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Here's the movie that will win this year's best picture Oscar. Probably. OK ... maybe

Here's the movie that will win this year's best picture Oscar. Probably. OK ... maybe
Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." (Merrick Morton / Fox Searchlight)

The Oscars are here! Finally!

Next Winter Olympics, can the academy move the ceremony a week earlier rather than a week later? (Asking for a friend.)

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With this year's best picture race being such a wide-open free-for-all, I've gone back and forth on my own prediction a couple of times.

Will it be "The Shape of Water"? Could "Get Out" sneak in? What about "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"? Can't we just give it to "Moonlight" again, this time in a proper fashion?

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars.

I'm Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host.

Best picture race anyone's (educated) guess

This newsletter's going out a few hours before my complete Oscar predictions will go live. Sneak peek: I'm going with "Three Billboards" for best picture.

The movie was labeled "divisive" after a handful of critics thoughtfully objected to the way it used and dealt with race. The arguments have merit, but they haven't seemed to persuade awards season voters. "Three Billboards" swept through the SAG Awards and took the top honor from the British Film Academy. I didn't find many academy members who found the movie problematic.

Voters I spoke with responded to the palpable sense of rage coursing through the film, the helpless frustration and anger expressed by Frances McDormand's grieving mother. It's no accident that artists and activists have been using the movie's titular tactic and creating their own protest messages.

"Three Billboards" connects with its audience in ways they might not be able to fully articulate. Hell, I'm not even sure if writer-director Martin McDonagh knows what he's trying to put across here. But that doesn't mean you should underestimate the connection. Two members of the movie's ensemble — Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell — are heavily favored to win Oscars. The actors branch, by far the academy's largest group, might push this all the way to the top.

These Oscars are edible, thanks to Wolfgang Puck.
These Oscars are edible, thanks to Wolfgang Puck. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Have the Oscars lost their mojo?

Is that a strange question to be asking in an awards-season newsletter? Hey, I don't shy away from hard truths. And my colleague Jeffrey Fleishman makes a pretty good case that the Academy Awards have indeed lost their relevance. Then again, Times film critic Kenneth Turan counters that the Academy Awards do still matter as a celebration of the art form.

Both Times film critics, Kenny and Justin Chang, also looked at the primary Oscar categories, picking the movies and performances they'd like to see win as well as forecasting what will win.

To take best picture, the nine nominated movies will have to ace the academy's preferential ballot system. How does that work? Glad you asked.

Barry Jenkins accepts the best picture Oscar for "Moonlight."
Barry Jenkins accepts the best picture Oscar for "Moonlight." (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

What kinds of movies should be considered for 'best picture'?

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That's a subject I've written extensively about this year — and just about every year — and one that my colleague, Justin Chang, digs deep into here. Certainly, "Moonlight's" win last year redefined the notion of "best picture" as it pertains to the Oscars, which is one reason this year's race is so interesting. If "Moonlight," an indie film about a gay black man growing up in impoverished Miami, a movie made for $1.5 million, could win best picture, then why not "Get Out," a social thriller examining race? Or "The Shape of Water," a film strongly rooted in the creature feature tradition?

For more coverage of the entertainment world, please check out the new Times' podcast, "The Reel." New episodes drop weekly.

Feedback?

I'd love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can't get enough about awards season? Follow me @glennwhipp on Twitter.

Twitter: @glennwhipp

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