Friday, June 15, 2018

Hey, 'Neighbor,' it truly always was a beautiful day for Fred Rogers

The year's loveliest film, if not the best so far in 2018, arrives today in the form of  the documentary brilliance of writer/director Morgan Neville's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

The one and only Fred Rogers still mesmerizes as a great "Neighbor."
Probably the title alone, the familiar singing catchphrase of the Public Broadcasting System's most famous star, lets you know that it showcases Fred Rogers, whose 50-year-old "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" still plays on a number of PBS outlets a full 15 years after his death.

Neville's own name may not be as recognizable, but his resume includes a Best Documentary Oscar for "20 Feet from Stardom,"  a moving and often fascinating telling that offers an assortment of little-known tidbits about the entertainment industry while shining its primary spotlight on back-up singers.

Happy to report that Neville manages the same trick here, despite a subject that you'd think everyone already knows, even if they've never watched a single one of the 895 episodes Rogers so gently hosted over the course of 31 TV seasons.

The Pittsburgh-based Presbyterian minister, then 35, debuted on PBS in 1968, and continued making new episodes of his "Neighborhood" on and off until the last one aired in 2001. Many of the show;s highlights, which include absolutely amazing moments with Rogers tackling racial intolerance and easy acceptance of children with disabilities, are incorporated by Neville and, it says here, will bring tears to the eyes of anyone with a heart.

Nice memories from Rogers' wife, two sons and various cast/crew members paint a vivid picture of the man as well. Then again, there's an array of clips from show-biz types either making fun of the host with impersonations or offering up interview questions that likely would not be asked today.

Regardless, there's no doubt that the film's unqualified star remains Rogers himself, whether sitting strong to convince Nixon-era tough guy John Pastore to increase funding for public television, or simply talking smart sense to the millions of kids watching him and his puppets on the other side of the camera. There's little doubt those young viewers adored him, just as their own children and even grand kids still do today.

Rated "PG-13": some thematic elements and language; 1:34; $ $ $ $ $ out of $5

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

'Superfly' returns to the movie screen with just enough to get over

A couple of '70s icons, Fred Rogers of PBS-TV fame and the cool dude who helped cement blaxploitation into the American lexicon, respectively can boast a great documentary and a not-so-bad remake coming to your local cineplex this week.

The latter, opening today, is "Superfly," which stylishly and violently looks, feels and plays enough like the Gordon Parks Jr. original to make it a slight guilty pleasure. (Still, there can be only one Ron O'Neal, the classically trained Clevelander who portrayed the Harlem-based lead 46 years ago, not to mention just one music maker named Curtis Mayfield, whose memorably great score never will be repeated.)

Jackson shows Mitchell why he's the new "Superfly."
Mayfield's "Pusherman" does all but steal the now rap-heavy version as the ever-enthralling sound that accompanies a montage coldly exhibiting how an Atlanta drug empire has tentacles pulling in Miami, Nashville, Birmingham, Houston and all parts South. And, naturally, the helmer behind this new take would be someone called "Director X,"  whose claim to fame is an assortment of visually intriguing music videos featuring the single-name likes of Kanye, Usher, Rihanna, Drake, et al.

Certainly that "X"citing background serves a few well-orchestrated scenes of gang warfare and even an art deco opening in a nightclub that shows the pop and happenstance of one Youngblood Priest. As dramatized by the believably engaging Trevor Jackson, he's the smart street kid-turned kingpin now ready to make one last major score.

However, before Priest can leave the biz with cash to last a lifetime --  and maybe with a couple of sexy bed mates (Lex Scott Davis and Andrea Londo) in tow-- he has to deal with almost two hours of exaggerated mayhem, soft-core porn (mostly delivered in slow motion, no less) and cops so crooked you almost have to look at 'em sideways.

Fortunately, some other players, who may get in the way of Priest's dreams, actually give more cred to the whole picture. They include an old-school mentor (the always solid Michael Kenneth Williams), ruthless cartel boss (the veteran Esai Morales) and over-aggressive sidekick (Jason Mitchell from last year's "Mudbound").

Regardless, please return here in a few days to read why Mr. Rogers and "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" is this week's real movie kingpin.

