It’s time to put up or shut up, folks! For the last several weeks I’ve been trolling theatres, streaming services, and DVD rentals to complete another Oscar Blitz. Every nominated film, every category, and over that time I’ve been lucky enough to share my assessments with all of you reading. You know how I feel about each film and each specific category. You know who I think should win, and which negatives need to be burned immediately. The ceremony is just under 48 hours away, so now it’s time to predict who will actually take home the gold under the watchful eye of our Lord and Savior, Jimmy Kimmel.
Regardless of what we think about the quality of the films nominated this year, there has been a multi-million dollar campaign from the studios directly to the voting members of the Academy, as well as all the trade guilds, and because of that, we can take a good, educated guess at what will win come Sunday. The only major ceremony that hasn’t taken place yet is the Independent Spirit Awards, and that’s tomorrow, but there aren’t enough true indies in this field to worry about it. We’ll go category by category with quick analysis, a reminder of my pick, who I think will actually win (it may be the same film), and a potential dark horse winner. I’ll also link each category to its analysis post from the Blitz, in case you missed something or just want a more in-depth reminder.
Here we go!
The nominees for the Oscar are the exact same as those from the Golden Globes, though there was some variance in other awards ceremonies. For the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), Loving Vincent and Coco were nominated alongside My Life as a Zucchini, which was nominated for the Oscar in this category last year. The Producers Guild kept three of the nominees, but replaced the two independent films with Despicable Me 3 and The Lego Batman Movie. This makes sense, as the PGA would be more concerned with profitable films than any necessary degree of artistic quality. The one bit of intrigue was with the Annie Awards, which focus solely on animation. There they have two awards for best feature, one for mainstream films (they added Cars 3 alongside the Minions), and another for independent (including Napping Princess, In This Corner of the World, and The Big Bad Fox).
Still, either way it doesn’t really matter. While The Breadwinner won the Annie for Independent Feature, everything else went to Coco, which will probably happen here as well. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pixar’s animation quality is typically top notch, and in theatres, the film opened with a short behind-the-scenes vignette of how they got something like 6 million lights into the first establishing shot of The Land of the Dead. The campaign started before the film itself did, so while Loving Vincent was a singular achievement, you can forgive the voters for defaulting to the masters.
Will Win: Coco
Should Win: Loving Vincent
Dark Horse: The Breadwinner
This category basically boils down to two factors. Who saw the whole field, and who was susceptible to campaigning? That leaves us with basically three contenders. Two of the films won at the Annies: Dear Basketball and Revolting Rhymes. However, with Revolting Rhymes they got to see both parts of the special, while only the first part is nominated here (the whole thing’s on Netflix if you’re so inclined). And given Kobe Bryant’s history in L.A., it could go either way. A bunch of Lakers fans (like Jack Nicholson) could vote for it, or the Academy can recall his unsavory incident in Colorado a decade ago and relegate him to #MeToo rejection. None of the BAFTA nominees are in this field. Lou aired in theatres before Cars 3, so if a voter didn’t make a screening, that’ll be the only one they’ve seen, and as I said in the last category, you can’t necessarily blame them for defaulting to Pixar.
However, any voter who saw the full slate will be judging between two films. Lou had the best story, while Garden Party had by far the highest quality animation, a fact that the distributors have not ignored, as all promotional material for Garden Party is filled up with all the film festival prizes it won. Part of the reason Bear Story won this category a few years ago is because the film started with an awards slate. If you’re not really into animation, you’d be easily swayed by previous prestige. I think the vote will split the difference on the Pixar front.
Will Win: Garden Party
Should Win: Lou
Dark Horse: Dear Basketball
There are two warring factions in a lot of the technical categories. On one side you have Blade Runner 2049, which is nominated in most of them, and is the best hope of a mainstream, commercially-successful film getting some wins. On the other you have two Best Picture nominees, The Shape of Water and Dunkirk, which are the top two nominated films in this year’s ceremony.
