2018 Oscars Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

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2018 Oscars Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

It’s been a strange year for film. In many ways, the bizarro-ending of last year’s ceremony felt like both a fitting cap and, potentially, a harbinger of things to come. Now, that doesn’t mean Hollywood’s rampant, systemic issues with representation are a thing of the past. (Puh-lease.) But this year, with “genre pieces” Get Out and The Shape of Water so prominent in the awards discussion, perhaps, just maybe, the rigid striation and often weaponized ignorance of the Academy voter is being diluted? One can hope. (Of course, even if that is the case, our own Shannon Houston’s stance on the matter remains as relevant this year as those prior.)

Still, rather than proclaim this or that, we’re just going to watch these awards along with the rest of you—and then see how the rest of 2018 shakes out for the industry and its titanic array of issues. Maybe next year we’ll proclaim something.

Meanwhile, here are a few Oscars-related things we wrote this year:

Awards Season is Killing Film Culture by Matt Brennan
The Shape of Water Could Win Best Picture by Dom Sinacola
Cookies Are for Closers: An Apologia for The Boss Baby by Kyle Turner
Call Me by Another Name: Queer Cinema and the Oscar Narrative by Kyle Turner
The Florida Project Deserved a Best Picture Nomination by Scott Russell

Meanwhile, there are Oscar parties to go to and ballots to fill out. For that, we’re here to help. You can check out our handy streaming guide to help you catch up with as many nominees as possible.

Keep an eye on the site on Sunday to follow along with live updates, as well as on our Twitter profile to find out what the film community’s yammering on about.

Enjoy our picks (which we’ve also ordered according to last year’s presented awards, hoping we can make this easy on you) and good luck in your Oscar pools.

Original Screenplay



The Big Sick by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out by Jordan Peele 
Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig 
The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro 
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Martin McDonagh

Who Will Win:   Jordan Peele  for Get Out
Aside from the monumental money-maker that was It, Jordan Peele’s Get Out is the primary reason why 2017 was the horror genre’s biggest year ever at the box office. Of course, this being a film nominated for Best Picture, the “it’s not really horror” campaign is already well underway—even The Silence of the Lambs somehow gets tagged by many with the “psychological thriller” designation that we all know is code for “horror, but too good to use the H-word.” It’s a badge that Get Out will wear with honor, but it should also be taking home an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay at the same time. Peele’s story and script has rightly been noted for its relevance in modern society, in “Trump’s America,” but on a very basic level it’s an extremely tight work of nuts-and-bolts screenwriting. Its themes of race are reflected in ways both obvious and subtle, from start to finish. Guests arrive to the family’s parties in black cars, visual symbols of the black bodies they covet and hope to inhabit. The family patriarch makes a passing reference to “black mold” in the basement, which can be construed as an admission of the literal surgery devices found there, which mold the bodies of black men into the vessels of their white masters. The protagonist is ultimately saved by the act of delicately picking wisps of what else but cotton out of the armrest of his chair, which allows him to bypass further hypnosis. Even the fight scenes reflect subtle instances of foreshadowing and callbacks to previous conversations between characters such as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Jeremy, as Chris uses the knowledge he’s gained to outsmart his captors. Get Out is an astonishingly complete first effort by Peele as a director, but it may be even more impressive as a screenwriter—a pitch-perfect blend of populist entertainment and biting social satire that speaks to an array of different potential audience members at the same time. To the less astute, it simply entertains as an effective and exciting horror-thriller. To the film geeks in the audience, it does the same, while offering a deeper array of themes for consideration. In this regard, it is unquestionably a film that benefits from a second or third viewing. —Jim Vorel

Who Should Win:   Jordan Peele  for Get Out
As deserving as this win will be, there’s still a part of me that resents the “Consolation Prize” tendencies of the Academy to award a statuette in this category to films they pass over otherwise—at least the expanded roster for Best Picture nominations allowed the Academy to recognize Jordan Peele’s transcendent horror to a greater degree than would have been possible in the past, as horror is the type of genre fare they rarely if ever reward with a win in one of the Big Four categories. —Michael Burgin

Adapted Screenplay



Call Me by Your Name by James Ivory
The Disaster Artist by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Logan by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game by Aaron Sorkin 
Mudbound by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Who Will Win: Call Me by Your Name

Who Should Win: Call Me by Your Name

Actress in a Supporting Role



Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Who Will Win: Allison Janney

Who Should Win: Laurie Metcalf
It’s the relationship Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) has with her mother, Marion, that is the core of the film. All of the things that the film explores—class, femininity, closure, maturation—lead back to how she and her mother relate. The musical Lady Bird is in is the cult, play-maudit Merrily We Roll Along, its central idea about how people change/don’t change after school and disappointment in life. (Sensing a pattern?) Marion has already lived it, Lady Bird is just about to. In turn, Metcalf gives a performance that is breathtaking in its harshness and empathy; with immaculate precision she can swing a scene’s tone between tragedy and comedy. Marion reads as harsh, rough, but there is discernible love in her. The two, as Tracy Letts’ father describes, have “such strong personalities.” They’re unable to communicate, and the scars from that growing distance between them show in each characters’ movements and bodies.