Rated "R": violence and language throughout; strong sexuality, nudity and drug content; 1:52; $ $ $ out of $5

Friday, June 8, 2018

'First Reformed' and scary 'Hereditary' look to slay summer competition

Despite the big-budget "Ocean's 8" sequel and heavily advertised "Hotel Artemis" (SEE RATINGS FOR BOTH AT LEFT) opening in northeast Ohio, it's a couple of small films from a distributor named A24 that could grab today's brass ring for critical acclaim.

Hawke and Seyfried bond in "First Reformed."
In fact, the most compelling of the bunch arrives courtesy of Paul Schrader, the "Taxi Driver" screenwriter who puts some of those familiar man-in-crisis themes to work in "First Reformed," a sparkling little ditty with an awards-caliber performance from Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays a decent man of the cloth, the minister/caretaker of a historically significant Dutch Reformed church in upstate New York, where more tourists generally visit than members of the congregation.

Two of the latter include a devoted wife (Amanda Seyfried) and her ecology-activist husband (Phillip Ettinger), so worried about man's inhumanity to the environment that the missus asks Hawke's Rev. Toller to start counseling him.

Well, one eye-opening session together leads to plans for another, not to mention plenty of thought-provoking words Toller can put in the daily diary he's been writing, apparently just to keep his own wits about him. Certainly there's a breakdown of sorts, maybe a couple, and the relevancy of Schrader's own dialogue and words obviously feel apropos for the world outside our windows. Heck, there's even one lovely spiritually minded scene that takes us well into the universe.

Expect no spoilers here, though. Just a strong recommendation and a big thumbs up for Schrader still having so much to say after a recent string of cinematic misfires.

Rated "R": some disturbing violent images; 1:53; $ $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Some have been losing their heads over the scares in "Hereditary," ever since it debuted at January's Sundance Film Festival, and now everyone can see what all the fuss is about.

Collette deals with some serious concerns in "Hereditary."
Truthfully, bits of story may have been borrowed from classics such as "Rosemary's Baby," "The Shining,"  and "The Omen," but it doesn't mean that first-time writer/director Ari Aster doesn't have a parcel of creepy-crawly tricks of his own to display. He also gets a marvelously harried performance from Toni Collette, as Annie Graham, a wife and mother of two awkward teens, as well as the daughter of an apparently strange old gal whose death notice pops up on screen to start the movie.

From there comes the wake and funeral offering some clues to where we're headed; Annie's own weird penchant for noting personal events in her brilliant work of making elaborate miniature houses; and the kids attending a "school party" from which there might be no return.

Ironically, it is Annie's own worry about the ever-bizarre behavior of her 13-year-old daughter (newcomer Milly Shapiro) that inspire Mom to insist that little sis tag along with major pothead brother Peter (Alex Wolff) to the latter event. Naturally, it's really a hash bash and, when his sister has a serious allergic reaction there, Peter has to rush back home before heads may roll.

Unfortunately, one actually does. But, that still leaves time for what could be the most frightening hour at the movies this year, complete with fire, some brimstone, seances (instigated by a character played by the always swell Ann Roth), and the Graham family Dad (Gabriel Byrne) finally getting the figurative stick removed from his butt in one hellacious ending.

Rated "R": horror violence, disturbing images, language, drug use and brief graphic nudity; 2:07; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Friday, June 1, 2018

Saddling up with 'The Rider' might be a better choice than staying 'Adrift'

While Hollywood still tries to bask in the glow of overstuffed summer blockbusters such as 'Solo' and 'Deadpool 2,' a pair of more modest films arrive today in local theaters. Ironically, both are true stories featuring fascinatingly dissimilar riding vessels: horses in one and a sailboat in the other.

Brady Jandreau is the man with the horse in "The Rider."
"The Rider," which picked up five Independent Spirit Award nominations last year well before its 2018 release, tells the tale of young Brady Jandreau, the legitimate South Dakota rodeo standout, playing himself (albeit with a character surname of Blackburn) and painfully recovering from serious injuries that likely took his career, almost his life, but certainly not his soul.

