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Predictions Friday – Over to You, DGA

The Moonlight upset broke the Oscar predicting machine. When everyone was so certain La La Land was the winner last year, to have that certainty upended in such a strange way – almost like a dream – we are now all second guessing ourselves as to what should win and what will win. There is no definitive frontrunner, no single film that has really dominated any of the major wins yet, and we’re in for probably more surprises as the season wears on.

At some point, people will start winning things and talking into microphones on stage. Those celebratory moments will help build the consensus. The collective will mostly know what film “feels right” to them to award and what film doesn’t feel quite as right. There will be subtle but effective smear campaigns in play, or organic backlash that springs from somewhere. That backlash, with the hive mind, can have an impact on whether it “feels right” or not. Hopefully things will move too quickly for a backlash to form, unless the backlash is happening in parties at the Chateau Marmont and not online for us all to see.

Let’s get on with our predictions. For Best Picture, I think we could conceivably see something we’ve been seeing for a while now, since 2012 when Argo won Picture, Screenplay and Editing but Life of Pi won Director and many other awards. La La Land last year won Director and many other awards. I think this might be that kind of year with Director and many other awards going to Shape of Water (which could also lead the nominations) and then some other movie winning Picture, like Get Out, Lady Bird, or Three Billboards. Dunkirk might also be the big tech winner too.

All in all, I feel like we’re headed for another Picture/Director split year, so we have to look at the two categories separately. Here are the three films that seem the strongest to me right now for Best Picture, in terms of what’s happened so far — critics + Globes + SAG:

1. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (AFI + Globes Picture, Director and Screenplay + SAG)
2. Lady Bird (AFI + Globes Picture and Screenplay + SAG)
3. Get Out (AFI + Globes Picture + SAG)

Films that missed the SAG but can’t be counted out because of love and praise:

4. The Shape of Water (AFI + Globes Picture, Director, and Screenplay)
5. Dunkirk (AFI + Globes Director)
6. Call Me By Your Name (AFI + Globes Picture)
7. The Post (AFI + Globes Picture, Director, and Screenplay)

Films that could still turn up in the Best Picture race even though winning seems like a long shot (pick ONE):

8. The Florida Project – most likely (AFI)
9. The Big Sick (AFI + SAG)
10. Phantom Thread (surprise nominee potentially)

11. Mudbound (SAG)
12. Darkest Hour
13. The Disaster Artist
14. Wonder Woman (AFI)

When we get to the PGA and the DGA, this order could shift depending on what’s in and what’s out, but for now this ranking seems to be the logical order. At the moment, I do think Best Picture is down to Get Out (I’m leaning towards that)/Three Billboards/Lady Bird) – but it is TOO SOON to lay down a definitive. 

Best Director

In a year like this one, it’s hard to imagine Martin McDonagh, a relative unknown (although not really) beating such prolific visionaries as Guillermo del Toro, Christopher Nolan, and Steven Spielberg, to say nothing of the new kids on the block: Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig.

Unlike Best Picture, this award will be less unpredictable once one of them starts winning. The problem is that there are many contenders and not just one, so it will be harder for there to be a consensus developing around any one name unless that consensus is also developing around one film. Maybe it’s Three Billboards — then we would expect to see McDonagh winning with the fill. Ditto with Lady Bird and Get Out.

It looks like a little this:

Picture:  Three Billboards, Get Out, Lady Bird
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, Christopher Nolan

How I see it right now:

  1. Guillermo del Toro, Shape of Water
  2. Christoper Nolan, Dunkirk
  3. Jordan Peele, Get Out
  4. Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards
  5. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird or Steven Spielberg / The Post

Original Screenplay

This is going to be a tough category too because you have these five movies in play:

Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, Shape of Water
Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, The Post

Original Screenplay, like Director, is so competitive this year it’s impossible to predict right now. Since it’s rare for a film to win without also winning Screenplay (very very very rare), we would expect that whatever wins here also wins Picture or at least Director since there isn’t any Best Picture heat in the adapted category except for Call Me By Your Name, which seems to have a real shot to dominate (its only challenger being The Disaster Artist).

Adapted Screenplay
James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
Mudbound, Dee Rees and Virgil Williams
Stephen Chbosky, Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Wonder

Best Actor
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

And then a fifth slot that will be a toss up between Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), and Tom Hanks (The Post). Best Actor suddenly got very competitive. Whether Hanks gets in just depends on how much Academy members like The Post. The SAG nominating committee shut it out completely. Given his stature in the industry, I might have to go with Day-Lewis for this slot.

