FINAL PREDICTIONS: 90th Academy Awards – ALL 24 CATEGORIES

2017 will definitely go down as perhaps the most unpredictable Oscar race since the Best Picture nominees expanded in 2009. Across the board, several categories remain up in the air. This year, gone are the days when most of the categories are already rock solid, with four or five of the nominees per category are already sure thing. Add the fact that the last two to three years saw the increased amount of diverse members invited into the Academy that might affect the Oscars’ taste, as preceded by past choices. I’m excited to predict because I’m really sure I’m gonna make some mistakes here.

This year, I’m going to work my way up, from the lesser-known categories (shorts, technicals) to the major awards (screenplay, acting, picture). Predictions are numbered in descending order, based on the possibility of getting nominated.

The nominations voting ended on January 13, but there is just too much to discuss with this one.

Read on, and feel free to agree or disagree with my predictions.

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BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

  1. Lost Face
  2. My Nephew Emmett
  3. Watu Wole/All of Us
  4. DeKalb Elementary
  5. The Silent Child

  6. Facing Mecca
  7. Witnesses
  8. The Eleven O’ Clock
  9. Icebox
  10. Rise of a Star

Pure guesswork here, though I think the political/timely/topical shorts will rule this category.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

  1. Edith+Eddie
  2. 116 Cameras
  3. Heroin(e)
  4. Traffic Stop
  5. Alone

  6. Ten Meter Tower
  7. Kayayo
  8. Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
  9. Ram Dass, Going Home
  10. Knife Skills

Now I have some clue here. Like the previous category, this category will most likely be filled with politically-charged shorts. I give the edge to Edith+Eddie for winning IDA, one of the notable awards given to documentary shorts. 116 Cameras feels important because of its subject: a Holocaust survivor. The rest are pure educated guesses.

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BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

  1. Lou
  2. Dear Basketball
  3. Cradle
  4. Negative Space
  5. In a Heartbeat

  6. Fox and the Whale
  7. Life Smartphone
  8. Lost Property Office
  9. Garden Party
  10. Revolting Rhymes

Pixar fares very well here so that works for Lou. Dear Basketball and Negative Space has a lot of buzz compared to the others, and Cradle feels timely. I leave the last slot to In a Heartbeat, the charming short about a closeted boy’s crush on his schoolmate. It also has buzz, but since I’m doing guesswork here, might as well take a stab on predicting this one.

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BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

  1. Darkest Hour
  2. I, Tonya
  3. Wonder

  4. Bright
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  6. Victoria & Abdul
  7. Ghost in the Shell

Darkest Hour seems the only one remotely safe here. Gary Oldman’s transformation is key to his Best Actor success, and it will be hard to ignore the makeup since it’s the one who made it believable.

I might put Ghost in the Shell aside just because it does not have passion behind it and there is controversy against it. Victoria & Abdul is a strong contender in other categories (Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design), but a nomination for its really subtle makeup and hairstyling work would feel like 2009’s The Young Victoria. Guardians’ predecessor was nominated here in 2014, and it still remains a possibility, but the passion for the first film didn’t transfer here (the fact that the first film had Best Picture buzz means there was support for that film).

The work in I, Tonya recalls the Oscar-winning work in 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club: it walks the fine line between subtle and showy, and nevertheless essential to the film. With a late-surging Best Picture support for the film, I’m expecting it to get it. Wonder, it being last year’s late sleeper hit, has goodwill supporting it, and the makeup is crucial in making the film work.

However, I don’t think these two are safe. Best Picture buzz doesn’t always translate to a nomination even if it makes the shortlist (The Artist, Lincoln, American Hustle, The Theory of Everything) and Wonder, in particular, focuses its makeup solely to its lead character.

This is where Bright comes in: it’s critically maligned, the Netflix bias still probably exists, but the makeup work is showy and evident. Just look at last year’s winner: 2016’s Suicide Squad won even without critical support because the makeup work is present.

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. War for the Planet of the Apes
  3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  4. Dunkirk
  5. The Shape of Water

  6. Okja
  7. Alien: Covenant
  8. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  10. Kong: Skull Island

I’m basing most of my reactions from the response of the Visual Effects Branch at the Bakeoff, as reported by Next Best Picture. Blade Runner 2049 and War for the Planet of the Apes feel like the shoo-ins, consistently getting awards and recognitions for the visual effects work on their films.

