Oscar predictions

Sun-Gazette film aficionados give their picks for award show

With the 90th Academy Awards airing Sunday, it’s a tradition for the Sun-Gazette film critics to discuss their predicted wins for the key categories: Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Picture. This year, we’ve added a wild card category, “Other Calls,” for each critic to add their own comments on the awards and nominees.

Our go-to movie people at the SG, Joseph Smith, Jordan Musheno, Samantha Wallace and Jack Felix have provided their opinions, commentary and decisions for this year’s Oscar nominees.

By JOSEPH W. SMITH III

Sun-Gazette Correspondent

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Allison Janney is a national treasure. She’s won seven Emmys (four in five years for “The West Wing”), and now has her first Oscar nom playing the mother of an infamous Olympic skater in “I, Tonya.” Nonetheless, this statue will almost certainly go to Laurie Metcalf, veteran of Broadway (and TV’s “Roseanne”), for her acclaimed work in “Lady Bird.”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

When Chris Cooper took this category 16 years ago, he got a standing ovation, probably because he’d long been laboring in obscurity, despite consistent brilliance in a wide array of roles. The same can be said of Sam Rockwell, whose work includes “The Green Mile,” “Moon,” “The Way Way Back,” “Mute” (new on Netflix) and this year’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which garnered the actor his first Oscar nomination. Long a personal favorite of mine, Sam will win it — and I bet he’ll get a standing-o too.

BEST ACTRESS

Frances McDormand is the front-runner here for her galvanic performance in “Three Billboards.” But she already has one Best Actress statue (for 1996’s “Fargo”), and there’s a decent chance this could go to Sally Hawkins, another always-excellent veteran without a lot of public recognition.

BEST ACTOR

Oscar loves actors who play real people; nine of the last 13 awards in this category went to such roles. So look for Gary Oldman to take Best Actor for his lauded performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

BEST PICTURE

Two months ago, I would’ve picked “Three Billboards” as a no-brainer here; but in the interim, that thought-provoking gem has gotten inexplicable backlash for being an anti-racist film that is somehow still racist. (Don’t ask me to explain this, because I can’t.) So I’m calling “Shape of Water,” which has the most noms this year (13) — and which in any case would continue the Academy’s penchant for tapping films the general public mostly didn’t see or love (i.e., “Moonlight,” “Birdman,” “Hurt Locker,” “No Country for Old Men”).

OTHER CALLS

Original screenplay is probably the toughest race to call this year; wouldn’t it be nice to see Jordan Peele get a statue for his feature debut, the critical and popular darling “Get Out”? (But in reality, “Lady Bird” or “Shape of Water” will likely win this one.) Here’s hoping, too, that the Academy will recognize “Blade Runner 2049” for its eye-popping production design (using a whole pile of money and very little CGI). And while we’re on the subject, I sure would love to see a cinematography Oscar for “Blade Runner’s” Roger Deakins, now on his 14th nom without a win — yet!

By JORDAN MUSHENO

jmusheno@sungazette.com

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Earlier in the year, all signs seemed to me to be pointing to Laurie Metcalf, who plays the tough-love mother in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” as the clear frontrunner. Then awards season came, and any expectations of Metcalf hoisting that golden statue on Sunday Night all but vanished. It was Allison Janney — who’s performance in “I, Tonya” is much more theatrical, maybe even cartoonish, but effective — who started raking in those smaller awards, and therefore frontrunner status. I expect she’ll win.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

You could argue that “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s” two nominations in this category could effectively cancel each other out. But it seems to me that Sam Rockwell’s competition in this category isn’t coming from his costar Woody Harrelson, but from Willem Dafoe, who’s unfathomably excellent as a cheap motel manager outside Disney World in “The Florida Project.” But the Academy showed virtually no love to the “The Florida Project,” and I think Rockwell’s performance, which involved a notoriously controversial redemption plot for his despicable character, is truly remarkable. I think he’ll win here.

BEST ACTRESS

There’s a couple real heavyweight performances in this category, which makes it a little bit sad that it seems like a virtual lock for Frances McDormand, who’s character takes out those “Three Billboards” in that movie with the same title. She’s absolutely phenomenal in it. She portrays an uncanny ability to transition from holding someone accountable for their failures to becoming so nurturing and caring in an instant. Her primary competition is Sally Hawkins, the mute janitorial worker at the research facility holding the creature from the black lagoon in “The Shape of Water.” She’s absolutely charming in it, and she has a remarkable ability to convey so much without dialogue.

BEST ACTOR

Gary Oldman plays an iconic historical figure in loads of makeup and prosthetics. He’s pretty good and he’s going to win. Daniel Day-Lewis is better though.

BEST PICTURE

There’s a lot of great stuff in the Best Picture lineup this year, but the race is really between “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” It’s a toss up, I could see it going either way. If it weren’t for the surprising lack of nomination for Martin McDonagh’s direction on “Three Billboards” I think it’d be a lock. But he wasn’t nominated, and “The Shape of Water’s” director, Guillermo Del Toro, is going to win Best Director. “The Shape of Water” also received the most nominations. All evidence points to “The Shape of Water” winning the top prize, but I’m still going to predict “Three Billboards.”

OTHER CALLS

Two times in the last five years an African-American directed movie won the Best Picture Oscar — Barry Jenkins for “Moonlight” and Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave” — without winning Best Director. These categories used to practically go hand in hand, but over the last few years, the Picture/Director split has become the new normal. An African-American has never won Best Director at the Oscars, and I don’t expect that to change this year. There are five deserving nominees, for once. And while an African American person has won Best Adapted Screenplay (as recently as last year with “Moonlight”), they’ve never won Best Original Screenplay, and I expect that to change this year. Peele is the fourth black person ever nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, and I expect this Sunday, he’ll be the first to win it. To add some fun historical significance, if Peele does in fact win Best Original Screenplay, “Get Out” will be the first horror movie to win one, too. Unless, of course, you consider “Ghost” a horror movie.

