Predicting the 91st Academy Awards: The Nominations

Best Picture

Gwilym Lee & Rami Malek in BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY — courtesy of 20th Century Fox

LOCKS: BlacKkKlansman; The Favourite; Green Book; Roma; A Star is Born.

LIKELY: Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; Vice.

COIN-TOSS: Cold War; First Man; If Beale Street Could Talk; Mary Poppins Returns.

DOUBT IT: At Eternity’s Gate; The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Boy Erased; Burning; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Crazy Rich Asians; Eighth Grade; First Reformed; The Hate U Give; Hereditary; Leave No Trace; A Quiet Place; The Rider; Sorry to Bother You; Widows; You Were Never Really Here.

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): If Beale Street Could Talk. Barry Jenkins’ third feature, and his first film after a much-deserved Best Picture win for Moonlight back in 2016, is just as good — and, at times, even better — than the latter film. It is also more stylized and poetic in nature, which could be why the industry has not responded to it outside of recognizing Regina King and a few technical elements, such as its screenplay and luscious score. It baffles me that the industry has shown its back to it so pointedly, when a large part of general audiences responded well to it (I mean, it nearly won the People’s Choice Award at TIFF, for goodness’ sake). My only hope — nay, only wish — is for forward-thinking Academy voters to do the right thing and allow this gorgeous film to compete in the Best Picture lineup. Even if it won’t win, history will honor its inclusion, while it’s likely many of its competitors will age very badly by comparison.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): LOL. Do I really have to tell you? Green Book is so scandal-plagued that I’m astonished it’s still standing. Bohemian Rhapsody rewrites history at will and repudiates Freddie Mercury’s lifestyle in a way that is, to put it plainly, gross. And Vice swings for the fences and loses the ball in the process, gaudily hectoring its audiences about political events that are too recent to really be exhumed effectively. Crowdpleasers though they are, they are littered with flaws — flaws that will only be magnified with the passing of time.

PREDICTIONS: A Star is Born has had the most consistent guild run, hitting almost everywhere it could, so to see it miss at this point would be downright scandalous. Roma is the most acclaimed feature of the year, winning the lion’s share of critics awards, so you can count it as a sure-thing, too. Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman has been receiving a lot of love, hitting BAFTA and gaining a coveted SAG Ensemble nomination. After being done dirty by the Academy with Do the Right Thing… well, they’ll do the right thing this year and put him in Best Picture contention. The Favourite is the hot outré pick of the year, bolstered significantly by the British contingent, which showered it with the most BAFTA nominations. They’re not going to let it fall by the wayside. Meanwhile, Black Panther, while not having a spectacular guild run, was 2018’s cultural sensation, and it’s reached a level of prestige that will entice voters to back it, even with the baggage of being a Marvel film.

Green Book remains stubbornly well-liked in spite of its controversies. Its easygoing nature endears it to the middlebrow voters, and it’s probable that the controversies are encouraging them to dig in their heels even more. This was no further evidenced than by its semi-surprising PGA win on Saturday, despite everything that had come before. Like it or not, it’s in — and could even win. Similarly, Bohemian Rhapsody has been given the cold shoulder by critics, but it’s such an audience and box office hit that the industry has had no choice but to take notice. The SAG Ensemble nod (one which almost no one expected), followed by the Best Picture victory at the Golden Globes, was the icing on the cake. It may end up being the worst-reviewed nominee in years, but hey, at least it’s striking a chord. Even if it’s a misguided one. Ahem. As for the second most divisive awards film of 2018, Vice seems to have found a pool of support within the industry, as evidenced by Adam McKay’s DGA nomination. Regardless of whether the critics believe its showiness is a disadvantage, those with the power to vote clearly think differently. They’ve found reasons to like it, and so they will punt it into the lineup — even if it is at the expense of more critically-lauded fair.

Now, I know earlier I cast doubt on If Beale Street Could Talk’s chances, and truth be told, I’m still not entirely sure it will prevail. If you’re looking at how the guilds played out, the deck is stacked against it. Nothing from PGA or SAG. Minimal BAFTA nods. Zilch from the corresponding cinematography, art direction and costume associations. It’s been a tumbleweed presence, existing on the fringes as the populist fare rise to the occasion. It’s hard to trust love all the way when there hardy seems to be any reciprocation. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think there’s hope yet. I’m sure there are pockets of passion among voting members to give the film the boost it needs to make it in. I think back to last year and the good taste they showed in saving Phantom Thread. It was a move that indicated this newer, more diverse membership valued quality, and knew where it lay. How can those same people overlook the quality on display here? They might… or they might not. I will remain cautiously optimistic. And I take comfort in the fact that, ever since the voting rules changed so that the Best Picture nominees could vary from 5 to 10, we’ve had 9 nominees the most times. 9 seems like a safe bet this year, too.

If there are 10, I’d bet on First Man slipping in, despite its weak box office and tepid reception from audiences. It will dominate the below-the-line categories, and usually when a film racks up nominations, a Best Picture citation is also in the cards. This time, it’s not assured, because passion has been gauged to be low. In a year where so many contenders are steamrolling through based on passion, respectability can only get you so far.

Best Director

The cast of ROMA — courtesy of Netflix

LOCKS: Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born); Alfonso Cuarón (Roma); Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman).

LIKELY: Peter Farrelly (Green Book); Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite); Adam McKay (Vice); Paweł Pawlikowski (Cold War).