I’m going to cancel out Kong: Skull Island just because it’s probably getting its visual effects buzz on its titular primate and War for the Planet of the Apes already has done that, and it has stronger buzz.

The rest, it gets trickier. The first instalment of Guardians was rightfully nominated, but the muted response to the successor (both for the visual effects and the film in general) has given me second thoughts. Valerian bombed both critically and financially, but its visual effects are lauded (the positive reception at the bakeoff helps). Same goes for Alien: Covenant. I won’t be surprised if any of these three surprise.

Dunkirk has gotten acclaim for its supporting visual effects. Do note that most of the effects are practical, with minimal CGI, and most of the time, this category goes for the showy. This applies for The Shape of Water as well, though the latter has worrying muted response at the bakeoff. Both have strong Best Picture buzz, and that usually helps except last year when Arrival was not nominated despite its visual effects buzz and over-all support.

Star Wars has always been represented here, and The Last Jedi seems fitting here even if the film has its fair share of critics this time. That brings me to Okja. The Netflix bias might hurt, but it’s quite surprising that it even reached the top 10 finalists and the titular creature is adorable, and the visual effects are well-received.

I’d be sticking with Dunkirk and The Shape of Water for the last two slots, but I’m expecting Okja to be the “surprise” nominee.

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Phantom Thread
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. Victoria and Abdul
  5. The Post

  6. I, Tonya
  7. Murder on the Orient Express
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Greatest Showman
  10. The Beguiled
  11. Blade Runner 2049
  12. Darkest Hour
  13. Mudbound
  14. Battle of the Sexes
  15. Wonderstruck

The first three feel safe as of the moment. Victoria & Abdul and The Post are also period pieces so that should help. What really becomes interesting is who can take down any of the top five.

I’m eyeing I, Tonya as the possible spoiler. It still counts as contemporary because the film is set in the 1990s and contemporary pieces are a rarity in this category, but it is showy enough. Murder on the Orient Express is a chamber piece with a large cast and somewhat showy set of costumes so it is also in the running. The buzzed costumes of the female characters in Wonder Woman will keep it in the conversation. With the ongoing success of The Greatest Showman, it will be seen by the voters as well. The Beguiled, Darkest Hour, Mudbound, Battle of the Sexes, and Wonderstruck are all period pieces that have fair shots as well. The anomaly in the contenders is Blade Runner 2049: it will head for Best Production Design, and its costumes, while not as showy as its other visual elements, are noticeable as well.

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BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Post
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Downsizing

  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  8. Darkest Hour
  9. Phantom Thread
  10. Mudbound
  11. Wonder Woman
  12. The Greatest Showman
  13. All the Money in the World
  14. The Beguiled
  15. Wonderstruck

Only the first two feel safe as of this moment. The Post and Dunkirk also have decent shots at the nominations. The fifth slot is where I’m going no guts, no glory: Downsizing hasn’t really done well the same way it must have intended, but with a ADG nomination under its belt and Hong Chau being a strong Supporting Actress contender, I’m going to risk this as a surprise nominee. I’m already wrong right now.

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BEST SOUND EDITING

  1. Dunkirk
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  5. mother!

  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Baby Driver
  8. I, Tonya
  9. All the Money in the World
  10. War for the Planet of the Apes

The top four is the same with my Sound Mixing predictions. I’m throwing mother! as my surprise nominee in this category. The film is incredibly divisive, but those who have seen it know the fantastic sound design. Jennifer Lawrence campaigning despite her Best Actress bid being a longshot could have made this seen. If not mother!, then maybe Wonder Woman. Baby Driver is a strong possibility, with its chances of getting nominated here being compared to 2011’s Drive. Or maybe they would throw a curveball and give I, Tonya the slot. Or the rest of these contenders.

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BEST SOUND MIXING

  1. Dunkirk
  2. Blade Runner 2049
  3. The Shape of Water
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  5. The Post

  6. Get Out
  7. Baby Driver
  8. The Greatest Showman
  9. Wonder Woman
  10. All the Money in the World

The top four is the same with my Sound Editing predictions. I’m giving the fifth spot to The Post. Maybe because Spielberg-helmed films have done so well in this category in recent years (2011, 2012, 2015). If not, then maybe Get Out, known for its hypnosis scenes. Or perhaps Baby Driver: a nomination a lot of pundits are pulling for. Never underestimate the musical bias in this category (Les Miserables, La La Land) so The Greatest Showman benefits from that. Or maybe not (Nine, Into the Woods). Wonder Woman might do well in the sound categories so don’t forget that.

