A few years ago, #OscarSoWhite ruled conversations surrounding the Academy Awards and its failure to recognize more people of color in its acting categories. This year, that hashtag could well turn into #OscarSoBlack, not because those up for awards have become more diverse, but because that color may dominate the ceremony on Sunday night (Monday morning in Manila).
Expect more attendees, particularly women, to wear black—the color of choice for proponents of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, which emerged in the wake of the sexual harassment and sexual assault revelations rocking Hollywood since last year. Expect winners and presenters to be more vocal and more political than usual. Expect the unexpected.
It remains to be seen if the changes these movements have sparked would last. They very well could, judging by their quick mobilization and momentum. But what is not going to change is that Tinseltown would continue to celebrate its finest achievements of the previous year. The eight major categories below show just how fine they were.
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominees: Call Me By Your Name, by James Ivory; The Disaster Artist, by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber; Logan, by Scott Frank and James Mangold and Michael Green; Molly’s Game, by Aaron Sorkin; Mudbound, by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees.
Most likely to win: Call Me By Your Name. For one, this lauded gay coming-of-age drama is the lone Best Picture contender in this category. It already earned key precursor prizes from the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta). And the idea of honoring 89-year-old Ivory, director of the hypertasteful, Oscar-winning versions of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View and Howards End, and his splendid adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel may be too irresistible to voters.
Most likely to upset: Mudbound. Like Call Me By Your Name, this much-admired adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2008 book, about two families—one white, one black—in 1940s Mississippi, is also nominated in other categories. A win for filmmaker Rees and collaborator Williams would continue the success African-American screenwriters have enjoyed in this category since the beginning of this decade.
Best Original Screenplay
Nominees: The Big Sick, by Emily Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani; Get Out, by Jordan Peele; Lady Bird, by Greta Gerwig; The Shape of Water, by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, by Martin McDonagh.
Most likely to win: Get Out. Of the three categories comedian-director Jordan Peele is nominated in, this is where he is most favored to win. It would be well-deserved; his acclaimed horror-satire on racism struck nerves across America and elsewhere in February last year. That he already picked up the WGA original-script prize boosts his already strong chances.
Most likely to upset: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Voters shocked by his exclusion from the Best Director race may hand Irish-British playwright and filmmaker McDonagh the Oscar as a consolation prize. It would certainly outshine the Golden Globe and Bafta awards he received for penning the provocative and profanity-filled black comedy.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Mary J. Blige, in Mudbound; Allison Janney, in I, Tonya; Lesley Manville, in Phantom Thread; Laurie Metcalf, in Lady Bird; and Octavia Spencer, in The Shape of Water.
Most likely to win: Janney. For her portrayal of LaVona Golden, the abusive and colorful stage mother of retired skater Tonya Harding, Janney has been winning awards left and right. The Golden Globe, Bafta, Screen Actors Guild (SAG)—she has them all. An Oscar would not only reward her “Golden” work in her movie, but also for being such a consistently solid and dependable performer in film and especially television.
Most likely to upset: Metcalf. If voters find Janney’s LaVona too much, then Metcalf’s Marion McPherson, the exasperated mother of a complicated high-school senior nicknamed “Lady Bird,” offers a more relatable alternative. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), and National Board of Review (NBR) think so, as the prizes they gave her proved. And an Oscar would be a swell addition to her three Emmys and one Tony.
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Willem Dafoe, in The Florida Project; Woody Harrelson, in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Richard Jenkins, in The Shape of Water; Christopher Plummer, in All the Money in the World; Sam Rockwell, in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Most likely to win: Rockwell. As a racist and violent cop who undergoes an unexpected transformation, Rockwell garnered much praise for lending humanity to and drawing sympathy for an essentially unsympathetic character. Like Janney, he nabbed all the industry’s key precursor awards. Like her, he is much respected in Tinseltown for his rock-like reliability.
Most likely to upset: Harrelson. On any other day, screen veteran Dafoe would be the alternate pick. After all, he received several critics’ prizes—from LA and New York, and from NSFC and NBR—for his turn as a protective motel manager in The Florida Project. But the voters’ apparent love for Three Billboards could propel Harrelson, another well-liked industry player who portrays Rockwell’s cancer-stricken boss, to the top and cop that Oscar.