The unexpected result of this often majestic film, as keenly written/directed by Chloe Zhao (which earned her the ISA Bonnie Award), is the likelihood of Jandreau actually becoming a movie star. I mean, he's certainly the magnetic center in a cast of non-actors (including his dad Tim and sister Lily), not to mention a performance that might remind some of Robert Redford in "The Horse Whisperer" and definitely offers the quiet grit of the late James Dean in just about anything.

It's also an extremely good-looking effort, with cinematographer Joshua James Edwards returning to the same soaring visual realities of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation landscapes shown off in Zhao's debut feature, "Songs My Brothers Taught Me."

Rated "R": language and drug use; 1:45; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Meanwhile, the lesser "Adrift," based on a real adventure of  survival on the high seas, probably should have been more harrowing than it is in the hands of  Baltasar Kormakur, an Icelandic director of some note after helming "The Deep," a similarly themed thriller; "2 Guns," and "Everest."

Woodley and Claflin find themselves "Adrift."
Alas, we get more lovey-dovey romance -- in too many silly flashbacks -- than thrills in this fact-based story of a couple that quickly falls in love before earning big money to man the aforementioned sailboat from Tahiti to San Diego. Obviously, nothing funny happens on their way to what was supposed to be a 4,000-mile picnic, either, just too many huge closeups of Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, as the happy twosome (at least for a while).

I'm tempted to call the whole ill-fated affair drippy, but you'd swear I was trying to make a fun pun about what allegedly actually occurred.

Rated "PG-13": injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements; 1:33; $ $ out of $5

Also opening is a sci-fi, blood-fueled fest called "Upgrade," one of 10 buzz worthy films we listed as ones to seek out in our summer movie preview back in April. Regardless, BH Tilt distributors did not see fit to extend us an invitation to a Cleveland screening, so we'll never know if the hype is or was legit.

Friday, May 18, 2018

4 for May 18: 'Dead' on arrival, old 'Book' sex', good bad Rachels, and Pope

Where would you ever see the Pope and "Deadpool"  mentioned in the same sentence? Why, right here, of course, since Wim Wenders' divinely enhanced documentary about the current Pope Francis, as well as the smarmy sequel to what had been a terrific "Deadpool" original are among four films opening on northeast Ohio screens this week.

Beetz's Domino joins "Deadpool," too.
In fact, let's start with the latter, "Deadpool 2," which, unless you include its huge doses of cynicism, certainly offers the least among this week's debuting quartet.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the moody superhero who can't die, yet tries continuously but is only successful at killing his own movie. (Reynolds also now earns a co-writing credit after he and the first mega successful "Deadpool" go-round even received Critics' Choice Awards as 2016's Best Comic Actor and Best Comedy, respectively.)

However, as is often the case in the business of follow-ups, the new effort pales in comparison to the funny, smart, sassy and, it says here, less outrageously violent original. And, sure, some will be bound to laugh at moments that might target Dubstep, "Yentl," and a soundtrack that includes the likes of Air Supply and Dolly Parton, among others.

Still, those are the meager highlights left sticking to the big wall the screenplay must have been thrown against to explore if anything remains. Otherwise, it's as over the top as it gets, including Reynolds/Wade Wilson/Deadpool actually breaking down the proverbial fourth wall by talking to the audience while poking fun at his studio and other members of the Marvel (mostly Wolverine) and DC universes.

Meanwhile, a plot-pivotal mutant/fat kid (Julian Dennison), besides being continuously skewered by our ever-smirking alleged hero, obviously has been more seriously abused, if not downright victimized, at a school controlled by pedophiles. How charming!

Best in the rest of the cast is Deadpool's returning, then departing love interest (Morina Baccarin) and a new potential sidekick (Zazie Beetz, from FX's "Atlanta"). Everyone else becomes almost instantly disposable, even Josh Brolin, now portraying his second super sized villain in less than a month. Here's hoping his back-to-normal visage will return to legitimate distinction late next month in the "Sicario" sequel.

Rated "R": graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity 2:01; $ $ out of $5 

Speaking of casts with questionable bite, let's consider "Book Club," the distaff version of most of the old fogey male comedies that have been thrust upon us in the last decade or so.