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  1. “Remember Me” – Coco
  2. “This is Me” – The Greatest Showman
  3. “The Mystery of Love” – Call Me by Your Name
  4. “Prayers for This World” – Cries from Syria
  5. “Mighty River” – Mudbound

  6. “Visions of Gideon” – Call Me by Your Name
  7. “Stand Up for Something” – Marshall
  8. “Evermore” – Beauty and the Beast
  9. “The Star” – The Star
  10. “It Ain’t Fair” – Detroit
  11. “Tell Me How Long” – Chasing Coral
  12. “Jump” – Step
  13. “You Shouldn’t Look at Me that Way” – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  14. “Never Forget” – Murder on the Orient Express
  15. “If I Dare” – Battle of the Sexes

In my own estimation, none of these songs are totally safe. We don’t have a “Skyfall”,Let It Go”, or “Glory” this year. But if there are those that are remotely in good place, it’s “Remember Me” and “This is Me”. There is a circulating possibility of “This is Me” being a surprise snub. I’m not yet buying it just because the film AND the song in itself are hits.

It gets harder to predict here, since I have a personal push-and-pull here.

“The Mystery of Love” feels like the buzzier song of the two contenders from Best Picture contender Call Me by Your Name, heavily featured in its promotional materials. HOWEVER, and here it goes, Timothée Chalamet is said to have is Oscar scene at the very end of the film while “Visions of Gideon” is playing. If Chalamet’s a solid contender, not just for a nomination but for the win, then look out if “Visions of Gideon” will replace “The Mystery of Love” or, best case scenario, both songs get nominated. That will be hard to do this year.

Documentaries are also well-represented this year, with “Prayers for This World” composed by Diane Warren and sung by Cher for Cries from Syria. Warren came very close to a win with 2015’s “Til It Happens to You”, and she has this song for a very timely documentary. Not a clearly safe bet, but expect her. She also has another contender this year from Marshall. Other documentaries included here are environment-themed Chasing Coral and the crowd-pleasing Step.

Songs from thematically timely films are also in play, including “It Ain’t Fair” from the racially charged thriller Detroit and “If I Dare” from the feminist sports drama-comedy Battle of the Sexes. Both films were Best Picture contenders at some point earlier last year.

The rest of the contenders are notable names in music, both in the actual music scene and in film: Oscar winner Alan Menken (“Evermore”), Mariah Carey (“The Star”), Elvis Costello (“You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way”), and Michelle Pfeiffer (“Never Forget”).

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BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Dunkirk
  3. The Post
  4. Phantom Thread
  5. Darkest Hour

  6. Blade Runner 2049
  7. Victoria & Abdul
  8. Coco
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  11. Battle of the Sexes
  12. Get Out
  13. War for the Planet of the Apes
  14. Wonderstruck
  15. All the Money in the World

Only The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat) and Dunkirk (Hans Zimmer) feel safe here.

Perennial favorite John Williams working with longtime collaborator Steven Spielberg feels like a sure hit, but Williams also has another Star Wars entry this year. In some years, he went up against himself (2005 and 2011), but in recent years, sometimes he is not nominated at all (2014 and 2016).

Johnny Greenwood’s work in Phantom Thread is noted as one of its stand-out elements, so there is buzz for it. Dario Marianelli’s collaborations with Joe Wright all resulted to Oscar nominations (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement (win!), and Anna Karenina), save 2009’s The Soloist. This year, he might do it again.

Blade Runner 2049 got a lot of awards for its original score, but this category is notoriously stingy with two-composer scores. Victoria & Abdul’s score was composed by another favorite Thomas Newman (who surprisingly got nominated last year for Passengers AND is overdue for a win). Coco strongly revolves around music and it was well-received. Three Billboards’s score by Carter Burwell, finally nominated for 2015’s Carol, garnered citations too. Last year’s nominee for Moonlight also did the score for Battle of the Sexes, and it is good so watch out for it. The rest are guessworks.

