Hollywood’s big night: Oscar predictions for Sunday’s telecast

By Joe Baress and Rebecca Kivak

Associated Press

From social commentary to fantasy romance to biting biopics, movie lovers will always feel the impact of 2017.

Only one can take home the trophy in each category, but more importantly, Sunday’s 90th Academy Awards gives viewers an opportunity to look back at a year they’ll never forget.

Best Picture:

r “Call Me By Your Name”

r “Darkest Hour”

r “Dunkirk”

r “Get Out”

r “Lady Bird”

r “Phantom Thread”

r “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

r “The Post”

r “The Shape of Water”

This year’s Best Picture battle comes down to a two-horse race, with a third that could shake things up.

The excellent but divisive “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” boasts a fierce lead performance by Frances McDormand, sharp script and complex look at human nature. With seven Academy Award nominations, the black comedy is riding momentum from its Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild wins.

Guillermo del Toro’s dark fairy tale “The Shape of Water” poses a formidable threat, leading all films with 13 nominations. The romantic fantasy features gorgeous cinematography, an homage to classic cinema and dynamic performances. It also scored Producers Guild and Directors Guild wins, which are strong predictors of the Best Picture winner.

However, a dark horse could emerge in Jordan Peele’s brilliant horror satire “Get Out.”

“The Shape of Water” is exquisite and enchanting. But the hard-hitting “Three Billboards” will take home the hardware.

Best director:

r Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”

r Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

r Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

r Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

r Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

This category pits first-time director Jordan Peele and first-time solo director Greta Gerwig against veterans Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson, all looking for his or her first Oscar win for directing. Peele (“Get Out”) and Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) excelled despite limited experience. Both films earned 99 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer, the highest ratings of 2017.

After 20 years as a director, Nolan earned his first nomination with the stirring World War II epic “Dunkirk.” But this is del Toro’s time. Robbed of a directing nomination in 2007 for Spanish-language film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” del Toro returned with a stronger film, “The Shape of Water.” The movie excels in so many facets; it earned 13 nominations. Del Toro also won the Golden Globe for best director. He’ll win it here, too.

Best Actor:

r Timothe Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”

r Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out

r Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

r Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Early awards buzz favored Timothe Chalamet, who delivers an emotionally charged performance in the beautiful coming-of-age drama “Call Me By Your Name.” Daniel Day-Lewis also is compelling as a domineering dressmaker in “Phantom Thread,” in what he has said will be his last film role.

But Gary Oldman owns the Best Actor category, winning every award under the sun for his nuanced turn as Winston Churchill in the World War II drama “Darkest Hour.” Donning prosthetics and makeup, Oldman completely disappears into the role of the eloquent prime minister during his tumultuous first days in office.

There’s no contest here. Oldman finally will win that elusive Oscar.

Best actress:

r Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

r Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

r Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”

r Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”

Meryl Streep, “The Post”

A stacked category, best actress boasts some of the best performances of 2017 of all of the 20 acting nominees (men and women). Young talents Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie will be mainstays for years to come, while Frances McDormand goes for her second Oscar win. And let’s not forget Meryl Streep, who earned her 21st Oscar nomination and has three wins.

But Sally Hawkins separates herself with her performance in “The Shape of Water.” Her character is mute, communicates via sign language and conveys emotion through body language. The unique and expert portrayal gives her the slight edge in an all-star category.

While Ronan earned best actress in a musical or comedy at the Golden Globes, McDormand has the momentum. She won best actress in a drama at the Golden Globes and best actress at the SAG awards.

Best supporting actor:

r Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

r Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

r Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

r Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

r Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Though Sam Rockwell has emerged as the favorite, Richard Jenkins also gives an award-worthy performance. His relationship with best actress nominee Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” needs to thrive for the movie to work and Jenkins gels perfectly with his co-star.

