Oscar Nomination Predictions 2018: Who’ll Have the Shape of Oscar?

“The Shape of Water” and “Dunkirk” will lead the pack, but with 24 categories there’s a lot of glory to go around

Last Updated: January 22, 2018 @ 8:49 AM

In one of the most unsettled Oscars seasons in memory, the toughest category to figure out may be Best Picture.

But first, we have to figure out what’s going to get nominated — and while five or six films and more than a dozen actors seem secure in their chances of scoring nods, there are plenty of question marks up and down the Oscar ballot.

In all likelihood, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” will lead all films in nominations — I have it nabbing 12 nominations, which would put it two shy of the record shared by “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land.” That seems a little high, but the runners-up — “Dunkirk” with eight, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” with seven and “Lady Bird,” “Get Out” and “Call Me by Your Name” with five — feel about right.

Here are my best guesses in all 24 categories, with potential nominees listed in order of likelihood:

BEST PICTURE
Five films seem very safe in the Oscars’ top category, and two more relatively safe: “Lady Bird,” “The Shape of Water,” “Get Out,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Dunkirk” as the top five, with “Call Me by Your Name” and “The Post” just behind (though the lack of guild support for Steven Spielberg’s drama is troubling). With the Academy’s system capable of producing anywhere from five to 10 Best Picture nominees, I have a feeling this year could only yield those seven, though history suggests that eight or nine films often make the cut.

If so, the final one or two will likely be drawn from “Phantom Thread,” which just might have enough fanatic devotees to benefit from the preferential system; “I, Tonya” and “Molly’s Game,” which have done very well in guild voting; “The Florida Project,” which once seemed to be a likely nominee and could still squeeze in; “Darkest Hour,” which also seemed likely as well; and “The Big Sick” and “Mudbound,” which received key SAG ensemble nominations.

Predicted nominees: “The Shape of Water,” “Lady Bird,” “Get Out,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Dunkirk,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “The Post”
If nine films are nominated (which experience says might happen): “I, Tonya,” “The Florida Project”
If somehow 10 films get in (which they won’t): “The Big Sick”

BEST DIRECTOR
The Directors Guild nominated Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) and Jordan Peele (“Get Out”).

Most years, the Academy goes for four of the five DGA nominees, which might mean dropping Peele, Gerwig or McDonagh in favor of Sean Baker (“The Florida Project”), Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”) or Steven Spielberg (“The Post”).

Certainly, the Academy’s Directors Branch has confounded expectations before, and in the last two years the branch has grown by more than 25 percent — largely with the admission of international voters who may be harder to predict. Heck, they could even make up for snubbing Ridley Scott for “The Martian” by nominating him for his 11th-hour save of “All the Money in the World,” though that’s a complete long shot. But here’s guessing that for once, they stick with the DGA slate.

Predicted nominees: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”; Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”; Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”; Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

BEST ACTOR
There’s one big question in this category: Will James Franco get a nomination? The “Disaster Artist” director and star seemed on track for one until a number of women surfaced to accuse him of sexual misconduct in the wake of his Golden Globes win. The most damning of those accusations came only one day before Oscars voting ended — so while the accusations undoubtedly cost him some votes, he probably already had enough to get in.

Gary Oldman and Timothée Chalamet are locks for “Darkest Hour” and “Call Me by Your Name,” and “Phantom Thread” star Daniel Day-Lewis probably is as well — so if Franco gets in, the last slot will go to Tom Hanks (“The Post”), Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”), Jake Gyllenhaal (“Stronger”) or Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”). Hanks is Oscar royalty, but he hasn’t been nominated since 2000, and Kaluuya’s film has real heat.

Predicted nominees: Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”; Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”; Daniel Day-Lewis,”Phantom Thread”; Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”; James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”

BEST ACTRESS
In one of the Oscars’ most competitive categories, Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan and Sally Hawkins feel like locks for “Three Billboards,” “Lady Bird” and “The Shape of Water,” respectively. “I, Tonya” star Margot Robbie, who initially seemed to be on the bubble, now seems secure — which means that while Meryl Streep (“The Post”) holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for acting, she’s fighting for the fifth spot with a variety of other contenders, including Jessica Chastain (“Molly’s Game”), Judi Dench (“Victoria & Abdul”) and Michelle Williams (“All the Money in the World”).

