A 90th Oscar Predictions Update

There is something strange brewing on the horizon. Can you feel it? It’s in the winds of this Oscar season, and I’m not sure how many casual viewers are aware of it. Let me paint the picture for you so you can understand. We have just completed the three major film festivals: Venice, Telluride, and TIFF. In the past few years, no film has won Best Picture without appearing at TIFF. It’s helpful to appear at more than one of these festivals, or even all three. The release date must be in October or November, so the film doesn’t sit too long and people can find its (supposed) flaws or be forgotten, and it can’t be released in December, where these (supposed) flaws will become an issue, or people won’t see your film in time. And thanks to the preferential ballot, it has to be the most liked film – it doesn’t have to be loved, it just can’t be hated This has been the case since 2007, and there’s no reason for us to believe that things will change.

And yet, let’s compare this year to the past few years of the Oscar race. In 2013, everyone knew that Gravity and 12 Years a Slave would be the big contenders, with the latter getting the edge due to its release date and subject matter. In 2014, everyone knew Birdman would be a major Oscar contender, with The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything bringing in a few nominations of their own. In 2015, everyone knew that Spotlight was well-received, and it rode that wave of adoration. And last year, we got both La La Land and Moonlight riding their respective waves to the Oscars, where the latter’s better marketing strategy and full list of checkmarks helped put it over the edge. Look at how obvious it was from the get-go what films would be Oscar winners, and were the clear frontrunners from day one. Now compare that to this year. What is the frontrunner? Does anyone know? The answer is no, and that’s what makes this year so interesting.

You see, while several films were huge hits at the festivals, there was no clear-cut consensus about what people all truly liked. One festival liked Lady Bird. Another liked The Shape of Water. And a third liked Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. One liked Downsizing, but the other two didn’t it. Everyone hated Suburbicon. And while everyone seemed to appreciate mother!, they all agreed that it should never, ever, ever come near an Oscar race, prediction or otherwise. Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of it. I can barely make a Top Five, and that’s incredibly exciting and incredibly troubling to me as we move into the final half of the year. So, as we acknowledge the ever changing race, let’s look at how the Top Eight categories have evolved, starting with Best Picture.

Best Picture

The Shape of Water

At this point in the Oscar race, there are only four films I feel confident about declaring Best Picture nominees. Only two of those films were in my original Top Eight, and one of them wasn’t on the list at all. They are Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Nolan’s Dunkirk still remains untouched at the top as we head into the final stretch, thanks to its impeccable filmmaking, great box office returns, and universal love. What’s interesting is that while the action in that film takes place over the course of a week, more or less, and culminates in Winston Churchill’s famous “Fight on the Beaches” speech, Darkest Hour takes place in that same time frame, except from the government planning side of things, and also culminates in that speech. The two will make excellent companion pieces, especially considering the film is more than just a Gary Oldman puff piece. Turns out, it’s pretty stellar across the board. And when a biopic is stellar across the board, it translates to Oscar love. Like, lots of Oscar love. Expect this one to be big. Also traditionally big is the critically acclaimed artsy sci-fi, like we got with Arrival and Mad Max: Fury Road. Many expected that to be Downsizing, and I still expect that film to connect with enough people to earn a nod. However, despite my hopes and prayers, that film is not connecting with enough people to be the Oscar frontrunner I had hoped when I premiered it at #3. Downsizing drops down to #7, and is replaced by Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical look at love and intolerance through fantasy and sci-fi. And then there’s Three Billboards. Despite being excited about Three Billboards since that first trailer several months back, I never expected this to be a Best Picture contender. Martin McDonagh is a writer and an actors’ director, but rarely makes anything overwhelmingly awards-worthy. However, things seem to be different now, thanks to his recent film. Thanks to a stellar cast, a timely story about division in America, a supposedly uplifting ending, and the fact this film has won the TIFF Audience Award, a surefire Oscar indicator, the signs are all there that this film is going to connect with people. Consider this your final lock.

