Predicting the 91st Academy Awards: The Winners

Oh, reader, I am tired. Awards seasons are always draining, but this one has taken the cake. Most of the blame has to go to the Academy’s board and the producers of Sunday’s show for showering us with a wealth of hare-brained stupidity. Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson does a fantastic job of giving you a comprehensive rundown of all the idiocy we’ve had to endure since last summer, and if you need a refresher for some reason, feel free to read her lowdown before taking a look at my predictions. I can’t do it any better than she can, and I honestly don’t want to. Writing about it gives me carpal tunnel.

What we’ve been left with is a show without a host, seemingly reliant on last-minute backup plans that could still backfire. We know that Queen is going to open the show (because all we need is more Bohemian Rhapsody promotion), that we’ll have A-list presenters from both within and outside the entertainment industry, and that four out of the five nominated songs will be performed, as Kendrick Lamar has chosen to decline appearing. Other than that: who knows? Some superfluous, time-wasting montages, maybe, and a lot of SNL-like skits every so often to make the lack of a host less conspicuous. One thing’s for sure: those producers are going to be heralded as miracle workers if they can somehow save the telecast from being a total disaster. Expectations are already so low that it could happen. But just in case it doesn’t, be sure to get the wine ready so you have a way to make it through those three-plus hours. It won’t be smooth sailing regardless.

Okay, that’s enough of a preamble. My predictions await! I truly hope you’ll find them helpful. I’ve seen 95% of the nominees, so I have a good sense of what the races look like as of now. If you’re in a pool and need some last-minute guidance, I’m the man for the job. If I end up helping you win, I hope you’re generous enough to send me a slice of your winnings (just kidding). If I make you lose, then you can seek me out and kick me in the rear (also just kidding… really). Good luck either way, and may the Close be with you.

Best Visual Effects

  • Avengers: Infinity War —Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl & Dan Sudick
  • Christopher Robin — Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones & Chris Corbould
  • First Man —Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles & J. D. Schwalm
  • Ready Player One — Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler & David Shirk
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story —Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan & Dominic Tuohy

Let’s start off our rundown with a true “problem” category, in which I mean that choosing correctly here will likely boost your chances of winning your pool outright. That’s because there’s no true consensus as to which film will win. Most people are ruling out Christopher Robin and Solo: A Star Wars Story, and I think they’re right in doing so. Christopher Robin is the “smallest” of these films and is mostly notable for making the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood look convincingly plush in the real world. Meanwhile, Solo continues the trend of Star Wars films being nominated here as if by obligation. The fact that none of them have won since Return of the Jedi indicates there’s no real need to reward the franchise unless it produces truly singular work. Solo also has the problem of not being very well-liked in general.

It’s frankly a toss-up between the last three. Avengers: Infinity War is a Marvel smörgåsbord of familiar characters and locales, with the design of supervillain Thanos being the true highlight. First Man’s effects are mostly practical in nature, but through the use of LED screens and miniatures, the team seamlessly recreates the turbulent and breathtaking nature of the Apollo 11 mission. Finally, Ready Player One is a CGI wonderland predominantly set in a virtual world, and is clearly the most VFX-reliant film in the lineup. Without those effects working as they do, the film wouldn’t exist at all. In the end, we have to consider which films voters saw, which ones they liked, and which ones would realistically stand out to them.

Of the three, it’s probable Ready Player One was the least-seen (it came out last March). I don’t think any of the three were greatly liked, though First Man getting three other nominations means it has some respect and can be considered the “highbrow” choice. And as to which ones would stand out, I think it’s between First Man and Ready Player One (Infinity War honestly looks like any standard Marvel film, and it’s worth pointing out that Marvel has yet to win in this category). So I think it will come down to First Man or Ready Player One in the end. One is the admired choice; the other has the distinct “wow” factor. Each could easily take this. I personally prefer First Man, as I found Ready Player One to be CGI overkill, but you know, others will find Spielberg’s work dazzling. There are some sequences, like the airborne dance club and everything set in The Shining, that are truly grand achievements. So provided enough voters saw the film, I think I’ll stray from the pack a little and predict Ready Player One.

