With the 2018 Academy Awards fast approaching, it’s time to have a think about what’s going to go down on Sunday night. After seeing all the major nominees this year, Shaun Nolan thinks he has a fair idea of what’s going on at the Oscars.

I am a total awards junkie and the Oscars this year is exactly what I am craving. After a year of genuinely incredible pictures, no matter who comes out holding a trophy on Sunday night, I think the real winners here are all of us who got to witness some amazing cinema magic. From the gut-punching and resonating stories of Lady Bird and Call Me by Your Name, to the huge-scale beauties that The Post and The Shape of Water shocked us with, every film I have seen this awards season has been a smash hit – and I really have seen every single major one. But only one can win on Oscar’s night, and who exactly is that one going to be? Here are my predictions on who will win and who should win at the Academy Awards 2018.

 

BEST PICTURE 

Will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should win: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water dir. Guillermo del Toro

The Shape of Water dir. Guillermo del Toro. Photo: Bull Productions/Double Dare You/Fox Searchlight Pictures

The nominees for Best Picture this year have been a unique and varied bunch, ranging from the likes of Get Out – a horror flick by Jordan Peele – to typical Oscar bait like Three Billboards and The Shape of Water. Surprisingly, I enjoyed all the nominees this year (apart from Phantom Thread which I found dry and uninspiring), but there are two that are very clearly the frontrunners for the statuette: Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Both films are by writer-directors and both are released until the Fox Searchlight banner, but that’s about as far as the similarities between these two pictures run. Billboards, by frequent playwright McDonagh, feels like the kind of movie a playwright would make. It’s well-paced, dialogue and plot-heavy and doesn’t, in my eyes, seem to rely very heavily on its cinematic medium. Del Toro’s The Shape of Water on the other hand is a film that could only exist on the big screen in a world that could only exist in cinema. I think both contenders are fantastic, and I adore them both endlessly (see my review of Three Billboards for more on that), but to me, it seems like the Academy will sway towards the more conventional favourite in this case.

Read our review here. 

 

BEST ACTOR

Will win: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

Should win: Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour dir. Joe Wright

Darkest Hour dir. Joe Wright. Photo: Focus Features/Working Title

I think this year’s Best Actor category is a weak one. I mean, for starters, who on Earth is going to remember that Denzel Washington was in a film called Roman J. Israel, Esq. in a few years’ time? Daniel Day-Lewis gave a performance in Phantom Thread that mirrors the kind of performances he always gives, namely the one in Nine and the fact that it comes from a movie that left me resenting it for how boring it was doesn’t help my opinion. Daniel Kaluuya was great in Get Out but, in my eyes, was not giving a performance that deserves an Oscar, same being said for Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name. Perhaps then Gary Oldman is the deserving winner for Darkest Hour, but I still found his performance to be a bit less than fantastic, paling in comparison to John Lithgow’s Churchill on The Crown.

 

BEST ACTRESS

Will win: Frances McDormand for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should win: Margot Robbie for I, Tonya

I, TONYA, dir. I, Tony dir. Craig Gillespie © 30West /Courtesy Everett Collection

I, TONYA, dir. Craig Gillespie © 30West /Courtesy Everett Collection/Clubhouse Pictures/LuckyChap Entertainment

Now this is a category that’s interesting this year with all five women giving incredible performances, so picking a winner in my eyes was a tough one. Considering the natural trajectory of how this awards season has been going, it seems almost impossible that anyone will beat Frances McDormand to the stage on Sunday night, but while she gave a fantastic performance, I don’t think it’s the one deserving of the award. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I think the only person less deserving of the win than McDormand is Meryl Streep for her turn in The Post, which was undeniably fantastic, but equally average by the actress’s standard. But then again: is a superstar actress’s average performance better than most others’ best? Saorise Ronan’s performance in Lady Bird was one to remember for sure, as well as Sally Hawkins’ moving role in The Shape of Water, but most surprisingly, I think it was Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya that really took the biscuit for me here. Her performance was not only multi-faceted and extremely well-nuanced, as I believe all Oscar-winning performances should be, but it was totally transformative by Robbie’s standards. On that screen, Robbie was Tonya Harding and there was no doubting that. She skated rings around any other leading actress performance this season and it’s a turn that should be rewarded handsomely.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will win: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should win: Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dir. Martin McDonagh. Photo: Blueprint Pictures/Film 4/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dir. Martin McDonagh. Photo: Blueprint Pictures/Film 4/Fox Searchlight Pictures

