New Straits Times

TIGHT RACE FOR BEST PICTURE AT OSCARS

Experts predict ‘Shape of Water’ or ‘Get Out’ will clinch top award

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HOLLYWOOD is set for a real-life cliffhange­r at the Oscars as the race for best picture is coming down to the wire to cap an awards season overshadow­ed by scandal over sexual misconduct in show business.

Dark crime comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has begun to pull away in late betting for the industry’s biggest prize, but Oscarologi­sts believe fantasy romance The Shape of Water and socially-conscious horror movie Get Out will make it a photo finish.

“I don’t remember a year with so much uncertaint­y. There are at least four strong possibilit­ies to win,” Variety awards editor Tim Gray said. “I’m guessing that The Shape of Water will win, but that’s just a guess.”

The 90th Academy Awards will be beamed live around the world from the Dolby Theatre here.

The show caps a difficult few months during which the industry has declared war on the pervasive culture of sexual impropriet­y unearthed by the downfall of movie mogul and alleged serial sex attacker Harvey Weinstein.

With the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns against sexual misconduct and gender inequality dominating the awards circuit this year, the Oscar gala is seen as an opportunit­y for Tinseltown to support female filmmaking.

Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Director, but faces tough competitio­n from Guillermo Del Toro, the runaway favourite for The Shape of Water.

There is also the first nod ever for a female cinematogr­apher, Rachel Morrison, for Mudbound.

The Time’s Up initiative is not planning a coordinate­d protest for the Oscars like the striking red carpet “blackout” at the Golden Globes. But the movement’s leaders said there would be “a moment that’s been carved out” during the ceremony.

“It’s really important that you know that Time’s Up is not about the red carpet,” said powerhouse producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal).

“And those women you saw on the red carpet representi­ng Time’s Up are now off the red carpet working their butts off being activists.”

In another nod to the women’s movements, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tapped past winners Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster to present the Best Actress Oscar.

Traditiona­lly, the previous year’s Best Actor winner would present that statuette, but Casey Affleck, who triumphed last year for Manchester by the Sea, withdrew under a cloud of sexual harassment accusation­s he denies.

Organisers are looking to rebound after last year’s flubbed announceme­nt by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway of the Best Picture winner. The trophy was initially given to La La Land, when the winner was Moonlight.

In a surprise turn of events, Beatty and Dunaway have reportedly been tapped to present the same prize this time.

The Shape of Water, a Cold War-set story of love between a mute cleaning woman and a mystery merman-like creature, tops the nomination­s with 13, although observers expect the spoils to be fairly evenly spread.

Dunkirk is in second place with eight nods, while Three Billboards picked up seven.

Frances McDormand (Three Billboards) and Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), who have dominated the awards season, are expected to bag the lead acting statuettes.

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