— -- It's the year of the woman.
Peter Travers, the host of ABC's "Popcorn with Peter Travers," predicts that women and movies with strong women characters will do well on Sunday when the 90th annual Academy Awards are broadcast live on ABC.
"This is an Oscar ceremony where women are going to figure very prominently in it," he said in a special Oscar edition of his show. "There's a lot going on not just in the movies, fighting for winning not just over their poor contenders that they don't think have a chance. But it's a world out there that has to be reflected in what wins. In other words, if we're in the hashtag me too, hashtag Time's Up of living in a political area where there's so much controversy, expect to see that reflected."
He gives the edge to films that give a "fist bump to women in a Hollywood that's now crawling with sexual misconduct."
He went on to add, "I think if you're a movie competing out there and you don't have a strong woman involved and a character, it's going to be tougher for you to do it. And this is a good thing because you could feel this kind of thing in the air."
Starting with the best actress category, Travers' predictions for who will take home Oscars gold Sunday night are below.
The 90th annual Academy Awards will air on ABC starting at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST.
The nominees are Sally Hawkins, "The Shape of Water," Frances McDormand, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," Margot Robbie, "I, Tonya," Saoirse Ronan, "Lady Bird," and Meryl Streep, "The Post."
"Who is the favorite, who's the strongest woman out there in movies this year? It's got to be Frances McDormand in 'Three Billboards,'" Travers said. "I mean here she is a mother who is basically giving help to the police in her town because they have not solved the murder of her daughter, and she's not going to take it anymore. She's mad as hell. She's going to come out and do this. Frances McDormand does almost no self-promotion for herself but anyone who sees 'Three Billboards' is going to say, 'I like her. I like her fire. I like what she's doing.' So the favorite definitely."
He gives the long shot to Hawkins. The previous Oscar winner plays a mute cleaning woman that falls in love with a creature captured by the government. "The Academy loves it when you have to do all that acting without being able to speak," Travers said.
The nominees are Mary J. Blige, "Mudbound," Allison Janney, "I, Tonya," Laurie Metcalf, "Lady Bird," Lesley Manville, "Phantom Thread," and Octavia Spencer, "The Shape of Water."
Travers mentioned that there was one woman he thought would score a nomination, Tiffany Haddish in "Girls Trip." "She just blew everyone away," he said, "but Academy voters tend to not go for comedy."
What they do go for is "super serious" performances like Blige in "Mudbound," who Travers highlighted not just for her role playing a mother but her second nomination in the best song category for "Mighty River." He went on to add, "It's a good year for her."
But the winner of this category will come down to two other actresses who played mothers, Metcalf and Janney.
"The favorite in this category is Allison Janney," Travers said. "She is the mother from hell as Tonya Harding's mom who has given this child nothing but abuse through her entire childhood and it set her out there into the world. Allison Janney does nothing, absolutely nothing, to make this character sympathetic."
The long shot, he said, is Metcalf, who plays a super-strong mom who loves her daughter despite their constant bickering. "She is one of the consummate actresses that we have out there. So Allison Janney has competition. Again, super-strong women," he said.
The rise of the Me Too movement has impacted this category, as well. Travers said if not for sexual misconduct allegations arising after his Golden Globe win for "The Disaster Artist," star James Franco would have earned a nomination.
"It's a very tough code of ethics that's going on out there. And I think Franco fell prey to that," he said.
That doesn't take away from the favorite in this category, Oldman, for his performance as Winston Churchill.
"Again, one of the great actors of our time who has never won an Oscar, has only been nominated once before for 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,' and who in this performance where he's not even recognizable -- he's covered up, he's got makeup -- and yet he makes every living, breathing moment that he's on screen amazing," Travers explained in a case for Oldman.
He also gives the long shot to Chalamet. "This is a 22-year-old actor, one of the youngest ever to be nominated for best actor at the Oscars," Travers said. "And everything about that performance works because it touches you. It speaks to you and it says something important about who we are as people. So this is a contest out there."
