91st Annual Academy Awards
So this year I actually screened every single piece of nominated film except “Christopher Robin” (which isn’t going to win anyway), and having discussed the awards with several people in and around the voting process, and having scanned many other predictions, I think I’ve got a fairly decent handle on this. That said, other than in the major categories, there are more wild cards in this Oscars than any in the recent past, and it stands to reason I could do worse than I have in the recent past. So…that disclosure (copout) out of the way, here are my predictions (what will win) & my predilections (what should win).
See my reviews of most of these films, including the shorts and docs, by typing in the title of the film in the search bar.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
This is the first year Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ successful efforts to open up the doors of the Academy, and make room for a much wider, more diverse, and larger membership have truly shown fruit. It stands to reason, then, that this will affect the final voting in ways not seen before…as evidenced by the nominations for Best Picture.
But, with all these new members, how does the voting work? Well, last year I reprinted a detailed article in GoldDerby.com , which you can read here, about the process. In short, members ranks the nominees in preference from 1-8. Any picture that gets 50% of first place votes wins. If none hit that threshold (which is likely), then the picture with the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated, and it’s all tallied once more, until a film gets 50%, and thus, wins. One would think that the task would be pretty straight forward, especially in a year when there seems to be only a couple of films on everyone’s mind as the best of the best.
However, I think to ignore the elephant in the room…or rather, the Rotten Tomato in the room, would be a mistake. The Verge’s Daniel Joyaux wrote a terrific piece on how that critical aggregate site has started to affect the Oscar’s race. It outlines how the bellweather for a Best Picture nomination used to be a concurrent screenplay nomination, Now, that trend has been usurped by the aforementioned Tomatoes. This helps explain how a terribly written film like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which I thought had no shot at a Best Picture nomination, has found its way in to the group, while, inexplicably, “Beale Street” (and “First Reformed”, for that matter) has not.
(And for the record, let me reiterate…a 75% rating from Rotten Tomatoes does NOT mean the film deserves a C. It simply signifies that 25% of the critics, many of whom you have NOTHING in common with when it comes to taste, gave it an unfavorable review. So, ignore the rating, go to the site, and see WHICH critics dug it and which did not before you use it as a gauge of where your entertainment dollars should go. Or, y’know, just take my word for it. <wink wink>)
So…going by the new-ish voting rules, and how they will be influenced by popular assessment AND diversity, Best Picture is much more up in the air than might be imagined. It’s pretty much a given that “A Star Is Born”, “Vice”, “Rhapsody” and “Black Panther” are probably left outside the possibility of winning (though I believe the Tomato factor is what got the last two nominated). This leaves “BlaKkKlansmen”, “The Favourite”, “Green Book” and “Roma”. But as great as “Black Klansmen and “The Favourite” are, I just don’t think they can outweigh the “Roma” fanaticism. However, I’m betting there are just as many folk out there who believe “Roma” should win the Foreign Film race, which could allow the more populist, yet still socially relevant, “Green Book” to walk in and grab the ring. Could. But won’t.
Now, I’d have voted for them in the following order: “Roma”, “BlacKkKlansman”, “Green Book”, “The Favourite”, “A Star Is Born”, “Black Panther”, “Vice”, and, WAAAAY on the outside, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (which fun as it was, has no place amongst any of these films in the conversation of best all around picture).
Personally, I thought the documentary, “Three Identical Strangers,” was one of the best ten films I saw in the theater this year. And I’m still in shock and awe that “Beale Street” wasn’t acknowledged. Crazy!
But, of this group? “Roma”.
“A Star Is Born”
Will win: “Roma”
Should Win: “Roma”
Longshot: “The Favourite”
Achievement in Directing
Cuarón. No contest.
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
Will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Long Shot: Longer than long shot, but deserving to be mentioned here: Spike Lee
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Just because Malek won a bunch of previous awards does not mean he’s going to win the Oscar. At all. In fact, I’d have bet he would come in third behind Bale and Mortensen. “Bohemian Rhapsody” is such an infernally bad film, no set of teeth is going to save him. Or so I had thought. But this week I’ve been hearing a different tune. And so many people found “Green Book” to be racially offensive that Mortensen will probably get locked out as well (though I thought he was exceptional). This leaves Bale in a not very good film, but in another disappear-in-to-character performance that the Academy regularly rewards. So…Bale or Malek? I’ll go Malek by a bicuspid.
