It’s the Super Bowl of cinema. The 90th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony is set for this Sunday, celebrating all that was great and wonderful about film in 2017. There was a lot to love at the movies last year, and this year’s Oscars lineup is a near perfect reflection of that.
Looking at the nominations, what’s most striking is how close everything is in terms of quality. For most of the major categories, every nominee would be more than deserving of the Oscar statue. Point of fact, this is one of the closest years in recent memory, without a clear frontrunner for many of the categories.
That, of course, speaks to how good movies were in the last year. It also makes it incredibly hard to try and pick the winners. But we’ve given it our best shot. Here, we take a look at the major categories and have attempted to logically deduce the most likely picks.
We can’t know whether we’re right or wrong, of course. Part of what makes the Oscars so fun is the suprises and upsets. Every year, it seems, has its share of shocking twists and heartbreak. There’s bound to be some unexpected turns this year, as with any year, so you’ll have to tune in yourself when the Oscars air this Sunday on ABC.
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya Get Out
Gary Oldman Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington Roman J. Israel, Esq.
As with so many categories this year, the Best Actor race is an indication of just how many great movies were released in 2017. The lone standout here seems to be Washington, whose performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq. was about the only universally admired thing about that movie. As powerful as Chalamet’s performance in Call Me By Your Name is, he does have the youth factor playing against him here. It seems likely that the Academy will overlook him for the Oscar this year under the assumption that he’ll have ample more opportunities to earn his statue over his career. The remaining three, Day-Lewis, Kaluuya, and Oldman each have momentum going into the ceremony. Given that Day-Lewis has stated he plans on retiring after Phantom Thread, you might expect the Academy to give him one last hurrah. However, he has already received three previous awards, which might play against him in the voting. Really, it comes down to Kaluuya and Oldman. This is a close toss up, but I suspect two things will come into consideration:
- Like Chalamet, Kaluuya is young and will most likely have other opportunities to earn his Oscar.
- Oldman has never received an Oscar.
My gut tells me Oldman will most likely be walking away with the gold this time around, but don’t be surprised to see Kaluuya at the podium.
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
In terms of being too close to call, Best Actress this year is even worse than Best Actor. In a perfect world, the Academy would just make 5 statues and give each of these amazing, talented, incredible women an Oscar of their own. That won’t happen though, so let’s try to eliminate. First is Streep. As brilliant as she was in The Post, we also have to consider that, like Day-Lewis, she’s won three Oscars in her career. The Academy knows that there are other talented and deserving women in this category and might not be willing to reward Streep over others. While McDormand’s performance in Three Billboards was nothing short of masterful, she, too, already has an Oscar on her shelf, which means the odds might be tilted against her. Of the three remaining nominees, anything is possible and none can be outright dismissed. It’s tempting to say that Ronan will suffer the same fate I predicted for Kaluuya and Chalamet, but she’s coming off a Golden Globe and a slew of accolades in awards season. Golden Globe aside, both Hawkins and Robbie also got their share of acclaim in the months leading up to the Oscars, and their performances in their respective films were both powerhouses. In the end, I suspect Ronan will be riding the momentum all the way to the podium this year, but, really, this category feels wide open.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Immediately it feels like we can eliminate Harrelson and Plummer. Both were excellent in their respective performances, but were they Oscar-worthy? Not really. For me this comes down to three questions: who deserves it, who I’d like to win, and who will win. Each of those questions has a different answer. Who I’d like to win is Jenkins; of all the great and beautiful parts of The Shape of Water, Jenkins was arguably the greatest. Dafoe certainly deserves it; his performance in The Florida Project was the most heartfelt and nuanced performances of his entire career, and given that this is his third nomination with zero wins, it’s certainly probably his time. In the end, however, Rockwell has some serious legs going into this year’s show. He’s coming off of a Golden Globe win and a SAG award for his performance in Three Billboards, and I’m just not sure that train can be derailed.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
To my eyes, there are really only three serious contenders for this award: Janney, Metcalf, and Spencer. (Blige and Manville were both amazing, but whether or not the Academy is prepared to honor a Netflix movie in Blige’s case feels up in the air, and Phantom Thread just doesn’t have the traction you might expect going into the awards.) Spencer’s performance in The Shape of Water is certainly exquisite, but she’s also coming off a win last year for Hidden Figures and won previously for The Help. Metcalf gave one of the most emotional performances of last year, and would certainly deserve the win, but ultimately Janney is coming in and coming in HOT. She won the Golden Globe. She won the SAG. That seems to about wrap up that contest.
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Perhaps more than any category, any choice I make will be little more than an educated guess. This is going to be a close one, and it’s almost too close to call. But let’s try anyway. Immediately I want to dismiss Dunkirk and Phantom Thread; both of them are fantastic films with fantastic direction, but neither of them have the legs going into this to take them over the edge. That leaves us with Peele, Gerwig, and del Toro. In any other year, any of these directors would win no contest. Going up against each other? You’ve got a good old fashioned horse race. It’s almost too close to call, but the Academy has a chance to make history here, and the Academy, especially recently, LOVES to make history, and Peele would certainly make history as the first African American director to win an Oscar for his film. On top of that, Get Out was an amazing work of cinema that expertly skewers our society’s relationship with race. I think Peele has this one in the bag.
Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh
As with director, this feels like a three-way race between Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Shape of Water. Given that Peele will most likely win Best Director, I’m thinking that it ultimately comes down to Lady Bird and The Shape of Water. Lady Bird had a lot of great things going for it, but its screenplay was certainly the best. My money is on Gerwig taking home the Oscar here.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
As much as I will stand on my couch and cheer at the top of my lungs if Logan wins, anything but Call Me By Your Name is wrong.
Call Me By Your Name
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
Here we go, the big one. Let’s first eliminate the films that simply don’t have the legs coming into this to make much headway: Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Phantom Thread, and The Post are gone. Sometimes the Academy surprises us and a film without legs sneaks in, but the remaining five films this year have too many legs to ignore. So that leaves us with Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Of these five, Call Me is the most easily dismissible—it’s classic in the way that the Academy loves, but it, too, didn’t make near the splash that it was expected to this awards season. Of the remaining four, you can lump them into two categories:
- The Boring Choice (Lady Bird, Three Billboards)
- The Inspired Choice (Get Out, The Shape of Water)
Lady Bird is the safest pick, and it certainly has some legs. Get Out is the most inspired pick, and I do think that there’s a chance it will sneak in. That said, I think it really comes down to Three Billboards and The Shape of Water. Three Billboards is coming off of some heavy wins late in awards season, but it’s been a couple of months. So the question becomes: is its momentum dead? Personally, I hope so. Three Billboards was a perfectly fine movie, but not much more beyond that. The Shape of Water is the kind of timeless film that will be watched for decades. If there’s any justice in this cold world, The Shape of Water will be victorious.