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Cheat sheet: Place your Oscar bets with our movie critic’s picks

By Steve Persall, Times Movie Critic
Published: February 28, 2018 Updated: March 1, 2018 at 03:38 PM
The 90th annual Academy Awards are Sunday night. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Last yearís Academy Awards envelope fiasco gave Moonlight the win and continued a best picture trend that The Shape of Water is bucking Sunday night.

Only one best picture Oscar winner in the past five years led or tied in total nominations: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in 2014. What used to be a surefire statistic in predicting Hollywoodís most coveted prize is turning into a kiss of death.

Just ask La La Land, The Revenant, Gravity, Lincoln or The Grand Budapest Hotel, which Birdman tied.

Itís likely a result of the academyís preferential balloting system installed in 2009, allowing voters to rank the finalists from No. 1 to 10 maximum nominees. A few hundred haters among the academyís 7,258 voting members can damage a favoriteís chances with lowball rankings.

If a movie with the most nominations loses steam or divides voters, as La La Land appeared to do, an underdog like Moonlight with solid second- and third-place support can sneak in. Cases can be made for Dunkirk, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out to do just that.

Thatís what worries The Shape of Water with its 13 nominations. Not too much, I hope, since Guillermo del Toroís horror fantasy romance is the winner in my 25th annual vain attempt to correctly predict all 24 Academy Awards categories. Take your shot with this handy Oscars ballot (and donít rub it in).


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

Persallís pick: I wonít be surprised if another movie pulls off a preferential ballot upset, but conventional Oscars wisdom says itís The Shape of Water.

Director

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Persallís pick: Del Toro, in part due to a fun fact: Since 1950, only seven Directors Guild of America winners didnít repeat at the Oscars.

Actor

Timothťe 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.

Persallís pick: Anyone other than Oldman would suggest Russian meddling with academy ballots.

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

Persallís pick: McDormand earns her second Oscar and a chance to deliver the feistiest acceptance speech of the night.

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

Persallís pick: As stated in my November 2017 review: "letís just hand (Rockwell) the supporting actor Oscar right now."

Supporting actress

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

Persallís pick: Janneyís performance was my choice at first sight last November. Not changing now.

Adapted screenplay

Call Me by Your Name

The Disaster Artist

Logan

Mollyís Game

Mudbound

Persallís pick: After a storied producing and directing career, James Ivory, 89, wins his first Oscar for writing Call Me by Your Name.

Original screenplay

The Big Sick

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Persallís pick: Get Out makes Jordan Peele the first African-American winner in this category.

Animated feature

The Boss Baby

The Breadwinner

Coco

Ferdinand

Loving Vincent

Persallís pick: Coco, because what Disney-Pixar wants, Disney-Pixar gets.

Foreign language film

A Fantastic Woman

The Insult

Loveless

Of Body and Soul

The Square

Persallís pick: Chileís transgender melodrama A Fantastic Woman wins while Daniela Vega is snubbed for a best actress nomination.

Documentary feature

Abacus

Faces Places

Icarus

Last Men in Aleppo

Strong Island

Persallís pick: Agnes Varda, 89, is an honorary Oscar winner this year; Faces Places will earn her the real thing.

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Mudbound

The Shape of Water

Persallís pick: After 14 fruitless nominations, Roger Deakins finally takes home an Oscar for Blade Runner 2049.

Costume design

Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Victoria and Abdul

Persallís pick: Phantom Thread is a movie about a fashion designer making fabulous dresses. Next.

Film editing

Baby Driver

Dunkirk

I, Tonya

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Persallís pick: Dunkirk masterfully juggled three epic stories of varying chronologies, coaxing viewers along.

Makeup and hairstyling

Darkest Hour

Victoria and Abdul

Wonder

Persallís pick: The only sure things Sunday are Gary Oldman and the Darkest Hour makeup artists transforming him into Winston Churchill.

Original score

Dunkirk

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Persallís pick: The Shape of Water. Alexandre Desplatís blend of whimsy and terror sticks in your head and heart.

Original song

Mighty River from Mudbound

Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name

Remember Me from Coco

Stand Up for Something from Marshall

This Is Me from The Greatest Showman

Persallís pick: Remember Me is forgettable except for Cocoís weepy finale. Sometimes thatís all it takes.

Production design

Beauty and the Beast

Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Persallís pick: The Shape of Waterís color coding, Cold War decor, eerie laboratory and movie palace are too striking to ignore.

Sound editing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Persallís pick: Dunkirkís triangulated precision leaned into the din of war with practically subconscious aural segues.

Sound mixing

Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049

Dunkirk

The Shape of Water

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Persallís pick: Dunkirk since Oscarís sound categories often go hand in hand.

Visual effects

Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Kong: Skull Island

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

War for the Planet of the Apes

Persallís pick: War for the Planet of the Apes wins one for Andy Serkis and one of the finest trilogies ever.

Documentary short

Edith+Eddie

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405

Heroin(e)

Knife Skills

Traffic Stop

Persallís pick: Edith+Eddie, ages 95 and 96, are Americaís oldest interracial newlyweds torn apart by a family feud.

Animated short

Dear Basketball

Garden Party

Lou

Negative Space

Revolting Rhymes

Persallís pick: The academy gets starstruck by Kobe Bryantís hoop valentine Dear Basketball.

Short film (live action)

DeKalb Elementary

The Eleven OíClock

My Nephew Emmett

The Silent Child

Watu Wote/All of Us

Persallís pick: DeKalb Elementary, a school shooting drama of courage and, curiously, hope.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.