Perhaps the only thing more foolhardy than putting money down on the Oscars is allowing yourself to get emotionally invested in the outcome. And yet, despite the fact we’ve all undoubtedly had our hopes dashed every year as we watch our sentimental favourites run afoul of the Academy’s whims, we can’t keep ourselves from setting ourselves up for heartbreak the next time those gold statuettes are being polished and readied for public presentation.
Despite the odd rumour to the contrary, VIFF’s staff members are only human and thus every bit as susceptible to such folly. We asked three of them to share a few nominees that they’ll be pulling for on Sunday evening.
Tom Charity, Year Round Programmer
First up, in the Best Animated Feature category, I am rooting for The Breadwinner. This is an easy choice for me, and not just because it is, technically, a Canadian co-production, but also because I have the advantage of not having seen Coco yet, which will probably win and which I gather is very good. I love underdogs, and I am also a big fan of Irish director Nora Twomey, whose two previous features, The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, both played at Vancity Theatre. Unlike Hollywood animated features, Twomey’s films treat their audience with respect, and address serious themes with sensitivity as well as creative flair.
When it comes to Best Original Score, I love what Jonny Greenwood produced for Phantom Thread, but I personally would give the Oscar to Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water. This is Desplat’s ninth nomination since 2007, which gives some indication of what a prodigious composer he is. He won three years ago for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which may hamper his chances now, but everything that is best about The Shape of Water – its romanticism, its classicism and its subversive streak – is embodied in Desplat’s beautiful music.
What else? How about James Ivory for Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name? Looking at the other nominees in this category, I think it would be a travesty if Ivory – who will turn 90 in June – does not win his first Academy Award (he was nominated three times as director, for A Room with A View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day). Twenty years ago I found Ivory too conservative in his sensibilities for my taste, but I now think I underestimated him, even if Call Me’s director Luca Guadagnino also deserves credit for how he translated Ivory’s words to the screen. This poignant tale of sexual awakening moved me deeply.
Curtis Woloschuk, Associate Director of Programming
If I know one thing about Oscar parties, it’s that a hush will assuredly descend over the room when it comes time for Best Achievement in Film Editing to be handed out. When that moment arrives, I sincerely hope that we hear the names of Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos called for their exemplary work on Baby Driver (although the smart money is surely on Lee Smith for Dunkirk). Not only did this pair allow Edgar Wright to masterfully stage the year’s best opening two scenes, they also reminded us that the visual wit that’s always been a hallmark of Wright’s carnivalesque cinema has always hinged on the punctuation provided by sublime cutting.
Jonny Greenwood’s first collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson produced the wantonly dissonant and unrelentingly nerve-fraying accompaniment for There Will Be Blood, which the Academy promptly declared ineligible for Oscar consideration due to its incorporation of pre-existing music. A decade on, Greenwood finally has his Best Original Score nomination for Phantom Thread, his fourth outing with Anderson. Employing a 60-piece orchestra to frequently dizzying effect, Greenwood’s nimble compositions here prove capable of buoying a viewer with the giddiness of blush-inducing attraction before an undertow sweeps in and drags them into the narrative’s dark psychological depths. Forget the interspecies canoodling of The Shape of Water: this is the year’s most perverse romance and Greenwood ensures that every twist is utterly enthralling.
Contending with four-period pieces for Best Achievement in Cinematography is Roger Deakins’ awe-inspiring lensing of the speculative Los Angeles depicted in Blade Runner 2049. Honestly, it’s practically inconceivable that Deakins hasn’t once taken home an Oscar despite 13 previous nominations (including Sicario and Prisoners, two previous partnerships with Denis Villeneuve, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, one of the most visually sumptuous offerings of this millennium). But, make no mistake: this isn’t a case of Deakins being “overdue,” it’s a matter of his towering accomplishment here being completely deserved. Having long dreamt of shooting an epic sci-fi film, Deakins unfurls a succession of impeccable compositions that call upon precise framing and a rich palette to realize a reality that frequently threatens to overwhelm the senses.
Jane Harrison, Ticketing and Sales Coordinator
Despite not being a professional film nerd (read: not a programmer) and having to fill in some of the more obscure award selections on my Oscars Party bingo-card in a frenzy similar to that of a high school student who hasn’t adequately prepared for a multiple-choice exam, Ticketing Coordinators have Oscars Feelings™ too – especially when they make ill-informed bets with the aforementioned professional film nerds and office bragging rights are at stake.
In this spirit, my first selection is for the hotly contested (within the halls of VIFF Towers, at any rate) Best Original Song. Despite nominations for the likes of Common, Sufjan Stevens and Mary J. Blige, I’m ignoring all good reason and putting my money behind ‘This is Me’ from the otherwise-not-Oscar-worthy The Greatest Showman. Penned by last year’s winners in the same category, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the song already won a Golden Globe earlier in the year (something of which I don’t think the esteemed Mr. Charity was aware when he made this foolhardy bet. He favours that song from Coco.) As an anthemic celebration of defiant otherness, empowerment and self-acceptance, belted out with audible passion by newcomer Keala Settle, ‘This is Me’ captures a feeling that has been prevalent this awards season, from the red carpets through to the acceptance speeches. It’s a good year for a song like this to win.
While the general consensus seems to be that Martin McDonagh already has the Original Screenplay award on his by now straining shelf for the excellent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (and if Frances McDormand is denied Best Actress for her starring role in that film, I’m going to throw popcorn at something), there needs to be some formal recognition of Jordan Peele’s achievement with the genre-defying Get Out. In equal measure unsettling, funny and culturally challenging, the script’s vision and strident purpose exemplify everything a debut feature screenplay should be. Punching above its weight, the unprecedented success of Get Out will ensure the film has a lasting legacy as a cultural phenomenon, but acknowledging that this phenomenon began life as words typed onto a previously blank page feels like an important step in the right direction. In a year where its other nominated categories (Best Picture, Best Director, Lead Actor) are overrun by established behemoths, let’s actually take the title of this award at its word and celebrate originality where we’re lucky enough to find it.
The final ‘one to watch’ has a lot to do with a scene involving a flock of birds walking through a hotel parking lot. Most people accept that Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of a bumbling and controversially sort-of-redeemed-but-really-let’s-not racist cop in Three Billboards is the frontrunner to win Best Supporting Actor (criminally overlooking co-star Woody Harrelson) but the real contender for this award should be Willem Dafoe, whose understated performance as the put-upon hotel manager in The Florida Project injected the film with its much-lauded heart and warmth. The presence of Dafoe and the generous simplicity of his portrayal allowed the film’s young leading actors space to perform, helped provide an anchor for Sean Baker’s innovative filmmaking style and, in so doing, ensured The Florida Project’s depiction of vast social inequality was measured, optimistic and heart-breaking all at the same time.
The 90th Annual Academy Awards take place this Sunday, March 4. We’re busting out our best frocks and rolling out the red carpet in preparations for our sold out VIFF Oscar party. Missed out on tickets? Try your luck on the day with our atrium seating standby line.
Have your own opinions on who you think should take home the gold statuettes? Tweet along on the day with the hashtag #VIFFOscars and let us know who you’ve put down on your ballot to win.