“The Shape of Water” is a fairy tale that takes place at a secret research facility where a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) falls in love with a mysterious creature. With the assistance of her co-worker (Octavia Spencer) and neighbor (Richard Jenkins), they have to stay one step ahead of her superior (Michael Shannon) in order to help the creature escape. The film is a technical marvel and equally a performer’s showcase. That could help it do what no film in 89 years of the Academy Awards has accomplished: receive 15 nominations. Making this even more impressive is the film’s budget of a modest $19.5 million dollars and the fact that most of its technicians would be first-time Oscar nominees.
Three films are currently tied for the most nominations at 14 a piece: “All About Eve” (1950), “Titanic” (1997), and “La La Land” (2016), with “La La Land” being the only one of the three films not to win Best Picture. “All About Eve” made the list with a lot of help from its cast, receiving five acting nominations. “Titanic” might have accomplished the goal of 15 nominations were it not for its star Leonardo DiCaprio being surprisingly snubbed for Best Actor, or if James Cameron had received a bid for his screenplay. And “La La Land” might’ve accomplished 15 if the academy had not limited Best Original Song nominations to a maximum of two from a single film; “La La Land” got those two (for “City of Stars” and “Audition”), and it probably could have gotten at least one more in if it were allowed.
As of this writing “The Shape of Water” is expected to tie the Oscar record as it’s currently ranked among the likely nominees in 14 categories. So all it needs to do is surprise once to set a new record. Currently Guillermo del Toro is expected to add an Oscar to the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award he won for Best Director with odds of 11/5. He’s also expected to contend for Best Original Screenplay with co-writer Vanessa Taylor; their script sits in fourth place with odds of 8/1. He will also contend as one of the film’s producers as “The Shape of Water” is securely in fourth place in the Best Picture lineup with odds of 15/2.
Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, and Shane Vieau are looking to land their first Oscar nomination for Best Production Design after landing BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, and Art Directors Guild nominations: they’re currently in first place with odds of 21/10. The film ranks a close second in two other categories. Sidney Wolinsky appears secure to score his first Best Editing nomination with odds of 9/2; Wolinsky could add an Oscar to his Emmy for cutting the pilot episode of “Boardwalk Empire” (2011). And “Shape of Water” music composer Alexandre Desplat will hope to add an Oscar to his Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award for Best Original Score with odds of 27/10. Desplat previously won an Oscar for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014).
Another artist hoping to score his first Oscar nomination is Dan Lausten, who has already received Best Cinematography nominations from the BAFTAs, Critics’ Choice Awards, and the American Society of Cinematographers; he’s currently in third place with odds of 9/2. The trio of creators Dennis Berardi, Trey Harrell, and P. Kevin Scott are looking to gain their first Oscar nom for Best Visual Effects, where they’re on the bubble in fifth place with odds of 17/2, but they did earn noms from the BAFTAs and Critics’ Choice Awards for their effects.
Also on the bubble is Luis Sequeira, who would be a first time Best Costume Design nominee; he places fifth with odds of 9/1, though he’s helped by the fact that he earned noms at Critics’ Choice, BAFTA, and the Costume Designers Guild. And while the BAFTAs combine Best Sound into one category, at the Oscars there are two. Glen Gauthier and Nathan Robitaille, a past Emmy nominee (“Hatfields & McCoys,” 2012), are on the cusp of receiving their first Best Sound Editing nomination with 12/1 odds. And Christian T. Cooke and Brad Zoern, both past Emmy winners (also for “Hatfields & McCoys”), sit in third place for their first Oscar nom in Best Sound Mixing with odds of 6/1.
But just like “All About Eve,” “The Shape of Water” is going to need the support of the actors branch of the academy if it’s going to get to the magic number 15. In the best position is the film’s star Sally Hawkins, who has scored Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and Critics’ Choice nominations. She’s a past Oscar nominee (Best Supporting Actress for 2013’s “Blue Jasmine”), and she’s currently in third place for Best Actress with odds of 4/1.
Octavia Spencer is a past winner (Best Supporting Actress for 2011’s “The Help”) and a nominee last year for “Hidden Figures,” so she’s hoping to land her third Supporting Actress nom and is currently holding on in fifth place with odds of 11/1. Spencer has received a Globe, BAFTA and Critics’ Choice nominations, but she was snubbed at the SAG Awards, which might be a tough hurdle to overcome.
Richard Jenkins is looking to score his second nomination after contending for Best Actor for “The Visitor” (2007). He ranks third for Best Supporting Actor with odds of 13/2. Jenkins has received Globe SAG, and Critics’ Choice bids, but was unexpectedly snubbed at the BAFTAs. He probably shouldn’t worry, though: BAFTA nominee Hugh Grant (“Paddington 2”) won’t be able to replace him at the Oscars since “Paddington” didn’t open in the US until January.
But if “The Shape of Water” is going to make history with a 15th nom it’s going to have to score a second Best Supporting Actor nomination, most likely for Michael Shannon, who has yet to earn a major nomination for his villainous performance. Shannon is a two-time past nominee (Best Supporting Actor for 2008’s “Revolutionary Road” and 2016’s “Nocturnal Animals”), and he has a history of showing up at the Oscars without much precursor attention. But he’ll have to overcome 12th place odds of 100/1. No film since “Bugsy” (1991) has scored two Best Supporting Actor nominations.
But even if “The Shape of Water” should miss in one or more categories and fall short of a new record, it will still likely be the most nominated film at this year’s Oscars, as it was at the Globes, Critics’ Choice, and BAFTA Awards. Do you agree?
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