Peter Howell predicts the winners, losers, and snubs at the 2018 Oscars

Sunday’s Academy Awards will really be about two different contests: Best Picture . . . and everything else. Here’s Peter Howell’s annual Oscars breakdown.

Preparations Continue for this years 90th Oscars in Hollywood, California, which airs on March 4.

Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Preparations Continue for this years 90th Oscars in Hollywood, California, which airs on March 4.

Are you ready for both Oscar nights?

Yes, you read that correctly. Sunday’s Academy Awards will really be about two different contests: Best Picture . . . and everything else.

That’s due to the preferential ballot for Best Picture, which has been in place since the Academy expanded the top prize in 2009. Best Picture wins by the 7,258 Oscar voters aren’t determined by a clear majority, as they are for the other 23 categories.

They take into account second, third and even more choices. This often leads to surprise victors, such as last year’s Moonlight triumph over the heavily favoured La La Land.

The preferential ballot’s vote redistribution could give the gold to Martin McDonagh’s vigilante mom picture Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or Jordan Peele’s race satire Get Out, both of which have been coming on strong in recent weeks.

Let’s assess the situation with my annual will/could/should Oscar calls:

Best Picture

Will: The Shape of Water

Could: Get Out or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should: Lady Bird

Why: The Shape of Water has been considered the inevitable Best Picture winner since it launched to acclaim on the festival circuit last fall. A romantic thriller that’s in love with the movies, it’s got everything going for it, except one significant pre-Oscars kudo: a nomination for the Best Ensemble prize from the Screen Actors Guild, one of the few remaining Oscar bellwethers. Just one movie has won Best Picture without SAG ensemble mojo, and that was Braveheart in 1995.

So don’t be too surprised if Three Billboards, Dunkirk or even Get Out takes Best Picture, since they’re all judged to be a strong No. 2 choice for many voters. Vote distribution could make that enough to defeat a weak No. 1 choice. If it were up to me, however, I’d vote for Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age gem Lady Bird, my favourite film of the past year.


Best Director

Will: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Could: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk, or Jordan Peele, Get Out

Should: del Toro

Why: Mexican-born Guillermo del Toro loves Hollywood as much as Hollywood loves him. He made The Shape of Water as a valentine for the monster movies he adored as a child. All signs point to a win for him in this category — he took the Directors Guild of America prize — even if the Best Picture prospects for his film remain suspenseful.


Best Actress

Will: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Should: Ronan

Why: No contest, really. McDormand’s likelihood of winning her second Best Actress prize (the first was for Fargo in 1997) looks as defiantly certain as her vigilante character Mildred was in Three Billboards. An avatar for #MeToo times, she’s won most of the advance industry awards. If there’s an upset, it would likely come from Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan (my preferred choice) or The Shape of Water’s Sally Hawkins. But don’t hold your breath, as Mildred might say.


Best Actor

Will: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Could: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Should: Chalamet

Why: If you go strictly by “he’s due” reasoning, there’s no question that the often-overlooked Gary Oldman more than earned the Oscar for his magnificent portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The other extreme is first-time nominee Timothée Chalamet, who I’d argue earned the gold for the last few minutes of Call Me by Your Name, when all of the emotions of the movie cross his face. To me it was the most golden male performance of 2017, and Chalamet would my choice for the win. But at age 22, he has a lot of Oscars chances ahead of him.


Best Supporting Actress

Will: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Could: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Should: Metcalf

Why: This category should have been called the “Battle of the Bossy Moms” this year, since it’s really between Allison Janney and Laurie Metclaf. Janney is going to win for her amazing turn as the Mom from Hell in the ice skater biopic I, Tonya. She’s swept the advance awards.

Metcalf delivered an equal potent, although less corrosive version of the meddling mom in Lady Bird, creating a character that resonated more with me. But I’m not an Oscar voter. In Olympic terms, she’s the metaphorical silver to Janney’s gold.


Best Supporting Actor

Will: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Could: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Should: Dafoe

Why: If there’s any justice, and of course there isn’t, Willem Dafoe would have this in a lock for his portrayal of empathetic hotel manager in the seriously overlooked The Florida Project.

