The big question heading into the Oscars is if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will simply follow the lead set by the earlier awards shows like the SAG Awards and Golden Globes, or if they'll make bold and unexpected decisions at the 90th Academy Awards on March 4.
Already they earned some accolades for noting the powerful work of Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig in the directing category, while they also spread a lot more love to Paul Thomas Anderson's film "Phantom Thread" than any awards show before it, honoring it in several key categories beyond Daniel Day-Lewis' acting, including Best Director, Supporting Actress and Best Picture.
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The frontrunners, though, remain Guillermo del Toro's "The Shape of Water," which is the most nominated film of the year with thirteen, and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," which has seen wins for its leads and several best picture claims as well. It came in third for total nominations with seven, behind Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" at eight, though it's been virtually shut out at every awards show so far.
No matter what happens, we're sure to disagree with some -- or all -- of their choices. So we've made our own predictions on who will win, and who should win.
"Call Me by Your Name"
"The Shape of Water"
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Based on how awards season has been going, this one seems like a tossup between "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." "Shape" leads the field with an impressive 13 nominations, while "Billboards" isn't up for Best Director, and the film has been getting some pushback for how it handles race issues. Then there's the political culture in Hollywood right now which decried the Golden Globes overlooking both Greta Gerwig ("Lady Bird") and Jordan Peele ("Get Out") in a #DirectorsSoWhiteANDMale moment. Oscar corrected that in nominations, but do they want to make a bold enough statement to declare one of them Best Picture? We're not thinking so. We'd love to see the divinely accurate mother-daughter relationship of "Lady Bird" take home the top honors, but we're not thinking Oscar is quite on board that much female representation just yet.
Should Win: "Lady Bird"
Will Win: "The Shape of Water"
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"Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan
"Get Out," Jordan Peele
"Lady Bird," Greta Gerwig
"Phantom Thread," Paul Thomas Anderson
"The Shape of Water," Guillermo del Toro
There are a lot of really strong contenders in this category, with Christopher Nolan really bringing something special to the war genre by filming an almost romantic-yet-stark film, using minimal dialogue and sweeping imagery to capture the unique experience that is war. Paul Thomas Anderson is an Oscar favorite, but as he wasn't even nominated at the other major awards, he looks like a long shot. Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele are notable as a female and black director, but Peele deserves more than just notice. "Get Out" may defy categorization, but that's a testament to how powerfully it was presented. That it is so effective and yet so hard to pin down proves how perfectly it was directed. Peele didn't follow any formula or expectations. He created something wholly unique. That said, the Academy is going to give the award to Guillermo del Toro, who admittedly did a wonderful job of telling us the strangest love story of the year.
Should Win: Jordan Peele
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, "The Shape of Water"
Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya"
Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird"
Meryl Streep, "The Post"
Sally Hawkins should be getting more credit for her powerful non-vocal performance in "The Shape of Water." What she was able to project with sign language, body language and the power of her facial expressions is absolutely stunning, as she carries the emotional heart of the story on her shoulders. Her performance was't as in-your-face as inevitable winner Frances McDormand, but it had such beautiful care in every little movement to express her mood, thoughts, feelings, everything. It was the small beauty of everything she did that made her stand out more than the very big and loud things McDormand was doing. Of course, the Academy could just toss another award at Meryl Streep, or award the younger actress in the category, but we think McDormand was just too big to be ignored this year.
Should Win: Sally Hawkins
Will Win: Frances McDormand
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Best Actor in a Leading Role
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."
Gary Oldman has pretty much been running away with this category, and he's the clear favorite going into the Oscars, but there's more competition here than it might look like at first. Daniel Day-Lewis is always a force to be reckoned with, and the Academy may choose to honor him one more time as he's indicated his plans to retire after "Phantom Thread." But the real threat, if we're going solely based on quality of performance, is Timothée Chalamet, who turned in an absolutely sublime performance as a young reserved teenage boy who falls in love with his father's friend only to find that love sometimes leads to pain. It's a beautifully nuanced performance, but Gary Oldman put on a lot of makeup and portrayed a real figure from history, and they're suckers for that sort of thing.
