Oscars: Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Each Best Picture Nominee

6:30 AM 1/29/2018

by Gregg Kilday

'The Shape of Water' leads the pack with a whopping 13 nominations as this year's contenders range from small-scale stories ('Lady Bird') to swoony romance ('Call Me by Your Name').

Courtesy Photos

This story first appeared in the Jan. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Updated Jan. 29, to include box office totals as of Jan. 28. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • Call Me by Your Name

    Sayombhu Mukdeeprom/Sony Pictures Classics

    DISTRIBUTOR Sony Pictures Classics

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 23

    BUDGET $3.5M

    BOX OFFICE TO DATE $17.7M

    FOUR NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actor Timothee Chalamet, adapted screenplay and song

    STRENGTHS A lush, idyllic summer romance, it's a feast for the senses — you can practically taste the cheese, the pasta and the wine, to say nothing of that peach. It boasts the excitement of a rising young star in Chalamet. An indie darling, it led the Spirit Award nominations with six mentions, won best feature at the Gotham Awards and was named best picture by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

    WEAKNESSES Director Luca Guadagnino and supporting actors Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg all were left off the nominations list. Its most passionate fans fear the heartbreak of another Brokeback Mountain-like loss.

  • Darkest Hour

    Courtesy of Jack English/Focus Features

    DISTRIBUTOR Focus Features

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 21

    BUDGET $30M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $99M

    SIX NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actor Gary Oldman, cinematography and three other crafts

    STRENGTHS It speaks with a properly stiff upper-lip to those Anglophiles wanting another Winston Churchill fix in the wake of Netflix's The Crown. It scored eight BAFTA noms, and Oldman already has picked up Globe and SAG Awards honors.

    WEAKNESSES Joe Wright was snubbed by the directors, and it also failed to secure a film editing nom, which usually accompanies a best picture winner.

  • Dunkirk

    Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros. Pictures

    DISTRIBUTOR Warner Bros.

    RELEASE DATE July 20

    BUDGET $100M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $525.6M

    EIGHT NOMINATIONS Picture, directing, score, cinematography and four other crafts

    STRENGTHS Everything about this movie is rousingly big. It's the bona fide blockbuster among this year's best pic nominees and is best viewed on a ginormous Imax screen. For re-creating war in all its hellish sound and fury, Christopher Nolan got his first directing nom, which many consider overdue. And Oscar loves war movies, 16 of which have won best pic.

    WEAKNESSES None of its actors was recognized with nominations, and the film also missed out on a screenplay nomination. Sometimes war really is hell.

  • Get Out

    Courtesy of Universal Pictures

    DISTRIBUTOR Universal Pictures

    RELEASE DATE Feb. 23

    BUDGET $4.5M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $254.9M

    FOUR NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actor Daniel Kaluuya, directing and original screenplay

    STRENGTHS By design, it's a horror-movie version of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that speaks to current racial anxieties. For addressing such fears head-on, producer Norman Lear lavished praise on writing and directing nominee Jordan Peele as he presented him with the Stanley Kramer Award at the PGA Awards. And it picked up an Audience Award at the Gothams.

    WEAKNESSES There's still that horror-film stigma to overcome, since the only horror movie that has won best picture laurels is 1991's The Silence of the Lambs.

  • Lady Bird

    Courtesy of A24

    DISTRIBUTOR A24

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 2

    BUDGET $10M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $41.6M

    FIVE NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actress Saoirse Ronan, supporting actress Laurie Metcalf, directing and original screenplay

    STRENGTHS In actress turned auteur Greta Gerwig, who collected writing and directing noms, a multihyphenate star is born. The National Society of Film Critics blessed her semi-autobiographical tale with four prizes, including best film, while the New York Film Critics proclaimed it the year's best picture. And for playing a smart, small-town girl with dreams of life in the bright lights, big city, Ronan, at just 23, now has her third Oscar nomination.

    WEAKNESSES It's modestly small in scale, and some guys just don't get it.

  • Phantom Thread

    Laurie Sparham/Focus Features

    DISTRIBUTOR Focus Features

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 24

    BUDGET $35M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $10.7M

    SIX NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis, supporting actress Lesley Manville, directing, score and costume design

    STRENGTHS Given that it was the last major awards contender to be unveiled this season, and that Day-Lewis — who insists that he plans to retire from acting — is famously reticent, this mysteriously introverted melodrama has to be considered a true word-of-mouth phenomenon. Paul Thomas Anderson, boosted into the directors circle for the second time, is now a genuine Oscar favorite.

    WEAKNESSES It's far from a traditional boy-meets-girl love story, even if it's all dressed up to the nines. And as it slowly rolls out into theaters, its ultimate box-office appeal has not yet been proved.

  • The Post

    Courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

    DISTRIBUTOR 20th Century Fox

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 22

    BUDGET $50M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $83.5M

    TWO NOMINATIONS Picture and lead actress Meryl Streep

    STRENGTHS The speed with which Steven Spielberg assembled and shot this clarion call in defense of the freedom of the press is admirable. It's been greeted as a worthy and female-driven companion piece to All the President's Men, which earned eight Oscar noms back in 1977.

    WEAKNESSES Nominations-wise, it fell short. There was no directing nom for Spielberg, and leading man Tom Hanks was left out in the cold.

  • The Shape of Water

    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

    DISTRIBUTOR Fox Searchlight

    RELEASE DATE Dec. 7

    BUDGET $19.4M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $51.9M

    13 NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actress Sally Hawkins, supporting actress Octavia Spencer, supporting actor Richard Jenkins, directing, original screenplay, cinematography, score and five other crafts

    STRENGTHS Sure, it's a genre movie of sorts, and genre movies usually face an uphill battle with the Academy. But not this one, an oddly compelling interspecies romantic fantasy. With the most noms of any contender, it registered in just about every category it hoped to take, except for visual effects. At the Jan. 20 PGA Awards, it won the top prize.

    WEAKNESSES True, it wasn't nominated for the SAG Awards' cast prize, but nobody's perfect.

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    Courtesy of Merrick Morton/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    DISTRIBUTOR Fox Searchlight

    RELEASE DATE Nov. 9

    BUDGET $15M BOX OFFICE TO DATE $71.5M

    SEVEN NOMINATIONS Picture, lead actress Frances McDormand, supporting actor Woody Harrelson, supporting actor Sam Rockwell, original screenplay, score and film editing

    STRENGTHS An unpredictable tale of small-town murder, a crusade for justice and, possibly, redemption, it's an actors' favorite — collecting three acting noms right after walking off with the SAG Awards' film ensemble trophy. It also has four Globes, including best drama, on its résumé.

    WEAKNESSES While creator Martin McDonagh got an adapted screenplay nom, he was denied a directing nom, which could be ominous.

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