Oscars 2018: In a Year Where ‘Nothing is Predictable,’ Stephen Whitty Picks the Winners


Sally Hawkins in Shape of Water


Editor’s note: Want to keep Stephen Whitty on NJNext.com? Contribute to our Kickstarter campaign!

Love them, hate them, love to hate them or hate to love them – however you feel about the Oscars, there are two truths.

The first is, they matter. They may not seem to – really, a bunch of overdressed, overpaid Hollywood types standing around giving each other prizes? What could matter less?

But prizes like these encourage innovation, jump start careers, even create role models. And that’s a great thing.

Sally Hawkins in Shape of Water

Believe me, even if he doesn’t win, you are going to hear from Timothee Chalamet again. And an award to, say, Rachel Morrison – the first woman ever even nominated for cinematography – won’t just encourage more people to see “Mudbound.” It will inspire other little girls out there that, well, maybe they can pick up a camera, too.

And the second undisputable fact about the Academy Awards is that, well, even when they do drive us up the wall, they’re fun to argue about, long before the first ugly dress has appeared on the red carpet. Who’s going to win? Who should win? Who would have won if those idiots had even nominated her? And why didn’t they?

The ceremony airs Sunday, March 4 on ABC, and this year nothing is predictable – except, perhaps, that Jimmy Kimmel will make a Matt Damon joke, and that they’re going to be particularly paranoid about handing out the right envelopes.

So here are some predictions – based on my usual, patent-pending mixture of previous awards and pure gut feeling — just to get the conversation going, and maybe give you just the slightest edge in your office Oscar pool. Now, pass the popcorn.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

And the Nominees Are: Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”; Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”; Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”; Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”; Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water.”

Allison Janney in I, Tonya

The Race So Far: The Los Angeles Film Critics Association went for Metcalf; the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television honored Janney. (My own New York Film Critics Circle was an outlier, applauding Tiffany Haddish for the raunchy “Girls Trip.”)

Who Will Win/Should Win: Janney, who was terrific in “I, Tonya,” will take it – she was a riot as a low-rent “Mommie Dearest” — but Metcalf did the deeper, subtler work.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

And the 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.”

The Race So Far: A duel between two indie-film veterans. The New York and L.A. critics went for Dafoe; the GG, SAG and BAFTA prizes went to Rockwell. Just remember, though, that SAG and BAFTA include actual Academy voters.

Who Will Win/Should Win: Rockwell will get it, although he’s done better work in other films – and Dafoe showed new, striking subtlety. (There’s one scene where he literally acts with the back of his neck.)

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST ACTRESS

And the Nominees Are: 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.”

The Race So Far: Groups have been spreading their prizes pretty widely – Ronan won the NY and GG awards, Hawkins charmed LA, while McDormand notched kudos from SAG, BAFTA and GG (which honors both drama and comedy).

Who Will Win/Should Win: The fiery McDormand, in a role made for this year of outrage – I loved Hawkins’ delicate miming, but McDormand owns this. (Although didn’t Jessica Chastain deserve a nod for “Molly’s Game”?)

BEST ACTOR

And the Nominees Are: Timothee 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.”

The Race So Far: Oldman’s been having his finest hour with GG, SAG and BAFTA wins, while young Chalamet picked up honors from NY and LA critics. (James Franco, meanwhile, got GG’s comedy prize for “The Disaster Artist.”)

Who Will Win/Should Win: Everyone’s been predicting an Oldman win since his film first screened. No argument here. (Although, face it – Washington is great, and he was robbed last year, for “Fences.”)

BEST DIRECTOR

And the Nominees Are: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”; Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”; Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”; Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”; Jordan Peele, “Get Out.”

The Race So Far: NY honored Sean Baker for “The Florida Project,” and LA split their prize between Luca Guadagnino for “Call Me By Your Name” and del Toro. But Del Toro also won the GG and BAFTA prizes, and a Directors Guild honor.

Who Will Win/Should Win: Del Toro will probably take it, although no director did more impressive work than Nolan. Frankly, everyone is deserving here (and a win by an African-American or female director would make headlines).

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

BEST PICTURE

And the Nominees Are: “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.”

The Race So Far: Pretty wide-open. “Lady Bird” won in NY, and the GG’s drama prize. “Three Billboards” won GG’s comedy award, plus best picture from BAFTA and SAG’s best ensemble, while “The Shape of Water” took home the Producers Guild top honor, and LA lauded “Call Me By Your Name.”

Who Will Win/Should Win: “Dunkirk” may be the most impressive achievement, “Lady Bird” the most loved, “Get Out” the most unexpected. But Oscar voters tend to pick films they can’t imagine making themselves – and “The Shape of Water” is as singular as they come.