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BEST FILM EDITING

  1. The Shape of Water
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  4. Get Out
  5. I, Tonya

  6. Baby Driver
  7. Lady Bird
  8. The Post
  9. Blade Runner 2049
  10. Molly’s Game

Only the top two feel safe for me. I just checked: the only non-Best Picture nominees were nominated in Best Film Editing since the expanded ballot were strong Best Picture contenders themselves that just missed the mark (2011’s winner The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and 2015’s Star Wars: the Force Awakens). That doesn’t spell well for critical favorite in this category, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. With a hotly contested Best Picture race, I find it hard to see that this will squeak in.

Pundits are cheering for Get Out while precursor awards are pointing towards I, Tonya. The Post is criticized for its first thirty minutes but praised for its tense last hour. It now depends how the voters will remember this film. Lady Bird gets a lot of praise for its editing, but other projects in other genres might prove to be showier. I can see Lady Bird winning Best Picture even without a nomination in this category. BUT if it gets nominated her, edging out seemingly showier competitors, watch out for its probable win. Blade Runner 2049 has received praise for its editing but criticisms for its extended runtime. Molly’s Game, on the other hand, is said to have showy editing moments that will work in its favor.

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Dunkirk
  4. Mudbound
  5. Darkest Hour

  6. Call Me by Your Name
  7. The Post
  8. The Florida Project
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  10. Wonderstruck

Only the first three feel safe: Blade Runner 2049 (Roger Deakins FINALLY the frontrunner for the win), The Shape of Water, and Dunkirk. Rachel Morrison is out to make history as the first female cinematographer nominated in this category. Although Mudbound hasn’t fared as well as expected, with a weirdly empty year, she might get in.

The fifth slot is up for grabs. I’m giving a nudge to Darkest Hour because of its ASC nomination. The rest are strong possibilities: Call Me by Your Name is a strong sixth, The Post has longtime Spielberg collaborator Janusz Kaminski, The Florida Project is praised for its cinematography despite budgetary constraints, Three Billboards got a surprise BAFTA nomination meaning support for it, and Wonderstruck photographed by Ed Lachman.

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  1. Coco
  2. The Breadwinner
  3. Loving Vincent
  4. In This Corner of the World
  5. The Girl without Hands

  6. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales
  7. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children
  8. The LEGO Batman Movie
  9. Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  10. The Boss Baby
  11. My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea
  12. Cinderella the Cat
  13. A Silent Voice
  14. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  15. Ethel & Ernest

Coco seems like the only safe one here. The Breadwinner, too, though I can see it being a surprise miss. Loving Vincent is getting its fair share of accolades too, particularly because of its animation technique. The rest are guesswork. The change in voting rules in this category might affect the results, steering away from its out-there choices from the past. However, I’d stick with two foreign titles as of now as the more popular, American animated films have cases against them. If the highly acclaimed The LEGO Movie surprisingly missed, I can’t convince myself that its sequel will make it. Despite the Trump comparisons, the mixed reception of The Boss Baby gives me a pause.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  1. Jane
  2. City of Ghosts
  3. Faces Places
  4. Last Man in Aleppo
  5. LA 92

  6. Strong Island
  7. Ex Libris: The New York Public Library
  8. Human Flow
  9. Chasing Coral
  10. Icarus
  11. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
  12. One of Us
  13. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
  14. Long Strange Trip
  15. Unrest

Gosh, only Jane feel safe here. Maybe City of Ghosts too. Faces Places feel like a potential surprise snub, like 2014’s Life Itself. While some of those placed outside the top five have more buzz and awards than my fourth and fifth, I did something in this category: decide based on their subjects. Last Man in Aleppo and LA 92 feel suitable predictions. Watch out for Strong Island and Ex Libris: they are as strong as the two I listed. (In the time of this writing, I’m already becoming tired in writing.)

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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  1. Germany – In the Fade
  2. Sweden – The Square
  3. Chile – A Fantastic Woman
  4. Russia – Loveless
  5. Israel – Foxtrot

  6. Hungary – On Body and Soul
  7. Senegal – Félicité
  8. South Africa – The Wound
  9. Lebanon – The Insult

After the omission of France’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Cambodia’s First They Killed My Father, Germany’s In the Fade seems to be the default frontrunner. With a Golden Globe win, it does have a stealth campaign, with longshot Best Actress contender Diane Kruger actively working the campaign circuit while representing her work and the film in its entirety.

Sweden’s Palme D’Or winner The Square is also a strong contender. The last time Sweden submitted a film by its director Ruben Ostlund (2014’s Force Majeure), it made the top nine shortlist but missed the nomination, in one of those year’s biggest surprise omissions. Methinks The Square will do the trick this time.

Chile’s A Fantastic Woman has a distinctive leading performance by Daniela Vega (one of this year’s extreme Best Actress longshots). The goodwill towards the film having a transgender actress having a Best Actress push will help. The director of Russia’s Loveless also helmed the country’s last nominee, 2014’s Leviathan and the film has buzz. The last slot, I give to occasional favorite Israel for the also buzzy Foxtrot. But make no mistake: any of the four films not included in my top five can sneak in and knock out any of the films above.

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BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  1. Call Me by Your Name
  2. Molly’s Game
  3. Mudbound
  4. All the Money in the World
  5. The Disaster Artist

  6. Wonder
  7. Victoria and Abdul
  8. Blade Runner 2049
  9. The Beguiled
  10. Logan
  11. Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Call Me by Your Name, being the biggest Best Picture contender here, feels more than safe. Molly’s Game and Mudbound, possible Best Picture spoilers, feels safe too. The last two slot are up for grabs.

All the Money in the World has buzz going for it. The Disaster Artist may feel too niche, but I can’t think of any other viable contenders. Wonder was a hit last November and it is an accomplished film, though it lacks the “prestige” most contenders here have. Victoria & Abdul is getting its buzz from Judi Dench, not the screenplay which is criticized. Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t seem like an obvious choice, but with a field this empty, it might do the trick. The Beguiled will get some votes. Logan might be hurt by the superhero bias, but its screenplay is acclaimed. And Film Stars was cited by BAFTA.

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BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Get Out
  3. Lady Bird
  4. The Shape of Water
  5. I, Tonya

  6. The Post
  7. The Big Sick
  8. Phantom Thread
  9. The Florida Project
  10. Darkest Hour
  11. Coco

This field is filled with Best Picture contenders, from frontrunners to longshots and it is clearly an exciting race. So the fact that four of these already feel safe makes the fight for the last slot is nail-biting.

The Post had buzz in this category until the guilds showing not-so-present support. This category feels fitting for The Big Sick, but the category is intense. Same goes for Phantom Thread (precursor awards), The Florida Project (indie drama), and Darkest Hour (chamber piece). I reserve the last possible contender for Coco because Pixar fares well here. And yet, I’m going with I, Tonya with its buzz hitting just at the right moment. I already think I’m wrong.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  1. Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
  2. Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  3. Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
  4. Michael Stuhlbarg – Call Me by Your Name
  5. Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World

  6. Armie Hammer – Call Me by Your Name
  7. Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  8. Michael Shannon – The Shape of Water
  9. Steve Carell – Battle of the Sexes
  10. Mark Rylance – Dunkirk

This is the year where two actors from the same film could be nominated, a feat last accomplished in 1991 with Bugsy. But the thing this year is: which film would that be?

Willem Dafoe, the early frontrunner, and Sam Rockwell, the current challenger, feel safe. Same with Richard Jenkins, riding the Shape of Water juggernaut. Here it gets unpredictable.

First, let’s set aside Steve Carell and Mark Rylance as the foreseeable longshots in this category.

If Three Billboards is really strong, expect Woody Harrelson to be nominee # 2 in that category. Even if both Rockwell and Harrelson had SAG nominations, the possibility of two nominees from this film is still a big IF.

Meanwhile, it is not impossible that either Michael Shannon make it as nominee # 2 for The Shape of Water or even replace Richard Jenkins as the film’s supporting actor contender despite the lack of precursor support. Both his nominations (Revolutionary Road and Nocturnal Animals) were backed by lack of precursors. The notable is the latter, because he took the place of presumed representative of the film, Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

We arrive to the curious case of Call Me by Your Name. This film is the early presumed taker of the two-nominee-in-a-film honor before Three Billboards and The Shape of Water showed stronger support. Armie Hammer is said to have a co-lead status (this is a romantic film after all) but not showy, but Michael Stuhlbarg is said to have the key Oscar scene (the monologue near the end). Easy prediction could be to dismiss both, but with the choice of the two, I’d stick with the one having the Oscar scene (I had the same dilemma in 2015’s Spotlight; I think I predicted Michael Keaton because of the almost-lead status, but Mark Ruffalo had the big Oscar scene). The fact that Stuhlbarg also appears in The Post and The Shape of Water just raises his profile despite this confusion.

