Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water

Before getting to my annual exercise in looking foolish (admittedly, one of many), let's preface my Academy Awards guesses with a half-dozen burning questions that I'll pretend I can authoritatively answer:

Could any movie equal, or conceivably top, La La Land's record-tying tally of 14 nominations?

As a matter of fact, yes! I wouldn't count on it … but yes! As you'll see below, I'm predicting Guillermo del Toro's fairytale romance The Shape of Water for 12. Add Octavia Spencer as a Supporting Actress candidate and you've got 13. (She did get a Golden Globe nomination.) Add the movie's visual effects – which I may be stupidly failing to predict – and you have it tying La La Land, All About Eve, and Titanic with 14. Add a Supporting Actor contender in Michael Shannon, and you've got a new record with 15. Add co-star Michael Stuhlbarg and you've got 16. Add the film's creature-effect makeup and you've got … . Well, actually, the film didn't make the short-list of seven Makeup & Hairstyling options, so I guess we're stuck at 16. That would still be cool!

Could any movie equal, or conceivably top, the record of nine nominations without a corresponding Best Picture nomination, the way Sydney Pollack's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? did way back in 1970?

Wow, you have an excellent grasp of Oscar trivia. And yes! I'm personally predicting Denis Villenueve's sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 in five categories, but could easily see it also being recognized for Film Editing, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay, with Costume Design and Direction definitely within the film's grasp. Who needs huge box office when you have 10 Oscar nods? Beyond producers and anyone getting a percentage of the profits, I mean … .

Could an acting category see only three movies cited, the way Best Supporting Actor did in 1973 and 1975?

Yes, and without that much difficulty, considering this year's Supporting Actor category features two formidable options from Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, two from Call Me by Your Name, and three from The Shape of Water, plus another three or four (admittedly major) longshots from Mudbound.

Could we be in for another year of #OscarsSoWhite in the acting and directing categories?

Sadly: Yup. Director Jordan Peele is hardly a shoo-in for Get Out (genre bias, TV bias, moneymaker bias, Blumhouse bias … maybe some other kind of bias …), and the four actors of color who I'm predicting do make their lineups are in no way done deals. Though heaven knows ultra-longshot Betty Gabriel should be one.

Could recent Hollywood scandals strongly affect what gets nominated?

Perhaps. But given another week of headlines – Oscar voting opened on Friday, January 5, and closed Friday, January 12 – who knows what might've happened? (See Williams, Michelle, and Franco, James, below.)

Could Spielberg's The Post possibly be in for a complete dissing?

Remarkably, yes, even though I'm still predicting it in (a mere) three categories. Blame Trump fatigue. Or Meryl fatigue. Or controversy fatigue. We're a fatigued lot these days.

 

But it's time to get excited! Here are my official predictions for the 90th (!) Annual Academy Awards, scheduled to be announced on the morning of Tuesday, January 23. Boldface denotes predicted nominees, non-boldface denotes runners-up, predictions are in order of probability, and mild commentary is attached at no extra charge.

Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in Three Billbaords Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST PICTURE

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Lady Bird

Get Out

Dunkirk

The Post

Call Me by Your Name

The Florida Project

Darkest Hour

The Big Sick

Mudbound

I, Tonya

Given the Academy's employment of a specific weighted-ballot system in selecting nominees, the name of the game is number-one votes – as in, who gets the highest percentages of 'em – and this year, I'm thinking seven titles hit the magic number. (Every year since 2012, there's been the possibility of a lineup boasting anywhere between five and 10 Best Picture contenders, though none of those years has featured fewer than eight … or as many as 10.) I wouldn't be shocked to see any of the non-boldface films above adding to that tally, however, and have a sneaking suspicion that the Dunkirk companion piece Darkest Hour may be the one most Oscar prognosticators are underestimating. My 77-year-old dad loved the movie, and he's a decade or two younger than many with Oscar-voting rights.

 

BEST DIRECTING

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Sean Baker, The Florida Project

Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

The names I'm predicting are the same names cited by the Directors Guild of America, and a five-for-five match-up between the DGA and the Oscars rarely happens. (The last time it did was in 2009.) But if one or more of those helmers is bypassed – and everyone but del Toro conceivably could be, even Nolan (again!) – I think the Academy's directors branch will go with a more arty option than Darkest Hour's Joe Wright or The Post's Steven Spielberg; that latter title opened well at the box office this past weekend but seems to have vanished from much of the Oscar conversation. (The movie also went zero-for-five at the Golden Globes, despite the awards-show magnet of Spielberg!Streep!Hanks!) Are people just dreading the speeches if it actually won something?

 

BEST ACTRESS

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Saoirse Roman, Lady Bird

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Meryl Streep, The Post

Michelle Williams, All the Money in the World

Jessica Chastain, Molly's Game

Judi Dench, Victoria & Abdul

This potential lineup feels awfully solid to me. But given the recent, very public brouhaha about the pay disparity between Mark Wahlberg and his film's lead (and everyone else involved) during those All the Money in the World re-shoots, I'm thinking that if the news broke a week or two earlier than it did, Williams might've taken Streep's place on the ballot. Could still happen, too.