With regards to Lady Bird and Marion, the combination of Gerwig’s writing/directing and the leads’ performances is a dangerous cocktail, an explosion of overwhelming, finely tuned fury, frustration, elation, euphoria, disappointment and, yes, ambivalence. Letting go is something that both Lady Bird and Marion desperately want and don’t want and don’t know how to navigate the complexities of; letting go of pain is hard to do, this fact lining every piece of dialogue Metcalf delivers with impeccable balance. —Kyle Turner

Making the Case for: Lesley Manville
I’m not surprised that Leslie Manville’s patient and understated take on the stoic, no-nonsense sister of Daniel Day-Lewis’s perfectionist (and perfectly-named) dressmaker in Phantom Thread was nominated, but I’ll be pretty shocked if she wins, so restrained and internal is her Cyril Woodcock. On the surface, Cyril comes across as a flat, downright monosyllabic representation of stiff-upper-lip British stuffiness, but this is a performance that derives unbridled passion and heat through the simplest of gazes and the subtlest of movement. Manville teases the audience with such precision that when she casually tells her brother not to fuck with her, while sipping tea no less, we believe every word and, moreso, fear her wrath down to our bones. —Oktay Ege Kozak

Costume Design



Beauty and the Beast , Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

Who Will Win: Phantom Thread

Who Should Win: Phantom Thread

Production Design



Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley and Gary Fettis?
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shane Vieau

Who Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

Who Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Makeup and Hairstyling



Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

Who Will Win: Darkest Hour

Who Should Win: Darkest Hour
Kazuhiro Tsuji’s magnificent makeup and prosthetic design somehow transcends the sheer silliness of having Gary Oldman look like Churchill by, from Oldman’s first gruff moments in the film, convincing the audience that Churchill has always looked like this. —Dom Sinacola




Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Who Will Win: Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

Who Should Win: Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Roger Deakins has become a trivia answer for his 14 Academy Award nominations without a win (for everything from The Shawshank Redemption to No Country For Old Men), but this year’s 90th Academy Awards represents more than an opportunity to finally give one of the best cinematographers in the business his due—it’s also a chance to award the year’s most beautiful and captivating visual feast while doing so. Blade Runner 2049’s October release was the kind of critically lauded, artist-driven statement film that one might have expected to pick up a Best Picture nomination, but it couldn’t ultimately command enough admiration to stick in the minds of Academy voters in the face of wartime period pieces and coming-of-age dramedies. That leaves the cinematography category as its most visible and high-profile nomination, and damn, it should win. No other film in 2017 so fully immerses its audience in the world of its subjects via everything you see on screen, imagery that will set up permanent residence in the psyche of film buffs everywhere for years to come. Underground ziggurats surrounded by artificially lapping waves approximate a sensory deprivation chamber for the mind of Jared Leto’s brooding recluse. Waifish, malnourished children comb through the soot and industrial wreckage of a bygone age, searching for enough valuable trinkets to earn a brief reprieve from their pain. An all-encompassing desert of radioactive dreams stretches out before Ryan Gosling”s “K” as he prowls slowly through the ruins with the patience only a replicant could possess. And of course there’s the grand, fog-wreathed, neon-drenched city itself, first brought to life by Jordan Cronenweth in Ridley Scott’s 1982 original. Deakins takes this now-iconic depiction of L.A. and drifts through it with the leisurely, voyeuristic pace found consistently throughout Blade Runner 2049, lingering on aspects that highlight the slow erasure of humanity and empathy that have so blurred the lines between human and replicant. The complex sex scene represents the apex of this balance, a literal merging of faces and personalities that is the ultimate visual payoff for the film’s themes of spiritual incompleteness and artificiality. —Jim Vorel

Making the Case for: Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
Mudbound’s historical setting and subject matter might suggest a sweeping classicism or ‘prestige’ styling, what with its large dramatic canvas. Dee Rees sets her story in rural 1940s Mississippi, focusing on internecine family conflict between several generations of black and white sharecroppers. But Rees and her cinematographer, Rachel Morrison, collaborate to create something more light-fingered and quietly elegant in approach than your typical historical fare. Morrison offers lived-in vintage rather than crisp period costume, with burnished ochres and turgid browns highlighted to various degrees. She worked to ensure her digital filmmaking resembled celluloid film as closely as possible, experimenting with vintage glass lenses. 

