Movies

90th Academy Awards

Get ready for surprises at this year’s Oscars

RYAN HUDDLE/GLOBE STAFF PHOTO ILLUSTRATION

What does it mean to say that this year’s Academy Awards seem like an actual race for the first time in a long time? Twelve months ago we wrote that “‘La La Land’ was poised to sweep the 89th Academy Awards,” and at the time it seemed like a sure thing. We all know how that turned out. But this year, while Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” easily leads the 90th annual field with 13 nominations, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has been picking up momentum on the pre-Oscar awards circuit. “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” and “The Post” are the kind of big historical canvases the Academy has traditionally liked to honor. And an influx of younger, more diverse Oscar voters may tilt the balance toward the smaller “Lady Bird,” the gay coming-of-age story “Call Me by Your Name,” or the racially astute genre games of “Get Out.” If the latter takes the evening’s big prize on March 4 (8 p.m. on ABC) — it would be the first hit horror film to win since “The Silence of the Lambs,” in 1991 — then something really is happening here, both within the Academy and out here in America.

Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out.”
Universal Pictures
Daniel Kaluuya in “Get Out.”

PICTURE

TY BURR

Will Win: “The Shape of Water”

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Should Win: “Phantom Thread”

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Shouldn’t Be Here: “Three Billboards”

Was Robbed: “The Florida Project”

“Three Billboards” ’s domination of the BAFTAs — the British Oscars — doesn’t bode well for one-time leader “The Shape of Water,” but I still say the former’s written by a gifted outsider who doesn’t understand Middle America as well as he thinks, and I’m betting Academy voters will prefer del Toro’s wonderful imaginarium. By contrast, “Florida Project” understands America all too well. Gourmet treat “Phantom Thread” is simply next-level filmcraft and the best thing here.

JANICE PAGE

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Will Win: “Get Out”

Should Win: “Get Out”

Shouldn’t Be Here: “Darkest Hour”

Was Robbed: “I, Tonya”

Can a horror thriller released in February really win best picture? It can (see: “Silence of the Lambs”), especially when it’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” for a “Walking Dead” generation. “Shape of Water” collected several key guild awards (producers, directors) and “Three Billboards” has actors guild and BAFTA nods contributing to its surge. But “Get Out” has staying power, and the perfectly metaphorical Sunken Place, while “Darkest Hour” is one Dunkirk movie too many.

DIRECTOR

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TY BURR

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Should Win: del Toro

Shouldn’t Be Here: Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”

Was Robbed: Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me by Your Name”

Even if “Billboards” manages to take best picture, I can’t see the Academy awarding McDonagh for direction when his greater strengths are in writing. Del Toro is a deep-dyed master of cinema — arguably his generation’s Spielberg — and he’s overdue for recognition. First-timer Gerwig steered “Lady Bird” smartly and well, but I might have swapped her out for the overripe talents of Guadagnino.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Should Win: Jordan Peele, “Get Out”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”

Was Robbed: Craig Gillespie, “I, Tonya”

If “Get Out” gets in on the top prize, it will be because of a picture/director split. Del Toro, who took the Directors Guild Award, is the clear favorite here. He needs an Oscar to sit at the big-kids’ table with his Cha Cha Films cofounders Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Birdman,” “The Revenant”). Nolan’s impressive “Dunkirk” is more deserving in the technical categories. Gillespie has been an unheralded king of quirk since “Lars and the Real Girl.”

Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”
Jack English / Focus Features
Gary Oldman stars as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

TY BURR

Will Win: Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Was Robbed: Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”

A historical setting, an outsize biographical subject, the British accents, all that makeup, all that talent — Gary Oldman cannot and will not be denied. A sentimentalist might plunk for Daniel Day-Lewis in his final (he says) role, and a great one. If we’re looking for a surprise fifth entry, Pattinson’s low-life hood in “Good Time” is more electrifying than Washington’s eccentric attorney.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Should Win: Kaluuya

Shouldn’t Be Here: Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Was Robbed: Harry Dean Stanton, “Lucky”

Oldman may look like a sure bet, and certainly if we’re measuring in makeup wipes, his Winston Churchill can’t be beat. But he’s a nominee whose unapologetic past includes allegations of domestic abuse, racism, and sexism. Kaluuya was just as masterful in “Get Out” with no #MeToo baggage and no world-leader blueprint to guide him. One of the great actors of his generation, Stanton gave a truly haunting final performance that at least deserved a nomination.

Sally Hawkins (left) and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.”
Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Sally Hawkins (left) and Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water.”

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

TY BURR

Will Win: Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Should Win: Hawkins

Shouldn’t Be Here: Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Was Robbed: Vicky Krieps, “Phantom Thread”

Odds favor McDormand at this point. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Hawkins’s performance, in which she conveys an immense range of emotions without saying a word, will take the prize. (Let it be noted that my out-on-a-limb predictions haven’t panned out well in the past.) Streep is her usual excellent self, but her nomination feels almost reflexive. How Krieps’s dazzling theft of “Phantom Thread” got ignored is anyone’s guess.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Should Win: Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Was Robbed: Daniela Vega, “A Fantastic Woman”

Say what you will about “Three Billboards,” McDormand’s portrait of a sarcasm-spitting, take-charge mother out for justice has struck a chord. Despite the much higher degree of difficulty, Hawkins’s quietly determined performance isn’t even looking like a contender. Nor is the unnominated Vega, who dazzles as a transgender powerhouse in “A Fantastic Woman.”

Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox
Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TY BURR

Will Win: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Should Win: Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Rockwell (I guess)

Was Robbed: Michael Stuhlbarg (in everything)

Tight field. Rockwell is a much-loved, much-admired wild man of acting who, incomprehensibly, has never been Oscar-nominated before. If enough voters don’t buy his “Billboards” character’s 11th-hour conversion — or if costar Woody Harrelson siphons away votes — the award could still go to Dafoe. Stuhlbarg was tremendous in at least two 2017 movies (“Shape of Water,” “Call Me by Your Name”); maybe he’s just too good.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Should Win: Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”

Shouldn’t Be Here: Rockwell

Was Robbed: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”

Nothing against Rockwell as an actor, but his explosively bigoted, instantly redeemable cop is one of the least believable things in the believability-challenged “Three Billboards.” Jenkins, on the other hand, was a fully plausible accomplice to a fish-man jail break; that’s how good he is. And please make time to see the AIDS-activism chronicle “Beats Per Minute”; its ensemble cast, led by Biscayart, is extraordinary.

Laurie Metcalf (right) with Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird.”
Merie Wallace, courtesy of A24
Laurie Metcalf (right) with Saoirse Ronan in “Lady Bird.”

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

TY BURR

Will Win: Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”

Should Win: Metcalf

Shouldn’t Be Here: Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Was Robbed: Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”

It’s a horse race between two moms, one real, the other just really awful. Metcalf in “Lady Bird” strikes sparks of recognition in anyone who has been a mother or a daughter, but Allison Janney is a workhorse, a legend to her peers, and she is fearsome in “I, Tonya.” I’d love to have seen Hunter acknowledged, but who do you edge out? Spencer’s previous noms have come for meatier roles.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Should Win: Janney

Shouldn’t Be Here: Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Was Robbed: Bria Vinaite, “The Florida Project”

I loved Laurie Metcalf in “Roseanne” (first edition). I loved her just as much in “Lady Bird.” But Allison Janney’s spot-on portrait of Tonya Harding’s abusive, wack-job mom? That’s Oscar and Olympic medal-worthy. Sticking with the unfit-mother category for a moment: Vinaite came into “Florida Project” as a first-time, untrained actress; she left a big, nomination-worthy impression.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

TY BURR

Will Win: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Martin McDonagh

Should Win: “Get Out,” Jordan Peele

Voters love a screenplay with lots of impassioned, angry words, less so where the dialogue is at the service of a lot of smart ideas. Which is one way of saying McDonagh — a playwright! — will probably beat out Peele (a TV comic), even though he shouldn’t.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Get Out”

Should Win: “Get Out”

What other landmark racial satire posing as a blockbuster horror movie is endowed with the comic cojones to have a white man say to a black man: “I would have voted for Obama a third time, if I could.” Thank you, Jordan Peele.

