Looking at the race for Best Picture as Academy Award ballots are due

The clock has struck midnight, as it were. More accurately, it’s the day that voters have to turn in Oscar ballots. Members of the Academy have done their part, so the waiting game shall commence. Today, we help pass the time by looking at the Best Picture race, since that’s the one on most folks’ minds anyway. Rarely has the category been this competitive or uncertain, much to the delight of many. For the rest of the week, it’ll be basically one big distraction, but at the moment, before final predictions anyway, let us look at the field for Picture and what might come out on top Sunday evening.

First up, let us pour one out for the quartet of nominees that won’t be taking home the top prize. Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, and The Post are just happy to be nominated. Give or take Call Me By Your Name and The Post, the each spent a fair chunk of the precursor season looking like they might miss out on the nomination. So, cracking the Best Picture lineup is still something. All except The Post seem all but certain to go home with other prizes too, so Sunday night won’t be a total loss for the majority of them.

Then, we have the pair of long shots that still can dream of pulling off the upset. Both Dunkirk and Lady Bird spent time as the frontrunner for the big one, though both have fallen off since then. The former actually potentially had a path, had BAFTA swung their way, while the latter has come up just short in too many places to feel like a realistic winner. They’ll each get voters, but the best they can hope for is fourth or fifth place. The true contenders are up next. They’re the ones to actually be focusing in on between now and the actual telecast.

Finally, we come to the trio fighting it out for Best Picture. Yes, the race is now down to Get Out, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They’ve taken different routes to get to this point, all are missing a key nomination (give or take The Shape of Water) that would make picking them easier, and each feel like a different sort of Oscar winner. The Academy Awards could be changing, possibly suggested by Moonlight last year, but when the final three challengers are among the least conventional of the lineup, that’s a pretty good thing indeed.

Get Out, historically speaking, seems like the outlier among the top contenders. And yet, if you’re tying in Best Original Screenplay with Best Picture, the odds favor it pulling the upset. It would be a statement from the Academy, and clearly has fans. The question is, will too many voters be dismissive of a horror satire? If that’s the case, it’ll come up short. If not, look for Jordan Peele’s debut feature to take home the gold. In fact, there’s a chance I might even be predicting it when I finalize my picks in a few days. Sit tight for that choice in short order…

The Shape of Water enters as the overall nominations leader, as well as the surefire winner in Best Director. That being said, Guillermo del Toro sees his movie perhaps the third place one, stuck between these other two players. Now, there’s a definite chance that they split votes, due to detractors, and this one comes up the middle. There’s also the possibility that all the pundits out there like myself have overthought this one and it’s always been The Shape of Water. My hunch is that if it plays out simply like that, it’ll be another flick benefiting, but we shall see.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri would seem like the one to beat, except there’s that pesky Best Director snub. At the moment, it’s still my pick to win, mostly due the strongest support from the Acting branch, but lacking a citation for Martin MacDonagh is partly why Get Out and The Shape of Water are still so in it. If it comes up short, that may well be the reason why. For some, it’s between this and Get Out, with the Original Screenplay winner taking home this prize too. There’s also the possibility of them splitting those two categories, something I’m pondering right now too. Hmm. What to do?

So, which film is going to win? I’ll have final predictions up on Friday to reveal that, but I do think the wind is blowing in the direction of either Get Out or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The Shape of Water isn’t out of it by any shot, and stands a far better chance of winning than Dunkirk or Lady Bird, but it seems oddly like it peaked a little early. Forced to make a call at this moment, I’d say it’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by a nose, but watch out for Get Out. That would be a statement pick, to say the least…

Stay tuned to see which movie takes home Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday night!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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