The Shape of Oscar: Adam Graham predicts the winners

‘The Shape of Water’ or ‘Three Billboards?’ We’re breaking down every category in Sunday’s Academy Awards

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Woody Harrelson and Frances McDormand in a scene from “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Sunday’s Academy Awards could come down to the wire yet again, with or without Warren Beatty opening the evening’s final envelope.

At last year’s show, it was a fight to the finish between “Moonlight” and “La La Land,” and we’ve got another dogfight on our hands this year between “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” And with potential upsets from “Get Out” and “Lady Bird” making things even more interesting, no one is quite sure how the ceremony is going to shake out.

There are some sure things — looking at you, Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand — and history could be made in several categories.

Here’s a breakdown of all 24 Oscar night races and who should win in each — as long as Warren Beatty reads the correct winner, that is.

Best Picture

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”

Favorite: In a crowded field full of worthy candidates, the only real head scratcher is how “The Florida Project” didn’t make the cut. Still, “The Shape of Water” — the year’s most decorated entry with 13 nominations — has won the majority of the prizes leading up to Oscar night, foretelling a win for Guillermo del Toro’s creature feature. Let’s pause for a second to appreciate the sublime magnificence of this moment: a monster movie — albeit one with a timely message about tolerance and outsiders, but a monster movie nonetheless — is poised to pick up the biggest prize on Oscar night. How’d we tumble into this reality?

Sleeper: Though a backlash has erupted against its prickly racial politics, “Three Billboards” has the best shot at dethroning “Shape,” and has won the awards leading up to Oscar that “Shape” has not. Director Martin McDonagh’s lack of a Best Director nomination hurts “Billboards’” chances, but that didn’t stop “Argo” from winning Best Picture a few years ago. It’s a close one, but if “Shape” doesn’t hit the podium, “Three Billboards” is getting the call.

Daniel Kaluuya in a scene from “Get Out.”

Best Actor

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.”

Favorite: Gary Oldman. It’s not just a career award — although after playing both Beethoven (“Immortal Beloved”) and Sid Vicious (“Sid and Nancy”), he’s certainly due — but Oldman chews through everything in his path as a barking Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s lively historical drama. As sure a thing as any on Oscar night.

Sleeper: Chalamet. At 22, he would be the youngest Best Actor winner ever (a crown currently held by Adrien Brody, who won for “The Pianist” at 29), but while his breakthrough turn in “Call Me By Your Name” was one of the year’s most affecting performances, it’s going to be awfully difficult to derail the Oldman train.

Best Actress

Nominees: 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”

Favorite: McDormand. The only thing that can stop the powerhouse from claiming her second Best Actress trophy (following her win for “Fargo”) is an earthquake hitting Los Angeles just as the envelope is being opened.

Sleeper: Hawkins. Previously nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for “Blue Jasmine,” the British marvel delivers one of the year’s most complete performances, without ever uttering a single word.

Best Supporting Actor

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”

Favorite: Rockwell. Usually too cool for school, Rockwell does his career-best work as a racist small-town cop who finds redemption. It’s a juicy role and Rockwell bites right into it, and it’s his Oscar to hoist come Sunday.

Sleeper: Dafoe. As “The Florida Project’s” sole nominee, the veteran actor (who has twice before been nominated for Oscar) could carry the torch for the under-represented drama, but the odds of that are looking slim as Rockwell has steamrolled through awards season.

Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan star in “Lady Bird.”

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”; Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”; Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”; Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”; Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

Favorite: Janney. As Tonya Harding’s belligerent mother, Janney breathes fire and looks to be unstoppable.

Sleeper: Metcalf. The “Roseanne” alum is outstanding, if too understated for Oscar, as a mother navigating the choppy waters of raising a college-bound daughter.

Best Director

Nominees: Paul Thomas Anderson, “Phantom Thread”; Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird”; Christopher Nolan, “Dunkirk”; Jordan Peele, “Get Out”; Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”

Favorite: Del Toro. The first time Best Director nominee made the year’s most-nominated film, and his vision and his empathy for his characters bleeds through every frame of the film.

Sleeper: A strong case can be made for Nolan, earning his first nomination in the category for his intense, enveloping World War II epic. (A win for Nolan over del Toro could signal a Best Picture loss for “Shape of Water” later in the show.) And in a year where inclusion has been a major theme, Gerwig could pull out a surprise win.

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water.”

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: “The Big Sick,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Favorite: “Three Billboards.” Martin McDonagh was blanked in the year’s Best Director competition, but a win here for his sharp screenplay would help soften that blow.

Sleeper: “Get Out.” Jordan Peele’s subversive horror film won’t be snagging any of the night’s top prizes, so this could be the perfect place to honor his Hollywood-rattling social critique.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Logan,” “Molly’s Game,” “Mudbound”

Favorite: “Call Me Be Your Name.” A win for this tender romance would be the first Oscar for 89-year-old screenwriter James Ivory, whose credits include “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day.”

