Every year right before the Oscar nominations come out we all think we know exactly what to expect. Simply look at the Golden Globes as well as the Directors, Producers, Screen Actors, and Writers Guilds nominations. Identify the one person in each category most likely to be snubbed by the Academy. Guess who will be nominated in their place. And, bada bing, bada boom, you’re predictions are done. That’s literally the only thought you have to put into it.

Still, the Academy always does something no one expects, like snub Amy Adams for Arrival, pick Michael Shannon over Aaron Taylor-Johnson for Nocturnal Animals, snub Spielberg (Bridge of Spies) AND Ridley Scott Scott (The Martian) in favor of Lenny Abrahamson (The Room), or nominate Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for Best Picture…for some reason.

This year, more than any other in recent memory seems especially ripe for such surprises because the awards are more politicised than ever before and consensus opinion has been harder to reach. Moreover, with the historic infusion of younger, more diverse members into the Academy in recent years we can’t be certain the old rules still apply. For example, there’s no guarantee that a classic piece of Oscar bait like The Post is just going to be rubber-stamped into every category, especially since that movie has been going home empty-handed at every awards show.

With all of that in mind, here are my predictions for the 90th Academy Award nominations, which will be officially announced tomorrow morning:

Note: I’m refraining from predicting categories I don’t know enough about, including Best Foreign Language Film, Sound Mixing/Editing, Makeup/Hair Design, Special Effects, Song, and the various Short Film awards.

BEST PICTURE

  • The Shape of Water
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Lady Bird
  • Get Out
  • Dunkirk
  • Call Me by Your Name
  • The Post
  • The Florida Project
  • The Darkest Hour

Explanation: In 2011, the Academy changed its Best Picture rules to no longer mandate there absolutely be 10 nominees but instead only that there be a maximum of 10 nominees given however the voting goes. Ever since then, there have been 9 Best Picture nominees per year every year except for 2015 when there were just 8. The reason for this is due to the Academy’s remarkably complicated voting process for Best Picture, but given the history I don’t think we make it up to 10 nominees this year. 

So, my first 8 choices were all nominated by the PGA as well, and among them, only The Post and The Florida Project appear to be anything other than a lock. The PGA also nominated The Big Sick, I, Tonya, Molly’s Game, and Wonder Woman, yet the Academy tends to sneak in at least one movie most everyone else overlooked. Last year, it was Hidden Figures. The year before that, it was Room. This year, it could be something like Phantom Thread, but the chances of that are astronomically small. Most likely, the 9th nominee, should there be one, comes down to The Big Sick, I, Tonya and The Darkest Hour. The latter is the second biggest piece of Oscar bait in the field beside The Post, which could give it the edge. I hope not. I personally prefer both The Big Sick and I, Tonya.

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)
  • Jordan Peele (Get Out)
  • Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
  • Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Sean Baker (The Florida Project)

Explanation: Oddly, the Academy and the DGA always seem to agree on who the 4 best directors are in any given year but rarely all 5. The last time they agreed on all 5 was back in 2009. Plus, you know who has been nominated by the DGA four times but never by the Academy? Christopher Nolan.

So what? Dunkirk is different.

Is it, though? It’s every bit the cold-to-the-touch, puzzle box film he usually makes just with even less of an emphasis on character than usual. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a masterpiece, but so is Inception and that didn’t stop the Academy from snubbing him that year.

So, even though it might seem as if Gerwig and Peele are the most likely to be snubbed by the Academy even though the DGA liked them it could actually be Nolan. That’s why I’m predicting Baker, who was not nominated by the DGA this year, will get the Oscar nod over DGA nominee Nolan. Admittedly, this goes completely against the grain since everyone has long since assumed Nolan is a shoe-in for a nomination and Del Toro’s closest competition to win, but have we forgotten just how much the Academy seems to hate him? That being said, this is the prediction I really hope I’m wrong about. Nolan’s work in Dunkirk deserves recognition.

BEST ACTOR

  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)
  • Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)
  • James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)
  • Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

Explanation: The obvious name to watch here is James Franco. His sexual misconduct controversy didn’t erupt until halfway into the Oscar voting process. Beyond that, there’s still the continued debate over whether whatever he did or did not do away from the screen in the past should matter in deciding if he delivered one of the 5 best performances of the year. Such controversy didn’t strike down Casey Affleck last year. Will this year be different for Franco? Given the tone of the moment, I’d say yes if the details of his misconduct had come out before the Oscar voting had already opened. As is, I think there are probably a lot of voters who wish they had their vote back to strike Franco down, justly or not, but it’s too late. If he is snubbed, Tom Hanks is the most likely replacement.