COIN-TOSS: Damien Chazelle (First Man); Ryan Coogler (Black Panther); Debra Granik (Leave No Trace); Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk).

DOUBT IT: Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade); Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians); Joel & Ethan Coen (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs); Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?); John Krasinski (A Quiet Place); Lee Chang-dong (Burning); Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns); Steve McQueen (Widows); Lynne Ramsay (You Were Never Really Here); Julian Schnabel (At Eternity’s Gate); Paul Schrader (First Reformed); Chloé Zhao (The Rider).

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): Marielle Heller. So, so many female directors could have graced this category. I single out Heller specifically because she accomplishes a tremendous amount with a screenplay that could have been cheapened in the wrong hands. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a film oozing with an autumnal melancholy and ache that befits its crusty antihero, and in that melancholy we’re able to discern patterns of connection that draw us closer to Lee Israel rather than away from her. It’s a film that understands the loneliness of being an outsider in a way that is strengthened by Heller’s feminine instincts. No man could have directed this better.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): Peter Farrelly. I really, truly believed Green Book had become such a PR nightmare that Peter Farrelly would have been out of the race in a heartbeat. The recent uncovering of his genitalia-flashing past should have been the final nail in that coffin. Alas, I counted my chickens far too early. The film’s triumph with the PGA brought it (and Farrelly) sailing back into the fray, poised once more to take it all. I can perhaps understand why the film has so many fans (though I wish that weren’t the case), but I don’t know why Farrelly is being singled out for what I felt was pedestrian direction at best. At worst, it’s the kind of anonymously-directed pablum that won awards like this thirty years ago because it was so safe and inoffensive. Oh, wait. That’s probably why it’s so attractive to older voters in the first place. Ding, ding, ding, ding.

PREDICTIONS: This category is somewhat of a mess because there are only three safe bets at this point: Alfonso Cuarón for his exacting and redolent evocation of 1970s Mexico; Bradley Cooper for resurrecting A Star is Born for the fourth time with both sensitivity and spectacle; and Spike Lee for his impassioned look at American race relations — both past and present. Cuarón has won almost every directorial citation this season, so he is far and away the one to beat. Lee, though, has never been nominated before, so there is a small chance that he could upset as a way of righting all those prior snubs. As for Cooper, I don’t think he can win anymore, but voters will still acknowledge his achievements in bringing such a titan of a film to audiences as a first-time director. He’s accomplished much, and so a nomination will be his reward.

Things get dicey from here on out. I see at least six genuine contenders for those final two spots, and none of them are completely secure. Two of them I am starting to lose all hope for: Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins. Chazelle’s First Man is a technical juggernaut, there is no denying that. It is poised to become the most nominated film in the post-expansion era without a Best Picture nomination (Todd Haynes’ Carol currently holds that sad distinction). But that’s just it: it likely won’t get a Best Picture nomination. Most people are only impressed with its disparate parts rather than the sum. Jenkins, meanwhile, has helmed an equally impressive directorial effort, and likely would have made it in under different circumstances. Unfortunately, he is competing with bigger arthouse hits like Roma and The Favourite (and, to a lesser extent, Cold War), and Beale Street has also suffered from a late release. Unless the branch believes he deserves recognition in the same way as Paul Thomas Anderson did last year, I don’t think he can pull through.

The DGA — the category’s most important precursor — nominated Peter Farrelly and Adam McKay. It is very unlikely that the Oscars will match all five; even in years where it makes logistical sense, like this one, it doesn’t happen. So one (or both) will be left out. Both would be too surprising for this branch to pull off, so I’ll go with one snub. A week ago, I would have said Farrelly was the odd man out. Now, I’m inclined to say it’s McKay. Green Book is the stronger film — so much so, that I think Vice is infinitely more divisive by comparison. For as many people who will say Vice is well-directed will be just as many naysayers complaining it’s over-directed. Farrelly benefits not only for directing a strong Best Picture contender, but it’s the kind of workmanlike effort that won’t offend the plurality. So Peter Farrelly it is.

The last spot comes down to either Yorgos Lanthimos or Paweł Pawlikowski. Both were nominated for the BAFTA; I see only one prevailing. Lanthimos has the more high-profile film. The Favourite will have one of the highest nomination tallies on Tuesday, and it’s also looking good for Best Picture inclusion. Cold War is only a surefire bet in two categories: Foreign Film and Cinematography. Intriguingly, however, a lot of pundits seem confident in Pawlikowski. I take it that they’ve been hearing a lot of voters speak glowingly of Cold War’s direction (and, indeed, it is a stunning effort in that department, and Pawlikowski did win for his direction at last year’s Cannes). Lanthimos, by comparison, seems to be going under-the-radar. I think people appreciate what he’s done with The Favourite, but aren’t very enthusiastic. To them, it’s more about the acting and the production than how it comes together from behind the camera. So I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Paweł Pawlikowski. The branch likes to pull out inspired nominations, and in a field so crowded, they may just settle on one of the best-looking films of the year that isn’t called Roma. It’s a risk, of course. Pawlikowski would be following in Bennett Miller’s footsteps as a lone Director nominee without a Best Picture citation. Having two non-English films in this category hasn’t happened in over forty years. And one wonders if pundits are not merely entertaining this idea out of wishful groupthink, because the race is effectively over and a last-minute surprise would be welcome. At any rate, I’m not entirely confident about this prediction. It’s just plausible enough to make sense.