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Will win: Rami Malek
Should Win: Viggo Mortensen
Not So Long Shot: Christian Bale
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
It’s a race between Glenn Close and Olivia Colman. Artistically, I don’t think it’s a particularly close race, as Colman is about as brilliant as I’ve seen in years. But Close has won everything but the BAFTA already…and unlike Malek’s character, most voters can relate to her character’s struggles. Kind of a lock, really.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Will win: Glenn Close
Should Win: Olivia Colman
Long Shot: Gaga in a distant third
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
As usual, I find myself on an island here. You cannot persuade me that Adam Driver didn’t give the best performance of these five. Secondly, I have NO idea what Rockwell is doing here over Brian Tyree Henry in any one of a number of films (most notably, “Widows”). And much as I loved Elliott’s performance, it’s just not substantial enough to overcome the other three. Grant and Ali are terrific, no doubt. Either are deserving winners, and as much as Grant looked like a shoo-in early in the season, Ali has come on very strong as late – in fact he won the BAFTA, and if Grant can’t win in the UK, then I think it stands to reason that Ali wins it by a car length.
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
Will win: Mahershala Ali
Should Win: Adam Driver
Long Shot: Richard E. Grant (not-so-longshot, actually)
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
In a protest vote against it being the only performance nomination from “Beale Street”, this looks to be a shoo-in! And, of the folks nominated, she easily gave the best performance. But everyone is suddenly talking about Amy Adams. Not sure why other than sentiment. For my money, however, the best supporting performance by a women this year was EASILY that of Elizabeth Debicki in “Widows”. Not even close. Ah, well. I might have chosen Rachel Weisz out of this bunch, but Ms. King is absolutely deserving.
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Will win: Regina King
Should Win: Regina King (well, Elizabeth Debicki)
Long Shot: Rachel Weisz
Achievement in Costume Design
It’s between the veteran costume designer of a gorgeous period piece, or a three-time nominee (“Favourite”), and would-be first time African-American winner, who created an entire new world of design (“Black Panther”). I think it goes to the period piece…but Panther could sneak in if voters dilute the “Favourite” vote with another period piece, “Mary Queen of Scots”
“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
Will win: The Favourite
Should Win: The Favourite
Long Shot: Black Panther
Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
Like last year’s “Churchill”, “Vice” owes a third of its credibility to the work of the hair and makeup experts. Another third to the acting. And the final third to Mr. Bale’s chef.
“Mary Queen of Scots”
Will win: Vice
Should Win: Vice
Best Animated Feature Film
Great year for animated features, so <sigh>, “Isle of Dogs” will not win. But it’s an amazing film, and if you haven’t seen it, you should. I’ve never really connected with Hosoda’s films, even though they are considered masterpieces. That said, “Mirai” is a pretty amazing animated achievement. “Ralph” is quite good, too, but certainly not at the same level of “Spider-Man”, “Mirai” or “Dogs”. “Incredibles 2” is a distant fifth here. But, it’s a lock that Spider-Man will win. It’s creative, hilarious, the animation is all over the place, and the main character is African American…a first for the big screen. Doesn’t hurt that it’s had a boffo box office
“Isle of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Will win: “Spider-Man”
Should Win: “Isle of Dogs”
Best Foreign-Language Film
So, interestingly, this category could tell us who will and who definitely won’t, win Best Picture. Should “Roma” not win here, then we know it will win Best Picture. If it does pick up this prize, then “Green Book” or “The Favourite” have a fighter’s chance – though chances are still very high that “Roma” would (and probably should) take home both. Now, if “Roma” doesn’t win here, this category could go any number of ways. I think the Best Director nod to Pawlikowski is a definitive clue. So, as effective as “Capernaum” was, as beloved as “Shoplifters” is, and as fucking awesome as “Never Look Away” is (from the director of my all-time favorite, “The Lives of Others”, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), “Cold War” will get the prize IF voters decide to give “Roma” a single nod.
