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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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


Cinematography

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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

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Nominated:

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)

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Nominated:

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


Animated Feature Film

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Nominated:

The Boss Baby , Tom McGrath and Ramsey Ann Naito
The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey and Anthony Leo
Coco, Lee Unkrich and Darla K. Anderson
Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Who Will Win: Coco

Who Should Win: The Breadwinner
Historically, Cartoon Saloon’s movies always lose to bigger, brighter, 3D animated movies pitted against them. Grant that the studio has only landed three films to date in the AMPAS’ Best Animated Feature Film race, so it’s a bit much to say anything about “history.” All the same, the category frontrunner is once again a 3D extravaganza, and also a Pixar extravaganza, so there’s enough reason to think Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner will lose to Lee Unkrich’s Coco. There are worse movies to lose to here, of course (evidence: The Boss Baby), but as good as Coco is, The Breadwinner is simply better, proof that Cartoon Saloon’s output grows more refined and more powerful with each new entry to their canon. Taking a turn from the movies of the great Tomm Moore, Twomey has adapted Deborah Ellis’ novel about a young girl living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan with vim and vigor: The Breadwinner is gorgeous, and made with multiple styles of animation that each compliment the other. It’s a product of ambition where the ambition actually pays off. —Andy Crump

Making the Case for: The Boss Baby
By all accounts, Tom McGrath’s The Boss Baby is a bizarre film. It imagines that the horror of displacement from the center of one’s family is analogous to corporate takeover (with new babies churned along on a conveyor belt, a select few chosen for “upper management”); that capitalism is so entrenched in the way we think and operate it shapes how we view conception; and that the selfishness of babies is comparable to the dispassionate self-interest of the Suits. Still, most poignantly, it dissects not only how we feel about validation, but how we prioritize it. Its recent Academy Award nomination has sparked skepticism, but perhaps its vivacity and emotional acumen make it both deserving of its nod, and one of the best animated films to come down the line in years. —Kyle Turner


Actor in a Supporting Role

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Nominated:

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

Who Will Win:   Sam Rockwell  

Who Should Win: Willem Dafoe
We enjoyed Rockwell’s performance and character “arc” in Three Billboards—it’s a character that, when placed in the hands of a talented performer is deserving Oscar bait. But while Dafoe’s turn as Bobby the hotel manager may lack in bluster, fury and other traditional Academy catnip, the performance is marvelously grounded, feeling real in a way that’s a crucial ingredient to The Florida Project’s overall power and success as a motion picture.

Making the Case for:   Andy Serkis, War for the Planet of the Apes
The question of “Is motion capture really acting?” might have been valid when Lord of the Rings fans and pretty much anyone who can recognize a great performance were pushing for Andy Serkis’s brilliant take on Gollum to be nominated in 2003. In 2018, when motion capture is widely used as a tool for actors to bring all forms of fantasy and sci-fi creations to life, that question feels dated enough for the Academy to finally make some concrete decisions about the practice—which could have come in the form of Andy Serkis’s incredibly touching and powerful performance as Caesar, the headstrong leader of the title creatures in War for the Planet of the Apes, at the very least getting nominated for the Best Actor statuette. The argument against this seems to be that a group of animators also work on bringing the character to life. My counter argument would reference the Oscars’ love of giving the award to actors plastered with pounds of make-up. Is Gary Oldman’s nomination for The Darkest Hour also unfair? —Oktay Ege Kozak


Documentary (Short Subject)

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Nominated:

Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright?
Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

Who Will Win: Heroin(e)


Documentary (Feature)

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Nominated:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten and Julie Goldman
Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
Icarus, Bryan Fogel and Dan Cogan
Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed and Soren Steen Jepersen
Strong Island Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Who Will Win: Faces Places
Agnès Varda’s collaboration with the flyposting French photographer JR sounds pretentious from a distance, a documentary about two artists jaunting around the countryside, making new friends in small towns and listening to their stories. But Faces Places is precisely the opposite of pretentious in practice, and that’s why AMPAS should bestow the film with a statue in honor of its small-scale intentions. The Best Documentary (Feature) category is stuffed with great movies about big ticket topics, from mortgage fraud, to social justice and legal justice, to athlete doping scandals, to the Syrian Civil War. Saying one movie is more worthy of merit than any of the others feels wrong. Faces Places stands out, though, as a pleasant, warm, good-hearted film about human connection at a moment where we’re less connected to each other than ever, whether in global, national or local scopes. If you’ve lost your faith in mankind, Varda and JR will rekindle that faith in just around 90 minutes, and that’s nothing to turn one’s nose up at.