Best Actor

Ethan Hawke in FIRST REFORMED — courtesy of A24

LOCKS: Christian Bale (Vice); Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born); Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody).

LIKELY: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed); Viggo Mortensen (Green Book); John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman).

COIN-TOSS: Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate); Ben Foster (Leave No Trace); Ryan Gosling (First Man); Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased).

DOUBT IT: Steve Carell (Beautiful Boy); John Cho (Searching); Steve Coogan (Stan & Ollie); Daveed Diggs (Blindspotting); Clint Eastwood (The Mule); Lucas Hedges (Ben is Back); Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner); Stephan James (If Beale Street Could Talk); Brady Jandreau (The Rider); Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns); Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here); Robert Redford (The Old Man & the Gun); John C. Reilly (The Sisters Brothers or Stan & Ollie); Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You).

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): Stephan James & Daveed Diggs. This category could easily become one of the best lineups in a while if the Academy tossed the ham and thought about being inspired for once. James is a real heartbreaker in Beale Street, and communicates his emotions so beautifully with his face. Diggs, meanwhile, is alternately fierce and vulnerable in Blindspotting, concluding the film with a rap takedown so furious and so pointed that it stuns you into silence. We’ll look back on their performances and wonder why they never got off the ground.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): Rami Malek. I toyed with naming Viggo Mortensen here, because he veers so deliberately into caricature that you feel second-hand embarrassment for him after the fact. Plus, his time on the campaign trail hasn’t been a very successful one. On the other hand, he is so perversely entertaining in a so-bad-it’s-good way that I can’t bring myself to do it. Malek, meanwhile, does a decent job of embodying Freddie Mercury in the Live Aid recreation, but is otherwise stranded in the role. I could not detect much conviction or sense of purpose in his portrayal, and he frequently comes across as a pale imitation of someone who was a towering figure in real life. Malek is a good actor, there is no doubt. An Oscar for this performance? Let’s not kid ourselves. He’s much better than this.

PREDICTIONS: There are, as I see it, three people firmly in the race for the top spot. Christian Bale’s chameleon-like portrayal of “Darth Vader” VP Dick Cheney netted him both a Globe and BFCA trophy, giving him ample momentum to seriously contend right to the end. Not far behind is Rami Malek, who has astonished people left and right for possessing Freddie Mercury’s spirit. Like Bale, he’s hit all the requisite precursors, and a Globe win has also been added to his tally. There’s no way he misses at this point. Bringing up the rear ever so slightly is Bradley Cooper. He was the presumptive frontrunner for a few months before Malek and Bale stole his thunder (I also fear his decision to campaign for his directorial achievements rather than his acting has hindered his chances). Nevertheless, despite playing the third iteration of the original Norman Maine character, he did it with impressive heart and soul, and no one will deny him a chance to stay in the race and compete for his first acting win.

The last two spots are less certain, though I’m pretty confident Viggo Mortensen will be carried in by virtue of his film’s strength. Scandals or not, Mortensen’s comedic stylings are so baity that they will be scarfed down without fail. Much like how Mortensen scarfs down a whole pizza by folding it in half. See? Total bait. Spot five can go one of three ways. Ethan Hawke’s turn as an existentially-embattled cleric has won the gamut of critic awards this season. Willem Dafoe is a veteran playing the iconic painter Vincent van Gogh, which is a combination that has proven irresistible in the past. John David Washington is the lead of a surefire Best Picture nominee, and has the crucial SAG nomination the other two lack (though, in fairness, all three are missing crucial precursors, with Hawke being the worst off).

Hawke’s invisibility in the industry phase of this race is troublesome. Either industry voters don’t like First Reformed, or enough of them haven’t seen it because A24 hasn’t given them the initiative to do so. Usually a critical darling has a leg up when it comes to a nomination, but Hawke is in quite a barbed-wire bind. He will really need a strong swath of backers to get over the hurdles of his film’s cerebral inaccessibility and A24’s nonexistent campaign. Moving on to Dafoe, he’s in a slightly better boat — but not by much. He does have a Globe nod that Hawke lacks, as well as the prestige of a Volpi Cup from the Venice Film Festival, so it’s a small sign that he can get noticed. Noticed enough to propel him into the top five? I do have doubts. At Eternity’s Gate is so under-the-radar that it’s probable some people don’t know it exists. I don’t think it’s a top-priority screener for many, either. So, like Hawke, Dafoe needs a strong contingent by his side.

With the disadvantages plaguing his rivals, it seems to me that John David Washington will be the safest bet at the end of the day. BlacKkKlansman is a hit, and is guaranteed a strong showing. Washington’s co-star, Adam Driver, is a near-lock for recognition. And, being Denzel’s son, there’d be a nice symmetry to having both father and son nominated in consecutive years. The last point is obviously not going to be a prime consideration for voters; I make it to underscore the kind of goodwill that Washington has over his closest competitors, being the son of an acting legend. A nomination would be a kind of induction and passing of the torch — perhaps the official beginning to an acting dynasty. It would be a nice moment all the same.

Best Actress

Melissa McCarthy in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? — courtesy of Fox Searchlight

LOCKS: Glenn Close (The Wife); Olivia Colman (The Favourite); Lady Gaga (A Star is Born).