Editors note: some of the foreign films that somehow didn’t get noms include the short-listed “Dogman”, from Italy, and South Korea’s “Burning,” as well as Iceland’s “Woman At War”, China’s “Road Not Taken”, Sweden’s “Girl”, and France’s “Little Tickles”, all of which could have easily been included here
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
Will win: “Roma”
Should Win: “Never Look Away”
Long Shot: “Cold War”
Best Documentary Feature
For the first time, each of the five nominees represents a different type of documentary narrative. There’s a man-over-nature (“Free Solo”), an expressionistic (“Hale County”), a personal narrative (“Minding the Gap”), an embedded journalistic (“Of Fathers and Sons”), and a biographical (“RBG”). But, strangely, the documentary nominating wing left off the two best (and most accessible) docs of the year, “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?”. And without those two, it’s a two-horse race between “Free Solo” and “RBG”. The latter’s not a great film…in fact, it’s pretty meh as doc features go. But the subject of the film is so beloved and important, it’ll be hard for voters to ignore it. That said, “Free Solo” is coming on very strong here in the late days of voting. Me? I’d have voted for the terrific “Minding the Gap” followed by “Free Solo” (which could have easily received a Cinematography nod). Both are better overall films than “RBG”. I’ll go out on a ledge without a rope and pick the movie that scared the crap out of me. But, make no mistake. “Three Identical Strangers” is one of the best docs I’ve ever seen.
“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: Free Solo
Should Win: Three Identical Strangers
Long Shot: Minding the Gap
Best Documentary Short Subject
A couple real standouts here, and you never know which way it’s going to go. In fact, I almost always get this category wrong. BUT, there are some clues this year. It’s between “Black Sheep” and “Period”. “Sheep” is very effective, and my personal favorite of the bunch. But it relies on a lot of reenactments, which voters will sometimes punish. “Period” is a bit lighter, speaks directly to a particularly poignant subject right now, and was produced by a local LA high school…so…
“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: Period. End of Sentence.
Should Win: Black Sheep
Long shot: Endgame
Best Live-Action Short Film
Four out of five dentists suggest that four out of five of these films will hasten you to go in to the garage, turn on your car and end your misery after watching them. The fifth, however, is a lovely, affecting film revolving around the evolution of institutionalized homophobia and its generational effects. It’s called “Marguerite”, and I think it’s the best of the five. And the scuttlebutt is it’s coming on strong late,…
But “Skin” will likely take the prize, even though it’s overtly violent, obvious and a revenge porn fantasy. But, as the revenge is borne of our massive racial divide, and it’s such well made film, I don’t see it losing, especially as it’s being made in to a feature. That last bit usually portends a win in the live action shorts category.
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv
Will win: Skin
Should Win: Marguerite
Long Shot: Detainment
Best Animated Short Film
Not one of the these films will last in the mind’s eye beyond initial voting, except maybe “Weekends” for its unusual style and artwork. My favorite was “Late Afternoon”, but it’s probably a bit too precious for voters when compared to massive budget films like “Bao” and “One Small Step”. I expect “Bao” to win, but truly, none stand out, and every person I’ve spoken with has had a different favorite.
“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”
Should Win: “Late Afternoon”
Long Shot: “Weekends”
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SCORE)
Other than “Mary Poppins”, whose score I kinda loathe, any of the other four are deserving both in and out of context of their films. But Britell’s brilliant “Beale” score makes for at least 20% or more of the film’s excellence. Remember, this is a film with actors looking directly in to the camera without any dialogue for long stretches of time. Without this amazing music, that would get awfully uncomfortable, awfully fast. But I LOVE Goransson’s “Panther” and Desplat’s “Dogs” scores almost as much. I’ve never been a Blanchard fan, but his “KkKlansmen” music is really well-written, even if it doesn’t have much to do with what’s happening on-screen. While it could go to “Panther” or “KkKlansmen” when all is said and done, I’m going to stick with the favorite here. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded seeing Richter’s “Never Look Away”, Burwell’s “Buster Scruggs”, “Anna Meredith’s “Eighth Grade” or even Beltrami’s “Free Solo” scores nominated before “Poppins” or KkKlansmen”.
