The 2018 Academy Awards: Thoughts and Predictions

Original Score: Jonny Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread is, without a doubt, the only piece of musical genius to be nominated. It works on its own merits, playing out like a vinyl you could throw on at a ritzy cocktail party, and it only complements a film full of style and sharp shifts in tone. Fill in Desplat as your winner – for what it’s worth, he conjures a thesis of cinema’s magic into a grand melodic gesture – then put in your headphones and drift away to the tune of Greenwood’s score.

The NomineesHans Zimmer (Dunkirk), Jonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread), Alexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water), John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Carter Burwell (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Will WinAlexandre Desplat (The Shape of Water)

Could WinCarter Burwell (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Should WinJonny Greenwood (Phantom Thread)

Deserved ConsiderationDaniel Hart (A Ghost Story), Mandy Hoffman (The Lovers), Mica Levi (Marjorie Prime), Benjamin Wallfisch & Hans Zimmer (Blade Runner 2049)

Original Song: Channeling the early years of Simon & Garfunkel, singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery of Love” isn’t just my favorite song here, but also the most complex and well-written. It’d have my vote. Granted, there’s something to be said for Coco’s “Remember Me”, a song that’s the emotional grenade tossed around the entire film up until the pin is pulled. There’s reason to believe it could win, and still I’m going with “This is Me,” the show-stopping, powerful, inclusive anthem behind the soundtrack’s certified Gold record status.

The Nominees“Mighty River” – Mudbound, “Mystery of Love” – Call Me by Your Name, “Remember Me” – Coco, “Stand Up For Something” – Marshall, “This Is Me” – The Greatest Showman

Will Win“This Is Me” – The Greatest Showman

Could Win“Remember Me” – Coco

Should Win“Mystery of Love” – Call Me by Your Name

Deserved Consideration: “I Get Overwhelmed” – A Ghost Story, “The Pure and the Damned” – Good Time, “Visions of Gideon” – Call Me by Your Name

Original Screenplay: Martin McDonaugh has said that his film feels messy because it’s about a messy world. Or…maybe it’s because, outside of some great dialogue, the script isn’t very good. He shouldn’t win and I fear that he might. The race should come down to the newbies: Gerwig’s personal reflection of growing up and Peele’s sharp horror/comedy/satire. Heck, I’d be happy with a tie. Force me to pick one though and I’d give the edge to Peele, whose film isn’t just full of insight, but is a tonal tightrope that fearlessly treks into new territories without ever looking down. There’s a reason college courses are already dissecting its brains.

The NomineesEmily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Martin McDonaugh (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Will Win: Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Could WinGreta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

Should WinJordan Peele (Get Out)

Deserved ConsiderationPaul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Darren Aronofsky (mother!), Kevin Costello & Kyle Mooney (Brigsby Bear), Bong Joon-ho & Jon Ronson (Okja), David Lowery (A Ghost Story) 

Adapted Screenplay: Perhaps the most lopsided category of the night, expect James Ivory to take the cake, an 89-year-old who’d be the second oldest winner if my previous Agnes Varda pick comes through. Having read André Aciman’s novel (as well as Ivory’s actual screenplay), I can assure you that what digs holes into your heart on the page only further excavates into the depths of the soul when experienced on the screen. The best adaptations aren’t strict or linear; they edit, shift, and alter the material’s identity to fit the storytelling medium. It should come as no surprise that my favorite film of the year was also the best written fiction that 2017 offered.

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

Will WinJames Ivory (Call Me by Your Name)

Could WinVirgil Williams and Dee Rees (Mudbound)

Should WinJames Ivory (Call Me by Your Name)

Deserved Consideration: Stephen Chobansky (Wonder), Scott Cooper (Hostiles), Sofia Coppola (The Beguiled), James Gray (The Lost City of Z)

Directing: The nominees for Best Director are so strong that I think it’s the only category where I couldn’t bring myself to switch out anyone in particular, maybe only expanding the field even further. Guillermo del Toro – a true historian of film with an encyclopedic knowledge of storytelling – will rightfully earn his first victory for the quirky, inviting, thought-provoking adult fairy tale The Shape of Water. That being said, I truly believe that Nolan’s haunting and experiential work directing Dunkirk will be what cinephiles talk about for decades to come. I’ve never seen another film on a big, blasting, bright IMAX screen that felt quite as vivid or alive.

The NomineesChristopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Will WinGuillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Could WinChristopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Should WinLuca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name)

Deserved ConsiderationDarren Aronofsky (mother!), James Gray (The Lost City of Z), Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), Bong Joon-ho (Okja), Kogonada (Columbus), Trey Edward Schults (It Comes at Night)

Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman. He’s your winner, don’t wear it out. From the start in Darkest Hour – a very solid film that I somehow remember almost nothing about – I forgot that I was watching Oldman. His work is nuanced, soft and loud, and it’s finally time to call this gifted thespian a Best Actor. Be on the lookout for Timothée Chalamet though, who in my opinion gave the performance of the year. This revelatory young newcomer imbued into his character Elio the kind of profound experience and naive vulnerability that we’ll look back on years from now and say, “I mean, wasn’t it obvious that he was gonna be great?” And as a sidenote, did anyone actually see Roman J. Israel Esq.? Asking for a friend of a friend of a friend.

The NomineesTimothée 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 WinGary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Could WinTimothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

Should WinTimothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

Deserved ConsiderationChristian Bale (Hostiles), Joel Edgerton (It Comes at Night), James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z), Hugh Jackman (Logan), Menashe Lustig (Menashe), Robert Pattinson (Good Time), Adrien Titieni (Graduation)

Actress in a Leading Role: Again, this one is a no-brainer. Frances McDormand’s sharp-tongued and caustic turn as Mildred Hayes looks to have the clear edge, for whatever unknown reason. If you really want to see the best female performances of the year, I suggest you look elsewhere, especially Sally Hawkins’ portrayal of a mute woman who just so happens to speak volumes more with her eyes and body language than McDormand ever could with such a sour, bitter role.

The NomineesSally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

Will WinFrances McDormand (Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Could WinSaoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Should WinSally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Deserved ConsiderationGal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread), Jennifer Lawrence (mother!), Cynthia Nixon (A Quiet Passion), Aubrey Plaza (Ingrid Goes West), Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth), Haley Lu Richardson (Columbus), An Seo-Hyun (Okja), Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper), Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman)

Best Picture: The hardest pick of the night, not just because it has the most nominees (only 5 could actually win) but more so due to the utter unpredictability. The maligned and tone-deaf Three Billboards has picked up the important precursor wins thus far, although it’s faced recent backlash as of late. Please, movie gods, don’t give it to this one. That leaves Dunkirk (a technical masterpiece), Get Out (an early release with tremendous staying power), Lady Bird (a film that’s really loved by some), and the delightfully different The Shape of Water (up for 13 total awards). Common sense tells me that The Shape of Water is too weird to win, but I really can’t imagine anything else being called on stage besides a film I genuinely loathe (Three Billboards) and one that would be a massive shocker (Get Out). Your guess is as good as mine, because at this point in the ceremony I’ll probably be off somewhere dreaming about a clean sweep by Call Me by Your Name, my favorite film of the year and one of the finest of the 21st Century.

The NomineesCall Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, Get Out, Lady Bird, Phantom Thread, The Post, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Will WinThe Shape of Water

Could WinGet Out

Should WinCall Me by Your Name

Deserved ConsiderationThe Big Sick, The Florida Project, A Ghost Story, It Comes at Night, The Lost City of Zmother!, Mudbound, Okja, Only The Brave

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