No movie buff would miss the annual Academy Awards ceremony, but much of the surprise element that used to make the show so much fun has been eliminated in recent years.

Back in the 1960s, when I first began watching the Oscar telecast, you didn’t have the spate of other preliminary movie award shows that now pinpoint most of the likely winners. Forty or 50 years ago no one except people in the industry knew or cared about the Golden Globes, and the Screen Actors Guild was years away from telecasting its awards.

I don’t expect to see any movie sweep the Oscars this year, the way “Titanic” did 20 years ago. Guillermo del Toro’s romantic fantasy, “The Shape of Water,” has the potential to be a record-breaker with 13 nominations — no movie has ever won more than 11 Oscars — but few believe it will take any acting prizes.

Here are my guesses at the winners in the top six categories:

Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” leads the pack with 14 Oscar nominations. Photo: Contributed Photo / © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved
Photo: Contributed Photo
Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” leads the pack with 14 Oscar nominations.

BEST PICTURE: “The Shape of Water”

Director Guillermo del Toro’s recent Directors Guild of America win gave him and his movie a boost over “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which was seen as the front-runner just a few weeks ago. The academy failing to nominate “Three Billboards” director Martin McDonagh was also a blow to the movie’s chances because only a few films have ever won Best Picture without also being cited in the Best Director division.

BEST DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro

A good dark horse candidate in this category is Greta Gerwig for her strong work on “Lady Bird.” The academy has not been very supportive of female directors in past years, so picking Gerwig would be a boost to women filmmakers.

Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand are Oscar frontrunners for their performances in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Photo: Contributed Photo
Photo: Contributed Photo
Sam Rockwell and Frances McDormand are Oscar frontrunners for their performances in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

BEST ACTRESS: Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

McDormand has won most of the preliminary races and delivers a powerhouse performance as a grieving mother who seeks revenge. A loss would be shocking.

Gary Oldman is expected to win an Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour." Photo: Contributed Photo / © 2017 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Photo: Contributed Photo
Gary Oldman is expected to win an Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour."

BEST ACTOR: Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”

Oldman is a veteran who has been delivering great performances going all the way back to “Sid & Nancy” in 1986. The fact that he is playing the Oscar-bait role of Winston Churchill is the icing on the cake. Oscar has a long tradition of honoring actors who play historical figures, from Ben Kingsley in “Gandhi” in 1982, through Daniel Day Lewis in the title role of “Lincoln” five years ago.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

Rockwell has been one of the best character actors in movies for more than 20 years. He is overdue for an Academy Award and appears to have a lock on winning this year.

Allison Janney is nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Golden in "I, Tonya." Photo: Contributed Photo / Neon
Photo: Contributed Photo
Allison Janney is nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Tonya Harding’s mother LaVona Golden in "I, Tonya."

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”

Although Janney is viewed as the front-runner, there is real potential for an upset in this category. Laurie Metcalf gives a universally praised performance in “Lady Bird” that has finer shadings than the brutal but effective work Janney does as Tonya Harding’s crude, unloving mother.

Here’s hoping that there are at least a few surprises to liven up the March 4 telecast.

jmeyers@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @joesview