P.S. Digital Trends did a fabulous job profiling each of the nominees, so if you want to get a better sense of how their VFX work, you can read them all here.

WILL WINReady Player One

SHOULD WINFirst Man

Best Film Editing

  • BlacKkKlansman — Barry Alexander Brown
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — John Ottman
  • The Favourite — Yorgos Mavropsaridis
  • Green Book — Patrick J. Don Vito
  • Vice — Hank Corwin

This is the first of the categories that was going to be shunted off to a commercial break, so we must thank our lucky stars the Academy backtracked and will let us watch the winner give his speech in real time. Said winner will likely not be Brown or Don Vito, as they haven’t received any wins for their work. I’m personally still scratching my head over Don Vito’s inclusion, as there’s nothing truly interesting about Green Book’s editing. It’s workmanlike but hardly the first thing you’d praise (if you have anything praiseworthy to say, that is). At least Brown utilizes such techniques as cross-cutting and split screens to great effect and allows his film to pop on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, Mavropsaridis won the Comedic ACE, which still keeps him in the running, but I have him at a distant third because that win was seen as something of a small upset. He would receive my vote just for The Favourite’s surreal ending alone. Those rabbits!

Ottman and Corwin are the two frontrunners, each with a major win to their name. Ottman has the Dramatic ACE; Corwin the BAFTA. It will come down to which overly-edited film impresses voters more (though it has to be said that the editing in both films has been largely derided on social media — and, honestly, for good reason). Ottman has a small “narrative” to his name, in that he was tasked to create a salvageable film despite all the onset drama caused by Bryan Singer. It’s possible voters will direct their sympathies to him. Plus, I think most voters prefer Bohemian Rhapsody to Vice as a wholeMeanwhile, Corwin’s editing is the most in-your-face and readily measurable. Regardless of its quality, voters seem to like it when editing isn’t subtle (probably because most of them don’t know how to measure quality editing otherwise).

It’s a true toss-up from my point of view. There is, however, one stat that gives one film the upper-hand: the winner here has been nominated in Sound Mixing for over ten years now. I know relying on stats is becoming a fool’s game, as many well-worn stats are starting to fall, but this stat seems to have held up for a while, and the film it favours — Bohemian Rhapsody — makes complete sense. There are better odds with Ottman, and so I’ll plump for him.

WILL WINBohemian Rhapsody

SHOULD WINThe Favourite

Best Costume Design

  • 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

This category is harder to predict than in most years because, statistically at least, both Carter and Powell (for The Favourite) are in a relative dead heat. Both designers have won precursors for their work: Powell has the BAFTA and the Period Film honour from the Costume Designers Guild; Carter has the Critics Choice and the Excellence in Fantasy Film from the CDG. Even worse for prognosticating this category, both films mirrored their wins with the relevant Production Design precursors, so it really all depends on whether voters like their garb lush and lavish, or Afrofuturist and edgy.

What really works in Carter’s favour here is that she’s the only nominee not doing period work. Zophres, Powell and Byrne are all aligned with films set in the deep (and not-so-deep) past, and while they turn in stellar work, there could be a sense of sameness that may make Carter the more attractive alternate. I think back to 2015, for instance, when Jenny Beavan took the Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road against traditionally dressier contenders like Carol and Cinderella. Period films are more successful in this category, true, but when there’s a fantasy with a strong fanbase in the mix, voters have shown that they’re not averse to mixing it up once in a while.

And you know what? As much as I’m a major fan of Powell’s work on The Favourite, I think Carter’s costumes for Black Panther are one of the most integral facets to building Wakanda from the ground up. There’s also a clear reverence for traditional African culture that is steeped into the designs. Plus, Carter has worked so hard for years and deserves at least one Oscar to her name (Powell, meanwhile, has three). Sometimes, it’s a matter of wanting to see a legend finally win an award that rightfully belongs to them.