As for Oldman vs. Chalamet — well, you know someone other than either of those could win. If you take out Oldman from the frontrunner’s slot any of the actors could pull in a surprise, including Kaluuya who might win if Get Out doesn’t win Director, Screenplay or Picture. My money remains on Oldman because it’s unfathomable to me that he would not win for this type of dominating performance.

Best Actress
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Meryl Streep, The Post or Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game

Best Actress is also an unpredictable race. The Oscars haven’t awarded a film for Best Picture with a Best Actress nominee in it (let alone a winner) since Million Dollar Baby won in 2004. The pendulum seems ready to swing back to the way it used to be, where films starring women DID win, like Silence of the Lambs or The English Patient.

Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards

Of course, there are many names that could take that last slot, including Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), or even, bizarrely enough, Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes.

Supporting Actress
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Alison Janney, I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Hong Chau, Downsizing
Octavia Spencer, Shape of Water or Holly Hunter, the Big Sick

Of course, a lot has been made of Tiffany Haddish and she indeed might crack this category. Will the Academy let Netflix into the major categories and nominate Mary J. Blige? If not, they may nominate Haddish, who comes from a big studio movie.

Editing

As we know, there is a tight connection between Picture and Editing. Since Oscar expanded the Best Picture ballot in 2009, only once has the category featured a film not nominated for Best Picture – so when you predict this, unless you’re gonna go with an anomaly — which you certainly could — just know that in general we’re looking at around a 90% match with Best Picture. Also in general, your Best Picture winner is also there; Birdman was an exception but it really had no editing.

Editing, therefore, has to start with the films you think have the best shot at winning Best Picture, plus those you think will get special notice for their editing. Therefore:

Three Billboards
Lady Bird
Get Out
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

That’s how I see it anyway. The Post is also possible, as is Call Me By Your Name and any other movie you think will be in the Best Picture lineup. If I had to pick any movie that could make the cut without it having a BP nod it would be Baby Driver, but you have to figure out which one to bump to make room for it.

Cinematography

Since our three Best Picture frontrunners right now aren’t cinematography frontrunners, we’re probably looking at the winner for this not matching Best Picture, since only one film has since 2009 (Birdman). Usually, the winner in the cinematography category is a Best Picture nominee. It makes sense since the entire membership votes for Cinematography and they’ve already nominated their favorite films of the year. So, for cinematography you’re looking for a strong contender for Best Picture, although not necessarily the winner to be your frontrunner, therefore:

Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Blade Runner 2049
Mudbound (yep, I’m going there)
Call Me By Your Name

Production Design 

Same thing as with cinematography: since the preferential ballot has come into play, movies don’t win many Oscars if they’re also winning Best Picture. A divisive film will be taken down on the final award of the night even after winning the most Oscars of the night — Gravity, for instance. The Revenant, Life of Pi, La La Land — these are the kinds of films that might have won without the preferential ballot in place. Thus, I’m not sure if we’ll ever see a film win both Best Picture and Production Design (since those awards generally go to the kinds of films that don’t seem to win Best Picture anymore) again. At least, not until that one movie comes along just sweeps. But we haven’t seen that since Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. You have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a year where they DID match and that year the Best Picture winner (Return of the King) won everything.

However, films that have Best Picture nominations, barring some exceptions, seem to win more often, just not as often as they do with cinematography. This one is a tough call but I’d go with:

The Shape of Water
Dunkirk
Blade Runner 2049
Phantom Thread
The Post

Perhaps Beauty and the Beast is getting in here, maybe All the Money in the World, maybe the Last Jedi.

Costume Design 
Phantom Thread
Beauty and the Beast
Wonder Woman
The Post
The Shape of Water

Score
The Shape of Water
Phantom Thread
The Post
Three Billboards
Dunkirk

I have no clear grasp on score at the moment.

Animated Feature
Coco
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent
Ferdinand
Lego Batman

Wondering about Birdboy – which has made a big enough splash to crash the top five here.

Documentary
Jane
City of Ghosts
Faces Places
Strong Island
Ex Libris

But truly, I have no clue. These are really just blind guesses.

Foreign Language 
Loveless
Foxtrot
The Square
A Fantastic Woman
The Wound

Visual Effects
Dunkirk
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman
Blade Runner 2049
The Last Jedi

We’ll save the shorts for later.