Best Picture is anyone’s game: The Iris predicts the 90th Academy Awards

Well, the time has come. After a year of incredible cinema, plenty of controversy and a few box office records along the way, the 90th Academy Awards airs in the US this Sunday night and in Australia around lunchtime on Monday, live on Channel Nine.

In the first “post-Weinstein” Oscars, it’s a year where underrepresentation of females in Hollywood has taken centre stage; following on from the previous year where racial diversity did the same. The result is one of the most diverse lineups of Oscar nominees in history. And with Hollywood working to restore its reputation as an inclusive industry, free from certain abuses of power, it’s also making these awards one of the hardest to predict in recent memory. Best Picture alone will pain the image as why… a category which seems to be just about anyone’s game.

In each category, The Iris picks who we think the winner will be on the night, the nominee we would have voted for (“should win”) and the one that stands a pretty damn good shot at winning or causing an upset.

Best Picture

While last year saw two clear favourites for Best Picture (Moonlight and La La Land), this year it’s fair to say that just about any of the nine films could take home the biggest award of the night.

Based on recent wins, the favourite definitely seems to be Three Billboards – but could its racially charged themes work against it, in the Academy’s more diverse pool of voters? In that respect, Get Out is emerging as an underdog favourite – and it won Best Feature at the Spirit Awards tonight, perhaps to the surprise of some. In the wake of the Time’s Up movement, and the Globe behind it, Lady Bird stands with a similar chance of taking home the trophy should “politically driven” decisions prove the guiding force. Rather than either of them take home the trophy, I would expect them to bleed votes from some of the other films nominated and this is one of the many reasons the award could warrant a big surprise.

The Shape of Water, even as the biggest nominee of the night, would be a surprise win by many respects – it’s fair to say the fantasy driven feature isn’t typical Oscar fare, at least in this category, and has been a rare winner in the category – but certainly can’t be counted out. Nor can Call Me By Your Name. It won the Gotham, which has predicted this category for the last few years – though it wasn’t fighting against films like Three Billboards – and even with the increased diversity, Hollywood still has a soft spot for films like this.

And then there are the more traditional Oscar favourites – The Post. Dunkirk. Darkest Hour. I’d count The Post out given Spotlight’s win a few years back, and the fact there’s little technically impressive about the film. Dunkirk was one of the greatest cinematic experiences ever created – any judge who saw it in IMAX in particular would struggle not to vote for it. It may be the most deserving film on the list. Its companion piece in many ways, Darkest Hour, was an incredible piece of filmmaking. Beautifully shot and performed, in past years where films like The King’s Speech have won, it may have been a shoo-in.

But chances are against traditional fare this year – and that can be said for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, too – though there’s little traditional about this outstanding film.

So, who will take it? With so many categories bleeding votes from one and other, and Three Billboards winning every major award it’s been nominated for, it remains the favourite and I expect to see it take home the trophy. But you really can’t count out most of the films, so we’re not confident here – going for the safest choice just because we can’t make up our minds.

Going to Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Should Win: Dunkirk
Don’t Count Out: Get Out or Call Me By Your Name

Best Actor

It’s a pity that Daniel Day-Lewis has retired, because he’s bowing out in the year that criminally unrecognised Gary Oldman has delivered the performance of his career. One of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. Any other year it would be Day-Lewis’s, but Oldman has this one in the bag. Fans of Call Me By Your Name will be hoping for a Timothee upset – but I can’t see that happening. He will definitely get his chance again, and Oscar voters will be thinking just that. Performances like Oldman’s rarely come around. But if anyone causes an upset, it’s Day-Lewis.

Going to Win: Gary Oldman
Should Win: Gary Oldman
Don’t Count Out: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress

Another category which is a no contest, in my opinion, is Best Actress. Frances McDormand’s masterful performance in Three Billboards as a no-holds-barred, I-don’t-give-a-fuck mother, dealing with the murder of her daughter in the only way she knows how, has taken home just about every category she’s been nominated in this year, and the Oscars is no different. The only performance which truly gives her a run for her money is Margot Robbie’s in I, Tonya – but this is McDormand’s year, and I can’t see the trophy going to anyone else.