I don’t necessarily think one film will sweep the set like Mad Max: Fury Road did a couple years ago. I do, however, think that Blade Runner has the advantage, as votes will likely split between the other two. And while Rachel Morrison will get herself a good chunk of votes for Mudbound just because it took this long to nominate a woman in this category, there’s a different bit of history to be had here. I think the votes will split, allowing Roger Deakins, on his 14th try, to finally get his first win. I rarely bet on something that’s never happened before, but he’s not likely to get a better setup to win than this.
Will Win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Dunkirk
Dark Horse: Mudbound
This will probably be the quickest one. Phantom Thread is literally about a guy who makes dresses. Even if Daniel Day-Lewis weren’t in this film, it’d be the front-runner in this category just for the simple fact that it’s about a guy who makes dresses. I really can’t see anything else having a realistic shot, as Jacqueline Durran is likely to split votes among herself for Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast. That said, these horrible Disney live-action remakes are designed to get these awards, so there’s an outside chance.
Will Win: Phantom Thread
Should Win: Phantom Thread
Dark Horse: Beauty and the Beast
This is one of the harder ones to predict, mostly because I think the Academy fucked up royal and nominated the wrong films. If you read my piece on the category, you’ll see that I watched 14 of the 15 shortlisted films, and only one, Icarus, even made my top 5. And it’s not just my personal taste here. All the other ceremonies this season picked different winners and different nominees. At the BAFTAs, which has a different nomination cycle, the winning film was I Am Not Your Negro, which was nominated in this category last year. Among the other four films, all were shortlisted by the Academy, but only Icarus got nominated. The PGA winner was my favorite doc last year, Jane, which was nominated alongside other shortlisted films like Chasing Coral and City of Ghosts, neither of which is nominated here. City of Ghosts won the Directors Guild Award, beating out Icarus and Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.
So, we basically can see who our winner should be, based on what little precedent we have. Out of all the major ceremonies, only Icarus popped up more than once out of the five nominees. Also, given our current tension with Russia, it only makes sense that the Academy would throw their collective votes towards a documentary that exposes Vladimir Putin’s nationwide doping scandal. If there’s an alternate choice to made, it could be Faces Places, because Agnès Varda, one of the subjects of the film, received an honorary Oscar at the Governor’s Awards back in November. If she’s in the building anyway, there’s a chance they could give her another one.
Will Win: Icarus
Should Win: Icarus
Dark Horse: Faces Places
The short subjects are always among the most susceptible to campaigning and politics. Sometimes it’s because the voters don’t see all the films (though this year’s set is available through various streaming services without having to attend a screening). Sometimes it’s because there are various causes to promote or sectors of the population to feature. This essentially eliminates Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, which is beautiful, but doesn’t fit into one of those holes. Knife Skills and Traffic Jam deal with the criminal justice system as it relates to minorities, with one showing police brutality, while the other focuses on second chances. Heroin(e) also touches on that, but is also a bit of “rah-rah” feminism, and the voters will look for any easy opportunity to honor women, especially if it doesn’t rock the boat. Edith + Eddie is overly sentimental, but has a celebrity behind it thanks to Cher. She’s a former Oscar winner herself, so she might hold some sway.
I think, in the end, Cher won’t be able to convince enough people, and the two crime-based films will probably split votes. Netflix has really gotten out the campaigners for Mudbound and Heroin(e), and since it’s unlikely that Mudbound will win anything, this will be a good chance to promote feminism and pay off Netflix’s marketing team.
