As the seatfillers, seamsters and speechwriters prepare for their busiest night of the year, Laura Morgan brings you some predictions for the ninetieth Academy Awards.
Hello! We’re liveblogging the Oscars here again tomorrow night for the can-you-believe-it seventh year in a row, although since in 2012 we all went to bed after the red carpet it only half counted. Tomorrow, though, we’ll be pulling the full all-nighter once again, and over the years we’ve discovered that the best way to get through the ceremony, not counting booze and drugs, is to have a horse in every race. So here for your consideration are MostlyFilm’s carefully-chosen picks for this year’s gongs. Place your bets now! Note: MostlyFilm takes no responsibility for losses incurred as a result of the advice given below.
This category is almost impossible to predict this year, because there’s no obvious front-runner, or if there is it changes twice a week, and all of the films in contention have at least one stat against them which would rule them out of the race in a normal year. But this isn’t a normal year, and so the best I can confidently do for you is to split the contenders into definitely-won’t-wins and might-wins.
Definitely-won’t-wins: Darkest Hour, because it’s terrible; The Post, because if you’re Spielberg, Streep and Hanks you have to outdo yourselves, rather than anybody else, in order to win an Oscar, and they didn’t; Lady Bird, because it’s not as good as they said it was; Call Me By Your Name, because it’s insubstantial; and Phantom Thread, because it’s by Paul Thomas Anderson and therefore immediately divisive, despite being in many ways his most accessible film yet. But the way the Best Picture is chosen (where members list their favourites from top to bottom, the votes are counted and the lowest-scoring candidates discarded and the votes recounted, the whole process repeating for as long as it takes for a film to take over 50% of the remaining votes) means that divisive films don’t win, as La La Land memorably demonstrated last year.
Might-wins: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, because it has virtuoso performances from actors whom everybody loves; The Shape Of Water, because it has by far the most nominations; Dunkirk, because nobody hates it and the peculiarities thrown up by the preferential ballot system mean that might be enough; and Get Out, because it is the best picture (although I would find it hard to direct my vote between it and Phantom Thread, but for the FORTY SECOND YEAR RUNNING nobody has invited me to join the Academy, so my personal preferences are irrelevant).
I honestly can’t call it: a couple of weeks ago I was confidently telling people that Three Billboards couldn’t win because too many people hate it, but then it went and swept everything at BAFTA, and it won the SAG Ensemble award, and Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell have won their categories in most of the Guild awards, and it sort of looks unstoppable, except that there’s that whole racism thing, which I hope and believe will stop it. If it does, then Get Out will win. So I’m still going for Get Out.
Guillermo del Toro has won this at every other awards this year and he will win it again tomorrow. As I said about Damien Chazelle last year, if your movie is nominated for twice as many Oscars as anyone else’s that makes you the best director, regardless of how many actual wins it gets.
If it were up to me then this category would be all about Daniel Day Lewis in Phantom Thread, but as it is, Gary Oldman is going to take home the little gold man for services to fat-suits. I’m being mean, he is the best thing in a bad film. (But it’s a really bad film.)
My theory vis-a-vis Three Billboards is that, like when they gave Hacksaw Ridge Oscars for Editing and Sound Mixing, the Academy members will want to reward a movie they like without giving a prize to its director, whom they don’t. And the most obvious way to reward Three Billboards is to give Oscars to the actors who managed to turn a script that, on the page, is mostly long strings of swear-words, into something engaging and watchable. Frances McDormand is never not good and she’s fantastic in this.
The same as above, only for Sam Rockwell. Although I would vote for Willem Dafoe, and if I could give The Florida Project all the Oscars, I would.
Everyone loves Alison Janney, and why wouldn’t they? Even though her character in (the otherwise fabulous) I, Tonya is kind of a monotone pantomime villain. But everyone loves Alison Janney and so she will win. (I would give it to Mary J. Blige, who is understated but spellbinding in Mudbound, which won’t win anything and should, although if she were only nominated I would actually give it to Betty Gabriel for her extraordinary turn as Georgina in Get Out.)