Going to Win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Frances McDormand
Don’t Count Out: Margot Robbie

Best Supporting Actor

While there’s been some backlash against the perceived redemption of Sam Rockwell’s character in Three Billboards, it hasn’t affected his wins elsewhere, so it’s unlikely to give the majority of Oscar voters a reason not to give this well deserving actor his first ever Oscar. But if they were to give it to anyone else, it’s probably the beautiful performance of Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water.

Going to Win: Sam Rockwell
Should Win: Sam Rockwell
Don’t Count Out: Richard Jenkins

Best Supporting Actress

If Frances McDormand and Alison Janney both take home the golden statue this year, then there must be some sort of a record of expletives spoken by Oscars winners in the Actress categories. Both are hardened, non-PC characters who hit their children and really don’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks of them. Not only does Janney deliver an incredible performance in I, Tonya, but she’s been deserving of a win for decades. Oscar voters will be well aware of this, and the trophy won’t end up with anyone else.

Going to Win: Alison Janney
Should Win: Alison Janney
Don’t Count Out: No contest on this one.

Best Director

If predicting Best Picture was hard, Best Director is damn near impossible. With Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig in the running, two first time directors representing the underrepresented, they will see a lot of votes thrown their way. But Hollywood rarely provides victory to the newcomers in this category. In that respect, I see the majority of voters as splitting their votes between long time filmmakers Del Toro and Nolan; both well overdue the accolade. I predict Del Toro to take it home for The Shape if Water – but personally think Nolan *should* win, having delivered decades of some of the most incredible cinematic experiences in history, and Dunkirk being a truly crowning achievement. Can you believe it’s the first Best Director nominee for both?

Going to Win: Guillermo Del Toro
Should Win: Christopher Nolan
Don’t Count Out: Christopher Nolan

Best Animated Film

This is a hard year for me to pick the Best Animated Feature. On one hand, you have one of the best Pixar films in years. And Hollywood *loves* to recognise Pixar when they done good. But then you have a film which is likely the best animated film Arthouse cinema has ever seen. A film originally shot with actors, then painstakingly transformed into a film produced exclusively with paint. It’s the first ever feature to employ such a grand undertaking, and the film deserves the win not just for the technical marvel the film is, but also being a highly engaging experience. Something of a murder mystery, the film takes twists and turns you don’t expect, and buoyed by fantastic performances, there are fewer films more deserving of an Oscar this year. But Coco was wonderful and a marvel in its own right. So chances are it’ll take home the trophy. But if you haven’t seen Loving Vincent – do yourself a favour!

Going to Win: Coco
Should Win: Loving Vincent
Don’t Count Out: Loving Vincent

Hair & Makeup

Hollywood loves a fake nose, and the makeup in Darkest Hour of Oldman’s Churchill is amongst the best the screen has ever seen. Unrecognisable, Oldman was able to full encompass the character in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without the mastery of the film’s hair and makeup team (with a special shout out to the prosthetics department). There’s no contest here.

Going to Win: The Darkest Hour
Should Win: The Darkest Hour
Don’t Count Out: No Contest Here


Dunkirk is a film that would have lived or died in the editing room, and thankfully due to some masterful work jumping between three time periods, the film soared. Stylistically, Baby Driver had some masterful editing as well, but we at the Iris predict the voters to give as many awards to Dunkirk as possible, and it should walk away with this one with ease.

Going to Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Don’t Count Out: Baby Driver

Sound Mixing

This award is all about mixing together the sounds already created on screen. War films have typically been a shoo-in for this award, and I’d say Dunkirk will break through here – those who have seen the making of the film (and why they had to use certain cameras for certain scenes) will appreciate why even further. But as in the last award, don’t count out Baby Driver.

Going to Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: Dunkirk
Don’t Count Out: Baby Driver

Sound Editing

Sound Editing on the other hand, is all about the audio created off screen. Often a music-driven film is given this trophy, and with the brilliant soundtrack that drives Baby Driver, alongside all the effects of the action, I’d predict Baby Driver to edge out Dunkirk here.

Going to Win: Baby Driver
Should Win: Baby Driver
Don’t Count Out: Dunkirk

Original Song

If you’ve got a musical in this category, you’re more than likely to walk away with the trophy. So The Greatest Showman is unlikely to be beaten. I’d love to see Sufjan Stevens take home the trophy for Call Me By Your Name, however – and we can’t count out the iconic Mary J. Blige – multiple nominee tonight – to win for Mudbound.

