WASHINGTON — I honestly can’t remember an Oscar year this wide open for the top prize.
While the acting categories all appear to be virtual locks, the show will be worth watching right down to the bitter end to see which wild upset might happen in the Best Picture race. Not to mention, it will be entertaining to watch how Jimmy Kimmel mocks last year’s envelope gaffe.
Here are my 2018 Academy Award predictions in the six major categories:
The Nominees: 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.”)
Front Runner: Gary Oldman – “Darkest Hour”
Potential Spoiler: Timothée Chalamet – “Call Me By Your Name”
If there’s one lock, it’s Gary Oldman as Best Actor. Sure, it feels like a “career Oscar” after Sirius Black in “Harry Potter,” Commissioner Gordon in “The Dark Knight” and George Smiley in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” but that would undersell Oldman’s terrific performance as Winston Churchill, transforming himself with prosthetics, body movements and mumbling dialogue. You can make a case for the tear-stained cheeks of Daniel Kaluuya and Timothée Chalamet in “Get Out” and “Call Me By Your Name,” respectively, but no matter your rationale, “You can’t reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.”
Front Runner: Frances McDormand – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Potential Spoiler: Saoirse Ronan – “Lady Bird”
It would be great to see Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) or Margot Robbie (“I, Tonya”) win their first Oscar, but Frances McDormand is the clear favorite after wins at the Globes and SAG. Her role as a vigilante prodding the police to solver her daughter’s rape and murder is the perfect pick for the #MeToo movement. Expect the previous “Fargo” champ to win her second Best Actress, joining the elite ranks of Katharine Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Jodie Foster and Hilary Swank.
Best Supporting Actor
The Nominees: 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”)
Front Runner: Sam Rockwell – “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Potential Spoiler: Willem Dafoe – “The Florida Project”
After wins at the Globes, SAG and BAFTAs, Sam Rockwell will likely get his due for a stellar career from “Moon” to “The Way, Way Back.” Personally, I’d rather see it go to his co-star Woody Harrelson, whose ailing sheriff was more sympathetic than Rockwell’s deputy grappling with his prejudices. I suppose there’s a scenario where the “Billboards” boys split the vote, allowing Willem Dafoe to win for “The Florida Project,” playing the owner of a run-down motel in the shadows of Disney World, the crowning achievement of a prolific career.
Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees: Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”), Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”), Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”)
Front Runner: Allison Janney – “I, Tonya”
Potential Spoiler: Laurie Metcalf – “Lady Bird”
Allison Janney knocked our socks off as the chain-smoking helicopter parent of Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya,” delivering the film’s most hilarious fourth-wall break: “Where the f*** is my storyline?” As a result, she’s run the table this award season at the Globes, SAG and BAFTAs. Still, I’m rooting for Laurie Metcalf as the multi-faceted mother in “Lady Bird,” partly because it was a more difficult role to play, and partly because I don’t want “Lady Bird” to get shut out.
The Nominees: Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”), Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”)
Front Runner: Guillermo del Toro – “The Shape of Water”
Potential Spoiler: Christopher Nolan – “Dunkirk”
After such masterpieces as “Memento” (2000), “The Dark Knight” (2008) and “Inception” (2010), Christopher Nolan deserves to finally win Best Director for “Dunkirk,” which was the year’s most kinetic moviegoing experience. However, it’s not going to happen, as Guillermo del Toro has this one in the bag after Best Director wins at both the Golden Globes and DGA Awards.
The Academy desperately wants to make up for snubbing him for “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), and on top of that, “The Shape of Water” is the type of visual feast that wins Best Director Oscars like Ang Lee for “Life of Pi” (2012), Alfonso Cuarón for “Gravity” (2013), Alejandro G. Iñárritu for “The Revenant” (2015) or Damien Chazelle for “La La Land” (2016). None of those films won Best Picture, due to the recent trend of Best Director splits, which brings us to…
The Nominees: “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”
Front Runner: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Potential Spoiler: “Get Out”
The smart money is on either “Three Billboards,” which won the top prize at the Globes, SAG and BAFTAs, or “The Shape of Water,” which won the top prize at the PGA, DGA and BFCA. The latter also leads the way with 13 total Oscar nominations. However, both movies are just polarizing enough — some find “Three Billboards” insensitive and “Shape of Water” bizarre — that they could suffer on the preferential ballots, where voters rank their favorites from 1-9.
This could give a boost to films with plenty of second-place votes, meaning “Get Out” could see a late underdog surge. It also won Best Original Screenplay at the WGA, which predicted “Spotlight” and “Moonlight” as Oscar Best Pictures. So, just like “Moonlight” last year, I predict another Oscar surprise with the first horror flick to win since “The Silence of the Lambs.”
If I’m wrong, you can stir your tea and banish me to the Sunken Place. Whether it wins or not, I guarantee “Get Out” is the one we’ll still be talking about decades from now. Not only did it introduce mainstream audiences to the joy of symbolic mise-en-scene on repeat viewings, it captured the cultural zeitgeist in a streaming era by reminding us to “get out” to the theater.
Follow Jason’s live Tweets @JFrayWTOP starting at 8 p.m. Sunday as the Oscars air on ABC.