WILL WINBlack Panther

SHOULD WINBlack Panther

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

  • Border — Göran Lundström & Pamela Goldammer
  • Mary Queen of Scots — Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher & Jessica Brooks
  • Vice — Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe & Patricia Dehaney

Here’s another category that the Academy was willing to sacrifice to the God of Good Ratings. I guess it’s hard to make a fuss with the only category that regularly nominates three films instead of five, but hey, we have to respect the makeup and hair people regardless. They’re the ones that work the transformational magic that keeps astounding moviegoers time and again. Vice is full of such transformations, both subtle and obvious. The biggest challenge was making Christian Bale the spitting image of Dick Cheney, and they achieved that. People are still doing double-takes whenever Bale has been presenting or accepting awards. This is a very easy win for the film, since Best Picture nominees always have the advantage.

It would be a fine enough winner (the makeup is one of the few things about Vice that I’d be willing to praise). Mary Queen of Scots would be, too, if it had more fans. Those glimpses we get of Margot Robbie’s smallpox-ravaged visage are incredibly (and grotesquely) detailed. And then caking her in all that white makeup afterwards was an historically-accurate touch. And what about those wigs? You gotta love a movie that doesn’t skimp on their wig game. However, all that being said, it would still be a conventional winner, unlike the Swedish crime fantasy Border. Now that would be an inspired win. It’s got some excellent and convincing facial prosthetics that turn the leads into bonafide troll creatures, plus a bit of an Eraserhead-esque moment with a monstrous baby that makes you wonder how they pulled it off. Maybe it was special effects? It looked like makeup to me. Anyway, it’s the kind of off-the-wall inclusion that would make a fabulous winner… if only more people had seen it. Alas, not many think about prioritizing films in this category. Maybe they would if it were expanded to include five films?

WILL WINVice

SHOULD WINBorder

Best Cinematography

  • Cold War — Łukasz Żal
  • The Favourite — Robbie Ryan
  • Never Look Away — Caleb Deschanel
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star is Born — Matthew Libatique

The third category that was scheduled to get the heave-ho from the live broadcast is also one of my favourites, because I greatly admire the care and craft taken to make films look like breathtaking works of art. It’s quite a treat to see three non-English language films highlight the category this year. It reminds us that international cinema is more alive than ever, and something the Academy should not hesitate in celebrating when the time comes. And it looks like an international winner will be named, as both Łukasz Żal and Alfonso Cuarón are both the odds-on-favourites over the others. So we’ll take a moment to honour Robbie Ryan’s innovative use of distorted lenses and tracking shots to bring out The Favourite’s kooky period flavour, Caleb Deschanel’s painterly fluidity that mirrors the artistic sensibilities of Never Look Away’s protagonist, and Matthew Libatique’s canny ability to bathe his film in warmth, allowing us to fall in love with Jack and Ally’s journey.

Cuarón lost the ASC to Żal, but has otherwise dominated this category everywhere else, making it highly unlikely that he loses the Oscar (the ASC is also not the best predictor for the eventual outcome). The way he works with light in Roma, and how he imbues the film with a certain intimate spirit that makes it distinct from others of its kind, will make him a deserving winner. For me personally, I’m a sucker for chiaroscuro, and I think Żal makes the most of it in Cold War. He creates something evocative and melancholy (melankalee?), with a touch of icy precision that indirectly highlights the era’s political cruelties. If you must go black and white in this age, then make it sexy. Make it stylish. It may not lead to a great film, which I don’t think Cold War is, but at least the images will have staying power.

WILL WINRoma

SHOULD WINCold War

Best Production Design

  • 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 Enríquez

This race is nearly identical to that of Best Costume Design: Black Panther and The Favourite are the two frontrunners, and neither has dominated the precursors in a way that would make predicting the outcome easy. Even worse, the Oscars for Production Design and Costume Design only go hand-in-hand about half the time, so predicting one film to take both this year is about as risky as predicting a split. I think I’ll go for the split route this year and predict Crombie and Felton for The Favourite. As I’m predicting Black Panther to take Costume Design, this would be the only technical category left for The Favourite to realistically win — and I cannot fathom it losing all of them. Its dominance at the BAFTAs is proof that there’s a very sizable contingent backing it, so for it to lose left and right doesn’t make much sense. It’s bound to win something below the line, and Production Design seems like the place where it’ll happen.

