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.  

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."  

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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).

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