Another curious case is of Christopher Plummer. He got SAG and BAFTA nominations, and is lauded for the feat of pulling of an acclaimed performance during the last-minute replacement of not Hollywood pariah Kevin Spacey. But here’s the thing: most of the buzz hinges on that piece of trivia. Haven’t seen his work to comment on it, but that accomplishment might or might not help him. That’s why I have him in # 5.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  1. Allison Janney – I, Tonya
  2. Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
  3. Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
  4. Holly Hunter – The Big Sick
  5. Mary J. Blige – Mudbound

  6. Hong Chau – Downsizing
  7. Tiffany Haddish – Girls Trip
  8. Catherine Keener – Get Out
  9. Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread
  10. Julia Roberts – Wonder

Only Janney and Metcalf feels safe. Spencer benefits from The Shape of Water’s over-all support, Hunter feels like representative of The Big Sick. Ditto Mary J. Blige for Mudbound.

Despite getting stand-out reviews and surprise Golden Globe + SAG nominations, Hong Chau’s chances are hurt by Downsizing being a non-factor this year. Watch out for Tiffany Haddish, though. She has rocked the campaign circuit and has done several TV guestings (that SNL hosting gig still sticks). Expect this one to surprise. The rest really depends on how their films will do with the other categories.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  1. Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
  2. Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
  3. Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
  4. Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
  5. James Franco – The Disaster Artist

  6. Tom Hanks – The Post
  7. Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq
  8. Robert Pattinson – Good Time
  9. Kumail Nanjiani – The Big Sick
  10. Hugh Jackman – The Greatest Showman
  11. Jake Gyllenhaal – Stronger
  12. Ryan Gosling – Blade Runner 2049
  13. Hugh Jackman – Logan
  14. Andrew Garfield – Breathe
  15. Steve Carell – Last Flag Flying

Just like the Adapted Screenplay, it feels weird that this category feels uncompetitive for three years now. The fact that two newcomers are solid predictions with dark horse chance for winning indicate the field of contenders here. Gary Oldman, while being the frontrunner, overdue, and veteran favorite, his probable win doesn’t even match the excitement of the Best Actress race.

While Phantom Thread didn’t gain much traction with the guilds, Daniel Day-Lewis, in his supposed penultimate role, also feel safe. James Franco, while in an unusual awards contender, has gotten acclaim for his biographical role. HOWEVER, the reveal of sexual harassment accusations midway through the voting period possibly hurt his chances. From # 3, I’m putting him at # 5.

I do have those five as the solid five. Let’s start looking at possible shockers.

Hanks is in the Best Picture contender The Post, but where is the buzz for him? Streep is getting the acting notices from that film. Washington made the Golden Globes and SAG, but enthusiasm for the film doesn’t fee enough. Pattinson is the critical underdog and is the most awarded work from the young actor. Nanjiani is also in a Best Picture contender, but hasn’t really made a lot of Best Actor buzz. Jackman has two bets: Showman has recency going for it, but Logan has more acclaim. Gyllenhaal, Carell, and Garfield were stronger contenders earlier in the race. Gosling has done strong work in Blade Runner 2049, but the genre bias would hurt. Even last year’s strong buzz for Amy Adams in Arrrival didn’t translate to an Oscar nod.

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BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  1. Frances McDormand – Three Billboads Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
  3. Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
  4. Meryl Streep – The Post
  5. Margot Robbie – I, Tonya

  6. Jessica Chastain – Molly’s Game
  7. Judi Dench – Victoria and Abdul
  8. Brooklynn Prince – The Florida Project
  9. Michelle Williams – All the Money in the World
  10. Emma Stone – Battle of the Sexes
  11. Annette Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
  12. Jennifer Lawrence – mother!
  13. Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman
  14. Diane Kruger – In the Fade
  15. Kate Winslet – Wonder Wheel

While the Best Actor race feel like scraping the barrel, there is just an embarrassment of riches in its female counterpart. Can we give a shout out first to extreme longshots Daniela Vega, Cynthia Nixon, Florence Pugh, Salma Hayek, and Vicky Krieps, among others?

