90th Academy Awards: Predictions And My Somewhat Researched Insight

With only a few days left until the 90th Academy Awards, it’s time to go into my predictions. As usual, some categories have obvious picks, a few are even safe bets, but a good portion of this race is still mostly up in the air. I try to keep track of the awards season and get a feel for what films seem to have earned their way to Oscar glory, but it is never an exact science. This has been one of the more unpredictable races in some time due to a lack of a clear frontrunner, even if The Shape of Water does have 13 nominations. That said, I have laid out all the categories, with some thoughts on what might be happening come Oscar night. 

[Predictions I think will win each category have been highlighted.]

Best Picture: 

“The Shape of Water” 

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” 


“Get Out” 

“Lady Bird”

“Phantom Thread”

“Darkest Hour”

“The Post”

“Call Me by Your Name”

Right off the bat, we have a difficult category. All signs point to Best Picture going to Shape, Billboards or Get Out. The preferential ballot makes this a hard one to really single out, but at the end of the day, Billboards is not a weird movie about fish love or a genre film, which may give it the edge it needs. You can look at things like PGA and DGA awards for Shape vs. the BAFTA and ensemble SAG award for Billboards, but it just all seems to be slanting in one way more than the other, with Get Out right there as a possible spoiler.

Best Director:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan 

"Get Out,” Jordan Peele 

“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig 

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson 

“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

While Best Picture is not a sure bet, the other major categories all seem like locks. Del Toro has won the DGA and has ridden a wave of acclaim throughout award season. The fact that he's a warm personality and well-liked doesn't hurt his chances a bit, let alone being able to join his amigos, Oscar-winners Alejandro Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron. Expect Del Toro to take home a statue. 

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.” 

Gary Oldman is an acclaimed actor who is in the perfect position to win an Oscar. He's in a film that hits all the right marks for this kind of award, and he's also a veteran that's never been rewarded in a fairly weak category, compared to other years.

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” 

This could have been a tighter race, but McDormand has gone on to win all the major actor awards leading up to Oscar night. It's a great category and all these nominees will likely be back at some point in the future.

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” 

There was a time when Dafoe was assured to be taking home an Oscar, but Rockwell has been on a train to Oscar for the latter half of award season, and there seems to be no more competition between the two. Even having his co-star Harrelson right next to him doesn't seem to be hurting the Moon man's chances.

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” 

With all of these acting categories, an upset is never out of my mind. Honestly, I'm not sure where it could happen though, except for this category. While Janney is my pick and indeed an excellent choice for anyone, does the surprising amount of nominations for Phantom Thread make first-time nominee Manville a wildcard upset? Or does Metcalf finally get her due?

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 

Another weaker category for the year, which practically assures the one win that Call Me by Your Name will receive. James Ivory has never won for any of his Merchant/Ivory films, which only further helps the 89-year-old filmmaker for scripting the story for one of the most well-liked films of the season. 

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 

This is tricky. The Big Sick is just happy to be here, so that's not a significant player. The Shape of Water is a film that's gotten more love in other areas (and perhaps the bogus lawsuits haven't helped). Lady Bird is ultimately too slight compared to the other remaining nominees, despite early praise for a possible Gerwig win. So that leaves the two films that are both major rivals when it comes to a potential Best Picture win. I'm going with Peele, as Get Out has an approach to relevant issues in a manner that resonates clearer and allows the film its chance to shine, while Billboards gets its acting awards.

Best Animated Feature:

“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 

A highly successful Pixar film that finds the studio back in the good graces of many. Hard to bet against that, no matter how much indie love has gone into The Breadwinner or Loving Vincent

Best Foreign Language Film:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)

“The Insult” (Lebanon)

“Loveless” (Russia) 

“On Body and Soul (Hungary) 

“The Square” (Sweden) 

I would love to live in a world where The Square wins an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but I feel it's not to be. A Fantastic Woman stars a transgender woman in a time where that sort of story gives it an edge when it comes to garnering an award for its troubles. Don't rule out The Insult either as a possible upset. 

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 

Heavy topics put on display in most of these docs, with Icarus, a Netflix release, getting a lot of ad play during the Winter Olympics. Aleppo comes as a spiritual successor to The White Helmets, which won Best Documentary Short not too long ago, so that doesn't hurt its chances either. Still, Agnes Varda, who just received a lifetime achievement award, has plenty of love and could be shrugging off the competition on the way to the Oscar podium.

