I’ve been writing this blog for almost six years now, and I’ve been picking Oscar winners since 2014. Finally in 2018, I think we have a year with no obvious standouts, and that’s actually a good thing. This year’s nominations are representative of a pretty strong year at the movies , but no clear winner-take-all situations are teed up this year leaving some real head-scratchers in many of the big categories. I mean if you were ever wondering whether a southern racist cop dark dramedy is better than a love story about a fish-monster, then this is the year for you! Now I don’t think we’ll ever have the drama and excitement matching last year’s Best Picture faux paus with La La Land and Moonlight, but I think we will see some surprises given that Academy voters will be all over the place in their selections. The field was vast and the quality was strong in a year where Hollywood finds itself out of the #OscarsSoWhite and into the #MeToo. This is a year to make statements but also celebrate some great filmmaking.
Anyway, like I do every year, I have laid out all 24 categories and their nominees along with my humble (yet educated) opinion on who will bring home the gold at this year’s ceremony, held Sunday March 4th, hosted again by Jimmy Kimmel.
Of course, no Oscar night is complete without The People’s Critic’s time honored traditional Oscar Dinner Menu. So fire up your grill for those Meryl’s Chicken Streeps and enjoy the show!
Part I: Shorts and Sound
This first group will focus on the five categories that are usually the toughest to call as they are either short films not easily viewed by most people or they are those two lovely sound categories that many have trouble differentiating between.
Best Short Film (Live Action) – Nominated films are:
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us
The shorts continue to be elusive in terms of availability to the general public. They are touring around the country to small theatres, but they do not get a very wide release, and I encourage you all to see them. These are powerful little films, but watching them in a series is an emotional roller-coaster! DeKalb Elementary is based on a 911 call placed by a receptionist at a Georgia elementary school when an armed shooter enters the office. My Nephew Emmett depicts an old preacher trying to protect his nephew Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955 from two racist killers, The Silent Child is about a young deaf child whose education is at risk due to skeptical parents, Watu Wote is the horrifying and tragic story of the Mandera bus attack near the Kenya-Somali border in 2014. These are all heart wrenching in different ways, and then there’s The Eleven O’Clock, one I suggest you watch last, to uplift your spirits, which is the story of a psychiatrist whose eleven o’clock appointment is a patient who also believes himself to be a psychiatrist. So which is the best one? The acting in DeKalb is superior, but The Silent Child is the most beautifully shot. I will go with beauty over acting.
Prediction: The Silent Child
Winner: The Silent Child
Best Short Film (Animated) – Nominated films are:
These are all great except for the manipulative Kobe Bryant short with John Williams music, Dear Basketball. That one’s off my list right away. So we’re left with Garden Party, a delightful film about frogs mysteriously taking over a seemingly abandoned mansion, Lou, the Pixar entry about a bully getting taught a lesson by some magical lost and found items, Negative Space, a weird stop-motion about a guy who learned to pack a suitcase from his now deceased father, and Revolting Rhymes, a joyous tale of Snow White and Red Riding Hood looking for a happy ending. Garden Party is the best of the bunch, but last year I went against the Pixar film, and that bit me in the ass. To me Lou is less ambitious as Pixar’s Piper, which won last year, and Garden Party is better than my pick last year, Pearl. Technically, Garden Party has an edge as well with some incredible imagery all without one spoken word (a Pixar staple as well). My only worry is whether all of the environments in Garden Party are designed/animated or if some of it is authentic. That tips me towards Lou. Don’t let me down, Pixar!
Winner: Dear Basketball
Best Documentary (Short) – Nominated films are:
Edith + Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
There’s an obvious charmer in this group, and that’s Edith + Eddie (available to watch on ShortOfTheWeek and on YouTube), a short documentary about America’s oldest interracial newlyweds, who married after splitting a winning lottery ticket. It’s great, it’s timely, and it’s raw. The director also comes from Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is also awesome! Knife Skills is another good one, a charming and inspiring story of a restaurant owner in Cleveland, Ohio who uses his French-style restaurant as a culinary training program for ex-convicts. He shows them the ins and outs of running a restaurant from the kitchen to the front-end to the business side, and while the program is rigorous and not all graduate, he makes an incredible difference in the lives of many who come out of prison with no direction, hopes, goals, or dreams. On a side note, Heroin(e), an examination of the opioid crisis) is available on Netflix and Traffic Stop, a troubling and disturbing examination of one woman’s terrible experience at a traffic stop, is available on HBO, which is really wonderful. Both excellent, both could win, but this one felt easy for me, so that means I’m probably way off.