Who Should Win: Last Men in Aleppo
Is it possible for the Academy voters to penalize a film for being too much of a downer in a year where there’s been so much to be worried about? Or will the harrowing, heart-rending Last Men in Aleppo be overlooked in much the same way the humanitarian crisis has been mostly ignored by the West since it all started? —Michael Burgin

Making the Case for: Strong Island
Ford’s compelling and sometimes excruciating examination of a family tragedy is masterful nonfiction filmmaking. Ford tells the story of the murder of his 24-year-old brother William and the federal government’s subsequent failure to indict the killer. William was an unarmed black man; his killer a gun-wielding white man. The essayistic storytelling that follows on from this branches out in unexpected dimensions, both philosophical and political. Ford inserts himself into the narrative with a bruising direct address, giving a confessional aspect to the wider racial and social context to the story. But the bittersweet anecdotes and family photo albums also offer a vivid portrait of a family in breakdown, and Strong Island is marked by its novelistic specificity. The result should seem like an exorcism or catharsis, but instead the film is a painfully unanswerable meditation on racial identity, grief and family bonds. —Christina Newland


Short Film (Live Action)

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Nominated:

DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale and Josh Lawson
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson Jr.
The Silent Child, Chris Overton and Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Who Will Win: The Silent Child


Foreign Language Film

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Nominated:

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

Who Will Win: A Fantastic Woman

Who Should Win: The Insult

The Ornithologist (Portugal)
A hot, Portuguese ornithologist looking for a black stork who, while losing his way, gets tied up by sadistic Chinese lesbians, gets urinated on, sleeps with a twink named Jesus and ends up following the path of St. Anthony of Padua? That’s the future liberals want! And while the logline of Rodrigues’ film The Ornithologist seems like a bizarre joke, what it reveals, instead, is how eroticism, loneliness and spirituality are not mutually exclusive, but how they inform one another. Paul Hamy and Rodrigues find the erotics of loneliness and transform each motion and movement, each element of its setting, into, at once, a queer fever dream and nightmare. As we traverse deeper into our eponymous ornithologist’s mind, we see him stop taking his medication, ignore calls from his presumed lover, and fall deeper into another plane of existence. The surreality of its formal approach is matched by the film’s ability to imbue every moment with a disarming sincerity, allowing The Ornithologist to easily metamorphose into a meditation on being a queer person living in, and pushing away, the world around you. —Kyle Turner


Music (Original Song)

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Nominated:

“Mighty River” from Mudbound, music and lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson
“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, music and lyrics by Sufjan Stevens 
“Remember Me” from Coco, music and lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
?“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, music by Diane Warren; lyric by Lonnie R. Lynn and Diane Warren
“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Who Will Win: “Remember Me”

Who Should Win: “Mystery of Love”


Music (Original Score)

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Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood 
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat?
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Who Will Win: Alexandre Desplat

Who Should Win:   Jonny Greenwood  
Jonny Greenwood’s strengths as a composer—his strongest role in his other gig (Radiohead) in fact—is his ability to bury big concepts in his arrangements without ever needing to explain them. Instead, we’re sure of his hand guiding us through these stories, knowing that, though we have no intimate grasp of what’s happening behind the curtain, the wizard with a forever-bad haircut has everything under control. Greenwood’s score for Phantom Thread seamlessly moves in and out, track to track, orchestras transubstantiating into quartets, into solo piano movements, and then billowing back out again, incessantly drawing one further and further into the cloistered House of Woodcock while still keeping onlookers at a distance, more out of exclusivity than anything. Mannered and presided over with meticulous care, Greenwood’s music, with the director’s eighth film, now seems a crucial piece of Paul Thomas Anderson’s craft. —Dom Sinacola

Making the Case for: Michael Giacchino for War for the Planet of the Apes
When it comes to scoring the third chapter of a trilogy, composers usually take the easy route by reusing the themes that were popular from the first two entries, sprinkling in some new, minor cues. In the case of his epic, rousing score for War for the Planet of the Apes, third in the terrific Apes reboot trilogy, Michael Giacchino really gets to work and digs deep in order to create not only a brand new musical tone for the franchise, but an impressively versatile score that ranges between beautifully intimate, somber piano compositions and stirring, full orchestra themes that resemble the best of 1950s-era Hollywood epics. —Oktay Ege Kozak


