By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 22, 2018 at 3:01 PM

The starting gun for the most wide-open Oscar race in quite some time will fire right at the crack of dawn tomorrow, beginning with announcing the technical categories at 7:22 a.m. before getting into the good stuff around 7:38 a.m. on either or

Months of exhausting speculation will finally be over, leading to a month and a half of ... well, more exhausting speculation, with no one really knowing anything. As we learned last year from the shocking "Moonlight" win, everything we once assumed about the Academy and the precursor awards no longer applies. Or maybe it does! Maybe last year was just a bizarre aberration – and not only because they read the wrong winner.

Today, however, marks the most exciting time in the entire awards season, because it's the final day where anything could be possible, where you can convince yourself your favorite little indie or unheralded performance might just get a nomination. So let's make some predictions about who will wake up with good news tomorrow morning and who will wish that they stayed asleep. 

1. There will be eight Best Picture nominees

This year's race began with almost every movie having a viable argument for snagging a Best Picture nomination (except "The Emoji Movie"). Two months later, it's thankfully slimmed down to seven solidified candidates: "Three Billboards," "The Shape of Water," "Get Out," "Lady Bird," "Dunkirk," "Call Me By Your Name" and "The Post." But there's too many beloved films to end at just seven, so I'm willing to bet one more sneaks into the final group.

Will it be "The Florida Project," a critically-acclaimed, lovely indie gem that has industry support – but not enough to actually win or get nominated for much of anything so far? Or maybe the summer hit rom-com "The Big Sick," though that might get overshadowed by bigger, more recent fare? The WWII biopic "Darkest Hour" would seemingly scream Oscar, but times are changing. And then there's "Mudbound," Netflix's big best picture play – but did enough voters watch it? And did they watch it as a movie and not just a TV movie (a statement more about the film's outlet than the film's quality)? 

Instead, I'll go with ... 

2. Expect to hear "I, Tonya" more than you think

Whether you love it or hate it, there's no debating "I, Tonya" hit its stride at just the right moment, gaining momentum right as the Oscar voting began. It's loud. It's flashy. It's an energetic movie to watch (important when voters are slogging through stockpiles of screeners). I think "I, Tonya" skates away with that final nomination. 

But that's not all! Of course, the ice skating black comedy will glide into the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for Margot Robbie and Allison Janney, respectively, but I think you'll also hear it sneak its way into the insanely tight Best Original Screenplay category as well as Best Makeup/Hair and maybe even Best Editing. 

But for every movie picking up heat, there's another feeling a deathly chill in the air – which brings us to ... 

3. "The Post" won't like Tuesday's news

For a movie that was supposed to already have its name engraved on every single Academy Award, "The Post" is now just hoping to get some nominations.  

Maybe it was too obvious or predictable of a pick for some voters, the one you're obligated to vote for not only because of the cast but because of its much-trumpeted timeliness. For others, maybe it's just not good enough – especially coming off the feels of the very similar "Spotlight." Spielberg, Hanks and especially Streep are all doing terrific work, but it's work we've grown accustomed to seeing. Nothing in "The Post" surprises you or catches the audience off-guard.

I still predict it'll get a Best Picture nomination, and that Streep will score a nod for Best Actress (one she actually deserves this year for her acting, not just for showing up). But other than maybe a score nomination, I think "The Post" will have a quiet morning, with neither a Hanks nomination nor a Spielberg one and little to speak of in the technical categories. Its Oscar hopes, I believe, have gone the way of the newspaper.

4. "The Shape of Water" will lead the way

Audiences have understandably fallen in love with Guillermo del Toro's fish monster love story – and you'll see that reflected in Tuesday morning's announcement, with a deluge of nominations headed its way. I predict 14 total nods, ranging from Best Picture and Best Director to a tidal wave of technical trophies.

That'll tie the record for most nominations for a single movie, putting it alongside "All About Eve," "Titanic" and last year's "La La Land." It should've broken the record, but for some reason the film's impressive makeup work behind our beloved fish monster was left off the category's shortlist. Gotta make room for "Bright," I guess! Oh, and about "Bright" ...

5. "Bright" got nominated?!

Every year, there's one terrible, hilariously out-of-place movie that gets an Oscar nomination. Remember Academy Award nominee "Click"? Or when "No Country for Old Men" and "Atonement" shared the red carpet with fellow nominee ... "Norbit"? Heck, "Suicide Squad" not only scored a nomination last year but even won a damn trophy.

Interestingly enough, all of those crazy contenders came from the Best Makeup/Hair category, and I could see them pulling another kooky nominee out this year – namely the much-derided Netflix attempt at a blockbuster, "Bright." In fairness, it is really hard to tell that's Joel Edgerton under all that orc makeup (something Edgerton's probably happy about). Oh, and let's talk about Netflix ... 

6. Netflix, welcome to the show

Netflix isn't a stranger to the Oscars. Last year, in fact, it won Best Documentary-Short Subject for "The White Helmets" and was in the running for the documentary prize with "13th." But when it comes to breaking into the main categories, the big red streaming giant has always been on the outside looking in – starting right from its first release, "Beasts of No Nation."

This year, however, the fledgling producers will finally get their taste of major competition, as "Mudbound" should score nominations for Mary J. Blige in Best Supporting Actress as well as an Adapted Screenplay nod. I don't think it'll win in either case – and I don't think the days of the Academy considering Netflix Originals as less that real movies are over either. But Netflix is starting to crack through that wall. Now if only they would consider putting a movie or two in theaters ... 

7. "The Big Sick" gets little respect

Trust me: Everyone behind "The Big Sick" has already won. The rom-com is already one of the most applauded movies of the year – from critics and general audiences alike – while also raking in a stupendous haul at the box office (movies that grossed less domestically: "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword," the "Ghost in the Shell" remake, "Geostorm").

The film doesn't need nominations at this point – and unfortunately, I don't think it's going to get them either. It's in play for Best Picture, but other larger and late-breaking choices are in its way. An Original Screenplay nomination once seemed like a shoe-in, but the category is packed this year – and with "I, Tonya" breaking out late, that's one more big, showy contender to deal with. Meanwhile Ray Romano never picked up much interest for Best Supporting Actor.

There's a very strong chance Holly Hunter for Best Supporting Actress will be the film's lone representative come awards night – but there's an even stronger chance that, at this point in its impressive run, its creators don't really care. 

8. No #OscarsSoWhite this year

For a while, it seemed very plausible that 2018 would mark another #OscarsSoWhite. But while the scales still need further tipping, this year's crop of contenders should reflect some of the Academy's growing diversity.

A late push for "Get Out" has turned star Daniel Kaluuya from a dark horse candidate into almost a lock for a Best Actor nomination, while the Golden Globes director debacle should guarantee both Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig taking their debuts to the big night (even though they should've been locked in long before). Meanwhile, Octavia Spencer and Mary J. Blige should hear their names Tuesday morning for "The Shape of Water" and "Mudbound," respectively, while the latter film could break barriers in the cinematography category with Rachel Morrison's impressive work potentially making her the first woman ever nominated in the category. That's right. Ever. 

So while there's definitely a way to go in Hollywood with equality and representation, the Oscar nominations should show tomorrow that things have shifted at least a little bit. 

9. Kobe Bryant: Oscar nominee

NBA icon Kobe Bryant has an animated short film, "Dear Basketball," that will probably get nominated. So that's one thing he's definitely got over Michael Jordan. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.