By Daniel Howat
Our final Oscars analysis is HERE, and it’s a big one. We’ve already broken down the technical categories and the shorts, features, and screenplays. Now it’s time to hit the big six categories: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Picture. Most of these categories are pretty much locked up, so it won’t take too much time to break them down. Except for Best Picture. It’s going to take a lot to figure out the winner there. Settle in.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Even as Best Picture is the toughest race to predict in a great many years, all four acting categories are the most predictable they’ve been ever. Never before have the same people won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG in all four acting categories. Statistically speaking, anyone else winning in any of the acting categories would be completely unprecedented.
In Best Supporting Actor, there has never been an instance of someone winning all four of those precursors and losing the Oscar. Sam Rockwell has won all of the precursors. Only one person has ever won the Oscar without winning any of the precursors, and that was James Coburn in 1998. Though Willem Dafoe got lots of attention from the critics, it’s looking just about impossible for him to defeat Rockwell. It would be crazy to predict anyone else.
Will Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Threat: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Should Win: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Exactly like with Best Supporting Actor, Allison Janney won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. She’s statistically unstoppable. No actress has ever won all four of those and lost the Oscar. Just like Dafoe, Laurie Metcalf did very well in the critics' awards but lost all of the main four precursors. Can she upset Janney? It’s unlikely. The only person to win the Oscar without winning any of those four awards was Marcia Gay Harden in 2000.
Moving away from statistics for a minute, let’s talk about the chance of an upset here. With all four acting categories, it feels too easy. Despite the statistics telling us otherwise, can anyone upset one of these frontrunners? Best Supporting Actress seems like the only place it could happen, though still highly unlikely. Janney is beloved in Hollywood, as evidenced by her eleven Emmy nominations and six wins. This is her first Oscar nomination, and Hollywood may jump at the chance to reward her.
That said, Metcalf is beloved as well. She’s been a consistent presence in Hollywood for years, and very well respected. Her performance is a lot more understated than Janney, which some voters might prefer. Again, statistics tell us that Janney is winning this easily, but if you want to predict an upset, this is the spot to do it.
Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Threat: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Should Win: Laurie Metcalf, I, Tonya
We’ve known this one for almost a year. Gary Oldman’s time has come. This is somehow only his second nomination, and he’ll easily win. He’s won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. Unlike the supporting categories, there has been one instance in which an actor won all four of those precursors and lost the Oscar. Russell Crowe in 2001 had won all of those awards for A Beautiful Mind and was set to win back-to-back Oscars. He ended up losing to Denzel Washington in Training Day. Many see this as an outlier since Crowe had a highly publicized physical altercation with a producer after the BAFTAs that year. Would he have won if not for that attack? We’ll never know.
Gary Oldman isn’t exactly in the clear from a similar loss. He has some domestic abuse allegations in his past, as well as some anti-semitic comments. In the year of #MeToo, could these allegations cause a surprise upset? It’s possible. Timothée Chalamet has been the hit at every red carpet and talk show. He’s solidly in second place. Still, it doesn’t seem likely he can dethrone Oldman. His allegations have remained pretty quiet all season long. While we saw numerous actors in Hollywood get taken down, including James Franco missing an Oscar nomination, Oldman has stayed afloat. Since nothing’s changed on that front, it’s safe to say Oldman is winning on Sunday.
Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Threat: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
This is arguably the most competitive of the four acting categories, but it’s still an easy one to predict. Frances McDormand won BAFTA, Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG. She’ll win the Oscar as well.
Early in the season, critics praise was somewhat spread among a few of these actresses. Once the televised awards hit, that all changed. McDormand took all of them. Saoirse Ronan won the comedy Golden Globe, but that’s unlikely to mean anything. Could Sally Hawkins shock us and win if The Shape of Water starts sweeping and wins Best Picture? Maybe, but unlikely. No reason to dig any deeper into it. McDormand is winning.
Will Win: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Threat: Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Should Win: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
We’re out of the acting categories, but things are still pretty easy to predict. Guillermo del Toro will win for The Shape of Water. He has won BAFTA, Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and DGA. The only person to win all four of those and lose the Oscar was Ben Affleck in 2012, but that was an inexplicable year, resulting in him not even being nominated. Del Toro has no real threats.
Could Greta Gerwig win many votes in this year of female empowerment? Will Christopher Nolan get votes for never having won yet? None of these outcomes is likely, so let’s not belabor the point. Del Toro is winning.
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Threat: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Should Win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
This is the big one. There has never been a more unpredictable Best Picture race. I’ve mostly resigned myself to being wrong here. Out of the nine nominees, we can safely rule out four movies: Phantom Thread, The Post, Call Me By Your Name, and Darkest Hour. There can be a case made for any of the other five nominees winning Best Picture. No matter which film wins, some long-standing statistics will break. Let’s break down those five films and their chances.
There’s not a great chance for Dunkirk to win, but it’s possible. With a preferential ballot, if a film doesn’t get the majority of first-place votes in the first round, the film with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated. Any ballots with an eliminated first place vote will have their second-place film moved to a first-place vote. It’s confusing. But it means that films with lots of second and third place votes could sneak in and win the whole thing.
Dunkirk will benefit from being a film that many people greatly respect. It scored eight nominations, the second most of any film this year. It could easily place number three on a lot of ballots. If voting goes many rounds, Dunkirk could find itself as the surprise winner.
Going against Dunkirk is its lack of screenplay or acting nominations. No film since Grand Hotel in 1932 has won Best Picture without being nominated for its screenplay or acting. That’s a pretty huge hurdle to jump over.
The case for Lady Bird is largely similar to Dunkirk. Its placement on ballots will be greatly helped by the preferential ballot. Will it be number one on the majority of ballots? Probably not. But it will likely rank high up on plenty of ballots. It has essentially no controversy at all, and it was very well received.
Statistics aren’t in Lady Bird’s favor. It would be the first film since Ordinary People in 1980 to win Best Picture without any technical nominations. There’s a reason this stat is solid. Getting technical nominations shows support for the film across the board across the Academy. It's the same reason you want to see writing or acting nominations. Still, if the voting is split enough a lower ranked film can take the final prize. Additionally, neither Dunkirk nor Lady Bird won a single award from PGA, DGA, or WGA. No film has won Best Picture without a win at one of those guilds since 1989.
Yet another film that will benefit from the preferential ballot. Unlike Dunkirk and Lady Bird, though, Get Out benefits from a potential above-the-line win for Best Original Screenplay. Lady Bird will likely lose its acting bids and screenplay. Get Out won the WGA. If Get Out wins Screenplay, it’s chances of winning Best Picture will skyrocket. This is a film that has been in pop culture for a very long time compared to the other films nominated. It’s very well respected, and it’s obviously got a lot to say about race. That will go a long way.
But yet again, statistics don’t favor Get Out. Like Lady Bird, it’s missing any nominations in the technical categories. It also only has four nominations. No film since Cavalcade in 1933 has won Best Picture with fewer than five nominations. Additionally, without winning PGA, DGA, or Best Picture at the BAFTAs or Golden Globes, the cards are certainly stacked against it.
The Shape of Water
If we’re purely talking about statistics, it doesn’t get much better than The Shape of Water. It’s won PGA, which is one of the best predictors to win Best Picture. Wins at DGA and Critics’ Choice help too. With a whopping 13 nominations, it feels like it’s in great shape to win the top prize.
Still, there’s the pesky SAG Ensemble statistic. No film since the first year of the SAG Awards has won Best Picture without first being nominated for Best Ensemble at the SAGs. The only film to do that was Braveheart. It’s an insanely solid statistic. Last year, when La La Land missed the SAG Ensemble nomination, many (including me) predicted this stat would break. As well all know, Moonlight eventually won in the end, keep the statistic alive. The Shape of Water doesn’t have a SAG Ensemble nomination. Get Out, Lady Bird, and Three Billboards do. How strongly do you believe in that statistic?
The PGA and DGA wins, the missing SAG Ensemble nod, the nomination leader; The Shape of Water sounds exactly like La La Land last year, and we all know how that turned how.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Which brings us to our final contender. Three Billboards has won the Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Ensemble. It’s got the key nominations in acting, writing, and editing. It won the Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award. There’s a good chance it would have won WGA had it been eligible. There is clearly huge support for this film. It’s also racking up the wins for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, who are poised to easily win their acting categories.
There’s really only one major issue: it missed the Best Director nomination. Only four films have ever won Best Picture without a Best Director nomination: Wings, Grand Hotel, Driving Miss Daisy, and Argo. As we mentioned in breaking down Best Director, the year of Argo felt like a strange anomaly, but still. Now, Three Billboards certainly doesn’t have the consistent frontrunner status that Argo had. Missing the director nomination hurts. But if McDonagh was nominated there, I’m not sure we would even be discussing whether Three Billboards was going to win. It would be a slam dunk.
But there’s the backlash issue as well. A great many articles have been written complaining about Three Billboards. Many people find Dixon’s character arc problematic (or even downright racist). Still, with as many wins as the film has, it’s hard to believe the backlash has made its way outside the internet. Does the Academy have a problem with the film? We really don’t know, but aside from the lack of a director nomination, it seems they’re fine with the movie.
All of those are good reasons to predict Three Billboards. If I’m being honest, it’s the smart pick. You would be wise to put this on your ballot. But I’m going a different direction. Because of the effect that a preferential ballot can have, and because I believe more people will rank Three Billboards lower than Get Out, I’m going with Get Out to win the whole thing. As I said in my analysis of Best Original Screenplay, I think whichever of these two films win there wins Best Picture and Get Out feels like the winner.
I’m okay with being wrong. After this very long and confusing awards season, I’m really okay with predicting the wrong winner on Sunday night. But as much as I love Three Billboards, I think Get Out stands a chance if and when the voting goes to multiple rounds.
Will Win: Get Out
Threat: ALL OF THEM, but mainly Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Lady Bird
Seeing it on paper is daunting. This really has been the toughest Best Picture season in decades, and possibly ever.
Well, that’s a WRAP on our Oscars analysis for 2018! We’ll have one final bonus episode coming soon to discuss this all in depth. We’ll also have a post-Oscars show to break down all the winners. Stick with the Screeners and join in the conversation.