Jess vs. The Oscars

On March 4, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will honor the best films (and filmmakers) of 2017 at the 90th annual Academy Awards.

On March 4, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will honor the best films (and filmmakers) of 2017 at the 90th annual Academy Awards.

The announcement of this year’s class of nominees was regarded with extra scrutiny in light of the #MeToo, #Time’s Up and #OscarsSoWhite movements.

It seems that the Academy—and the industry in general—have taken to heart the dire need for more diversity and gender parity in Hollywood. If Greta Gerwig takes home the Oscar for Best Director (Lady Bird), she’ll be the second woman ever to do so and is only the fifth ever nominated; Jordan Peele would be the first African-American. He also is the first African-American ever to be nominated for writing, directing and Best Picture all in the same year. Mudbound’s Dee Rees is the first African-American woman to be nominated for adapted screenplay, and Rachel Morrison became the first woman to be nominated for cinematography for the same film.

With plans to double the number of female and minority members of the Academy by 2020, this year’s slate of nominees is a refreshing first step toward an awards season that celebrates the finest talent without a preponderance of only the familiar faces.

Read on for my personal picks in the top Oscar races, and tune in to ABC at 6:30 p.m. March 4 for the live broadcast to see how we fared.


Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards
Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

MY PICK: While most early predictors are giving Academy Award winner Frances
McDormand (“Fargo,” 1997) the edge, especially coming off of her Screen Actors Guild award for her stellar performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the subtlety and quiet fire employed by Saoirse Ronan as she utterly inhabits the titular character in “Lady Bird,” is simply too much to overlook for this fan. It seems even McDormand agrees, as her SAG award speech included a call for the industry to recognize more young actors during award season.


Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

MY PICK: I can’t be the only one who was surprised that Tom Hanks’ performance in “The Post” was left off this year’s ballot. I mean, Tom Hanks! But most agree that Gary Oldman is the f for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” having taken home both a Golden Globe and a SAG award already for his performance. This moviegoer would love to see him upset by young Timothée Chalamet for his moving turn as one half of a heart-wrenching story of brief but electric love in “Call Me by Your Name.”


Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

MY PICK: Call me biased (I still want to be C.J. Cregg when I grow up), but I think I would give Allison Janney an award just for washing the dishes. And while her turn as Tonya Harding’s estranged mother LaVona Golden in “I, Tonya,” is no “The West Wing,” she still gets gold from me.


Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

MY PICK: This category feels a bit meh. Rockwell is the front-runner thanks to wins at the Golden Globes and SAG awards, but I find myself pulling for his “Three Billboards” co-star Woody Harrelson for being able to evoke at once his usual charisma while delivering a performance made heavy by the devastation of not being able to solve a horrific murder.


“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

MY PICK: The nod is being given to Guillermo del Toro by most early predictors, but this gal would love to see writer/director Greta Gerwig crowned for her directorial debut. “Lady Bird” is a true revelation in nuanced, authentic performances, where the director and her actresses operate in perfect harmony—especially given the autobiographical connection the director has to the protagonist.


“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

MY PICK: This was a tough one. I’m absolutely enamored with “Lady Bird,” from its relatable coming of age chaos to its whip-smart casting choices. But it is “The Shape of Water” that truly speaks to my heart of hearts. Guillermo del Toro’s cinematic imagination is like a spark that lights up the screen, bringing to life the most unusual but true love story this viewer has seen in years.