Now, how did I make room for these two new contenders? Well, unfortunately, some things had to fall away. I already mentioned that Downsizing has fallen quite a bit thanks to lukewarm reviews, but that’s not the half of it. It could be a great deal worse. Look at Detroit, which premiered at #1 on the list of Best Picture contenders, and thanks to a poor box office and heavy competition, has fallen out completely, reduced to a second tier contender and hoping that the critics bring in the Shock Cart to revive it. And even Detroit has to be grateful it isn’t mother! While not a bad film, mother! is one of the year’s most off-putting and divisive films – maybe even of this century. Even if the film had been a commercial success – which, as of publishing, and presumably with 30 years in the box office, it is not – this film would not be nominated for any Oscars outside sound mixing, maybe editing, and perhaps Michelle Pfeiffer Jennifer Lawrence if a few voters get drunk enough. Mother! is out of the Oscar race. Sorry Darren Aronofsy. Perhaps you can relax knowing you made a smart, intelligent film that no one else would even want to make.

Finally, we have two wild cards and a guessing game. The two wild cards are Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread and Steven Spielberg’s The Post. Nobody has seen these films – we haven’t even seen trailers. This makes it difficult to know if these films hit the Oscars’ sweet spot, or are too dry, too artsy, or too stale to make an impact. I can’t properly judge what I haven’t seen, but I’m willing to bet that The Post will receive a nomination no matter what, and Phantom Thread has a decent shot. Which leaves us with the Wild Card pick. This is the film that either we or the majority of critics have seen that gets the easy toss-up nomination out of general love. A lot of people are hoping for Get Out, which would be cool, but unlikely. Stronger still has a great number of fans, and is a solid little crowd-pleaser. I would personally love to see The Big Sick get nominated, and it clearly has a lot of support. However, considering the fact I don’t like being wrong, and the number of critics who love it is high, I’m going to stick with my old #8, Mudbound. Mudbound is the type of film that, were anyone else releasing it, would be a slam-dunk. It’s got everything the Academy will be looking for, AND it’s well-made. There’s just one catch: Netflix is releasing it. And while they are great at content, they run one of the worst awards campaigns imaginable. If Mudbound is truly undeniable, it will get in despite everything. However, if it has any holes whatsoever (like that boat in Dunkirk…HAVE YOU SEEN DUNKIRK?!?!?), then it’s going down, and it’s going down hard. I’ll keep it at the ready for now, but should anything happen to it, or should I get the sense that this will be another year where the Academy nominates nine films instead of eight, then expect Lady Bird, Battle of the Sexes, and especially Call Me By Your Name to fight their way in. And if you’re wondering what happened to former major contenders Suburbicon and Wonderstruck, scroll your way down. You can see the updated Best Picture rankings here.

Best Actor

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

This race is over, pack your bags. It was fun while it lasted. However, we now know, with 100% certainty (ok, 99, nothing is certain in this race) that Gary Oldman will win Best Actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. Not only is the film great, not only is he overdue, not only is his performance spellbinding and revelatory, but as we learned at the Emmys on Sunday, people are yearning for more Churchill. They find the idea of a strong, confident leader who stands up for what is right encouraging, and seeing talented actors, from John Lithgow to Oldman’s (whom everyone agrees is the best of the lot), fills them with joy and moves their voting finger. Oldman is a mortal lock to not only be nominated, but to win the category.

