Oscars 2018: ‘The Shape of Water’ could win for its screenplay like 11 of the last 12 Best Picture winners

Since the Oscar nominations were announced, I’ve wondered why more people aren’t predicting “The Shape of Water” to win Best Original Screenplay? After all, it’s the favorite to win Best Picture and Best Director (Guillermo del Toro) with first-place odds of 10/11 and 1/10, respectively. So why is it way behind in the writing category with fourth-place odds of 22/1?

Considering that only one film since 2006 has won Best Picture but lost for its writing — the nearly dialogue-free “The Artist” (2011) — shouldn’t more people be penciling in del Toro and co-writer Vanessa Taylor in this category?

Among the 21 Expert journalists we’ve polled from top media outlets, only Jack Mathews (Gold Derby) is currently predicting “The Shape of Water” to prevail for its script. The rest are split between “Lady Bird” (Greta Gerwig), which ranks first with 8/5 odds; Golden Globe winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Martin McDonagh), which has second place odds of 9/4; and Critics’ Choice victor “Get Out” (Jordan Peele), currently in third with 3/1 odds. The only script behind del Toro and Taylor’s is “The Big Sick” (Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon), which trails with 80/1 odds.

What makes our users so confident it doesn’t stand a chance? To be fair, there’s good reason for skepticism: “The Shape of Water” has yet to win a single major award for its screenplay despite consistent nominations at previous events. The only writing prize it has won so far was Best Original Screenplay from the St. Louis Film Critics Assn. In addition, del Toro is all but assured to prevail in Best Director after victories at the DGA, Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards, so voters may view the writing category as an appropriate place to reward one of the actor-turned-auteurs (Gerwig or Peele), or to give “Three Billboards” something aside from an acting award and make up for McDonagh’s Best Director snub.

But even though Peele just won the Writers Guild Award it’s entirely possible that he and Gerwig will pull votes away from each other as charming, popular actors who have both proven capable as writers and directors, and both have the weight of history behind them. Gerwig could get a boost from the #MeToo movement advocating for women in the industry, while Peele won the Stanley Kramer Award from the PGA for illuminating the issue of American racism.

But given the recent victories for “The Shape of Water” at the PGA and DGA Awards, and given that the only Best Picture winner to lose for writing in the last 12 years was “The Artist” (which lost Best Original Screenplay to the famously wordy Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris”), it feels risky to bet against “The Shape of Water.” Riding the wave of Best Picture support could be all it takes to send this aquatic love story downriver to another Oscar win.

Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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