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Predicting the unpredictable: Academy Awards 2018

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By RYAN PAINTER, KUTV

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) - Here we are at the end of all things 2017 as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is set to unveil its Oscar winners Sunday night in Los Angeles. In December, I wrote about my favorite films of 2017. Since then I’ve seen dozens of movies, so it feels a little strange to be reaching back to talk about a handful of films that I saw at least three months ago.

The only thing you really need to know about predicting the Academy Award winners is that the voters are unpredictable. As such, I can read the tea leaves, cross reference what films have already won big at earlier award shows and offer a guess that feels reasonably educated and still manage to have fewer correct predictions than an infant with a giant crayon.

Now that I’ve built up your confidence in me, let’s look at some of the major categories.

Best Picture

A quick survey of Best Picture predictions makes it clear that no one is confident in picking a winner. The frontrunners are “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water” with “Get Out” and “Dunkirk” getting some love. Of the nominated films, which also include “Lady Bird,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Phantom Thread,” “The Post and “Darkest Hour,” I’d vote for “The Shape of Water.” I am, however, a little biased because I have been a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro’s work since seeing “Mimic” and “Blade II” in the ‘90s. Little did I know, the best was yet to come.

Best Director

Guillermo del Toro is expected to win for “The Shape of Water” with Christopher Nolan for “Dunkirk” as the second favorite. Happy to see Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig getting nominations for their work on “Get Out” and “Lady Bird.” My heart, as it should already be clear, is with del Toro and “The Shape of Water.”

Best Actor in a Leading Role

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The consensus is that Gary Oldman will win for his performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour.” It’s a very good performance from an actor who has been great in so many films that it is shocking to learn that this is only his second Oscar nomination (the other being for his great performance in 2011’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”).

The dark horse in this race is Timothée Chalamet for his performance in “Call Me by Your Name,” a film I wasn’t as in love with as many others were. If there were to be a surprise winner I’d prefer it be Daniel Kaluuya for his performance in “Get Out.”

Best Actress in a Leading Role

All bets are on Frances McDormand for her performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” but it’s very hard for me to look past Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” and Meryl Streep in “The Post.” That said, Saoirse Ronan’s performance in “Lady Bird” has the best chance to upset McDormand.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sam Rockwell’s performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” has quietly moved past Willem Dafoe’s fantastic turn in “The Florida Project” over the past few weeks. I prefer Dafoe, but no one from the Academy really cares what I think. I’d also pick Christopher Plummer’s “All the Money in the World” performance or Richard Jenkinsin “The Shape of Water” before picking Rockwell or his co-star Woody Harrelson for the award.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney is likely to win for her performance as Tonya Harding’s abusive mother in “I, Tonya,” but there has quietly been a push for Laurie Metcalf’s performance in “Lady Bird.” I still think Janney will win, but I do wish there was more attention given to Octavia Spencer’s performance in “The Shape of Water.”

Best Animated Feature

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I love the animation technique of “Loving Vincent” and the reminder that animated films can effectively tackle contemporary issues in “The Breadwinner,” but “Coco” is as close to a guaranteed lock as you can get.

Adapted Screenplay

“Call Me by Your Name” is expected to win here, but I vastly prefer what James Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green were able to do with “Logan.” In an age of superhero films, their script stands out as a wonderful example of how comic book films needn’t all follow the same formula. My second choice would be “The Disaster Artist,” but there’s little hope that anything other than “Call Me by Your Name” will win.

Original Screenplay

This is one of the hardest categories for me to pick a favorite. “Get Out” and “Three Billboards” are the two favorites with “Lady Bird,” “The Shape of Water” and “The Big Sick” coming in behind. I’d love to see “Get Out” win, but I’d also like “The Big Sick” to get some attention.

Cinematography

Roger Deakins has been nominated 13 times for an Academy Award and has yet to walk away with an Oscar. This will be Deakins’ year for his work on “Blade Runner 2049.” Almost any other year would have me shipping Dan Laustsenfor “The Shape of Water” or Hoyte Van Hoytema for “Dunkirk,” but not this year.

Visual Effects

It appears to be a two-horse race between “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Blade Runner 2049.” What they’ve been able to do with the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise has been nothing short of remarkable, but I suspect that “Blade Runner 2049” is going to get the Oscar.

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Original Score

Phantom Thread” featured Jonny Greenwood’s bravest and best score, but nothing comes close to what Alexandre Desplat did for “The Shape of Water.”

Original Song

It’s down to “Remember Me” from “Coco” or “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman.” Could easily go either way, but I’m picking “This is Me.”

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