2018 Oscar hopefuls at the annual nominees lunch in Los Angeles on February 5. Photo: Matt Petit/Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Academy Awards 2018: A wide-open race for Oscar glory

Sex scandals, sea creatures, snubs, sad farewells: the script for the 90th Oscars is as compelling as the films it celebrates.

On Sunday (Monday March 4, Australian time), downtown Los Angeles will be the centre of the movie world – and the focus of hundreds of millions of eyes worldwide – as members of the industry gather for the presentation of this year’s Oscars. The 2017 host Jimmy Kimmel returns as master of ceremonies, bringing the unique style and humour that has made him a people’s champion. His promotional trailer reflecting on last year’s best picture mix-up was both self-depreciating and hilarious, providing a welcome light-hearted look that even the best don’t always get right on Hollywood’s biggest stage.


Unlike previous years, there has been no stand-out film that has dominated in the lead-up to this year’s Oscars.

Traditionally the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs have provided a good indication as to who will clean up come Oscars time.

The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Dunkirk, Get Out and Darkest Hour have all shared the spoils in this year’s lead-up awards. What’s fascinating is the variety of genres that make up the nominations. From a hybrid fairy-tale, 1960s, period love-piece of a mute female janitor and an amphibious man in The Shape of Water, to the satirical humour and horror of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, there’s been variety across the board.

Christopher Nolan’s epic Dunkirk will go head-to-head with Darkest Hour in the battle of World War 2 films, the latter earning Gary Oldman a Best Actor nomination for his $20,000-cigar-smoking portrayal of Winston Churchill.

Edgar Wright’s trailblazing Baby Driver will be fighting in the Best Sound and Best Editing categories against the two war films, it’s kinetic choreography and razor-sharp sound mixing ensuring it goes in as favourite. Wright’s good friends, married couple Emily V Gordon and Kumail Najiani, are nominated for Best Screenplay with their debut film The Big Sick, a retelling of their real-life courtship, which has struck a chord with audiences and earned worldwide praise.

Rachel Morrison received her first Best Cinematography nomination for Mudbound. Important and revealing: it is the first time a woman has been nominated in this category in Oscar history. That’s an incredible when you look at a list of other talented females shining in this role on award-winning films – Reed Morano (The Skeleton Twins), Maryse Alberti (Creed), Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Molly’s Game) and Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). That’s a fact not lost on the #metoo movement.

Stars wore black at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs in solidarity. With this line-in-the-sand moment has come consequences for men across the industry. Harvey Weinstein was the first domino to fall, and an A-list dishonour roll has followed, ranging from James Franco to Dustin Hoffman to Morgan Spurlock.

And then there is Casey Affleck, younger brother of Ben and winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Actor. Traditionally he would have returned to present the Best Actress Oscar. But in the era of #MeToo?

No. Affleck won’t be attending – let alone presenting.

Once again, the drama will unfold on stage and off as the ceremony crawls its way through what is always a very long Sunday night in Los Angeles (and for Australian viewers tuning in live, a very long Monday afternoon.)

Debates will rage on social media about the winners, the losers, who was wearing what, who brought who, and who insults who during their acceptance speech. And at a time when American politics is high on everyone’s agenda the Oscars will give the winners a platform to voice their thoughts to a worldwide audience.

One could only imagine what the late great Carrie Fisher would make of it all.

No doubt she would offer a twinkle in her eye, that mischievous smile and a quote to knock them out of their seats if handed the microphone.

We should also remember that Oscars night is about all the people who work so hard behind the scenes to create these movies for us, the viewing public. Very rarely do they receive the accolades they deserve; that’s mostly reserved for the headlining stars and their egos.

But whoever they are, superstars or unknowns, for this one night of the year let’s give a round of applause for those that create the magic that is cinema. (And say goodbye to another princess for the people, whose final film helped make the past year especially unforgettable.)