Seattle Times arts critic Moira Macdonald gives her predictions on who will win Oscars in the top six categories, along with who she thinks should win, and who should’ve been nominated — but weren’t.

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After last year, none of us will ever turn off the Oscar broadcast until the final credits roll.

Remember that insane final five minutes of last year’s ceremony, in which “La La Land” was mistakenly awarded best picture over the real winner, “Moonlight,” when presenter Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope? And how, in the chaos, the creators of two beautiful movies got shafted? The “Moonlight” filmmakers were robbed of their Oscar moment — accepting the award, belatedly, in a puzzled, can-this-be-true daze — while the “La La Land” team delivered their acceptance speeches only to be informed onstage that it was all a mistake. (Yes, I just watched the video again, and it really does seem like the sort of thing that happens in bad dreams — or, maybe, really bad movies.)

Oscars 2018

This year brings the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony, and I’m guessing that, at minimum, the envelopes will be shipshape. (Changes have been made in how the Academy and its accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, gets information to the presenters.) But what titles will be on those white cards?

This year’s nine best-picture nominees are a wide-ranging bunch, ranging from old-school historical drama (“Darkest Hour,” “The Post”) to gorgeously odd romantic drama (“Phantom Thread”) to exuberant coming-of-age dramedy (“Lady Bird”) to sly racially charged horror/comedy (“Get Out”) to … well, however you’d like to describe “The Shape of Water.” Not to mention a swoonworthy gay love story (“Call Me by Your Name”), a thrillingly time-shifting World War II drama (“Dunkirk”), and a revenge-themed dark comedy (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).

It’s a time of reckoning for the Academy, which has undergone some change in recent years. In the wake of #Oscars­SoWhite (a hashtag chiding the Academy in 2015-2016, two years that both featured all-white acting nominees), the organization has taken steps to increase the diversity of its membership, which now numbers around 8,500. The goal is to double the group’s female and minority members by 2020, and it’s still a work in progress: The Academy’s voting membership now is 28 percent female and 13 percent minority. Yes, that’s an improvement over earlier numbers.

The #MeToo movement also reverberated strongly in Hollywood in recent months, and while there’s no black-dress-code planned (as was done for the Golden Globes), it’s likely to be a presence on Oscar night. One telling absence will be that of Harvey Weinstein, who after multiple accusations of sexual violence was expelled from the Academy in October — only the second person in the Academy’s nine-decade history to receive an expulsion. (Oscar trivia alert: Who was the other person? Actor Carmine Caridi, kicked out in 2004 for sharing Academy screeners.)

Below are my thoughts and predictions on the top six categories, along with my own theoretical votes (alas, I am not an Academy member), and wish-you-were-here nominees. But I’m hoping to be surprised this year — just not in the same way as last year’s mess-up. I’ll be on Twitter — @moiraverse — throughout the ceremony Sunday night, commenting on the gowns, the goofs, the speeches, and the unexpected; please join me!

Best picture

Time was, you could count on the Producers Guild of America Award (PGA) to be a pretty good bellwether for this category: The two awards matched eight times in a row, from 2008 to 2015. But the awards diverged for the past two years (the PGA went with “The Big Short” and “La La Land”), so the team behind this year’s recipient, “The Shape of Water,” shouldn’t necessarily be clearing a spot on their awards shelf. Or maybe they should? Guillermo del Toro’s mysterious, beautiful tale of a mute woman’s relationship with a fish-man (see, I told you this movie was hard to summarize) is, at its heart, about movie-love itself; something Oscar tends to have a weakness for.

Jostling “The Shape of Water” for position as front-runner are “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a polarizing, timely film that has passionate defenders — and which won the Screen Actors Guild for its ensemble cast (a significant win, as actors make up the largest branch of the Academy). “Dunkirk,” particularly if seen as a vote for Christopher Nolan’s significant body of work, could be a winner, and I keep hearing murmurs of a sudden groundswell for the late-opening “Phantom Thread.”

Prediction: “The Shape of Water”

My vote: “The Shape of Water.” Or “Call Me By Your Name.” Or “Phantom Thread.” Or “Dunkirk.” Or … you know, I really loved a lot of these nominees. A good year!

