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story.lead_photo.caption Disney/Pixar’s vibrant Coco, about the adventures of a 12-year-old musician accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead (and coincidentally out on DVD this week) is a prohibitive favorite to win the Oscar for best animated film at this Sunday’s Academy Awards.

At what point does a habit become a tradition?

For the past decade or so, we've been convening a panel of Oscar-watchers to help you win your local Academy Awards watch-party pool. Several of our panelists have maintained a 90 percent accuracy rate for several years. And then there's me -- it's possible to make educated guesses on who's going to win which award but I don't really follow the trades or anything except my gut.

Which ought to make me a natural in this anti-expertise age, right? (Not really. Turns out science is usually better than wishing.)

The 11 members of this year's panel are Sam Blair (SB), our Armchair Critic and retired teacher/college counselor at Little Rock Central High School; Jenny Boulden (JB), associate editor of Arkansas Living magazine who "has followed the Oscar race all year long for about 20 years, or at least since the internet became a place you could do that;" local gadfly Danny-Joe Crofford (DJC), food and beverage/business development manager at the Little Rock Marriott and professional movie watcher; Dan Lybarger (DL), a Kansas City-based critic, who happens to be the 2016 Nate Silver of guessing how Oscar voters think, but he wishes he could be the 2012 Nate Silver; Karen Martin (KM), our Perspective section editor, founder of the movie Style section and a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists; Jonathan Nettles (JN), promotions producer and film critic for KTHV Channel 11; Joe Riddle (Joe), our copy desk chief and priceless reservoir of film history; Jay Russell (Jay), director of Ladder 49, My Dog Skip, et.al.; Blake Rutherford (BR), a Little Rock expat living in Philadelphia who founded Movies in the Park; Tony Taylor (TT), executive director of the Film Society of Little Rock and founder of the Kaleidoscope Film Festival; and me (PM), playing along for comic relief.

As usual, we've included a few comments. Not all panelists voted in all categories because of scruples or whatever.

Best film: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (SB, JB, DJC, TT, PM); Get Out (DL, KM, JN, BR); Dunkirk (Joe); The Shape of Water (Jay)

"A virtual four-way toss-up" -- SB; "The Shape of Water, Get Out and Dunkirk also have a great chance at winning, but each one is missing at least one of the reliable precursor award stats ... we Oscar-watchers use to guide our predictions. But with the most wins, including the Globes, Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA, Three Billboards is the one with the most heat"-- JB; "Three Billboards [is] an awful movie. Took every bit of my energy to not walk out of the theater. I do not like anything about this movie. This will be one of the worst films to win best picture in the history of the Oscars. I really hope I am wrong" -- TT; "As always, I will go with what I think will win, as opposed to what I might want to win" -- Jay; "If Shape of Water, Three Billboards, Lady Bird or The Post win, it will be the first time since Million Dollar Baby in 2005 that a best picture winner goes to a film with a nominated best actress. The female-driven films get nominated, but rarely win ..." -- JB.

Lead Actress: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (SB, JB, DJC, DL, KM, JN, Joe, Jay, BR, TT); Margot Robbie, I, Tonya (PM).

I feel like Armond White spoiling the perfect score; TT thinks Sally Hawkins should win ("a wonderful performance ... without saying a word); "I'm one of those who didn't get on the Three Billboards hype train... but the acting in the film from top to bottom was probably the best of the season" -- JN; "I'd rather see it go to Sally Hawkins for The Shape of Water or Margot Robbie for I, Tonya. Also, I go to work in Missouri every morning, and nobody in Three Billboards has bothered to do a proper accent" -- DL.

Lead Actor: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour (SB, JB, DJC, DL, JN, Joe, Jay, BR, TT); Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out (KM, PM).

TT and DL favored Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) in this category; SB, JN and I thought Robert Pattison deserved at least a nomination for his work in Good Time.

Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, I, Tonya (SB, JB, DJC, DL, PM, Joe, Jay, BR); Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird (JN, TT); Mary J. Blige, Mudbound (KM).

SB notes the absence of Holly Hunter (The Big Sick) in this category; "I could also sleep at night if Laurie Metcalf or Leslie Mannville (Phantom Thread) walked away with a statuette" -- DL; "Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)... is brilliant. Just give her an Oscar already! And I hope she wins more in her career" --TT.

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (SB, JB, DJC, DL, JN, Jay, BR, TT); Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project (Joe, PM); Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (KM).

TT and DL favor Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water) while DJC thinks Christopher Plummer should win for All the Money in the World; I thought Harrelson was remarkable in Three Billboards but was surprised at his nomination. "Love or hate his Three Billboards character, Rockwell gets the Overdue Oscar of the year, and for his best performance" -- JB; "[Rockwell] should have won an Oscar for Moon" -- DL.

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out, Jordan Peele (SB, JB, DL, KM, PM, JN, Joe, Jay, BR, TT); Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh (DJC)

DJC thinks Get Out ought to win. SB notes that Wind River should have been nominated. I'm surprised no one went for Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird. DL says: "Because some of the screenwriters are not part of the WGA, guessing the screenplay awards is a little harder. British screenwriters who don't belong to the American guilds still win Oscars. The script for Three Billboards has biting dialogue and a nicely constructed plot. I'm going with Get Out because it's such a visceral film, and it turns a lot of racial attitudes inside out."

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory (SB, JB, DJC, DL, Joe, Jay, BR, TT); Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin (KM); The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (JN)

"While there are some strong contenders in this category, I think James Ivory knocked it out of the park" -- TT; "If Ivory wins, it will be as much for his long career as a director as for his adaptation" -- DL; DJC thinks Molly's Game should win.

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water (SB, JB, DJC, DL, JN, Joe, Jay, BR); Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread (TT); Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird (KM); Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk (PM)

SB thinks Nolan should win and that Luca Guadagnino should have been nominated for Call Me By Your Name; "PTA is a master of filmcraft and he's at the top of his game on this movie. He's up against some stiff competition so I won't be shocked if he doesn't win but he's my definite SHOULD win ... Criminally not nominated: Steven Spielberg (The Post)" -- TT; "I could easily see [Del Toro's] monster romance movie walking away with best picture as well" -- JN.

Animated Film: Coco (SB, JB, DJC, DL, JN, Jay, BR); Loving Vincent (KM,PM)

Joe and TT abstain in this category. "Why The Boss Baby is on the list of nominees but the infinitely more entertaining The Lego Batman Movie isn't mystifies me" -- DL; The Breadwinner deserves to win this category; Loving Vincent is a visually thrilling treatment of an ordinary narrative -- PM.

Foreign Language Film: A Fantastic Woman (JB, DJC, JN, Jay, BR); In the Fade (KM); The Square (SB, DL, PM); Loveless (Joe)

I liked In the Fade better but The Square is a fine film -- PM; SB thinks "anything should win" over The Square. "I'm proud of myself because I actually watched four foreign films this year" -- JN.

Miscellaneous: We didn't pick the category but KM and PM favor Faces Places for this year's best documentary Oscar. "Horror films rarely pick up little gold men, and I could be basing [my best picture] pick on my own fondness for Get Out: -- DL.

TT says we should have picked best cinematography "and not just because of the 'Roger Deakins Oscar Watch.' Without good cinematography it's likely an entire movie will be overlooked by the academy and the public ... hands down the best cinematographer in the business. I honestly cannot explain why [Deakins] has not won before. If he finally wins he deserves it for Blade Runner 2049... AND they should also probably bring out about 10 other Oscar statues to make up for one of the most criminally overlooked nominees in the history of the academy."

Email:

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

www.blooddirtangels.com

MovieStyle on 03/02/2018

Print Headline: Pick of the season: Oscar predictors bring it on

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