SINGAPORE - Coming into the race, it seemed that two films, horror-tinged romance The Shape Of Water and the drama-comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri were the ones to beat in this year's Oscar nominations.
But as actors Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish finished up the Oscar nominations announced in Los Angeles on Tuesday (Jan 23) night Singapore time, the hype about Three Billboards' unimpeachable status turns out to have been fake news.
Also, the #metoo and #timesup campaigns against sexual harassment appear to have exerted some influence in voting patterns - one actor thought to have a shot has been shut out, following allegations of misconduct from several women during the voting period.
The Shape Of Water (slated to open Feb 1 in Singapore) dominated the lists, handily beating Three Billboards.
The human-monster inter-species love story grabbed 13 nominations, among them Best Picture, Best Director for Guillermo del Toro and Best Actress for Sally Hawkins. The nods cover the spectrum, from acting (Octavia Spencer, Best Supporting Actress) to technical categories (Sound Editing, Production Design).
War drama Dunkirk garnered a surprisingly high number of nominations and comes next with eight nominations.
But as is usually the case for director Christopher Nolan, the categories tend to be for work behind the camera (Film Editing, Sound Editing, Cinematography) than in front of it, though he did secure a Best Picture and a Best Director nomination, his fifth. He has never won.
Then comes Three Billboards with seven nominations, including Best Picture. Its lead actress, Frances McDormand, is the favourite to win the Best Actress prize on Oscar night.
Her performance as an angry, grieving mother is a standout compared with the other nominees, whose roles have not called for the range that McDormand's part demanded. Meryl Streep's publisher Katharine Graham in The Post lacks the liveliness that Oscar voters demand, while other contenders Saoirse Ronan (coming-of-age drama Lady Bird) and Margot Robbie (the biopic of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding I, Tonya) look to be too new in the business to deserve an award.
So it looks like it will be a toss-up between McDormand, who has one Oscar for Supporting Actress in crime drama Fargo (1996) and British actress Sally Hawkins, nominated previously for Supporting Actress for the Woody Allen comedy Blue Jasmine (2013).
Conspicuously absent from the Best Actor lineup is James Franco, who was getting heat for his part as a weird, inept wannabe actor in the comedy The Disaster Artist. During the voting period last year, women came forward to speak of sexual harassment at his hands and the publicity might have hurt his campaign.
That left the fifth slot open for surprise entry Denzel Washington, for his role in the little-talked about crime thriller Roman J. Israel, Esq. His victory in the Best Actor category is a long shot - Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour or Daniel Day-Lewis's genius dressmaker in Phantom Thread are the ones to beat. But for the producers of the little-known Roman, the #timesup campaign has proved unexpectedly useful.