Will Win: Heroin(e)
Should Win: Knife Skills
Dark Horse: Edith + Eddie
This is one of the tech categories where Dunkirk and The Shape of Water really get to duke it out, because Blade Runner isn’t nominated, instead replaced by Baby Driver to represent the blockbusters. As much as I love Baby Driver, I think it’s going to come up empty the whole night. So really this is between Dunkirk and The Shape of Water. As I said, they’re the top two nominees overall (13 for Shape, 8 for Dunkirk). As a matter of personal preference, I take Dunkirk all the way, but my preferences don’t mean a damn thing. This will come down to how much of the campaigning for The Shape of Water – which focused more on Guillermo del Toro and Sally Hawkins – clashes with the campaigning for Dunkirk – which landed heavily on the technical achievements.
Because of that, I think Dunkirk has the advantage here. It also helps that for this particular category, there are a lot more examples of high-level editing to point to as opposed to Shape. Christopher Nolan’s team had to juggle three different stories over three different time frames. Given that and the tech-centric campaign, I think Dunkirk has the edge, but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Shape of Water took this category as part of a massive tech dump. There’s also a small chance that I, Tonya could pull an upset with the masterful editing of the figure skating scenes, but that’s fairly unlikely given that it’ll take home one of the big awards.
Will Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Dark Horse: I, Tonya
This is another curious category, given the nominations and winners of previous ceremonies. The Golden Globe winner, In the Fade, wasn’t even nominated. The BAFTA winner, The Handmaiden, would have been eligible last year, but it wasn’t even submitted, much less nominated. Still, there are two nominated films that were in all three groups, The Square and Loveless.
It’s a rematch of the Cannes Film Festival, where Loveless won the Jury Prize, while The Square won the biggest prize of all, the Palme d’Or. There’s a small chance for A Fantastic Woman to compete as well, as it was nominated for the Globe, and a film about a transgender woman starring a transgender actress is sure to raise some eyebrows from those pushing for more inclusion. But really, it’s between The Square and Loveless regardless of content, because they’ve been the big two all year. So the vote will likely come down to politics, just like it did last year, when The Salesman won, not because it was a great film (even though it was really great), but because it was Iranian, and the director/star of the film Asghar Farhadi, could not enter the country to attend the ceremony, as Donald Trump’s “Muslim Ban” prevented people from Iran entering the U.S. The Academy rebuked that nonsense by giving Farhadi his second Oscar, allowing someone to accept on his behalf and verbally bitchslap the President. Figure on something similar here. Regardless of quality, The Square comes from Sweden, an ally, while Loveless is from Russia, very much NOT an ally at this point. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Will Win: The Square
Should Win: On Body and Soul
Dark Horse: A Fantastic Woman
Live Action Short
The animated shorts are the most accessible of the short film categories, where voters can compartmentalize the elements pretty easily. Is there a good story? Is the art style pretty? That sort of thing. The docs and live action shorts are harder, especially the live action, because these are works of short fiction, whereas the documentaries are factual. It’s hard to parse everything going on, especially in such a short space of time. Also, in recent years, there have been more foreign entries in live action than the other two (or at least it feels that way), which means reading subtitles along with trying to quickly comprehend the plot and characters. That holds true this year as well, as the only foreign language entry (and the only two films with subtitles) are in this category.
But like the other short categories, live action is susceptible to the influence of marketers and the moment. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen here as well. The day I saw the slate of live action shorts, a domestic terrorist ended 17 lives in a Florida school with a weapon of war. The very first film you see in the live action shorts? DeKalb Elementary, about diffusing a school shooting. Never mind that The Eleven O’Clock is hilarious. Never mind the heartstrings of The Silent Child. Forget about the positive Muslim image of Watu Wote or the racial tragedy of My Nephew Emmett. We’ve got a school shooting. It’s a wrap. Oddly enough, in the screening, this was the only film that didn’t feature a scene of the producers learning of their nomination during the credits. I don’t know if they just didn’t do one for some reason, or if they thought it wasn’t appropriate given the heavy nature of the film. I think it would have undercut the tension of the piece, honestly.
