They Shoot Oscar Prognosticators, Don't They?

On the Eve of Oscar Nods, Do We Know Anything?

By J. Don Birnam

January 18, 2018

Not at all awkward!

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We are just one weekend away from knowing which films will receive nominations for a chance to win big at the historic 90th Academy Awards. It is a year that many have called unpredictable and wild and, while we believe that there is a clear frontrunner at the moment, there is still much doubt around the edges and several categories have open slots. Best Picture, in particular, is all over the place outside a few locked in nominees. Follow me on Twitter @jdonbirnam and Instagram @awards_predix for live updates on Tuesday (though we will come back with final predictions Monday).

The Confounding Fifth Best Actress Slot

Best Actress has been strong in recent years, and it is therefore a category that has led to invariable surprises come nomination time. Just last year, everyone was stunned to learn that Amy Adams had missed out on a nod, and that her spot went to Ruth Negga, while the elusive fifth slot ended up going to French actress Isabelle Huppert.

This year, the situation is slightly different. There are four seemingly locked nominees, any of which missing out on a nod would be a snub of Adams proportions following last year’s result. They are likely winner Frances McDormand, her hottest competition, Saoirse Ronan, for a movie that has done remarkably well with the precursors as we shall see, Margot Robbie for I, Tonya, a movie that is getting more and more recognition as people see it, and Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water. The conventional wisdom from then is that the fifth slot belongs to Meryl Streep for her amazing performance in The Post. But, ironically enough, is Streep fatigue finally setting in?


Though she remarkably made it in last year for arguably a lesser turn in Florence Foster Jenkins, she appears to be in danger, having missed out to Judi Dench at SAG and to Annette Benning at BAFTA. But the difference with last year is that neither of these movies has done at all well in other contexts. Huppert, for example, had won the Globe, and Negga was a SAG nominee. The problem with trying to predict a Meryl Streep miss is: who would take her place? The only viable alternative if you ask me is Jessica Chastain for Molly’s Game, which has held its own, including with a PGA nod, or perhaps Michelle Williams for All The Money in the World following the disparate pay fiasco. How ironic would it be in another “year of the woman” if Meryl Streep missed out for portraying the first female publisher of an important newspaper? The awards race can be a perplexing thing. Right now my gut is sticking with Streep, but the “upset” is about to happen.

The Confounding Fifth Best Actor Slot

Unlike the ladies, there are not as many names for the male actors, but that leads to the same resulting problem. Who gets the fifth slot? Locked in seem Globe winners James Franco and Gary Oldman, as well as Timothee Chalamet, the critical and Twitter favorite. As the star of a solid Best Picture contender, Daniel Kaluuya seems pretty safe as well. Then what? Hanks? Day-Lewis? The latter may have overplayed his hand with the retirement announcement. His movie scored only a measly Costume Design Guild nod, and seems dead in the water. But how ironic would it be to nominate Hanks and not Streep in that film? I know it would be because of category competitiveness, but that is a PR headache the Academy likely wishes to avoid. But the bench is quite thin after them. I doubt Hugh Jackman has a chance for either of his contenders this year. It is likely Hanks or Daniel Day-Lewis.

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