This is a tricky one this year, because Cinematography almost always goes to a film which also has a Best Picture nomination, and the winner is often a clue as to who’s taking home the big prize. We can probably rule out Mudbound‘s Rachel Morrison – who is, if you can believe it, the first woman ever to be nominated in this category – simply because not enough people will have seen the film (it was released on Netflix, where you can still see it if you haven’t already – although, brace yourself; it’s not an easy watch). And Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t have a Best Picture nomination either so I would usually discount that too, except that it won the BAFTA, and its cinematographer is Roger Deakins, for whom this is the FOURTEENTH Oscar nomination without a win to show for it. So I’d love it to go to Deakins, even though the other nominees (Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, The Shape Of Water) are all also Best Picture contenders and therefore – on paper at least – more likely to win. But screw it, let’s go Deakins and Blade Runner 2049.
There was an upset last week in the world of Costume Design when Phantom Thread, which was seemingly on a relentless path to victory in this category, lost out to The Shape Of Water at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. It’s true, as some have pointed out, that the clothes in Phantom Thread are strange and ugly. My theory is that that’s the point, because it’s an autobiographical piece about a genius who makes works of art which some people think are strange and ugly. Which would make Mark Bridges’ designs brilliant and perfect, whereas Luis Sequeira’s costumes for The Shape Of Water, while perfectly pretty, don’t tell you anything more about the story or characters. I mean, is the fish-man outfit a costume, or a makeup, or a special effect? Maybe that’s what the Costume Designers were voting for? My vote is still going to Phantom Thread.
Editing is another award that often goes to the Best Picture winner, but if I’m sticking with Get Out as the overall winner, and I am, then I have to go off-piste here because it doesn’t have an Editing nomination (it should). Note: if this goes to Three Billboards then I am likely wrong about how divisive it is, and its chances of taking Best Picture will go shooting up. But the Academy likes films that look like they’ve been edited, which is why Birdman didn’t get a nomination, and why my best bet in this category is Dunkirk, which is three films expertly and visibly stitched together into one.
Foreign Language Film
They’re such big, stupid categories, aren’t they? There’s no way to sensibly compare a Russian tragedy about a missing child with a Swedish comedy about about art with a Chilean drama about transphobia, not to mention all the hundreds and hundreds of brilliant films which don’t get a look-in because of the one-film-per-country limitation. The problem gets worse in the Documentary Feature category, where nobody can even agree from year to year on what the criteria for qualifying should be (to take only the most current example: last year’s winner, OJ: Made In America, would not be eligible this year). Anyway, I’m excited about seeing all of the stars of all the films, of course – it’s why I stay up all night – but I especially want to see the two leads in Loveless – just, you know, to make sure they’re OK. The prize, though, is almost certainly going to A Fantastic Woman, which is fine because I also really want to see Daniela Vega in real life (where in real life = “on TV”).
Makeup and Hairstyling
I would give this to I, Tonya, which got its eighties and nineties styling dazzlingly spot-on, but they didn’t nominate it, so I guess it’s back to Gary Oldman and his fat-suit with a win for Darkest Hour.
All the big guns are out in this race, with John Williams (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Hans Zimmer (Dunkirk), Carter Burwell (Three Billboards) and Alexandre Desplat (The Shape Of Water) among those facing off for the prize. The latter is the favourite but on the basis that it’s the actual best score and that he lost out on a technicality with his equally dazzling music for There Will Be Blood, I’m going for Johnny Greenwood and Phantom Thread.
I mean, it’s going to be the Lopez-Anderson-Lopez number, right? Even though we’re obviously all more excited about seeing Mary J. Blige (I assume she will wear at least two different outfits on the night, one per Oscar nomination) and Common, who by now has an Oscars residency. But I still think Coco for the win.
If Guillermo del Toro is winning Director for bringing a singular vision to life then the category in which this is most evidently successful is this one, because The Shape Of Water is an exceptional feat of world-building. It doesn’t look quite like anything but itself, but it looks exactly like itself and it will win this prize.
So here’s the thing. I haven’t seen any of them! Not even Loving Vincent, which sounded like it might be my kind of thing but then looked, on further inspection, sort of stupid. However, my best guess, and the bookies’, is Coco. I mean, I hope it’s not The Boss Baby.
The odds are massively favouring Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball here, and it is a lovely – if staggeringly self-involved – little film. But are they going to give an Oscar to a man previously accused of sexual assault in this year of all years? My favourite by some way is Garden Party, which is hilariously un-Oscary, and I note that my esteemed colleagues have gone for Negative Space, and what we can all agree on is that it definitely won’t be Revolting Rhymes. And we haven’t even mentioned the Pixar! It’ll be the Pixar, right? It’ll be Lou, which is neither the best nor anybody’s favourite.
The only nominee in this category that I haven’t managed to see is Agnès Varda’s Visages, Villages, which is almost certain to win, with (at the time of writing) the shortest odds of any candidate in any category. But I’m going to use this opportunity to urge you to see Feras Fayyad’s Last Men In Aleppo, which is just completely and utterly devastating and you won’t be glad you watched it, but you should anyway.
This was my top category this year: I loved all of the films in different ways, and you know what? You can watch them all online! And you don’t even have to seek them out, because I’ve done all the work for you!
Edith + Eddie is the bookies’ favourite and has a wildly promising premise, but I’m not sure the film-making quite lives up to the story it tries to tell. Traffic Stop (requires a NowTV subscription, but you can get a 14-day free trial) is both shocking and depressingly predictable and has a fabulously engaging central figure in Breaion King, the African-American teacher stopped for speeding. Knife Skills (iTunes), about ex-prisoners working in a restaurant, is more multilayered and complex than I was expecting. My two favourites were Heaven Is A Traffic Jam On The 405 and Heroin(e) (Netflix) and while the former is my absolute top tip for you to watch, the latter has a more obviously appealing subject and some genuinely life-affirming moments, so that’s my prediction. But I cried and laughed at all of these films and will be happy with a win for any one of them.
Live Action Short
There are four good films and one extended Armstrong and Miller sketch in this category this year. I loved Rachel Shenton’s The Silent Child (Chris Overton directs, but Shenton is writer and star) but I can’t imagine the Academy not taking the chance to talk about guns in schools on the world’s biggest stage by voting for DeKalb Elementary.
Sound Editing/Sound Mixing
Like I splained yer last year, Sound Editing is where you design the sounds and Sound Mixing is where you make them part of the film. So space films and war films are always a good bet for the former, because they have sounds that have to be made up from scratch (unless you actually go to space, or to war), and anything with a complicated soundscape has a good chance with the latter. Dunkirk is a war film with a complicated soundscape, so I’m predicting a one-two in these categories, although Baby Driver might sneak Mixing on the basis that it has two soundtracks at once, which is also a clever trick, she said grudgingly.
Well now, I don’t really go to see films with monsters or spaceships in, so I asked my esteemed colleagues where they thought this award was going and they all said Blade Runner 2049, but – begging their joint pardons – the winds of internet wisdom seem to be blowing in the direction of War for the Planet of the Apes, and if VFX is mostly about turning people into creatures then it has to be admitted that the golden combination of Andy Serkis and Joe Letteri (and his team) did produce a more or less perfect ape.
Three of the nominees in this category (The Disaster Artist, Molly’s Game and Logan) have been pretty much bypassed by the Oscars buzz and another, Mudbound, will continue to be penalised for not having had a proper theatrical release, so this should be an easy win for Call Me By Your Name. Also, if James Ivory writes you a screenplay, you give the prize to James Ivory.
…whereas Original is a real battleground. Here’s another of my baseless theories: if this award is presented at the start of the evening, as it often is, then it likely hasn’t gone to the eventual Best Picture winner and there’s everything left to play for. But if they save it for a late slot, as they did last year with Moonlight, then it’s much likelier that one of The Shape Of Water, Lady Bird, Get Out and Three Billboards has taken both, although in my view it can only be one of the latter two. If Lady Bird‘s going win anything at all it could be here (or just possibly in Best Supporting Actress, but I’m fairly sure Alison Janney has that sewn up), so that’s an outside possibility, but I’ve been saying for a year, and I don’t see why I should change my mind now, that this will be a win for Get Out.
To find out just how wrong all of this was, join me, Ricky Young, Blake Backlash, MarvMarsh and Clio on the red carpet and later inside the Dolby Theater for another round of the internet’s finest slightly-delayed Oscars coverage. Bring beer.
MostlyFilm’s live Oscars coverage begins here at 10.30pm tomorrow night.