Prediction: Edith + Eddie
Winner: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405
Best Sound Editing – Nominated films are:
Best Sound Mixing – Nominated films are:
As per the usual, I deal with these two categories together. Not because they are the same (although the nominees would have you think otherwise), but because they are often confused. Sound editing is the art of recording sound effects, background music, as well as sound creation. Sound mixing is taking all of the sounds recorded and needed for a film, along with the dialogue, and putting it all together, adjusting the levels, etc. Films that are technical achievements usually see their successful evening at the Oscars start here. These are all great films, but there is no film more technically impressive this year than my favorite film of 2017, Blade Runner 2049.
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049 for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
Part II: Songs, Styles, and Sets!
This set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. These predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects.
Best Original Song – Nominated songs are:
“Mighty River” (Mudbound)
“Mystery of Love” (Call Me by Your Name)
“Remember Me” (Coco)
“Stand up for Something” (Marshall)
“This is Me” (The Greatest Showman)
After seeing Black Panther, I’m ready for this category in 2019, but for now, I’ll settle for these. There’s really nothing special here. These are songs that would not be notable if not for being part of a film, allowing them to be nominated for an award. Look for them all to be sung by various people on America’s Got Talent this summer. That’s the kind of stuff we have here. Anyway, Mary J. Blige had a great year, and her song, “Mighty River” from Mudbound, is nice little gospel mix of passion, music, and heart that complements the film well, plus as the first to be nominated for a performance and a song in the same year, she ought to get at least one of them!
Prediction: “Mighty River” by Mary J. Blige from Mudbound
Winner: “Remember Me” from Coco
Best Original Score – Nominated films are:
This was so easy last year with a musical like La La Land nominated for 13 Oscars, but this year, the musical categories are tricky. These scores are all excellent, actually. Each has a truly unique voice, and while John Williams has been around a while, has 51 Oscar nominations and won five, his latest score for The Last Jedi is as inspired as anything he’s ever written, so he can’t be counted out! Also, you may not be familiar with the name Jonny Greenwood, but the score composer for Phantom Thread spends the rest of his time as one of the key members of the band, Radiohead. Still the veteran and recent winner for Carol in 2015, Carter Burwell, seems poised to win his second Oscar with the twangy, moody score to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Burwell is famous mostly for his numerous Coen Brothers scores, and while Three Billboards was not a Coen Brother film, it feels like one and now it sounds like one too.
Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Carter Burwell)
Winner: The Shape of Water
Best Costume Design – Nominated films are:
Beauty and the Beast
The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul
This category favors the period piece and the fantastic (literally with last year’s winner Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). This year we have Jacqueline Durran pulling double duty with nominations for her work on Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour. It sounds like the odds are in her favor, but then you have Phantom Thread, a beautifully made, and poetic film about what else, clothing! That’s not a good thing for Durran. Costume designer, Mark Bridges has been tearing it up on the awards circuit, most recently with his BAFTA win, so if the momentum stays as it is, it will be hard to go any other way.
Prediction: Phantom Thread (Mark Bridges)
Winner: Phantom Thread
Best Production Design – Nominated films are:
The production design Oscar goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. Only three of the nominated films above are also nominated for Best Picture, but rarely do winners for Production Design and Best Picture intersect. Nominations, however, do, and the stand-out film for this category is Blade Runner 2049. Denis Vileneuve films are brilliantly staged, and yet this is only the second of his films to be nominated in this category. The biggest threat will come from the six-time nominee Sarah Greenwood who worked on both Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour. Still, I’m going with the film that clearly has the most unique and authentic look of the bunch.
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
Winner: The Shape of Water
Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Nominated films are:
Victoria & Abdul
For five years in a row now, regardless of the quality of nominated films, only three films managed nominations for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This category continues to circle the drain with two moderately weak choices for the “makeup” category and the obvious winner. This is the category that made the phrase, “Oscar winning film Suicide Squad” a reality.
Prediction: Darkest Hour
Winner: The Darkest Hour
Best Visual Effects – The nominated films are:
AKA, the blockbuster award. Now we get down to films that the average filmgoer can evaluate. The Visual Effects Oscar goes to a film that demonstrates greatness in the world of special effects. It’s no coincidence that four of these five films were in the top 25 grossing films of 2017. The last two years now, a certain galaxy far, far away missed out on this one, and I expect the trend to continue. I wish the force was strong with this one, but I think the recent Apes franchise, has been largely ignored despite its excellence, and giving them this award would legitimize and recognize the trilogy as a whole.
Prediction: War for the Planet of the Apes
Winner: Blade Runner 2049
Part III: Don’t Shoot Me, I’m the Cinematographer!
Part three of The People’s Critic’s Oscar predictions begins the major film awards. These predictions will be for seven very different categories: Documentary Feature, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and everybody’s favorite – Cinematography (renamed, the “Emmanuel Lubezki Award” by The People’s Critic – Cinematography dorks will get that one). This year, however, Emmanuel Lubezki will not win the Emmanuel Lubezki award, hopefully opening the door for the guy he beat three years in a row!
