Peter Travers' Oscar Picks and Predictions for 2018

Rolling Stone's film reviewer looks how will likely go home with a statue on Oscar night – and who, in a perfect world, should win

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Peter Travers' Oscar Picks and Predictions for 2018

In what's shaping up as the most exciting and competitive Oscar night in years, Academy voters find themselves faced with making decisions that reflect the startling changes happening in the world we live in. Time's up for actresses playing victims, as warriors take the lead in films that celebrate female strength and independence. A female director – Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) – and a black man – Jordan Peele (Get Out) – find themselves breaking barriers in categories in which they are usually sidelined. The contentious Trump era finds its questionable politics taken to task in films that use the past (The Post, Dunkirk, Darkest Hour) to ask provocative questions about what defines genuine leadership and why Constitutional freedoms need protecting now more than ever. 

Will the most daring movies of the past year find themselves in the winner's circle or will the Academy play it safe as usual? Here's our look at the dozen Academy Awards categories ready to shake things up – along with our predictions for who's going home a winner and who, in a perfect world, we'd love to see going up to the podium on Oscars night. 

Best Picture
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
There was a lot of crying that Mudbound, The Florida Project, I, Tonya and the much-touted Wonder Woman didn't make the cut. But the nominees are remarkable shortly of clunkers this year. As for picking winners, Christopher Nolan's dazzling Dunkirk should really have been a lock, with Jordan Peele's Get Out and Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird leading the indie youth charge. Now the innovators are out. And in voters' minds, gay romance (Call Me by Your Name) may seem so last year, i.e. when Moonlight won. With sexual predators on the prowl, Academy voters will want to honor a film that fist-bumps a strong woman.
FAVORITE: The Shape of Water. Guillermo del Toro's tale of a mute cleaning lady (Sally Hawkins) fighting government pigs in the name of forbidden love has all the elements, plus a leading 13 nominations.
SPOILER: Three Billboards. Martin McDonagh did not win a directing nod, which hurts his film's odds. But Frances McDormand, as a mother seeking justice for her murdered child, strikes a chord.

Best Actor
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Many think that academy voters, with the force of #TimesUp and #MeToo behind them, denied James Franco (The Disaster Artist) a nomination due to allegations of sexual misconduct.
FAVORITE: Gary Oldman. As Winston Churchill, the 59-year-old crowned his career with a portrayal that should finally win an elusive Oscar for an actor who should have a full shelf by now.
SPOILER: Timothée Chalamet. The 22-year-old who scores a breakthrough as a teen in the throes of first love. Too young to win? His final scene alone is an acting tour de force that the veterans in his category might envy.

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

We can't help lamenting he absence of Cynthia Nixon (A Quiet Passion), Rooney Mara (A Ghost Story) and Daniela Vega (A Fantastic Woman). But at least it's not all the usual suspects. Yes, Streep is on her 21st nomination and possible fourth win. But she's taking on first-timer Robbie and the 23-year-old Ronan.
FAVORITE: Frances McDormand. She plays a mad-as-hell mom, brilliantly defining a year in which women battled a rigged system.
SPOILER: Sally Hawkins. As a mute janitor, the Brit actress didn't have words to take on the patriarchy. The fire's in her eyes.

Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There are those who insist Armie Hammer, 31, lost his nod for Call Me By Your Name because his character seemed like a pedophile romancing Timothée Chalamet's teenager. We're not buying it. Still, what's the excuse for forgetting Michael Stuhlbarg in the same film since his final father-to-son speech belongs in the cinema time capsule?!? Among the actual nominees, Plummer wins points for replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey. Still  . . .
FAVORITE: Sam Rockwell. Some argue that he makes the racist cop he plays too sympathetic. Nonsense. He's flawless.
SPOILER: Willem Dafoe. An actor known for playing iconic screen villains uncovers his heart in The Florida Project and quietly (maybe too quietly for Oscar) breaks all of ours.

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

Anyone who saw Girls Trip has to be wondering what kind of crazy shit took Tiffany Haddish out of the running. And how can you watch The Florida Project and not think young Brooklynn Prince didn't crush it? On the bright side, Blige richly deserved her nomination. The diva turned down her natural heat to play Mudbound's good mother. But the race belongs to two moms who turned the heat up.
FAVORITE: Allison Janney. Could anyone else have mustered the searing comic ferocity to show the humanity in Tonya Harding's mother from hell?
SPOILER: Laurie Metcalf. The push-pull tension a mother feels for the daughter she loves and infuriates finds hilarious and heartfelt expression in a perfect Metcalf performance – celebrating a bond between women essential to navigating a world of men. Talk about timely.

Best Director
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out

We just do not get how Sean Baker (The Florida Project) is not on this list. Or Denis Villeneuve for his visionary take on Blade Runner 2049. A better question might be: How does Three Billboards earn seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and nothing for its director, Martin McDonagh?
FAVORITE: Guillermo del Toro. Consensus agrees that it's time for the Mexican auteur to join his two compatriots  Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity) and Alejando González Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant), in the Oscar winners circle.
SPOILER: Christopher Nolan. Shockingly, this is the first nomination for the master behind Memento, The Dark Knight and Inception. Plus, the ambition, technical expertise and passionate heart Nolan poured into Dunkirk is staggering.

