Jason’s “90th Annual Academy Awards” Predictions & Predilections

90th Annual Academy Awards
Having literally seen ALL but two of this year’s forty-four nominated films (“Ferdinand” and “Boss Baby”, because…why?), and having discussed the awards with members and staff of AMPAS, and having read many other predictions, I think I’ve got a fairly decent handle on this. So here are my predictions (what will win) & my predilections (what should win)..

But, first, as an overview:

What a strange year for the award-worthy films. There is no clear cut favorite. As for the two most talked about favorites; a large percentage of folk loved “Shape of Water” but were not fans of “Three Billboards” and vice versa. So, given the way in which the winner is determined (very complex) whoever gets the most second place votes has a real shot of winning. Guess what that is…read on to find out!

Also, this is the year of #MeToo and #TimesUp. It will be interesting to see how that affects voters….most specifically how it will affect the voting for the prior Best Actor shoo-in, Gary Oldman, and Best Animated Short shoo-in, Kobe Bryant. I don’t think it will. But the speeches should (and will hopefully) be epic.

However, I find it interesting that the #OscarsSoWhite campaign has all but disappeared in the spotlight of #MeToo. Maybe that’s because there ARE more African-American-centric stories included. But it sure would have been nice to see “Mudbound” nominated for Best Picture or director. Of course, it’s non-inclusion probably has more to do with the Academy’s hatred of streaming (as evidence, they rewrote their rules for Best Doc after “O.J:Made In America” walked away with the prize last year – never mind it was ridiculously deserving). It will be interesting to see if Mr. Peele takes home some metal. I hope he does.

So, without further ado, here is my cheat sheet for your Oscar’s pool, and my explanations. I average 85-90% accuracy over the last decade (missed six last year – everybody got the La La Land/Moonlight fiasco wrong), so I should be able to help you win. For a printable Oscar ballot (with my “will wins” and “should wins”), click here.

BestMotion Picture of the Year

This is an odd year, as mentioned above. Espcecially with the “preferential” balloting. With thanks to Gold Derby.com for explaining it better than anyone else, here’s how it voting for Best Picture goes down:

“This year, voters ranked the nine Best Picture nominees. If one nominee garners more than 50% of the first place votes, it will win Best Picture. If, as is more likely, no nominee reaches this threshold, the film with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, with its ballots being reapportioned to the second-place choice. Should no film cross the required 50% + one ballot threshold, the film with the fewest first-place votes is again eliminated, with its ballots being apportioned to the next choice still in play (i.e., if the second-place choice is no longer in the running, then the ballot would be reapportioned to the third-place choice and so on.) This process of elimination and reapportion continues until one film reaches at least 50% + one ballots.” (goldderby.com)

Got all that?!

So…I think that means “Call Me By Your Name”, “Darkest Hour”, “Phantom Thread” and “The Post” are out. They may get a bunch of 3rd and 4th place votes, but they aren’t the films that are on the forefront of voters minds. Of these,  “Call Me” is the most beloved, but not beloved enough. So now we’re down to “Dunkirk”, “Get Out”, “Lady Bird”, “Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards”. The word on the street here is that there’s a hardcore “Shape of Water’ camp, and a “Three Billboards” camp. And those camps aren’t likely to vote for the other as their second choice. This means, based on second place voting, “Dunkirk” has a real shot to win this thing. And “Get Out” might win for the same reason. Look for “Lady Bird” to win the third place vote. (BTW, it is not a transparent process…we’ll never know what the order ends up being).

Personally, as most of you know, I think “Dunkirk” is one of the great war films of all time, and one of the best overall films in a very long time. While I feel like “Shape of Water” is the “obvious” choice, this was one of the few categories I missed last year. I bought in to the “La La Land” juggernaut even though I believed “Moonlight” to be the better choice. Fool me twice, yadda yadda…I’ll pick the underdog…which is fitting for a film about Dunkirk.

“Call Me By Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Will win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Longshot: Get Out


Achievement in Directing
SO! Four of the last five Best Picture winners did not win Best Director, a stat which just adds to my belief that “Dunkirk” might win, because del Toro has this sewn up. However, if Nolan or Peele win this award, “Shape” will be your Best Picture winner. Confused yet?

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

Will win: Guillermo del Toro
Should Win: Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Long Shot: Jordan Peele


Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Yeah, yeah…Timothée Chalamet gives a great performance given his age. Blah, blah, blah. Gary Oldman gives a performance for the ages. Not even a remote chance he loses.