 

BEST ACTOR

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel Esq.

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

James Franco, The Disaster Artist

Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger

Tom Hanks, The Post

And speaking of news not breaking sooner, just how many Oscar voters do you imagine would love to take back their votes after Franco, last week, became the subject of numerous sexual-harassment complaints and found himself awkwardly defending himself on Colbert? (No matter his guilt or innocence, this so not the time for Franco to be walking a red carpet.) Personally, despite the actor's sensational portrayal and many Disaster Artist laurels including his Golden Globe, I have a hunch he'll be left off the ballot regardless due to the film's relative inconsequentiality and the fact that he is, you know, James Franco, the guy who famously left Anne Hathaway out to dry when they co-hosted the 2011 Oscars. But expect a definite outcry if he is cited. And a lot of simmering resentment on the parts of Gyllenhaal, Hanks, and whichever boldface actor he replaces.

Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Holly Hunter, The Big Sick

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Hong Chau, Downsizing

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Kristin Scott Thomas, Darkest Hour

The boldface names compose the same lineup selected by the Screen Actors Guild – last year, SAG matched the Oscars perfectly for Supporting Actress – and it's certainly a damned strong one. But I dunno. Chau is phenomenal, but did enough voters see, or at all like, Downsizing? Blige is great, but do voters want to acknowledge that Netflix movies count as movies? This category feels ripe for a surprise, and one even bigger than Manville or Thomas would be. Tiffany Haddish for Girls Trip? Catherine Keener for Get Out? Betty Gabriel – pleasepleaseplease – for Get Out?

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Armie Hammer, Call Me by Your Name

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Tracy Letts, Lady Bird

Ever since 1992, the Academy has shown a unique disinterest in citing the same movie twice (or, as it did with the first two Godfathers, thrice) in this category, which is the main reason I'm not going with Harrelson for Three Billboards or Stuhlbarg for Call Me – or, for that matter, Stuhlbarg and/or Michael Shannon for The Shape of Water. But as with Supporting Actress, there are plenty of options for outside-the-box thinking, and while my passion vote would go to Letts, I'd also be happy with Ray Romano for The Big Sick, or SAG nominee Steve Carell for Battle of the Sexes, or Patrick Stewart for Logan, or Bradley Whitford for Get Out,  or Jason Mitchell or Garrett Hedlund or Jonathan Banks for Mudbound… . Good year, 2017. In some ways, I mean.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Get Out

Lady Bird

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape of Water

The Big Sick

The Post

I, Tonya

Phantom Thread

I wouldn't be surprised by the inclusion of any of the non-boldface titles, nor all that surprised if slots instead went to Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, or even the largely dialogue-resistant Dunkirk. (Nolan's story structure alone is worthy of a trophy.) But in an exceptional year for original screenplays, my chosen five feel like mighty secure bets.

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name

Mudbound

Molly's Game

Victoria & Abdul

Wonder

The Disaster Artist

Blade Runner 2049

All the Money in the World

And all secure bets are officially off! Truth be told, Call Me by Your Name is the only title I'm 100-percent about, and even that's only because this gay love story – hardly the Academy's favorite genre – was written by costume-drama legend James Ivory, still Oscar-less after A Room with a View, Howards End, The Remains of the Day, and 89 years of life on the planet. Let's call him a sure thing, Mudbound a pretty-sure thing (Netflix), Molly's Game a semi-sure thing (screenwriter Aaron Sorkin was ignored for Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War …), Victoria & Abdul a maybe (that movie's all about Judi), and Wonder a perhaps (family movie … despite being an awesome family movie). As for Disaster Artist, ya know … . Franco.

Coco

As for the rest, in predicted order, and with runners-up and commentary bypassed in the interest of avoiding further inevitable embarrassment … .

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Coco

The Breadwinner

Loving Vincent

The Lego Batman Movie

Ferdinand

 

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM

The Square, Sweden

A Fantastic Woman, Chile

Loveless, Russia

Foxtrot, Israel

In the Fade, Germany

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Jane

Strong Island

Icarus

Last Men in Aleppo

City of Ghosts

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Dunkirk

Blade Runner 2049

The Shape of Water

Mudbound

Darkest Hour

 

BEST FILM EDITING

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Get Out

Baby Driver

Lady Bird

 

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Blade Runner 2049

The Shape of Water

Dunkirk

Beauty & the Beast

Phantom Thread

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Phantom Thread

Beauty & the Beast

Victoria & Abdul

The Shape of Water

Wonder Woman

 

BEST SOUND EDITING

Dunkirk

Blade Runner 2049

The Shape of Water

Get Out

War for the Planet of the Apes

 

BEST SOUND MIXING

The Shape of Water

Dunkirk

Blade Runner 2049

Baby Driver

War for the Planet of the Apes

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Shape of Water

Dunkirk

The Post

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Phantom Thread

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Coco, “Remember Me”

The Greatest Showman, “This Is Me”

Mudbound, “Mighty River”

Call Me by Your Name, “Mystery of Love”

Beauty & the Beast, “Evermore”

 

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049

War for the Planet of the Apes

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Okja

Dunkirk

 

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING

Darkest Hour

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I, Tonya

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