LIKELY: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma); Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns); Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

COIN-TOSS: Toni Collette (Hereditary); Viola Davis (Widows); Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade); Nicole Kidman (Destroyer); Rosamund Pike (A Private War).

DOUBT IT: Felicity Jones (On the Basis of Sex); Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Kindergarten Teacher); Kathryn Hahn (Private Life); Regina Hall (Support the Girls); Joanna Kulig (Cold War); KiKi Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk); Carey Mulligan (Wildlife); Michelle Pfeiffer (Where is Kyra?); Julia Roberts (Ben is Back); Saoirse Ronan (Mary Queen of Scots); Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give); Charlize Theron (Tully); Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians).

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): Elsie Fisher. There are so many good choices here, from Regina Hall to KiKi Layne to Toni Collette. I don’t think any shocking, left-field choice would be seen as undeserving. I pick Fisher because her performance is seamless, in that it’s difficult to tell that she’s acting. She embodies the insecurities and hangups of an introverted teenager with a clarity that spoke to me, and I wish her breakthrough mentions translated into a serious awards campaign. Here’s hoping she has many more chances down the line.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): No one. I have no qualms with anyone seriously contending in this category. Close isn’t in a good film, but she works hard to elevate her role. Lady Gaga is frequently captivating, and closes out her film with a wallop of emotion. Colman’s range is extraordinary. McCarthy proves that she has major dramatic chops. Aparicio’s eyes speak volumes. Blunt has been owed a nomination for years now. In short, there are no wrong answers here.

PREDICTIONS: For the longest time, I stuck to my guns and said “Glenn Close is going to pull it off with her narrative.” She’s a beloved veteran with multiple nominations (and losses) to her name. The field is not especially rife with ironclad frontrunners, as her main competition all have drawbacks. Even when critics didn’t buy into the narrative, and largely ignored Close’s performance, I still felt it would apply. Lo and behold, what happens? She wins the Globe, and then ties for the BFCA. The moral is: never doubt a compelling narrative when it’s staring you in the face. Close is, uh, close to that Oscar. She knows it. That means Olivia Colman will have to wait her turn, though a nomination will still ensure she has a chance to upset. Lady Gaga can, too. Both ladies have sailed through the precursors with ease, despite detractors saying the former belongs in the supporting category, and the latter is more impressive a singer than an actress. To which I say: boo-hoo, get over yourselves. Let them have this chance to shine.

I think the low-key success story of the season is Melissa McCarthy’s continued presence, despite her film not taking off in the same way as the others. It’s a testament to McCarthy’s performance that she’s been able to steadily keep herself firmly planted in the thick of it, even though no one believes she has a much of a chance to win. The last spot seemed destined to go to Emily Blunt, garnering her first nomination after years of hard work. That is, until Mary Poppins Returns began to show signs of weakness, none more so than when it underwhelmed at the BAFTAs, with even Blunt being a no-show. That was the moment the death knell rang for her chances, and unless she pulls off a surprising nomination in the supporting category for A Quiet Place, she may have to wait another year more for recognition.

Who does this benefit? Not as many people as you’d think. Toni Collette has been mentioned countless times, but has not materialized during the industry phase, likely because her film is a tough sell and not being campaigned. Viola Davis? She did get a shocking BAFTA nomination when it seemed all hope was lost for Widows. In my eyes, though, Widows is still a non-starter, and Davis doesn’t have the clout yet to make it in for everything she does. Nicole Kidman? The movie’s violent and dreary. Rosamund Pike? Perhaps too underseen. Constance Wu? A bit too much on the light side. Joanna Kulig? Possible, but doesn’t seem to have gotten off the ground. Regina Hall? The film is too small. Elsie Fisher? Voters, with rare exceptions, seem biased against younger performers in lead categories. Et cetera, et cetera.

Enter Yalitza Aparicio. The new kid on the block. The success story. The lead of a Best Picture juggernaut. The ingredients are there. She is held back by a lack of precursors (to date, only one measly BFCA citation), and some firmly believe she can’t overcome what has been the Alfonso Cuarón show. Working in her favor is Netflix’s aggressive campaign, which has maximized her visibility to the utmost. She’s been to all the promotional events and parties. She’s meeting her fellow actors. She’s gracing magazine covers. Cuarón has also never missed an opportunity to say her name in a microphone. Without a strong alternative, it’s probable voters will default to this lovely newcomer — and who is to say they’d be wrong to do so?

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali & Viggo Mortensen in GREEN BOOK — courtesy of Universal Features

LOCKS: Mahershala Ali (Green Book); Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?).

LIKELY: Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy); Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman); Sam Elliott (A Star is Born); Sam Rockwell (Vice).

COIN-TOSS: Nicholas Hoult (The Favourite); Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther); Jonathan Pryce (The Wife).

DOUBT IT: Steve Carell (Vice); Russell Crowe (Boy Erased); Joel Edgerton (Boy Erased); Paul Giamatti (Private Life); Topher Grace (BlacKkKlansman); Hugh Grant (Paddington 2); Josh Hamilton (Eighth Grade); Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk); Russell Hornsby (The Hate U Give); Oscar Isaac (At Eternity’s Gate); Daniel Kaluuya (Widows); Tim Blake Nelson (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs); Alessandro Nivola (Disobedience); Ben Whishaw (Mary Poppins Returns); Alex Wolff (Hereditary); Steven Yeun (Burning).