The first two – McDormand and Ronan – feel safe and are also competing for the win. Hawkins headlines the top contender of this year, there is a slim chance that she could be snubbed given the nature of her character. While Streep missed key nominations (SAG and BAFTA), I don’t know. What I’ve learned in the years I’ve predicted the Oscars: never underestimate Streep. That leaves me with actress-producer Margot Robbie whose film just peaked at the right moment. But with this insane quality of field, who are the contenders and who can be knocked down.

With this being Chastain’s strongest chance for a nomination since her 2012 nomination for Zero Dark Thirty (vote splitting + badly timed release date squandered her shot for a Best Supporting Actress nomination for 2014’s A Most Violent Year), look out for this film. If she’s in here, her film might factor in Best Picture.

SAG went with Judi Dench, Brooklynn Prince swept the youth/breakthrough awards, Golden Globes Drama went with Michelle Williams, Golden Globes Comedy gave last year’s Best Actress winner Emma Stone a needed mention (while campaigning with the real Billie Jean King!), BAFTA went with Annette Bening, Oscar favorite Jennifer Lawrence has been campaigning and has popped out in several critics’ awards, Gal Gadot is in Best Picture longshot Wonder Woman, Diane Kruger is in strong Best Foreign Language Film contender In the Fade (and has done campaigning herself), and Kate Winslet was an earlier frontrunner before her film was hit with negative reviews.

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BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

  1. Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
  2. Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
  3. Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  4. Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
  5. Jordan Peele – Get Out

  6. Steven Spielberg – The Post
  7. Luca Guadagnino – Call Me by Your Name
  8. Sean Baker – The Florida Project
  9. Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World
  10. Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
  11. Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
  12. Joe Wright – Darkest Hour
  13. Dee Rees – Mudbound
  14. Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya
  15. Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman

We’re in this race where Guillermo del Toro is the only safe one, and will probably be the winner. Cristopher Nolan, after several misses in 2008 and 2010, he might finally get his overdue nomination for his masterpiece. He MIGHT. Martin McDonagh helms the current frontrunner, but with the backlash in full swing, this doesn’t seem like a lock.

The last two slots are up for grabs. This is an unprecedented year for the number of contenders directed by women, including a woman of color (Dee Rees), and the director of a game changing superhero film (Patty Jenkins). However, the most likely candidate to make it is Greta Gerwig whose absence from the Golden Globe nominees has created a narrative for a Best Director push for Gerwig.

The last slot can go with Jordan Peele (DGA nominee) with his genre-bending racial tension horror comedy, Steven Spielberg (Golden Globe nominee) with his prestige historical drama about investigative journalism, Luca Guadagnino (BAFTA nominee) with his queer coming-of-age romantic drama, Sean Baker (several critics’ awards) with his charming indie drama, Ridley Scott (Golden Globe nominee) with his factual action-thriller with a last-minute reshoot narrative, and Denis Villeneuve (BAFTA nominee) with his stunning sci-fi epic. Anderson, Wright, and Gillespie are viable longshots.

.

BEST PICTURE

  1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  2. The Shape of Water
  3. Lady Bird
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Get Out

if 6… The Post
if 7… Call Me by Your Name
if 8… I, Tonya
if 9… The Big Sick
(I’m predicting 9 nominees)

if 10… The Florida Project

  1. Molly’s Game
  2. Darkest Hour
  3. Mudbound
  4. All the Money in the World
  5. Phantom Thread
  6. Wonder Woman
  7. Blade Runner 2049
  8. The Greatest Showman
  9. Victoria and Abdul
  10. Wonder

First off, it feels like the top five contenders are THE top five film actually fighting for the win already. All of those films have reasonable cases for them to be the winner in this incredibly unpredictable year. None of these films have perfected the precursor awards usually used to predict the actual winner so stats are thrown out the window for this one. Add The Post for its high pedigree cast and crew with an extremely timely topic and there we go.

Now it gets really trickier from here.

Call Me by Your Name is somewhere between 2015’s Carol and 2016’s Moonlight. It is critically beloved, has done well with the Golden Globes and BAFTA, but does not have the zeitgeist like last year’s Best Picture winner. Moonlight worked as a strong contender because it was an intersectional study on race, class, and gender and its timing was right. Nevertheless, Call Me by Your Name has the crucial PGA nomination unlike Carol, but hasn’t really cracked elsewhere. It has Timothée Chalamet’s dark horse Best Actor contender, and the cast really worked the campaign circuit. This even has more buzz than Best Actor frontrunner Gary Oldman’s film Darkest Hour (more on that later).