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.”

Will win: Gary Oldman
Should Win: Gary Oldman

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
<sigh> Poor Saoirse. She should have won for “Brooklyn” and she should win for “Lady Bird”. But she won’t. The only way she wins is if Sally Hawkins and Frances McDormand split their vote and allow her to sneak in. All five of these actors are brilliant, though. A great year for the women. You could easily make a case for each of them. For my money, Hawkins had a real advantage not having to speak lines. That doesn’t make a role harder, as people seem to think. No, it makes it easier, as she’s not stuck interpreting someone else’s words…she can simply be. It’s still a terrific performance – but I thought she ewas better in the criminally undervalued “Maudie”. Also, I personally feel McDormand’s performance is less dimensional than the others. Streep, Robbie and Ronan? All great. Ridiculously great. None of it matters. SAG went to McDormand and so does the Oscar.

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards…”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Will win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan
Long Shot: Sally Hawkins

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
As usual, I find myself on an island here. Rockwell wasn’t even the THIRD  best supporting actor in “Three Billboards”. Harrelson was the anchor, the soul, the wit and the life of “Three Billboards”, John Hawkes was the much more believable villain and Dinklage has a well of pain and self-preservation that is unmatched in every frame of his screen time. But Rockwell sure burns up some scenery, no? He’s gonna win. Mr. Plummer and Mr. Jenkins, thanks for playing. Mr. Dafoe? Keep your ears open, sir. You just might pull it out…if only it weren’t for that silly SAG award on Rockwell’s mantle…

Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards…”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards…”

Will win: Sam Rockwell
Should Win: Woody Harrelson
Long Shot: Willem Dafoe

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
So, Ms. Janney winning is one of the biggest sure-things of the evening. But, sorry, I don’t get it. She’s a presence, to be sure…but it’s so one note. Compare that to Metcalf or Manville, who could not be any more human…desperate to HIDE their true emotions rather than air them out. That requires so much more work on the part of the performer. Ah well. There’s a SLIM possibility  Ms. Metcalf wins…but not bloody likely.

Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Will win: Allison Janney
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf
Long Shot: Laurie Metcalf


Achievement in Costume Design
Uh…let’s see…cool period pieces or a film ABOUT the highest of high fashion couturiers set in a different period. Next…

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran
“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran
“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges
“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira
“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle

Will win: Phantom Thread
Should Win: Phantom Thread
Long Shot: Beauty and the Beast


Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Ironically, Churchill had very little hair. But neither did he look anything like Gary Oldman. “Darkest Hour” gets the prize here.

“Darkest Hour”
“Victoria and Abdul”

Will win: Darkest Hour
Should Win: Darkest Hour


Best Animated Feature Film
Other than to express my outrage at the inclusion of the dreadful “Boss Baby”, there is nothing to add. The BIGGEST lock of the night is “Coco”.

“The Boss Baby”
“The Breadwinner”
“Loving Vincent”

Will win: Coco
Should Win: Coco


Best Foreign-Language Film
* I loved “On Body and Soul” but it has the hardest scene to watch since Bunuels’ “Un Chien Andalou” eye-slice…except this scene lasts much longer. Thus no shot at the top prize.
* I yawned through “Loveless”…much like I yawned through Andrey Zvyagintsev’s previously nominated film, “Leviathan”. No shot.
* I hated “The Square” – pretentious, overlong – but many loved it. Slim shot 10%.
* I was intrigued by “A Fantastic Woman”, but did not find the film fantastic. It is, however, a timely film beloved by many Academy members. 45% chance of winning.
* I was enthralled by “The Insult”. A terrific film. Period. The other 45% chance of winning.

At this point, it’s a dart board throw. I’m going to guess that “Fantastic Woman” is too timely to avoid.

(For the record, the best foreign film this year came from Hungary, but wasn’t even its country’s entry, an honor that went to “On Body and Soul”. It’s called “1945”. It’s coming soon to an art house near you later this month. SEE IT!)

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul” (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)

Will win: A Fantastic Woman
Should Win: The Insult
Long Shot: The Square


Best Documentary Feature
This is the strangest group of nominees in the history of this category. None of them are true standouts and one of them is downright infuriating. “Abacus” is an important and interesting story, but it’s not told in a way that matches its import. “Faces Places” is THE MOST SELF-INDULGENT film that’s ever been nominated, which is saying something. “Icarus” is not remotely as groundbreaking as it purports to be (and is pretty self-indulgent, as well).

