The 2018 Academy Awards: Thoughts and Predictions

As the voting body expands and diversifies, and if last year was any signal of the changes to come, the 90th Academy Awards should be a confluence of predetermined victors and unpredictable underdogs. With 13 nominations overall, The Shape of Water appears to be the head of the pack, at least in terms of quantity, but don’t pen it down for a clean sweep. This year’s categories are either clear home runs from the onset or tight races between multiple horses, all neck and neck as they sprint to the finish line. Expect some to end up, well, as expected. And anticipate a big shock to the system. The landscape of the Oscars are changing, or at the very least trying to invoke change, and I for once can’t wait to tune in and see how things shake out. After all, it’s basically my Super Bowl.

Actor in a Supporting Role: As all four of the acting categories appear to be clinched without much competition thus far, I have to roll out my soapbox and declare that Armie Hammer was not only snubbed of the Oscar that should have borne his name, but inexcusably left off the ballot altogether (Plummer in his place is disgraceful). What he accomplishes is spellbinding, as is Dafoe’s definitive supporting turn as the affable everyman Bobby. Sam Rockwell will be your winner, despite the fact that the excellent caricature performance in a sub-par story is far from his best work. I’ll cheer when he wins because he’s a deserving talent and a genuine artist, all while imagining the award came for a better film.

The NomineesWillem 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)

Will WinSam Rockwell (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Could WinWillem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

Should WinArmie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)

Deserved ConsiderationChristopher Abbott (It Comes at Night), Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name), Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer), Benny Safdie (Good Time), Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Algee Smith (Detroit), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me by Your Name), Miles Teller (Only The Brave) 

Makeup and Hairstyling: Your guaranteed Best Actor winner Gary Oldman wouldn’t be giving his first Oscar acceptance speech had he not physically been transformed into Winston Churchill. His win belongs to the makeup and hairstyling team as much as it does to the man himself. Having said that, I’m still not sure how Victoria & Abdul weaseled its way in here.

The NomineesKazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour), Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard (Victoria & Abdul), Arjen Tuiten (Wonder)

Will WinKazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour)

Could WinArjen Tuiten (Wonder)

Should WinKazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick (Darkest Hour)

Deserved ConsiderationMathieu Baptista (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets), Dennis Berardi, Shane Mahan and Mike Hill (The Shape of Water), Alessandro Bertolazzi and Giorgio Gregorini (Bright)

Costume Design: Often my least favorite category because it tends to award gaudy frills over focused vision, I wouldn’t be surprised if Beauty and the Beast’s unoriginal approach took the statue. I could also make a serious argument for Call Me by Your Name; the clothes manage to be simple and integral and unforgettable. Phantom Thread snuck into the field with more love than previously anticipated, which I predict will result in its lone win for the evening. Isn’t the default choice in this category the stunning Best Picture nominee that happens to be about a dressmaker?

The NomineesJacqueline Durran (Beauty and the Beast), Jacqueline Durran (Darkest Hour), Mark Bridges (Phantom Thread), Luis Sequeira (The Shape of Water), Consolata Boyle (Victoria & Abdul)

Will WinMark Bridges (Phantom Thread)

Could WinJacqueline Durran (Beauty and the Beast)

Should WinGiulia Piersanti (Call Me by Your Name)

Deserved ConsiderationKatherine Jane Bryant (It), Jürgen Doering (Personal Shopper), Lindy Hemming (Wonder Woman), Sonia Grande (The Lost City of Z), Courtney Hoffman (Baby Driver), Giulia Piersanti (Call Me by Your Name)

Documentary Feature: When you aren’t sure who to pick in the less celebrated categories, it’s safe to go with whichever film carries the most sentimentality. I loved the liveliness of Faces Places – a journey through France with New Wave icon Agnes Varda – and at age 89 it makes sense to honor a legend (who’d be the oldest winner ever) while she’s still kicking. Other documentaries wowed me more this year, but Faces Places is my choice among these options.

The NomineesAbacus: Small Enough to Jail, Faces Places, Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, Strong Island

Will WinFaces Places

Could WinIcarus

Should Win: Tie – Dawson City: Frozen Time Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Deserved ConsiderationCity of Ghosts, Dawson City: Frozen Time, Dina, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Jane, Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992

Sound EditingDunkirk will win this award, so don’t try to get fancy and go with another option. Sound Editing has a great track record of going to the most prestigious war film of the lot, and since the picture won’t be winning any of the marquee awards, you can expect Dunkirk to clean up in most technical categories. My IMAX theater had signs posted warning audiences of the sheer volume and magnitude of the film’s sound. So yeah, this is your winner.

The NomineesBaby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Will WinDunkirk

Could WinBaby Driver

Should WinDunkirk

Deserved Consideration: John Wick 2Logan, mother!, War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman

Sound Mixing: With its painstakingly detailed mix between on-screen action and its carefully curated mix tape, the heist driven Baby Driver should be stealing this one all the way to the bank. However, since both categories have the same five nominees, you’re better off going with Dunkirk, a crowning achievement in its own right.

The NomineesBaby Driver, Blade Runner 2049, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Will WinDunkirk

Could WinBaby Driver

Should WinBaby Driver

Deserved ConsiderationLogan, The LEGO Batman Movie, mother!, Phantom Thread

Actress in a Supporting Role: Janney will win, and she is good. Metcalf should win, and she is better. Both play hard moms, yet only longtime TV vet Metcalf develops a full character arc while Janney’s is a one-note and mean-spirited shtick. This might be the closest of all the acting races, but Janney has won everything up to this point and you can bet the Oscars will be no different. I’d have replaced Manville & Spencer with Hunter & the star-making turn from Haddish.

The NomineesMary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Lesley Manville (Phanton Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Will WinAllison Janney (I, Tonya)

Could WinLaurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Should WinLaurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Deserved ConsiderationHong Chau (Downsizing), Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Nicole Kidman (The Beguiled), Sienna Miller (The Lost City of Z), Tilda Swinton (Okja)

Foreign-Language Film: The first true toss-up of the night. Could go to the progressive trans story A Fantastic Woman, Lebanon’s opening bid with The Insult, or the divisive Palme d’Or winner The Square. I’m still catching up on 2017’s impressive roster of foreign films (I’m shocked that First They Killed My Father and BPM weren’t even nominated), so I wouldn’t be surprised by any film that’s called.

The NomineesA Fantastic Woman, The Insult, Loveless, On Body and Soul, The Square

Will WinA Fantastic Woman

Could WinThe Insult

Should WinGraduation

Deserved ConsiderationBPM (Beats Per Minute), First They Killed My Father, Graduation, In the Fade, My Happy Family, Nocturama

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