Harvey Weinstein was known for his ability to tip an Oscar contest in one of his films’ favor.
Go back to the 71st Academy Awards when his “Shakespeare in Love” bested Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” Great marketing gave what some now call a lesser film the win.
Other “should this really be an Oscar winner?” campaigns have entered in.
The Academy changed up its membership, brought some recent “surprise” winners (including last year’s “Moonlight”) and got tongues wagging about what this means for the 2017 competition.
Certainly, there are skeptics muddying the waters.
Some say “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is insensitive and racist, not healing and educational. Others wonder if “Get Out” is worthy, considering it’s a horror film at heart. “Call Me By Your Name” makes conservatives cringe; “Dunkirk” doesn’t play by historians’ rules.
Critics of “Darkest Hour” say it’s dogged by allegations about star Gary Oldman and a train ride that was manufactured for story purposes. “The Shape of Water” has been called a copy of a play written years earlier.
That leaves “The Post,” “Lady Bird” and “Phantom Thread” without real haters.
Does that mean they’ll tower at the Oscars?
Certainly, “The Post” is the most traditional Oscar film in the pack – it covers a piece of history, points up contemporary parallels and stars two big powerhouses – Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. It has Oscar hallmarks.
“Lady Bird” was directed by a female (the first to get a directing nomination in years), reflects a shift in moviemaking sentiment and provides hope that more female creators will get work. That would be an empowering win.
“Phantom Thread” marks the final film performance (or so he says) of Daniel Day-Lewis, a three-time winner. It’s a lush film with a couple of odd twists and could be a nice companion to “No Country for Old Men,” another quirky winner.
Recent wins (by “Spotlight” and “Moonlight”) suggest the Best Picture doesn’t have to win everything else to be deemed worthy.
So, something with just two nominations (like “The Post”) could actually win this thing.
Momentum is gaining for “Get Out,” as well.
And “Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” have their admirers.
Who’s on first?
Currently, it’s “Shape of Water,” largely because it has won so many pre-Oscar prizes. “Three Billboards” has worthy awards, too.
But now it’s a matter of seeing who plants the most doubt about the other contenders. “La La Land,” you may remember, was a lock until the “real” envelope was opened and “Moonlight” got it.
March 4, we’ll get answers.