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Who Will Take Home an Oscar This Year?

The 90th Academy Awards

Predictions, snubs, surprises, and the big factors.

As the awards season continues to dazzle and disappoint week in and week out, the 90th Academy Award nominations are no exception. The nine nominees for best picture will no doubt come down to a tight race and be more crowded with contenders than last year’s neck and neck race between just two heavy favorites, making predictions tougher but an arguably more interesting challenge.

First, let’s break down the list of nominees for Best Picture with their corresponding IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores.

* Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: 8.3/10 (IMDb) 93 percent (RottenTomatoes)

* The Shape of Water: 7.9, 92 percent

* Dunkirk: 8.1, 92 percent

* Lady Bird: 7.9, 99 percent

* Call Me By Your Name: 8.3, 96 percent

* Get Out: 7.7, 99 percent

* The Post: 7.5, 88 percent

* Darkest Hour: 7.4, 86 percent

* Phantom Thread: 8.5, 91 percent

Note that last year’s favorites were La La Land and Moonlight, and while Moonlight had the lowest IMDb score and La La Land the highest score of all the nominees at the time of showing (currently 8.1 and 7.5 respectively), Moonlight came out on top after the hilarious and somewhat heartbreaking envelope mishap that you should watch immediately (here with commentary from this year’s host yet again, Jimmy Kimmel) if you missed it.

While this year’s front-runners come down to many similarly-stereotypical Oscar fetishes, culture does and will play a big part in the final vote. Leading the way with 13 nominations, Guillermo Del Toro‘s The Shape of Water is a dark fairy tale that’s a breath of fresh air among many suffocating safe releases out of Hollywood this year.

After the first major above-the-line award given to a monster movie in modern Hollywood was earned by Del Toro with his Golden Globe win for best director, this will be a tough film to ignore despite the genre’s award-repelling history.

Dunkirk finds eight nominations to become the second most-nominated film and finally lands Christopher Nolan a long overdue nod for best director.

While notoriously full of politics (see also: every award show ever), the 2018 best picture nominees have subject matter ripe with relevance, and the votes will have to account for a slew of both altruism for the craft and self-service for the agendas. Period pieces, modern love stories, WWII films, racial and cultural commentaries, and so much more: let’s look past the obvious for a moment to consider the year’s snubs and surprises and how they can possibly help us figure out how voting will go.

The Snubs

James Franco goes un-nominated fresh off his Golden Globe win for playing Tommy Wiseau in The Disaster Artist (which he also directed), and The Big Sick gets a screenplay nod but nothing else.

Comedies don’t normally do well at the Oscars (unless they take place during the Holocaust), so while it’s not a huge surprise to see two of the best-reviewed films of the year go mostly ignored, it’s worth noting that they’re both based on true stories with enough heartbreak in there that it just feels like Judd Apatow‘s name is not the Academy’s cup of tea, even if they’d get along swell.

This likely indicates Lady Bird and Get Out (written and directed by comedy powerhouse Jordan Peele) will probably not find victory either, despite their nominations in five and four categories respectively.

Blade Runner: 2049 finds itself stuck in technical categories and ignored everywhere else in favor of far less favorably reviewed films. Sci-fi is yet another entire genre excluded from meaningful contention. This could hurt The Shape of Water, as it has sci-fi elements, along with its potential alienation from the Academy with the heavy fantasy and monster elements.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri lands seven nominations yet manages to discount Martin McDonagh as a nominee for best director. A front-runner by way of incredible ratings and reviews, we may find the buzz for the film falling short when it comes to the most crucial categories, even though it won best picture at the Golden Globes earlier in January.

The Surprises

Mudbound lands a historic nomination, with Rachel Morrison becoming the first female cinematographer to be nominated for an Oscar. Promising to continue her surge upwards, she has also filmed the upcoming Black Panther for Marvel. Mudbound finds cultural importance in many ways but will likely struggle for a win in highly competitive categories, as it failed to land in the best picture race.

While many have cited Wonder Woman‘s lack of nominations as a huge snub, it’s important to mention that superhero movies are yet another genre the Academy likes to ignore. Meanwhile, the Logan nomination for adapted screenplay is a massively pleasant surprise, arguably taking risks far more important for the genre than Wonder Woman‘s excellent but mostly cookie-cutter execution. More superhero scripts like Logan could give the genre a rebirth in the coming years, especially as the Marvel saga draws closer to the endgame that has been set up since 2008’s Iron Man.

With three to four heavy hitters in major contention, the results could turn out a number of surprising ways. If Three Billboards takes the crown, it won’t be the first time a film won best picture without a nomination for best director, but it is a rare indication that we will see wins mainly for performances.

Phantom Thread has the ratings and the big story of Daniel Day-Lewis‘s retirement going for it, but the subject matter may be too ordinary to grab enough attention among the other favorites.

Call Me By Your Name has the buzz and cultural impact to bring home a trophy, but without a best director nod and immediately following Moonlight’s win last year, it may end up unable to hit that right-place-right-time balance.

Dunkirk and The Shape of Water both have the quantity of nominations as well as the quality, with acclaimed directors who are long overdue for recognition by the Academy (we all know how they like to make up for the past instead of getting it right in the present). However, both will have major hurdles to overcome, with Dunkirk‘s nomination being muddled by the timing of Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour (among many other WWII films this year) and The Shape of Water‘s Academy-alienating subject and genre hurting its chances at clinching the top spot.

Let’s not forget that The Boss Baby scored a nomination for best animated feature, so if you’re looking for the comfort of predictability, this year’s Oscars may deliver a little more heartache than most.

The 2018 Oscars will air on March 4th on ABC and will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for the second time.

Featured Image by Disney ABC Television Group on Flickr

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