Other than that, there have been few changes to this utterly boring field. We can still assume Daniel Day-Lewis will be nominated for Phantom Thread, if only because he is nominated 9/10 for his game-changing performances, and he’s already announced this is his last film. And it is very likely that my early prediction of Jake Gyllenhaal for Stronger will be proven correct, as the reviews are calling this one of his best and a thoroughly winning heart-warmer, including my own. He will finally get his deserved Best Actor nomination and then graciously lose to Oldman. After that, things are kind of a toss-up, mostly due to the weak field. I suppose Hugh Jackman will be nominated for The Greatest Showman, because people like when he sings, he’s been working on this project forever, he’s popular, and he’s also got the game-changer that is Logan in the mix. There is a zero percent chance that Logan gets nominated for anything, but the fact it has screeners out and is getting people to pay attention to Jackman can’t hurt Showman’s chances. Which leaves one final slot. And frankly, there’s so few people competing for it. Joaquin Phoenix already dropped out of the race. Tom Hanks could go supporting for The Post. Javier Bardem barely registers in mother! Kumail Nanjiani should be nominated for Best Actor in a just world, but probably won’t. Andrew Garfield looks good in Breathe, which could result in back to back nominations. Steve Carell hasn’t premiered in Last Flag Flying yet. And Chadwick Boseman just looks bad in Marshall.

Which leaves us with four kind of well reviewed performances that could sneak in on the actors’ charm. The first is 21-year-old Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name. Chalamet is in three acclaimed films this year, and will be receiving attention for starring in the massive Call Me By Your Name. I think he’s got a great shot, but he also must deal with the fact that the Academy traditionally doesn’t like their gay characters to have partners, and due to the film’s very Italian views on love, he may be facing an uphill climb (at least he’s got a peach for nourishment). The second is Denzel Washington for Roman Israel, Esq. The film has a very dated feel as it hearkens back to the days of 70s courtroom thrillers, but Washington is supposedly great, and after losing a close race to Casey Affleck, he’ll be looking for his third trophy (or at least another nomination). And finally, the nomination spoken about in hushed whispers about Hollywood. The nomination no one wants to admit they want, and yet can’t stop gushing about. The one that should never, ever happen, and yet we all kind of want it to. I’m talking, of course, about James Franco’s enigmatic, funny, sweet, and kind of psychotic portrayal of trash auteur Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist. This is one of the most silly Oscar campaigns I’ve ever heard of, and I want to write it off completely, but the film is so well-received and so beloved in the industry, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this film sneak into the conversation come Oscar season, and with a couple of weak fields amongst the Academy, we may see a nomination brewing in the future. However, I’m going to stick with my gut and predict that Matt Damon will be nominated for Downsizing. Look, it’s big debut cooled off rather quickly. That doesn’t mean it’s out of the race. It can still pick up a couple of Oscars. And while that may mean it will be pushed out of the heated Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing categories, it also means it will be looking at other fields to pick up nominations (in the past ten years, no film has been nominated for Best Picture without at least two nominations elsewhere). I think Damon, the heart of the film and a well-liked actor, will be one of those nominations. This is a tough category. It’s one filled with one lock and four hopefuls. However, while we no longer have to care about the February results, this should make the January announcements all the more exciting. You can see the full list of Best Actor predictions right here.

Best Actress

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Remember when I first wrote about this field and said it seemed fairly weak as compared to 2016? Yeah, I was wrong. This category is an embarrassment of riches. By my count, there are fourteen actresses in serious competition for five slots, with only three locks, two likelies, and four maybes. Incidentally, off of my original list, only three of my original predictions remain, my #3, #4, and #5, and the #5 is one of the locks. That would be Emma Stone, who tops her Oscar-winning performance in La La Land (allegedly) with her performance as sports hero Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. It is supposedly a rich, detailed portrayal, and I’ve bumped her up two places because of it. Spots #1 and #2 are reserved for two veteran actresses in the Best Picture hunt. That would be former #10 nominee Frances McDormand and #8 nominee Sally Hawkins. The stars of Three Billboards and The Shape of Water, these actresses have rich, intelligent plots that push them emotionally and, in Hawkins’ case, verbally. Right now I give McDormand the edge, because hers is the easier and more accessible performance, but there’s an argument to be made for Hawkins’ wordless portrayal of a mute who falls in love could be enough to earn her the hardware. The fourth spot remains in the possession of its usual owner, Mrs. Meryl Streep, whose role has been confirmed as the lead in The Post; and even if she’s only ok, she should be able to sneak in for a 21st Oscar nomination (like she did last year).

