I had made the decision not to write my Oscar predictions this year.  The “Big 6” categories all seem like foregone conclusions, so what is the point?  But I changed my mind, because some of the films in the lesser seen categories deserve a mention.

So this is who I think will win, not necessarily who I think should win.

Best Picture:  The Shape of Water

This seems to be a fait accompli, and I’m okay with that.  I liked this movie more than most.  It has charm, and interesting characters, and it is a visual masterpiece.  Could Lady Bird  or Dunkirk sneak in for the win?  Not bloody likely.

Actress:  Frances McDormand

My personal vote favorite is Sally Hawkins, but this one is a slam dunk for McDormand.  History says if you win best actress at the Globes and the SAGs, you are going to win the Oscar too.

Actor:  Gary Oldman

Again, this is an absolute lock.  Oldman had his win sealed months ago, and it really is a powerful and transformative  performance.  It was great to see Daniel Kaluuya get some recognition as well.

Supporting Actress:  Allison Janney

Again, no contest in this category.   I think all five performances in this category are very solid, but Janney is going to win, no doubt.

Supporting Actor:  Sam Rockwell

Rockwell has all the momentum here.  Honestly there were other performances I preferred.  Woody Harrelson is the moral center of Three Billboards, and gives a fantastic performance.  Willem Dafoe is the heart and soul of The Florida Project.  The funny thing is, Dafoe has given a dozen performances better than this one.  He was nominated in this category 31 years ago (!) for Platoon, and probably should have won then.  Since this category is often used as a “lifetime achievement award” of sorts, I would not be unhappy if Dafoe pulled off the upset.

Director:  Guillermo del Toro

I would say this is close to a sure thing.  And I couldn’t be happier.

Cinematography:  Blade Runner 2049

This has to be the year for Roger Deakins, right?  Every other film in this category, except for Darkest Hour, had stand-out cinematography.  But Deakins will win, and he’ll get an ovation and one of the loudest cheers of the night.

Costume Design:  Phantom Thread

This category tends to favor period pieces and fantasies with lush costumes, which would make one lean towards Beauty and the Beast or Victoria & Abdul.   But the film that is about a clothier has to win, right?

Documentary feature:  Strong Island

You can make a case for all five movies in this category.  Some have said that a Steve James win for Abacus will right a previous wrong,  when his fantastic Hoop Dreams was snubbed from even receiving a nomination in 1994.  Last Man in Aleppo is powerful, but Netflix won in the Documentary Shorts category last year with a similar piece.  Most of the pundits are picking Icarus or Faces Places, and either could win.  I am going out on a limb here to predict the voters will select Strong Island,  because it was not only a powerful story, but the best made film of the bunch.

Documentary short:   Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405

I enjoyed all five nominees, and I know many people are picking Traffic Stop.  While Heaven does not have the powerful subject matter of some of the other entries, it is quite simply the most interesting story.  It is compelling and well made, and will appeal to voters.

Film Editing:  Dunkirk

I think this may be the only award that Christoper Nolan’s film comes away with.  I wouldn’t be completely shocked if The Shape of Water took the award here;  if it does, look for a runaway night for Del Toro and company.  But I think Dunkirk is a safe bet.

Foreign Language Film:  A Fantastic Woman

This is a category which is known for surprises.  Many times the “sure thing” has lost to a lesser known film. I did really enjoy Hungary’s entry, On Body and Soul, and Sweden’s The Square, which is a layered film that challenges the viewer to think and to question. But Chile’s entry is a superbly crafted movie, and although Lebanon’s The Insult  has been gaining traction recently, I look to A Fantastic Woman to win the night.

Makeup and Hairstyling:  Darkest Hour

Original Score:  The Shape of Water

If I hear one more person predicting a win for Phantom Thread…  Yes, it is well crafted music.  For an entirely different film.  It is often at odds with the visual;  stuggling, fighting and distracting from what the viewer sees.  Alexandre Desplat will win his second Oscar for del Toro’s film.

Original song:   “Remember Me”, Coco

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman has been gaining traction in recent days, and could easily win.  I think Coco will hold on in a very underwhelming year for original songs.

Production Design:  The Shape of Water

Again, a solid case can be made for all films in this category.   But I think del Toro and company are in for a very good night.

Animated short film:  Dear Basketball

To be clear, I don’t want this film to win.  It is a love letter from Kobe Bryant to the game of basketball.  It is simple, sweet, and memorable.  It is narrated by Kobe Bryant.  It also has a score by John Williams.  Who but Kobe Bryant could get Williams to score a 7 minute short?   My absolute favorite is Garden Party, which has fantastic animation, and a story that is fresh, original and multilayered.  But L.A. is Kobe-town, and I can’t see them not giving this to him.  If Garden Party wins, this will be my highlight of the evening.

Animated feature:  Coco

Coco is great, but honestly, Loving Vincent should win this award.  It was the first ever all-hand-painted movie.  It is visually striking, and tells a great story.  But, you know, Pixar.  Enough said.

Live Action Short:  The Silent Child

This has become perhaps my favorite category at the Oscars.  I’ve been watching the shorts for about ten years, and there are some amazing films being made that are under 40 minutes in length.  And it’s never been easier to see them, with all of the streaming services available.  If you are a movie lover, and you haven’t checked out the films in this category before, give it a chance.   You’ll be glad you did.  DeKalb Elementary could easily win, but I think the final message of The Silent Child ensures it’s victory.  Look for some sign language on stage tonight when it wins.

Sound Editing:  Dunkirk

So, if you need a refresher, the sound editor creates all the non-dialogue and non-music sounds that are heard in a feature film.  The sound mixer takes all of the elements (sound effects, dialogue, score) and finds the right balance or mix for each scene.

Sound Mixing:  Baby Driver

Baby Driver is one of the best mixed films of all time, period.  Many pundits are picking Dunkirk in this category, but it is a crime if Baby Driver doesn’t win.

Visual Effects:  Blade Runner 2049

Yes, I know many prognosticators are saying War for the Planet of the Apes will win, and it very well could.  But I think Blade Runner will pull off the victory here

Adapted Screenplay:  Call Me By Your Name

Normally when you see Aaron Sorkin’s name in the mix, it’s game over.  But Call Me By Your Name will win, for two reasons.  One, it is a lifetime achievement recognition for James Ivory, a long-time academy favorite.  Two, the oft-cited monologue, the words of wisdom that father imparts to son in the movie.

Original Screenplay:  Get Out

This category is Lady Bird‘s only real shot at an Oscar, but I think the academy will choose to acknowledge Jordan Peele instead.  The Big Sick was great, but its nomination is its victory.  Guillermo could win here too.

So, I guess I am predicting a big night for Guillermo Del Toro, and a shutout for Lady Bird.    We will see what the evening brings.  Have fun watching!

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