Oscar Primer 2018: The Shape of Thread

Every week there was an Oscar Primer going over the chances that nominated films have of winning their respective categories. Best Picture nominated films will be dissected on Contra Zoom, while the remaining ones will be discussed here. Last week I talked about I, Tonya, The Boss Baby, Molly’s Game and Marshall. This week I will go over The Shape of Water and Phantom Thread. Normally I save the Best Picture nominees for Contra Zoom, but due to an unforeseen medical issue, I was unable to record so I will be devoting my final Primer before the Oscars to the last two nominees.

The Shape of Water was directed by Guillermo del Toro and was released on December 22nd 2017. The film has thirteen nominations.

Best Picture

Best Director- Guillermo del Toro

Best Actress- Sally Hawkins

Best Supporting Actor- Richard Jenkins

Best Supporting Actress- Octavia Spencer

Best Original Score- Alexandre Desplat

Best Original Screenplay- Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Best Cinematography- Dan Laustsen

Best Film Editing- Sidney Wolinsky

Best Costume Design- Luis Sequeira

Best Production Design- Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau and Jeffrey A. Melvin

Best Sound Editing- Nathan Robitaill and Nelson Ferreira

Best Sound Mixing- Christian T. Cooke, Glen Gauthier and Brad Zoern

del Toro toke the Creature From the Black Lagoon and made it into love story like King Kong, but this time with actual sex between the beast and the woman. If you are a big fan of his work, it all makes perfect sense, but trying to explain it to other people will make you sound like a crazy person. Not many people can take subject matter like this, splash in the 1950’s American Dream radioactive green and make it palatable for a wide audience but for almost thirty years del Toro has made the impossible and the undreamable a reality. For the first time in his career del Toro is the front runner, long been a underdog and the champion of people who don’t usually get to tell their stories it seems like a win for all film lovers to see him get the recognition he long has deserved. The Shape of Water seems to be the only other frontrunner to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in this nine-film race. In the last few years it seems like Best Picture and Best Director don’t always go hand in hand but this year they very well might as del Toro seems like a lock to win Director, as he looks to beat Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk.

Sally Hawkins first gained prominence in 2008’s Happy-Go-Lucky and was eventually nominated for Supporting Actress for Blue Jasmine but still isn’t really a household name. She plays a mute woman working in the government laboratory where she meets and falls in love with the creature played by Doug Jones. While we previously have seen Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo (from The Artist), who won and was nominated respectively, for silent performances it seemed like a bit of a stretch Hawkins would get her nod. She expresses so much emotion without words it is certainly well earned. Unfortunately up against Frances McDormand (Three Billboards) and Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) she doesn’t really stand a chance to win.

Richard Jenkins is another solid character actor who has been nominated once before for The Visitor and turns in another fantastic performance. Him and Octavia Spencer, who is now on her third nomination (with one win) of this decade already make this movie that has two mute leads give most of the dialogue to a gay man and black woman, two types of people who would not have been given a prominent voice in the 50’s. For Jenkins, he will most likely fall far short of frontrunners Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project) and Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards). For Spencer who is in arguably the toughest overall category has to showdown against Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya).

Alexandre Desplat’s whimsical and ominous score really set the tone for the film. It hits on all the notes you want for a film that isn’t bound by genres or conventions. It is steeped in 50’s Americana, while presenting itself with a worldly touch that the characters wish to inhabit. Desplat’s work makes him a clear front runner for Best Original Score Johnny Greenwood’s work for Phantom Thread and Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk as his closest competitors but it is an all but assured victory coming for Desplat who is about to get only his second win in nine tries.

World building has always been a strong suit for del Toro and this movie really showcases what he is best at, the characters are all fully formed with arcs and plot lines that make sense. The dialogue is witty and smart and everything moves along at a great pace, but in a very tough Original Screenplay category del Toro and Vanessa Taylor look to lose to Get Out with everything else bring a toss up. If TSOW goes on a winning rampage look for it to pick up a win here to prove this theory.

This movie is shot like a horror movie, with the dark and bleak laboratory and the paint peeling from the homes of Elisa and Giles, everything looks great bathed in green. The films tension ramps up all the way through and the camera is an integral part to this paired well with some deft editing. For Best Cinematography, TSOW is in a tough battle with Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk, both of whom are much more likely to win. For Film Editing Dunkirk and Baby Driver seem to lead the way. It isn’t unthinkable for Water to steal these wins, but it will be very difficult to do so.

