Ahead of Sunday’s 90th Academy Awards, Associated Press film writers Lindsey Bahr and Jake Coyle share their predictions for a ceremony that, at least at the end, should be a nail-biter.
Nominees: “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”
Will win: No controversy, timely messages, a dash of fantasy and a love of movies, “The Shape of Water” seems to be the safe, if a little boring, front-runner.
Should win: Aside from “Dunkirk,” which I saw three times in theaters, “Lady Bird” is the movie I want to watch over and over again. It is such an effortlessly perfect slice-of-life film that will be around long after this awards season noise comes to an end. The best picture category gets a bad reputation for all the times the award has gone to something that fades from memory a few years down the line. That wouldn’t be an issue with “Lady Bird.”
Will win: There are five movies with a legitimate shot to win, which makes this year more difficult than usual to call. I’m going to say Jordan Peele’s cultural sensation “Get Out” wins because it has two crucial things going for it: the all-important SAG ensemble nomination and a good shot at a recently highly predictive screenplay award. That, and it did more to re-energize genre filmmaking than anything in a decade.
Should win: I’d be thrilled if “Dunkirk,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird” or “Phantom Thread” took home the top prize, but “Call Me by Your Name” stood apart for me. It’s a movie that feels like it has the windows open, and life just flows through it.
Nominees: 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.”)
Will win: Gary Oldman has won most of the major awards so far, and there’s no reason he wouldn’t continue the streak at the Oscars, much to the chagrin of the internet’s darling, Timothee Chalamet, who will definitely get another shot at this award down the line.
Should win: There have been so many lame “Oscar-baity” biopics that it almost diminishes his achievement, but honestly, Gary Oldman’s full and complete transformation into Winston Churchill is something they should teach in acting (and makeup) classes forever.
Will win: Oldman has this one in the bag.
Should win: I wouldn’t begrudge Oldman, an actor’s actor for decades, his moment in the sun. But I’ll say Day-Lewis, who we all know is simply the best there is. Maybe a surprise Oscar would coax him into rethinking retirement.
Nominees: 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”)
Will win: It’s funny how uninspired the acting categories can seem when the same people win every award. This is Frances McDormand’s year, plain and simple.
Should win: This is an extremely tough category. All of the performances are so good, and they’re good in different ways. Still, out of this batch, it was Margot Robbie who stretched herself beyond anything I might have assumed her capable of as the proud, defiant and unapologetic Tonya Harding. That shot of Robbie smearing on her stage blush while she tries to smile through the rising tears? It’s a classic.
Will win: McDormand is a virtual lock.
Should win: “Three Billboards” wouldn’t exist without McDormand, who towers over the film like only she can. And Streep gave one of her most subtle performances in “The Post.” But most deserving is Ronan, who’s perpetually playing a jumble of emotions, most of them contradictory, at once.
Nominees: 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”)
Will win: Sam Rockwell went big in “Three Billboards” as the racist cop who decides to (maybe) start rethinking (some of) his ways. Love it or hate it, but Rockwell is on a winning streak.
Should win: Willem Dafoe gives “The Florida Project” its beating heart. He is the one person who even takes notice of the residents of that low-rent motel on the outskirts of Orlando. Dafoe makes every moment he’s in memorable, whether he’s escorting a suspicious character off of the property or just trying to count the rent money.
Will win: Rockwell is the favorite, but I smell an upset. There’s not much evidence for it. I just think good sense will prevail and Dafoe will win his first Oscar.
Should win: This category is awash in terrific character actors. Would it not be great to see Jenkins win? Would anyone not cheer seeing Harrelson at the podium? But Dafoe’s low-rent motel father figure will go down as the iconic performance of the bunch.
Nominees: Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”), Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”)
Will win: Allison Janney is excellent as caustic, complicated mother LaVona in “I, Tonya,” and everyone has noticed.
Should win: Lesley Manville upstaged Daniel Day-Lewis (in a good way) as the steadfast Cyril, who can be sometimes terrifying and often funny and without whom the House of Woodcock (and “Phantom Thread”) would have come crashing to the ground.
Will win: Janney, a riot in “I, Tonya,” is the favorite.
Should win: Nothing could ever be wrong with the fantastic Janney winning an award. But I’d cast my nonexistent vote for Metcalf, in her first film in almost a decade. Her character in “Lady Bird” is one of the finest working mothers I’ve ever seen in movies.
Nominees: Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”), Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)
Will win: Affable, undeniably talented, quick to drop an expletive and “in love with love and movies,” Guillermo del Toro is the likely pick for this year’s best director. Also, “The Shape of Water” could have been made only by him.
Should win: Although he has been left on the cutting room floor this awards season, Christopher Nolan really should be getting more awards for his achievement with “Dunkirk.” Perhaps it came out too early or didn’t have that extra performance component to keep its worthiness narrative alive? Maybe the film didn’t work as well in screener format as it did on the big screen. Whatever the reason, Nolan still made a masterpiece of suspense like we’ve never seen before.
Will win: Del Toro seems to have this locked up. With a win, he’ll join his friends and Mexican countrymen Alejandro Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron. The “Three Amigos” will have won four of the last five best director awards.
Should win: I really have no idea. The filmmakers in this group are impossible to compare against one another; all of the movies are so singular to the director. Anderson’s impeccable comedy? Gerwig’s richness of lived-in detail? I don’t like choosing, but Nolan’s feat in “Dunkirk” is a majestic creation of sight and sound.
What we’re paying attention to
The following nominees have connections to North Carolina.
▪ “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which was filmed in and around Sylva and other parts of western North Carolina in 2016, rang up a total of seven Oscar nominations: Best picture, Frances McDormand for best actress, Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell for best supporting actors, Martin McDonagh for best original screenplay, Carter Burwell for best original score, Jon Gregory for film editing.
▪ Emily V. Gordon, a Winston-Salem native and alumnus of UNC-Greensboro, for best original screenplay for co-writing “The Big Sick” with husband Kumail Nanjiani. The film has been a critical darling since it was released, telling the true story about how Gordon and Nanjiani encountered her unexpected illness in the early days of their relationship.
▪ “My Nephew Emmett,” created by Kevin Wilson Jr., a New York filmmaker with Durham roots, is nominated for Live Action Short Film. Wilson is a graduate of Hillside High School and N.C. A&T University.
While not nominated directly, a number of alumni from UNC School of the Arts are part of various nominated films.
▪ Lucas Hedges, who appeared in two best picture nominees, “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards.”
▪ Stephen McKinley Henderson, another UNCSA alumnus, also appeared in “Lady Bird.”
▪ Natalia Cordova-Buckley voiced a character in “Coco,” nominated for best animated feature.
▪ Dylan Arnold appeared in “Mudbound,” which is nominated in four categories, including adapted screenplay.
Similarly, there are students and graduates of the Savannah College of Art and Design from the Triangle with connections to Oscar-nominated films.
▪ Dave Hale, a native of Willow Spring and SCAD visual effects graduate, is part of the team that worked on “Coco,” which is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. The 2009 graduate worked as an effects lead on the film. He is the FX TD at Pixar Animation Studios.
▪ James Spadafora, an Apex native and visual effects graduate from SCAD, worked on “Kong: Skull Island,” which is nominated for Best Visual Effects. He worked as a technical director on the film and is the Level 2 Pipeline Technical Director at Industrial Light & Magic.