Timothee Chalamet (left) and Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name.”
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Timothee Chalamet (left) and Armie Hammer in “Call Me by Your Name.”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

TY BURR

Will Win: “Call Me by Your Name,” James Ivory

Should Win: “Call Me by Your Name”

James Ivory’s literate, allusive screenplay for “Name” deserves the award, and he’ll bank on his long and respected career as a filmmaker, too. The only possible rival is “Mudbound.”

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Mudbound,” Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Should win: “Mudbound”

When I first saw “Mudbound,” without knowing its origins, I thought it might be rooted in Steinbeck or Faulkner. Turns out it was adapted from a novel by Hillary Jordan. Williams and Rees have made something literary and moving, but will it speak to more voters than “Call Me”? This is why we watch.

The animated film “Coco.”
Disney-Pixar via AP
The animated film “Coco.”

ANIMATED FEATURE

TY BURR

Will Win: “Coco”

Should Win: “Coco”

Pixar’s usually the 800-pound gorilla in this category, and the dazzling Mexican visuals of “Coco” make it seem a lock. But dark horse “Loving Vincent” is just as dazzling, and artier, too.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Coco”

Should Win: “Loving Vincent”

Yeah, so . . . Pixar. No one’s going to deny the cuddly Day of the Dead musical, even if it’s hanging with a Van Gogh that should be worth considerably more.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE

TY BURR

Will Win: “The Insult” (Lebanon)

Should Win: “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)

A knucklebuster of a category that could go any which way, and deservedly so. “The Insult” dramatizes Middle East conflicts in a showy allegorical manner that plays broadly and well; Chile’s “A Fantastic Woman” and “Loveless,” from Russia, are stronger films, though.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “The Insult”

Should Win: “The Insult”

As good as these nominees are, Fatih Akin’s “In the Fade” (Germany) is an egregious snub that weakens the field. “Fantastic Woman” is a better performance than it is a film. “The Insult,” while a bit all over the place, is the most resonant.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

TY BURR

Will Win: “Icarus”

Should Win: Any of them

A documentary about Russian dirty tricks at the Olympics? “Icarus” has great timing, if nothing else. A rock-solid category means French New Wave legend Agnès Varda might win for “Faces/Places,” or Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) for “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.”

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Strong Island”

Should Win: “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”

Remember when this category was ruled by music documentaries like “Amy” and “Twenty Feet From Stardom”? Now the frontrunners chronicle Russian doping, Syrian first-responders (“Last Men in Aleppo”), and racial injustice (the powerful, deeply personal “Strong Island”). I’m partial to “Abacus” because the 2008 financial crisis still grates and reverberates, and because the brilliant Steve James has been marginalized long enough.

Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner 2049.”
Courtesy Of Alcon Entertainment/Warner Bros.
Ryan Gosling in “Blade Runner 2049.”

VISUAL EFFECTS

TY BURR

Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049,” John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert, and Richard R. Hoover

Should Win: “War for the Planet of the Apes,” Joe Letteri, Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon, and Joel Whist

A tight race between these two films, both epic remakes of classic properties. I’d argue that “Apes” takes its source in more remarkable visual directions, but I’d probably get plenty of argument.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Should Win: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Sorry, Ty, you’ll get no argument from me.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

TY BURR

Will Win: “Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins

Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049”

Deakins has shot 55 movies, is a critical component of the Coen brothers filmography, has been nominated for the cinematography Oscar 14 times, and has never, ever won. He’s long overdue, and he’s never not deserving.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema

Should Win: “Dunkirk”

I hate picking a first-time nominee over the Susan Lucci of cinematography, but I must. “Dunkirk” is driven by two things: editing and cinematography. “Blade Runner,” on the other hand, is powered largely by visual effects. “V” for van Hoytema.

From left: Jamie Foxx, Lanny Joon, and Ansel Elgort in “Baby Driver.”
Wilson Webb/TriStar Pictures
From left: Jamie Foxx, Lanny Joon, and Ansel Elgort in “Baby Driver.”

FILM EDITING

TY BURR

Will Win: “Dunkirk,” Lee Smith

Should Win: “Baby Driver,” Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos

The complex, concatenated chronology of “Dunkirk” means there’s lots of editing, which voters love in this category. And Nolan gets much respect in Hollywood. “Baby Driver” uses its cutting to transport audiences to someplace faster, lighter, and tons more fun.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Dunkirk”

Should Win: “Baby Driver”

I remember marveling at the editing of “Baby Driver” even as I was watching “Baby Driver.” That was back in June. The choreography of its cuts remains lodged in my brain — front and center, because nobody puts “Baby Driver” in a corner.

Fionn Whitehead in “Dunkirk.”
Warner Brothers
Fionn Whitehead in “Dunkirk.”

SOUND EDITING

TY BURR

Will Win: “Dunkirk,” Richard King and Alex Gibson

Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049,” Mark Mangini and Theo Green

Sound editors collect and record all the sounds you hear in a movie, captured live or created in a recording studio. “Dunkirk” convincingly puts viewers’ ears everywhere from the inside of a sinking ship to the cockpit of a fighter plane. “Blade Runner 2049” is its closest competition.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Dunkirk”

Should Win: “Baby Driver,” Julian Slater

Everything about “Baby Driver” is high-octane, including its soundscape. It’s an aural assault, in a good way. “Dunkirk” will roll right over it, though. The sounds of war are much harder to shake.

SOUND MIXING

TY BURR

Will Win: “Dunkirk,” Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo, and Mark Weingarten

Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049,” Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill, and Mac Ruth

Sound mixers take the sounds the sound editors have created and fold them all into one coherent audio track. The two awards often but not always go to the same films, and the invented aural soundscapes of “Blade Runner” may prevail.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Dunkirk”

Should Win: “Baby Driver,” Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, and Mary H. Ellis

Sticking with my “Baby Driver,” probably to the same losing tune as in the sound editing category.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

TY BURR

Will Win: “The Shape of Water,” Paul Denham Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin

Should Win: “The Shape of Water”

Production design is the overall look of the film, not just sets and lighting. Of the five nominees, del Toro’s “Shape” takes audiences to the most rapturous invented wonderworld.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “The Shape of Water”

Should Win: “Blade Runner 2049,” Dennis Gassner and Alessandra Querzola

“Shape of Water” captures one woman’s world, but “Blade Runner 2049” is otherworldly in a way that, pardon the cliche, becomes its own character. In fact, it’s more of a leading man than either Ryan Gosling or Harrison Ford — a sentence I can’t believe I just wrote.

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in “Phantom Thread.”
Laurie Sparham/Focus Features
Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in “Phantom Thread.”

COSTUME DESIGN

TY BURR

Will Win: “Phantom Thread,” Mark Bridges

Should Win: “Phantom Thread”

You’d think that a movie about creating sumptuous haute couture dresses would be a lock in this category, and you’re probably right. But are those dresses also meant to be a tad passe? Confused voters may opt for the simpler glitz and gowns of “Beauty and the Beast.”