Will Win: DeKalb Elementary
Should Win: The Eleven O’Clock
Dark Horse: The Silent Child
Makeup & Hairstyling
I will be stunned, STUNNED I TELL YOU, if Kazuhiro Tsuji doesn’t win for turning Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. The man was hand-picked by Oldman and came out of retirement to do this project. This is gift-wrapped for him. The only threat is Wonder because Jacob Tremblay is objectively adorable even when his face looks deformed. But come on, if Kazuhiro Tsuji doesn’t win I’ll just throw up my hands and give up. Yay, a short one!
Will Win: Darkest Hour
Should Win: Darkest Hour
Dark Horse: Wonder
This is another tech/artistic category where Dunkirk will face off against The Shape of Water. Hans Zimmer has won once before, as has Alexandre Desplat. The other three really don’t compare, as they’re either too reliant on catalog tracks (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), too derivative (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), or too extreme between good and bad (Phantom Thread) Of the three, Phantom Thread has the best chance at an upset because Jonny Greenwood has a lot of fans among the voters. Who doesn’t love Radiohead, at least a little?
But again, this is between the two nomination front-runners. I personally preferred Dunkirk, because the score helped to ramp up the intensity. However, music is a much more integral part of del Toro’s classical film tribute. And there are few composers better able to embody the intricacies of genre film music than Desplat. It took a while for him to get his first Oscar, which he finally got for the delightful score of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m fairly sure he’ll get his second one here. Winning the BAFTA and Golden Globe doesn’t hurt, either.
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Dunkirk
Dark Horse: Phantom Thread
The only major awards show other than the Oscars that has an Original Song category is the Golden Globes. That set had three of the five nominees that made the Oscar field, but all that matters is the winner, which was “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman. It makes sense, because it’s a defiant song of self-identity, which is very popular these days. Also, from the moment the film was ready for release, it was advertised as featuring the “Oscar-winning lyricists from La La Land.” The campaign was already out in full force, and it should pay off here.
Can there be competition? Sure. “Remember Me” from Coco has a chance, riding the popularity and the likely win for the film in Animated Feature. Also, “Mighty River” is the best chance to get a win for Mudbound, so it could pull an upset if the voters are dead set on getting it something. I don’t think it’ll happen, but there’s a chance.
Will Win: “This is Me”
Should Win: “This is Me”
Dark Horse: “Mighty River”
Yet another three-way battle between Blade Runner, Dunkirk, and Shape of Water. Again, I think Dunkirk is better, but that doesn’t matter. The Shape of Water will need a couple of tech awards if it has a realistic chance of winning Best Picture, and this will be a pickup for it here. The sets have a very cool, Tim Burton-esque Gothic look to everything, which is kind of derivative, but that won’t stop the Academy voting for it. Blade Runner has a chance here, but given that most of its sets are CGI, the voters are likely to leave it aside this time. The BAFTA went to Shape of Water, so that’s something of an indicator.
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Dunkirk
Dark Horse: Blade Runner 2049
The two sound categories are identical this year, and it’s vary rare for there to be separate winners, although Arrival and Hacksaw Ridge split the prizes last year. I don’t see any such nuance this time. These are, however, the two categories where the two big nominees can get upset by the blockbusters. Between the two, Dunkirk has the edge, as The Shape of Water is much more visual than audio (apart from some water effects). It’ll just be a case of whether or not there are enough votes to elevate a film like Baby Driver, which depended entirely on music and sound editing/mixing for its motif, to get over the top.
Will Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Baby Driver
Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Like I said, it’s rare to see separate winners here, and I don’t think it’ll happen this year. Second verse, same as the first. Yay, another short one! BTW, Dunkirk won the single Sound category at the BAFTAs.