Directing

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Nominated

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

Who Will Win:   Guillermo del Toro  

Who Should Win:   Guillermo del Toro  
As gifted as Guillermo del Toro is, the director’s true talent may well be his ability to transform and translate outlandish, fantastic and altogether otherworldly characters and settings into something both wondrous and palatable to a larger-than-usual-for-the-genre audience. It’s an alchemy that requires just the right marriage of style and subject matter (though even when a film of his doesn’t quite work, it’s still pretty good). In The Shape of Water, del Toro has crafted a Best Picture nominee whose basic description sounds like a bit of pulp-genre-fueled bombast. Yet, here we are. A win here will be fuel for years of takes of all different temperatures about what the win meant for the lesser respected genres. Many of those will be less than inspired. There’s always criticism when a Best Picture doesn’t also nab its director a Best Directing statuette, but in this case, it would truly be a crime. —Michael Burgin

Making the Case for: Angela Robinson, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Seduction is a director’s job; power is distributed between partners, viewers, players, like a game, with both a clear and unclear vision of conclusion. Angela Robinson had a task with her film Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which surveys the private lives of William Marston (Luke Evans), his legal wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their partner Olivia Byrne (Bella Heathcote) (as well as the inception of Wonder Woman), a film about both power and desire. Robinson, who also wrote the script, is not only impressive with her distillation of DISC Theory, but how it is applied as meta-text: As the characters struggle over what power means within queer contexts, who is submissive to whom, her film itself seduces the audience, almost recreating the same complex emotional and erotic responses theorized by Professor Marston. By examining the way desire and power exist beyond the characters on screen, and how a text is created between spectator and subject, Robinson breathes new life into biopic conventions, wooing the audience so that by the end of the film, they’re left, ahem, “Feeling Good.” —Kyle Turner


Actress in a Leading Role

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Nominated:

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand
In the hands of an accomplished actress like McDormand, her role as an angry, aggrieved mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is the type of role that pile drives other competitors. In any other year, Hawkins, Ronan and Robbie would each be a powerful contender, but sometimes the role itself provides all the “umph” a nominee needs.

Who Should Win: Sally Hawkins
Learning another language isn’t easy, but trying to gain enough proficiency to speak it just for the sake of a two-hour movie is no joke. Maybe we shouldn’t give performance points to actors and actresses who go out of their way to speak in tongues, or in this case fingers, other than their own, but watching Sally Hawkins play Elisa in The Shape of Water, it’s impossible not to appreciate how her use of American Sign Language fundamentally elevates her work. Hawkins is an expressive actress by nature. Put her in any movie and she’ll find ways to emote through her eyebrows, her nose, her posture, and yes, even her hands, her every gesture being as integral to the structure of her work as her line reads. It’s not like she’s the only person in the history of acting to communicate through body language, but her comfort in that language is innate, and it complements her period ASL beautifully. Apart from the fact that Hawkins, known for playing indomitable optimists, is kinda the actress we need right now, her work here inhabits a category apart from that of her peers. —Andy Crump

Making the Case for:   Aubrey Plaza, Ingrid Goes West
Hitherto an actress cast so adherent to type—deadpan, morbid sense of humor, over “it,” monotone—that it looked stifling, it wasn’t that Aubrey Plaza was ever a bad actress, she was just too often given material that basically boxed her in without much room for exploration and depth. There was only once an exception, in Safety Not Guaranteed, where she had the space to be sensitive and thoughtful, but still, there was the inkling that Plaza had untapped greatness in her. And then Ingrid Goes West came, a film that fashions itself as “of the moment” with regards to its depiction of Plaza’s Instagram-obsessed stalker who follows a social media influencer (Elizabeth Olsen) ostensibly with only as much depth as the number of megapixels in a given Instagram shot. Plaza takes a solid caricature written by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith and builds her into an intricately developed, thoughtfully illustrated character: at once singular in her obsessions and nuances, but instantly identifiable in her desires of being wanted and her frustration with the physical being of her own body and identity. As Ingrid descends into loneliness and chaos, Plaza captures her unhinged elements—which she can internalize and externalize at will—as well as the preciseness of her desperation, a core trait of the character that makes her worthy of empathy. Plaza elevates the script to impressively situate the film as a millennial iteration of Persona, conjuring the affliction of identity and corporeality with manic obsessiveness and tender compassion. —Kyle Turner

Making the Case for: Vicky Krieps, Phantom Thread
Not many people can walk onto a set, step in front of the camera, and go toe to toe with Daniel Day-Lewis, by all accounts one of the best thesps to ever work in the movies, but in Phantom Thread Vicky Krieps does exactly that and then some, all the while making it look effortless. The likely reality is that keeping up with Day-Lewis does indeed take a great deal of effort, but anyone capable of making that effort deserves a medal and possibly also a holiday in their name. As Alma, the muse to Day-Lewis’ petulant fashion designer tyrant, Krieps has a number of tasks weighing on her shoulders: She has to serve as the audience’s lens into the world of Reynolds Woodcock, she has to play observer to Reynolds’ meticulousness as well as his relationship with his sister, Cyril (Lesley Manville), and she has to put up with their crap. What kind of person do you have to be to make someone else’s success your mission in life and love? Krieps knows. She’s so good at playing that person that her omission in this category is straight up baffling, but maybe it’s also in keeping with Alma’s arc in Phantom Thread. —Andy Crump


Actor in a Leading Role

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Nominated:

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.