Best Documentary Feature – Nominated films are:
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Last Men in Aleppo
Last year the epic 10 hour long captivating documentary OJ: Made in America was in a league of its own. No other film came close to that kind of introspection. This year we are back to basics. Five strong, traditional feature length documentaries covering all kinds of topics from art to war to finance. I have to admit, this is my weakest category. I have only seen one of these films, and it was good. So with that – I ignorantly select:
Prediction: Faces Places
Best Animated Feature – Nominated films are:
The Boss Baby
Many are counting on Disney to improve its record to 12 – 5 in the history of this category with Coco. Count me as one of the many.
Best Foreign Language Film – Nominated films are:
A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)
Still in terms of where the buzz is, it’s all about Chile! This is a crazy movie filled with all kinds of edgy and hot-button topics. A Fantastic Woman is a film about a transgender woman whose older boyfriend dies (in an unfortunate series of events) leaves her under suspicion of a less than accepting group of doctors and police officers. It’s poised for the win and would be a worthy choice without a doubt.
Prediction: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
Winner: A Fantastic Woman
Best Original Screenplay – Nominated films are:
I always love this category. As a writer (or to put it more modestly, one who appreciates writing), the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has a special significance. Last year a true favorite of mine over the years finally won his Oscar, Kenneth Lonergan. This year another writer will win his (or her!) first Original Screenplay Oscar ever. In fact, only McDonagh has ever won any Oscar before (he won in 2006 for his short film Six Shooter). All of these writers are deserving, and each of their screenplays are outstanding in completely different ways. Gerwig’s Lady Bird is the closest thing to last year’s winner Manchester By the Sea, sharing some thematic material as well as costar Lucas Hedges. However, the words that will inevitably propel Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell to Oscar glory will do the same for the writer (famously snubbed from the director category).
Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh)
Winner: Jordan Peele for Get Out
Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominated films are:
Call Me By Your Name (James Ivory)
The Disaster Artist (Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber)
Logan (Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green)
Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin)
Mudbound (Virgil Williams and Dee Rees)
These films are the rare few who challenge, and at times overcome, that old adage that the book is better than the movie. This year’s crop is admittedly weak. And following last year’s triumphant win for Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McRaney for Moonlight, none of these really hold a candle. My hunch is that this will be a chance for the academy to celebrate 89-year-old James Ivory for a long career of work dating back to the 1950s. He has never won an Oscar, and it would be fitting for him to win for something as touching and unexpected as Call Me By Your Name.
Prediction: Call Me By Your Name (James Ivory)
Winner: James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name
Best Film Editing – Nominated films are:
This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and it is surprising that only three the films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. But we do have a war movie and if Hacksaw Ridge’s win last year is any indication, Dunkirk should walk away with this one for sure. Anyway, this is a two-horse race between Dunkirk and Shape of Water. The editing of a film is nearly as important as the direction, since it affects the story, the pace, and the tone. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. A shout out to Baby Driver though. Showy masterpieces like Baby Driver turn that tradition on its ear and give you something technical with brilliance that is hard to deny, but it’s just not going to happen. I believe this will be one of the years where editing, picture, and director all go their separate ways. That’s what makes the 2018 Oscars so interesting.
Best Cinematography – Nominated films are:
Not only did we not have Emmanuel Lubezki nominated this year, we also don’t have Dick Pope. I think we all remember Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs’s unfortunate mispronunciation of his name a few years back at the live nominations announcement. In an effort to prevent that type of gaff again, it appears the Academy has gone an entirely different route in announcing nominations by getting Tiffany Haddish up there who basically made a career of mispronouncing and butchering names, and it worked perfectly! Ok, let’s talk about cinematography. Cinematographers are the directors of photography who oversee decisions on camera and lighting concerns. To excel at this requires the talent of an artist and the technical knowledge of a director. This year’s group makes for a tough category. We have a Denis Villeneuve film in Blade Runner 2049. His three previous films Arrival, Sicario and Prisoners were all nominated in this category, and two of them were shot by veteran cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who shot Blade Runner 2049 as well. Arrival was shot by Bradford Young, who also shot the upcoming Star Wars Han Solo film being released later this year. The man who has taken this award three of the previous four years, Emmanuel Lubezki, is not standing in the way this year, so the door is open for Villeneuve to have his and Deakins’s vision finally recognized. I think it’s his to lose!
Prediction: Blade Runner 2049
Winner: Blade Runner 2049
Part IV: The Big Ones!