This leaves us with one spot for ten women. Will it be a veteran actress, like Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, or Annette Bening? Could it be a workhorse like Michelle Williams, Kate Winslet, or Jessica Chastain? Jennifer Lawrence isn’t out yet for mother!, and Glenn Close’s Golden Ticket to Oscar Glory has yet to be picked up by a studio. And then there’s the ingénue, the young woman the Academy ogles and pats on the back for her wonderful performance. We’ve seen one win the last two years, and we have major contender in Margot Robbie’s I, Tonya and Saorise Ronan’s Lady Bird. Both actresses are on a hot streak, and both have received a great deal of love for their wonderful performances. I think the field is a little too tough for Robbie to break in this year, and while I went back and forth on Ronan and the possibility of a Juno-style nomination for the wonderfully flawed eighteen-year-old Sacramento character, I’m just not sure this is what the Academy will be going for this year. So until I see some critics circles giving these two love, I’m going with my safe pick for #5 and going with Carey Mulligan for Mudbound. She’s in an Oscar contender, she’s a beloved actress, and she’s overdue for a second nomination. She should do nicely as a stand-in in case someone else comes along. You can see the full list of Best Actress contenders right here.

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

If you want to talk about a living, breathing field, look no further than Best Supporting Actor. While my original #1, #2, and #4 remain in the race, we’ve seen one major contender eliminate himself from the race, one who grows less likely by the day, and that #4 hang on only by a thin thread. Let’s start with the two locks and major contender, shall we? At this point, we know with absolute clarity that Willem Dafoe will be nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the first time in seventeen years. Dafoe is a remarkable actor, and he’s supposedly doing his best work in ages as the caring owner of a motel that caters to the lower classes in Florida. Everyone seems to unanimously like this movie, and especially Dafoe himself, and even if the film doesn’t earn a Best Picture nod (although it’s in the race), he should be considered the frontrunner until further notice. The former #1, Jason Mitchell, is that major contender mentioned previously. While his performance as a sharecropping veteran who bonds with the son of a Southern town’s biggest bigot, he brings the film panache and heart whenever it needs it most. I’ve moved him down because, for whatever reason, he hasn’t been catching on the way people expected/hoped, and as I’ve repeatedly stated, there is still a stigma surrounding nominating Netflix Original Movies, but there is one thing working in his favor at the moment: a lack of African-American contenders. The Academy loved the self-congratulatory pats on the back it got last year for being diverse, and they aren’t going to want to be seen as backsliding so soon afterwards. The weight of history may make it impossible to ignore his already-great work. So if Mitchell is no longer a lock, who does that mean is the new major contender? Well, that would be former #29 Sam Rockwell. I’ve been skeptical about Rockwell in the past because I’ve been burned before – he deserved that Oscar in 2013 for The Way, Way Back dammit – but the work he’s apparently doing in Three Billboards is supposed to be impossible to ignore. Something of a Barney Fife-esque deputy plagued by his upbringing by a racist mother, he engages McDormand’s character in a hilariously abusive battle of wills. However, beyond this entertaining description, he also has the film’s biggest arc, and is supposedly partially responsible for the film’s triumphant ending. I cannot ignore the way the winds are shifting, nor do I want to, and Rockwell will be a major contender for Best Supporting Actor, giving Dafoe his only competition for the prize.

