Handicapping the Academy Awards

 

During any given year you may see one or two films emerge as the unqualified favorites at the Academy Awards. While that seems to be the case again this year there is some question, as no clear-cut favorite is at the top. “The Shape of Water” leads with 13 nominations, but there is competition.

So with a lot of questions throughout the categories instead of a straightforward prediction, I will organize them based on odds, starting with the favorites. So set your wagers for Sunday night and govern yourself accordingly.

 

BET THE RENT

 

BEST DIRECTOR

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

— Based on the previous awards ceremonies del Toro is the runaway favorite. He’s taken all the major trophies and his film is the most-nominated.

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
The Boss Baby
Breadwinner
Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

— The rest of the nominees are a mix of also-rans (Boss Baby, Ferdinand) and art-house fare (Breadwinner, Loving Vincent). The Pixar hit is a lock.

 

BET HEAVY, BUT NOT ALL-IN

 

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.

— Chalamet was in a lightly-seen drama, same for Day-Lewis. Kaluuya is more of a longshot, and Denzel is always good, but his film was not. Oldman is the clear favorite.

 

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
— Streep gets her token nom in the mostly-overlooked film, and Ronan did well but in a smaller pic. Hawkins and Robbie have an outside chance, but they may also split votes so McDormand, who has won other awards already, is the leader.

 

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 is support for many on this list but Rockwell has won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild. There is an outside chance his co-star Harrelson could leech some votes and Dafoe sneaks in.

 

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
— Metcalf has some pretty good support but Janney has the momentum having won the Globe and SAG award already

 

ODDS ON FAVORITES

 

BEST PICTURE
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
— Of this field we are actually looking at a 2 horse race, but it could go either way. Three Billboards has gotten its share of love in prior awards, but it feels like SOW has the needed heft to get the edge.

 

ORIGINAL SONG
“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
— Mary K Blige has some push here for “Mudbound”, but the wild success of “Showman” should be what’s needed to push it over the line.

 

COSTUME DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul
— All these period pieces play into this category nicely, but “Thread” is set in the world of fashion in the 1950s so that double quality is the advantage.

 

SOUND EDITING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

SOUND MIXING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
— The difference between these is the Editing is the design of the overall sound for the entire film, while the Mixing is the application of the sound effects and the levels of playback. War movies are usually a favorite with these.

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul
Wonder
— Transforming Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill seems flashy enough to garner the trophy.

 

EVEN ODDS, OR LESS

 

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound
— This would have been considered closer to a lock before James Franco had his #MeToo moment. He did a great job adapting a book about the making of a classic bad movie, and won the Golden Globe, but there is a question whether the Academy decides to punish.

 

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
— This is a tougher one because of the affection spread around fairly evenly. I think voters are looking for a way to reward Jordan Peele for his racially-themed horror film and this seems the best place for that catharsis.

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water
— Blade Runner has been hailed for its shooting, but voters may be looking to reward SOW, as well as considering it more Oscar-worthy.

 

VISUAL EFFECTS
Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes
— This is the Nerd category (“Suicide Squad” is an “Oscar Winner” because of this) and it is a tight decision with 5 worthy titles. I think the motion-capture work on the Apes could be the deciding factor.

 

FILM EDITING
Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
— This one favors action and Christopher Nolan’s war epic fits the bill.

 

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