Keaton (left), Fonda, Bergen, Steenburgen by the "Book."
This one stars 80-year-old Jane Fonda, admittedly appearing like "the new 50," Diane Keaton (72), Candice Bergen (72) and youngster Mary Steenburgen (65), as a quartet of BFFs talking sex and thinking about all the possibilities after being introduced to a very hot best seller.

Naturally, that would be "Fifty Shades of Grey," brought to the club by successful career woman and lifelong man killer Fonda to share some various enhanced joys of the bedroom with her gal-pals and, perhaps, help cure a few relationship ills along the way.

Obviously that offers room for the men in their lives, including Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, Richard Dreyfuss and Craig T. Nelson. (He's the one who gets to deal with an embarrassing Viagra moment.) Ha, ha, ha!

Seriously, folks, there are a couple of nice touches here, and Bergen, as a brilliantly self-deprecating Federal Court judge, steals the film on the comedic end. Regardless, it's nothing we haven't seen before, that is, unless we realize that we've likely never seen someone look so radiant as Fonda at her advanced age.

Just be sure to ignore the soft lighting all-around, which occasionally puts a couple of scenes more out of focus than its predictable, room-for-everyone story often does.

Rated "PG-13": sex-related material throughout and some language; 1:44; $ $ 1/2 out of $5


Weisz, McAdams and Nuvolo consider "Disobedience."
Perhaps Friday's finest new offering arrives in the form of "Disobedience," featuring sparkling performances from Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, both splendid as a pair of former good friends and young lovers reuniting after years of separation.

They're together again when professional photographer Ronit (Weisz) is called back from New York to London upon the death of her rabbi father. Once there, she realizes that Esti (McAdams) remains as gorgeous as ever and, apparently, happily and strictly married to a third part of a looming triangle (the equally adept Alessandro Nivolo).

The really big reveal here, though. is that the latter is himself a rabbi on the verge of succeeding Ronit's dad as the head of a large and extremely conservative Hasidic congregation. If looks could kill, Ronit would be long gone. Then again, many special looks -- of longing, hatred, suspicion, true love, all of the above and more -- become a major part of writer/director Sebastian Lelio's first English-language film, as based on a Naomi Alderman novel.

It's simply a beautiful telling by the same filmmaker who gave us last year's brassy Best Foreign Language Oscar-winner ("A Fantastic Woman"), only with quiet degrees of shading and softness that manage to speak volumes.

Rated "R": some strong sexuality; 1:54; $ $ $ $ out of $5


Producer/writer/director Wenders props up Pope Francis
Last but definitely not least, particularly for any woman or man sincerely caring about the world in which we live, is the aforementioned "Pope Francis A Man of His Word," the absorbing doc from near-legendary producer, writer and director Wim Wenders. (He also performs the voiceovers.)

Though his work never comes close to becoming a full-fledged bio of the people-oriented pontiff, Wenders easily lets viewers of all denominations know that they're spending 90 minutes in the presence of supreme grace and humble eminence. Certainly, after hearing his Catholic holy man comment on a number of important topics and watching his mere presence light up the faces on a plethora of unfortunates around the globe, no one could possibly believe anything less.

Even some slight Wenders' stumbles -- which present awkward black-and-white segments about Francis of Assisi, the Pope's handpicked namesake and patron saint of animals and ecology -- don't intrude too mightily on this inspirational excursion.

Unrated; 1:36; $ $ $ and 1/2 out $5


Thursday, April 26, 2018

10 mostly small(er) films you might want to seek out this summer


Even if spring hasn’t raised much of its lovely head yet in northeast Ohio, the summer movie season unofficially begins Friday, seemingly earlier than ever, with a little ditty called “Avengers: Infinity War.” (See my movie ratings at left.)
Have you heard of it? Certainly you have. Just as you’re likely aware of such equally anticipated blockbusters as “Deadpool2” (May 18); “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (May 25); “Ocean’s 8” (June 8); “Incredibles 2” (June 15); “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (June 22) and “Mission Impossible – Fallout” (July 27).

