My Predictions for the 2018 Oscars
Tradition prompts me to keep "Academy Awards" in the title of this annual post, but apparently AMPAS hasn't been encouraging that for a while. No matter! The most important news this year is it's a very difficult one to call, with lots of uncertainty in major categories in the way that there hasn't been for some time.
It may be because there's a surplus of excellent movies this year, or just that the Academy's efforts to modernize its membership are finally showing some results. And we also can't discount the effect of past controversies and scandals: #OscarsSoWhite seems to be less of a worry this year, but there's also the influence of #MeToo and #TimesUp to account for.
Overall, it looks like The Shape of Water will claim a healthy complement of trophies, but films like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out and Lady Bird all pose significant threats in certain categories.
Below, you’ll find my list of predictions for the major categories (i.e., the ones that can actually be predicted). As always, I’ll list my prediction, followed by who I want to win, and the possible dark horse in the category.
What Will Win: The Shape of Water
As noted above, this year’s group of contenders presents some big challenges for prediction writers like myself. Many sites are putting Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as the eventual winner here, partly because that film’s cast took a number of top acting prizes at the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) Awards, especially the trophy for Best Ensemble, which has historically pointed towards the Best Picture Oscar winner on a very consistent basis.
However, the fact that The Shape of Water has lined up 13 nominations indicates a broad appeal for the film across the many divisions of the Academy who are eligible to vote. Guillermo del Toro’s film also picked up the Producer’s Guild top award in January, another strong indication of Oscar success, and Three Billboards' divisive reception with certain groups may hurt it in the long run.
What I Want to Win: The Shape of Water
Dark Horse: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Who Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water
Setting aside my personal fandom for the filmmaker, Del Toro has achieved many things with his film, not the least of which being his most mature and balanced work to date. Because of that, it feels like the Academy is swinging his way on this. Even if Three Billboards takes Best Picture, the fact that Billboards’ director Martin McDonagh isn’t nominated in this category helps Del Toro’s chances. It would be nice to see Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) or Jordan Peele (Get Out) win, but considering that the two filmmakers are here with their feature directing debuts, they won’t have any trouble picking up trophies very soon.
Who I Want to Win: Guillermo del Toro
Dark Horse(s): Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
The two leading role categories this year both present some hefty prediction challenges. Timothée Chalamet and Daniel Day-Lewis are both posing a significant threat to Gary Oldman’s frontrunner status in the Best Actor competition: Chalamet for being the youngest nominee in the category since 1939, and Day-Lewis for possibly being up for his final time before retirement. But Oldman has remained steadily ahead, and taking the SAG Award keeps him as the favourite.
Who I Want to Win: Gary Oldman
Dark Horse: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
In a year that some called the Year of the Angry Woman, perhaps it’s fitting that McDormand would pick up her second Best Actress award for playing just that. McDormand’s likelihood of picking up the trophy is slightly undercut by having won before, but with the SAG behind her, it wouldn’t be wise to put your money on anyone else. All of that aside, McDormand’s performance is a volcanic one, and she anchors the movie. It would have been easy for her to make Mildred Hayes an utterly foul-mouthed, incorrigible character, but instead there’s a surprising streak of compassion in the role that takes incredible finesse to pull off.
Who I Want to Win: Saorise Ronan, Lady Bird or Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Dark Horse: Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Impressive as it is that Christopher Plummer ended up with a nomination for only 9 days of work (and on incredibly short notice, as well!), Rockwell is an easy pick here. Once again, the SAG award is backing him up, and there hasn’t been a big popularity surge under the other contenders. Additionally, it’s great to see Rockwell (one of my favourite working actors) get some love from the awards circuit, after years of unusual but often heartwarming roles.
Who I Want to Win: Sam Rockwell
Dark Horse: Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Who Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Janney’s likely win here isn’t as secure at this moment as Rockwell’s, but she also has the SAG on her side. Janney is running against a number of strong contenders: Laurie Metcalf, Mary J. Blige and Lesley Manville are all up for powerhouse work, and are repping well-received movies that haven’t otherwise been at the top of the other races.
It’s possible that Metcalf may be the biggest threat: there’s a shot in Lady Bird that required her to convey an amazing range of emotions in the course of about 30 seconds, and it sticks with me to this day. But Janney is so caustic and bizarrely fun to watch in I, Tonya (and her character is so enmeshed in how Tonya Harding ended up where she did) that Janney will take this.