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, in The Shape of Water; Frances McDormand, in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Margot Robbie, in I, Tonya; Saoirse Ronan, in Lady Bird; Meryl Streep, in The Post.
Most likely to win: McDormand. If most Oscar observers and insiders are to be believed, there is no way previous winner McDormand would be denied her second Academy Award. Her ferocious turn as a grieving mother outraged by the local police’s inaction over her daughter’s rape and murder has resonated with a lot of viewers. They included Golden Globe, SAG, and Bafta voters, who gave her their lead-actress prize. For some people, her unadorned, take-no-bulls*it onscreen and offscreen persona embodies the spirit of the #TimesUp movement.
Most likely to upset: Hawkins. There is general consensus that The Shape of Water would not be as great as it is without Hawkins’ luminous performance as a mute janitress at a secret US government facility who falls for the Amazonian fish man held there. No one will complain if she clinches the Oscar instead of McDormand; that’s how fantastic she is in the film.
Nominees: Timothée Chalamet, in Call Me By Your Name; Daniel Day-Lewis, in Phantom Thread; Daniel Kaluuya, in Get Out; Gary Oldman, in Darkest Hour; Denzel Washington, in Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Most likely to win: Oldman. Actors who physically transformed themselves or portrayed vivid real-life figures (or both) often get the Academy’s attention (and vote). Robert de Niro in Raging Bull, Day-Lewis in My Left Foot and now Oldman in Darkest Hour proved this. The Golden Globes, SAG, and Bafta already rewarded his sensational portrayal of the larger-than-life British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Oscar is expected to follow suit.
Most likely to upset: Chalamet. Among this year’s acting nominees, 22-year-old Chalamet has been making waves the most, not only onscreen, but also on the awards circuit. His captivating turn as a 17-year-old falling in love with his father’s research assistant earned him awards from the New York and LA critics, as well as nods from other award-giving groups. If voters somehow find Oldman’s Churchill too hammy for their tastes, then Chalamet is their guy.
Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson, for Phantom Thread; Greta Gerwig, for Lady Bird; Jordan Peele, for Get Out; Guillermo del Toro, for The Shape of Water; Christopher Nolan, for Dunkirk.
Most likely to win: Del Toro. By most accounts, Del Toro has this in the bag. After all, he has collected trophies from several critics’ groups, Golden Globes, Bafta and, most important, the Directors Guild of America. And he is widely respected in the industry. And wouldn’t it be cool for him to finally join his good friends, fellow Mexican helmers Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Iñarritu, in the Oscar-winning directors club?
Most likely to upset: Nolan. If Nolan somehow beats Del Toro in this particular race—and it’s possible, given how many viewers marveled at how he expertly marshaled his World War 2 drama’s technical elements—it would be partly seen as making up for this category’s previous snubbing of his widely praised efforts in Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception.
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.
Most likely to win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Sure, its director was not nominated, but that didn’t stop Ben Affleck’s Argo from winning five years ago. Its clinching the top prize at the Golden Globes and Bafta, as well as the SAG’s best ensemble trophy, certainly boosts its chances.
But what really makes McDonagh’s film the favorite is that it is resonating with people in a way that most, if not all its competitors are not. And it is having a significant cultural impact in the US, as the three billboards blasting Sen. Marco Rubio in the wake of the Florida school massacre on Valentine’s Day recently proved.
Most likely to upset: The Shape of Water. The last couple of years have seen movies with the highest number of Oscar nominations losing the top prize. Keeping this is mind, the prospect of Del Toro’s enthralling fantasy-romance winning may not be that hot, but it can still surprise. That it earned a leading 13 nods shows broad support, and its winning the top award at the Producers Guild of America should help.
In a time we’re grappling with gods and monsters—figurative and otherwise—and how they treat each other, The Shape of Water reflects that in a profound way.
The 90th Annual Academy Awards will be aired on HBO Asia (SkyCable and Destiny Cable channel 54, Cignal TV channel 53, and Cablelink channel 46) starting at 7:30 a.m. on March 5.