The costume design for this film perfectly sets it in the world of the 1950’s but compared to the other nominees it doesn’t do anything crazy original. The colour palettes match what else is going on, but look for either Phantom Thread or Beauty and the Beast to win. Other than the fantastic story, possibly the best part of TSOW is its production design. From the laboratory, to the apartment building that Elisa and Giles live in to the pie shop, everything looks lived in and perfectly suited to the nuclear wasteland this movie takes place in. It is a near lock to win this award, even if it wins nothing else all night.

While Sound Mixing and Editing don’t always go hand in hand, if you are a betting person it is easier to put them together then separate them. The Academy is usually a sucker for war films so Dunkirk looks to be the leader, but don’t count out TSOW, which might sweep up a bunch of technical awards including these two with it’s creative and endearing sound work that mixes alien body horror with a love story fantasy.


Phantom Thread was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and was released on January 19th 2018. The film has six nominations.

Best Picture

Best Director- Paul Thomas Anderson

Best Actor- Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Supporting Actress- Lesley Manville

Best Original Score- Jonny Greenwood

Best Costume Design- Mark Bridges

Paul Thomas Anderson returns to moviemaking after a three-year absence spent mostly making music videos for Radiohead with one of his grandest movies yet. The story of a dress maker who falls in love with a waitress that sets of a chain reaction of events that alters his life forever is hard to describe, mostly because so little actually happens in this movie plot wise. Instead the focus is on the gorgeous dresses, still acting and scenes where you don’t know where to laugh or cringe in horror at. It was shot on film so you see how vivid everything is as PTA essentially makes his version of a Hitchcock film. The Academy didn’t award There Will Be Blood Best Picture, which means that PTA will probably never win the top prize for one of his films. They are hard to get, slow paced and filled with mostly unrelatable people. It is a miracle this film even got the nomination for Best Picture and doubly do for Director as it seems to be the antithesis of recent picks, that said it is sure to come near the bottom of voting for Picture (possibly only besting The Post) and certainly dead last for Director.

When this film was announced Daniel Day-Lewis claimed it would be his last film, something he actually has said once or twice before. Sure he might take about a decade off, but I seriously doubt we will never see him perform again, especially considering how he seems to get better with age. His obsessive Reynolds in this film is a study in order and what it looks like when it is disrupted both willingly and unwillingly. If DDL hadn’t won for Lincoln or There Will Be Blood, you would have to assume he would be a frontrunner, but since he has had his day in the sun, it is Gary Oldman’s time to win, whether you think it was the best performance or not.

Lesley Manville is mostly unknown to North American audiences but she has a long career in England. While most people were wishing that DDL’s love interest Vicky Krieps got nominated over Manville, I am very pleased as every time Cyril was on screen she stole the show. From her almost stoic stillness to the one time she lashes out at her brother you can’t help but be in awe and utterly terrified of this woman. Sadly she stands no chance to win over Alison Janney and Laurie Metcalf.

Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood has been scoring PTA’s films since There Will Be Blood, when he burst on the scene and gave us one of the best scores of all time, but was sadly snubbed by the Oscars. This time he gives us a jazzy selection with some seriously dark undertones for when the moments need it proving how adaptable and amazing he is. It would be a perfect world if Greenwood won, but looks to have strong competition at the top from The Shape of Water and possibly Dunkirk.

In a movie about beautiful dresses, it would be criminal to not actually have beautiful dresses and does this movie not disappoint. From the wedding dress for a princess to the fashion show to custom gowns every inch of this movie is luscious. Even everything else looks perfect from Reynolds’ suits, to Alma’s simple dresses to Cyril’s black widow look; you can’t help but admire everything. It looks like a near lock to win this award, as the Academy is a sucker for movies about clothes to win.

About author

Music Editor at Live in Limbo and Host of Contra Zoom podcast. Dakota is a graduate of Humber College's Acting for Film and Television. He now specializes in knowing all random trivia. He writes about music, sports and film. Dakota's life goal is visit all baseball stadiums, he's at 7.