90th Academy Awards Predictions: Predicting An Unpredictable Race

The Oscars are a little over a week away. Before I post final predictions, I want to lay out a map for you all about where we are in the race. Because, quite frankly, this is the craziest, most insane year of the Oscars I have ever witnessed. Oh, don’t get me wrong, most categories at the moment feel like chalk, sort of like 2013’s fairly predictable field. However, Best Picture is a spectacle to behold, and I’m not sure anyone will be able to predict it properly.

Before we get to Best Picture, however, let’s take a look at the other categories, because things are pretty much sewn up across the board. For the first time ever, all four acting categories have had the same winners at the Critics Choice Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and BAFTA Awards. With this knowledge in mind, it would be stupid to predict anything other than a clean sweep for Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney. For similar reasons, it would stand to reason that industry, critical and commercial favorite Guillermo del Toro will win the Oscar for Best Director. Other locks range from the obvious – The Shape of Water winning Best Production Design, Darkest Hour winning Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Call Me By Your Name winning Best Adapted Screenplay, and Coco winning Best Animated Feature – to the slightly closer than normal – Faces Places winning Best Documentary. Phantom Thread should be a lock in Best Costume Design, but should The Shape of Water end up sweeping, look here for an early sign of support. And while it would just make sense that someone would once again come along to steal the Best Cinematography award out from under him, expect Roger Deakins to finally win the Oscar for his stellar work on Blade Runner 2049.

Then there are the categories that are mostly decided. These are the categories where things feel a bit tighter than normal, but common sense and logic can help narrow the field. For example, there isn’t necessarily a frontrunner in Best Original Song, but considering everyone is seeing and loving The Greatest Showman, and “This Is Me” was already picked as the song of the 2018 Olympics, expect the popularity to help push it through to the podium. Similarly, while Phantom Thread boasts a wonderful score by the perennially snubbed Jonny Greenwood, the show of support throughout the season, along with Greenwood’s perceived snubbing in the past by the Academy leads me to believe that Alexandre Desplat’s equally melodic score to The Shape of Water will end up winning the day. The smart money for Best Film Editing would be Dunkirk or The Shape of Water, but look out – considering it keeps making surprise appearances, not to mention it’s status as the best in its category, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baby Driver upset here, following in the footsteps of The Bourne Ultimatum, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and Whiplash. And then there’s Best Original Screenplay, a big old mess of a category. In theory, every film here could end up winning. However, based on the way the rest of the season has gone, I think we can narrow it down to two films: Get Out and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Now, should the Brits and the SAG end up pushing for the latter, expect it to pull off the win here. However, I’m going to predict Jordan Peele’s masterpiece, as the originality should end up to pull it through, along with the support of the WGA (note: Three Billboards was ineligible in that category). Nevertheless, one thing is certain: whichever film wins Best Original Screenplay will win Best Picture.

Finally, we have the categories that are up in the air. The sound categories are, at the moment, a toss-up, with Dunkirk and Blade Runner 2049 battling it out and Baby Driver playing upset. Dunkirk should take home the Sound Editing award (due to its superior sound effects), but look out: its mediocre sound mixing could lose that category to a challenger, perhaps even Baby Driver. Meanwhile, without critical favorite In The Fade, there doesn’t seem to be a clear favorite in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The critics are now pushing for A Fantastic Woman, and the fact that star Daniela Vega will be in attendance certainly doesn’t hurt the film’s chances, but considering the Academy’s tendency to be more centrist on political films (shocking, but historically accurate), expect the safer The Square, or even The Insult to take home the award. I’m going with the former, but it’s still early. That may change before my final predictions next week. Then there’s Best Visual Effects. Right now, the smart money is on War for the Planet of the Apes. However, the smart money was also on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, both of which lost to more traditional, bigger spectacled affairs. I wouldn’t blame you if you predicted War, but as for me, I’m leaning towards Blade Runner 2049. And as for the shorts, they are, as usual, impossible to predict, but having seen all of them (which I will be reviewing later this week), I think that frontrunner Heroin(e) will win, while upsets will arise from Garden Party and The Eleven O’Clock.

Which brings us to Best Picture, the most challenging race of all. Here’s the deal this year: in the past, the race usually narrows down at this point to two or three major contenders. Spotlight vs. The Revenant vs. The Big Short, Birdman vs. Boyhood, Moonlight vs. La La Land. This year, we have five contenders, each with a ton of pros and a ton of cons. Any film that ends up winning will break several decades-old stats. The frontrunners, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, lack key nominations (the former a SAG Award nomination, the latter a Best Director nomination). Get Out and Lady Bird lack any technical nominations. And Dunkirk has no acting nominations or SAG nominations. No film seems to have a consensus. This leaves predicting the award a nearly impossible task. However, that’s what I am paid to do, and by God, that’s what I am going to do (ed. Note: They do not pay me). So I decided to turn to the most important indicator of all: the Preferential Ballot. In recent years, the Academy has changed from a plurality ballot (the most votes wins) to a preferential ballot, meaning the most liked film wins. I will be breaking down this ballot this Friday as a special Friday Night Dinner, but the gist is this: the Academy members vote on the films, and as films are eliminated, their #2 and #3 ballots get redistributed. This means that films that seem to have the most support will fall away in the face of even the slightest bit of backlash (see: the people who didn’t “get” La La Land). So anyone trying to predict Best Picture needs to make sure they aren’t looking for the most “beloved” film, but the film that no one could possibly hate. In order to determine this result, I ran my own test on Facebook and Twitter, as well as compared results to other critic’ polling, in order to find a general cross-section of support (this is how people figured out that Spotlight and Moonlight would pull off the upset the last two years). And both surveys told me some interesting things. First, as expected, frontrunner Three Billboards went out first (most likely due to the film’s controversially off-putting nature). Second, despite lasting a relatively long time, The Shape of Water, arguably the biggest juggernaut in the race, also fell away (“Why is she f*cking the fish man?”). The three films that had the strongest support: Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird. Lady Bird would be a wonderful win, and it has my full support. However, it hasn’t won any other categories, and a film can’t win Best Picture without winning at least one other award. This leaves a two-film race: Get Out and Dunkirk. Now, should you use the science of the preferential ballot, the smartest bet is Dunkirk. Darkest Hour and The Post are likely to have it as their #2, it will have wins in other categories, and Christopher Nolan is well-liked. However, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one film that has a nomination from SAG, ACE, PGA, DGA, the Globes, and most Top Ten lists (including my own, which is a strong predicator), and that’s Get Out. It’s shocking, it’s unlikely, and it would break all the rules, but I can’t see another film in the field this well-liked. I don’t feel good about it, and I may change next week, but this is where I am right now.

So that’s how the field looks right now. It’s wild and crazy, and it’ll break all the rules. I’m not sure how that Best Picture race will turn out. But one thing’s for sure: we’re in for a crazy race. You can see all of my current predictions below, and I’ll see you next week with my final predictions before the final race!

Best Picture: Get Out
Best Actor: Gary Oldman –Darkest Hour
Best Actress: Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Best Original Screenplay: Get Out
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name
Best Animated Feature: Coco
Best Foreign Language Feature: The Square
Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places
Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)
Best Live Action Short: The Eleven O’Clock
Best Animated Short: Garden Party
Best Original Score: The Shape of Water
Best Original Song: “This Is Me” – The Greatest Showman
Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk
Best Sound Mixing: Baby Driver
Best Production Design: The Shape of Water
Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049
Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Darkest Hour
Best Film Editing: Baby Driver
Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

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