination. Only three times in 89 years has a film won Best Picture when its director was not nominated. One of those cases, Argo, was just five years ago, but it was obvious Argo was going to win on Oscar night because it won so many industry awards along the way — the PGA award, the SAG award, the American Cinema Editors Award, the Directors Guild of America and the BAFTAs for Best Picture and Director. As for Get Out, I think this is a very fine movie that is being hugely overrated because it’s about racism and I can’t imagine Oscar voters, who are mostly senior citizens, will be as impressed with it as critics have been. Also it’s a horror flick, and no horror movie has ever won Best Picture unless you count The Silence of the Lambs. So I don’t think it will win Best Picture though it might win Best Original Screenplay. (Or might not: It’s competing with Three Billboards, The Shape of Water and Lady Bird).
The Oscars will be held on March 4. The picture will be clearer after some more of the industry awards have been handed out.