Who I Want to Win: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Dark Horse: Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Writing (Original Screenplay)
Who Will Win: Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
If things shake down in the Picture and Director races as I think they will, Original Screenplay will end up occupying its frequent role as an award for a close second-place finisher in the “bigger” categories. McDonagh’s script for Three Billboards is one of its greatest strengths (no surprise, given the writer-director-playwright’s endlessly quotable previous films). It packs in plenty of the scribe’s characteristic dark humour, while also being a surprisingly compassionate story. That being said, Gerwig and Peele are also threats in this category, adding to the uncertainty of this year’s contest as a whole.
Who I Want to Win: Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Dark Horse: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Who Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
In a year with few sure bets, this is one of the few winners I feel very confident about. Call Me By Your Name doesn’t seem to have enough buzz beyond critics and hardcore cinephiles to suggest it will end up winning Picture or Performance prizes, but it has been overwhelmingly well-received nevertheless.
The book the film is based on was previously described as being nearly impossible to adapt. So for a writer like James Ivory, previously nominated three times for his directing work without a win, it becomes even more likely that Ivory will take home the prize, not just for the affecting screenplay he delivered for this film, but also as a way for the Academy to “make up” for earlier losses.
Just for the hell of it, though, it would be hilarious to see something as eccentric as The Disaster Artist take home this award. It definitely isn’t the objectively best screenplay in the bunch, but I still have a hard time believing the film got to the level that it did.
Who I Want to Win: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
Dark Horse: Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Who Will Win: Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson, Coco
Pixar’s submission in this category is almost always the frontrunner, except in the infrequent years where they bring a sequel like Finding Dory or Cars 3 to the table. That aside, it’s not as though Coco is coasting to victory: check out this explainer on how much work went into a single landscape shot in the film.
Pixar is up against a couple of interesting titles: The Breadwinner seems like a warm-and-fuzzy, though mature, story set in Afghanistan, and Loving Vincent was meticulously crafted out of thousands of hand-painted oil canvases, giving a whole new dimension to Van Gogh’s work and life. But Animated Feature tends to be more of a popularity contest than a meritocracy, so Coco still has it in the bag.
What I Want to Win: Coco
Dark Horse: The Breadwinner
Best Documentary Feature
What Will Win: Icarus
Like Animated Feature, Documentary Feature also tends to announce a solid frontrunner early on, and stick to it. This year, that title is Icarus, a Netflix Original film about the Russian doping scandal at the Olympics and the architect of the cheating program who decides to go public. While the docs category is always the one that takes me the longest to catch up on, Icarus already seems like the favourite, especially with the Winter Olympics in a few weeks and the news about the participation of the Russian athletes at the top of mind.
What I Want to Win: Faces Places
Dark Horse: Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Best Foreign Language Film
What Will Win: The Square
Ruben Östlund’s cringe-inducing, yet fascinating, film Force Majeure didn’t quite make it to the final Oscars round in 2015, but his new release The Square was one of the must-see foreign films all last year, particularly after it picked up the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The Insult is perhaps its closest competition (if the smattering of recent reviews are to be believed). Time to begin the ritual of feeling bad for not seeing anything from this category.
What I Want to Win: The Square
Dark Horse: The Insult
Who Will Win: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
It would be foolish to go against the frontrunner here. Roger Deakins is here with his 14th nomination, with no prior wins. Deakins has delivered a career of excellent work (Sicario, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country for Old Men, The Shawshank Redemption), but has always had the misfortune of being nominated alongside other fantastic cinematographers repping buzzier films.
Deakins’ work in the new Blade Runner is astonishing - his use of light and colour is essential to both recreate and build on the world of the story introduced in Ridley Scott’s 1982 film. Fingers crossed that the Academy’s historical snubbing of sci-fi movies doesn’t cost Deakins yet another well-deserved award.
Who I Want to Win: Roger Deakins
Dark Horse: Dan Lautsen, The Shape of Water
Who Will Win: Lee Smith, Dunkirk
There’s plenty of fine editing on display in this year’s crop of contenders, not the least of which in my dark horse pick, Baby Driver. But only one film relies on editing as heavily as Dunkirk for its fundamental storytelling style and construction. The use of three different time scales and the interwoven threads between them could have torpedoed a lesser film, but Smith holds it all together, not unlike the thousands of characters whose experiences Dunkirk seeks to document. Subjective appraisals aside, Dunkirk also took home the top guild award, known as the Eddie, further cementing it as the eventual Oscar winner.
Who I Want to Win: Lee Smith
Dark Horse: Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos, Baby Driver