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Predictions Friday: Let’s Get This Party Started

Now that Toronto is almost over, predictions are being made about which movie might win their audience award, which is always a nice boost heading into Oscar season. Word has it that the films vying for that prize include The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, Ladybird, and Stronger. But we won’t find out until Sunday. Has any film ever won both the directing prize in Venice and also Toronto’s audience award? Since 1978, 14 of TIFF’s Audience Award winners have gone on to become Best Picture nominees, including last year’s La La Land. Five of the prize winners ultimately won Best Picture: Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, and 12 Years a Slave.

The last time a movie won the TIFF Audience Award but failed to earn a Best Picture nod was the aptly titled Where Do We Go Now in 2010. I have my money on Ladybird to win this year, but it could easily go to Call Me By Your Name or The Shape of Water. Either way, all three of those are already strongly positioned for Best Picture nominations. Whichever movie does win in Toronto gets a major publicity boost and its buzz will be amplified. It’s certainly possible to win TIFF’s important popularity contest and strike the same chord with the Academy, though clearly it’s no guarantee.

When we look at Best Picture hopefuls, or contenders for any of the top nomination categories, we are not looking for “less divisive” as we do when trying to pin down a Best Picture winner on a preferential ballot. For nominees, we look for passionate love, whether divisive or not. Divisive is bad heading into the final stretch if it’s a competitive year. But otherwise, it’s hard for a film to generate passionate admiration if it’s not unusual enough to run some the wrong way as well.

You know the kinds of movies that can win by now if you’ve been following my site for very long — Oscar movies in recent years are those that people walk away from either liking or loving but not hating. At the same time, movies that inspire an especially strong reaction can sometimes freak other people out. The quickest and simplest way for a movie to be nominated for BP is to win over about 150 to 200 Academy members who will put that movie at their number one. That’s harder than it sounds, because a film has to be passionately loved above all others in order to gather that degree of ballot support.

So, you just have to imagine whether the movie you are predicting will inspire 100 or so voters to look back on 2017 and say: “THAT was the best film I saw all year.” To suss out that likelihood, you have to know the Academy. For the most part, the opinions of prestige critics, to whom our cinephile community tends to defer, are not a lot of help in this regard. A movie like Inside Llewyn Davis can hit the number ones on year-end best lists, win critics awards, and be praised to high heaven, but still Oscar voters may shrug and say “meh.” They do this because they can — because voting is an anonymous act, beholden to no one, with no concern for appearances. Oscar voters do whatever they want to do. That’s how their lives have been lived in nearly every way. Their likes and dislikes are mercurial and often subject to whims. So you have to figure out what those breezes will turn out to be, factoring in things like secret resentments towards critics, the notion of a “failure” because of disappointing box office, the clout or personality of the director, how well-connected to the industry the filmmakers are, and whether or not they’ll have an advantage because the film is released from a major studio — sometimes voters, especially salaried employees, will vote for the home team.

Popularity in the industry is a hard thing to measure. I’m convinced that Casey Affleck beat Denzel Washington last year in a close race because of his connection to the popular crowd of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Ben Affleck’s powerful circle of friends. That would definitely have tipped things in Casey’s favor, even if his performance was great on its own. It helps to know people in town, let’s put it that way. That also can sometimes help in terms of the directors branch. And it can hurt. I was chatting with David Poland after a screening the other day and we were talking about how some directors have beefs with other prominent directors and that, no matter how many good movies they made, the inner circle of Academy directors resist letting some newcomers into their secret club. But there is no way to know how things will land. You just have to make a guess on what we think we know based on what we’ve seen so far at the festivals.

