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A prediction of the Academy Award finalists in acting, directing and Best Picture categories


‘Lady Bird’ and it’s stars Saoirse Ronan (left) and Laurie Metcalf deserve Oscar nominations, as does director Greta Gerwig // Photo credit: Merie Wallace

Before you can look ahead to the new movies released in 2018, you first have to look ahead to the Academy Award nominations and selections for the best movies of 2017. It is the biggest movie event of the year, after all, and a lot of the favored candidates won’t even be opening here until this year — studios wait for Oscars momentum to launch many of their most prestigious end-of-2017 releases into the heartland. So, looking ahead to film in 2018 right now means looking ahead first to Jan. 23 (nominations are announced) and then March 4 (the ceremonies).

Predicting the nominations is a monumental, first-time event for me. In almost 17 years as a film critic, I have never dared to do this. Yet, after attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and seeing and discussing contenders there, and also by noting how wide open the race feels, I am compelled to experiment with exerting a bit of my untapped critical power of prognostication.

In some cases with my predictions, I’m going with films that haven’t even been screened for press in our market yet. And I am limiting myself to major categories, providing a few alternatives to my key nominees as well as hopefully helpful observations about their strengths.

For the first time in several years, there doesn’t appear to be a clear set of frontrunners, which has many challenging the pedigree of potential players. To my mind, I see 2017 simply as one of the more competitive years with a host of compelling narratives that could make an impression on audiences and various voting members of the Academy.

So, I’m trusting my instincts as well as information gleaned from following the receptions to 2017 movies elsewhere.

May the Academy be with me!

You’ll find my list below — I saved the most important category for last. My first one, Best Supporting Actor, feels like a coronation of sorts. I don’t believe I’m going too far out on a limb wagering that my predictions will be the exact nominees. I’m even more comfortable positing that The Florida Project’s Willem Dafoe will finally take the prize that has eluded him after two previous nominations, for 1986’s Platoon and 2000’s Shadow of the Vampire. It’s been a long time coming. Still, it would be quite a feat if Christopher Plummer bum-rushed into the mix for his last-minute insertion into the Ridley Scott hostage thriller, replacing the already filmed Kevin Spacey.

Supporting Actress features two nominees from films I haven’t seen, as of this writing, but based on the consensus of the critics group nominations thus far, I Tonya’s Allison Janney and Phantom Thread’s Lesley Manville appear to be solidly in the discussion. I find my two alternates intriguing, though. In the case of previous winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), her domineering performance casts such a long shadow over Novitiate that it’s damned near impossible to ignore. And Tiffany Haddish has a strong and quite loyal following for her comedic turn in Girls Trip, despite the fact that many found the film to be little more than a broad sexcapade.

I’m not sure I needed to offer alternatives in the Best Actor category because my five nominees have such a stranglehold on our consciousness, whether we’ve seen the films or not.

But there’s a bit of a hedge in my Best Actress grouping because I haven’t seen I, Tonya or The Post, but can you ever go wrong when you include Meryl Streep? And adding Judi Dench as an alternative isn’t much of a stretch either, especially for a film that no one would have noticed without her presence.

Outside of Best Picture, the Best Director category presents the most pitfalls. There’s a big question mark hanging over whether the Motion Picture Academy will be willing to include a pair of first-time nominees (Greta Gerwig and Jordan Peele) while more experienced heavyweight contenders (Paul Thomas Anderson and Guillermo del Toro) are lurking.

I stand firmly behind my eight strong Best Picture nominees and would probably have made a firmer decision about Anderson’s late-arriving Phantom Thread, featuring Daniel Day-Lewis, if it had screened in advance.

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Best Supporting Actor:

Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)

Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)

Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name)

• Possible alternatives: Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World), Jason Mitchell (Mudbound)

Best Supporting Actress:

Mary J. Blige (Mudbound)

Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread)

Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)

• Possible alternatives: Melissa Leo (Novitiate), Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip)

Best Actor:

Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name)

Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread)

Tom Hanks (The Post)

Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.)

• Possible alternatives: James Franco (The Disaster Artist), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger)

Best Actress:

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Meryl Streep (The Post)

• Possible alternative: Judi Dench (Victoria & Abdul)

Best Director:

Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name)

Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Steven Spielberg (The Post)

• Possible alternatives: Paul Thomas Anderson (Phantom Thread), Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Picture:

Lady Bird

The Post

Call Me By Your Name

The Florida Project

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Get Out


The Shape of Water

• Possible alternatives: Phantom Thread, Mudbound (over Darkest Hour)