Will Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Baby Driver
Dark Horse: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Blade Runner will fight tooth and nail the whole night with Dunkirk and Shape of Water, but this will be its one guaranteed win (not really a guarantee, but its BAFTA win helps). The entire field is filled with blockbusters, but apart from Star Wars, nothing is nominated outside this category. The only real threat is War for the Planet of the Apes, which was nominated in this category for the previous two entries in this now-complete trilogy. There might be a series achievement win for all the motion capture work Andy Serkis has put in over the years, but it’s not likely. And as for Terry Notary, who did mo-cap for Apes and Kong: Skull Island, he’ll get his recognition when The Square wins Foreign Language, as it’s his ape-like skills that made for the most disturbing scene in all of film last year, in that movie.
Will Win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
Dark Horse: War for the Planet of the Apes
Now we move into the major categories. These should be hard to nail down, but honestly, six of these final eight fields are a cakewalk because the awards season to date has basically been a consensus. Everyone agrees so much that I almost didn’t bother with coming up with dark horses for these. It’s that sewn up for most of them.
Of all the ceremonies, only the Writers Guild and the BAFTAs separate the writing categories into Original and Adapted Screenplays. In both cases, James Ivory won for Call Me By Your Name. Even if that hadn’t happened, it would make sense that it would win here, as it’s the only Best Picture nominee in the Adapted category. There’s an infinitesimal chance for Mudbound, because I get a strong feeling that a good chunk of the voters want to give it a win somewhere, but I don’t see it happening here.
Will Win: Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: The Disaster Artist
Dark Horse: Mudbound
This is the only major category outside of Best Picture that has any mystery to it. Martin McDonagh won the Golden Globe for Three Billboards. He also got the BAFTA. However, the WGA award went to Jordan Peele for Get Out. This is the problem with the Screenplay categories being treated as consolation prizes in recent years. Because apart from McDonagh and Peele, you also have Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird. I think Peele has the upper hand here, as Three Billboards is likely to get at least one acting award, and as a Brit, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the BAFTAs were more likely to vote for him. Really it’s between Peele and Gerwig, which sucks because neither is likely to win Best Director (though both would be deserving), so this will be, in all probability, the only win for one of them, while the other film is shut out entirely.
Will Win: Get Out
Should Win: Lady Bird
Dark Horse: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actor
This is a unique year, in that all four acting awards have been pretty much a lock from the beginning. Only the leads have any intrigue at all, and that’s only because the Golden Globes separate Dramas from Musicals/Comedies. No such thing for Supporting, though. For Supporting Actor, it’s been unanimous. The Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA all went to Sam Rockwell. He’ll complete the sweep. I’ll allow for a 1% chance at an upset win for Willem Dafoe, because critics loved The Florida Project, even though it sucked, and he was by far the best thing about it. There may be a push to get it some recognition by taking its only nomination.
Will Win: Sam Rockwell
Should Win: Sam Rockwell
Dark Horse: Willem Dafoe
Best Supporting Actress
It’s the exact same story on the ladies’ side of things. Globe, SAG, and BAFTA all went to Allison Janney for I, Tonya. I preferred Laurie Metcalf, and I suppose there’s a small chance at it because it looks increasingly like Lady Bird might get shut out. They didn’t do too much of a campaign – they were silly and thought the quality of the film would speak for itself. This is also the last chance for Mudbound, but if Mary J. Blige is going to get a win, it’ll be Original Song. Very low chance here.
Will Win: Allison Janney
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf
Dark Horse: Mary J. Blige
Because the Golden Globes do split the lead categories, we should at least have a dark horse candidate here, and for Best Actress. However, Gary Oldman won the Drama Globe, while James Franco won the Comedy side, and Franco isn’t even nominated. He got swept up in the #MeToo drama (most likely deserved), and as such was punished by having The Disaster Artist relegated to a doomed loss in Adapted Screenplay, while everything else, including Franco for Best Actor and Best Director, was blackballed. As such, there is no competition here. Oldman won his side of the Globes, as well as SAG and BAFTA. He’ll complete the sweep on Sunday. One can hope for Daniel Kaluuya, and there’s an outside shot of the Academy sending Daniel Day-Lewis into retirement with a win, but I’m not holding my breath.