McAdams and Weisz star in “Disobedience.”
But how ‘bout some mostly off-the-radar sleepers that will arrive by the time the season hopefully and seriously heats up? Here are 10 to consider:

Disobedience (May 18): Since it’s the only one I’ve seen so far (at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival), my small summer slate kicks off with knockout performances from two great Rachels – McAdams and Weisz. The girls co-star and flash some surprising chemistry together in a Sebastian Lelio film based on a successful novel. Of course, the Chilean Lelio also wrote and directed last year’s Oscar-winning, Best Foreign Language Film, "A Fantastic Woman." 

The Rider (June 1): Another entry that collected some buzz in Toronto (and last spring at Cannes), it’s an almost mythic tale of a rodeo cowboy (star-in-the-making Brady Jandreau), wondering what comes next after a life-threatening accident. The truth-based film from writer/director Chloe Zhao ("Songs My Brother Taught Me") also earned five Independent Spirit Award nominations.

Upgrade (June 1): This Australian thriller apparently takes techies to a new level of horror, at least according to some feedback from its world premiere at South by Southwest in March. Revenge, superhuman powers, and plenty of blood fill the screen, and its writer/director (Leigh Whannell) arrives with connections to both the successful “Saw” and “Insidious” franchises.

Collette and Byrne do look spooky in “Hereditary.”
Hereditary (June 8): Even more terrifying perhaps – and already being billed in some corners as the year’s scariest movie – this chiller has Toni Collette and Gabriel Byrne heading a grief-stricken family which, for some reason, starts tooling around into their questionable ancestry. Festival-goers at both Sundance and South by Southwest embraced it with jumps, screams and standing ovations.

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (June 29): The sequel I’m most looking forward to doesn’t have the great Denis Villenueve back directing it, but brilliant screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is, along with stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. That should mean more action-packed undercover FBI work, based on a reality that simply doesn’t exist in other summer fantasy/comic-book/CGI-based blockbusters.

Sorry to Bother You (July 6): Another film festival hit that ventures into originality is supposedly an often brilliant and funny directorial debut from actor/rap artist Boots Riley. His story, which stars Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer, spotlights a telemarketer (LaKeith Stansfield from “Get Out”) whose dulcet voice opens up a variety of doors and opportunities. 

Eighth Grade (July 13): A second directing debut, this one from actor/comedian Bo Burnham (one of the best buddies in “The Big Sick”), will show up with top-notch, coming-of-age praise from festivals in Sundance, San Francisco and Sarasota. The title tells it all, but it specifically deals with a 13-year-old girl’s fun-filled last week in middle school. 

The Meg (Aug. 10): Uh, you may not be chomping at the bit to see this one, but any movie with the tagline, “Pleasure to Eat You,” sounds like a dog-days-of-summer lark. Add action heavyweight Jason Statham, as a disgraced submarine captain trying to save his reputation – and  crew -- from something called a Megalodon (allegedly the largest marine predator ever), and well . . . maybe the Meg’s entrance music will become as memorable as that grand stuff in “Jaws.” 

“The Nun” just might end summer for good.
The Little Stranger (Aug. 31): Director Lenny Abrahamson gave us one of 2015’s most honored films, the Best Picture-nominated and Best Actress-winning “Room.” 
Now he’s finally back with a ghost story based on a gothic novel by Sarah Waters and a cast headed by Domhnall Gleeson, Ruth Wilson, Charlotte Rampling, and Will Poulter.

The Nun (Sept. 7): For the past two years, WB has owned this post-Labor Day weekend (and, subsequently, most of September) by releasing “Sully” and “It,” respectively. “The Nun” could pull the same trick as the latest installment in a franchise of genuinely frightening films that began with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson portraying real-life paranormal stalkers in  “The Conjuring.” Here, in what might or might not be a telling piece of casting, Farmiga’s lookalike younger sister (Taissa Farmiga) stars as a novitiate investigating the mysterious '50s-era death of the title character.

Holy moly! Bring on that summer heat!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Picture remains toughest call of all at 90th Academy Awards

So unless second-time host and ever-silly Jimmy Kimmel somehow coaxes "Bonnie and Clyde," Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, to present the Best Picture award again, Sunday night's Oscar ceremony should close with a clearcut winner this year. Or will it?