The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Picture. These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year. As I mentioned, I think we will see something crazy play out this year, just like last year. Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing all going to different films. This has been a new trend lately. It happened in 2016 (Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, and La La Land), 2015 (Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant), but before that you’d have to go back to 1981 when Chariots of Fire upset Reds for best picture. This year, I predict this trend continues for the third year in a row.
Best Director – Nominees are:
In a perfect world, Jordan Peele would not come up empty this year. His film Get Out is arguably the most successful film nominated for Best Picture, and it certainly has the momentum, having been in the conversation since it was released on theaters an entire year ago back in February of 2017! Still, the way I see it, he’s going to be runner up in probably all four of the categories it’s nominated in. Martin McDonagh’s absence in this category opens the door for imaginary director Guillermo del Toro to snag his first statue.
Prediction: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Winner: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Best Supporting Actress – Nominees are:
Acting categories need the least amount of explanation. The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting. This year is no exception. Octavia Spencer is the only outlier. Her role, while charming, was so rudimentary and simplistic, I am surprised it nabbed her a nomination. I’ve been crowing about Laurie Metcalf’s performance as Lady Bird’s mother in Lady Bird, but once I finally saw I, Tonya I had to drink to Kool-Aid on Allison Janney. She’s just perfection, and her career has been propelling her to this point for years.
Prediction: Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Winner: Allison Janney for I, Tonya
Best Supporting Actor – Nominees are:
Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)
Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)
Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
What a year! Christopher Plummer’s 9 days of work on All the Money in the World, replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey is a subtle reminder of the purging of archaic and unjust practices that have been hiding beneath the surface in the American film industry. He should be satisfied with that alone. The big surprise for me is seeing the deserving Woody Harrelson slide in here as competition for his otherwise sure-thing co-star Sam Rockwell. How much, if at all will this divide the votes? Both performances were excellent, and if I were either of them, I’d be worried about Richard Jenkins just slightly edging one of them out. However, I think the Rockwell party doesn’t end quite yet.
Prediction: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Winner: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri
Best Actress – Nominees are:
This has been the category of clear winners in the past. Cate Blanchett was the clear winner in 2014 for Blue Jasmine, Julianne Moore was the clear favorite in 2015 for Still Alice, Brie Larson was the clear winner in 2016 for Room, and last year Emma Stone was the clear winner for La La Land. This year’s is slightly harder to call, but overall the trend continues. Streep’s 21st nomination is likely more political than anything else, but the other four have got a real shot at winning. However, like Rockwell for supporting actor, McDormand has been basically unstoppable all awards season, and her acceptance speeches have been so on point, I almost wonder if members are voting for her on that premise alone!
Prediction: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing, Missouri)
Winner: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing, Missouri)
Best Actor – Nominees are:
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.)
How is back to back Denzel nominations not the story here? I used to be really bad at calling this category. I missed Ejiofor, Redmayne, and McConaughey, but damned if I didn’t read the writing on the wall the last two years with DiCaprio and Affleck. This year, similar writing is on the wall. There’s a little twinge in my gut anytime I overlook Daniel Day-Lewis, especially on the supposed eve of his retirement from acting. Still, every award you can basically get for acting is now sitting on Gary Oldman’s mantle, except one, but I think after March 5h, he’ll complete the set.
Prediction: Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour)
Winner: Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour)
Best Picture – Nominees are:
Nine films were again deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year. As I’ve been teasing throughout this entire prediction post, the most coveted award is also the one most up for grabs. Four films have very real chances of pulling this one off: Dunkirk, Get Out, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing, Missouri. I’m about as sure on this one as the PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants were last year on what envelope is what. Apparently, new rules have been put in place to avoid such a mix-up, so while the name we hear will most likely be the real winner, what name will it be?
Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Winner: The Shape of Water
The Final Cut
According to my predictions…
- While Martin McDonagh may have been snubbed for best director, I think the Academy will make up for it by showering his film with gold for Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Actress, and Picture.
- The biggest losers will (unfortunately) be: Diversity – I predict Lady Bird and Get Out will come up empty.
- The biggest upset will be: Almost everything. There are so many ways things can go this year, but I think no matter what wins Best Picture it will be an upset.
- The surest bet will be: Gary Oldman for Best Actor.
Now that the dust has settled, my most important prediction was correct, this was a night of many surprises from Jordan Peele’s win for Best Original Screenplay to the biggest upset of the night to me – Best Picture going to The Shape of Water. This year the final tally puts me at only guessing 13 of the 24 categories correctly; one of my worst performances ever! Still, I will trudge onward as the 2018 year in movies is already in full swing. I will learn from my mistakes, namely picking with my heart instead of my head!
As always, it’s an exciting time for movies, so enjoy Oscar season, and of course, make it even better with The People’s Critic’s official 2018 Oscar Menu coming soon!