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Phantom Thread”

Should Win: Anything but “Phantom Thread”

Remember the clunky custom furniture that Channing Tatum’s character thinks is his ticket out of stripping in “Magic Mike”? That’s the level of craftsmanship I see in the deluded designer fashions of “Phantom Thread.” Intentional or not, I’m not buying their Oscar worthiness. The merman costume in “Shape of Water” exhibits more style and wearability.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

TY BURR

Will Win: “Darkest Hour,” Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick

Should Win: “Wonder,” Arjen Tuiten

The transformation of lean, mean Gary Oldman into waddling, wattled Winston Churchill means that “Darkest Hour” is a sure bet here. But the transformation of little Jacob Tremblay into the facially scarred hero of “Wonder” is worth a shout-out, too.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Darkest Hour”

Should Win: “Darkest Hour”

Reward the makeup, not the man. For voters who can’t get behind an Oscar for Oldman, that could be an acceptable mantra. The jowly Last Lion of England is certain to take this one, in any case.

ORIGINAL SCORE

TY BURR

Will Win: “The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat

Should Win: “Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood

Alexandre Desplat’s tenderly soaring melodies for “Shape” stand to win, although Hans Zimmer’s “Dunkirk” musique concrète has its defenders. Jonny Greenwood’s gorgeous “Phantom Thread” score is the one I can’t stop listening to.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “The Shape of Water”

Should Win: “Phantom Thread”

What he said.

ORIGINAL SONG

TY BURR

Will Win: “This Is Me,” Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Should Win: “Mighty River,” Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and Taura Stinson

A showstopper from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack written by the “La La Land” tunesmiths, “This Is Me” looks to have the edge. “Remember Me,” from “Coco,” is also a contender, but Mary J. Blige takes her “Mudbound” track all the way to church.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Remember Me,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Should Win: “Mighty River”

“Coco” isn’t “Frozen,” and “Remember Me” is no “Let It Go.” That said, with nothing resembling a hit in this “meh” group of nominees, the default may as well be that catchy cartoon ditty your kids kind of liked.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT

TY BURR

Will Win: “Heroin(e)”

Should Win: “Heroine(e)”

Another well-stocked category, with a Netflix-produced look at the opioid crisis in the lead spot but the old-timer’s romance of “Edith+Eddie” and the Driving While Black topicality of “Traffic Stop” provide competition.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Heroin(e)”

Should Win: “Heroin(e)”

How do you make an uplifting documentary about the heroin scourge? You focus on three West Virginia women making a difference in the “overdose capital of America” — all of them regular folks forging practical solutions and something resembling hope.

LIVE ACTION SHORT

TY BURR

Will Win: “My Nephew Emmett”

Should Win: “DeKalb Elementary”

The dramatization of lynching victim Emmett Till’s last night alive is starkly powerful, but the school-shooter talkdown of “DeKalb” may stick with you longer. The only comedy, “The Eleven O’Clock,” could possibly win by attrition.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “DeKalb Elementary”

Should Win: “DeKalb Elementary”

Final voting for the Oscars doesn’t close until Feb. 27. For anyone still outraged over the recent massacre in Parkland, Fla. (that should be everyone), “DeKalb Elementary” is the film of the moment — a compassionate, pointed dramatization of mental health and gun control issues. If it wins, expect an acceptance speech that makes you weep.

ANIMATED SHORT

TY BURR

Will Win: “Lou”

Should Win: “Garden Party”

Pixar’s odd but engaging “Lou” is almost up to the animation giant’s high standards, which is probably good enough. The masterful digital amphibians of “Garden Party” are the standouts in a fairly weak category.

JANICE PAGE

Will Win: “Dear Basketball”

Should Win: “Lou”

You know what acceptance speech I’m not looking forward to, if the fair-weather fans of Los Angeles have their way? Lakers legend Kobe Bryant sharing in an Oscar as writer, narrator, and executive producer of “Dear Basketball,” his mash note to the sport. No Celtics fan wants to see that. Go, “Lou.”

Ty Burr can be reached at ty.burr@globe.com. Janice Page can be reached at janice.page@globe.com.