The nominees are Willem Dafoe, "The Florida Project," Woody Harrelson, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," Richard Jenkins, "The Shape of Water," Christopher Plummer, "All the Money in the World," and Sam Rockwell, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"
The nominees are once again a reflection of the reckoning in Hollywood and beyond. Travers points to Plummer, who reshot the role of J. Paul Getty after the film's original star, Kevin Spacey, was accused of multiple allegations of sexual assault.
"Plummer has a lot of heat going on him for doing that, for being brave enough to do it and for doing it so superbly," Travers said.
But he said the favorite is Rockwell, despite the controversy over him playing a racist cop.
"He plays a racist cop in a way that makes us understand where the racism comes from," Travers said. "I really can't stand the criticism that says, 'because he's playing this character, he must be one himself' -- which is such nonsense... He makes something human out of somebody so deeply flawed."
Travers added that the long shot is Dafoe, as a manager of a live-in motel on the outskirts of Disney World. "It's really, really a great performance by a great actor," he said.
Neither Dafoe or Rockwell have won an Oscar. "So it's pretty tight," Travers said, "but I'm going to go with Sam Rockwell there."
The nominees are Christopher Nolan, "Dunkirk," Jordan Peele, "Get Out," Greta Gerwig, "Lady Bird," Paul Thomas Anderson, "Phantom Thread," and Guillermo del Toro, "The Shape of Water."
For only the fifth time in Oscar's 90-year history, a black man and a woman have been nominated for best director.
"We're seeing basically two people who the Academy had sidelined before in terms of being a woman or being an African-American in this world and said, 'We don't want to listen to you,'" Travers said. "And, now, they have to be listened to."
The favorite to win, however, is del Toro. "Anything that he does has a visual majesty to it," Travers said. "He's talented and a true human being."
The long shot is no new kid on the block. Nolan, Travers said, has "been around and been doing terrific work in his career" but has never been nominated before.
The nominees are "Call Me By Your Name," "Darkest Hour," "Dunkirk," "Get Out," "Lady Bird," "Phantom Thread," "The Post," "The Shape of Water," and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."
Travers gives the big prize to the film leading the number of nominations this year, "The Shape of Water."
It has a strong woman at the heart of the film, played by Sally Hawkins, and it's "saying something though about a larger world about immigration, about what's foreign to us, about what scares us," Travers said.
He predicts del Toro will join his buddies, affectionately referred to as the "three amigos," Alfonso Cuarón, who won for "Gravity," and Alejandro González Iñárritu, who won for "The Revenant" and "Birdman."
"This is his chance, so the three amigos can have it," Travers said.
But, once again, he doesn't count out Nolan and his masterpiece "Dunkirk" for the win. "This came out to be a huge hit. Nobody thought it would be a hit," Travers said. "It was just such an amazing technical achievement. And also about people coming to the rescue, not depending on the government to do it, but getting in small boats and coming to rescue the soldiers that were stranded on the beach. This has everything that I think the Academy should celebrate."
Best original song
The nominees are "Mighty River" from "Mudbound," "Mystery of Love" from "Call Me by Your Name," "Remember Me" from "Coco," "Stand Up for Something" from "Marshall," and "This Is Me" from "The Greatest Showman."
Although the favorite all along has been "Remember Me" from "Coco," Travers is going with "This Is Me," written by the same team who scored "La La Land" and "Dear Evan Hansen" on Broadway.
"If there's ever a song that's reflecting this year at the Oscars, that's the one," he said about the song sung by the Bearded Lady, played by newcomer Keala Settle, in the film.
Travers said the song represents "all of these people this year that are either going to win or [will] be this close to winning the Oscars."
He added, "Look for those winners who get up and say, 'This is me,' because this is a year where the Oscars are going to be all about identity and reflecting. You can thank me later."