Wish you were here: “The Big Sick”

Best director

I’ve always thought that the best picture and best director categories should match — how can a movie be best picture if it isn’t the best directed? But clearly Oscar voters disagree with me, as they frequently split it up (as recently as last year, when “Moonlight” was named best picture, but Damien Chazelle took the directing prize for “La La Land”). I still think del Toro is the front-runner, but he’s neck-and-neck with Nolan, who seems overdue for an Oscar. Paul Thomas Anderson (“Phantom Thread”), the only person in this roster who’s been previously nominated in this category, can’t be ruled out; Jordan Peele (“Get Out”) and Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), both early in their directing careers, have a better shot at a screenplay Oscar.

Prediction: del Toro

My vote: Anderson

Wish you were here: Dee Rees, “Mudbound”

Best actress

Is it wrong that I’d like Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) to win just because I want to hear her acceptance speech? McDormand, who won this award two decades ago (for “Fargo”), famously does not suffer fools gladly, and her role as the furiously vengeful mother, whose daughter was raped and murdered, seems tailor-made for the times. She’s been sweeping up pretty much every imaginable award this season, so an upset seems unlikely. If it comes, it might be in the form of Saoirse Ronan, who made uncanny magic as a realer-than-real teen in “Lady Bird,” or Sally Hawkins, telling vivid stories without saying a word in “The Shape of Water.” Though I thought she was miscast in “I, Tonya,” Margot Robbie has an outside shot. And Meryl Streep will likely celebrate her record 21st nomination (for “The Post”) by staying seated.

Prediction: McDormand

My vote: Ronan

Wish you were here: Cynthia Nixon, “A Quiet Passion”

Best actor

Another obvious front-runner here: Gary Oldman, unrecognizable as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” (watch for his makeup artist to win an Oscar), has won all the big pre-Oscar awards: SAG, BAFTA, Golden Globe. But I wonder if there might be a sentimental vote for Daniel Day-Lewis, who’s famously said that “Phantom Thread” would be his final film? He’s won this category three times before, for “My Left Foot,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “Lincoln.” Denzel Washington was terrific in “Roman J. Israel, Esq.,” but there’s little support for his film; newcomers Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) will have other years.

Prediction: Oldman

My vote: Day-Lewis

Wish you were here: Jeremy Renner, “Wind River”

Best supporting actress

Who will win the Battle of the Moms in this category: Allison Janney as a snake-eyed mother-from-hell in “I, Tonya” or Laurie Metcalf as a harried everymom in “Lady Bird”? Janney’s got the flashier role, so she’s got the edge. It’s pretty much a two-woman race. Octavia Spencer, the only previous winner (or, for that matter, nominee) in this category, isn’t likely to repeat for “The Shape of Water”; she, like Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”) and Lesley Manville (“Phantom Thread”) has a role that’s crucial but quiet.

Prediction: Janney

My vote: Metcalf

Wish you were here: Tiffany Haddish, “Girls Trip”

Best supporting actor

In a lineup full of veterans, the relative youngster has the edge: Sam Rockwell, the only nominee who’s under 55, has been repeatedly honored for his portrayal of a racist cop in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” I’m going out on a limb here, though, to predict that the Academy might reward Christopher Plummer, who famously stepped into “All the Money in the World” in postproduction to replace a disgraced Kevin Spacey (and who, if he won, would break his own record for the oldest actor to win an Oscar). If not, look to Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”) or Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”), both of whom turned in absolutely heartbreaking performances and have never before won Oscars. Woody Harrelson is the longest of long shots; if someone from “Three Billboards” wins, it’s likely to be Rockwell.

Prediction: Plummer

My vote: Jenkins

Wish you were here: Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me by Your Name”

Elsewhere, I’m predicting a standing ovation if/when 89-year-old James Ivory wins his first Oscar (for adapted screenplay, “Call Me By Your Name”), and wondering if revered cinematographer Roger Deakins might break his long Oscar slump — he’s been nominated 14 times and never won — and take the trophy for “Blade Runner 2049.” And I’ll be rooting for Mercer Island’s Thomas Lee Wright to win the documentary short-subject award, for “Edith+Eddie.” Here’s to a lively Oscar night — and no wrong envelopes.


The 90th Academy Awards, Sunday, March 4; coverage begins on ABC at 5 p.m. Jimmy Kimmel hosts.