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): Steven Yeun & Brian Tyree Henry. These are two scintillating, rigorous performances that have been repeatedly singled out elsewhere — and yet, their Oscar hopes remain dim. Henry’s is somewhat understandable, since it’s a short performance. But he does so much with his time onscreen that he absolutely warrants consideration. His role is laden with pain and insight, and he brings it out with quiet force. Yeun, by comparison, is much less sympathetic, but no less haunting. Everything he does in Burning is preceded with a question mark; everything he says is so ambiguous that it cannot be trusted. Through it all, he is magnetic and, in his way, oddly likable. You end the film so conflicted about Yeun that it’s maddening. But neither do you want it any other way.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): Timothée Chalamet. I can’t begrudge Ali his nomination, because he is the best thing about Green Book. I think Grant, Driver and Elliott are all great. So, by default, I land on young Mr. Chalamet, who was one of 2017’s acting standouts in Call Me by Your Name and Lady Bird. Beautiful Boy, sadly, is a weak film, and his performance as a teen addict will not rank as one of his best. He gives it a good go and has a few inspired moments, but in general his portrayal is not as convincing as I would’ve wished. It’s lucky for him that this category is so dead this year, because in a stronger year I don’t believe he’d make the cut.

PREDICTIONS: When this season all began many, many moons ago, this category was the most wide-open of all categories. Now, it’s probably one that holds few — if any — surprises. All the precursors have coalesced around four particular names: Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Adam Driver and Richard E. Grant. Of this group, only Chalamet remains a little unsteady. He is in the worst-reviewed film, will be its lone nominee, and could still suffer some residual ageism for being so young. Some voters do believe that bestowing too many Oscar nominations on younger actors is not a good thing for their careers. And so, most lone nominees here tend to be older, veteran actors because there is the understandable fear that they may never have another shot (e.g. Christopher Plummer for All the Money in the World, although admittedly other circumstances were at play when that nomination came down). While Chalamet was nominated last year, there’s still a small chance he will join the list of snubbed actors who never made it to the Oscars despite hitting all four precursors (Globe, SAG, BFCA and BAFTA). It’s a small chance, mind you. The role itself is baity, and he’s amassed quite the fanbase. It’s likelier that he will beat the odds and gain his ticket to the Dolby.

The fifth slot is going to be a close match between two Sams: Elliott and Rockwell. Aside from sharing the same name, the two have other commonalities: both have very small roles in their respective films, and both have missed two key precursors (Elliott missed the Globe and BAFTA; Rockwell got in for those, but consequently missed SAG and BFCA). It really comes down to which film is stronger, because at this point they’re in something of a draw. My instinct says that Sam Elliott squeaks out the votes, because A Star is Born is more liked as a whole, and Elliott has the additional narrative of never having been nominated before, whereas Rockwell won last year. Elliott also has the benefit of anchoring many of his film’s emotional currents, while Rockwell’s performance rests almost solely on his Bush impersonation. Lastly, Elliott holds the strongest acting precursor: the SAG nomination. That means the acting branch is behind him, and that should be enough. Rockwell’s afterglow nomination will have to be put off for now.

Best Supporting Actress

Michelle Rodriguez & Elizabeth Debicki in WIDOWS — courtesy of 20th Century Fox

LOCKS: Amy Adams (Vice); Emma Stone (The Favourite); Rachel Weisz (The Favourite).

LIKELY: Claire Foy (First Man); Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk); Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots).

COIN-TOSS: Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place); Linda Cardellini (Green Book); Elizabeth Debicki (Widows); Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie (Leave No Trace); Marina de Tavira (Roma).

DOUBT IT: Lucy Boynton (Bohemian Rhapsody); Kayli Carter (Private Life); Danai Gurira (Black Panther); Zoe Kazan (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs); Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased); Rachel McAdams (Disobedience); Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther); Natalie Portman (Vox Lux); Sissy Spacek (The Old Man & the Gun); Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed); Maura Tierney (Beautiful Boy); Letitia Wright (Black Panther); Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians).

SHOULD BE NOMINATED (BUT LIKELY WON’T BE): Elizabeth Debicki. Miss Debicki caught my eye all the way back in 2013 with The Great Gatsby, and since then I’ve been keenly watching her career. No matter what role she’s given, or what film she’s in, she has shown herself to be a savvy actress, and that savviness is front and center in Widows. She takes a fractured woman and mends her right in front of our eyes, regaining her self-worth and becoming a force to be reckoned with in an environment infested with terrible men. This should have been her breakout role, and the only reason it wasn’t is because Widows came and went without much ado. I know her day will come, though.

WILL BE NOMINATED (BUT DOESN’T DESERVE IT): Amy Adams. Technically Emma Stone has no business being in this category, seeing as she is a lead. Category fraud has become so shameless that something needs to be done to ensure deserving supporting roles are no longer shut out because of studio politicking. Since I do like Stone’s performance, I’ll shut up (for now). My vote for least-deserving nominee goes to Adams, although reluctantly, as there’s nothing egregious about her performance in Vice. It’s entertaining, with acceptable levels of ham. The thing is, she’s played a similar character far better in The Master, and so this outing feels warmed-over. I also think it’s getting rather cruel to keep teasing her with nominations without the prospect of a win in sight. And no, she will not win for this performance. Any other year, this would be considered a filler nod at best, so I can’t see why a somewhat weaker field would give her the edge all of a sudden.