The guilds liked “Molly’s Game” more than “The Post,” so I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Chastain will pull an upset and edge out Streep.

Predicted nominees: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”; Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”; Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”; Jessica Chastain, “Molly’s Game”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) and Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”) for sure. Rockwell’s co-star Woody Harrelson has been coming on strong lately. “Call Me by Your Name” sports a pair of strong contenders in Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg. Richard Jenkins provides the audience’s way into “The Shape of Water.” And Christopher Plummer could be rewarded for jumping into the Kevin Spacey role in “All the Money in the World.”

Predicted nominees: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”; Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”; Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”; Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The three actresses who play difficult moms — Allison Janney in “I, Tonya,” Laurie Metcalf in “Lady Bird” and Holly Hunter in “The Big Sick,” in level of increasing likability — should all get nominations. Then there’s Mary J. Blige in “Mudbound,” Hong Chau in “Downsizing,” Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water,” Lesley Manville in “Phantom Thread” and even Tiffany Haddish in “Girls Trip.” Chau could sneak in as the only part of Alexander Payne’s movie that has clicked with voters, but the film’s overall reception could hurt her.

Predicted nominees: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”; Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”; Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”; Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”; Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The thinner of the Oscars’ two screenplay categories will certainly contain “Call Me by Your Name” and will likely have “Molly’s Game,” “The Disaster Artist” and “Mudbound” as well, unless voters balk at the last film’s Netflix provenance. After that, it’s anybody’s guess, with “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” “Wonder,” “The Beguiled,” “Victoria & Abdul” and WGA nominee “Logan” among the films that have a chance. We give a slight edge to “Wonder,” which came in late but was loved by most of those who saw it.

Predicted nominees: “Call Me by Your Name,” “Molly’s Game,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Mudbound,” “Wonder”

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Can “The Shape of Water” or “Dunkirk” get in, and by doing so increase their chances of winning Best Picture? Or will “The Big Sick” and “I, Tonya” push them out? In a fiercely competitive category where “Get Out,” “Lady Bird” and “Three Billboards” seem assured of nominations and “The Post” and “Coco” also sit on the bubble, I have a feeling there’s too much affection for “The Shape of Water” to leave it out, and too much admiration for the verbal fireworks of “I, Tonya.”

Predicted nominees: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Lady Bird,” “Get Out,” “I, Tonya,” “The Shape of Water”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Yes, Roger Deakins will get his 14th nomination for “Blade Runner 2049” — and this time around, he might even win his first Oscar and erase that inexplicable smudge on the Academy’s record.

“Dunkirk” and “The Shape of Water” seem assured nominations as well. And in a field of contenders that includes “The Post,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Darkest Hour” and “Mudbound,” the last of those films would give the Academy its first-ever female cinematography nominee, Rachel Morrison.

Predicted nominees: “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Mudbound”

BEST FILM EDITING
This could be the category that tells us whether “Lady Bird” or “Get Out” could win Best Picture — because for the past 36 years, every best-pic winner except “Birdman” (which was designed to look like a continuous shot) was nominated here. “Lady Bird” is the longer shot in a category that usually saves a couple of slots for big, muscular movies.

Predicted nominees: “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Get Out,” “Baby Driver,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
We expect voters to go for the elaborately constructed worlds of “The Shape of Water” and “Blade Runner 2049” and then turn to the lavish period pieces that often dominate the category, “Darkest Hour” and “Murder on the Orient Express” perhaps edging out “Victoria & Abdul,” “The Greatest Showman” and “Wonderstruck.” And as long as voters don’t think the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” was simply a copy of the animated film, it should be safe. But watch out for “Phantom Thread,” too.

