After the OscarSoWhite hashtag movement a couple of years ago, the Motion Picture Academy’s demographics have altered. With membership now opened up to a younger, more diverse crowd of film pros, you might expect this year’s nominees to feature a few plucky mavericks vs. the mainstream favorites. But—surprise! Almost none of the nominees qualify as “mainstream,” including the two top contenders: Guillermo del Toro’s lush, eerie, romantic fantasy The Shape of Water, and Martin McDonagh’s blackly comic morality play Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
While the predictive winners in all four acting categories are pretty much set in stone (results have been uniform throughout the awards season), there’s still plenty of room to stir up trouble! Here’s what I think will happen:
BEST PICTURE Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. Usually, if you subtract the four (out of nine) nominees whose directors didn’t get a nomination in their category, that narrows the field to five serious contenders. But even though McDonagh wasn’t nominated for directing Three Billboards, it’s already won a Golden Globe for Drama, and the Screen Actors Guild Ensemble award. The Shape of Water is my favorite movie of the year, but I think it will rack up its Oscars elsewhere.
The Post was a favorite going into the season, with its timely tale of crusading journalists standing up for the truth, but here, the lack of a nomination for director Steven Spielberg suggests it’s run out of steam since then. Less likely (but not impossible) upsets might by Greta Gerwig’s smart, beloved indie comedy, Lady Bird, or Jordan Peele’s darkly subversive racial-politics horror movie Get Out (Gerwig and Peele both scored directing nominations).
BEST DIRECTOR Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water. He’s already won every award there is in this category—in compensation for Three Billboards walking off with most of the Best Picture prizes—but mostly because Del Toro’s irrepressible, iconoclastic personality infuses every frame of this rapturous movie. Gerwig won a Golden Globe in the comedy category, and Peele earned a Best First Feature nod from the Directors Guild of America (although Del Toro won Best Director from the DGA), so anything is possible.
BEST ACTRESS Frances McDormand, Three Billboards. Bet the rent; name an award in this category, and she’s already won it. And deservedly so.
BEST ACTOR Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour. Another shoo-in, like all four favored acting nominees. Besides, there has to be some kind of recognition for a guy who started out playing Sid Vicious tackling the role of Winston Churchill.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Allison Janney, I, Tonya. She doesn’t just “disappear” into the role of Tonya Harding’s cold, heartless mom; Janney plays her in a trance-like state of viperish perversity.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards. He’s got all the buzz, as the hot-headed deputy dragged kicking and screaming to a kind of redemption. I thought his co-star, Woody Harrelson (also nominated) was just as good in this category. But I’d have liked to see a shout-out for Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. A longtime Del Toro co-conspirator (he played Fauno/Pan in Pan’s Labyrinth, and was recently seen as the impossibly elongated alien First Officer Saru in Star Trek: Discovery), Jones’ poignant Amphibian Man romancing Sally Hawkins gives the movie its heart and soul.
OTHER Here’s where those new Academy members may prevail with an Original Screenplay award to Peele for Get Out, beating out Del Toro and McDonagh (Although the latter has scored some pre-Oscar awards for Three Billboards). Veteran director James Ivory looks poised to win the Adapted Screenplay award for Call Me By Your Name. Expect Blade Runner 2049 to score gold for Cinematography, while Phantom Thread wins in the Costume department. (Although, for a movie about the fashion industry, I found the clothes as lackluster as everything else in Phantom Thread.) Meanwhile, The Shape of Water should swim to victory for its atmospheric sea-green Production Design, and its expressive Original Score by Alexandre Desplat.
The 90th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast at 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 4 on ABC.