Our extremely early 2018 Oscar predictions

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo Movies
Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water, Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes. (Photos: Fox Searchlight/Focus)

Conventional wisdom used to hold that the Oscar race officially began at September’s Toronto International Film Festival. But in recent years, studios and distributors have decided to premiere more of their prestige fare at fests in Telluride and Venice, getting a head start on the gold rush by, oh, a week or two. And that’s not counting the increasing number of contenders hatching at Sundance, which unfolds in January at about the same time as the previous year’s slate of films is being celebrated at various awards ceremonies.

The truth: Oscar season has no beginning or end; it’s everlasting, ubiquitous, perpetual, surrounding us always — whether we like it or not.

But following the festivals in Telluride, Venice, and Toronto, we have much more clarity on which films have momentum leading into the awards season. The list includes Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi romance The Shape of Water; Joe Wright’s Winston Churchill biopic, Darkest Hour; and Martin McDonagh’s darkly comic crime mystery, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Meanwhile, a couple of Sundance premieres (Dee Rees’s Mudbound and Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name) held serve as they reached (slightly) wider audiences.

Keeping in mind that there are still a few high-profile films on the way that no one has seen, most notably Steven Spielberg’s The Post and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie (which should really have a title by now), here’s my first crack at handicapping the top six categories at the 2018 Academy Awards. Don’t worry, we still have four months to figure it out, but that’s nothing in the infinite span of Oscar season.

BEST PICTURE

For all the brouhaha about the dismal box office, 2017 is actually shaping up to be a really good year when it comes to the quantity of quality. There were at least six legit Best Picture contenders (Mudbound, Call Me by Your Name, The Big Sick, Get Out, Wonder Woman, and Dunkirk) that premiered before the calendar even flipped to August. And while The Shape of Water and Three Billboards (which won TIFF’s audience prize, often a Best Picture predictor) are trending upward, there’s a lack of clear frontrunners, unlike this time last year, when La La Land and Moonlight had already established themselves as co-favorites. For now, the race will be suspenseful, unless Spielberg has anything to say about it.

Early predix:
The Big Sick
Blade Runner 2049
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Mudbound
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Other contenders:
Wonder Woman, Battle of the Sexes, Downsizing, The Disaster Artist, Logan, The Beguiled, Wonderstruck, Wind River, The Florida Project, Molly’s Game, War for the Planet of the Apes, Detroit

Remaining to be seen:
The Paper, Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie, The Greatest Showman, Wonder Wheel, Last Flag Flying, All the Money in the World, Wonder

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

BEST DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan has to be the early frontrunner here, given the sheer technical wizardry of his World War II thriller, Dunkirk, but he could face some stiff competition from Joe Wright for Darkest Hour, which many critics feel works like a companion piece. Guillermo del Toro also feels like a nomination lock for The Shape of Water. Dee Rees, meanwhile, stands to become the first black woman ever nominated for Best Director and only the fifth woman OF ALL TIME (a number so low that it will never not be shocking, thus the necessity for caps lock). But again, we’re still waiting on Spielberg and Anderson.

Early predix:
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Luca Guadagnino, Call Me by Your Name
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Dee Rees, Mudbound
Joe Wright, Darkest Hour

Other contenders:
Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049), Alexander Payne (Downsizing), Jordan Peele (Get Out), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game), Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Battle of the Sexes), James Mangold (Logan)

Remaining to be seen:
The Paper (Steven Spielberg), Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie (PTA), Wonder Wheel (Woody Allen), Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater)

BEST ACTRESS

In a refreshing twist, it’s the lead actress category that’s overflowing with worthy contenders. There are at least 10 performances so far that feel award-worthy, led by Sally Hawkins’s raved-about turn as a mute who meet-cutes a merman in The Shape of Water. The downside of this category? #BestActressSoWhite.

Early predix:
Judi Dench, Victoria and Abdul
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Emma Stone, Battle of the Sexes

Other contenders:
Annette Bening (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool), Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya), Carey Mulligan (Mudbound), Diane Kruger (In the Fade), Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman)

Remaining to be seen:
The Paper (Meryl Streep), Wonder Wheel (Kate Winslet)

Denzel Washington in Roman J. Israel, Esq. (Photo: Sony)

BEST ACTOR

It sounds absurd proclaiming this so early, but by all indications this race is Gary Oldman’s to lose. The 59-year-old Brit, who surprisingly has been nominated only once (for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2012) but didn’t win, has mesmerized critics since Darkest Hour debuted at Telluride. Denzel Washington should also be in the mix for his decidedly un-Denzel-ish turn as a righteous defense attorney who falls somewhere on the spectrum, though Roman J. Israel, Esq. as a whole didn’t exactly wow reviewers.

Early predix:
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
James Franco, The Disaster Artist
Jake Gyllenhaal, Stronger
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Other contenders:
Christian Bale (Hostiles), Matt Damon (Downsizing), Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes), Chadwick Boseman (Marshall), Andrew Garfield (Breathe), Sam Elliott (The Hero), Jamie Bell (Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool), Jeremy Renner (Wind River)

Remaining to be seen:
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie (Daniel Day Lewis), The Paper (Tom Hanks), The Greatest Showman (Hugh Jackman)

Allison Janney in I, Tonya (Photo: Toronto International Film Festival)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Like Best Actress, the Best Supporting Actress category appears deeper than it has in eons, and there’s no doubt a tough decision looming for voters: Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) all give sharply humorous and at times heartbreaking performances, though my early money is on Janney, who would be a first-time nominee. Also look out for Hong Chau, even though her breakout role in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing (in which the Vietnamese-American actress speaks in broken English as a Vietnamese immigrant) might potentially prove controversial for advancing stereotypes.

Early predix:
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Holly Hunter, The Big Sick
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Other contenders:
Hong Chau (Downsizing), Michelle Pfeiffer (Mother!), Melissa Leo (Novitiate), Kristin Scott Thomas (Darkest Hour), Kirsten Dunst (The Beguiled), Rosamund Pike (Hostiles), Tatiana Maslany (Stronger), Catherine Keener (Get Out), Lois Smith (Marjorie Prime)

Remaining to be seen:
Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Movie (Lesley Manville), The Greatest Showman (Michelle Williams), All the Money in the World (Michelle Williams again), The Paper (Sarah Paulson), Wonder (Julia Roberts)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Here’s another race that’s wide open — admittedly, as it should be in September. If Mudbound continues to catch on, bank on Jason Mitchell (due after Straight Outta Compton), who stands out in an excellent ensemble. Pundits are largely split on who the favorite is, with Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), and Michael Stuhlbarg or Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name) all with their proponents, though I’m hoping everyone also loves Ray(mond) Romano for his surprisingly touching dramatic turn in The Big Sick.

Early predix:
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Jason Mitchell, Mudbound
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Ray Romano, The Big Sick
Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me by Your Name

Other contenders:
Mark Rylance (Dunkirk), Christoph Waltz (Downsizing), Ben Mendelsohn (Darkest Hour), Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), Colin Farrell (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Idris Elba (Molly’s Game), Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Sterling K. Brown (Marshall), Daniel Craig (Logan Lucky)

Remaining to be seen:
All the Money in the World (Kevin Spacey), Last Flag Flying (Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, or Bryan Cranston), The Post (Bob Odenkirk)

Watch Christopher Nolan talk about directing Dunkirk:


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