Sleeper: “Mudbound.” Nominated in several categories, the Netflix upstart about racism and PTSD in the rural South could shake up Oscar night with a big win here.

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: “The Boss Baby,” “The Breadwinner,” “Coco,” “Ferdinand,” “Loving Vincent”

Favorite: Pixar films have won this category eight times, most recently with “Inside Out,” and are poised to take it again with the Day of the Dead celebration “Coco.”

Sleeper: “Loving Vincent,” the lovely (if narratively dull) film about Vincent Van Gogh made from more than 65,000 oil paintings in the style of Van Gogh, could upset the Pixar machine.

Best Foreign Language Film

Nominees: “A Fantastic Woman,” “The Insult,” “Loveless,” “On Body and Soul,” “The Square”

Favorite: “A Fantastic Woman,” the Chilean-made drama about gender identity, has the edge in this category.

Sleeper: “The Square,” the Ruben Östlund-directed critique on the art world, won the Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, so don’t sell it short.

Best Documentary Feature

Nominees: “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” “Faces Places,” “Icarus,” “Last Men in Aleppo,” “Strong Island”

Favorite: “Faces Places” is a fun, lively and moving intergenerational doc and would mark the first Academy Award for Agnès Varda, the influential 89-year-old French filmmaker.

Best Original Score

Nominees: “Dunkirk,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Shape of Water,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Favorite: Alexandre Desplat, who won the Best Original Score Academy Award for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is set to win his second Oscar here for “The Shape of Water.” However, no one would be upset if Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood swooped in and won for his sweeping, off-kilter “Phantom Thread” score.

Best Original Song

Nominees: “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”)

Favorite: Since they nominated the wrong song by Detroit native Sufjan Stevens — the shattering “Visions of Gideon,” which plays over the closing credits of “Call Me By Your Name,” should have gotten the nod — the jam from “Coco” will likely win. (Ironically, “Coco” is about a family that refuses to listen to or acknowledge music.)

Best Cinematography

Nominees: “Blade Runner 2049,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “Mudbound,” “The Shape of Water”

Favorite: “Blade Runner” was the year’s sharpest-looking movie, and a win here would mark the first trip to the podium for Roger Deakins, who has been nominated in the category 13 previous times. (He should have won for “Skyfall.”)

Best Editing

Nominees: “Baby Driver,” “Dunkirk,” “I, Tonya,” “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Favorite: The last two winners in this category were action titles “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and if this year follows suit, “Dunkirk” has the best chance.

Best Costume Design

Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Darkest Hour,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Shape of Water,” “Victoria & Abdul”

Favorite: It’s a film about costume design, so unless they want an earful from Reynolds Woodcock himself, voters are likely to honor “Phantom Thread.”

Best Visual Effects

Nominees: “Blade Runner 2049,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” “Kong: Skull Island,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Favorite: “Apes.” The film was a stunner on a number of levels, but its visual effects upped the ante on the possibilities of motion capture technology.

Best Production Design

Nominees: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Darkest Hour,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water”

Favorite: This award is brought to you by the color green, which del Toro makes startling use of throughout “The Shape of Water.” Paint this Oscar green, too: It’s going to “Shape.”

Best Sound Editing

Nominees: “Baby Driver,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Favorite: Previous winners of this award, which tends to lean toward action fare, include “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “American Sniper” and “The Hurt Locker.” Given that history, the safe money is with “Dunkirk.”

Best Sound Mixing

Nominees: “Baby Driver,” “Blade Runner 2049,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water,” “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Favorite: Technical wins are the best bet for “Dunkirk,” so go with Christopher Nolan’s war film (Nolan’s “Inception” was a previous winner in this category).

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominees: “Darkest Hour,” “Victoria & Abdul,” “Wonder”

Favorite: It took a lot of makeup to get Gary Oldman looking like Winston Churchill — enough, surely, for a win in this category.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Nominees: “Edith+Eddie,” “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” “Heroin(e),” “Knife Skills,” “Traffic Stop”

Favorite: Ann Arbor’s Laura Checkoway has a fighting chance with “Edith+Eddie,” which focuses on America’s oldest interracially married couple, but “Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405” has the edge.

Best Short Film

Nominees: “DeKalb Elementary,” “The Eleven O’Clock,” “My Nephew Emmett,” “The Silent Child,” “Watu Wote/ All of Us”

Favorite: “DeKalb Elementary,” a startling film about a school shooter, couldn’t possibly be more timely. A win here could make viewers perk up during what’s normally a dull portion of the evening.

Best Animated Short

Nominees: “Dear Basketball,” “Garden Party,” “Lou,” “Negative Space,” “Revolting Rhymes”

Favorite: “Dear Basketball,” an animated telling of the poem Kobe Bryant wrote announcing his retirement from professional basketball, is the most touching, poignant entry in the field. Bryant may want to clear some room in his trophy case for some more gold.


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90th Academy Awards

8 p.m. Sunday

ABC (Channel 7)

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel