Well, it is that time again, ladies and gentlemen. Time for me to pretend that I either a) can see into the future or b) am smart enough to know what a gargantuan voting body will think about the year in movies. In reality, this is, as always, going to trend more in the direction of not only what I think the Academy will do, but what I would do if I were voting (I’m not). There are 24 categories and some of which are filled with movies I didn’t see, but I’ll do my best to cover each category, sometimes with very little explanation other than wild guesses. And away we go!
“A Star Is Born”
Should/Will Win: We’ll start with a category that, to my mind, is relatively easy. Yes, it’s the “biggest” award of the night, which would seemingly make it more difficult, but this year I just don’t think that’s the case. I’ll do this the way the Academy actually does the category, with preferential voting, in reverse order.
8. Bohemian Rhapsody – It’s a messy, unexciting and often incorrect biopic about a guy who’s life should have been a lot more interesting and tumultuous. For the life of me I can’t understand why this is even nominated when movies like First Man existed this year.
7. Green Book – Speaking of overhyped things. My initial response upon completing the movie was that it was a male platonic romantic comedy that made sure to include some racial issues stuff so people would pay attention. The acting is good, but the story is told with little effort, and that is not a compliment.
6. The Favourite – This is an absurd movie, and it’s lower here because I liked some of the other movies more (and also because I couldn’t quite figure out what this movie was about). Three great performances, especially from Emma Stone, but the movie itself didn’t do it for me.
5. Black Panther – This seems to be the movie people are getting behind as the one the Academy should be paying more attention to this year (see: Get Out from last year), and while I admired it in a lot of ways, for me it felt muddled and trying to accomplish too much.
4. Vice – More fun than I was expecting it to be and featuring a great lead performance from Christian Bale, I really didn’t think I would like this at all. It wears its politics on its sleeves and doesn’t always stick the landing, but there was something powerful about the movie itself feeling a little unsure what to do with the subject matter.
3. BlacKkKlansman – I’m not a Spike Lee fan (my favorite of his films is probably 25th Hour, which is pretty much nobody’s favorite Spike film), and I almost avoided this one altogether because of that. I’m glad I didn’t. There’s still some elements of this I didn’t love, and while powerful, the ending almost does too much to spell out the whole “hey, this is still going on” point of it all, but overall the film is well executed and really well acted.
2. A Star Is Born – I had no expectations for this one, and almost missed it altogether because of the massive hype train that was pulling into the station months before anyone even saw the film. Thing is, the film delivers in almost every way you would want it to. The performances, both acting and musically, are spectacular, the songs are mostly strong and, even though this is the fourth rendition of the movie, the story seems freshly updated (note: I’ve never seen any of the other versions). Honestly I’m confused as to why this has gotten drowned out by all the BoRhap and Green Book love, because this is a much better and more effectively executed film.
1.Roma – I was engrossed from beginning to end, at times I was even terrified and uncomfortable, and somehow I left feeling that Alfonso Cuaron had made me care about this family and devastated by the tragedies of its life. Part of that, yes, was because the movie was in Spanish and forced me to focus on it fully, but I also believe it would have done so anyway. The scene in the hospital close to the end was one of the most heart wrenching sequences I’ve seen this year, and it was a credit to the work of the film that I was both desperate for it to end and captivated by how he managed to make me want to keep watching. This is both my pick and the film I think will win on Sunday night.
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Should win: Christian Bale, which seems very Academy of me, since they usually love transformations (see Gary Oldman just last year). But in all honesty, while the make up and weight gain enhances the performance, there is something specific about each of Bale’s choices, and that he makes you question your own motives regarding a Cheney that is clearly being represented in a certain way by Adam McKay and company, is a testament to how well his performance works. Honorable mention to Bradley Cooper here, who embodies the character of Jackson Maine with grace and eloquence.
Will win: Rami Malek, who I like a lot in Mr. Robot, but felt he was going through the motions here. That’s weird to say in a movie where he’s required to do a lot of capital-A Acting, but his performance never excited me or made me pay attention to the way either Bale or Cooper’s did. He’s kind of just doing an impersonation rather than making choices.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Should win: Lady Gaga, which is saying a lot coming from me because I’m not what you’d call a Gaga fan. But my goodness is she great in this movie. I’m just lost as to how she’s gotten forgotten throughout this award process, because there was nothing in her past career that would have suggested she was capable of the kind of emoting and realism she showcases here. In some ways, yes, the role was made for her, but it doesn’t matter so much because she owns it. It’s showy without being obvious, emotional without succumbing to melodrama. Honorable mention to Aparicio, who makes her debut in Roma and holds the movie together with her steady performance.
Will win: I mean, I guess Glenn Close, although by all accounts The Wife is just an okay movie. This stinks of a career achievement award because they’ve never awarded her before. I haven’t seen the movie, because apparently it’s impossible to find and, frankly, it just doesn’t seem worth it.
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
Should win: Sam Elliott, who is the emotional fulcrum of A Star Is Born. Elliott takes his usual gruff cowboy act and makes him feel lived in and real. The movie doesn’t work without him, which, by definition is what a supporting actor should be doing (unlike most cases where this award goes to a second lead, more on that in a second). Driver is great in his role, but it feels lighter in comparison, which is weird to say given the film’s content, but he isn’t asked to deal with as much weight.
Will win: Mahershala Ali, who is the aforementioned co-lead of Green Book, and honestly plays mostly one note (pun intended) through most of the film’s run. He’s everywhere these days on the heels of his win in this category two years ago, and he definitely grants a sense of elegance and even humor to the role, but the film itself feels so slight to me, I just don’t see how he should actually win for this movie. This isn’t an award for overall acting ability (he’d probably win that, with Driver close behind), but for this film, which doesn’t deserve this type of recognition.
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Should win: Emma Stone, because she makes all the shenanigans of The Favourite work in a way that it wouldn’t in lesser hands. Weisz has less to do, and Adams is fun in Vice, but not as supporting (yes, I’m taking this category literally). She’s due eventually, though (she’s already up to six nominations, five in this category, with no wins). Marina de Tavira really propels some of the action of Roma, though, too, in a way I wasn’t expecting as the movie began. I could go any way, but Stone is my favorite.
Will win: I haven’t seen Beale Street, but King seems to be the frontrunner here. I won’t be surprised any way this goes.
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
Should/will win: It’s Cuaron and there’s very little competition here, other than maybe a sentimental vote for Lee. All the hats that the Roma director wears will probably help his case (and allow him to win more than one award on the night himself). Cooper not being here is confusing and probably wrong, but at least it’s McKay, who directs an interesting movie (even if you hate it) and not Farrelly for Green Book.
“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Should/Will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a better movie than a few of the Best Picture nominees, and should walk away from this one with an easy victory, in spite of strong competition from Incredibles 2 and Isle of Dogs, both of which are also excellent. The wow factor, especially in the animation department itself, is too high for Spidey not to win.
“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez
Will win: “Bao,” because it was the only one I saw and I ate some bao in Chicago this summer and it was delightful.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
Should win: A Star is Born mostly because it was the best of these nominated films, so far as I’m concerned. Cooper needs something to reflect the magnitude of what he accomplished, and this might be the best shot outside of a category yet to come. Sadly, I don’t feel super confident in that.
Will win: BlacKkKlansman, and I don’t really have a major problem with that. And while I haven’t seen Buster Scruggs, never count out the loved-more-expected Coen Brothers film, especially in writing categories.
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay
Should win: I’m going with either First Reformed (which I haven’t seen but heard great things about) or Roma here. The issue with Roma is how little dialogue there is, but if the screenplay also takes into account the narrative arc (which is should), that gives Roma a slight edge (along with my having seen it).
Will win: It makes me gag, but for some reason the D-grade racial conversation centered around Green Book has kept it around much longer than it should have, and for some reason I think this is one of the places where the film gets recognized, even if the script is basically a mediocre Joseph Campbell/Robert McKee hybridization that never excites.
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique
Should/Will win: Cuaron again (although this will probably actually be his first award of the night), because of the boldness of most of his choices in terms of where the camera goes and what it chooses to show you. The hospital scene is enough for me. The plethora of foreign-made films here is really interesting, though, and might impact the category, but I think it is Cuaron’s to lose, although it should be noted that the American Society of Cinematographers gave their feature film award to Zal a few days ago (also, another First Man snub).
Best Documentary Feature:
“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen
Will win: Having seen none of these, I will guess Minding the Gap, which I’ve heard is fantastic. That or Free Solo. No idea.
Best Documentary Short Subject:
“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi
Will win: See above for explanation. “End Game” feels like a nice selection.
Best Live Action Short Film:
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv
Will win: Yet again. Let’s go “Skin,” for randomness.