Christopher Plummer commands the screen as Jean Paul Getty in “All the Money in the World.” Plummer jumped into the role about a month before the film’s release after sexual misconduct accusations surfaced against Kevin Spacey, who completed the movie as Getty before the scandal. It’s an amazing achievement for the veteran actor to earn a nomination.

Sam Rockwell’s character in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” starts the film as a racist cop, but his arc forces Rockwell to shift his personality. The fluent and believable character growth earned Rockwell best supporting actor at the Golden Globes and SAG awards. His run should continue.

Best Supporting Actress:

r Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

r Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

r Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

r Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

In the edgy biopic “I, Tonya,” Allison Janney transforms herself into LaVona Golden, the acerbic, abusive mother of fallen figure skater Tonya Harding. It’s a raw performance that has garnered her a Golden Globe, SAG and more critical awards.

Janney walks a tricky tightrope. It’s hard to watch her push and slap her daughter (Margot Robbie), yet she commands the audience’s attention, even breaking the fourth wall to engage us.

Laurie Metcalf could pop up as an upset, playing a more understated mother trying to understand her teenage daughter in the charming “Lady Bird.” But expect Janney to skate away with the gold.

Best Original Screenplay:

r “Get Out”

r “Lady Bird”

r “The Big Sick”

r “The Shape of Water”

r “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Another two-film battle is shaping up here. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a gripping story about morality and judgment. Martin McDonagh’s crackling script sets off an emotional rollercoaster, exploring the gray area between justice and vengeance. Its bold screenplay has earned recognition from the Golden Globes and British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

But “Get Out” cleverly tackles race relations in America at a pivotal time. Peele’s groundbreaking screenplay addresses systemic racism by subverting horror tropes. The genre-bending film, which still is being talked about a year after its release, won the Writers Guild award for best original screenplay.

Though “Three Billboards” has a lot to say, the staying power and relevance of “Get Out” will translate to Oscar gold.

Best adapted screenplay:

r “Call Me by Your Name”

r “The Disaster Artist”

r “Logan”

r “Molly’s Game”

r “Mudbound”

r “Logan” earning a nomination in this category adds legitimacy to the comic book genre, and the legendary Aaron Sorkin (“Molly’s Game”) always has a shot at an Oscar when he writes a screenplay.

But nothing stands up to the beautiful relationship built in “Call Me by Your Name.” Michael Stuhlbarg’s speech toward the end of the film resonates more than anything that happens in other movies in this category. The script takes chances and all of them pay dividends to the film’s final product.

Best Original Song:

r “Mighty River,”

r “Mudbound”

r “Mystery of Love,”

r “Call Me By Your Name”

r “Remember Me,”

r “Coco”

r “This Is Me,” “The Greatest Showman”

r “Stand Up for Something,”

r “Marshall”

Mary J. Blige’s beautiful ballad “Mighty River,” from the Jim Crow South epic “Mudbound,” is a stirring call for racial harmony. But it’ll be hard to top “This Is Me” from the hit feel-good musical “The Greatest Showman.” The powerful anthem of acceptance has struck a chord with audiences, helping drive the movie’s soundtrack all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

“This Is Me” claimed the Golden Globe for best original song, a good indicator of Oscar success. Expect songwriters Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, who won their first Academy Award last year for the catchy “City of Stars” from “La La Land,” to go for back-to-back wins.

Best animated feature:

r “The Boss Baby”

r “The Breadwinner”

r “Coco”

r “Ferdinand”

r “Loving Vincent”

Pixar once again rules the animated world with the spectacular “Coco,” which transports audiences into Mexican culture. The fascinating tale about the Day of the Dead, the enthralling music and voice talent and eye-popping animation make it a slam-dunk. The emotionally powerful “Coco” deserved consideration for best picture.

Waverly native and Abington Heights graduate Lisa Marie Stetler produced “Ferdinand,” which will struggle to top the Pixar juggernaut.


- WHAT: The 90th Academy Awards

- WHEN: Suday at 8 P.M.


- DETAILS: Jimmy Kimmel hosts the live awards show from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.