There were two other nominees listed when I made my predictions a couple months ago: Ed Harris and Zac Efron. Neither of these two are really in the running anymore, although for different reasons. Harris barely makes an impact in mother!, as that film is much more of a director’s piece and focused on the female performances (also, there’s no way in hell the Academy goes for a film that weird). He has dropped significantly in the standings, and I can promise you now that if he gets nominated, I will eat my shoe. Meanwhile, Efron definitely is in contention still, but things have changed since I predicted Zefron would be an Oscar nominee. For one, the race is now one of the most competitive in years, with several actors fighting over five spots. This will make it harder for anyone to make it in without unanimous, universal love. The second is that I can decidedly predict people who have been seen so far, while unknown variables make things challenging. We know that Dafoe is good. We know that Rockwell is good. We have no idea if Efron is any good. He could wow us and get back into the race, like Jonah Hill for The Wolf of Wall Street. But for the time being, I can’t take any chances.

So this leaves two more spots to talk about. I’ve already declared that one was a nomination I’ve already predicted, and I stand by it. That is the work of Ray Romano in The Big Sick. I recently revisited the film for the first time since posting my gushing review, and I still think it is an excellent film. But the one thing I noticed this time around is how much the energy shifts the minute Romano and Holly Hunter show up. It can be a dangerous thing to so dramatically shift a film’s momentum halfway through like that, and a few of the film’s seams did begin to show, but as far as I’m concerned, all it does is make their performances stand out all the more beautifully. Romano is by far the weakest of the five nominees I’m currently predicting. However, I can’t help but feel like the Academy will be in alignment with me and nominate Romano’s stellar work as the father of a very sick woman while struggling with his own flaws. This leaves one slot remaining, and up to ten contenders looking to move in. It could be Ben Mendelssohn for Darkest Hour, or Kevin Spacey for All the Money in the World. Mark Rylance is still in the running for Dunkirk, as is Will Poulter for Detroit. Dustin Hoffman is looking to enter the race for the first time since the 90s, and Idris Elba is looking to make up for his snub in 2015 with Molly’s Game. Suburbicon may have flopped with critics, but everyone seems to like Oscar Isaac, and he make be able to sneak in, and we haven’t seen Steve Carell in Last Flag Flying yet. There’s also the incredible double team of Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water, both of whom could sneak in as the film’s Ultimate Evil and Sensitive Neighbor roles. And Character Actor Michael Stuhlbarg has earned some love for his work in Call Me By Your Name. However, I’m going to go with an entirely different contender from Name, Armie Hammer. Hammer has been a rising indie star for years now, but he hit a major roadblock with the disaster that was The Lone Ranger. He has regrouped and rallied, coming back as the suave masters’ student who comes to stay with a professor in Italy and forms a relationship with his seventeen-year-old son. Hammer is supposedly revelatory in the role, and while it may be a challenge for his costar to sneak in, I think Hammer could get the Rooney Mara/Jake Gyllenhaal nomination for the role of the gay lover to the film’s protagonist. But while I feel confident with these five predictions, there are still so many in the race that the Academy could connect to. You can see the full list of contenders right here.

Best Supporting Actress

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Man, what a wide-open race Best Supporting Actress turned out to be. I’m not sure if that’s because of a wealth of contenders or a dearth, but in a case even more challenging than Best Picture, there is no clear frontrunner. In fact, we may not have even seen the winner yet. Currently, only three of my original predictions remain, and one is ready to fall away at any minute. That would be Michelle Pfeiffer for mother!, who is a very clear stand-out in the batsh*t crazy movie. With every passing day, I become more and more doubtful of her chances. However, she’s a beloved Hollywood talent, and she is undeniably good in the movie, and I will stand by this prediction until a stronger contender comes along. The other two that I’m standing by are Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore. We have no idea if Williams is any good or not, but if the Academy still loves musicals, and still owes Williams her due, I can’t see her not receiving a nomination for her role in The Greatest Showman. Meanwhile, Moore is falling away every day. Wonderstruck has not caught on the way its fans have wanted it to, and without that support there pushing it along, Moore’s chances slip away further and further. However, despite all of this, she’s still Julianne Moore, and if she can win for whatever the hell Still Alice was, she can certainly be nominated for what many people insist is truly a good role.

