So who is going to win big at the Oscars on Sunday?

It’s a tough year for predictions at the Academy Awards, but Esther McCarthy sticks her neck out on who’ll take the gongs on Sunday

THE frocks, the tux and the botox have all been ordered and Hollywood is ready for its close-up at the biggest party of the movie year.

Oscar night is on Sunday and for the third year running, the Irish are punching well above their weight, featuring among the nominees in several shortlists. But with the spoils spread throughout awards season so far, and no clear frontrunner in most of the major categories, it’s tricky to predict how Irish nominees will fare on the night.

BEST PICTURE

Nominees: The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Post, Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name, Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread.

London/Irish director Martin McDonagh’s (we’re claiming him) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is up for seven Oscars including Best Picture and I have great regard for this problematic but powerful film. But despite Three Billboards’ BAFTA success, sea-creature adult fairy tale The Shape of Water Appears to have the edge, though I found it a little insubstantial. If McDonagh misses out on best picture you could well see him awarded for his original screenplay.

I wouldn’t rule out a surprise charge from a couple of others here, including the charming coming-of-age film, Lady Bird, and the race sci-fi horror Get Out. At 14/1, the timely Get Out sounds like a decent outside gamble.

Will Win: The Shape of Water.

Should Win: Three Billboards.

DIRECTOR

Nominees: Guillermo Del Toro, Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, Paul Thomas Anderson.

McDonagh’s omission is surprising here, and only once this century has a movie won best picture without a director nomination — that was Ben Affleck’s Argo.

Del Toro looks like a big favourite here, and certainly the handsome-looking The Shape of Water ticks a lot of boxes in terms of directorial achievement. In hope more than expectation, I’m rooting for Nolan, whose work on the excellent Dunkirk has been overlooked all awards season.

Will Win: Del Toro.

Should Win: Nolan.

ACTOR

Nominees: Gary Oldman, Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Kaluuya, Denzel Washington.

In an unpredictable year, this of all the categories is a dead cert. I don’t see anyone pipping Oldman for his portrayal of Winston Churchill — it was a great performance in a nevertheless average film, and he’s been winning all season. If pushed, I’d say keep an eye out for Kaluuya —Get Out, and his work on it, was widely admired.

Will Win: Oldman.

Should Win: Oldman.

BEST ACTRESS

Nominees: Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Meryl Streep.

This is quite the scrap of a category, packed with great performances. I can’t see Frances McDormand, who has won just about every prize going for the bereaved and ferocious Mildred Hayes in Three Billboards, being beaten here. Ronan leads the chasing pack for her best work yet on Lady Bird, and we should celebrate her third nomination, quite a feat at the age of 23.

Will Win: McDormand.

Should Win: McDormand.

ANIMATED FEATURE

Nominees: Coco, The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent, Ferdinand, Boss Baby.

Cork’s Nora Twomey is only the second female solo director ever to be nominated in this category, but can she take on the might of Pixar? The big studio’s Mexican-set movie has been winning most of the big prizes in the run-up, but Twomey’s The Breadwinner is best placed to pull off a potential upset, according to some pundits.

Top industry website Deadline Hollywood is among those cautioning against Coco being a certainty, and Twomey has spent much of her recent time in LA discussing her film and building support. But Coco’s been more widely seen by voters.

Will Win: Coco.

Should Win: The Breadwinner.

COSTUME DESIGN

Nominees: Phantom Thread, Beauty and the Beast, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, Victoria and Abdul.

Ireland’s Consolata Boyle, a frequent collaborator with Stephen Frears, has earned her third Oscar nomination (all in Frears’ films) with Victoria & Abdul. But she faces tough competition in what is a very strong year in this category. The stunning 1950s couture designs which feature in The Phantom Thread places the film as frontrunner here, with Beauty and the Beast the most likely threat.

Will Win: Phantom Thread.

Should Win: Phantom Thread.

The Academy Awards take place late on Sunday night, Irish time. Highlights on RTÉ2 on Monday at 9.30pm


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