The Best Actress race is such an embarrassment of riches this year, at this stage it’s almost impossible to rank them. I have no clear idea which way the wind will blow on that, but it’s feeling a little like the standouts for possible wins right now would be Jessica Chastain for Molly’s Game, Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water, Glenn Close for The Wife (if it gets a distributor in time), and an outside shot, depending on the film’s popularity, for Saoirse Ronan in Ladybird. Ronan was just profiled by Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan who points out that Oscar loves an ingénue. And that is very very true. If Ladybird becomes this year’s Juno or something along those lines then there’s a chance, but typically this isn’t the kind of movie that leaps to the top of the screener pile for your typical Oscar voters. Maybe with the new ones. If it’s a Juno, then yes. But if it’s a 20th Century Women, then no. Oscar also likes, as was smartly pointed out to me on Twitter yesterday, “nudity and a disability,” and this year Sally Hawkins has both. We know The Shape of Water is going to be big anyway. Lastly, we know Oscar really likes awarding veterans as they have done with Julianne Moore and Helen Mirren, which would put Close in a great position to finally win.

In fact, predicting various categories, it’s often good strategy to try to pick five you think might win as opposed to five you think might get nominated. That’s how you can arrive at the passionate love choice.

Okay, without further ado, let’s do this.

Best Picture  (in order of what might get nominated, as opposed to what will win with a preferential ballot in play — films we presumed have received passionate love, and are not divisive)
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water
Dunkirk
Call Me by Your Name
Battle of the Sexes
The Post
Get Out
Ladybird
Mudbound
The Big Sick

Contenders:
All the Money in the World
Wonder Woman
Blade Runner 2049
Marshall
mother!
Victoria and Abdul
The Greatest Showman
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson project
The Florida Project

Best Actor
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Daniel Day-Lewis, Untitled PTA
Andrew Garfield, Breathe
Denzel Washington, Roman J Israel, Esq.
Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman

Contenders:
Timothee Chalame, Call Me by Your Name
Tom Hanks, The Post
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Bryan Cranston, Last Flag Flying

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game
Glenn Close, The Wife
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Contenders:
Soairse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
Jennifer Lawrence, mother!
Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World
Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul
Margot Robbie, I Tonya
Annette Bening, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Carey Mulligan, Mudbound

Supporting Actor:
Ben Mendolsohn, Darkest Hour
Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water
Kevin Spacey, All the Money in the World
Mark Rylance, Dunkirk
Idris Elba, Molly’s Game

Contenders:
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name
Algee Smith, Detroit
Anthony Mackie, Detroit

Supporting Actress
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Michelle Pfeiffer, mother!
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
Kristen Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour

Contenders:
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Michelle Williams, The Greatest Showman

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Joe Wright, Darkest Hour
Steven Spielberg, The Post
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name

Contenders
Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, Battle of the Sexes
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Ridley Scott, All the Money in the World
Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049
Darren Aronofsky, mother!
Paul Thomas Anderson, Untitled PTA
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Alexander Payne, Downsizing

Original Screenplay
The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro
Darkest Hour, Anthony McCarten
Battle of the Sexes, Simon Beaufoy
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
Get Out, Jordan Peele

Contenders
The Post, Liz Hannah, Josh Singer
Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon,  Kumail Nanjiani
mother! Darren Aronfosky
Detroit, Mark Boal

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Dee Rees, Virgil Williams
First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung, Angelina Jolie
Hostiles, Scott Cooper

Editing
Dunkirk
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water
The Post
Get Out

Contenders
Blade Runner 2049
Detroit
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Greatest Showman
First They Killed My Father
Molly’s Game
All the Money in the World

Cinematography
Dunkirk
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
The Post

Contenders
First They Killed My Father
War for the Planet of the Apes
Get Out
The Greatest Showman
The Last Jedi
Battle of the Sexes

Sound
Dunkirk
The Greatest Showman
The Last Jedi
Blade Runner 2049
War for the Planet of the Apes

Sound Editing
Dunkirk
Coco
The Last Jedi
Blade Runner 2049
War for the Planet of the Apes

Costumes
Darkest Hour
The Post
The Greatest Showman
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water

Production Design
The Post
Darkest Hour
The Greatest Showman
Blade Runner 2049
The Shape of Water

Animated Feature
Loving Vincent
Coco
The Lego Batman Movie
Ferdinand
The Boss Baby

Visual Effects
War for the Planet of the Apes
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
The Last Jedi

Score
The Post (Williams)
Shape of Water (Desplat)
Dunkirk (Zimmer)
Darkest Hour (Marianelli)
Last Jedi (Williams)