Oscar Predictions, Round 1: Will It Be Another Controversial Year of Academy Awards?

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2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1
ETonline

With only three months and change to go until the winners of the Academy Awards are announced on March 4, 2018, nearly every Oscar contender is playing in theaters -- or, at the very least, screening for critics and Academy voters. Which means I can now speculate -- based on my own reviews, the awards season hype machine and general industry buzz -- about how the nominations will shake out.

Starting now and leading up to the 90th annual Oscars, I will be updating these awards futures monthly, offering my final predictions in each category next month (ahead of the nominations announcement on Jan. 23) and breaking down the frontrunners as well as who should and will win in the following months. This round is all about who's fully in the race -- and who's going to need to do a bit of catching up.

First, a note: Though the Academy itself began taking the necessary steps to diversify its rankings -- and 2017's nominations were markedly more diverse, as such -- I worry this year is shaping up to be another #OscarsSoWhite year. Even with campaigns in full swing for The Big Sick and Get Out, among others, the acting categories (with the exception of Supporting Actress) are looking very...white. Hopefully not! But here is where things stand at the moment.

Best Picture

2018 Oscars Best Picture Predictions, Round 1
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1. The Big Sick

2. Call Me by Your Name

3. Darkest Hour

4. Dunkirk

5. Get Out

6. Lady Bird

7. Phantom Thread

8. The Post

9. The Shape of Water

10. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Best Picture race has seemingly been cemented -- with one potential exception. The Florida Project -- one of my personal favorites of the year -- has long been slotted in one of the 10 spots, but with the addition of prestige entry Phantom Thread, I worry the winning little indie will be bumped. Others still in contention: I, Tonya and Molly's Game, biopics that may fare better in the acting races, and Downsizing, which appeared to have lost favor with critics until it was named one of the National Board of Review's Top Films of 2018. And just like that, it's back in the running.

The Underdog:Mudbound, which, despite favorable reception and other accolades (the Robert Altman Award at the Independent Spirit Awards and a special Gotham Jury Award for the film's ensemble), still must contend with the Netflix of it all. Is it a movie? Is it streaming? I don't see the Academy making up its mind in time.

Best Actress

2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1, Best Actress
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1. Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

2. Jessica Chastain (Molly's Game)

3. Meryl Streep (The Post)

4. Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

5. Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Hawkins, McDonald, Ronan and Streep are practically guaranteed nominations, with the final spot likely going to Chastain or Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). I'm giving Chastain the edge, for now, because the entire movie rests on her shoulders, but Tonya Harding may prove the flashier role in the end. That said, Vicky Krieps' performance in Phantom Thread is breathtaking, and you wish she'd pull an Alicia Vikander and go Supporting, because I'm certain she would crack that race. Annette Bening (Films Stars Don't Die in Liverpool) and Emma Stone (Battle of the Sexes), meanwhile, just might not have enough steam to get them across the finish line.

The Underdog: Jennifer Lawrence for mother! It's funny to think of Lawrence as an underdog, especially at the Oscars -- she's won one already, with four total nominations. (One of which was for Joy!) But the Academy might not be able to see past how polarizing the film is to recognize she is very, very good in it.

Best Actor

2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1, Best Actor
ETonline

1. Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)

2. Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

3. James Franco (The Disaster Artist)

4. Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

5. Tom Hanks (The Post)

Not so long ago, the Best Actor race looked like it would come down to Oldman and Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) And Washington does deliver all the speechifying and quirky characterization you would want in an Oscar-y performance from him, but the movie and its accompanying buzz sort of came and went, replaced by hype for Hanks and Franco. Andrew Garfield (Breathe), Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger) have all been names tossed into the mix, too, though of the three, I'd say Gyllenhaal's committed transformation is most likely to break ahead.

The Underdog: Kumail Nanjiani for The Big Sick. The movie's inclusion in the Best Picture race gives the star (and co-writer of the movie) some extra heft, but I suspect voters won't give him enough credit for the performance, since he's playing a version of himself. (The character is even named Kumail Nanjiani.)

Best Supporting Actress

2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1, Best Supporting Actress
ETonline

1. Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

2. Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)

3. Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

4. Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)

5. Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

Not only do most of the spaces in this category feel set, but it's Janney's to lose, at this point. Still, there is wiggle room that a spot could still go to Hong Chau (Downsizing), delivering the most captivating part of that movie, or Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread), who's great, but I worry doesn't have a meaty enough "moment." Melissa Leo (Novitiate) and Michelle Pfeiffer (mother!), however, saw early pushes, but will need to ramp up their campaigning if they want to pull off an upset.

The Underdog: Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip. There is precedent -- Melissa McCarthy earned a nomination in this category for Bridesmaids -- but, despite groundswell support, this still seems like a bit too long a long shot for the stuffy Academy. Then again, she just won Best Supporting Actress at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, so...

Best Supporting Actor

2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1, Best Supporting Actor
ETonline

1. Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)

2. Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me by Your Name)

3. Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)

4. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

5. Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

Lots of Oscar predictors have favored Stuhlbarg to Hammer, but Call Me by Your Name would not have worked had Hammer not performed. So, despite it being tricky to get two nominations for one film, I'm keeping both of them in. That leaves Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour) and Idris Elba (Molly's Game) just out of reach. (Though if Hammer ultimately falls out, expect one of those two to replace him.) Less likely are Jason Mitchell (Mudbound) and Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), great supporting turns that might be overshadowed by who they're supporting.

The Underdog: Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World. He literally just filmed his scenes, after all, to be spliced into the already finished movie. But Plummer should not be counted out. He's a legend (fun fact: he's also the oldest Oscar winner on record) and there will be endless press about the controversy surrounding the movie -- and thus, Plummer's performance -- when it opens this month.

Best Director

2018 Oscar Predictions Round 1, Best Director
ETonline

1. Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

2. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

3. Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

4. Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name)

5. Steven Spielberg (The Post)

I'd love to see a Best Director race that includes both Gerwig and Jordan Peele (Get Out) -- they're both first-time directors, coolly enough, but more notably, it would be incredible to see a female director, an LGBT director and two POC directors honored. Especially this year. As is, it may be a coin toss between Gerwig and Peele. As for other white dudes who made great movies, Joe Wright (Darkest Hour), Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri) and Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread) can vie to knock out a Nolan or a Spielberg.

The Underdog: Sean Baker for The Florida Project. If his indie gem cracks Best Picture, Baker has a better shot, but it'll still be an uphill battle. Which is a shame because what he does with this movie is a feat, in all respects. The Best Picture field is open to 10 and with so many great movies out this year -- with such talented directors behind them -- these other categories are becoming harder and harder to call.

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