By SAMANTHA WALLACE

Sun-Gazette Correspondent

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I adore Allison Janney – not only for her dramatic work on “The West Wing” or in “The Hours,” but for her often deadpan comedic delivery. Her role as LaVona Golden, infamous figure skater Tonya Harding’s abusive mother, is a brilliant amalgamation of both: an abrasive figure constantly on the sidelines at the skating rink, barking out orders, berating her daughter and dropping cigarette ash onto the ice. Janney should, without a doubt, take home the statue, but Laurie Metcalf is the front-runner for her role in “Lady Bird.”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

It’s a testament to “Three Billboards” that the Academy couldn’t decide between two of its actors for the same nomination, so here we are, with both Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson up for the award. Rockwell is the favorite, and he should be – but my dark-horse pick for Supporting Actor is Willem Dafoe for his moving performance in “The Florida Project,” which is a must-see movie of 2017.

BEST ACTRESS

There’s almost no contest here – Frances McDormand has taken home almost every major award this season for her role in “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” as a mother desperate for answers after her daughter is raped and murdered. Personally, however, I don’t think there’s an actress more deserving than Sally Hawkins for “The Shape of Water.” Her performance as a deaf woman alone is impressive, but the depth of emotion she brings to the role without being able to say a word is incredible.

BEST ACTOR

With perennial contenders Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis both up for Best Actor, I feel certain it will go to one of them, and not that it would be a crime if it did. Oldman’s transformation into Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” is a masterful, but there’s a strong chance that the Academy will hand it to Day-Lewis for what is supposedly his final film performance (he’s said he’s retiring from acting). The next closest contender would be Timothee Chalamet for “Call Me Be Your Name,” but — whether or not it’s boring — I don’t see anyone other than Day-Lewis winning.

BEST PICTURE

Anytime you’re going up against Steven Spielberg, you know it’s a tough field – and “The Post,” his dramatic telling of the release of the Pentagon Papers (and the clash between the media and the government) has never felt more timely. “Three Billboards” and “Lady Bird” took home Best Drama and Best Comedy, respectively, at the Golden Globes, but I’m going out on a limb and saying “The Shape of Water” will take the win for Best Picture. It’s beautifully filmed, superbly acted and one of the most original stories you’ll ever experience.

OTHER CALLS

The field for Best Director is refreshingly free of the same old nominees (not that directors like Spielberg aren’t masters of their craft), but I believe Jordan Peele has a very strong chance with his Hitchcockian masterpiece, “Get Out.” I think Paul Machliss and Jonathon Amos are a lock for Film Editing for their work on the rollicking “Baby Driver,” and although the nominees for Short Documentary Feature (one of my favorite categories) is full of worthy nominees, Thomas Lennon’s “Knife Skills” — an emotional journey that follows the launch of an upscale, haute cuisine restaurant in Cleveland that’s staffed entirely by ex-prisoners, from chefs to servers — deserves to take home the honor.

By JACK FELIX

Sun-Gazette Correspondent

Only one of my Oscar predictions is guaranteed to be infallible: “La La Land” will not be announced as the winner as “Best Film” of the year.

As to other predictions, my crystal ball is considerably less foggy this year. Although I still attend stage shows at least four times more frequently than movies, I have seen almost all of this year’s Best film and acting nominees.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige? No way! Octavia Spencer? She already won one. Lesley Manville? Who is she anyhow? So a flip of the coin means a cinematic mother (Allison Janney in “I, Tonya” or Laurie Metcalf in “Ladybird”) will win. Projected Winner: Allison Janney.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

How can you not root for Christopher Plummer? He had his 88 year old arm twisted by Ridley Scott at the 11th hour to reshoot all Kevin Spacey’s scenes in “All the Money in the World.” Although it’s unusual that two actors (Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell) are both nominated in the same film, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Rockwell’s racist cop has a meatier role than Harrison’s beleaguered sheriff. Projected Winner: Sam Rockwell.

BEST ACTRESS

While I am continually amazed how Meryl Streep inhabits each character she portrays (Katharine Graham (“The Post”), this is not her year. As the frustrated mother seeking justice, Francis McDormand erects “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and should win an Oscar by doing so. Projected Winner: Frances McDormand.

BEST ACTOR

If anyone believed that Daniel Day-Lewis is really retiring after “Phantom Thread,” he might get serious consideration. But under tons of facial make up and wearing a bodysuit, British actor Gary Oldman gives a stirring performance as Sir Winston Churchhill. Projected Winner: Gary Oldman.

BEST PICTURE

The most unsettling film of the year is “Get Out,” which is not a comedy as the crazy Golden Globes voters would have you believe. Get out and see “Get Out,” available on HBO as well in selected movie theaters. Although it is far from my favorite, Oscar voters are so water-logged in their love of Guilllermo del Torro, that they will vote for this fable of love underwater. Projected Winner: “The Shape of Water.”

OTHER CALLS

If there was strictly a Best Director category, Christopher Nolan for his epic “Dunkirk” would move to the front of the class. But with a little discretion, my “Other” nominee is for Best Full-Length Animated Film. And the Projected Winner is “Coco.” Yes, “Coco” which (with tongue firmed planted in my cheek) I’m also projecting as the Best Disney/Pixar Animated Film which is set in Mexico, with eye boggling colorful skeletal characters, and even highlights The Day of the Dead holiday. And you don’t have to take my word. My 6-year old granddaughter Hadley seconds my motion. And then there is her twin sister Kendall, who thirds my motion.

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