Oscar Predictions 2018


Diversity is the operative word heading into the 2018 Oscars-- both in the content of the films and the artists who made them. From repressed sexuality in Call Me By Your Name and the inhumane terrors of WWII in Dunkirk to the racial divide playing out in modern day suburbia in Get Out, creativity seemed to have bubble up from every corner of the globe, daring us to consider perspectives and walks of life other than our own. 

This cultural explosion has made for an Oscar ceremony that’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable in recent memory. To help ease the anticipation, we at Man of the Hour will gaze into our crystal ball and predict which performers and films we think are going to win and which we think should win.

If you agree or disagree with any of our opinions, please comment below. 

Best Documentary Feature

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

Truthfully, all of the films here are worth seeing, especially the Last Man in Aleppo, a look at the recovery mission of a medical unit in Syria that has become the country’s first ever Oscar nomination. It is a powerful, disturbing watch, one that may ultimately prove too much for Academy voters. Faces Places, on the other hand, seems poised to win everyone over. A spellbinding documentary on the life of French New Wave director Agnés Varda, Places follows Varda and photographer JR as they travel through various small towns in France.

The documentary has a breezy, unassuming quality to it, one that’s made all the more impressive when considering some of the poignant observations the 89 year-old Varda makes regarding art, mortality, and how the two intertwine. If the Academy Honorary Award that she received in 2017 is any indication, than Faces Places is very likely to win.

Who Will Win: Faces Places

Who Should Win: Faces Places

Best Documentary Short Subject

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

Like many of the larger categories, the race for Best Documentary looks as though it will come down to two entries: Laura Checkoway and Thomas Lee Wright’s Edith+Eddie, and Elaine McMillon Sheldon and Kerrin Sheldon’s Heroin(e). The former is a touching look at America’s oldest living interracial couple, who were separated by their families shortly after the wedding. The love between the titular couple (both of whom are in their 90s) is touching, and the seemingly endless drama that was drummed up by their families makes for a consistently exciting and touching documentary. 

The latter is a less cloying watch, and explores the lives of three women-- a fire chief, a drug court judge, and the head of an outreach ministry-- who attempt to dispel the reputation of Huntington, West Virginia as the overdose capital of the world. Heroin(e) is arguably the stronger subject matter, but it's less satisfying conclusion might tip the Academy towards the softer, sweeter Edith+Eddie

Who Will Win: Edith+Eddie

Who Should Win: Heroin(e)

Best Foreign Language Film

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

There were a number of great foreign language films in 2017. There was The Insult, a drama about how a few harsh words exchanged between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee over a leaky drainpipe that leads to a violent altercation and national attention. There was also On Body and Soul, a magical romance were a man and woman who work together discover that they have the same dreams at night, and decide to make them come true. Both of these come highly recommended, particularly the latter, which has an infectious spirit about it.

If we’re being realistic, though, the standout among this year’s nominees is the Chilean film A Fantastic Woman. A harrowing tale about a transgender singer (played by real transgender actor Daniela Vega) who loses her boyfriend, the film delves into heavy themes of discrimination and mourning without hesitation. It’s a brave, uncompromising film, and one that deserves to be recognized as such.

Who Will Win: A Fantastic Woman

Who Should Win: A Fantastic Woman

Best Live Action Short Film

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

The audacity of DeKalb Elementary is what initially jumps out in the Best Live Action Short category. The film, directed by Reed Van Dyk, is a chilling account of a man who barges onto a school campus with an automatic weapon, only to have a woman attempt to talk him down from going through with it. Equal parts tense and touching, DeKalb Elementary tackles the taboo subject of school shootings from an unexpected angle, making it a easy standout.

My Nephew Emmett and The Eleven O’Clock are similarly knotted in intensity and haste, but the only short that looks as though it could usurp DeKalb Elementary is the heartbreaking film The Silent Child. A deaf girl prepares to enter public school for the first time, and through the encouragement of her sign language teacher, comes to see the world in a different light. It’s handling of deaf people, and the discriminations they often face, is superb, and we could easily see it stealing the hearts of voters.

Who Will Win: DeKalb Elementary

Who Should Win: The Silent Child

Best Animated Short

  • Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
  • Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
  • Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
  • Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
  • Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

As is the case with most animated categories, Pixar is the favorite The studio’s latest offering, Lou, about a playground bully who learns his lesson from the mysterious creature living inside the lost and found box at school, is easily the most recognizable and widely-seen of the nominees. It’ll almost certainly take home the Oscar, even as some of its competitors offer more inventive material.