BEST ACTRESS

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

Explanation: Meryl was surprisingly passed over by SAG in favor of Judi Dench in Victoria & Abdul, but you bet against Meryl and the Oscars at your own peril. She’s not going to win, of course, but I’ll be surprised if she’s not at least nominated. For any of the other women in the category to be snubbed, though, would be downright stunning.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)
  • Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)
  • Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)

Explanation: Just the same SAG nominees with Armie Hammer in place of Steve Carell since Battle of the Sexes seems to have zero awards momentum.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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

Explanation: The same SAG nominees with Spencer in place of Hong Chau since her Downsizing accent is so divisive and Manville over Holly Hunter for The Big Sick due to recency bias, i.e., Big Sick came out over the summer, Phantom Thread just a couple of weeks ago.

This is the second craziest prediction I’m making (the first being Baker over Nolan). The math tells us Manville only has a 10% shot at a nomination, but Amy Adams had a 95% chance of being nominated for Best Actress last year and look what happened there.

Point being: There’s always an Oscar category if not several where someone who had hardly any prior notable nominations manages to sneak in. This year, it could be Manville. She certainly deserves it. Phantom Thread is Daniel Day Lewis’ final film, and she still manages to steal every scene from him with her wonderfully controlled performance. Rarely has a woman simply drinking a cup of tea managed to seem so menacing and mysterious (outside of Catherine Keener in Get Out, of course).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

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

Explanation: Just the same WGA nominees with Three Billboards in place of I, Tonya.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Call Me by Your Name (James Ivory)
  • Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin)
  • The Disaster Artist (Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber)
  • Mudbound (Dee Rees & Virgil Williams)
  • Wonder Woman (Jason Fuchs, Allan Heinberg & Zack Snyder)

Explanation: Just the same WGA nominees with Wonder Woman in place of Logan. This shouldn’t happen; Logan is the better movie and script. However, if it does happen it’ll be because Wonder Woman feels more powerful in this cultural moment.

BEST ANIMATED FILM

  • Coco
  • The Breadwinner
  • Loving Vincent
  • The Boss Baby
  • Despicable Me 3

Explanation: Really, just write-in Coco and then leave the other 4 spaces empty because this race is over before it even began. Frankly, in a more just year, Coco would also be in the running for Best Picture right now. Still, the rest of the nominees promise to be more mainstream than usual. The Academy changed the voting process for this category this year, opening it up to people outside of just the Animation branch thus increasing the odds of nominating more movies people have actually seen.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Jane
  • Strong Island
  • Icarus
  • City of Ghosts
  • Faces Places

Explanation: For certain categories, the Academy whittles down the potential nominees so that by the end there’s a shortlist to choose from. Thanks to that, we’ve known which 15 docs were in the running for the category since early December, and from there it’s kind of a crapshoot.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Blade Runner 2049 (Roger Deakins)
  • Dunkirk (Hoyte van Hoytema)
  • The Shape of Water (Dan Laustsen)
  • The Post (Janusz Kaminsky)
  • Mudbound (Rachel Morrison)

Explanation: Similar to the DGA, the American Society of Cinematographers and Academy tend to agree about the 4 best, not the 5. So, my predictions are right in line with the ASC’s nominees except I think Janusz Kaminsky (The Post) will get in over Bruno Delbonnel (Darkest Hour) simply because Kaminsky is almost always nominated for his Spielberg movies, The Bridge of Spies being one notable exception. If there is a mass rejection of The Post, though, Kaminsky will be bounced right out of there.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Phantom Thread
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Shape of Water
  • Murder on the Orient Express
  • The Greatest Showman

Explanation: Just think of anything period piece or fantasy-based. For whatever it matters, no 2017 film’s costumes mattered more to the narrative than Phantom Thread’s.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • The Shape of Water
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk

Explanation: This is a three-way race between Shape of Water, Blade Runner, and Beauty and the Beast.

