by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, March. 1 (Xinhua) -- The 2018 Oscar season has been a roller coaster ride, with multiple Best Picture frontrunners running neck-and-neck, with first one than another, than another predicted to nab the gold.
Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" had led the pack since its July 21st release until just before the Golden Globes, with top critics from Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, imdb.com and Vanity Faire all touting it then as the top Best Picture contender.
According to GoldenDerby.com's online critics poll in January, "Dunkirk" enjoyed 7 to 1 odds to win Best Picture, nose-to-nose with Steven Spielberg's, "The Post," while "Shape of Water's" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" trailed a close second with 17 to 2 odds.
Variety's Peter DeBruge praised "Dunkirk," writing, "(Nolan has) delivered all the spectacle of a big-screen tentpole, ratcheting up both the tension and heroism through his intricate and occasionally overwhelming sound design."
Rolling Stone magazine's top film critic, Peter Travers, awarded Dunkirk a four-star rating, calling it, "maybe the greatest war film ever." He went on to say, "There is little doubt that (Nolan) has, without sentimentality or sanctimony, raised the genre to the level of art...with the resonant force of an enduring screen classic."
With a muscular 100 million U.S. dollars budget behind it, "Dunkirk" has already racked up 525 million dollars in worldwide box office its first seven months.
Though it has a long way to go to catch Cameron's disaster epic "Titanic", "Dunkirk" did surpass Steven Speilberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (481.8 million dollars worldwide) to become the highest-grossing WWII movie of all time.
But, it's slipped out of first place as Guillermo del Toro's "Shape of Water" made a big splash since its late release December 1st. Made for only 19 million dollars and grossing 110 million dollars worldwide to date, "Shape of Water" has come from behind to potentially overtake "Dunkirk," racking up a 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes along the way.
Rotten Tomatoes itself said, "'The Shape of Water' finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best- matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance."
IndieWire's Ben Croll raved about "The Shape of Water" too, writing, "it is one of del Toro's most stunningly successful works... also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free."
Many critics are now predicting that "The Shape of Water" may win Best Picture at the Oscars this year.
But a new frontrunner for Oscar Gold may be emerging: Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" has taken home the Best Picture prizes at the prestigious Golden Globes and the British Academy of Film and Television Awards, which could make it the strongest dark horse running in this neck-and-neck race. Owen Gleiberman of Variety gave it high marks, saying "It's Mildred's glowering refusal to back down that defines her, and McDormand brilliantly spotlights the conflicted humanity beneath the stony façade," and that Sam Rockwell's performance was a "revelation".
TheWrap's Steve Pond, called it, "Very funny, very violent and surprisingly moving."
Some industry pundits, including Fox News and Rolling Stone, now think "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" will edge out "The Shape of Water" to nab the top spot, especially since McDonagh was nudged out of the Best Director race by Paul Thomas Anderson, and Academy voters may opt to redress that slight with a big fat Best Picture win.
Steven Speilberg's critically-acclaimed political nail-biter, "The Post," was originally thought to be a viable contender. But, though it remains a critical favorite on virtually everyone's Top Ten List, has slipped further down the list, not even making the cut for the BAFTA's.
IndieWire's David Ehrich, David Ehrlich wrote, "Nobody needs to be reminded that history tends to go in circles, but 'The Post' is so vital because it captures the ecstasy of trying to break the chain and bend things towards justice."
Outliers such as Jordan Peele's racially-motivated frightener, "Get Out" and Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age girl-power biopic, "Lady Bird," can't be counted out just yet either.
A generational shift in recently added Academy voters may skew this year's vote younger. "Get Out," one of only three hair-raisers ever to be nominated for a Best Picture slot, along with 1973's "The Exorcist" and 1991's "Silence of the Lambs," has an inclusionary groundswell behind it that could help sweep it to the top spot as it did "Moonlight" at last year's Oscars.
One of the few films to garner a 99 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, top critics: HuffPo, Vanity Faire and Fandango, are all forecasting a last minute upset that could anoint "Get Out" with the Oscar's highest honor.
Scott Mendelson of Forbes wrote that the film "captured the zeitgeist" and was a "modern American horror classic."
But one critic, Christopher Rosen of Entertainment Weekly, thinks women-power will win the day, predicting a surprise Hail Mary for Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird," one of the only films ever to receive 100 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The New York Times' critic, A. O. Scott, called "Lady Bird," "big-screen perfection" that was "exceptionally well-written, full of wordplay and lively argument."
"Darkest Hour," "Phantom Thread," "Call Me By Your Name," though all highly regarded, are not thought to be serious contenders for Oscar gold.