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In the last 14 years of forecasting the Oscars for these pages, I’ve noticed a bad trend emerging globally in the Oscar prediction game. Almost everyone is picking their winners based on probability, statistics, and a surefire handicap system of past wins at various award shows. Very few are actually watching the entire spectrum of nominated titles — which, let me admit beforehand — is a monstrous task, especially if one has to minutely compare each specific category and make deductions.

As if watching the titles isn’t grueling enough (especially when you know some won’t even make the cut at award night), one has to keep the probability in mind that a good number of Academy members may not have actually seen most of the titles themselves… or worse yet, would vote by preference or word of mouth.

The prediction game gets complicated still: this year 774 new members were invited to join the Academy (the list includes Bollywood superstars Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwariya Rai-Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Aamir Khan, Irrfan Khan and Salman Khan).

The selection list is diverse and far-reaching, adding women, minorities, youngsters and foreign talent to the mix. These new members — adding approximately 10 percent of the 7,258 total members — may shake things up, especially when one factors in the dramatic socio-political messages Hollywood has to put every year at award shows.

How the Oscars 2018 will actually play out we will only know tomorrow. But here are Icon’s predictions for this year’s Academy award winners

With the math, messages and movements, I guess there really is little room to applaud the craft of filmmaking. So this year, despite the already-in-place handicapping system, I’m keen to play the forecasting game by gut feeling and the knowledge I’ve gained after watching 80 percent of the nominated titles (we do not predict the short film categories because of their unavailability).

At the time of writing this piece, I am predicting serious upsets in the Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing categories. On the creative side, Original Screenplay, Documentary and Original Song may prove to be close calls. Out of 21 predicted categories, I am confident on 16. How the night will actually play out, we can only guess for now.

So here are who we think ‘will win’ or ‘should win’ the award (the latter based on personal preference) and possible upsets in each category.

PICTURE

Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Upset: The Shape of Water

Both titles have strong women in the lead, yet despite the tilt in The Shape of Water’s favour, I count the film as an ‘upset’ and not a ‘should win’. Shape, despite being a very good picture, still feels like a commercial endeavour with artistic elements. Three Billboards, meanwhile, has a stronger message of rape, bigotry and redemption.

DIRECTOR

Will Win: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water Little left to the imagination here. This is definitely Del Toro’s night.

ACTOR

Will Win: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

This is Gary Oldman’s second nomination and surefire win; last time he lost to Jean Dujardin (The Artist). The other nominees — Denzel Washington and Daniel Day-Lewis — already have Oscar statuettes.

ACTRESS

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

Upset: Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Again, I count Sally Hawkins as an ‘upset’ and not a ‘should win’. My reasons are exactly the same as the one in Best Picture. Despite both titles showcasing strong-willed women, this may be McDormand’s night getting her second Oscar. Then again, if I am wrong, new voters — a lot of them female — may choose to applaud one woman’s sexual liberation in favour of another’s rage against sexual predators and a corrupt system.

SUPPORTING ACTOR

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

Upset: Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Dafoe has a very, very slight chance of pulling off an ‘upset’. Personally, I would have voted for Woody Harrelson. Christopher Plummer has recently won an Oscar for Beginners in the same category in 2012.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win: Allison Janney, I, Tonya

I am pretty confident Janney will get Oscar love in her first nomination this year. She’s already an industry favourite. Laurie Metcalf, in my opinion, had a better-written role as a mother who can’t get along with her daughter.

SCREENPLAY — ORIGINAL

Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Upset: Get Out

I am on the fence in this category. Seven hundred and seventy-four new voters and diversity may get Get Out its only Oscar for the night (also, let’s not forget the fact that Jordan Peele is a new inductee of The Academy this year). Get Out despite raising issues of racial bias becomes a typical horror-thriller by the end, while Three Billboards has that “Oscar” worthiness in its topic – 50-50 percent tug of war here.

SCREENPLAY — ADAPTED

Will Win: James Ivory, Call Me By Your Name

Should Win: Molly’s Game

At 89, with a six-decade career (which includes four nominations and no wins) he is the second oldest person to be nominated by The Academy. The win for Molly’s Game is just wishful thinking (also, Aaron Sorkin, its writer, already has an Oscar).

Animated

Will Win: Coco

Upset: The Breadwinner

Not much chances for The Breadwinner to win the award. But still, it would be an astonishing upset.

FOREIGN

Will Win: A Fantastic Woman

Upset: The Square

I believe it will be a 60-40 race between A Fantastic Woman (a story of a transgender woman who lost her lover) and The Square (an art-gallery’s manager’s troubles). The former has stronger themes.

DOCUMENTARY — FEATURE LENGTH

Will Win: Faces Places

Should Win: Last Men in Aleppo

Upset: Icarus

This is by far the most difficult creative category to pick a win in. Faces Places may nab the award — it is directed by the photo-artist JR and esteemed French director Agnes Varda (also the oldest person nominated by the Academy). Varda, though, was given an honourary award this year. Last Men in Aleppo (about The White Helmets) is harrowing, but a little too manipulative and preachy; in hindsight, the subject won the Oscar last year in the Short Documentary category. Icarus (on Russia’s Olympic doping) is powerful and timely. This is a three-way race, folks.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win: Blade Runner 2049

I’ve always said that Roger Deakins will win the award for one of his lesser applauded works.

EDITING

Will Win: Dunkirk

Upset: Baby Driver

The Edit and Sound categories share the same dilemma. Both Baby Driver and Dunkirk are technically spectacular in Editing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. These categories will confuse Academy voters — especially those with a keen eye and ear.

Judging by the narrative, Dunkirk has a slight edge in Editing because it fluently combines three timelines into a single event. If Baby Driver wins (and there’s a 50-50 percent chance of that happening), it might be for its kinetic pace.

SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Dunkirk

Should Win: Baby Driver

Again, same argument as above. The placement of sound was integral to the story.

SOUND MIX

Will Win: Dunkirk

Upset: Baby Driver

By far the most coherent-sounding mix in Christopher Nolan’s career. I would vote for it.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Upset: Blade Runner 2049

Shape is a front-runner here but Blade Runner 2049 isn’t far behind in my estimation.

MAKE-UP AND HAIR

Will Win: Darkest Hour

Upset: Wonder

Wonder started off with a strong push early in the Oscar race. Right now I feel Darkest Hour has the lead.

COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: Phantom Thread

Upset: The Shape of Water

By logic Phantom Thread — the story of an eccentric, master fashion designer — will win the award. Shape has a seen-it-all-before element to its costumes.

VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Upset: Blade Runner 2049

Give the Simians their awards. Please. Think of it as a parting gift. This is the third nomination of the franchise (one per film) and the effects have only gotten better. If Blade Runner 2049 wins, it would be a major disappointment.

SCORE

Will Win: The Shape of Water

Upset: Phantom Thread

Both scores are top-notch, though I would vote for Shape — and I think so would most of The Academy.

SONG

Will Win: This is Me from The Greatest Showman

Upset: Remember Me from Coco

I believe Coco has the most momentum at the moment. Remember Me, despite being nostalgic, pales in front of the anthem This is Me; the song is empowering, asking others to accept people for who they are, and not what they should be. Both nominees have previous wins (one had won for La La Land last year, the other for Frozen).

Published in Dawn, ICON, March 4th, 2018