What to expect from the Oscars’ top six races

In the year since “Moonlight” (eventually) was named best picture, we’ve learned that pretty much every working actress has been abused or at the very least treated disgustingly, and that seemingly at least a third of the men you ever admired in the movie business are creeps.

Who’s ready to party?

Clark High School graduate Jimmy Kimmel, in his second year as host, has his work cut out for him in trying to create a fun atmosphere at the 90th Oscars (5 p.m. Sunday, ABC). In addition to all the awful news out of Hollywood, the two most lighthearted movies nominated for best picture revolve around a grieving mother whose daughter was raped and murdered and a black man targeted by crazy white folk.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen during most of the ceremony — especially if Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway get within a hundred feet of an envelope — but here’s a look at what to expect from the top six awards:


The nominees: Timothee 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.”

The background: In June, when Day-Lewis announced he was retiring from acting, it seemed impossible he wouldn’t go out on top. After all, he won Oscars for two of his three most recent films: 2007’s “There Will Be Blood” and 2012’s “Lincoln.”

The winner: Oldman. He’s been deserving of an Oscar for years and completely disappears into his role as Winston Churchill. He’s already won a Golden Globe for the role, as well as Screen Actors Guild and British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.


The 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”

The background: With apologies to Taylor Swift, Streep’s gonna Streep, Streep, Streep, Streep, Streep — she’ll always be a contender. Hawkins arguably had the toughest assignment of the five in portraying a mute character.

The winner: McDormand. As the firebrand mother who purposely antagonizes everyone in her small town, McDormand landed one of the most incendiary female roles in years. Like Oldman, she swept the Golden Globe, BAFTA and SAG awards.


The 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”

The background: Dafoe had the early buzz, and Plummer seemed like a shoo-in, both as a means of recognizing the way he replaced Kevin Spacey at the last moment and as a giant middle finger to Spacey.

The winner: Rockwell. His portrayal of a small-town racist cop is a tour de force, ranging from pathetic to terrifying. He’s also taken home the same precursor awards as co-star McDormand.


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

The background: This has been a two-woman race between Janney and Metcalf from the outset, even though Janney has won the same three awards as every other acting favorite.

The winner: Janney. Metcalf could still sneak in here, though, because there’s a lot more love for “Lady Bird,” including a best picture nomination, than for “I, Tonya.”


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

The background: For a while, Nolan not only had his best shot yet but was considered the favorite.

The winner: Del Toro. He added a Directors Guild of America award to his Golden Globe-BAFTA sweep.


The 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”

The background: Thanks to the preferential ballot adopted in 2009 solely for best picture, the movie with the most first-place votes may not win. Under this system, voters are asked to rank their favorites from first to last. After the votes have been tallied, the movie with the fewest first-place votes is tossed out, and the second-place votes on its ballots are redistributed. This process continues until a movie has 50 percent plus one of the votes cast. In other words, pretty much anything can happen. Still, it’s believed to be a two-movie race between “The Shape of Water,” which won the Producers Guild award on a preferential ballot, and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won the SAG award handed out by the Oscars’ largest voting bloc.

The winner: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” This is just a gut feeling. The less divisive “Shape of Water” is a safer choice, thanks to the preferential ballot. Then again, that ballot could benefit a true sleeper such as “Get Out.”

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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