That leaves us with two terrific films…”Last Man In Aleppo” and “Strong Island”. If I had a vote, I’d go with “Strong Island”. It’s a brilliantly told tale about the destruction of one African-American family. On the other hand, “Aleppo” takes last year’s doc short winner  and beautifully/horrifically expands on these bravest of brave men and what makes them tick.

Who’ll win? Word is “Icarus” is the front runner…but if voters waited until the last minute to vote, they’re voting for the film directed by the guy who was refused entry to the U.S. for the Oscars due to Trump’s Travel Ban (in much the same way as last year’s “A Salesman”). I hope it does. And if “Faces Places” wins…I’ll…I’ll…yawn.

“Abacus: Small Enough To Jail”
“Faces Places”
“Last Men In Aleppo”
“Strong Island”

Will win: Last Men In Aleppo
Should Win: Strong Island
Equal chance: Icarus


Best Documentary Short Subject
Some great choices here, and the early favorite was “Edith+Eddie”. But there is a huge contingent of LA-based voters who can’t help but vote for LA-centric films, and “Heaven” fits that bill…even if it does seem to meander without a true narrative. And while “Knife Skills” would make for a terrific feature, “Traffic Stop” is the most viscerally effective (even if it’s not all that great a film). Finally, “Heroin(e)” is the most fully formed of the bunch and, I believe, the most likely to impress the voters…as it did me.

“Edith + Eddie”was
“Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405”
“Knife Skills”
“Traffic Stop”

Will win: Heroin(e)
Should Win: Heroin(e)
Long shot: Heaven


Best Live-Action Short Film
If the shorts voters, who are notorious for going light, can handle a real film, then unquestionably “DeKalb Elementary” should win. But, four of the five are uber-heavy, and, after all that heavy lifting, one needs a smile. Hence the majority of the winners for this award going to comedies. It’s no way to judge film, but it is a reality of the current voting demographic. If it goes that way, then the REALLY thin comedy, “Eleven O’Clock” might win. But, given what’s happening as a result Parkland, I certainly hope “DeKalb” wins.

“DeKalb Elementary (USA)
“The Eleven O’Clock” (Australia)
“My Nephew Emmett” (USA)
“The Silent Child” (UK)
“Watu Wote/All of Us” (Germany/Kenya)

Will win: DeKalb Elementary
Should Win: DeKalb Elementary
Long Shot: The Eleven O’Clock


Best Animated Short Film
Not one of the these films will last in the mind’s eye beyond initial voting, except maybe “Negative Space”. And the Pixar film, “Lou”, is lovely. None of it matters. “Kobe’s” commercial to himself will win – regardless of #TimesUp. Ugh.

“Dear Basketball” (USA)
“Garden Party” (France)
“Lou” (USA)
“Negative Space” (France)
“Revolting Rhymes: Part One” (UK)

Will win: Dear Basketball
Should Win: Negative Space
Long Shot: Lou


Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SCORE)
There are actually THREE scores truly in the running for the award. Up to about a week ago, Desplat’s “Shape of Water” was a shoo-in. But I’m hearing rumblings about a late surge for Zimmer’s “Dunkirk” masterpiece, and Johnny Greenwood’s epic, and old-Hollywood sounding score for “Phantom Thread”. As for the other two, Burwell will have a better chance down the road…this isn’t his best score. And this isn’t even John Williams’ best score in 2018! That belongs to “The Post”. I think it’s too late, though. “Shape of Water” for the win.

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell

Will win: Shape of Water – Desplat
Should Win: Dunkirk – Zimmer
Long Shot: Phantom Thread – Greenwood

Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SONG)
It is my firm belief that this award is utterly irrelevant. It exists only so there can be a semblance of performed entertainment during the show. At LEAST this year, these aren’t just the songs that play over the closing credits. Well two are (“Mighty River” and “Stand Up For Something”). This happenstance gives it a LITTLE more meaning, I suppose. But not much. The scuttlebutt out here is it’s a race between “Remember Me” and “This Is Us”…I mean “This Is Me”. Of the two I’d prefer “Remember Me”…because I actually liked “Coco” (take that any way you want to). “This Is Me” suffers from the lets-all-sing-as-loudly-as-we-can-to-make-it-really-important-itis that one finds in modern musicals. Ugh. All that said, “Mystery of Love” was the most effective song of the bunch, even if it has no shot of winning.

“Mighty River,” (from “Mudbound”) – Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love,” (from “Call Me by Your Name”) – Sufjan Stevens
“Remember Me,” (from “Coco”) –  Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
“Stand Up for Something,” (from “Marshall”) – Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me,” (from “The Greatest Showman”) – Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Will win: “This Is Me” – Greatest Showman
Should Win: “Mystery of Love” – Call Me By Your Name
Long Shot: “Remember Me” – Coco


Achievement in Sound Editing (best creation of sound other than music – sound fx)
“Dunkirk”. End of story.

“Baby Driver”
“Blade Runner 2049”
“The Shape of Water”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Will win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Long Shot: Blade Runner 2049


Achievement in Sound Mixing (best mix of sound, dialogue, music etc.)
Well, war movies always win, but this year, “Baby Driver” deserves the award just as much. Plus, there just might be some backlash against the perception that Nolan likes his sounds more than his dialogue. Nonetheless, pretty sure it goes to “Dunkirk”

“Baby Driver”
“Blade Runner 2049”
“The Shape of Water”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Will win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Baby Driver
Long Shot: Baby Driver


Original Screenplay
I think this is the biggest toss-up of the night. Other than “The Big Sick” (which really can’t hang with the rest), these are an extremely well-written bunch. I would vote for  “Lady Bird”, but it doesn’t seem like those with actual votes have. And if “Get Out” doesn’t win director or picture, it will win here (which is the high percentage guess). The only other film with a shot is “Three Billboards”. Voters love McDonagh. Of course, there is that little issue of a racist main character and basically NO people of color…which will hold it back.

“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
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Will win: Get Out
Should Win: Lady Bird
Equal Shot: Three Billboards


Best Adapted Screenplay

This one is not really close. Oscar will  say “Call Me By Your Name”, and “Call Me By Your Name” will lovingly whisper “Oscar” in its ear. Me? Even with it’s problems, I preferred the vast majority of the “Mudbound” script. Oh…and you can never completely rule out a Sorkin joint.


“Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory
“The Disaster Artist,” Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
“Logan,” Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
“Molly’s Game,” Aaron Sorkin
“Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Will win: Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: Mudbound
Long Shot: Molly’s Game


Achievement in Cinematography
Well, if Roger Deakins doesn’t freakin’ win for “Blade Runner 2049” he’s never going to. It’s gorgeous to be sure…but I’m not sure how much is green screen versus actual use of light manipulation. “Mudbound”, and its wide open spaces is spectacular photography. And “Dunkirk” is a masterpiece of camera work…and camera innovation. But, I’m pretty sure Deakins ends his Susan Lucci impersonation.

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen

Will win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Dunkirk or Mudbound
Long Shot: Shape of Water


Achievement in Film Editing
So…I’m almost sad “Baby Driver” didn’t exist in a different year. It’s editing is an essential part of a really enjoyable film. But, c’mon now. “Dunkirk” is one of the more ingeniously edited films…I don’t know…ever?

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith
“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel
“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky
“Three Billboards…,” Jon Gregory

Will win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Long Shot: Baby Driver


Achievement in Visual Effects
Well, it’s Apes or Androids (not the Star Wars kind). Take your pick. I’m going Villineueve, whose “Arrival” could have easily won, but wasn’t even nominated. He took a thirty-five year old film, whose visual effects still live on in our mind…and did something no other director can do….make us believe new effects without making the previous effects seem obsolete. A shame “Planet of the Apes” keeps getting the shaft, though. Surpasses last year’s “Jungle Book” in making animals real enough to be on a par with the human performers.

“Blade Runner 2049”
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
“Kong: Skull Island”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Will win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
Long Shot: War for the Planet of the Apes


Achievement in Production Design
“Shape of Water” created a little world that was part French cinema fantasy, part old-school monster movie and all kinds of romantic using not much more than water. All are deserving, and I would have voted for “Dunkirk”, but it’s a shoo-in for “Shape”

“Beauty and the Beast”
“Blade Runner”
“Darkest Hour”
“The Shape of Water”

Will win: Shape of Water
Should Win: Dunkirk


Put on your safety belts, update your passports, and enjoy the fireworks.

Written 3/1/2018

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