Here’s your Oscars cheat sheet
I can’t vote in the Oscars—I wish I could—but I can’t. Regardless, I can break the Oscars down and tell you who I think should win and who probably will win.
For starters, the Oscars really don’t matter. There are dozens of awards shows, and the Oscars aren’t that special. Also, while the Oscars want you to think their decisions represent the opinion of a film-educated elite, truth is it really doesn’t. Oscar voters aren’t required to watch all the films, and there are close to 7,000 voters. It’s not exactly the most exclusive or demanding club. With that said, let’s obsess over the categories.
Best Supporting Actor
Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell
Who Should Win: Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”
Armie Hammer was not nominated, but the more I reflect on his performance, the more I wish he would win. His charm and style mask his insecurity. His vulnerability lingers in each frame, and his charisma gives the film its momentum. It’s a wonderfully textured performance from an often-overlooked actor.
In no way is this a referendum on Sam Rockwell. He commits fully in a tightrope performance. He plays a caricature so well we find him human at the end. It’s a strong performance and a favorite amongst awards shows thus far. I just wish Armie Hammer got a little more love for gorgeous work.
Who Will Win: Alison Janney
Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf
This year’s David vs. Goliath. Everyone has it as a two-person race, but Alison Janney has swept most awards shows and circles thus far. That makes a lot of sense. Janney imbues LaVona Harding with a perfect vicious indiscriminate rage, latent sensitivity and care. LaVona loves Tonya, just doesn’t know how to show it. At some points she seems to give up completely. Janney is a wonderful and deserving actress—so good she has a separate Wikipedia page for her awards and nominations. She is personally my favorite television actress of all time. Giving her an Oscar is a no-brainer.
But Laurie Metcalf is so good. In my opinion, she gives the year’s most relatable and nuanced performance. There is not a lot of flash, but there is truly great substance. Watching her linger wistfully in an open house, restlessly write notes on the kitchen table and drive with contentment through Sacramento broke my heart to pieces. It’s by a sliver, but Metcalf, an award-winning giant in her own right, wins my vote for an Oscar.
Will Win: Gary Oldman
Should Win: Timothee Chalamet
The year’s most boring and uninteresting category despite a stunning performance. Truthfully, I haven’t watched Gary Oldman in “The Darkest Hour.” I can tell you though, that he will probably win. How do I know? He is a great actor with a career of snubs behind him who physically transforms for a timely role of a stately white politician with a dark side. You couldn’t write a more Oscar-worthy story if you tried. I haven’t seen his performance, but he will most likely win.
I have, however, seen Timothee Chalamet as Elio in “Call Me by Your Name,” and he is remarkable. Words cannot describe the emotional power, acting confidence and sheer genius he displays in the final scene. The screenplay describes Elio, in that moment, deeply lost in thoughts. Chalamet turns those vague words in the year’s strongest acting tour de force and a roller coaster of emotions and ideas. It’s magnificent. Chalamet is just 22. Hopefully we see a lot of him in years to come.
Will Win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Margot Robbie
This category is the year’s strongest. In a down year, any one of these candidates plus Emma Stone in “Battle of the Sexes” and Vicky Krieps in “Phantom Thread” could win with relative ease. Unfortunately for them, fortunately for us, this isn’t that year. Right now, Frances McDormand is the favorite to win her second Oscar. Her character is enraged at the world and guilt-ridden with herself. McDormand captures that dichotomy perfectly. It’s a flashy no-holds-barred performance with funny, dramatic, and emotionally rich monologues. It’s an Oscar caliber role with Oscar worthy work from an acting legend.
Despite this, I go with my heart. Margot Robbie delivers a performance for the ages as Tonya Harding. “I, Tonya” is a wild film which required Robbie to act her heart out. She does. In the film, I hated her, I loved her, I laughed at her, I laughed with her and I felt for her. Robbie kills it. Her performance evokes empathy and reflection. It’s the strongest performance in a year with great ones.
Will Win: “The Shape of Water”
Should Win: “Lady Bird”
Right now, Best Picture is seen as a toss-up between “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The latter faces some controversy; so, I’m betting the former wins. Honestly, I think “The Shape of Water” is overrated. It’s a fine film but nothing special. The movie promises a romantic magical realism in its first shot that it never quite lives up to.
“Lady Bird” is my favorite film. It’s a film which ineffably affected me when I watched it and continues to affect me now. Greta Gerwig has written a moving film about observing and loving the world around us. The performances, cinematography and lighting all compliment her brilliant screenplay. I love “Lady Bird.” It’s the best film of 2017.
The Oscars can disappoint but also can be a lot of fun and intensely thought provoking. This year, like last, there will be politically powerful speeches and moving performances. I want to highlight two I am excited for. In all likelihood, Guillermo del Toro will win best director. At the Golden Globes, his acceptance speech stunned and moved me. His reflection on the process of making a movie and what his own movies and the monsters he creates mean to him was beautiful. Films matter a lot to me, and del Toro’s speech captures why so many people look to films for inspiration and meaning. I am also excited for Sufjan Stevens performance of “Mystery of Love.” It’s a meditative song about how love hurts us and heals us, shakes us and gives us stability, breaks us and completes us. Stevens is my favorite musician, and his songs never fail to connect. His music reaches into your soul and pulls at you. Watching him perform for a larger audience should be magical.
The Oscars air on ABC on March fourth. The Tivoli is hosting a free viewing party.