Predicting the most unpredictable Oscars ceremony in years

The 90th Academy Awards features an incredible list of nominees, which makes it nearly impossible to argue what should or will win...

It’s my favourite time of the year: Oscars season! This year’s awards season has been fascinating. In a post-Weinstein environment of #MeToo and people begging Oprah to run for president, the Oscars themselves have been quietly revolutionary. The fifth ever woman, African American and Hispanic directors (Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele and Guillermo Del Toro, respectively) have been nominated for Best Director; the first woman EVER has been nominated for Best Cinematography (Rachel Morrison, for her stellar work on Mudbound); and the Academy have rarely nominated so many genre films (e.g. Get Out, The Shape of Water, Dunkirk) for Best Picture.

As I write this sentence, voting is still underway to decide who this year’s winners will be, so hold onto your crystal balls as we wildly speculate exactly how the Oscars will (probably) get it right or wrong this year.

Best Picture
Should win: Get Out
Will win: Lady Bird

While every other category has a first-past-the-post voting system, Best Picture has a long and complicated preferential system which favours films everybody likes rather than films that a few people really love. Get Out has taken more creative risks and captured the zeitgeist better than perhaps any other film from last year, creating iconic images that have changed the way films can talk about race in a post-Obama America (never mind The Sunken Place, the image of Rose eating Fruit Loops and milk separately has stuck with me since February last year). Lady Bird is a film that nobody really dislikes, and could very well be a surprise winner, but this is certainly not a category anyone can call with any certainty due to the collective strength of most of the nominees.

Best Director
Should win: Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread
Will win: Literally anyone else

I’m still hurting that Denis Villeneuve wasn’t nominated for Blade Runner 2049, but P.T. Anderson’s direction in Phantom Thread is nothing short of masterful. It’s also far too subtle to get much notice in a hotly contested category full of incredibly deserving nominees – from the incredible technical skill of Christopher Nolan in putting together Dunkirk, to the heartfelt honesty of the direction of Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird or Guillermo Del Toro (many people’s favourite to win) for The Shape of Water.

Best Actor
Should win: Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name/ Daniel Kaluuya for Get Out/Daniel Day-Lewis for Phantom Thread
Will win: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

The Academy love to give Oscars which act as “Lifetime Achievement Awards”, and it’s certainly Gary Oldman’s turn for one after his shouty, transformational turn as Winston Churchill – but it’s also the safest “Oscar-bait” performance in a truly exceptional field this year. Daniel Day-Lewis is, as usual, delightfully brilliant in Phantom Thread, but Daniel Kaluuya and Timothée Chalamet are two young actors who delivered exceptionally brave and affecting performances which deserve as much recognition as possible.

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Best Actress
Should win: Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water
Will win: Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sally Hawkins’ mute performance in The Shape of Water is extraordinary, but Frances McDormand’s searing turn in Three Billboards is a little more showy and a lot more fun. This year’s category is filled with strong female characters that all, in their own way, speak truth to power, so any of the nominees would be at least a politically correct choice to win – I’d even argue there’s an outside chance that Margot Robbie could sneak in to take the trophy for her raw, affecting lead role in I, Tonya.

Best Supporting Actor
Should win: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Will win: Sam Rockwell

This ought to be one of the closest categories this year, as every single nominee has showcased tremendous work – from Christopher Plummer stepping in to replace Kevin Spacey at the last minute and instantly acting as if the role of J. Paul Getty had only ever been his from the start, to Richard Jenkins’ funny, heartwarming and desperately sad turn in The Shape of Water. But Sam Rockwell’s performance in Three Billboards is spellbindingly brilliant – it’s the easiest win of the year.

Best Supporting Actress
Should win: Laurie Metcalf for Lady Bird
Will win: Alison Janney for I, Tonya

Do you remember when J.K. Simmons won his Oscar for being a volcano of rage in Whiplash? Yeah, Alison Janney has this one in the bag. It’s a terrible shame for Laurie Metcalf, whose subtle, brilliant work as Lady Bird’s mother grounds the film perfectly.

Best Original Screenplay
Should win: The Big Sick
Will win: Lady Bird/Get Out

The Big Sick is only nominated in this category and absolutely deserves the win, crafting one of the most beautifully-written rom-coms in years (not to mention perhaps the only 9/11 joke that made me cry with laughter). But the voters love to reward new talent, and Get Out and Lady Bird are astonishingly confident screenplays from two of the most exciting younger writers working in Hollywood today.

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Best Adapted Screenplay
Should win: Call Me By Your Name
Will win: Call Me By Your Name

It was one of the best films of last year, with easily the best screenplay that’s received a nomination. It would be historic if Logan or even Mudbound won, but if Call Me By Your Name doesn’t win, I will riot.

More than any other year in recent memory, it feels like the Academy has truly nominated the best of the best in every category. Sure, there are snubs in a few categories – Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in mother! easily deserves a nomination, and Holly Hunter’s role in The Big Sick probably deserved more awards attention. But this is one of the strongest collections of nominees for years; unless the Academy give every award to Darkest Hour, this will no doubt be one of the more memorable and relevant Oscars ceremonies ever.