Predicted nominees: “The Shape of Water,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Darkest Hour,” “Murder on the Orient Express”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Oscars voters won’t resist “Phantom Thread,” in which Daniel Day-Lewis plays a costume designer. “Beauty and the Beast” is just too gorgeously frilly to bypass (not to mention all those costumes that help turn people into household objects). And the skating outfits are a key to “I, Tonya.” Then it’s a matter of whether voters want to go elaborate (“The Greatest Showman,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Wonderstruck”) or functional (“The Post,” “Dunkirk,” “Darkest Hour”). We’ll take one of each.

Predicted nominees: “Phantom Thread,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “I, Tonya,” “Darkest Hour,” “The Greatest Showman”

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
It’ll be hard for voters to resist the makeup that will help Gary Oldman and Margot Robbie land acting nominations, so “Darkest Hour” and “I, Tonya” should make the cut. Then voters could either opt for the elaborate sci-fi makeup of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or “Ghost in the Shell,” or the character makeup of “Wonder.” Since “Guardians” already got a nomination with its first film, maybe they’ll go in a different direction.

Predicted nominees: “Darkest Hour,” “I, Tonya,” “Wonder”

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer should pick up their eighth and 11th nominations, respectively, for “The Shape of Water” and “Dunkirk.” But those guys pale next to John Williams, who should land his 51st for “The Post” and might even get his 52nd for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” to boot. But Williams is more likely to stick with one nod and leave space for Dario Marianelli’s “Darkest Hour” score and for one of the year’s most adventurous works, Jonny Greenwood’s music for “Phantom Thread.” Thomas Newman is also in the running for “Victoria & Abdul.”

Predicted nominees: “The Shape of Water,” “Dunkirk,” “The Post,” “Darkest Hour,” “Phantom Thread”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
In a packed race, the likeliest nominees are probably two theatrical songs, “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman” and “Remember Me” from “Coco.” But Diane Warren and Common’s “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall” is close behind, as are Alan Menken’s new “Beauty and the Beast” song “Evermore,” Elvis Costello’s “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way,” Sufjan Stevens’ two songs from “Call Me by Your Name,” Mary J. Blige’s “Mighty River,” Questlove’s “It Ain’t Fair,” Sara Bareilles’ “If I Dare,” Taylor Swift’s and Ryan Tedder and T Bone Burnett’s “Truth to Power,” among many others.

A real wild-card possibility: Music Branch bigwig Alan Bergman’s “Just Getting Started” from the documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”

Predicted nominees: “Remember Me” from “Coco”; “This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”; “Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall”; “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way” from “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”; “Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name”

BEST SOUND EDITING
In the 11 years since the Oscars expanded the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories to five nominees each, four out of the five nominees in the two categories have almost always matched, and at least one has been different. Sound Editing tends to reward the biggest films with the most artificially created sound effects, so “The Shape of Water” might fall out here in favor of “War for the Planet of the Apes” or “Wonder Woman.”

Predicted nominees: “Dunkirk,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Baby Driver,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Wonder Woman”

BEST SOUND MIXING
In Sound Mixing, meanwhile, voters typically drop in one or two musicals or impressively mounted Best Picture nominees. “The Shape of Water” will likely land a spot here over “The Greatest Showman,” “The Post” or “Coco.” Otherwise the landscape remains similar to Sound Editing.

Predicted nominees: “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Baby Driver”

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Unlike, say, the makeup category, VFX voters tend not to nominate terrible movies with great effects, the odd “Transformers” nod notwithstanding. That could be bad news for the spectacularly awful “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” regardless of how jaw-dropping its effects are. Voters will also go for subtler effects in the service of a better story, which could help “Dunkirk” and “The Shape of Water.”

If they don’t want to make “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” the eighth “Star Wars” movie to be nominated in the category, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” or the Korean oddity “Okja” could slip in — but it seems unlikely they’re tired of “Star Wars” just yet.

Predicted nominees: “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Once you get past Pixar’s “Coco,” it was not a particularly strong year for major-studio animated features. That should open the category to the Irish indie “The Breadwinner” and the animated oil paintings of “Loving Vincent.”