When I last made predictions for this category, I predicted Kristen Wiig and Amy Schumer to represent the comedy crowd. Neither of these actresses remain in the running. Schumer is sitting at #6 at the moment, as the performance has yet to be seen and could still wow audiences, but we know that Wiig is definitely outshone in her own movie. You see, while audiences haven’t quite connected with Downsizing here in the States, one thing is certain: people love newcomer Hong Chau in her role as Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese activist who befriends Damon. Chau’s performance is the type of breakout role that this category was made for, and I’m certain we will hear her name amongst the nominees come January. This leaves one spot left, and eight women with great performances battling for it. These include the currently studioless Rosamund Pike in Hostiles, and two-time nominee Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water. Melissa Leo and Kristen Scott Thomas are both in the hunt for Novitiate and Darkest Hour, and Tatiana Maslany has wowed in Stronger. And two of the strongest contenders to date are the powerful, loving mothers played by Laurie Metcalf and Holly Hunter in The Big Sick. However, while it has been a great year of strong mothers, I think the Academy will be looking at a different kind of maternal figure this year. That will be the unrecognizable Mommie Dearest-esque turn given by the Universally Loved Allison Janney in I, Tonya. Playing the insane mother that beat and abused Tonya Harding throughout her life, Janney is supposedly brutal, funny, honest, and remarkable as her work in the film, and while I think a nomination is certain, don’t be surprised if the other nominees begin to peel away to allow Janney to win her much-deserved first Oscar. You can see the rest of the nominees right here.

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro

Let’s just get this out of the way: Christopher Nolan will win Best Director this year for Dunkirk. The field is so weak, the only way the same film wins Best Picture and Director is if something becomes so undeniable that everyone rallies around it. What Nolan did with Dunkirk is one of the most impressive works in any blockbuster, ever, and from a technical standpoint, there really isn’t anything close to it. No matter what happens, I believe that early prediction of Nolan winning Best Director will be proven correct. However, while I did have Nolan as my #1 pick from the get-go, only two of my other predictions have managed to remain in the running, and they are #4 and #5. You see, Detroit has really fallen out of the race, and unless Annapurna can rally at the end of the year to get Kathryn Bigelow back in the running, I think she – and the rest of the film – are on the outside looking in. The same goes for Darren Aronofsky, who made the boldest film of any director this year, and yet it is so polarizing there is little chance the Academy will accept it. I won’t rule it out, because it really should be nominated, but until such a time where the Academy takes these things seriously, I’m going to have to leave him out as well.

The two who remain are Dee Rees and Alexander Payne. Rees would be a historic first for the Academy, as no African-American woman has ever been nominated for Best Director. She’ll face that ever-present issue of Netflix’s Oscar campaign woes, but if she can top them, I think she’s a definite contender. As for Payne, he is in the same boat as his film. I still predict a nomination for him, based on his past successes and the film’s out-there nature, but based on how cold it has been received by American audiences, I approach his potential nomination with absolute trepidation. He is sitting at #5 at the moment, and the minute a more realistic contender comes along, he may find himself on the way out. Which leaves my #2 and #3 spots. Let’s establish from the very get-go that if anyone is going to upset Nolan, it will be Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro has never been nominated for his directing, despite a legendary career. His newest film, The Shape of Water, is receiving praise as a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, a technical wonder that has the added benefit of heart and acting to make it a tour-du-force on del Toro’s part. If anyone’s going to beat Nolan, it’s him, and if he does, it is a sure sign that he is going to win Best Picture at the end of the night. Which brings us to that third spot. There’s quite a few people in contention for that spot, including Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name, Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards, Sean Baker for The Florida Project, Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Spielberg for The Post, and even the first female nominee in almost ten years in Greta Gerwig, Valerie Faris (and Jonathan Dayton) and Angelina Jolie. However, I think that final spot will go to Joe Wright for Darkest Hour. There’s always one director who gets in for a period piece or biopic, and Wright has not only taken over as the leading director of the style, but he’s added his own personal flair to it that’s been often imitated and never copied. If the Academy embraces Darkest Hour across the board, and not just for Gary Oldman, then it is a safe bet that he will also be nominated. You can see the full list of Best Director nominees here.