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water
  • Baby Driver
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • I, Tonya

Explanation: All five were nominated by the American Cinema Editors Awards, which splits its categories between Drama and Comedy/Musical ala the Golden Globes.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • The Shape of Water
  • Dunkirk
  • Darkest Hour
  • Phantom Thread
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Explanation: This is Shape of Water‘s category to lose. We could end up with John Williams taking in two nominations, one for The Post, the other for Last Jedi. Yet Johnny Greenwood’s masterful scores keep getting passed over due to Academy snobbishness or eligibility rules. For a change, his score for Phantom Thread is actually eligible and deserves the nod for being every bit as good as his work in The Master and almost as good as There Will Be Blood.

To sum up, I’m mostly falling in line with how the Guilds have gone except I’m predicting Phantom Thread for Best Supporting Actress, in addition, to Best Actor, Wonder Woman and Three Billboards for Best Screenplay, Armie Hammer for Best Supporting Actor, Sean Baker for Best Director, and The Post for Best Cinematography. I’m particularly going out on a limb about Phantom Thread and Nolan being snubbed for Director.

Of course, we have a pretty good sense of who’s actually going to win in the major categories – Allison Janney, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Gary Oldman, Guillermo Del Toro, and Coco’s producers better have their acceptance speeches ready – and Best Picture seems to have come down to either SAG/Golden Globe winner Three Billboards or PGA/Critics Choice winner Shape of Water. So, really, predicting the wild card nominees is more a case of predicting the lucky eventual losers.

But, hey, if the Academy can give Best Picture to La La Land and then take it back and give it to Moonlight a second later anything’s possible.

Do your predictions line up with mine? And who do you wish would be nominated even though you know they won’t? Personally, I’m still sore over Patrick Stewart’s performance in Logan being so widely forgotten.

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Posted by Kelly Konda

Grew up obsessing over movies and TV shows. Worked in a video store. Minored in film at college because my college didn't offer a film major. Worked in academia for a while. Have been freelance writing and running this blog since 2013.

11 Comments

  1. I hope the shape of water wins a few.

    Reply

    1. At this point, it’s a race between Shape of Water and Three Billboards. Billboards will win the acting awards, Shape will win Director and tech awards. They’ll both compete for screenplay, which probably goes to Billboards, and Best Picture might just end up going to Shape.

      Reply

      1. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Best Picture 🙂

      2. Working against it: It’s a love-it or hate-it kind of movie. Either you’re down with the woman-amphibian man love story of you’re not.

        Working for it: It uses genre and fantasy to speak to modern anxieties in a way that makes it decidedly less controversial than the more reality-based Three Billboards. Shape is a lovely monster movie in which the actual monster is man; Three Billboards is about domestic abuse, police violence, police racism, and a lot of people have a lot of problems with how it tackles those issues. Shape might end up getting the edge simply because it’s less objectionable and both timeless and timely.

  2. The Boss Baby? Despicable me 3? I really doubt it. Those spots will be filled by more low-profile offers. The Boss Baby is out of it on name alone and it is not like the Despicable Me franchise has been showered with award praise in the past – and this last one was maybe the worst outing they did so far.

    Granted, it hasn’t been a particular good year for animation. No Disney Animated Studio, no Laika and no Aardman release. But there is also a release from Japan from people who worked at Ghibli beforehand (the title is escaping me) and a few others which might draw attention to itself.

    But Coco will win anyway.

    Reply

    1. “But Coco will win anyway.”

      That’s kind of the point. It really doesn’t matter what else gets nominated. Predicting both Boss Baby and Despicable Me 3 is a bit out there. Had I given it even a second’s thought I wouldn’t have been put both of them in there along with Coco, but I think it’s easily possible that one of them gets nominated and the other left out in favor of something else which no one other than animation enthusiasts will have heard of.

      Reply

      1. Well, those nominations are important for those smaller movies. Every animation enthusiast knows that they have no chance to win, but just scoring a nomination draws attention to them. After all, even animation fans don’t necessarily watch every animated movie out there.

      2. Obviously they’re important. I’m just not sure what else is out there this year.

      3. Most likely something from the Annie’s independent shortlist, which contained:

        In This Corner of the World
        Loving Vincent
        Napping Princess
        The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales
        The Breadwinner

        And maybe Captain Underpants instead of Boss Baby…still a stupid name, but better reviewed overall.

      4. Oh, and if they go for a “popular choice”, they might consider Lego Batman to make up for not nominating the Lego Movie (which I still think was the right decision, but then, the complain have been loud).

      5. Well, I guess you were right…Boss Baby is on the list (shouldn’t be but okay). And Ferdinand somehow sneaked in (‘eye roll’) Should have picked something from the independent list…..but we all know that Coco will win.

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