But the last two slots could go to another foreign indie like “The Girl Without Hands” or “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” rather than to DreamWorks Animation’s “The Boss Baby,” Illumination’s “Despicable Me 3” or Fox’s “Ferdinand.” Or one of the two Lego movies could get in, as something of an apology for not even nominating “The Lego Movie” three years ago.

Predicted nominees: “Coco,” “The Breadwinner,” “Loving Vincent,” “Ferdinand,” “The Lego Batman Movie”

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
This category might be the most confounding of all, because we have no idea who’s voted. A change in the rules opened the second-round voting to far more members, particularly internationally, which could dramatically change the sensibility and expand the number of voters.

“The Square” and “Loveless” are still the most acclaimed, “The Insult” and “In the Fade” perhaps the most crowd-pleasing, “Foxtrot” the most challenging, “A Fantastic Woman” the timeliest and “Felicite,” “The Wound” and “On Body and Soul” the most intriguing.

But without having a real sense of who’s going to be voting to narrow the shortlist down to the final five, we’re guessing about what they’ll respond to, with “The Wound” narrowly edging out “The Insult” in our reckoning.

Predicted nominees: “The Square,” “Loveless,” “A Fantastic Woman,” “In the Fade,” “The Wound”

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
On a strong shortlist of 15 films, Brett Morgen’s “Jane” and Agnes Varda and JR’s “Faces Places” have stood out from the beginning. But “Strong Island” is the most awarded nonfiction film of the year, while “Icarus” was at least partly responsible for the recent banning of Russia from the Winter Olympics.

For the last slot, while it would be great to think that the Academy might honor Steve James (“Abacus”) or Frederick Wiseman (“Ex Libris”), it may well come down to Syria or the L.A. riots, “City of Ghosts” v. “LA 92.”

Predicted nominees: “Jane,” “Faces Places,” “Strong Island,” “Icarus,” “LA 92”

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Over the years, voters in this category have shown a marked preference for 30-to-40-minute films about serious social and cultural problems. That’s perfect for films like the sadly timely “Heroin(e)” and the devasting “Kayayo,” but it could hurt a wry film like “Ten Meter Tower.”

In a strong group, other films that tick the right boxes include “116 Cameras” (a new way of looking at the Holocaust), “Edith+Eddie” (a character study that will leave most viewers infuriated at the elder-care system) and “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” (a less depressing character study of an artist). But “Traffic Stop” could well land a nomination, too.

Predicted nominees: “Heroin(e),” “Kayayo: The Living Shopping Baskets,” “116 Cameras,” “Edith+Eddie,” “Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Pixar is almost always nominated, and “Lou” is an amusing but affecting work from that company. The hand-drawn “Dear Basketball” adds a genuinely touching visual component to Kobe Bryant’s farewell poem, with music by no less than John Williams. “In a Heartbeat” is a student Oscar winner that should advance on the strength of its prot-LGBT message, if not its animation. Among the others, the wit of “Life Smartphone” and the visual beauty of “Fox and the Whale” make them contenders, but the Roald Dahl adaptation “Revolting Rhymes” and the stop-motion “Negative Space” might have the upper hand.

Predicted nominees: “Dear Basketball,” “Lou,” “In a Heartbeat,” “Negative Space,” “Revolting Rhymes”

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
In the past, this category was often dominated by European shorts, often with darkly humorous twist endings. This year’s shortlisted films are largely international as well, but there’s not much humor here outside of the Australian film “The Eleven O’Clock.” These are films about terrorism (“Watu Wote,” “Witnesses”), school violence (“DeKalb Elementary”), racial violence (“My Nephew Emmett”), immigration (“Icebox,” “Facing Mecca”) and more.

“Rise of a Star,” a ballet film featuring Catherine Deneuve, might also stand out as something of a chance of pace, as could the Jack London adaptation “Lost Face,” but essentially voters can choose the story that hits the hardest — which makes it a hard category to predict, with the abundance of hard-hitting stories to choose from.

Predicted nominees: “DeKalb Elementary,” “Facing Mecca,” “Watu Wote/All of Us,” “Icebox,” “The Eleven O’Clock”