2018 Oscar predictions slugfest: ‘That darn preferential ballot’ could lead to an upset by ‘Get Out’ or (gasp) even ‘Dunkirk’ [WATCH]

“Right now I’m with ‘Three Billboards,'” says Gold Derby Editor Paul Sheehan about his latest Oscar predictions for Best Picture, but he’s not entirely convinced it’s out front with the BAFTAs soon to come on February 18 and Oscar voting not starting until February 20. “I’ve been tempted all season long to put ‘Get Out’ … it’s that darn preferential ballot.” Watch Sheehan’s complete video slugfest above with fellow Editors Joyce Eng and Daniel Montgomery.

That confounding preferential ballot surprised us in the last two years with “Spotlight” overtaking “The Revenant” (2015) and then “Moonlight” trouncing the seemingly unbeatable “La La Land” (2016). Since voters rank the Best Picture nominees in order of preference, the math is more complicated when it comes to predicting the outcome. A film doesn’t just need to have the most number-one votes, it also needs to rank high enough on other ballots where it isn’t in first place because those votes will count too. A divisive film with a lot of detractors is hurt under this system, but which films will be divisive and which will have consensus support? That’s not so clear-cut, so while “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards” are out front according to our racetrack odds, the door is still open for “Get Out,” “Lady Bird” and maybe even “Dunkirk.”

“If this was just a field-of-five straight vote I think ‘Three Billboards’ would be winning, no question,” says Eng. “We know actors love it, and writers love it too … It probably could have also won WGA had it been eligible.” Under the current system, however, she’s predicting “The Shape of Water,” and so is Montgomery.

But predicting this year’s race is also complicated by a slew of new voters who have joined the academy in the last two years as the organization strives to improve its gender, ethnic and international diversity. “Because of the new wave of voters it’s even more unpredictable,” Eng explains. “We have four films … Any of those I can see winning. I think maybe the only one everyone is completely underestimating is ‘Dunkirk,’ which I think everyone agrees is the fifth film in the top five … I think that one would be the biggest shocker.”

Montgomery actually thinks “Dunkirk” could be similar to “Spotlight” in this year’s race. “When the season started and our Oscar predictions opened ‘Dunkirk’ was the prohibitive favorite for Best Picture and Best Director, and then other contenders started coming in, moving up and winning other awards,” he argues. “A similar thing happened to ‘Spotlight.’ It was the front-runner early on, and then ‘The Big Short’ started rising, ‘The Revenant’ started rising … The good thing about ‘Dunkirk’ is that it does feel important … ‘Lady Bird’ might be suffering because it feels like a lighter film. It doesn’t feel as urgently important in that same kind of way. ‘Dunkirk’ does. ‘Get Out’ does.”

So if you were ready to call this race for one film or another, don’t be so sure just yet.

Be sure to check out how our experts rank Oscar contenders in all 24 categories. Use the drop-down menus at the top of each page to see the other categories. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your Oscar winner predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4.

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