I, Tonya had a roller coaster ride this awards season. After its premiere at Toronto, it was hanging for some time looking for a distributor. It immediately broke into pundits’ predictions, citing it as a contender to watch. Then the critics’ award entered; it struggled to find footing outside Allison Janney. Margot Robbie has an insanely competitive Best Actress to race to even enter. At some point, this film became an afterthought. Golden Globes revived it come December, and the Best Supporting Actress wave shifted from Lady Bird’s Laurie Metcalf to Allison Janney. Then the guilds came and it did very well (PGA + ACE). It has some backlash right before the voting started (Tonya Harding will always be a divisive figure), but this one peaked at the right time.

The only films nominated for SAG and PGA (two important guilds save the DGA) that were not nominated for Best Picture since the expanded ballot are 2011’s Bridesmaids and 2015’s Straight Outta Compton. That may or may not help this year’s The Big Sick. With me predicting a miss for Best Original Screenplay, I’m predicting this film will only get nominations for Picture and Supporting Actress.

And those are the top nine I predict.

For the tenth slot (extremely slim but theoretically possible mathematical possibility), The Florida Project remains a mystery to me: it did so well with the critics’ awards, both for the film and for its primary contender Willem Dafoe. Then the Golden Globes and the guilds came and it went under the radar. A24 looks like more focused on securing Lady Bird in the top spot. None of the guilds went with this film. Best Supporting Actor shifted from Willem Dafoe to Three Billboards’ Sam Rockwell. BUT as industry insiders noted, there is passionate support for this film. After all, this was the ‘underdog’ of this year’s awards season. Brooklynn Prince’s central performance and Willem Dafoe’s overdue veteran narrative will certainly help for this film to be present.

Molly’s Game surprised by doing so well come the guilds. While Jessica Chastain struggled to fight in the Best Actress race and the precursors went Call Me by Your Name vs. The Disaster Artist in the weirdly empty Adapted Screenplay category, the fact that his film popped out at PGA, ACE, and DGA (first time director) does indicate that it has industry support. If this gets in Best Picture, expect Chastain to knock out either Streep, Robbie, or even Hawkins. It also works vice versa.

Like I, Tonya, Darkest Hour had a rocky awards season journey. Turning from one of the frontrunners to longshots, Darkest Hour went back to the game after noticeable guild support and doing so well at BAFTA (well, not really a big surprise since Winston Churchill is a BRITISH icon). With this year’s narrative focusing on the women, Darkest Hour might have been affected by being it being male-driven. And it feels weird that the supposed Best Actor frontrunner Gary Oldman is in a film that is not a surefire Best Picture nominee, given how Picture and Actor categories are so interconnected. The only year during the expanded ballot era where the Best Actor winner did not come from a Best Picture nominee was 2009’s Crazy Heart, and that film was probably close to a nomination.

Pundits are blaming the anti-Netflix bias for Mudbound’s underperformance at the awards season. It has SAG going for it + a history making Cinematography nomination on the way for Rachel Morrison, but it feels not enough. Too bad because it could have been an opportunity for another history making: director Dee Rees is still a longshot possibility for being the first women director of color to be nominated for Directing.

All the Money in the World is a success for many reasons, but there’s the problem: its critical reception is not really rapturous unlike the others, and all the buzz mostly centered on the feat Ridley Scott pulled with the Spacey-Plummer fiasco. Paul

Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread enjoyed early critical support, but quickly slipped away once the big awards and guilds announced its choices. For an auteur whose works didn’t necessarily translate to industry support, the fact that it’s tagged as his most accessible work is a comforting sign.

Wonder Woman made the PGA, and it’s still a remote possibility though it feels more like this year’s Deadpool. With Gal Gadot’s Best Actress bid not fully materializing, this might rely on the ‘game-changing female director’ narrative, though Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has more of the femate director buzz.

The last three are extremely longshots: December’s hit musical The Greatest Showman, Judi Dench-led period drama Victoria & Abdul, and November’s surprise hit, the heart-tugging Wonder.

.

So there you go!

Tune in to the Nominations Announcement this January 23 (Tuesday).

It starts at 5:30 AM (Los Angeles) | 9:30 AM (New York) | 9:30 PM (Manila).

Check the Oscars Youtube channel for the official livestream.

Happy 90th Academy Awards!

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