This is not just a shot in the dark, though. Crombie and Felton’s work on the film truly is impressive considering they were on a tight budget. They bring an incredible amount of detail to Queen Anne’s palace, the centerpiece being (of course) her magisterial bedroom where so much important action takes place. It’s difficult to watch The Favourite without reveling at all the rooms and décor being presented to us. A close second for me would be how painstakingly Mexico City as it was in the 1970s was recreated for Roma — and all from photographs and Alfonso Cuarón’s memory, no less. Because of Cuarón’s emphatic cinematography, the film’s production design does seem to play second fiddle, but it’s nevertheless authentic and lived-in work that would make for a cool come-from-behind win.

WILL WINThe Favourite

SHOULD WINThe Favourite

Best Sound Mixing

  • Black Panther — Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor & Peter J. Devlin
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin & John Casali
  • First Man — Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee & Mary H. Ellis
  • Roma — Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan & José Antonio Garcia
  • A Star is Born — Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder & Steve A. Morrow

When you’re mixing sounds, you’re looking for balance and impact. Mixes that are too loud will drown out everything quiet; mixes that are too quiet will make everything nigh-indecipherable. The best mix is not the “most” sound, but rather a satisfying mean that has the ability to impress the aural senses and ensure nothing gets lost in the process. Each of the five nominees uses sounds to their advantage, whether they help emphasize the life-and-death battles in Wakanda, the thrills of a live concert experience, the unnerving rattles of space-age technology, or the deadly melee of social revolution.

Musicals that are nominated here are heavily favoured, because everything lives or dies in how well songs are relayed to the viewer. There is no true musical in this lineup, but there are two films that heavily rely on songs to tell their stories: Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. The former is, in my view, the weakest entry in this lineup, because most of the film amounts to a “greatest hits” record of remastered Queen hits. For me, there is no wow factor. We’re largely seeing Rami Malek lip-sync to preexisting audio that has been tweaked here and there to sound more robust, with some added crowd fanfare to seem in-the-moment. Conversely, A Star is Born consists of an entirely original catalog of tunes that, when heard in a setting with a superior sound system, is completely immersive. One can tell just by hearing the mix that a lot was done to create the sensation of being at a live concert, with thumping guitar bass or intimate piano chords freely interlaced with cheering crowds and the acoustics of open-air stages. Even if a lot of the audio was added in post-production, it’s done almost seamlessly.

For some reason, voters love Bohemian Rhapsody a lot more than they do A Star is Born, and so they’ll vote with their hearts instead of their ears. The former’s Cinema Audio Society win makes it the decisive favourite here. I’d honestly take any result over Bohemian Rhapsody, because the others all have a lot more going for them. Watch these films and hear for yourself.

WILL WINBohemian Rhapsody

SHOULD WINA Star is Born

Best Sound Editing

  • Black Panther — Benjamin A. Burtt & Steve Boeddeker
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — John Warhurst & Nina Hartstone
  • First Man — Ai-Ling Lee & Mildred Iatrou Morgan
  • A Quiet Place — Ethan Van der Ryn & Erik Aadahl
  • Roma — Sergio Díaz & Skip Lievsay

This category continues to stump me, because none of these films really feel “right” as winners. Black Panther has won nothing in terms of precursors, and the Oscar winner has always been one to win something before the main event. Conversely, Bohemian Rhapsody has taken its fair share of precursors (the Sound BAFTA and the Golden Reels for both Music and Dialogue), but musically-driven films literally have no history of winning this category. Mixing, yes, because it’s about volume and balance. This category is driven by the texture of the sounds themselves and how they’ve been harvested. A few record scratches and screeching crowd scenes does not an Oscar make. Winners here typically run the gamut of gunshots, revving engines, sputtering spacecraft, and so forth. There’s nothing like that in Bohemian Rhapsody.