Best Original Screenplay
The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Paul Thomas Anderson's screenplay for Phantom Thread practically defines originality, but PTA came up mysteriously empty in the category that won him the New York Film Critics award. That said, it's hard to knock those that did make the cut.
FAVORITE: Get Out. Jordan Peele's satirical horror film hit the zeitgeist like nobody's business. The Academy traditionally hates the genre, but Peele's seizing of the cultural moment is damn near impossible to ignore.
SPOILER Lady Bird. Greta Gerwig is only the fifth woman to get any respect from the directors' branch of the Academy. That's in 90 fucking years, people! And her mother-daughter love story touched a nerve. There's a possibility that McDonagh could score a surprise, after being ignored by the directors' branch. But the Peele vs Gerwig race is the one to watch.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly's Game
Mudbound

James Grey belongs here for The Lost City of Z; otherwise we can't complain. It's nice to see Logan in there, since Oscar voters wouldn't know an X-Man from an Ant-Man, theFX fantasy genre being looked down on from the Academy's lofty perch.
FAVORITE: Call Me By Your Name. Veteran screenwriter James Ivory – he's pushing 90 – did such an outstanding job of capturing the soul and spirit of the André Aciman novel that this tale of first love, notably the father-to-son speech near the film's end, should make this a lock.
SPOILER: Mudbound. The Academy's aversion to most things Netflix could hurt this screenplay's chances. Collaborating with Virgil Williams on the adaptation of Hilary Jordan's novel, director Dee Rees became the first African America woman ever to be nominated for Adapted Screenplay.

Best Cinematography
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water
It kills us to see Call Me By Your Name cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom absent from this list – he shot the entire film on location in Italy with one lens (!) to achieve a neutral perspective and helped give the film and the actors a genuine sense of intimacy.
FAVORITE: The Shape of Water. DP Dan Laustsen looks ready to ride the wave of a record 13 nominations for del Toro's film. So forgive Roger Deakins enthusiasts like myself for hoping the camera master behind Blade Runner 2049 will finally take home his first Oscar.
SPOILER: Mudbound. Oscar history could be made by Rachel Morrison, the first woman ever to receive a nomination for cinematography. All together now: It's. About. Fucking. Time.

Best Documentary Feature
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Man in Aleppo
Strong Island

Where the hell is Jane, Brett Morgan's hugely popular look at primatologist Jane Goodall? Don't ask. The doc branch regularly screws up, ignoring such gems as Roger & Me, The Thin Blue Line and Hoop Dreams. So the snubbed Jane is in gloriously good company.
FAVORITE: Faces Places. This is an inspired collaboration between Agnes Varga, the 89-year-old legend of French New Waves cinema, and JR, 34, the visual artist who helps her chronicle French rural life. Perfection.
SPOILER: Last Man in Aleppo. Feras Fayyad's look at the recovery missions of the White Helmets, a medical relief unit in war-torn Syria, is that country's first doc to be recognized by the Academy. Recently Syrian officials, in line with Trump's travel ban, refused to expedite the visa process for producer Kareem Abeed and White Helmets founder Mahmoud Al-Hattar to attend the March 4th Oscar ceremony. If that pisses off voters – and it should – we might have a surprise winner.

Best Foreign Language Film
A Fantastic Woman
The Insult
Loveless
On Body and Soul
The Square

Angelina Jolie got dissed for her Cambodian family drama First They Killed My Father. So did Robin Campillo for BPM, a searing portrait of the 1980s AIDS epidemic in France that actually is, hands down, the year's best foreign-language film.
FAVORITE: The Square. Ruben Östlund's Swedish satire of the art world won the top prize at Cannes and a host of other European awards, which should carry it through to victory. Though it might be too funny for the Academy's artsy taste.
SPOILER:  Loveless. The gifted Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan) uses a couple's search for a missing son they barely noticed to expose the corrupt soul of the Putin era.

Best Original Score
Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A word here in praise of Icelandic music architect Jóhann Jóhannsson, who died at 48 on Feb. 9th. The Oscar-nominated composer of Arrival, Sicario and The Theory of Everything wrote a score for Darren Aronofsky's mother! only to see it mostly eliminated – leaving Jóhannsson with a credit for "Music and Sound Consultant," a job he did with customary boldness and brilliance.
FAVORITE: The Shape of Water. Alexandre Desplat is expected to win for a score that helped del Toro's film sweep audiences away on ripples of ravishing romance.
SPOILER: Phantom Thread. If it was our choice to award an Oscar in this category, it would go to Jonny Greenwood, the lead guitarist of Radiohead who gave Paul Thomas Anderson's film its orchestral dissonance and beating heart. Though Greenwood has composed indelible scores for Anderson's There Will Be Blood, The Master and Inherent Vice, this nomination is, shockingly, his first. If there is a God ....

Oscars 2018 nominees who are long overdue for an Academy Award – from Woody Harrelson to directors Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson. Watch below.