Four pressing questions ahead of this year's Oscar nominations


This awards season has already been very different to previous years.

Oscar nominations balloting might be finished but Hollywood's "Me Too'' moment has kept right on going.

When Academy Awards nominations are announced Wednesday morning (NZ Time), it might be a brief, celebratory reprieve for an industry inflamed by sexual harassment scandals and gender equality protests.

Or it might just add more fuel to the fire.

Will the motion picture academy, as it has done in 85 out of 89 years, field an all-male field of film directors? Will James Franco squeak into the best actor category after several women made allegations against him of sexual improprieties while filming sex scenes? Franco denied the claims on late-night shows just days before nomination voting closed last Friday.

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Four pressing questions ahead of this year's Oscar nominations

The nominations for this year's Academy Awards will be announced on Wednesday morning NZ Time.

Either of those outcomes could make the Oscar nominations – a morning often dominated by Harvey Weinstein in the past – one more fraught chapter in the ongoing "Me Too" saga that has already shaped and contorted an Oscar race unlike any before.

Here are four questions in the lead-up to Wednesday:


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the Oscars favourite after SAG Awards


After winning four Golden Globe Awards, including best feature, drama, Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri may have finally taken the Oscar race position that no one wants: favourite. It has the most unblemished score card of all the contenders, including nine BAFTA nods, victory in the ensemble category at the Screen Actors Guild, and the often predictive Toronto Film Festival audience award.

But Three Billboards, which many have criticised for its portrayal of a racist police officer (played by Sam Rockwell), has proven a lightning rod – both celebrated for the timeliness of a tale about female vengeance and derided as out of touch. If Three Billboards is out in front, it's only by a hair. Nearly its equal is Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water, a much admired Cold War fable that may earn the most nominations Wednesday thanks to its lavish craft and celebrated ensemble cast. Yet it crucially missed out on a SAG ensemble nomination, which historically has been a must-have for any Oscar best-picture winner. Every best-picture winner in the last 22 years first landed SAG ensemble nod.

And still just as much in the mix are Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird, Jordan Peele's Get Out and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Each can stake its own claim. Lady Bird is the only top contender made by a woman, and is perhaps the most critically acclaimed movie of the year. Get Out is a landmark genre-bending film about racism, and for many a vital film for the Donald Trump era. Dunkirk is the lone big-screen, blockbuster spectacle of the bunch. While it has been quiet thus far in awards season, Dunkirk will get a boost in the technical categories Wednesday.

Four pressing questions ahead of this year's Oscar nominations

Kevin Mazur

Have James Franco's Oscar chance be ruined by the allegations made against him?


Oscar campaigns from Kevin Spacey to Dustin Hoffman have already bit the dust. Before Franco (The Disaster Artist) was awkwardly answering tough questions from Stephen Colbert he was a borderline best actor contender, slotting in behind Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Tom Hanks (The Post). Many Oscar votes had already been cast by the time allegations hit, but, then again, a lot of academy members wait until the last minute to send in their ballots. This year, with such a never-ending stream of revelations, voters would have been advised to wait until the very last second before one final Google search.

Particular attention, though, will be on the best director category, where only four women have ever been nominated. Among the many statistics that depict the imbalanced maleness of Hollywood, it's among the most telling. Gerwig, who was nominated by the Director's Guild, is poised to be the fifth. But it's a competitive category, with five seats for the presumed final six: del Toro, Nolan, McDonagh, Spielberg, Peele and Gerwig.

A wildcard is Ridley Scott, who has won admiration for his last-minute reshoots on All the Money in the World, in order to replace the disgraced Spacey with Christopher Plummer. Plummer, too, could crash the best supporting actor category.

Four pressing questions ahead of this year's Oscar nominations

Moonlight may have eventually won last year for best picture, but will Oscar embrace diversity again in 2018.


Last year, Moonlight triumphed and films like Fences and Hidden Figures led a firm rebuke to two years straight of all-white acting nominees. Wednesday's nominations aren't likely to be a repeat of 2015 and 2016, but they also aren't likely to overwhelm in their multicultural selections.

|Kaluuya, Mary J. Blige (Mudbound') and Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water) are all favoured for nominations but none are considered among their categories' front-runners. Much will hinge on how the academy receives Get Out. It's the only film currently handicapped for a best-picture nomination with a protagonist who's a person of colour. As a horror film from a first-time feature-film director, it's far from a prototypical Oscar contender. Peele's movie came out last year on Oscar weekend.

But even if all the above wins nods as expected on Wednesday, critics will wonder why Girls Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish or Downsizing scene-stealer Hong Chau were overlooked.

Four pressing questions ahead of this year's Oscar nominations


US late night comedian Jimmy Kimmel will host this year's Academy Awards.


Whoever is nominated, an unusual question will hang in the air: Will the March 5 Oscars (NZ Time), feel like merely a buttoned-down sequel to the Globes?

The Golden Globes are usually a frothy kind of dress rehearsal for the main event. But this year, thanks to the black-attired protest by female attendees and stirring speeches from the night's female winners, the Globes had an almost Oscar-like veneer of importance. As the first major awards show to confront the post-Weinstein landscape, they may have stolen some of the Oscars' thunder.

Jimmy Kimmel, who will host the telecast for the second straight year, told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour that – in the current climate – the two months between the Globes and the Academy Awards are a lifetime.

"I do thank [Globes host Seth Meyers] for being that litmus test,'' said Kimmel. "As far as how I will handle it, the problem is it's two months from now. So it's almost like getting into a hot tub or something; you can't really know what the temperature is until you get there.''

But the Oscars will lack one element the Globes had: Oprah. It will take more than an envelope flub to top that.

 - AP