Thursday, March 1, 2018

Predicting the 90th Academy Awards [UPDATED]

The Oscars are almost here! The biggest, most glamorous movie awards ceremony is celebrating its 90th anniversary this Sunday (March 4th, 8:00pm EST!), and even though it's way cooler to not care about it, I'm kind of obsessed with Oscar season. While I'm disappointed in some key snubs (The Florida Project deserves much better), I'm glad to see "offbeat" genre movies like Get Out and The Shape of Water making a big splash (literally in the latter case).

This year also marks one of the most diverse Oscars ever - with the 5th-ever female director nominated (Greta Gerwig) and the 5th-ever black director nominated (Jordan Peele, who also made history by also being nominated for Picture and Original Screenplay). There's also the first female ever nominated for cinematography (Mudbound), and the first trans director for the documentary Strong Island.

The Oscars may not be so white anymore, but the real question is who will get the gold? Below are my predictions - leave yours in the comments to play along!

* = I haven't watched it yet


Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water (WINNER)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I Predict: Get Out

For me, the race is down to Get Out, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards. I have no clue what will win, but I'm just going to throw the dart at Get Out and hope it lands. It's definitely not your average Oscar winner - horror movies are seldom nominated, and the genre only won Best Picture once with Silence of the Lambs. But Get Out has captured the zeitgeist in a way no other nominee this year has. The offbeat romance of The Shape of Water and the uncomfortable depiction of racism in Three Billboards are pretty divisive, but Get Out doesn't have much working against it other than its genre. Like last year's "little movie that could" Moonlight, I can picture an upset with those more "prestigious" movies. This is a tough call, but this is my risky bet this year!

Actual Winner: The Shape of Water

I took a chance and got it wrong, but so happy for Guillermo and the whole Shape of Water crew!


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

I Predict: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Based on the fact that del Toro is basically sweeping every single director award elsewhere, it's a foregone conclusion he's a lock for the Oscar. The Academy loves their "Spanish" directors (Alfonso Cuaron, Iñárritu), and the movies that win this category are often the most visually interesting or unique.  Although Paul Thomas Anderson and Jordan Peele are well-deserving as well, I love Guillermo as both a filmmaker and a human being and I'll be thrilled to watch him win an Oscar!

Actual Winner: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

A wonderful, brilliant director deservedly winning the Oscar!


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 (WINNER)

I Predict: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I don't know why The Florida Project was snubbed so hard - it's one of the best movies of last year. Its lone nomination is for Willem Dafoe, and although he's one of those "career" actors who I could imagine the Academy would want to reward, I think Sam Rockwell is the safer choice here. He's won most of the predictive awards, and his character has the biggest "arc" out of everyone on the list. But I won't be too shocked if Jenkins or Plummer pulls off an upset either - anything's possible!

Actual Winner: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sam Rockwell has been a solid, reliable actor in independent films for years - I'm glad to see him take the gold even if I thought Dafoe gave the best performance.


Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya (WINNER)
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

I Predict: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

A lot of pundits are predicting Laurie Metcalf to win in a similar "mom" role to Patricia Arquette in Boyhood, but I wouldn't hold out for that. Allison Janney in I, Tonya plays that hardass, "winking devil" character that mirrors other winning supporting roles like JK Simmons in Whiplash and Christoph Waltz in both Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. She's one of the best parts of an amazing movie!

Actual Winner: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Loved her in this movie!


Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (WINNER)
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

I Predict: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

This is the most predictable win of the night. Sort of like Jeff Bridges winning for Crazy Heart or Julianne Moore winning for Still Alice, I think many people are voting for Oldman less because of his actual performance and more because it's "his time." Darkest Hour is practically entirely made up of scenes destined for his "Oscar reel." I'm hoping in vain there's an upset with Daniel Day-Lewis, but Oldman has this in the bag.

Actual Winner: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Always bet on Churchill to get an award.


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

I Predict: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I wish this category was more competitive, because Sally Hawkins, Saoirse Ronan, and Margot Robbie all gave incredible performances this year, but Frances McDormand is just steamrolling everybody right now. Her woman-on-a-mission character is just the kind of headstrong lady the Oscars will want to highlight.

Actual Winner: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand acted kind of unhinged while accepting her award - but that's what makes her so fun to watch!


The Boss Baby*
The Breadwinner
Loving Vincent

I Predict: Coco

Oof... How The Boss Baby and Ferdinand beat out the layered and hilarious Lego Batman and the stunningly gorgeous Mary and the Witch's Flower is beyond me. Coco seems like it will win by default for being the only "big" animated film that was critically acclaimed. Both The Breadwinner and Loving Vincent have indie appeal, but we never see those "small" animated movies win. At least Coco will be another well-deserved win for Pixar!

Actual Winner: Coco

Es muy bien.


Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water

I Predict: The Shape of Water

Voters might go for Mudbound on the fact that Rachel Morrison is the first female cinematographer to be nominated. They might go for Blade Runner 2049 to finally give Roger Deakins his just desserts after going 14 nominations with no wins. They might even go for Dunkirk thanks to its magnificent use of the large-scale IMAX film format. But, I think it will go to Dan Lausten for The Shape of Water. Previously, Del Toro's cinematographer Guillermo Navarro won this category for Pan's Labyrinth, and as opposed to the more "gritty" feel of the other nominees, The Shape of Water is easily the most purely pretty-looking movie, like a sci-fi Amelie.

Actual Winner: Blade Runner 2049

I should have known! Hey, I risked going for the underdog and lost.


A Fantastic Woman (Chile) (WINNER)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless* (Russia)
On Body and Soul* (Hungary)
The Square* (Sweden)

I Predict: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Take this prediction with a grain of salt since I've only seen two of the nominees, but from what I did see I think A Fantastic Woman has the best shot. Beautifully shot and well-acted, it really makes you feel sympathetic for this transsexual woman who has to face endless scorn and discrimination after the death of her older lover. Not only is it the best movie on the list, its "social" message will give it a nice boost.

Actual Winner: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

A Fantastic Woman, fantastic film, fantastic prediction!


Call Me By Your Name (WINNER)
The Disaster Artist
Molly's Game

I Predict: Call Me By Your Name

I'm voting for this entirely on the fact that it's the only nominee also up for Best Picture. Clearly the Academy loved it, although I thought the screenplay was kind of pretentious. I'd absolutely love to see an upset with Logan or The Disaster Artist, both of which spun their respective genres (superhero and Hollywood drama) in smart, fresh ways.

Actual Winner: Call Me By Your Name

This one pretty much predicted itself.


The Big Sick
Get Out (WINNER)
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I Predict: Get Out

In some ways, THE hardest category to predict of the night. Besides The Big Sick, I have no real reason to pick one movie over the other. I'm torn between Get OutLady Bird, and Three Billboards. Although both Lady Bird and Billboards are more "talky," because I think Get Out has a marginally better chance at Best Picture and such a unique, original, "auteur" script, I'm leaning towards Jordan Peele for the win.

Actual Winner: Get Out

Get outta here! Got this one right!


"Mighty River" from Mudbound
"Mystery of Love" from Call Me By Your Name
"Remember Me" from Coco (WINNER)
"Stand Up for Something" from Marshall*
"This is Me" from The Greatest Showman

I Predict: "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman

This is another toughie, but I think either the anthemic "This is Me" will win, or "Mighty River" based on the fact that if Mary J. Blige isn't awarded Supporting Actress, the Academy may want to award her in this category.

Actual Winner: "Remember Me" from Coco

Wow, this one shocked me, especially considering "This is Me" was made an anthem at the winter Olympics.


Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
The Shape of Water (WINNER)

I Predict: The Shape of Water

The production design of The Shape of Water immaculately brings to life Guillermo del Toro's dark 60s-set fable. Literally every bit of this movie is beautifully imaginative, without being based on anything previously (unlike the imagined worlds of Beauty and the Beast and Blade Runner 2049).

Actual Winner: The Shape of Water

The set designers created such a magical world - a deserved win!


Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread (WINNER)
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

I Predict: Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread is a movie LITERALLY about costume designing. It's also a period piece. Case closed. The costume designer, Mark Bridges, won this category in 2011 for The Artist, and even earned a surprise nomination in 2015 for another of his collaborations with Paul Thomas Anderson on Inherent Vice.

Actual Winner: Phantom Thread

This movie celebrated costume designing the hardest - totally deserving win.


Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places*
Icarus (WINNER)
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

I Predict: Last Men in Aleppo

There is no front-runner here and I have no clue what I'm doing. The only two I feel confident in crossing off are Abacus and Strong Island - two great docs that might feel a little too "small scale" to win. Faces Places is the "lightest" doc, in part celebrating beloved French director Agnes Varda. She recently received an honorary Oscar, so it's a strong contender. But with Olympics on the brain recently (along with Russian scandals), Oscar voters may go for Icarus, about illegal athletic doping.

Ultimately though, I'm going with Last Men in Aleppo. It's essentially a feature-length version of The White Helmets, the short documentary that won last year about a Syrian rescue crew. I can't tell if that previous win means that the Academy will feel like they've "already" awarded it or not, but awarding this film could mean highlighting an important issue.

Actual Winner: Icarus

I had originally predicted Icarus and changed my mind at the last second before posting this blog! Although the voting results are not revealed after the Oscars, I'd bet this was a very close race.


Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 (WINNER)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

I Predict: Heroin(e)

I loved every one of these short docs, making it tough to predict as none really jump out as the "best." I'm going with Heroin(e) because similar to last year's The White Helmets, this film sheds a light on a handful of true heroes. It follows three women - a fire chief, a judge, and a street missionary - all battling West Virginia's devastating opioid epidemic. It's on Netflix now - watch it!

Actual Winner: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Wow - did not expect this, but so, so happy it won. This story is moving and beautifully told.