I don’t feel like I need to explain myself all too greatly about this one because he’s a shoo-in for very good reason. Rockwell gives the performance of his career as a racist policeman in Three Billboards and it’s one that is winning him awards well-deservedly; he is despicable and hilarious in equal measure. Perhaps the only great “should win” alternative in this category for me is Willem Dafoe for his turn in The Florida Project, a film that was disgustingly overlooked by the Academy this year as I think it was one of the best films of 2017. Plus, Dafoe is just an all-round awesome guy.

Read our review here. 

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will win: Allison Janney for I, Tonya

Should win: Allison Janney for I, Tonya

I, TONYA dir. Craig Gillespie. Photo: Clubhouse Pictures/LuckyChap Entertainment

I, TONYA dir. Craig Gillespie. Photo: Clubhouse Pictures/LuckyChap Entertainment

Like the race for Best Picture, the competition for Best Supporting Actress this year is incredibly strong, but it has two very clear frontrunners in reasonably similar roles, and it could swing either way. While Lesley Manville was the best part of Phantom Thread, she is always brilliant, and the nomination is more than deserving for the weight of her role. The same is to be said about the always-brilliant Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water. And even Mary J. Blige is very deserving of her nomination for Mudbound; Blige is nominated for two Oscars this year, the other being for Best Original Song, making her the first actress in Oscar history to achieve a feat like this. The real race here though is between Allison Janney, who plays a twisted mother in I, Tonya and Laurie Metcalf, who also plays a bit of a twisted mother in Lady Bird. Both actresses are more than captivating in their performances in this work and everything else they do, but for me, Allison Janney has the edge in a performance that has had people whispering “Oscar” around her since I, Tonya started its tour around the awards circuit. But again, this is a category that could go for either of them and I wouldn’t be at all surprised or upset by the outcome.

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Will win: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

Should win: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water

Richard Jenkins, director Guillermo del Toro and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Photo:

Richard Jenkins, director Guillermo del Toro and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Photo: Bull Productions/Double Dare You/Fox Searchlight Pictures

This is a category that I found extremely hard to make my mind up with in regard to “should win”. Every director in this category has done some stellar work this year and all of them are deserved nominees in my eyes. While I’m open about my dislike for Phantom Thread, I do think that Paul Thomas Anderson redeemed his poor script with some fantastic direction, crafting a movie that would’ve been exceptional had he fixed its pacing problems and unlikeable characters; funnily, I think he did the best he could with the sub-part script that he gave himself. Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig alike make fantastic debuts in two standout movies of last year, but this early on in their careers, I think the nomination is more than enough of a win. The real fight of 2018 is between Christopher Nolan for Dunkirk and Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water. For me, the race would be an easier one to call if I could see a definitive line in the sand between Nolan’s direction and Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography as, for me, I’m having a hard time distinguishing which of those two crafts is sticking in my head most for that film. Del Toro would be a very worthy winner for me as the director, writer and producer of this picture and it seems likely he’ll be taking it home, too.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will win: Coco

Should win: Coco

Coco dir: Lee Unkrich. Photo: Disney Pixar

Coco dir: Lee Unkrich. Photo: Disney Pixar

I really do have nothing to say for this one. When the brilliance of Coco is up against the averageness of The Boss Baby, there is no question. I detail more of why in my review.