Should Win: Timothée Chalamet
Will Win: Gary Oldman
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, "Mudbound"
Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"
Lesley Manville, "Phantom Thread"
Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird"
Octavia Spencer, "The Shape of Water"
All season long, this has really been a battle between the two candidates for mother of the year, Allison Janney's chain-smoking nightmare in "I, Tonya," and Laurie Metcalf's overbearing mama bear in "Lady Bird." The former has been running away with it, and there is something compelling about Janney's unapologetic take on an unsympathetic character, but we think Metcalf had more work to do in subtleties, as her mother was also overbearing, but you could also see that underneath that was a deep-seeded love and affection for her daughter. So far, the awards season has gone to the performers who went bigger in their takes, and that could hurt Metcalf. There's a soft beauty to "Lady Bird" that everyone seems to recognize as magical, but they also don't seem to completely get why that is.
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf
Will Win: Allison Janney
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Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem 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"
There's too much controversy around Woody Harrelson's character now, while Richard Jenkins has failed to impress thus far in awards season. Christopher Plummer could be a dark horse if the Academy just wants to make a #MeToo statement, but they're more likely to follow the trend and throw the award to Sam Rockwell. If, however, the controversy surrounding "Three Billboards" proves too much, they might give it to the guy who actually gave the best performance of these options, Willem Dafoe. The guy who usually breaks bad for films turned in a nuanced, broken, and powerful portrayal of a washed up motel manager who finds himself the unexpected advocate for a kid in his building. It's an unexpectedly tender performance that is both commanding and heartbreaking.
Should Win: Willem Dafoe
Will Win: Sam Rockwell
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
"Call Me by Your Name"
"The Disaster Artist"
It is stunning that "Logan" is in this category, but there's no way in hell it wins. It's a superhero movie. It should be -- and totally is -- thrilled just to be nominated. We think this is where the Oscars will honor "Call Me by Your Name," as they'll want to acknowledge it, but they've already got their favorites at the top. But that's missing out on the fact that it's the performances in that film that truly elevate it, as opposed to its script. "The Disaster Artist" is doomed now that James Franco got accused of sexual misconduct, and "Molly's Game" was otherwise ignored by Oscar, so the real winner here should be "Mudbound," a beautifully adapted story of a complex novel about racism in the rural south following World War II. It is unflinching without being preachy. It just shows what was, and lets a modern audience see what passed for normal in the not-too-distant past; a powerful screenplay, beautifully realized.
Should Win: "Mudbound"
Will Win: "Call Me by Your Name"
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Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
"The Big Sick"
"The Shape of Water"
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
"Get Out" is a wholly unique creature, and could well see an Oscar in the Original Screenplay category come Oscar night for its unorthodox approach to race relations, leading viewers by the hand through twists and turns until the horrific final reveal of what is really going on leaves them stewing over it for weeks. But the real winner in this category is "The Big Sick," which has been virtually ignored all season long. In America, we think of black and white when it comes to issues of race, but Kumail Nanjiani's autobiographical tale of his own life and love across cultures really knows how to hit home, built around the sickness that almost took his wife from him and finally bridged that culture gap. The film is barely acknowledged by Oscar, so it's a longshot at best, but it certainly deserves better than that. They might decide that this is where to honor "Lady Bird" instead, or go with one of the really safe choices.
Should Win: "The Big Sick"
Will Win: "Get Out"
Best Animated Feature Film
"The Boss Baby"
Is there really even a discussion here? The only film on this list that should have an outside chance of ending "Coco's" undefeated awards season run is "Loving Vincent," because of how beautifully and flawlessly it incorporated Van Gogh's unique artistic style into its animation. That said, though, "Coco" is a beautifully rich and vivid portrayal of Mexican culture, treated with the dignity and respect it deserves, and coming in the animated category of all places. Not only that, it tenderly explores issues of family, love, loss and death in a way that is sensitive but unflinching. Pixar has set itself a high bar to follow after this unexpected gem.
Should/Will Win: Coco