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When the Oscar nominations were announced this week there probably wasn’t a bigger surprise than the huge surge and strength of Paul Thomas Anderson’s very late-breaking Phantom Thread. The film had been ignored by every major guild, including SAG, DGA and PGA, yet managed to earn six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Lesley Manville). It showed the Academy was asserting itself outside of the precursors to possibly forge its own path.
All year we’ve been expecting Gary Oldman and his transformation into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour to simply lay waste to all contenders, and really, he has. While Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) won early, top-tier critics’ awards, Oldman dominated the second and third tier prizes to come out on top as the overall critics’ champ. That paved the way for his wins at the Golden Globes, Critics’ Choice and then the Screen Actors Guild. His case got even better on Oscar nomination morning when Darkest Hour received a Best Picture nomination (it also got that at Critics’ Choice and BAFTA). But now, the narrative of three-time Best Actor winner Day-Lewis retiring and Phantom Thread being his last film is growing stronger. He just won five years ago for Lincoln but the drum is beating the way it did for Meryl Streep when she won for The Iron Lady (“she hasn’t won in 29 years!”).
One has to wonder too, while we are in the midst of the post-Weinstein / Time’s Up era of Hollywood, how much Oldman’s own past could catch up with him during the crucial voting period? James Franco (The Disaster Artist) possibly lost out on a nomination as his allegations broke smack in the middle of Oscar nom voting (although there’s a theory that Academy members are still bitter over his lackluster hosting duties in 2011). Oldman’s domestic abuse past, and to be clear he was exonerated, is still something that could rear its ugly head in an already aggressive awards season. What if Uma Thurman speaks out negatively about her short marriage to Oldman? What if Oldman’s ex-wife Lesley Manville, his first of five marriages and a nominee for Phantom Thread, has some not so nice details to reveal? It certainly seems like she won’t be doing that as her nomination reaction statement showed. But, in the name of Oscar campaigning nothing is off the table, whether it’s true or fake news.
Something I keep coming back to in beginning to form my Oscar winner predictions is that voting on the winners doesn’t even start until February 20th and a lot can happen in a month to change people’s minds. Oldman will probably win the BAFTA (where he’s up against Day-Lewis and Chalamet) but what if he doesn’t? If Day-Lewis (or Chalamet) triumphs there then Oldman is very likely in trouble. But, even if Oldman wins there still could be an open door for Day-Lewis. Another factor, and maybe an even bigger one, is that now Focus Features has a choice to make. It’s been steadfastly in the pocket of Oldman winning but now they have an equal competitor in Day-Lewis. Is it too late for the latter or will it be a Sophie’s Choice for the studio that’s already earned Best Actor wins this decade? It would be an extraordinary feat for Day-Lewis to jump over Oldman; he wasn’t SAG-nominated and there has never been a non-SAG nominee in Best Actor who has won over a SAG nominee, much less a winner.
Hey, maybe what it really does it start to look like 2002 when Jack Nicholson and Daniel-Day Lewis occupied all of the awards conversation only to leave the door open for Adrien Brody to come in and shock and become the youngest Best Actor winner in Oscar history.
Well, if that’s the case, say hello to Oscar winner Timothée Chalamet.