Baby Driver
Dunkirk (WINNER)
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

I Predict: Dunkirk

Editing is typically hard to predict as there seems to be no "through line" on what wins. In the past 10 years we've had two war films win (The Hurt Locker and Hacksaw Ridge), but there's no guarantees with left-field winners like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo happening now and then. I'm going with Dunkirk almost arbitrarily, but it did have very unique editing, cutting between three different spans of time. Dunkirk was edited by Lee Smith, who was nominated twice before for his work on The Dark Knight and Master and Commander.

Actual Winner: Dunkirk

I got this prediction right - in the land, air, and sea!


Darkest Hour (WINNER)
Victoria & Abdul

I Predict: Darkest Hour

This is really no contest due to the lack of Shape of Water or It (why weren't those movies in the running?). Although the makeup was incredibly realistic in Darkest Hour, I couldn't help but compare Gary Oldman to Fat Bastard from Austin Powers while watching it. The prosthetic makeup artist behind Oldman's transformation into Winston Churchill is Kazuhiro Tsuji, who's been nominated twice before for the low-brow comedies Norbit and Click (both for convincing "fat" makeup). He was also a part of the winning team behind Jim Carrey's legendarily stressful transformation in How the Grinch Stole Christmas - a gig that actually landed Tsuji in therapy!

Actual Winner: Darkest Hour

Predictable win. Why The Shape of Water wasn't nominated in this category totally escapes all logic.


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

I Predict: The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

He won in 2014 with Grand Budapest Hotel (despite also being nominated for The Imitation Game that same year), and I think Desplat will do it again here. The first thing you notice about The Shape of Water is its lush, romantic score - it plays a huge role in the film.

Actual Winner: The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

Great score, happy it won!


Dear Basketball (WINNER)
Garden Party
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

I Predict: Garden Party

The shorts are always hard to predict, but usually the winner for animation goes to a really sweet film or one with animals front and center (usually both). That being said, I have either Pixar's Lou or Garden Party winning. Lou is a cute, beautifully animated film about a bully learning a lesson from a sentient lost and found bin (it's better than it sounds), while the French Garden Party is a student-produced photo-realistic story of frogs taking over a deserted house. Maybe I'm blinded by the fact that the latter was my favorite, as it doesn't leave you with that "aww" feeling by the end, but it was, in my mind, the best of the bunch.

Actual Winner: Dear Basketball

Screw the Oscars - this was totally a popularity contest. This won entirely because it celebrates the Los Angeles Lakers. Ugh... what a self-congratulatory win!


DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O'Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child (WINNER)
Watu Wote/All of Us

I Predict: The Silent Child

While the animated short usually goes to the animals, the live action short usually goes to the children. Based on that logic, I have The Silent Child for the win, a sweet semi-PSA about a deaf girl struggling at school and home. But another strong contender - and my personal favorite - is DeKalb Elementary, which chronicles a tense conversation between a potential school shooter and the receptionist trying to talk him down. I think the "aww" factor decides the tie, however, so I'm going with the former.

Actual Winner: The Silent Child

It's the only short film I correctly predicted - I just followed my gut on this. It has a great message and I'm glad it won!


Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk (WINNER)
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I Predict: Dunkirk

When in doubt, I just go with the loudest movie. I'm very tempted to go with Blade Runner 2049 after Arrival took this category last year (another Denis Villenueve sci-fi movie), but Chris Nolan movies also tend to win this category. Dunkirk's sound designer Richard King has previously won this category three times with Master and Commander, The Dark Knight, and Inception.

Actual Winner: Dunkirk

I saw Dunkirk in an IMAX theater, and I can attest to its magnificent sound!


Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk (WINNER)
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I Predict: Baby Driver

I was proved wrong last year when Hacksaw Ridge won over La La Land, but MOST of the time "Sound Mixing" is awarded to the most musical movie nominated. Well, Baby Driver has both music and loud action sounds, so it's practically made to win this category. Here's a great video showing just how many sounds are layered throughout this film.

Actual Winner: Dunkirk

Eh, at least I got one of the sound categories.


Blade Runner 2049 (WINNER)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

I Predict: Blade Runner 2049

I'm torn between Blade Runner 2049 and War for the Planet of the Apes. The recent Apes trilogy pushed the boundaries of CGI characters to amazing new heights, but crazily enough, neither Rise nor Dawn won the Oscar! I'd love to see the team behind Caesar and his ape pals nab an award at the end of their journey, but I think Blade Runner has more "gravitas" to its name. It even achieved other major nominations, including cinematography. People also might take for granted the effects in Apes because they've seen it before so recently, whereas Blade Runner 2049 is a fresh new chapter in an old property.

Actual Winner: Blade Runner 2049

It's unbelievable that Apes went home empty-handed for the third time, but at least my prediction was spot-on!

TOTAL: 17/24

And that's a wrap! I think I did OK, but I'm really kicking myself for getting certain categories wrong. But that's the way it goes every year and what makes the Oscars so exciting! Thanks for reading - here's hope to better luck next year!

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