Best Film Editing: 

“Baby Driver,” Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

“Dunkirk,” Lee Smith 

“I, Tonya,” Tatiana S. Riegel 

“The Shape of Water,” Sidney Wolinsky 

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Jon Gregory 

Baby Driver has not gone unrewarded for its technical merits involving various forms of editing, but Nolan's Dunkirk is a war film and a Best Picture Nominee. Its non-linear narrative requires a lot of technical finesse that Lee Smith handles with aplomb, so I have no real reason to bet against him in favor of a well-liked summer action flick.

Best Cinematography: 

“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins

“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel 

“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema 

“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison 

“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen 

After much deliberation and recognizing the awards Deakins has one for Blade Runner, I guess it does make sense to not bet against the 13-time loser for finally getting his Oscar. The Shape of Water seems like its closest competition, with Mudbound having the narrative of being the first film to earn a woman a nomination for this category. Still, the moody atmosphere of a neo-noir future has the momentum to go the distance.

Best Sound Editing: 

“Baby Driver,” Julian Slater

“Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini, Theo Green 

“Dunkirk,” Alex Gibson, Richard King 

“The Shape of Water,” Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira 

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Once again I found myself thinking Baby Driver could win out over the big war movie, but this is the big war movie we're talking about, and I don't have much of a reason to say no to all that goes into making that play in theaters and IMAX. All that said, perhaps Blade Runner pulls an Arrival and becomes the sci-fi film that earns a little love here.

Best Sound Mixing:

“Baby Driver,” Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin

“Blade Runner 2049,” Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill

“Dunkirk,” Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo

“The Shape of Water,” Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern 

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick 

The same basic logic applies here, even if musicals tend to win this category. But The Greatest Showman isn't here, and Baby Driver isn't quite a musical, so I'm doubling down on Dunkirk

Best Production Design: 

“Beauty and the Beast,” Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer

“Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola 

“Darkest Hour,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer 

“Dunkirk,” Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis 

“The Shape of Water,” Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau 

Fantastic sets conveying a sense of wonder as far as the quaintness of an apartment and the otherworldliness of the underground science labs; all accomplished on a tight budget. Other films had plenty of money to work with to achieve their goals, but Shape of Water feels unique because of its limits.

Best Original Score:

“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer

“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood 

“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat 

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams 

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell 

It's great to finally see Jonny Greenwood get a nomination for one of his terrific scores on a PTA film. That said, is he really going to match the general loveliness of Desplat's work for on The Shape of Water? Not quite sure, but not entirely counting on it either.

Best Original Song: 

“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens 

"Remember Me" from "Coco," Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Yes, "Remember Me" is a big favorite, but people LOVE The Greatest Showman. Don't count out its lone nomination. 

Best Makeup and Hair:

“Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick

“Victoria and Abdul,” Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard 

“Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten 

Gary Oldman pulled Tsuji out of retirement to have him convincingly look like Winston Churchill. Darkest Hour is also a Best Picture nominee. That's plenty to work in its favor.

Best Costume Design: 

“Beauty and the Beast,” Jacqueline Durran

“Darkest Hour,” Jacqueline Durran

“Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges 

“The Shape of Water,” Luis Sequeira 

“Victoria and Abdul,” Consolata Boyle 

Maybe I think this is too simple, but Phantom Thread is about costume design, and it's the one award that makes the most sense for the film to win. 

Best Visual Effects:

“Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick

“Kong: Skull Island,” Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus 

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon

“War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Apes films have gone home empty-handed for the previous two films. Is this finally the time for Caesar to rise? Blade Runner is its most prominent competition and has multiple nominations in other categories, but I'm holding out hope for the summer movie epic. 

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 

Hard to arrive with a good theory for why any of these should win, so I'll just go with the one Netflix is backing, as Heroin(e) has been available for all to "enjoy."

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 

Call it a hunch, but I'm going to bet against Kobe and award the stop-motion film with a little emotion added, along with some quirky touches.

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 

Not a fan of thinking about recent tragedies in a way that informs how to choose an award-winner, but DeKalb Elementary was my favorite from this bunch before various events occurred. I'm sticking with it here.


And that is it for predictions. We'll see how things turn out, but stay tuned for a couple upcoming Out Now with Aaron and Abe podcast episodes that will go over forecasts again, as well as a fun results show!


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