PREDICTIONS: Three women have hit all the precursors, and so they’ll safely hear their names called out on Tuesday: Amy Adams, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. The other name that should be among those three is Regina King, who has only lost this category a handful of times this season and went on to sweep the major critics associations. The reason she is not a lock is because she was overlooked at SAG and BAFTA. It’s difficult to know why. One can convincingly argue a number of plausible reasons, from screener issues to Beale Street’s late-breaking release to voters being unappreciative of Jenkins’ poetic approach to the material. King’s performance is also in a quieter register compared to someone like Allison Janney in I, Tonya. No matter how you cut it, she didn’t make it in, and so there is a chance Oscar voters will overlook her in the same way. The only reason they probably won’t is because King won both the Globe and BFCA and gave strong speeches at both events. She is still the de facto frontrunner, since it is clear she can inspire passion in a way that her closest competitors cannot. Her SAG and BAFTA omissions may have to be put down as anomalies. That’s just how the story goes.

The last spot remains very competitive. At least four women have a path to claim it: Emily Blunt, Linda Cardellini, Claire Foy and Margot Robbie. I name Cardellini because, if the Green Book love is sizable, then she could be swept in as a coattail like Jacki Weaver was for Silver Linings Playbook. Neither performance is especially substantial, but that’s not a concern to voters when they really love a film. That being said, Cardellini should have made some kind of a wave by now, so I’m not going to be overconfident. If she gets in, then it’s understandable. Same with Emily Blunt. Her SAG nom for A Quiet Place put some wind in her sails, and if Mary Poppins Returns isn’t strong enough to net her a spot in Best Actress, she could still conceivably be recognized here. It will come down to how well voters respond to A Quiet Place, and whether they are itching to give Blunt recognition now. She was close in the past, and she is close now. They didn’t pull the trigger then, so can they do it Tuesday? If she had gotten at least one BAFTA nom, then I would’ve entertained the possibility. Being snubbed for both performances makes me question whether the passion is there yet.

The way I see it, the last spot is either going to Claire Foy or Margot Robbie. They have the most precursors. Foy has the Globe, BFCA and BAFTA; Robbie has the SAG and BAFTA. On paper, Robbie’s combo looks stronger because of the SAG nomination. She is also playing royalty, which is always a plus. What gives me some pause is that her film isn’t going to be a big player outside of Makeup and Costumes. Her SAG and BAFTA recognition could also be the result of King’s omission at those two organizations. In other words, she is only a filler nod, without any prospects of winning, and if voters return King to the lineup, will they have reason to keep her, too? Possibly. I wouldn’t put too much faith in it, though. That’s because Claire Foy is right there, in a much stronger film, playing the kind of long-suffering wife figure that (for some reason) voters gravitate toward. After playing Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown to great acclaim, I sense that people want to make her happen, and this is the best shot she’s had yet. And I cannot stress how important it is that First Man is going to rack up below-the-line nominations. It’s a far greater priority than Mary Queen of Scots is, and Foy’s “Oscar clips” stare you right in the face. To me, Foy makes the most sense, so of course voters will swing in a different direction come Tuesday. They always do. Still, better to be safe, and Foy is by far the safest bet of the four women I enumerated.


So, to recap, here are my predictions for the major awards:

BEST PICTURE

Lupita Nyong’o and Chadwick Boseman in BLACK PANTHER — courtesy of Marvel Studios
  • BlacKkKlansman — Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Shaun Redick, Jordan Peele & Spike Lee
  • Black Panther — Kevin Feige
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — Graham King & Jim Beach
  • The Favourite — Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos & Lee Magiday
  • Green Book — Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly & Nick Vallelonga
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — Megan Ellison, Dede Gardner, Barry Jenkins, Jeremy Kleiner & Adele Romanski
  • Roma — Nicolás Celis, Alfonso Cuarón & Gabriela Rodriguez
  • A Star is Born — Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper & Lynette Howell Taylor
  • Vice — Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Will Ferrell, Adam McKay & Kevin Messick

Potential Spoilers: Cold War; First Man.

BEST DIRECTOR

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper in A STAR IS BORN — courtesy of Warner Bros.
  • Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born
  • Alfonso Cuarón — Roma
  • Peter Farrelly — Green Book
  • Spike Lee — BlacKkKlansman
  • Paweł Pawlikowski — Cold War

Potential Spoilers: Barry Jenkins; Yorgos Lanthimos; Adam McKay.

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale in VICE — courtesy of Annapurna
  • Christian Bale — Vice
  • Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born
  • Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Viggo Mortensen — Green Book
  • John David Washington — BlacKkKlansman

Potential Spoilers: Willem Dafoe; Ethan Hawke.

BEST ACTRESS

Christian Slater, Glenn Close & Jonathan Pryce in THE WIFE — courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
  • Yalitza Aparicio — Roma
  • Glenn Close — The Wife
  • Olivia Colman — The Favourite
  • Lady Gaga — A Star is Born
  • Melissa McCarthy — Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Potential Spoilers: Emily Blunt; Viola Davis.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet & Amy Ryan in BEAUTIFUL BOY — courtesy of Amazon Studios
  • Mahershala Ali — Green Book
  • Timothée Chalamet — Beautiful Boy
  • Adam Driver — BlacKkKlansman
  • Sam Elliott — A Star is Born
  • Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Potential Spoilers: Michael B. Jordan; Sam Rockwell.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Regina King in IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK — courtesy of Annapurna
  • Amy Adams — Vice
  • Claire Foy — First Man
  • Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk
  • Emma Stone — The Favourite
  • Rachel Weisz — The Favourite

Potential Spoilers: Emily Blunt; Margot Robbie.