Best Foreign Language Film:
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
Should win: So this is an interesting one. There’s a real chance that Roma walks away with not one, but two “Best Picture” awards, both the overall BP and this category. But I’m also thinking there’s a chance that those voters who give the BP nod to Cuaron’s film will also look to award someone else here and grant this category to someone else, namely…
Could win: Cold War, which is nominated in several other categories this year (there nominations in all), suggesting it has support in different sections of the Academy. If voters decide that Cuaron’s film winning in both places is too much, don’t be shocked if Pawlikowski’s film prevails here. Still think there’s a good chance Roma sweeps, though.
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin
Should/Will win: Before we start, this is a ridiculous category. The aforementioned BoRhap and Green Book are so dull and unoriginal in their editing, it kills me that movies like Roma (because of how little it cuts, forcing you to stay with moments longer than you want) or First Man (for almost the opposite reason, creating the uncomfortable sense of claustrophobia) aren’t here. Given that, the rhythm of Vice is what propels it forward and part of what makes the film so off-kilter and interesting. So I’m going that direction here.
“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay
Should win: Ironically, I’d like to give a little love to the under-nominated A Quiet Place, which won Emily Blunt a Screen Actor’s Guild prize a few weeks back. Yes, much of the movie is quiet, eerily and uncomfortably so; but when the sound does kick in, it really does, and is part of what makes the movie tick. Close second to First Man, which, if you can’t tell, I’m fully prepared to beat the drum for as long as it takes for people to realize it’s spectacular filmmaking by one of our better young directors.
Will win: This feels like a Black Panther category, especially since it’s unlikely to win anywhere else and the voters will want to recognize it somewhere. I’m okay with almost anything winning here, except, well, you know by now.
“A Star Is Born”
Should win: I’m also perplexed when there are differences in these two categories, and while yes I realize they are different skills, it feels like they should go hand in hand. If the sound design/editing works, then so, too should the mixing. So I’m back on the First Man train for this one, because of the just insane quality of the sounds throughout.
Will win: Again, probably a Black Panther category, although I could see A Star Is Born jumping in here because of all the music to call attention to the mixing.
“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez
Should/Will win: The re-creation of 1970’s Mexico in Roma is astounding, so I’m fully on board for that win, although the same could be said for First Man and The Favourite, also period pieces, which often look good in this category. Black Panther is visually interesting, but depends so much on CGI to create the look of the film, so I’m going with Roma again on this one.
“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Should win: Justin Hurwitz, who for some reason isn’t here for First Man. Barring that, the Academy really seems to love Alexandre Desplat, who has won in this category twice (for last year’s The Shape of Water and 2015’s The Grand Budpest Hotel) and been nominated seven other times, not including this year, since 2007. I enjoy his style, and as far as fits, it feels the strongest of the two films I’ve seen in this category.
Will win: Again, having not seen Beale Street, I have no idea, but I’ve heard great things. Won’t be surprised to see it go any way here.
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
Should/Will win: I mean, I don’t think there’s much question here. This is likely the best chance for a win for A Star Is Born, and “Shallow” is a pretty great song, even if I don’t believe how it came together in the timeline of the film.
Makeup and Hair:
“Mary Queen of Scots”
Should/Will win: Vice doesn’t work if the make up doesn’t work. No debate there.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne
Should/Will win: A win for Black Panther would be pretty off brand for this one, as period pieces are quite often awarded in this category. I’m going with The Favourite, since it’s likely one of the few real chances the film has to win despite double-digit nominations (inflated a little by three acting noms). It’s costumes are excellent and specific to the characters, which matters a great deal.
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Should/Will win: Strangely, with as much love as Black Panther got (it was nominated for seven total Oscars), it doesn’t end up here. First Man would be a nice surprise here because it doesn’t really fit what the Academy most often awards here, which is massive Visual Effect spectacles, something that describes 3/5’s of the nominees here. Christopher Robin being here is interesting, too, because honestly in the trailers the talking animals didn’t look all that good. For me, although I liked Solo: A Star Wars story more than many, I thin it comes down to Infinity War and Ready Player One, and I think the Marvel train keeps a-rollin’ here, even if the degree of difficulty for RPO is much higher, since most of the movie depends on the quality of the VFX.
And so there you have it. It’s going to be an interesting show on Sunday night, what with there being no host and the Academy deciding first to slash four awards from the telecast and then last-minute change directions on that choice, but in the end the important thing is who wins and where. When the night’s over, I fully expect Cuaron’s Roma to be the biggest winner, both in terms of number of awards and having won the biggest award of the night. We’ll see soon enough.