France’s Garden Party, for example, is a beautiful film about a group of amphibians who wreak havoc inside of an empty mansion. Admittedly odd in premise, the short is at once visually splendid and thought-provoking, given the unexpected twist at the end. We also love Dear Basketball, a generational ode to the sport that’s narrated by NBA legend Kobe Bryant. While the short may lack a sophisticated style, it more than makes up for it with Bryant’s passionate voiceover and the original score.

What Will Win: Lou

What Should Win: Garden Party

Best Animated Film

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

The animated category showed surprising thematic range in 2017, with topics ranging from an Afghani girl who must support her family in The Breadwinner, to an investigation into the life and death of painter Vincent Van Gogh in Loving Vincent. The latter is particularly worth noting, as each of the film’s 65,000 frames were created as an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh. The score, by renowned composer Clint Mansell, is equally as beautiful.

With that said, we all know that Pixar’s Coco is going to walk away the victor. Not only does the film carry the same buoyancy and heart as the studio’s previous winners, but it embraces Mexican culture in a way that’s progressive without coming off as pandering. Plus, Coco has won all of the big pre-Oscar awards, including the Critics’ Choice Award, the Golden Globe, and the Producers Guild Award. Mark it down as another Pixar sweep.

Who Will Win: Coco

Who Should Win: Coco

Best Cinematography

  • Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
  • Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
  • Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
  • Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
  • The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

This category is tricky, as it contains perhaps the biggest divide between who we think will win and who we think should win. Occupying the former is Dan Laustsen, who’s reliance on greens and reds gives The Shape of Water a passionate yet refined beauty. It is the kind of film made to win Oscars for its cinematography, especially given the propensity of director Guillermo del Toro for coming up with inventive designs.

That’s not to take anything away from Laustsen, or other nominees like Hoyte van Hoytema (Dunkirk) and Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), but the best cinematographer this year was, without question, Roger Deakins. The celebrated D.P. forged a visual masterpiece with Blade Runner 2049, a dense, existential affair that was carried largely on the back of his neon cityscapes and textured wastelands. Every shot is sublime eye candy. Simply put, none of his peers come close.

Who Will Win: The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Who Should Win: Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
  • The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
  • Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
  • Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
  • Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

The five contenders here are varied as they are vibrant, with past winners like Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game) joining directors/co-writers James Mangold (Logan) and Dee Rees (Mudbound), who made groundbreaking strides for superhero films and the representation of African American women, respectively. The support for these scripts, particularly the latter two, has been passionate, but if there’s one thing the Adapted Screenplay category is good for, its serving as a condolence prize for a film that lost in any of the bigger categories.

Enter Call Me By Your Name. Luca Guadagnino's aching love story doesn’t look as though it’ll win Best Picture or Best Actor (more on that later), but it’s melancholy beauty should almost certainly result in an Oscar for screenwriter James Ivory. His adaptation of the novel upon which the film is based, most notably in the climactic father-son scene, is emotionally wrenching, and ultimately worth the praise.

Who Will Win: Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory

Who Should Win: Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green

Best Original Screenplay

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

All things considered, the race for Original Screenplay will likely boil down to a pair of actors-turned-directors, Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig. Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani did fine work on The Big Sick, as did Martin McDonagh on Three Billboards, but it is Peele and Gerwig who make the strongest overall cases. The former, a sketch comedian, turned the racial divide into a horror flick that captured the zeitgeist, while the latter, an indie favorite, told an intimate mother-daughter story that struck a nerve with female audiences everywhere.

Either win would prove historic (Gerwig would be the third woman ever), but ultimately, we are going to have to go with Peele on this one. As good as Lady Bird is, it’s ostensibly just another coming-of-age drama. Get Out, on the other hand, is wholly unpredictable in its twists and, in keeping with the category, original. 

Who Will Win: Get Out, Jordan Peele

Who Should Win: Get Out, Jordan Peele

Best Supporting Actress

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

Despite the inclusion of Mary J. Blige, who’s performance in Mudbound was painfully overblown, the contenders here are plentiful. Octavia Spencer does predictably excellent work as a loyal friend in The Shape of Water, and Lesley Manville is icy perfection as the older sister and gatekeeper of Daniel Day-Lewis’ Woodcock in Phantom Thread. That they are not the favorites to win is less a knock against them than it is a reflection of how competitive the supporting actress category is. 

Heading into the homestretch, it appears to be a two-way race between a pair of cantankerous mothers, the first being Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird, and the second being Allison Janney in I, Tonya. Both are supremely entertaining in their limited screen time, whether they’re being supportive of their daughters or hilariously, needlessly cruel. It’s a tough call, but we’re going to have to vote Janney, who’s given the flashier, slightly meatier role. 

Who Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Who Should Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Best Supporting Actor

  • 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

This is one of the few categories where we disagree vehemently with the exclusion of an actor. That actor is Michael Stuhlbarg, a versatile performer who had pivotal roles in not one, but three Best Picture nominees; Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and The Post. He certainly deserved a nod over Christopher Plummer, who’s performance in All the Money in the World was lauded mainly because it allowed for Kevin Spacey’s removal. But I digress. The other nominees are much stronger, highlighting Richard Jenkins’ solemn performance in The Shape of Water and Willem Dafoe’s heartwarming turn in The Florida Project.

We would actually be inclined to pick Dafoe as our favorite, if not for the force of nature that is Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. As a racist cop who tries to do the right thing for once, Rockwell steals every scene from his fellow nominee Woody Harrelson, balancing stupidity with a childlike sweetness that hits you square in the feels. He has the Supporting Actor race locked down, and deservedly so.

Who Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Should Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actress

  • 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

Poor Margot Robbie. In any other year, her firecracker performance in I, Tonya would have made her the favorite, but here, she’s pushed to third in line, behind Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water and Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both are revelatory in their respective roles, but we’d put Hawkins at a slight disadvantage, as she plays the strong female seen in many a Guillermo del Toro movie without much variation.

As for McDormand, decades removed from her Oscar-winning role in Fargo, she trades in heroics for a rotted nihilism that threatens to swallow her whole. She has the courage to be despicable and ugly in Three Billboards, and the fact that we empathize with her nonetheless speaks to her abilities as an actress. The fact that she’s already won the BAFTA and the Golden Globe doesn’t hurt either. McDormand for the win.

Side Note: Can we stop nominating Meryl Streep just because she appears in a film? The fact that Streep took spots away from Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game) and Jennifer Lawrence (mother!) is laughable, and does a disservice to the roles in which she actually deserved to be nominated. 

Who Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who Should Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Actor

  • 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.

We won’t beat around the bush on this one, Gary Oldman is going to win Best Actor. It was set it stone the moment we all saw him as Winston Churchill in the WWII drama Darkest Hour, a film that, for all its shortcomings, was an acting showcase in the classical sense. Oldman dominates every single scene, unrecognizable behind prosthetics and a pitch perfect recreation of Churchill’s voice. Add in the fact that the actor has decades of great work with only a single prior nomination, and it's clear that now is his time to make good. The statue is his to lose.

Timothée Chalamet is a revelation in Call Me By Your Name, conveying both youth and weariness, but he will likely walk away empty handed. The same goes for Daniel Kaluuya, who’s role in Get Out was strong if not especially notable, and Denzel Washington who, for whatever reason, was nominated for his passable turn in the passable Roman J. Israel, Esq. We’ve no idea why he’s on the ballot, frankly. The only actor who poses a legitimate threat to Oldman is Daniel Day-Lewis, who is absolutely fabulous in what is rumored to be his final film, Phantom Thread. The former has momentum behind him, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say the latter may have given the stronger performance.

Who Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Best Director

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

Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig turned in fabulous debuts with Get Out and Lady Bird, but they were films that were characterized largely by their clever, expressive dialogue. The directorial style takes a backseat to the narratives in both cases, which is why we believe they’ll have a much better chance in the Original Screenplay category. This leaves us with three beloved auteurs duking it out for Best Director, none of whom have taken home the award in the past. Paul Thomas Anderson broke away from his Americana epics to craft the lovely chamber piece Phantom Thread, though in its subtlety, the film failed to drum up the necessary hype needed to become a favorite.

Realistically, Guillermo del Toro has the best chance at snatching up the award, given the poetic nature of The Shape of Water, but we maintain that Christopher Nolan, the man behind the WWII epic Dunkirk, is the real winner. Nolan has always been a visionary, and with Dunkirk, he brings his signature mix of scale, emotion, and practical effects to an unprecedented level. In terms of the act of directing, none of his competitors hold a candle.

Who Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Who Should Win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Best Picture

  • 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

At nine nominees, the Best Picture category is, predictably, padded out. Steven Spielberg’s The Post brings up the rear as the least likely contender; a staunch true story that looks to be included more for the wattage of its cast than its quality. Call Me By Your Name was rightfully praised for its tenderness, but the fact that a similarly themed gay romance, Moonlight, took home the statue last year seriously hurts its chances. Indie threats like Get Out and Lady Bird have proven cultural darlings throughout the year, but given that both come from rookie filmmakers, the reward seems to have been the nominations themselves.

With that said, the race has been whittled down to two ironclad contenders: Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water and Martin McDonagh’s crime drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Both films put forth a complex take on taboo material, while providing dynamite roles for their respective leading ladies-- an attribute that has not gone unnoticed in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Though, given del Toro’s recent BAFTA and Golden Globe wins, and McDonagh’s lack of a Best Director nomination-- a historically damning omission-- we are going to have to give the edge to The Shape of Water.

Who Will Win: The Shape of Water

Who Should Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri