We’re down to our final two Oscar predictions for this year. Will it be Greta, Jordan, Guillermo, PTA, or Mr. Nolan winning Best Director? And will their film win Best Picture? Let’s find out together.
Best Picture and Best Director are two categories that often go hand-in-hand. The norm used to be that if you won Best Director, you were all but assured a Best Picture win. But that’s not true lately. Last year, Moonlight won Best Picture while La La Land‘s Damien Chazelle won Best Picture. In 2015, Alejandro G. Inarritu won for The Revenant while Spotlight took home Best Picture. In fact, Inarritu is the most notable exception to the recent trend, winning Director and Picture with Birdman in 2014.
Prior to the year 2000, these two awards split only about once a decade. It’s already happened 4 times in this decade alone. And as far as we can see, it’s about to happen again. Here’s what our experts have to say about the 90th annual Best Director and Best Picture awards:
Rob Hunter: In a year where predicting the top prize of Best Picture feels like a crapshoot, the winner in this category is pretty much a sure thing. All five nominees have their champions as well as legitimate arguments in their corner, but only one feels inevitable. Paul Thomas Anderson is not that one despite being a beloved director, and while Phantom Thread‘s minimal presence within the minds of the public compared to the other four films isn’t the reason why he won’t win it certainly isn’t helping. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird has been flying high on praise leading to the depressing rarity of her being only the fifth woman to be nominated in the category, but in this case, it feels like the nom is the extent of the prize.
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut delivered even more impressively at the box-office and remained a subject of conversation throughout the entire year. If there’s an upset in this category it will be spelled Get Out. Christopher Nolan, meanwhile, is no newbie in the director’s chair, but his tenth film is his first to receive a nomination for directing. In an ideal world, it would also earn him a win as Dunkirk is a masterclass in filmmaking that not only succeeds on its own terms but also showcases a director capable of correcting his usual twin excesses of bloat and logic issues.
We do not live in an ideal world, though, and instead, the night’s winner will almost certainly be Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water. The film has major problems, but del Toro’s direction is not among them as he shows an intense and immensely creative eye for design, detail, and visual depth when telling a story. On a more practical note, he recently won the DGA’s top prize for the film, and in the past 48 years, the DGA winner has only failed to secure the matching Oscar a paltry seven times.
Who should win: Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Who will win: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Tomris Laffly: In case you haven’t heard: this is a maddeningly unpredictable year when it comes to the Best Picture race, which has been rapidly and continually shifting in shape ever since the Fall trio of Venice-Telluride-Toronto film festivals. You can safely eliminate The Post and Darkest Hour from the mix, which really didn’t make much of a noise throughout the season in the Best Picture field. And do the same, perhaps with less safety, for Phantom Thread, too. (Though the nominations it scored as a late entry into the race is noteworthy.) Then, with even less confidence, remove Call Me By Your Name on a hunch as well (my favorite of the nominees that steadily lost steam in the race). We are left with Get Out, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water and Dunkirk. This pretty much is the race to me, but not necessarily in that order.
Many factors make this year’s race a tough one to predict. First, as we witnessed last year with Moonlight’s triumph, The Academy’s changing make-up and demographics is inevitably (and thankfully) changing the definition of an Oscar film. We can no longer safely bet on the most Oscar-y movie and call it a day. Second, the preferential ballot is designed to land on the most liked (and not necessarily passionately loved) film: it can’t be a divisive title (which La La Land became last year). It needs to be a title that the majority liked at least well enough to rank it high enough on their ballots. Again, this benefited Moonlight. And third, there are stats to beat. No matter what wins on Sunday, a stat or convention will be broken. The question is, which one?
We have to go all the way back to 1995 to find a Best Picture winner (Braveheart) without a SAG Ensemble Nomination. So a SAG nomination seems pretty reliable to bet on, except…that doesn’t look good for The Shape of Water, a clearly beloved film with The Academy and industry in general. Yet, I am comfortable enough to remove the also SAG-lacking Dunkirk from the mix at this stage, leaving the door only slightly open for a surprise. Then there is Lady Bird, which scored five nominations in the most major categories and might do well with the preferential ballot. But my gut isn’t quite aligning with it, either. And then there is Get Out, the massive success story of 2017, and the movie that captured the status quo. Yet, it only has 4 nominations and apparently, no film with less than 5 nominations has won Best Picture since 1934 (no, this is not a typo). Finally, there is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. It is the SAG and BAFTA victor, after all. And it taps into the #MeToo moment (however poorly.) Except…it’s become wildly divisive for understandable reasons and it somehow didn’t score a Best Director nomination as a red flag. So where does this leave us?
Nowhere. The Best Picture race is still as unpredictable as it was when I started to type up this brief analysis. For now, let’s go with SAG and BAFTA and see what happens.
Who should win: Call Me By Your Name
Who will win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri