A scene from The Shape of Water (photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Our 2018 Oscar Predictions

By Craig Moy

The 90th Academy Awards will soon be upon us. Which means that someone at your office or in your circle of friends has probably invited you to participate their Oscar pool.

Even if you haven’t seen every nominated film, you can still get in on the prognosticating, precisely because Oscar winners are only partially determined by actual quality. The other factors? Well, that’s where we come in. Our 2018 Oscar predictions account for everything from pre-awards buzz to historical precedent to behind-the-scenes drama. Check them out and vote for your own picks below. Then head to your local theatre to see some of the acclaimed nominees—and perhaps a future award winner or two. Members save on movie tickets for Cineplex and Landmark Cinemas when purchased at AMA centres.

BEST PICTURE (our prediction in red)
The nominees: 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

In all likelihood this is a race between The Shape of Water—a Cold War-era fable about a romance between a mute janitor and a fish-man—and Three Billboards, which tells of a mother who challenges the local police to solve her daughter’s murder after they fail to find the culprit. Both films have been lauded by critics groups and given their share of pre-Oscars prizes, but it would seem Three Billboards lags a length or two behind: The majority of its awards have gone to its cast; its director, Martin McDonagh, wasn’t nominated by the Academy for his work—often a strike against a film’s chance of winning the big one. (Voters may also be turned off by a recent controversy surrounding the movie’s simplistic treatment of racial issues.)

The Shape of Water, on the other hand, appears to be gaining momentum. A few days before snagging a record-tying 13 Oscar nods, it was named best picture by the Producers Guild of America (seven of the past 10 winners of that award have gone on to earn the corresponding Oscar), and filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro also took top honours from the Director’s Guild of America.

Where the movie could falter is if enough voters perceive it simply as a “creature feature” lacking in broader meaning and importance—a narrow reading to be sure, but remember that not every Academy voter is a Cahiers du Cinema subscriber. Which leaves a small opening for Get Out. It’s a “genre” pic, too, but perhaps you’ve heard it also has a lot of vital things to say about race relations. It could easily be this year’s zeitgeist-y selection. And don’t count out Dunkirk. Of all the nominees, Christopher Nolan’s thrilling WWII triptych is inarguably the most traditionally “cinematic,” and that counts for a lot in an industry that’s both in love with the grandiose nature of large-scale moviemaking, and desperately trying to convince audiences that there’s still reason to watch films in a theatre, on the big screen.

The nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk), Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Only once in the past 15 years has the Directors Guild of America’s choice for the best practitioner of their craft not gone on to win the same honour at the Academy Awards. Guillermo Del Toro’s victory at the former, then, almost guarantees he’ll take the later, too. As with many of his better films, Del Toro’s work in The Shape of Water (he also co-wrote the screenplay) ably walks the fine line between imaginative and preposterous, finding a deeply felt, character-driven tale despite the more baroquely grandiose machinations of his plot. Any of the remaining nominees would be a deserving spoiler, but at this point the gold seems all but guaranteed to go to Del Toro.

2018 oscar predictions academy awards frances mcdormand three billboards
Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (photo: Merrick Morton © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

The nominees: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards…), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Meryl Streep (The Post)

Though it may go against custom, you can count Streep out of this race. She’s the heart of retro journalism procedural The Post, but there’s nothing groundbreaking about her performance or the film itself. Instead it’s McDormand, another veteran, who’s heading into Oscar night with the biggest head of steam. She’s already won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for her role as a grieving mother who tries to shame the local police chief into investigating the murder of her daughter. Ronan could end up playing spoiler, however. Just 23 years old, she’s nevertheless a three-time Oscar nominee, and the Academy has recently shown a willingness to use the best actress award to crown Hollywood’s newest ingénue.

The nominees: 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.)

Typically, if Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated for an acting award, the smart money is that he’ll be named the winner. But this year the momentum belongs to fellow thespian Oldman. Like McDormand in the best actress category, the 59-year-old Brit won Golden Globe and SAG awards for his work in Darkest Hour. The fact that Oldman plays Winston Churchill in the film has surely helped his odds: Academy voters have a history of rewarding actors who “embody” distinguished real-life figures.

Of the remaining nominees, it seems likely that voters will take a wait-and-see approach with both Chalamet and Kaluuya; if they’re “worthy” of an Oscar, they should have many more opportunities to get it. And Washington feels like this year’s based-on-reputation nominee—unlikely to be rewarded for what’s arguably the least notable of his nine Oscar-nominated roles.

2018 oscar predictions academy awards tonya allison janney
Allison Janney in I, Tonya (photo: courtesy of Neon and 30West)

The nominees: Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Leslie Manville (Phantom Thread), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

I, Tonya’s Janney has thus far swept the pre-Oscars prizes for her portrayal of the demanding, demeaning mother of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding. No surprise, really: Hollywood loves a take-no-prisoners matriarch, and Janney memorably fits the bill here. But some may be turned off by her character’s overall meanness; she has few redemptive qualities. Which leaves an opening for another overbearing on-screen mom. Like Janney, Metcalf plays the combative, patronizing mother. Her role, however, is more deftly written, and Metcalf’s performance more nuanced: Near the film’s climax, for example, she’s given a tour-de-force set piece that counts as one of cinema’s best wordless scenes of the past decade.

The remaining three nominees are all equally plausible dark-horse candidates. R&B legend Mary J. Blige’s naturalistic work in Netflix’s southern tragedy, Mudbound, and it’s been argued that Manville outshines even her pedigreed co-star in Phantom Thread. Past Oscar winner Spencer is probably the longest shot in this category, but her contribution to The Shape of Water is nevertheless essential to that movie’s artistic success.

The nominees: Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards…), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards…)

It’s incredible to note that Rockwell, a guaranteed highlight of virtually every film he appears in, is a first-time Academy Award nominee. If trends hold, he’ll end up a first-time winner, too. But there’s a small chance they might not hold: Through no fault of his own, Rockwell’s character in Three Billboards—a bully cop whose racism goes largely unpunished—has been the source of much of the recent backlash against the movie. So bettors who like longer odds can look to Dafoe, whose uncharacteristic turn in The Florida Project, as a soft-spoken motel manager looking out for one of his young guests, has garnered sweeping praise from critics. Indeed, he could be the beneficiary of vote splitting between Rockwell and his Three Billboards co-star, Harrelson.

The nominees: The Boss Baby, The Breadwinner, Coco, Ferdinand, Loving Vincent

The biggest lock of any of the Oscars’ major categories, this award will very likely go to Coco, a vibrant, imaginatively told story of a boy who journeys to the land of the dead as part of his quest to become a musician. No offence to the other nominated films, but when you’re held up against a truly top-quality Pixar production—and one that pays loving tribute to Latin American culture, to boot—you’re pretty much assured to be an also-ran.