Will Win: Gary Oldman
Should Win: Daniel Kaluuya
Dark Horse: Daniel Day-Lewis
Finally, we have an alternate candidate. Frances McDormand won the Drama side of the Globes, but the comedy side went to Saoirse Ronan. This is the last, and best, chance at a win for Lady Bird, and my fingers are somewhat crossed, even though McDormand is my vote. I just hate the fact that all four acting categories are this locked, because again, McDormand got the SAG and the BAFTA. I’m fairly sure she’ll complete the cycle as well.
Will Win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Frances McDormand
Dark Horse: Saoirse Ronan
Two more categories to go, and one more with a near-guaranteed result. Guillermo del Toro has basically run the table with his tribute to classic horror and romance, much the same as Damien Chazelle did last year for La La Land. He’s won the Golden Globe, the DGA, the PGA (he’s also a Producer on the film), and the BAFTA. The only potential competition is Jordan Peele, who won a DGA award as the Best First-Time Director. And depending on how the winds blow, there may be a push for Greta Gerwig again so that Lady Bird doesn’t go away empty handed. But odds are low.
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro
Should Win: Greta Gerwig
Dark Horse: Jordan Peele
And so we come to it at last, the final award. We have nine nominees, but we can pare away a few fairly easily. First off, The Post has no chance. Its only other nomination is for Best Actress, and Meryl Streep won’t win this time, so it’s out. I think we can safely eliminate Dunkirk and Phantom Thread as well, as both films are likely to pick up at least one win, but any they get will be in below-the-line categories. The last time a film won Best Picture without also winning for directing, acting, or writing (in various forms of the categories) was Rebecca, all the way back in 1941.
I would probably eliminate Lady Bird from consideration as well, except for the fact that it won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Comedy/Drama. Its chances are low, but if it can pick up a win or two on Sunday, it’ll be in with a good chance. I can’t say the same thing about Call Me By Your Name, which is likely to win an above-the-line award with Adapted Screenplay, but it won’t get anything else. There are too many other heavy hitters for it to overcome.
Realistically, we’re down to four possibilities. The next one to fall is Darkest Hour. It’ll win Best Actor and Makeup & Hairstyling, which were the two featured vehicles of the film. I’d be surprised if it picked up anything else. It was always intended to get long overdue Oscars for Gary Oldman and Kazuhiro Tsuji. It’ll succeed in that endeavor, but no further.
That leaves Get Out, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Only one suspense film has ever won this award, and it too was an early year release, The Silence of the Lambs. Jordan Peele will likely get some form of recognition, likely Original Screenplay, and there’s a chance Daniel Kaluuya could pull a Best Actor upset, but that’s it.
So now we’re down to the final two. Three Billboards won the Globe for Best Picture – Drama, and the BAFTA for Best Motion Picture. It also won the Best Cast award at the SAGs, which is their equivalent of Best Picture. The Shape of Water won with the DGA and the PGA, so it’s really down to these two.
In the end, I think The Shape of Water will pick up some technicals as well as Best Director, and if you win Best Director, you always have a shot. Still, no science fiction film has ever won Best Picture, and I’m not sure this is the one to break the mold. I think Best Director will be a sort of “runner-up” prize. All signs point to the fictional town of Ebbing, Missouri as your Best Picture of 2017.
Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Dunkirk
Dark Horse: The Shape of Water
Next up: Oscar Night is this Sunday, and I’ll be tracking all the action. Once the ceremony is complete, I’ll publish a live diary of the whole affair (minus red carpet bullshit)! Enjoy the Oscars, everyone!
Join the conversation in the comments below! What do you think will win on Sunday? Are any of your favorites THE favorite? Which dark horse is most likely to pull an upset? How long will the ceremony go over time? Let me know! Also, I know I haven’t said it in a while, but as always, all images come from Google searches and I do not profit from them in any way. Please don’t sue me!