With the major awards out of the way, I shall now attempt to predict the nominees of the other awards in a more succinct manner (which I’m sure you’d appreciate). Please note that nominees for the technical categories are listed unofficially and will be confirmed on the day of nominations:

BEST WRITING — ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Laura Harrier, John David Washington & Damaris Lewis in BLACKkKLANSMAN — courtesy of Focus Features
  • BlacKkKlansman — Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? — Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty
  • The Death of Stalin — Armando Iannucci, David Schneider & Ian Martin
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — Barry Jenkins
  • Leave No Trace — Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; A Star is Born.

N.B. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, “Not predicting one Best Picture nominee may be regarded as a misfortune; not predicting both looks like carelessness.” It looks crazy, I know, but are we really sure Black Panther and A Star is Born have the passion to hit their nomination ceilings? I don’t believe they do, so if they’re going to miss in key places, this would be an easy one. Plus, The Death of Stalin and Leave No Trace have shown signs of strength, both getting USC Scripter nominations over A Star is Born. Black Panther did make it in, but BlacKkKlansman didn’t, and the latter is the stronger player. This is my reasoning, and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong. We will have to see.

BEST WRITING — ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Elsie Fisher in EIGHTH GRADE — courtesy of A24
  • Eighth Grade — Bo Burnham
  • The Favourite — Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
  • Green Book — Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie & Peter Farrelly
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón
  • Vice — Adam McKay

Potential Spoilers: Cold War; First Reformed; A Quiet Place.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET — courtesy of Walt Disney Animation
  • Incredibles 2 — Brad Bird, John Walker & Nicole Paradis Grindle
  • Isle of Dogs — Wes Anderson, Steven Rales & Scott Rudin
  • Mirai — Mamoru Hosoda, Yûichi Adachi, Takuya Itô, Genki Kawamura & Yûichirô Saitô
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet — Phil Johnston, Rich Moore & Clark Spencer
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Christina Steinberg

Potential Spoilers: Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch; Early Man.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Kirin Kiki in SHOPLIFTERS — courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
  • Capernaum — Nadine Labaki
  • Cold War — Paweł Pawlikowski
  • The Guilty — Gustav Möller
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón
  • Shoplifters — Hirokazu Kore-eda

Potential Spoilers: Burning; Never Look Away.

BEST DOCUMENTARY — FEATURE

Alex Honnold in FREE SOLO — courtesy of National Geographic
  • Free Solo — Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Shannon Dill & Evan Hayes
  • RBG — Julie Cohen & Betsy West
  • Shirkers — Sandi Tan, Jessica Levin & Maya Rudolph
  • Three Identical Strangers — Tim Wardle, Grace Hughes-Hallett & Becky Read
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? — Morgan Neville, Caryn Capotosto & Nicholas Ma

Potential Spoilers: Dark Money; Minding the Gap; The Silence of Others.

N.B. No Minding the Gap? Well, when you compare how the shortlisted docs performed in recent months, it really hasn’t done very well with the industry. It could very well be a critics-only thing (as sad as I am to say it). And another thing: Netflix is really, really good at getting at least one of their docs nominated, and their main push this year seems to be Shirkers. I can’t fathom this category going Netflix-free for the first time in years, so Shirkers seems like a very safe bet.

BEST DOCUMENTARY — SHORT SUBJECT

Zion Clark in ZION — courtesy of Netflix
  • End Game — Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
  • My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes — Charlie Tyrell
  • Period. End of Sentence. — Rayka Zehtabchi
  • Women of the Gulag — Marianna Yarovskaya
  • Zion — Floyd Russ

Potential Spoilers: ’63 Boycott; Black Sheep.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

Béatrice Picard in MARGUERITE — courtesy of H264 Distribution
  • Chuchotage — Barnabás Tóth
  • Fauve — Jérémy Comte
  • Icare — Nicolas Boucart
  • Marguerite — Marianne Farley
  • Skin — Guy Nattiv

Potential Spoilers: Caroline; May Day; Wale.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

WEEKENDS — courtesy of Past Lives Productions
  • Age of Sail — John Kahrs
  • Bao — Domee Shi
  • Late Afternoon — Louise Bagnall
  • Lost & Found — Andrew Goldsmith & Bradley Slabe
  • Weekends — Trevor Jimenez

Potential Spoilers: Bilby; Bird Karma; One Small Step.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

ISLE OF DOGS — courtesy of Fox Searchlight
  • BlacKkKlansman — Terence Blanchard
  • First Man — Justin Hurwitz
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — Nicholas Britell
  • Isle of Dogs — Alexandre Desplat
  • Mary Poppins Returns — Marc Shaiman

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; A Quiet Place.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

The cast of MARY POPPINS RETURNS — courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
  • “All the Stars” — Black Panther (Kendrick Lamar, Anthony Tiffith, Mark Spears, Solana Rowe & Al Schuckburgh)
  • “Girl in the Movies” — Dumplin’ (Dolly Parton & Linda Perry)
  • “I’ll Fight” — RBG (Diane Warren)
  • “Shallow” — A Star is Born (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt)
  • “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” — Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman)

Potential Spoilers: “The Place Where Lost Things Go” (Mary Poppins Returns); “Revelation” (Boy Erased); “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs).