First Man makes more sense, because it’s recreating the clicks and clacks of 1960s space travel, and does so in a way that is integral to the film’s feel. If it deserves any award, it should be one from a sound category, because that’s where it excels. Unfortunately, it has the same problem as Black Panther: it hasn’t won anything of note. Add that to the film’s overall underperformance this season, and you can see why a win would seem unlikely. Roma is in the same boat in terms of prior wins, except it’s the more popular film. Its sound design has been frequently lauded for drawing the viewer back in time to another era, but it’s also not the kind of film that tends to win here.

There is one film that ticks enough boxes for me, but it’s also the riskiest prediction I’m making, because this is its only nomination. Yes, I’m talking about A Quiet Place. I’m predicting it because it received a very crucial precursor that has matched the winner five times since 2010: the Golden Reel for Sound Effects and Foley. Though it’s not a foolproof predictor, it’s the only one that feels accurate under the circumstances. A Quiet Place has also proved popular on the campaign circuit, netting a coveted PGA nomination, so it’s evident that the industry likes it. They may like it enough to let it walk away with the only Oscar it’s eligible to win. Either that, or Bohemian Rhapsody makes history and wins another Oscar that it doesn’t deserve.

WILL WINA Quiet Place

SHOULD WINFirst Man

Best Original Song

  • “All the Stars” — Black Panther (Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith & Solána Rowe)
  • “I’ll Fight” — RBG (Diane Warren)
  • “The Place Where Lost Things Go” — Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman)
  • “Shallow” — A Star is Born (Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt)
  • “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” — The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (David Rawlings & Gillian Welch)

If A Star is Born is guaranteed at least one Oscar, then it will be for “Shallow.” Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s pivotal, climactic duet is not merely an earworm of the highest order — it’s the song that lifts the film to the stratosphere, as Gaga’s Ally finally achieves the stardom that has otherwise eluded her. On her majestic wails, the song crescendos to a peak that can only be described as rapturous. Every time I see this scene play out, I’m paralyzed by the emotions and the gale-force impact. I mean, what else is this category for but to recognize these kinds of game-changing moments? Even if you don’t think it’s the film’s best song, I’m sure you can agree that it’s the film’s most important one.

The other nominees range from decent-if-unmemorable (“I’ll Fight” and “The Place Where Lost Things Go”) to pretty great in their own right (“All the Stars” and “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”). I’d be cheering for the latter two any other year. Unfortunately, “Shallow” eclipses them all, and you bet I’ll be pleased as punch to see Gaga (finally) holding that Oscar.

Better luck next year, Diane Warren! And the next. And the next…

WILL WIN: “Shallow,” A Star is Born

SHOULD WIN: “Shallow,” A Star is Born

Best Original Score

  • Black Panther — Ludwig Göransson
  • BlacKkKlansman — Terence Blanchard
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — Nicholas Britell
  • Isle of Dogs — Alexandre Desplat
  • Mary Poppins Returns — Marc Shaiman

You could hear the collective gasps of the film world when Justin Hurwitz’s name was not called for his widely-respected work on First Man — work that earned him a Golden Globe a few weeks before, as well as a Critics Choice a week later. His omission seemed to pave the way for Nicholas Britell, who many considered his main rival in the category. Britell had also lost to Hurwitz in 2016, and now it seemed as though fate were dealing Britell the better hand. His score for If Beale Street Could Talk is, after all, one of the best scores of 2018, easily eclipsing the other four contenders in quality and memorability. It’s also the only one that feels like it will become an enduring classic. With people like Twitter user Kyle finding new ways to bring Britell’s haunting music to life, there is no doubt that others will do the same. In fact, it’s already happening.

