It's that time again.

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were released early on Jan. 23, and so the field is set for critics, pundits, and anyone else who follows awards season to make their predictions.

This time out, there are some clear frontrunners in a few of the major categories. The consistency of wins by particular directors, films and stars at the Golden Globe Awards, the Critic's Choice Awards, and the Screen Actor's Guild Awards all seem to indicate that a few of the biggest prizes of the night are all but sown up.

However, surprises are always possible, and there are a few of the major awards that still seem up for grabs.

As I did last year, I've compiled a list of my predictions for who will take home the hardware in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories. If you wish to make your own predictions and keep score versus these selections, you'll find a link to the official ballot at the end of the post.


Actress in a Supporting Role: Allison Janney, "I, Tonya"

Both Allison Janney and Margot Robbie scored Oscar nominations for their turns in "I, Tonya," but of the two outstanding performances, Janney's is just a razor's edge more impactful. Her acid-tongued, unapologetic take on Tonya Harding's mother, LaVona Golden, is easily one of the film's most memorable assets.

Actor in a Supporting Role: Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Elling, Missouri"

Of all the arresting performances (get it? "arresting?") in "Three Billboards," it's Sam Rockwell's that's arguably the most memorable, even beyond that of Frances McDormand in the lead role.

Whenever Rockwell, playing tempermental Elling Deputy Dixon, is on screen, you can't take your eyes off him. He's literally a ticking time bomb on screen, and when he explodes, it results in one of the film's most disturbing sequences.

Directing: Guillermo Del Toro, "The Shape of Water"

There's a lyrical beauty to the vision thread throughout Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water." Scenes literally flow in and out of each other in this classic fairy tale set in America in the height of the Cold War.

While there's nothing really new in terms of story elements Del Toro brings into play in the film, it's the gentle and elegant manner in which he orchestrates the familiar tale in a very unexpected setting that help set this work apart.

Actress in a Leading Role: Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Elling, Missouri"

Some have pointed out since its release that "Three Billboards Outside Elling, Missouri" has a palpable "Coen Brothers" quality to it. No doubt the presence of McDormand, who has often starred in the very best Coen brothers films, contributes to that perception.

Be that as it may, there's nothing derivative here in terms of what McDormand brings to the screen to drive this film hurtling forward, nothing borrowed from previous Coen brothers work. McDormand's Mildred Hayes is barely-contained rage taken human form, tinged with sorrow and regret that gets sublimated beneath her tough-as-nails exterior and uncompromising need for some kind of justice. It's a powerhouse performance that, like Mildred herself, will not be denied come Oscar night.

Actor in a Leading Role: Gary Oldman, "Darkest Hour"

Often, the Academy rewards performers who take on wholly transformative roles, who with a little help from make-up and costuming or sometimes dramatic weight gain or loss completely become someone else. Look to previous award winners like Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (both for "Dallas Buyers Club") or Charlize Theron for "Monster" for some recent examples.

What's important about these instances, and why Gary Oldman's take on Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour" will be yet another, is that it's not the make-up and costuming or physical alteration that make the difference. It's still the power of the performance underneath, and Oldman's thundering take on Churchill had Oscar pundits and critics buzzing for months even before the film opened. Oldman simply becomes Churchill, and it's a startling, utterly mesmerizing effort.

Best Picture: "Three Billboards Outside Elling, Missouri"

Yes, it's not as pretty to look at as "The Shape of Water," but Martin McDonagh's "Three Billboards Outside Elling, Missouri" will take the night's biggest prize thanks to the overall strength of its ensemble and the raw, brash personality running throughout its script. Though it didn't have the kind of commercial success that "Get Out" or "Dunkirk" enjoyed (the title must have made it very difficult to market), its tough to imagine the film not appealing even to audiences who don't pay attention to Oscar favorites.

The film just satisfies, even with a somewhat ambiguous and unconventional ending, and takes you on a wild, funny and sad ride along the way.

And, of course, I could be wrong on ALL of these, and we could be in for a night of surprises. Tune in on March 4, and let's find out together!

For a printable version of the Oscars' nominee list, click HERE.