Whatever happens at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles this Sunday night, it can't be as bad as last year. Hollywood's collective sense of agonised awkwardness has only just recovered from Warren Beatty mis-announcing the winner of the Best Picture in front of a horrified theatre. One imagines that as well as firing everyone involved in that memorable disaster, they'll have quadruple-checked everything before those envelopes are opened this year.
But who will actually win? Obviously you could go to an expert source for the answer, but by happy coincidence or tragic misadventure you seem to have found yourself among the predictions of a part-time movie reviewer who sees Jesus hiding in every cinematic corner. Other suggestions are available, but if you'd like the Christian Today take on which movies and stars will take home those coveted statuettes, then please read on. If nothing else, you can enjoy a delightful sense of schadenfreude when you realise I've got them all spectacularly wrong.
The biggest category of all gives me a bit of a tussle between head and heart. All the pre-Oscar buzz (not to mention the weight of nominations) has suggested that Guillermo del Toro's bizarrely sexual Free Willy remake The Shape of Water will win, while Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (so beloved by David Robertson on this site) is also heavily tipped. Jordan Peele's Get Out was brilliantly original but won't win – it's highly unlikely to purely because it was released so long ago. I'd love to see the prize won by either Christopher Nolan's sensational Dunkirk, or preferably the gloriously weird Phantom Thread. I'm going to stick my neck out though, and predict that Oscar is going to make my fellow columnist's night and plump for Three Billboards.
Frances McDormand plays the ferocious heroine in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Sometimes, as when Martin Scorsese won for The Departed, there's just a feeling that it's someone's 'turn' to win. Yet if Gary Oldman takes home the golden statuette for his transformation into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, then make no mistake: this will be won entirely on merit. Daniel Day Lewis, who says he's retiring after his performance as a dysfunctional genius in Phantom Thread, could run him close, but it's hard to imagine anyone other than Oldman getting up to make that victory speech.
There will be a seismic sense of shock in Hollywood on Sunday night if Frances McDormand doesn't win the Actress in a Leading Role prize for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Her performance as a bereaved mother hell-bent on obtaining justice for her daughter is the epicentre of a compelling drama, and her interactions particularly with Woody Harrelson as the beleaguered police chief have right earned her great praise. Of the rest, Sally Hawkins is outstanding and very, er...committed, in The Shape of Water, while Margot Robbie has marked her transition to serious actress with I, Tonya. Irish actress Saoirse Ronan is surely destined to win at some point, and she's the heart of a fine film in Lady Bird, but it's very hard to see her or anyone else overhauling McDormand.
Best Supporting Actor
The supporting role categories are perhaps a little harder to predict. Harrelson's shocking role in Three Billboards offers some of the film's most memorable moments, and Richard Jenkins' turn as Sally Hawkins' oddball neighbour in The Shape of Water is brilliantly unsettling. Christopher Plummer did a fine job stepping in for the disgraced Kevin Spacey on the re-shot All The Money In The World, but again it feels like this one might inevitably head in the direction of just outside Ebbing, Missouri. Sam Rockwell is really something as the internally-conflicted and not-terribly-bright policeman who goes on a journey of transformation in Three Billboards; I think he's pretty sure to win this one.
Best Supporting Actress
There are a lot of great actresses in this category who might in other years be found vying for the leading role prize. Octavia Spencer is brilliant but a bit brief in The Shape of Water, while Lesley Manville is malevolent and inscrutable in Phantom Thread. I think the win will go to Alison Janney for her performance as Tonya Harding's mother Lavona Fay Golden in the irresistibly madcap I, Tonya. Until now she has always been CJ from The West Wing, but thanks to Craig Gillespie's film she'll now be seen in a whole new – if slightly terrifying – light.
Best Original and Adapted Screenplays
A year of great movies inevitably means a year of great scripts. It's fantastic to see the dark comic book adaptation Logan recognised in the adapted category, but it's unlikely to win; that honour will likely go to Call Me By Your Name, written by James Ivory from Andre Aciman's book. In the original category it's tougher to call: Lady Bird and Three Billboards both have terrifically witty scripts, but I'm going to go with my heart on this one and say that this will be Oscar's opportunity to recognise Jordan Peele and the magnificent Get Out.
Again, I fear that Peele, Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson will all miss out here, despite the brilliance of Get Out, Dunkirk and Phantom Thread. And while Greta Gerwig does have an outside chance of springing a shock here for Lady Bird, I reckon Guillermo Del Toro is a safe bet – especially as Martin 'Three Billboards' McDonagh isn't even nominated. This one will go to The Shape of Water, but I think it'll be a consolation prize for a range of other categories.
And the rest...
The Shape of Water is likely to have some better news in the 'technical' categories, and should at least pick up Best Production Design. Dunkirk should get sound editing, and Blade Runner 2049 – sadly overlooked elsewhere – should get cinematography. The Original Score award is trickier, and will be contested by The Shape of Water, Dunkirk and Phantom Thread – I think Jonny Greenwood's haunting score for the latter will win, and that the film will also pick up the Costume Design prize (how could a film about dressmaking not?). There should be a Best Animated Feature win for Pixar's Coco, which will also fight hard with The Greatest Showman's 'This is me' for Best Original Song. I think the latter might win, but that's possibly the toughest call of the whole night. Oh, and spare a thought for The Post... my hunch is that despite the hype and the cast involved, it might end up winning nothing at all.
Whatever happens, it's been a cinematic purple patch recently. And if you're so inclined, you can read my thoughts on some of the spiritual themes contained in many of them through the links below. Otherwise, sit back, relax and look forward to finding out just how wrong a self-proclaimed 'expert' can be...