5 Burning Questions About Tomorrow’s Oscar Nominations, Plus Our Wild and Crazy Predictions

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It may be last-minute, but I couldn’t let the site go without a completely unnecessary set of Oscar predictions. Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this awards season, which seems more political than ever, but perhaps that’s just my imagination. My personal favorite films don’t seem to be serious contenders for Best Picture, or really any award besides the two screenplay categories, and with the race being so close, I’d like to see the Academy spread the love around and shake things up a bit, rather than follow the guild winners and the Golden Globes.

In a perfect world — at least one I could live with — Lady Bird would win Best Picture, Guillermo del Toro would win Best Director for The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards and Call Me by Your Name would split the screenwriting prizes, but the Academy is a fickle and unpredictable beast. Will they zig where others have zagged, or will it be another night of chalk?

That decision is in the hands of the Oscar Gods (and hopefully a different Pricewaterhouse executive), and while we wait for the nominations to come down the movie mountain, here are five burning questions to ponder before the big announcement, as well as our wild and crazy predictions.

Be sure and come back tomorrow morning for the full list of nominees.

1. Will the James Franco scandal cost him a Best Actor nomination?

This one is tricky, and further complicated by the fact that it’s a weak year for the category (would you rather vote for Franco, or someone whose work doesn’t really merit an Oscar nomination? ), but I suspect it will cost him. It’s entirely possible that the allegations broke too late, but I’m also betting that many Academy voters had already heard the whispers, and I just don’t see how female voters could feel good about endorsing him. We’ll see, though. He hasn’t gone into hiding, likely knowing what’s at stake.

2. Will Steven Spielberg make the cut, or is The Post toast?

Remember this summer when The Post was the Best Picture frontrunner and prognosticators were heralding a Spielberg vs. Nolan race? Well take it from me (and the precursors), neither is winning the Oscar this year, which is going to be on Guillermo del Toro’s mantle by March. It’s possible that Spielberg could manage to score a nomination in a difficult year, because directing actors talking in rooms is harder than it sounds, and Spielberg makes those dialogue-driven scenes soar. Unfortunately, The Post has lost some heat over the past month, and a lot of voters may shrug and think, “Steven made another good movie. So what?”

3. Are Gary Oldman and Sam Rockwell really locks to win?

I completely understand wanting to recognize Oldman for his overall career, especially given the ridiculous fact that he’s never even been nominated. But his cigar-chomping turn as Winston Churchill was far from Oldman’s finest work, and it’s possible the Academy could hold Oldman’s past comments about Jews (he defended Mel Gibson at one point) against him. Meanwhile, I love Sam Rockwell. You probably love Sam Rockwell, too. I think we all love Sam Rockwell. And he’s very good in Three Billboards. But is he really that much better than any of the other likely nominees, including his co-star Woody Harrelson? I don’t think Rockwell blows these guys off the screen, so why aren’t Richard Jenkins and my personal favorite, Michael Stuhlbarg, at least in the conversation to win? Why would a nomination be considered the win for those guys? The Shape of Water may chronicle a romance between a woman and a fishman, but Jenkins’ gay illustrator Giles is its beating heart, while Stuhlbarg knocks his closing monologue out of the park in Call Me By Your Name. This shouldn’t be a runaway victory for anybody!

4. Will Greta Gerwig crack the Best Director field for Lady Bird, or does Jordan Peele stand a better chance for Get Out?

It’s hard to say whether one, both, or neither will be nominated for Best Director this year. I mean, Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated the year that Argo won Best Picture. Does that mean the Academy has a bias against actors who direct? Does it matter than Peele and Gerwig didn’t star in their films? Does that make them seem like more legitimate filmmakers? More importantly, is there even room for both of them? There are a lot of strong contenders in the category this year, many of whom have been Academy favorites for decades. Are Gerwig and Peele really going to knock Spielberg off his throne? It’s totally possible, so keep your eyes “peeled” on this nail-biter of a race.

5. Will Mudbound‘s Rachel Morrison become the first female cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar, and regarding the same category, is this finally Roger Deakins’ year?

Deakins has been nominated 13 times, but he has never won. He’s responsible for some jaw-dropping images in Blade Runner 2049, but did voters like the film enough to nominate it, or will they lean in favor of a smaller, more intimate film — Netflix’s Mudbound. Yes, it hails from the streaming service that awards prognosticators have trained readers to be suspicious of, but practically everyone in Hollywood is in business with Netflix, so I don’t see voters holding that association against Mudbound. In fact, Mudbound cinematographer Rachel Morrison has a chance to become the first woman nominated for this award. In my opinion, she totally deserves it, and that’s based solely on the work, not any political agenda or the #MeToo movement. She delivered on a modest budget, and I can’t wait to see her work on Marvel’s Black Panther.