Astoundingly, Morrison is the first woman to ever be nominated in her category in Oscars history, but her résumé was already impressive: She is also cinematographer for Ryan Coogler’s film of the moment, Black Panther. Although Mudbound’s glorious aesthetic is tethered to the past, it’s the future that the Academy should have in mind with Morrison. If they want to be forward-looking, Morrison should be their pick. —Christina Newland

Film Editing



Baby Driver , Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel?
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

Who Will Win: Dunkirk, Lee Smith
The Academy evolves—to the extent it evolves at all—at a glacially slow pace. That means it’s not only slow to acknowledge films outside a very established preset, but that other types of films exist in a “sweet spot.” Dunkirk is exactly the type of film that, in past years, would sweep resoundingly, and even though it was out-paced in nominations by “genre fare” this year, that doesn’t mean the voters won’t fall back on a film like Nolan’s war epic in some categories they traditionally don’t fully understand to begin with. Ironically or no, though, Dunkirk is an achievement that in many ways richly deserves such recognition. Sometimes “just the type of film” that the Academy dotes on is actually worthy of the recognition. Lee Smith’s weaving together of disparate yet overlapping timelines in addition to forging a narrative order from the chaos of war is just that. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss
Though it reviewed well, on some levels Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver felt like a critical disappointment in 2017. The screenplay isn’t Wright’s most sparkling work, unable to stand up to the cheerful wit of either his “Cornetto” trilogy films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) or the pointed pop culture savvy of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Rather, it oftentimes seems as if Wright was treating Baby Driver as an experiment in his favorite form of expression as a director, which is the beauty of physical movement (and typically, physical comedy). To this end, the editing of Baby Driver is the film’s greatest accomplishment, and truly the most important aspect of the movie as a work of art, along with its sound design and soundtrack. Much was made of the soundtrack of Baby Driver and its importance to the film’s plot (as our protagonist is always wearing headphones, we hear what he’s hearing), it’s Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss’s editing work that welds the music to the structure of the film. There are times when the movements of Baby Driver’s characters sync with the music in ways so subtle that it’s easy to miss that it’s happening at all, but the effect is intentionally subconscious—it infuses the film with a comfortable groove you scarcely realize is there. At other points, such as in the film’s car chases and penultimate shootout with police, the edit and soundtrack more dramatically cohere, adding extra punch to each gunshot and pounding footstep. Although the award for Best Film Dditing tends to presage the eventual winner of Best Picture, this is the ideal opportunity to recognize superior editing work in a film without any non-technical nominations. —Jim Vorel

Sound Editing



Baby Driver, Julian Slater
 Blade Runner 2049: Mark Mangini and Theo Green?
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson and Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce and Matthew Wood

Who Will Win: Dunkirk
Last year, I smugly insisted that that ”[t]his category (for the crafting of sound effects, mind you) loves its battle-obliterated, war-filled films” before citing American Sniper, The Hurt Locker, Pearl Harbor and Saving Private Ryan to justify my guarantee that Hacksaw Ridge would win. It didn’t, and Arrival’s Sylvain Bellemare took home the hardware. Sorry. Still, for a war film so indebted to the immersive experience of war, so uninterested in the exigencies of dialogue or anything else besides the overwhelming clatter and sonic detail of a world on the brink of complete devastation—not even considering that Nolan’s insistence on filming in 70mm makes what one hears so important to the whole endeavor—Dunkirk is a good bet. When it comes to Sound Editing: Welcome back to the status quo, Academy. —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: Dunkirk
I mean, have you seen this thing in 70mm? —Dom Sinacola

Sound Mixing



Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater and Tim Cavagin?
 Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett and Doug Hephill?
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker and Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke and Brad Zoern?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

Who Will Win: Dunkirk

Who Should Win: Dunkirk

Visual Effects



Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover and Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner and Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza and Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould and Neal Scanlan
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Who Will Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
If someone really wants to show how far the effects industry has come in the last few decades, the Planet of the Apes trilogy is a pretty good place to start (and finish). Though the Academy usually reserves its unofficial “body of work” Oscars for individual humans, we suspect this year War for the Planet of the Apes will benefit from the accumulated jaw-dropping effects involving Cesar and his friends (and enemies). It’s astounding what we now take for granted in terms of movie magic. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Short Film (Animated)



Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryan
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
Lou, Dave Mullins and Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata?
Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh and Jan Lachauer

Who Will Win: Garden Party