Tomorrow’s Oscar nominations today – Donald Clarke predicts

He called 83% of the nominations correctly in 2016 and 2017. But this year is tougher


Last year’s race for best picture at the Oscars was the most unpredictable in half a century. We just didn’t know it was the most unpredictable until two minutes after Faye Dunaway announced La La Land as the winner. Few punters were, at this point in the 2017 race, predicting a win for Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight.

Does this mean anything can happen? Alas, no. Don’t forget that Jenkins’s film was the second favourite. We still knew a lot.

We know plenty this year too. Following nominations (and a few wins) at all the right places – the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, the New York Film Critics Circle – Saoirse Ronan is assured a mention for best actress when the nominations are announced at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Take it to the bank. Tell them I sent you. (Don’t take it to the bank. Don’t tell them I sent you.)

We can pin down around seven sure best picture nominees.

There is further good news for Ireland. Though not a certainty of Saoirse proportions, Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner, from Kilkenny’s Cartoon Saloon, seems likely to score a nod for best animated feature. Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri will be all over the shortlists.

We know these things because awards season now sprawls all the way back to the Toronto and Venice film festivals in late summer. Online coverage of the satellite ceremonies is head-spinningly furious. The average Oscarologist accumulates enough material to fill a (very dull) book even before the Academy Award nominations emerge.

For two years running, this correspondent scored 83 percent on his predictions for the nominations.

For all that, this year’s race does seem strangely unpredictable. We can’t confidently make even a subsequently discredited prediction for best picture as we all did last year.

Yes, Three Billboards is the favourite. But when Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water won the Producer’s Guild of America Award on Saturday – eight of the last 10 PGA winners have grabbed the Oscar – we realised we still had a race on our hands.

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, featuring Ronan as a lovably stroppy teenager, could well pick up enough second preferences to put it over the line. An anti-Trump swell could wash the radical horror film Get Out to victory.

Many bumps will be negotiated on the way to the ceremony in March. But we know these are the nominees.

Well, we know we have 83 percent of them.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a favourite for Best Picture


Remember that, since 2011, the regulations have dictated that there must be between five and 10 nominees. In the years following that rule change there have been either eight or nine. So an Oscar punter would be a fool to bet on any other number. We’re going with nine.

For fun we have, at the bottom of the list, mentioned the films we think likely to occupy any 10th spot. All the lists below are arranged in decreasing likelihood of inclusion. You’ll have to guess below-the-line categories such as hair and makeup without our assistance.


Martin McDonagh’s brash tale of grief and revenge was installed as favourite after winning at the Golden Globes. But worries about its approach to racial issues have lost it some steam.


Guillermo del Toro’s romantic horror – featuring Sally Hawkins as a mute woman in love with a fish-thing – is likely to be the most nominated film of the year. Will score in technical and acting. As many as 12?


The preferential ballot will help Great Gerwig’s film when it comes to the award itself. Some like it a lot. Some like it a bit. Everyone likes it.


For a long time it looked as if, one of only two old-school “prestige” pictures competing, Christopher Nolan’s war film was surely the one to beat. But it hasn’t done much in awards season. Still a certain nominee.


Despite receiving stunning reviews, Jordan Peele’s racially incendiary masterpiece – a horror satire released almost a year before nominations – once seemed an unlikely Oscar picture. Happily, times have changed.


The other old-school prestige flick. I said it six months ago and I didn’t change my mind when I actually saw the film. Steven Spielberg’s Washington Post saga has “five nominations, no wins” written all over it. Well, maybe four.


When, way back last winter, it premiered at Sundance, Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance was prematurely marked down as “this year’s Moonlight”. It’s not quite that. But it’s in.


Now we get into uncertain territory. Will this feisty study of skater Tonya Harding prove too gamey for Academy voters? Maybe. But it’s got two acting nominations sewn up. So…


I may be letting my own emotions interfere with good judgement here. Sean Baker’s superb social-realist drama has fared poorly in the Season. But those who love it really love it.

If there is a tenth then from (in order): The Big Sick, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour, Mudbound.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk should be on the Best Director list
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk should be on the Best Director list


When Natalie Portman sourly noted that all nominated directors at the Golden Globes were men she (entirely deservedly) boosted the chances of Greta Gerwig immeasurably. If Christopher Nolan fails to get his first nod there will be a different class of fuss. Anyway, we’ve gone with the Director’s Guild of America’s nominees. A pretty sure guide.

Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Christopher Nolan (Dunkirk)

Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)

Jordan Peele (Get Out)

Frances McDormand, the favourite for Best Actress
Frances McDormand, the favourite for Best Actress


We have a real race for the win, but the nominees seem pretty certain. McDormand is favourite, but any one of the first four below could win. Streep’s role in The Post has (see above) “nomination, no win” written all over it.

Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird)

Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water)

Margot Robbie (I, Tonya)

Meryl Streep (The Post)

Timothée Chalamet (with Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name) could be the youngest Best Actor winner
Timothée Chalamet (with Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name) could be the youngest Best Actor winner


In marked contrast to the best actress race, we have a near-unbeatable favourite in best actor, but we also have much uncertainty as to the nominees. Timothée Chalamet looks to be the only person with a chance of beating Oldman, but, were he to win, he would, by a full seven years, be the youngest to ever take the prize. Day Lewis would break his own record for most best actor wins, but Phantom Thread may be a little recherché for this electorate. Following revelations about sexual misconduct late in voting, Franco’s inclusion for The Disaster Artist could cause trouble.

Gary Oldman (The Darkest Hour)

Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name)

Daniel Day Lewis (Phantom Thread)

Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out)

James Franco (The Disaster Artist)

Alison Janney in I, Tonya – Best Supporting Actress
Alison Janney in I, Tonya – Best Supporting Actress


A straight fight between two veterans playing two very different troublesome mothers: Janney’s is a monster, Metcalf’s is touchingly flawed. Mary J Blige should score Netflix’s first ever nomination in an acting category. Then it gets harder to call. Hong Chau is very good in the unsatisfactory Downsizing, but her role racially “problematic”. The great Lesley Manville will probably be just pipped for Phantom Thread.

Allison Janney (I, Tonya)

Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird)

Mary J Blige (Mudbound)

Holly Hunter (The Big Sick)

Hong Chau (Downsizing)

Willem Dafoe, for The Florida Project, would be a deserving winner of Best Supporting Actor
Willem Dafoe, for The Florida Project, would be a deserving winner of Best Supporting Actor


Another two-horse race. Willem Dafoe (who deserves it) made the early running, but Sam Rockwell edged ahead with his win at the Golden Globes. Jenkins seems certain of a nomination. Then we’re guessing.

Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project)

Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water)

Woody Harrelson (Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World)

Molly’s Game: a contender for Best Adapted Screenplay
Molly’s Game: a contender for Best Adapted Screenplay


Unusually, “adapted” is the less competitive of the two writing categories this year. The top three seem fairly secure, but the other two could come from almost anywhere. Logan really could become the first superhero film nominated for writing.

Call Me By Your Name


Molly’s Game


The Disaster Artist

Lady Bird: Best Original Screenplay?
Lady Bird: Best Original Screenplay?


There is a real brawl afoot here between the potential best picture nominees. Martin McDonagh can book a seat for Billboards. Get Out and Lady Bird are surely in. Amazingly, potential winner The Shape of Water is vulnerable. I, Tonya looms.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Big Sick

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water – expected to be on the Best Cinematography list
The Shape of Water – expected to be on the Best Cinematography list


Remember when, following stellar reviews, Blade Runner 2049 briefly looked like a best picture nominee. Annihilation at the box office did for that, but Roger Deakins, nominated 13 times without reward, is a marginal favourite for his work on that film. One more thing to watch: if Rachel Morrison gets in for Mudbound, she will be the first woman ever nominated.

Blade Runner 2049


The Shape of Water

Darkest Hour


The Breadwinner by Cartoon Saloon
The Breadwinner by Cartoon Saloon


When it was announced that, from this year, all Academy members – not just the well-informed animation branch – would get to vote on these nominees it looked bad for the Irish studio Cartoon Saloon. But Nora Twomey’s touching The Breadwinner won friends and, helpfully, it turned out to be a very iffy year for mainstream studio animation (we’re predicting Boss Baby, for Pete’s sake). So it’s probably in. But nothing is beating Pixar’s Coco.


The Breadwinner

Loving Vincent

Despicable Me 2

The Boss Baby

Loveless: deserves the Best Foreign Language Film prize
Loveless: deserves the Best Foreign Language Film prize


This is always a bizarre category. Two of the favourites, First They Killed my Father and BPM, have already been excluded from the long list. They may as well draw straws. In the Fade, which really isn’t very good, could actually win. Loveless deserves to.

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

Foxtrot (Israel)

The Square (Sweden)

Loveless (Russia)

In the Fade (Germany)

City of Ghosts has received terrific reviews
City of Ghosts has received terrific reviews and should be on the Best Documentary Feature list


There are few breakout titles here. Brett Morgen’s Jane – a study of Jane Goodall – has won many friends. City of Ghosts, concerning journalists working in Isis-controlled territory, has picked up terrific reviews. Expect something from way out of leftfield. A win for Faces Places, from Nouvelle Vague pioneer Agnes Varda, would be hugely popular.


City of Ghosts


Faces Places

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