Who Will Win:   Gary Oldman  
Complete, unrecognizable transformation of a respected A-list Brit into a towering, mostly beloved historic figure? Done. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win:   Gary Oldman  
A bid for a gold statue has never seemed so blatant as casting Gary Oldman to play genius wheezing statesman and iconic anthropomorphic thumb Winston Churchill, but to actually witness Oldman’s transformation in Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is to behold something so much more subtle. Still, however closely allied to the actual Churchill persona, Oldman’s performance practically, metaphysically supports the whole film’s ambitious conceit: He finds the near imperceptible balance of drama and realism, of the performative aspects of a biopic with the believable, mundane history and politics that sleep underneath all that bluster. It can be as simple as volume, Oldman knowing when to stay quiet, to communicate through the sadness in his eyes rather than through the stentorian command of his mouth. If we know anything about Churchill, we know he was a great orator—Darkest Hour knows this too. What’s so impressive about Oldman’s performance is that the actor knows the real key to the success of his part is in pulling down and piecing apart all that greatness. —Dom Sinacola

Making the Case for: Daniel Kaluuya
It might seem that Kaluuya doesn’t have a difficult task in a film like Get Out. We’re already on his character’s side from the beginning; we know where things are headed and we know we want him to get out before he even gets in. But Kaluuya had far more to do than simply play a poor black guy, Chris Washington, who—in spite of his best friend’s protests (props to LilRel Howery for turning in an equally fantastic performance)—has fallen for a white girl (Allison Williams). He has to play someone with enough innocence and intelligence to convincingly be both a victim and a curious onlooker when he enters into the house of Armitage. He has to be smart enough to ask the right questions, but human enough to stay longer than he should. Perhaps most importantly, Kaluuya has to play a young man still grieving the loss of his mother, and managing the guilt that has never really left him—a guilt that the mistress of the house (Catherine Keener) exploits to send him to the Sunken Place. That he balances all of Chris’s aspects without overplaying his emotions is a testament to his talent as an actor, and his ability to exercise restraint in a film with so much overwhelming material already. —Shannon M. Houston


Best Picture

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Nominated:

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

Who Will Win: The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water could win Best Picture because there is no other film this year which so safely declares itself of this moment—and not because it sounds like the beginning of a horrible joke uttered by a grandpa who doesn’t know any better (“A gay person, a mute, a black woman and a Russian spy walk into a diner…”). No, The Shape of Water is a reactionary film, all the way down to its sinew, a fantasy in which characters move throughout its runtime mostly motivated by opposition, and almost every ancillary character ends up a total disappointment. Not long after new Alabama senator Doug Jones (the other Doug Jones) barely scrapes a win past a white supremacist pedophile, the mildly relieving cap to a year in which every media figure you love has somehow let you down, a year presaged by a catastrophic national election decided mostly by broken institutions and people voting against someone rather than for anything of honest merit, The Shape of Water feels like it operates in much the same way. Plus, it’s a love letter to capital-”C” cinema, and that’s evidence enough. —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: Get Out
It was our favorite movie of 2017.

Making the Case For: Dunkirk
Honestly, this category represented the biggest divide between our editorial staff, or really, between me and everyone else. I’d love to consider the Academy and its often fickle, predictable voters to be transforming in ways that are measurable by the films and actors to whom they give the golden statuette. And as a long-time lover of genres the Academy usually eschews, I want the unapologetically fantastic The Shape of Water (or the exquisitely squirmy Get Out, for that matter) to win. But even if there is real change occurring, I don’t believe we’ll see it just yet, and thus, by the Old Logic of the ceremony, I fully expect Dunkirk to “upset” its competitors, as it’s exactly the type of film the Academy usually awards here. What’s more, it’s really damn good—what Nolan strives to achieves is ambitious and stays with you long after viewing. Just as importantly, my colleague Dom Sinacola has chosen this possibility as this year’s “He’ll eat his shoe if it wins” pick. (Last year’s was Isabelle Huppert.) (Note, the pick is not based on worthy or unworthy—it’s just his sense of where the odds lie.) Unfortunately, my desire for an outcome that triggers footware digestion is ruining my “feel” of how things will play out, so I’ve gone with the consensus in this category. —Michael Burgin

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