BEST SOUND EDITING

Tye Sheridan in READY PLAYER ONE — courtesy of Warner Bros.
  • First Man — Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou Morgan
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout — James H. Mather
  • A Quiet Place — Ethan Van Der Ryn & Erik Aadahl
  • Ready Player One — Gary Rydstrom & Richard Hymns
  • Roma — Sergio Diaz & Skip Lievsay

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; A Star is Born.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Emily Blunt & Millicent Simmonds in A QUIET PLACE — courtesy of Paramount
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — John Casali, Paul Massey & Tim Cavagin
  • First Man — Mary H. Ellis, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño & Ai-Ling Lee
  • A Quiet Place — Michael Barosky & Brandon Proctor
  • Roma — José Antonio Garcia, Skip Lievsay & Craig Henighan
  • A Star is Born — Steve Morrow, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupanicic & Jason Ruder

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; Mary Poppins Returns; Ready Player One.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Rachel Weisz & Olivia Colman in THE FAVOURITE — courtesy of Fox Searchlight
  • Black Panther — Hannah Beachler & Jay Hart
  • The Favourite — Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton
  • First Man — Nathan Crowley & Kathy Lucas
  • Mary Poppins Returns — John Myhre & Gordon Sim
  • Roma — Eugenio Caballero & Bárbara Enriquez

Potential Spoilers: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald; Isle of Dogs.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Tomasz Kot in COLD WAR — courtesy of Amazon Studios
  • Cold War — Łukasz Żal
  • First Man — Linus Sandgren
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — James Laxton
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star is Born — Matthew Libatique

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; The Favourite.

N.B. Technically, The Favourite’s Robbie Ryan has done better with the industry than Laxton. My only reason to include Laxton is because I don’t think Beale Street will bomb as badly as it’s been suggested. It’s really showy work, and if someone has to be pushed out, it’ll probably be Ryan, as he would likely be in fifth place anyway.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Eva Melander in BORDER — courtesy of Neon
  • Border — Göran Lundström & Pamela Goldammer
  • Mary Queen of Scots — Jenny Shircore
  • Vice — Kate Biscoe, Patricia DeHaney, Greg Cannom & Chris Gallaher

Potential Spoilers: Black Panther; Stan & Ollie.

N.B. Two Swedish productions with showy prosthetic work (The 100-Year-Old Man and A Man Called Ove) got in here in recent years, and Border is probably even showier. You can bet against the Swedes every time, and they will still make it in. Other than that, Mary Queen of Scots is full of wigs, pasty makeup and pockmarks, and could follow in the footsteps of last year’s royal period piece Victoria & Abdul. Vice is self-explanatory. Comparing pictures of Christian Bale and his Dick Cheney leaves people speechless. It’s the kind of transformation that netted the Darkest Hour team a win last year. That also means films like Black Panther and Suspiria will be left out in the cold.

BEST FILM EDITING

Ryan Gosling & Claire Foy in FIRST MAN — courtesy of Universal Pictures
  • First Man — Tom Cross
  • Green Book — Patrick J. Don Vito
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón & Adam Gough
  • A Star is Born — Jay Cassidy
  • Vice — Hank Corwin

Potential Spoilers: BlacKkKlansman; Bohemian Rhapsody.

N.B. A Best Picture winner almost always receives an Editing nomination. The only exception in the last thirty-plus years is Birdman, and that was only because the film’s gimmick was to look unedited. If the presumptive Top Three are Roma, Green Book and A Star is Born, then all should be nominated here, deservedly or no. Then you add two editing showcases, which would be First Man and Vice in this instance. Yes, Green Book hasn’t exactly been singled out for its editing, but that won’t matter if it’s a huge threat to win. Last year, both Get Out and Lady Bird weren’t nominated here, and the snub likely killed their chances. If there’s only one category to watch on Tuesday, it’s this one, because if Green Book gets in, then it’s on its way to a Best Picture victory.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Margot Robbie & Joe Alwyn in MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS — courtesy of Focus Features
  • Black Panther — Ruth E. Carter
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — Julian Day
  • The Favourite — Sandy Powell
  • Mary Poppins Returns — Sandy Powell
  • Mary Queen of Scots — Alexandra Byrne

Potential Spoilers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; BlacKkKlansman.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Chris Evans & Scarlett Johansson in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR — courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
  • Avengers: Infinity War — Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick
  • Black Panther — Geoffrey Baumann, Jesse James Chisholm, Craig Hammack & Dan Sudick
  • Ready Player One — Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Mattew E. Butler & David Shirk
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story — Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan & Dominic Tuohy
  • Welcome to Marwen — Kevin Baillie, Dave Asling, Seth Hill & Marc Chu

Potential Spoilers: Christopher Robin; First Man.

Projected Nomination Count

10 nominations: Roma.

9 nominations: A Star is Born.

7 nominations: The Favourite; First Man.

6 nominations: BlacKkKlansman; Green Book; Vice.

5 nominations: Black Panther; If Beale Street Could Talk.

4 nominations: Bohemian Rhapsody; Mary Poppins Returns.

3 nominations: Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Cold War.

2 nominations: Isle of Dogs; Mary Queen of Scots; A Quiet Place; RBG; Ready Player One.

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