Unfortunately, the Oscar game is cruel to films that aren’t industry favourites, and sadly, If Beale Street Could Talk is one of them. As well, only three films have won this category without a Best Picture nomination in the last twenty-odd years. The last film to win, The Hateful Eight, was scored by legendary composer Ennio Morricone, who had never won a competitive Oscar before. So you see, barring an iron-clad narrative, voters prefer to reward Best Picture nominees here — probably because those are films they’re compelled to see. Only two are nominated this year, and one of them recently took home a Grammy. That doesn’t always mean an instant Oscar, but I think it bodes well for Ludwig Göransson all the same. His Afro-inspired score to Black Panther accompanies the film wonderfully, after all. If voters are going to pass on Britell — and it will be a crime if they end up doing so — then I suppose Black Panther is a worthy enough alternate.

WILL WINBlack Panther

SHOULD WINIf Beale Street Could Talk

Best Animated Short Film

  • Animal Behaviour — Alison Snowden & David Fine
  • Bao — Domee Shi & Becky Neiman-Cobb
  • Late Afternoon — Louise Bagnall & Nuria González Blanco
  • One Small Step — Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas
  • Weekends — Trevor Jimenez

I have to say: this lineup isn’t half-bad. I could pick out three nominees that would make deserving winners, and some years I can’t even find two! The worst short — and the one least likely to win — is Animal Behaviour. The lightest of the bunch, it’s also a lazy hash of literal humour and anthropomorphism that I wouldn’t expect out of a veteran team like Snowden & Fine. The two other Canadian-based shorts, Bao and Weekends, are infinitely better. The latter is a moving, impressionistic look at a childhood marked by joint-custody arrangements and domestic instability. The former, which is also the frontrunner, is a refreshingly complex fable on cultural differences, the relationship between food and family, and the importance of ritual. The fact that Bao is the most widely-seen of the nominees (as it ran in front of Incredibles 2) will help propel it over the finish line, but it’s an impressive work in its own right that could very well open the door to more female voices being heard at the Pixar table.

One Small Step, a Taiko Studios production that features a Chinese girl dreaming of becoming an astronaut, could pull an upset due to its emotional resonance and inspirational message. In my view, though, it tries to pull off too much in its nine minutes, which flattens its impact somewhat. Far more successful is Cartoon Saloon’s Late Afternoon, which I’ve decided is my personal winner. Its animation style is perhaps the simplest of the five, but I think it sticks its landing really well, honouring the lives of dementia sufferers and their caregivers in the process. If Bao somehow loses, I think Late Afternoon and its emotional finish could clinch it.

WILL WINBao

SHOULD WINLate Afternoon

Best Live Action Short Film

  • Detainment — Vincent Lambe & Darren Mahon
  • Fauve — Jérémy Comte & Maria Gracia Turgeon
  • Marguerite — Marianne Farley & Marie-Hélène Panisset
  • Mother — Rodrigo Sorogoyen & María del Puy Alvarado
  • Skin — Guy Nattiv & Jaime Ray Newman

The murmurings you’ve heard about this category are true: this is an off year that makes you genuinely wonder what the voters who nominated this were smoking. Watching them one after the other is like fulfilling a death wish. In all but one, children are either abducted, interrogated, abandoned, tortured, killed in grisly accidents, or murdered/are murderers outright. If you have kids yourself, hug them a little closer tonight, because these films keep hammering home the fact that something terrible is going to happen to them. The one exception is the French-Canadian film Marguerite, which has the decency to tell a tender story about an elderly woman and her nurse. It’s lovely to watch and acts as a welcome respite from all the misery that comes before. One can see it winning just because it’s the least nihilistic of the five.

I very nearly predicted it, but stopped short of doing so because it lacks some heft. In other years it would definitely lose because it doesn’t have the bombast that many voters actually prefer. Said bombast exists in all the other films, but there is only one that could also be called “crowd-pleasing.” It’s Guy Nattiv’s racially-charged revenge drama Skin, which possesses a terrible and irresponsible ending that nevertheless could be misconstrued as… entertaining. A kind of revenge fantasy that would make a few liberals smile at its karmic result. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of Crash, and remember how that film won? People like that kind of bluntness.