Going to Win: The Greatest Showman
Should Win: Call Me By Your Name
Don’t Count Out: Mudbound

Original Score

It’s remarkable that Hans Zimmer hasn’t won an Oscar since 1995’s The Lion King – but sure enough, he’s here with his 9th nomination since that deserving win, and the highly stressful, immediate score for Dunkirk really should win. But The Shape of Water‘s Alexandre Desplat seems to be the overwhelming favourite here, and deservingly so. But don’t count out Phantom Thread amongst it all – Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood delivered an amazing piece of music there.

Going to Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Dunkirk
Don’t Count Out: Phantom Thread

Original Screenplay

Greta Gerwig and Lady Bird have to walk away with a trophy tonight, and it will be in the Original Screenplay category – a brilliant piece well deserving of the trophy. Three Billboards will definitely give it a run for its money though.

Going to Win: Lady Bird
Should Win: Lady Bird
Don’t Count Out: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Adapted Screenplay

Like Lady Bird, voters will ensure the critically loved Call Me By Your Name doesn’t walk away empty handed, and in this category it has little competition. But never count out Aaron Sorkin and his script for Molly’s Game.

Going to Win: Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: Call Me By Your Name
Don’t Count Out: Molly’s Game


Arguably the greatest living cinematographer, Roger Deakins currently sits with 14 nominations and no wins. Every shot in Blade Runner 2049 was a work of art, and if he doesn’t win this one, I will personally riot in the streets. Life will lose any meaning and I will lose all hope in any justice in the world. The time has come Hollywood, don’t fuck this up. This said, Dunkirk is in my opinion the best shot war film ever produced, with the IMAX cameras used masterfully. We also have the first ever female cinematographer nominated for Mudbound – an achievement that shouldn’t be ignored. But I’ll put my faith in the Oscar voters for Deakins on this one.

Going to Win: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049
Don’t Count Out: Dunkirk

Visual Effects

Another difficult category, I’m thinking Blade Runner 2049 will win the trophy for retaining the spirit of the original while creating a unique visual world of its own – and what is without question the most original love scene of all time. I’d love to see it win, and thing Oscar voters will give it this one. But don’t count out War of the Planet of the Apes, as the end of a visually stunning trilogy that hasn’t been recognised for now, nor The Last Jedi, which has some of the best effects the Star Wars series has ever seen.

Going to Win: Blade Runner 2049
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
Don’t Count Out: War of the Planet of the Apes

Costume Design

A film about a costume designer NOT winning this category? Tell ’em they’re dreaming! Phantom Thread has this one in the bag. But Jacqueline Durran’s work in Beauty and the Beast is the only film to give it a run for its money.

Going to Win: Phantom Thread
Should Win: Phantom Thread
Don’t Count Out: Beauty and the Beast

Production Design

Though as much as I’m believer of the Oscar’s desire to give Blade Runner 2049 a good pile of technical awards, no film matched the design of The Shape of Water – every shot thought out meticulously, in particular the colour scheme which made it a visual feast. It’ll take home this trophy with little competition.

Going to Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: The Shape of Water
Don’t Count Out: Blade Runner 2049

Documentary Feature

Though Icarus‘s focus of Russian doping is timely, Oscar voters will probably want to give this category to Faces Places, a beautiful film made by Oscars’ oldest ever nominee.

Going to Win: Faces Places
Should Win: Faces Places
Don’t Count Out: Icarus

Foreign Language Film

And finally, the transgender story from Chile, A Fantastic Woman looks set to win the Foreign Film trophy. The Lebanese film The Insult may surprise, however.

Going to Win: A Fantastic Woman
Should Win: A Fantastic Woman
Don’t Count Out: The Insult

As is often the case, we haven’t had the chance to see the short films nominated and thus won’t be making choices here in those categories, though we’ll be rooting for Australia’s own Josh Lawson and his film The 11th Hour for Best Live Action Short Film.

In Australia, the 90th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, airs live from Noon Monday on Channel Nine, with a repeat viewing that night.



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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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