Which of the Best Picture nominees do you think should win? What about it stands out to you in comparison to the other nominees?
There are several high quality films nominated for Best Picture this year. My three favorite nominees are Get Out, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name -- any one of those films winning would feel satisfying, especially due to their sophisticated and timely treatments of issues surrounding race, gender and sexuality, respectively.
Is the film you think should win different than the film you think will win?
I believe Get Out will win Best Picture. The Academy recently revised its voting system for Best Picture -- now, the film garnering the most first place votes is not guaranteed to win. Second and third place votes are equally important; last place votes are particularly harmful. Therefore, a film which can gain a mass critical consensus (even if it isn't truly the "best" film) will fare better than a film which divides voters. Three Billboards has received too much backlash, and I don't think The Shape of Water will earn enough first place votes. Get Out was a critical and box office success which also addressed pertinent discourses around race and privilege in this country. Jordan Peele recently stated in an interview that "where it's awkward to talk about race, it's less awkward to talk about Get Out." More than any other film, it reflected where America was in 2017, and I suspect voters will be receptive to that.
Were there any films you think should have been nominated in the Best Picture category that were snubbed?
The Florida Project was my favorite film from last year, and its snub was a shock. Unfortunately, the Oscars have as much to do with marketing and politicking as they do with quality, and A24 (the studio which financed The Florida Project) apparently wasn't able to generate a successful campaign to voters. Its lone nomination is Willem Dafoe for Best Supporting Actor, but the best performance I saw in any movie last year was actress Bria Vinaite in The Florida Project.
Which film do you predict will have the most Oscar wins this year?
The Shape of Water garnered the most nominations and Guillermo Del Toro feels like a shoo-in for Best Director, so I suspect the film will take home several awards during the evening -- although nowhere close to its 13 nominations.
What do you think is the most important thing The Academy looks for when nominating and selecting films for Best Picture?
It's difficult to generalize what the Academy looks for because the "Academy" is not monolithic; in fact, it has considerably revised and expanded its eligibility for voters the during the past four years. But generally, Best Picture nominees tend to be dramas made by prestige directors that have been released between September and December. I would hope Academy voters look for films which challenge their perspectives and give voices to marginalized communities; diversity and inclusiveness have historically been major challenges for the Academy Awards. But cynically, I suspect many Oscar voters merely replicate what critics have instructed them is "high quality."
Out of all the categories, which do you think has the stiffest competition this year?
Best Picture. Until about five years ago, the vast majority of Best Pictures corresponded to the Academy's choice for Best Director. But since 2012, only one ceremony has had the same Best Picture and Director. Will that trend continue this year? As I stated earlier, I believe Guillermo Del Toro will win Best Director, but given the fairly shocking Best Picture upsets in 2015 and 2016, I would expect the unexpected this year. There seem to be at least four films which could conceivably win (Get Out, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
Nominated or not, what was your favorite film of this past year?
As stated in #3, The Florida Project, but I also really enjoyed Hounds of Love, The Unknown Girl, Frantz and Mudbound, which would have been nominated for Best Picture and Director (Dee Rees) if Oscar voters would accept Netflix as a viable distribution platform. That day is coming soon.