Call me crazy, but I’m predicting “Get Out” to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Yes, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” won the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and the SAG Award for its ensemble cast, which are often solid bellwethers of Oscar. And yes, “The Shape of Water” has the most nominations and triumphed at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, and Critics Choice Awards, which are even more reliable Oscar tea leaves. But “Get Out” captured the zeitgeist to such a degree that we’re still talking about it a full year after it was released.
Based on stats alone, I should probably be predicting “Three Billboards”; with all the major hardware it has picked up it might be a shoo-in — on a straight plurality vote where only your top choice matters. But Best Picture at the Oscars is decided by a preferential ballot, where voters rank the nominees from their favorite to their least favorite, a system that rewards consensus over passion. So it’s crucial to pick up those number-two and number-three votes to guarantee victory.
That’s probably how “Moonlight” toppled “La La Land” in 2016 and how “Spotlight” upset “The Revenant” in 2015. Like “La La Land” and “The Revenant,” “Three Billboards” is divisive. For every voter who loves it, there may be another who hates it for its controversial handling of racial themes and its frequent tonal shifts. Many will place it at the top of their ballots, but if it ranks too low on other ballots it could be overtaken by a film that’s generally well-liked across a broader spectrum of voters.
“The Shape of Water” looks like the most logical alternative. Not only does it have 13 nominations, but it managed to win the PGA Award, which employs the same preferential ballot as the Oscars. That should be enough for me to put my chips down on it (and early on I did), but the last two Producers Guild victors — “The Big Short” and “La La Land” — lost the Oscar. Will “Shape” do the same? If enough voters are turned off by the idea of Sally Hawkins falling in love with the Creature from the Black Lagoon, that’s a possibility.
Which brings me to “Get Out,” which would be the most unlikely Oscar champ in many a moon. A horror comedy written and directed by a former sketch comedian (Jordan Peele) that came out last February, which is often a wasteland for new theatrical releases, this film has demonstrated surprising staying power. On the surface it’s a Hitchcockian thriller filled with bracing violence and biting humor — in other words, not an Oscar contender. But underneath it’s a provocative examination of American racism like past Oscar films “Do the Right Thing” (1989), “12 Years a Slave” (2013) and “Selma” (2014). And it has entered into the national lexicon: “the sunken place” has become shorthand for oppression in our country. Given its cultural impact “Get Out” may rank high on more ballots than its rivals, loved by some voters but at least respected by others.
There are a lot of factors working against “Get Out,” mainly its genre. The closest comparison you can draw for a Best Picture champ like it is “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991), in which a cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) helps a young FBI agent (Jodie Foster) track down a serial killer. That film was also a February release that faced stiff competition from more academy-friendly contenders like the historical dramas “Bugsy” and “JFK.” But like “Get Out,” “Lambs” became a pop culture phenomenon. When Oscar host Billy Crystal showed up for his opening monologue that year wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask, you knew the film had become iconic.
True, “Lambs” won Best Picture before the academy instituted the preferential ballot, but “Get Out” has become a touchstone for younger, more diverse viewers, the same demographic the academy has worked so hard to bring into its ranks as of late. We saw the fruits of their labor last year when “Moonlight” upset “La La Land,” one of the most dominant Oscar front-runners in recent history, a 14-nomination behemoth that had swept most precursor awards.
This Oscar season has been wildly unpredictable. You could pick just about any of the Best Picture nominees and there would be data to back you up. Indeed, I’ve changed my own prediction several times over the last few months. But I’m going with “Get Out” because my gut is telling me to — and I’m not alone, as six Expert journalists polled at Gold Derby are also going out on a limb for it. No, it’s not your typical academy movie, but if the last few years are any indication there may not be any such thing as a “typical academy movie” anymore.
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.