After all, going into Academy Awards weekend, the major category causing the most consternation among annual prognosticators remains the top one. I mean, will the Best Picture be Critics' Choice winner and leading nominee-earner "The Shape of Water"? Or else the momentum-heavy "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" after its trio of triumphs at the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards? Or could a decided underdog such as "Lady Bird" or "Get Out," which is looking more and more like last year's victorious "Moonlight," gain the gold at the wire.

We offer our brief thoughts below after first disposing of what looks like some easy pickings in the five other important categories, each of which has been dominated by one person throughout awards season.  

BEST ACTOR
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.
Will win: Gary Oldman
John's preferred pick: Timothée Chalamet
Oldman's portrayal of Winston Churchill is a dead mortal lock and maybe the easiest choice of the night. Not only has the fine British actor won every other major award coming into Sunday, but he's never been honored previously. If there is an upset, it will be pulled off by Daniel Kaluuya, especially and obviously if voters turned out for "Get Out."  

BEST ACTRESS
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.
Will win: Frances McDormand
John's preferred pick: Sally Hawkins
Hollywood continues to love the no-nonsense and self-deprecating McDormand, who has won before (for "Fargo") but, like Oldman, has captured almost every award in sight this year, too. Young Saoirse Ronan, who was an also-ran in this same category in 2017 (for "Brooklyn"), offers the closest competition and, right now, that looks a long way from showing up Sunday on the Dolby Theatre stage.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
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.
Will win: Sam Rockwell
John's preferred pick: Rockwell
Rockwell always has stolen just about every picture he's been in and, arguably, he pulled that same stunt in "Three Billboards," even opposite McDormand and fellow nominee Woody Harrelson. Only Willem Dafoe, so kind and patient as the father figure in the underseen "Florida Project," could beat him here. 

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound; Allison Janney, I, Tonya; Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread; Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird; Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water. 
Will win: Allison Janney
John's preferred pick: Lesley Manville
Janney, another deserving Hollywood darling, wins in a walk for playing skater Tonya Harding's wicked witch of a mom. Laurie Metcalf, better than even Ronan in "Lady Bird," probably needs a miracle to succeed here, despite being the early favorite in this category months ago.

BEST  DIRECTOR
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread; Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird; Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk; Jordan Peele, Get Out; Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water.
Will win: Guillermo del Toro
John's preferred pick: del Toro
"The Shape of Water" remains a movie lover's dream, with so many familiar genres rolled into an entertaining fairytale that only a true auteur like nice-guy del Toro could pull it off.
"Three Billboards" helmer Martin McDonagh is not even nominated, so an upset here would be one seriously dazzling occurrence.

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
Will win:Three Billboards
John's preferred pick: Three Billboards
It used to be a lock for the Best Director winner to lead us to the Best Picture prize, but no longer. In fact, in four of the last five years, those awards have been split between separate movies. Another interesting note, in those same five years, the most heavily nominated film, such as this year's "Shape of Water" with a whopping 13 noms, won Best Picture only once. What it all means is that "Shape" is likely to take a backseat in the final category of the evening. So... an early hint In this very wild race might come in Best Original Screenplay, the only other category in which "Three Billboards," "The Shape of Water," "Get Out" and "Lady Bird" are all facing off. As noted below, that winner will be McDonagh for his terrific "Three Billboards" script. Stay loose, though. If Jordan Peele triumphs for writing his brilliantly satirical "Get Out," it could be the prelude to a second straight startling finish at the Oscars. 

Other predicted winners: Adapted screenplay, Call Me by Your Name; Original screenplay,Three BillboardsAnimated feature,Coco; Documentary, Faces Places; Foreign film, A Fantastic Woman; Cinematography, Blade Runner 2049; Visual effects, War for the Planet of the Apes; Song, "Remember Me" (Coco); Score, The Shape of Water; Costumes, Phantom Thread; Hair and makeup, Darkest HourEditing, Dunkirk; Sound editing, DunkirkSound mixing, DunkirkProduction design, The Shape of Water; Animated Short, Lou; Live-action short, DeKalb Elementary; Documentary short, Heroin(e).