(Editor’s Note: IndieWire Oscar Ballot is presented by iTunes. Watch this year’s contenders at iTunes.com/Oscars.)
With all of the major precursor awards out of the way and a number of frontrunners emerging, it’s time to hedge your bets and make official predictions. And since everyone wants to win their Oscar pool, keep some important considerations in mind: Do you go with the conventional wisdom that “The Shape of Water” will follow its success at the PGA, DGA, and WGA Awards by taking Best Picture and Best Director, or do you go for a dark horse like “Lady Bird”? Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney have proven popular with traditional bellwethers like the SAG Awards, but might critical favorites Willem Dafoe and Laurie Metcalf come from behind to claim their statuettes?
Before filling out this handsome ballot, which we present to you with an assist from iTunes Movies, we suggest you consult with our resident expert Anne Thompson as you attempt to answer these and other burning questions. She’s once again predicting every single category, from Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress to Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing.
Here are some pro tips to getting the edge on your ballot:
*While awards season involves such ceremonies as the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards, the truth is that those prizes mean little to the Oscar race. No film critics or Hollywood Foreign Press members actually vote for the Oscars, so it is more important for you to study up on the winners of the guild winners such as SAG, DGA, PGA, and WGA awards, where there’s a significant overlap between guild members and Academy voters. That’s why guild winners are a telling sign for Oscar victory. The DGA winner, for instance, has won the Best Director Oscar for the last four years now, which bodes well for this year’s winner Guillermo del Toro.
*Become an expert on the shorts race, which includes not just one, not just two, but three whole categories, offering smart movie fans the chance to pull in a whole bunch of points in the minimum of time. Each year the shorts — including live-action, documentary, and animated categories — are available to watch in theaters and online before the Oscars roll out, a quick way to watch 15 contenders. Each year, the shorts categories provide an array of contenders that aren’t beholden to the up-and-down campaigning of the feature films in the bigger categories. Early frontrunners tend to stay in front, and this year has already provided strong competitors in each category. In short, it’s easy to sniff out what’s likely to win and add those picks to your ballots early.
*Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing often mix people up, since they don’t understand what the difference is between the categories. Editing is finding the right sound effects and ambient sounds to build (or literally edit into) the film’s sound design. Once they the sound editing is done, the sound mixing team carefully “mixes” all the sounds together and determines the accurate levels based on the needs of scene. The relationship between various sound elements (dialogue, score, gunfire) can completely change how we experience a movie.
This year’s ceremony, the 90th, will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on March 4. And this time, they’ll probably announce the right Best Picture winner.