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will win: James Ivory for Call Me by Your Name

Should win: James Ivory for Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name dir. Luca Guadagnino. Photo: Frenesy Film Company/La Cinéfacture/RT Features

Call Me By Your Name dir. Luca Guadagnino. Photo: Frenesy Film Company/La Cinéfacture/RT Features

All of these films had brilliant scripts, there is no doubting that, but there is one nominee here that should win for sure and would still win if all of the screenplays were lumped into the same category. Call Me by Your Name seems to be so clearly Oscar-baity that it’s almost sold itself out of the competition when it comes to Best Picture, but while I don’t think it’s deserving of such a huge nod as that one, I do think that its atmospheric and heart-wrenching script is more than deserving. When I was moved to tears by this film and left questioning my life for days after watching it, it was the script that was getting to me and the story being told through the dialogue, not the sum of its part as the Best Picture award typically rewards. While I also particularly loved the likes of biopics The Disaster Artist and Molly’s Game (the latter especially), there’s something subtly groundbreaking about this little indie-that-could.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will win: Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Should win: Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird

Lady Bird dir. Greta Gerwig. Photo: Scott Rudin Productions

Lady Bird dir. Greta Gerwig. Photo: Scott Rudin Productions

This category is much harder to call than adapted screenplay, not least because I adore all the stories that these films told. Get Out was pretty groundbreaking in its genre-defying storytelling, and the same kind of thing could be said about the semi-autobiographical comedy The Big Sick by married comedy couple Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Even The Shape of Water felt like it was treading ground that few would dare to tread too. But there are two stories that really stood out to me this year as being ones that impressed me greatly. McDonagh’s Three Billboards should win the Oscar here no matter what really, but I especially think it’s deserving if The Shape of Water trumps it for Best Picture. McDonagh is a masterful playwight whose work on stage has never ceased to engage with me. He has a genius way of putting characters on stage that look nothing like you but are exactly like you, even if you don’t notice it at first. This brilliance rings through his script for Three Billboards in the kind of quirky and unique story that I’m sure will draw viewers in for decades to come. The only film that exceeds that for me is Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, a film that I went into expecting goodness and left having witnessed greatness. It ignited a nostalgic flame within me that I haven’t been able to blow out since, proving that there is nothing more arresting than an exceptionally well-told coming-of-age tale.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will win: Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water

Should win: Alexandre Desplat for The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water dir. Guillermo del Toro. Photo: Bull Productions/Double Dare You/Fox Searchlight Pictures

The Shape of Water dir. Guillermo del Toro. Photo: Bull Productions/Double Dare You/Fox Searchlight Pictures

In my eyes, a deserving winner of Best Original Score should be a score that felt as vital to the film’s success as any of the leading characters and The Shape of Water is the only film that can boast that. In a way, Alexander Desplat’s score for this movie was as much a character as the water creature, with soaring melodies that are playing in my head as I write this now. And the haunting rendition of “You’ll Never Know”, performed for the soundtrack by vocal sensation Renee Fleming, is a haunting masterpiece.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will win: “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman

Should win: “Remember Me” from Coco

The Greatest Showman dir. Michael Gracey. Photo: Chernin Entertainment/TSG Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox

The Greatest Showman dir. Michael Gracey. Photo: Chernin Entertainment/TSG Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox

And finally (for me anyway) is the Best Original Song category, one that I have some strong opinions about this year. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that it’s no secret how much I detested The Greatest Showman last year – even now, I cannot fathom how people feel so engaged by a movie that, for me, entirely lacked substance and was held even further back by its weak score. Somehow though, the film’s anthem “This Is Me” has grown on me and I can see why it is the shoo-in for the Oscar (after winning the Golden Globe, the song was used as the anthem for America’s Winter Olympics coverage), but I still don’t think it’s the deserved winner out of the category. Coco’s lead song “Remember Me” should win for its versatility alone, never mind how beautiful it is to start with. The song is sung in the movie three times, each time in a completely different context and style: the first as a pop hit, the second as an acoustic lullaby, and the third as an acapella incantation. Surely any song that can be as versatile as this is worthy of an Oscar, no?

The 90th Annual Academy Awards take place this Sunday, March 4th.