4 pressing questions ahead of Tuesday's Oscar nominations
NEW YORK: Oscar nominations balloting might be finished but Hollywood's "Me Too" moment has kept right on going.
When Academy Awards nominations are announced Tuesday morning, it might be a brief, celebratory reprieve for an industry enflamed 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.
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 Tuesday:
IS THERE A FRONTRUNNER?
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: favorite. It has the most unblemished score card of all the contenders, including nine BAFTA nods, an ensemble nomination from the Screen Actors Guild (which hands out its awards Sunday), top award nods from the directors and producers guilds, and the often predictive Toronto Film Festival audience award.
But "Three Billboards," which many have criticized 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 Tuesday 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 Tuesday.
HOW WILL 'ME TOO' ALTER THINGS?
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.
COULD OSCARS-SO-WHITE RETURN?
Last year, "Moonlight" triumphed and films like "Fences" and "Hidden Figures" led a firm rebuke to two years straight of all-white acting nominees. Tuesday'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 favored 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 color. 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 Tuesday, critics will wonder why "Girls Trip" breakout Tiffany Haddish or "Downsizing" scene-stealer Hong Chau were overlooked.
CAN THE OSCARS TOP THE GLOBES?
Whoever is nominated, an unusual question will hang in the air: Will the March 4 Oscars 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 ABC 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