And now for the Tracking Board’s last-minute, ill-considered Oscar nomination predictions…

BEST PICTURE

1. The Shape of Water
2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
3. Lady Bird
4. Get Out
5. Call Me by Your Name
6. Dunkirk
7. The Post
8. The Florida Project
———————————————————
9. The Big Sick
10. I, Tonya

Analysis: It feels like an eight-nominee kind of year, though you never know… there could be seven or even nine nominees, given how fractured the field is. The Shape of Water feels like the film to beat, to me, but if you put a gun to my head right now (please don’t), I might predict Lady Bird for Best Picture, especially given what has transpired in the industry over the past few months. I don’t think Darkest Hour has much of a shot — it feels like the kind of movie that would’ve made the cut before the Academy diversified its membership. There’s plenty of support for Phantom Thread and Wonder Woman in some corners, but those two films might need a miracle to crack this field, which is relatively deep, even if there isn’t a clear-cut frontrunner.

BEST DIRECTOR

1. Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
2. Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
3. Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
4. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
5. Sean Baker, The Florida Project

Analysis: The directors branch is a funky bunch, and they always throw a wrench into Oscar morning. This year, I’m guessing that wrench will result in either Greta Gerwig or Jordan Peele being snubbed — not that I really think either should be nominated, but one or both certainly seems to be in the cards. But Sean Baker and Luca Guadagnino are lurking on the outside and the Academy would have to be heartless to overlook both of them.

BEST ACTOR

1. Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
2. Timothee Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
3. Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
4. Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
5. Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Analysis: Listen, this all comes down to two things — whether you think the Academy will still go for James Franco, and whether voters actually believe that Daniel Kaluuya merits a nomination for Get Out. That’s right, folks! I’m trusting that the actual actors in the Academy — people who are professional performers and know how hard a job it is — will actually see the merit in Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Stronger, and not only that, but Denzel Washington’s strong work in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Now, is it true that hardly anybody saw those movies in theaters? Yes. But actors are sent screeners, and I don’t know how you watch a film like Stronger and not think Gyllenhaal didn’t give one of the best performances of the year. It’s all about whether people bothered to watch the screener, and I’m willing to bet they did. Gyllenhaal also had critics in his corner, which helped keep the conversation alive.

BEST ACTRESS

1. Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2. Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
3. Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
4. Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
5. Meryl Streep, The Post

Analysis: OK, so these predictions aren’t that crazy. This is the projected field, and personally, I’d be surprised to see Jessica Chastain or Michelle Williams get in. Jeez, remember when we were talking about Kate Winslet and Annette Bening as contenders? I wish Diane Kruger (In the Fade) stood more of a chance, but I think these five are practically locked in.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2. Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
3. Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
4. Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
5. Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Analysis: A lot of people don’t think Michael Stuhlbarg will get in for some reason but the strength of that closing monologue should be enough for him to beat out Christopher Plummer, who could still find himself with a nomination if voters opt against including two actors from Three Billboards. Rockwell’s expected nomination and likely victory may be enough recognition for a single film in this category. And don’t try and tell me that Armie Hammer should get in ahead of Stuhlbarg, because you’re wrong.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

1. Allison Janney, I, Tonya
2. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
3. Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
4. Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water
5. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

Analysis: All due respect to SAG Award nominees Mary J. Blige and Hong Chau, but I refuse to believe they’re going to receive Oscar nominations tomorrow morning. Blige was fine in Mudbound, but hers was, like, the fifth-best performance in that film. Meanwhile, Downsizing was nearly unwatchable, while people loved Girls Trip, and I can totally see Tiffany Haddish crashing the party. It hurt to leave off SAG-nominated actresses of color, but I think those slots will go to two other actresses of color. Either way, don’t expect another repeat of #OscarsSoWhite. Denzel could still get blanked, but one way or another, this category will represent.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
2. Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
3. Jordan Peele, Get Out
4. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
5. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, The Post

Analysis: I wouldn’t be shocked if I, Tonya wound up taking out The Post, but the timely parallels between the Pentagon Papers drama and what’s happening with the Trump Administration should be enough to appease Hollywood liberals eager for any sign that can be perceived as a victory against our President. Of course, that leaves The Shape of Water on the outside looking in, which seems strange for a film that is the perceived Best Picture frontrunner. I suppose Peele is susceptible to falling out here, but something tells me the writers branch will reward him should he be snubbed by the directors branch.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

1. James Ivory, Call Me by Your Name
2. Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game
3. Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Disaster Artist
4. Virgil Williams and Dee Rees, Mudbound
5. Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green, Logan

Analysis: It’s entirely possible that I’m predicting the wrong superhero movie here, and that Wonder Woman will declaw Logan, but the latter was just so obviously superior from a screenwriting perspective, given WW‘s third-act problems. The other four seem like pretty safe bets, even with crowdpleasers like Wonder and Victoria and Abdul lurking on the outside.

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Still quiet here.sas

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