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Predictions Friday – It Has All Come Down to This

The year has taken us through Sundance, the Cannes Film Festival, Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and the AFI. It has taken us through the National Board of Review, through the ever growing number of critics groups that keep sprouting every year, through the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice awards. Now we are at the crucial stage of the race — the guilds.

It has taken me many years to really understand how the preferential ballot works. When it was first implemented in 2009, we just thought about it in terms of there being more nominees but other than that we all thought it would be business as usual. It started out fairly predictably, for the most part, with the only really new thing emerging was a foggier view of frontrunner until after the PGA would anoint one. First came The Hurt Locker year, followed by The King’s Speech year, and The Artist year, though many were certain The Artist was the frontrunner right out of Cannes. Like all things in the Oscar race, we often used bread crumbs left from the previous year as our guideposts.

Things didn’t really get messy until the Argo year, 2012, when Ben Affleck was left off out of the Best Director list at the Oscars. Despite the Academy’s oversight, the overwhelming affection for Affleck and the movie turned that year into what I now think of as a “Birdman year.” That is, a movie comes along and suddenly wins PGA/DGA/SAG Ensemble and Best Picture becomes a done deal. It wasn’t really until the year after that, 2013, that we started to see how the preferential ballot can produce a winner that is the collective average of the voting consensus rather than the passionate choice. The last one that did that was Birdman.

So if Birdman begat The Revenant (which it did, since everyone assumed it would win based on Birdman’s miracle sweep of the guilds), then Spotlight begat Moonlight. Except that to most pundits it didn’t. To the pundits, it was never supposed to be a Moonlight year. It was supposed to be a La La Land year. And the La La Land year was supposed to be a Birdman year, or The Artist, King’s Speech, Hurt Locker year. That strange outcome of what appeared to be a very predictable race has now begat a year without a frontrunner, or certainly a skittish punditry afraid to go out on a limb.

Right now, it feels like we’re not in a Birdman year, but we might be. We won’t know until the PGA and SAG and DGA all ring in. If they agree across the board, barring some major catastrophe we will have our winner. If they don’t agree, if there is a break in the chain anywhere, we probably aren’t in a Birdman year and then we have to think more about ranking and averages as opposed to passionate choices.

Here are my Oscar nomination predictions, best as I can figure. We’ll be posting the choices by rest of our Oscar squad over the weekend, along with PGA/SAG predictions. I may change some of my predictions of the shorts, since I haven’t seen all of them yet, but for the most part, here we go.

Best Picture
So far we’ve only had eight or nine nominees. We’ve never had anything less or more than that. I like years with nine and I would like even more years with 10. But since the PGA pushed another movie in to make 11, that tells me that the planets may be aligning to give us nine and not eight as voters push more movies they love into the race.

The Shape of Water will most likely lead with the total number of the nominations, followed by Dunkirk and perhaps Three Billboards. In the era of the preferential ballot, however, garnering the most nominations rarely results in a Best Picture win.

Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Call Me By Your Name
The Post
The Big Sick
The Florida Project
Alt. Mudbound or Wonder Woman or Darkest Hour

Best Actor
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
James Franco, Disaster Artist
Alt. Denzel Washington, Roman Israel, Esq.

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

Supporting Actor
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards
Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Alt. Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

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

Best Director
Guillermo Del Toro, Shape of Water
Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Alt. Luca Guadagnino, Call Me By Your Name

Original Screenplay
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Alt. I, Tonya, Steven Rogers

Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Dee Rees, Virgil Williams
Logan, Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Alt. Wonder Woman

*For the most part, the editors go for the drama category more than they do the “comedy” category. So that means there will be at the most two from the comedy end of the spectrum. This year, most are predicting all of them to come from the comedy category, which would be unusual. Not saying it won’t happen. But it’s something to consider. To me, it’s one of the hardest categories, knowing how tied in with Best Picture it is.
The Post
Baby Driver
Three Billboards
Shape of Water
All possible: Get Out, I, Tonya, Molly’s Game, Blade Runner 2049

The Shape of Water
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour

Production Design
Shape of Water
Blade Runner 2049
Beauty and the Beast
The Post
Alt. Darkest Hour

Sound Mixing
Baby Driver
Wonder Woman
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Last Jedi
Alt. The Shape of Water

Sound Editing
Baby Driver
War for the Planet of the Apes
Wonder Woman
The Last Jedi

Costume Design
Phantom Thread
Beauty and the Beast
The Shape of Water
The Post
I, Tonya

Original Score
The Shape of Water
The Post
Three Billboards
Phantom Thread
Alt. Darkest Hour

Original Song
‘Mighty River’ from Mudbound
‘This Is Me’ from The Greatest Showman
‘Mystery Of Love’ from Call Me by Your Name
‘Evermore’ from Beauty and the Beast
‘Remember Me’ from Coco
Alt. ‘Never Forget’ from Murder on the Orient Express

Foreign Language Feature
In the Fade
The Square
A Fantastic Woman

Documentary Feature
City of Ghosts
Faces Places
Strong Island
Alt. Ex Libris

Animated feature
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent
Boss Baby
Despicable Me 3

Visual Effects
War for the Planet of the Apes
The Shape of Water
Star Wars
Blade Runner 2049
Alt. Okja

Facing Mecca
The Eleven O’Clock
Watu Wote/All of Us
Alt. Rise of a Star

Dear Basketball
Fox and the Whale
In a Heartbeat
Alt. Garden Party

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 .
116 Cameras
Knife Skills
Alt. Heroin(e), The Silent Child

Makeup and Hair
Darkest Hour
I, Tonya