“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
Will win: Beale Street, Nicholas Britell
Should Win: Beale Street, Nicholas Britell
Long Shot: Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SONG)
It is my long held and firm belief that this award is utterly irrelevant. It exists only so there can be a semblance of performed entertainment during the show. At LEAST this year, these aren’t just the songs that play over the closing credits. Well two are (“All the Stars” and “I’ll Fight”). This happenstance gives it a LITTLE more meaning, I suppose. But there is no competition here. “Shallow” has Lady Gaga already etched on the statue. It’s deserving, though I also loved listening to Tim Blake Nelson sing Rawlings and Welch!
“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
Will win: “Shallow”
Should Win: “Shallow”
Long Shot: Everything else
Achievement in Sound Editing (best creation of sound other than music, ie. sound f/x)
Any astronaut movie is a clearcut leader to take home the Oscar…usually. But in the closest race of the night, “Rhapsody” is coming up loudly on “First Man’s” heels. “Roma” is most deserving in my mind, but it’s not flashy or loud enough – and is only noticeable if you watch it in a theater. “Rhapsody”, to me, makes no sense in this category, but, y’know, voters tend to give both sound awards to the same film, and Mixing is Rhapsody’s to lose. Regardless, I’ll go with my gut…
“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
Will win: First Man
Should Win: Roma
Not So Long Shot: Bohemian Rhapsody
Achievement in Sound Mixing (best mix of sound, dialogue, music etc.)
Since this revolves around mixing WITH music, this award is a tossup between “A Star Is Born” and “Rhapsody”, though a lot of folk are voting for “First Man”, as well. I think Rhapsody will win here, if not in both categories. Personally, I thought “Panther” had the best mix.
“A Star Is Born”
Will win: “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Should Win: “Black Panther”
Long Shot: “First Man”
This is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s “The Favourite”…unless “Green Book” comes out of nowhere. If it does, and “Roma” has already won Best Foreign Film, then look out for “Green Book” to get the BIG prize at the end of the night.
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay
Will win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Equal Shot: Green Book
Best Adapted Screenplay
This will be Spike Lee’s joint since he won’t win Best Director.
“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
Will win: BlacKklansman
Should Win: BlacKklansman
Long Shot: Beale Street
Achievement in Cinematography
A category most notable for its inclusion of THREE cinematographers from foreign language films, it’s all “Roma” all the time. Not sure how “A Star is Born” got in here over “Beale Street”, but, no matter. BTW, see “Never Look Away” if you can…a GORGEOUS film.
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique
Will win: Roma
Should Win: Roma
Long Shot: Cold War
Achievement in Film Editing
Despite the late surge by “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Vice” should win. It’s the film that relies most heavily on editing to make its point.
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin
Will win: Vice
Should Win: Vice
Not So Long Shot: Bohemian Rhapsody
Achievement in Visual Effects
Marvel never does too well here. And while it won the FX Guild’s top award, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, since voters tend to reward the more auteur-based film (ie ‘First Man”). But, as none of these really stand out as the be all/end all in the FX world, I’ll go with the favorite. Personally, I thought “Ready Player One” had the best FX. And, man, have we started taking Star Wars f/x for granted at this point or what?
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Will win: “Avengers”
Should Win: Ready Player One
Not So Long Shot: First Man
Achievement in Production Design
Fantasy or Period Piece? That’s the question as this is a race between “Panther” and “The Favourite”. Both have won a bunch of awards. Yet, as amazingly creative as the “Panther” design is, “The Favourite” design is simply overwhelming. From the hundreds of overlapping tapestries in the Queen’s chambers to the perfect exteriors, I think it’s too detailed to lose. But if “Panther” wins, I wouldn’t mind.
“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
Will win: The Favourite
Should Win: The Favourite
Not So Long Shot: Black Panther
See you at the Oscars!