But all eyes and votes have been turning towards Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of a redeemable racist lawman in Three Billboards. He’ll win, although Dafoe should — and nobody else is seriously in the running.


Best Original Screenplay

Will: Get Out

Could: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should: Lady Bird

Why: If you think of the writing categories as the ones where Academy voters give consolation prizes to films they like but don’t want for Best Picture, then expect to see Jordan Peele on stage early in the evening, picking up the hardware for his feature debut as writer/director.

He deserves it, too, although Three Billboards might sneak in here for a win. But I’d choose Gerwig’s Lady Bird screenplay, which has more great lines that these other two films combined.


Best Adapted Screenplay

Will: Call Me by Your Name

Could: Molly’s Game or Mudbound

Should: Call Me by Your Name

Why: As I was saying about consolation prizes above, voters may decide to give golden coming-of-ager Call Me by Your Name the win here that it won’t get for Best Picture. If they do so, they’d be creating Oscar history, making screenwriter James Ivory the oldest winner in Oscar’s 90-year history — unless Faces Places co-director Agnès Varda wins for Best Documentary Feature the same night. (She’s eight days older than Ivory.) But there’s a potential for upset from Molly’s Game or Mudbound, which have their own passionate advocates.


And the rest . . .

  • The Shape of Water could prove to be the big winner that’s not so big in a share-the-wealth evening. I’m calling it to win Best Picture and Best Director, but only one other category, Best Production Design. That’s just three wins from 13 nominations.
  • Canada’s Denis Villeneuve was robbed, in my opinion, for failing to land Best Picture and Best Directors noms for Blade Runner 2049, his brilliant sci-fi sequel. But the film will likely take Best Visual Effects and Best Cinematography (giving Roger Deakins his first Oscar win in 14 tries). It might also snatch the production design prize from The Shape of Water.
  • Best Animated Feature for Disney/Pixar’s Coco, which celebrates diversity with an entertaining fantasy set during Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations. There’s upset potential from Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner, which has done well on the festival and awards circuit.
  • Best Costume Design is really a battle between Phantom Thread and The Shape of Water, with Phantom threading the needle with all those spectacular gowns. It’s another chance for voters to recognize a film that won’t win Best Picture.
  • I also see Phantom Thread (Jonny Greenwood) beating The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat) for Best Original Score. This may just be because I prefer Greenwood’s music to Desplat’s. As for Best Original Song, I predict “This Is Me” from the surprisingly popular musical The Greatest Showman to win, but the tune that gets the most replays on my iPod is Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery Of Love,” from Call Me by Your Name.
  • Just three films have a chance at Oscar gold for Best Makeup and Hairstyling, because only three were nominated. Darkest Hour will surely beat Wonder and Victoria & Abdul, because the transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Church was nothing short of incredible.
  • Best Foreign Language Film is always a tough call, because there are few advance indicators and the nominees are usually all good. But the Academy seems to favour Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, a transgender romance cri de cœur.
  • I’d love to see Agnès Varda and JR’s whimsical road movie Faces Places win for Best Documentary Feature, and it just might, but timeliness and social urgency favour either sports-doping exposé Icarus or Trump-blocked war doc Last Men in Aleppo.
  • There are three categories of short films, all of them determined to make you lose your office Oscar pool. I’m calling geriatric love story Edith+Eddie for Best Documentary Short, school-shooting drama DeKalb Elementary for Best Live Action Short and the Kobe Bryant self-valentine Dear Basketball for Best Animated Short, but if you lose your office pool, don’t blame me, OK?
  • Best Film Editing is a really interesting category this year, because just three of the Best Picture nominees — Darkest Hour, Dunkirk and The Shape of Water — are included, and this is historically a Best Picture bellwether. I’m counterintuitively betting that Baby Driver will win, because musically motivated editing made that film the joy it is to watch.
  • And finally, Satan’s favourite Oscar categories: Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing, which really are determined to sink your office pool chances. But isn’t it easy this year? Won’t Dunkirk win both for being loud, important and historical?

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