Best Original Screenplay

Lady Bird

Man, what a wonderful year for original, smart motion pictures. We’ve seen such a variety, from new twists on war films to social horror films to historical docudramas to a really great romantic comedy – and that’s only the first half of the year, and what general audiences have already seen. That’s not looking at the cornucopia of original films coming out of Hollywood later this year. Only two of my original five choices remains after the festival circuit, and I’m not sure either of them are strong enough to remain. Hell, I’ve seen my #1 film drop down to #7, for God’s sake! That would be Downsizing, which just seems like it’s too polarizing to be nominated in such a strong year. The same goes for mother!, which had an interesting idea but a fairly bad script, and would definitely not be nominated even if audiences did love it. As for Detroit, people still seem to like it, but in this tough a year, a fairly basic film that most audiences didn’t see just isn’t going to make the cut for Best Original Screenplay. This is going to be a year of honoring the best and the weirdest. Hell, even the most normal choice is Dunkirk, a film that fluidly jumps between timelines with general ease. That’s not an easy thing to write. It’ll face the difficulty of proving it had a script, as most reports indicate it’s simply a sixty page description of what would happen, but should it prove to be a major Oscar player, you can expect that to sneak in the #4 position. I’m also not eliminating Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread yet, as Anderson normally gets a screenplay nomination, if nothing else, and without any details of the plot, there’s no reason to doubt that won’t be the case on this film. It sits comfortably at #5, waiting to find out which way it ends up going on its quest for Oscar glory.

So with the only two we’d previously discussed sitting at #4 and #5, what’s our Top 3 look like? Well, we can establish immediately that any film looking to be in the Best Picture hunt will have to appear here. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough spots for all of the Best Picture frontrunners at the moment, as they all happen to be Original Screenplays. So that means that one film is going to have to go. I predict that film will be Darkest Hour, for if we are looking at pure imagination, the love story between woman and merman in The Shape of Water and the biting wit of a Midwestern woman battling a local sheriff in Three Billboards both outweigh Churchill being Churchill. If those two are going to make any effort to overthrow Dunkirk as the Best Picture frontrunner, this is where they’ll do it. This leaves us with one spot remaining, and so many great screenplays. Could Battle of the Sexes sneak in, or The Florida Project? What about an audience favorite, like Get Out or The Big Sick? Or even something animated, like Coco? All great possibilities, but I think if appears anywhere at all, this is where the Academy will honor Lady Bird. This is where Juno and Lost in Translation both won awards for their portrayal of a young woman’s struggles, and with Greta Gerwig fighting a boys’ club up in Best Director, this can be the Academy’s way of saying, “Look, we don’t usually dig films about teen girls, but you write pretty good.” Expect those three to be major contenders for the Most Original Film award. You can see the updated list of Original Screenplay contenders right here.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name

If Best Original Screenplay is a category of wonder and competition, then Best Adapted Screenplay is a disaster zone. The only two changes we’ve seen so far are The Post was declared an Original Screenplay and You Were Never Really Here (the #12 prediction) was dropped to 2018, eliminating it from the race. Everything else is the same, which isn’t great, as #3 prediction The Death of Stalin still doesn’t have a release date. I’ve replaced The Post with The Beguiled, which is still looking to get some much-deserved love, and may replace it soon with the box-office success Stronger (that script isn’t anything to write home over, but it’s pretty good), or perhaps even Wonder Woman, but that’s really the best I can do for the moment. My God. What a weak, embarrassing field. You can see the full list of contenders for Best Adapted Screenplay right here.

That wraps up my updates for the first stage of the Oscar race. I’ll try to post my predictions for the rest of the categories in the coming weeks, and I’ll have more updates as things develop. Until then, you can see my updated predictions right here.

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