My actual favourite (if I can call any film in this dire category a favourite) is Fauve, which I know seems hypocritical considering it plays into the whole “children are constantly in mortal danger” theme, too. The only reason I can somewhat excuse it is because it plays more openly than the other films, structured and scripted as it is like a fable or allegory about the fragility of childhood innocence. Comte’s photography in it is also very beautiful and utilizes the setting to the utmost. Imperfect as it still is, I don’t have much of a bone to pick with it (or Marguerite) as I do Detainment, Mother and Skin, which are all tasteless, trigger-inducing trash fires. Your life will be immeasurably better if you avoid watching those three altogether.

WILL WINSkin

SHOULD WINFauve

Best Documentary — Short Subject

  • Black Sheep — Ed Perkins & Jonathan Chinn
  • End Game — Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
  • Lifeboat — Skye Fitzgerald & Bryn Mooser
  • A Night at The Garden — Marshall Curry
  • Period. End of Sentence. — Rayka Zehtabchi & Melissa Berton

As is usually the case, this is another year of issue films that compartmentalize the broad spectrum of our day-to-day lives by showcasing hot-button topics from other parts of the world — or, in some cases, those close to home. Black Sheep is a stomach-churning personal recollection of racism and the still-relevant practice of passing. End Game puts the microscope on terminal illness and the choices available to the dying. Lifeboat gives us a first-hand look at a non-profit trying to save rafts of African refugees stranded in the Mediterranean. A Night at The Garden turns back the clock all the way to the 1930s to show us a frightening glimpse of Nazism on American soil. And Period. End of Sentence. battles the stigma of menstruation in India by chronicling the introduction and sale of DIY sanitary pads. Pick up a newspaper, turn it to any page, and you bet you’ll read something that applies, directly or not, to the issues these films present.

This is not an extraordinary group by any means, though none of them are outright bad. The least enjoyable, for obvious reasons, is End Game, which also suffers somewhat from an unclear throughline. Lifeboat is well-shot but not very illuminating, choosing instead to philosophize on the refugee crisis with too much indulgence. Both Black Sheep and Period. End of Sentence. are better; the former works for its brutal honesty, and the latter is a nice respite from the gloomier entries. Yet I do feel they’re incomplete. Black Sheep drops off on a note of violence without any follow-up, while Period only tackles its subject on the surface. I am predicting to win only because it runs on optimism and empowerment. Most importantly, it’s the only entry that doesn’t leave you feeling depressed about our state of affairs. Much like Marguerite in the Live Action Shorts, a glimmer of hope in a pool of sorrow is worth its weight in (Oscar) gold.

What about A Night at The Garden? I can tell you that it probably won’t win, despite receiving some publicity recently. It’s too short for one, clocking in at only seven minutes; furthermore, it’s a lightly-edited archival document that surely must have bemused many a voter expecting a more comprehensive history lesson. I’ll admit I, too, was skeptical when I first put it on, but after watching it and seeing its chilling contents firsthand, I found it to be the most effective nominee overall. It lets its footage do the talking and doesn’t need to hammer home its existence, which I like. Its point is also made sharply and without fuss. It’s one quick burst of dread that comes and goes like a frosty gust of wind, and because of that it retains its impact. Nothing is diluted through long-winded explanations or meandering narrative breaks. Each of those seven minutes is important, and when the message can be made no clearer, it doesn’t choose to drag itself out any further. You have to admire works that know how to get to the point. Unlike this paragraph.

WILL WINPeriod. End of Sentence.

SHOULD WINA Night at The Garden

Best Documentary — Feature

  • Free Solo — Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes & Shannon Dill
  • Hale County This Morning, This Evening — RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes & Su Kim
  • Minding the Gap — Bing Liu & Diane Quon
  • Of Fathers and Sons — Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme & Tobias N. Siebert
  • RBG — Betsy West & Julie Cohen

A few months ago, it seemed inevitable that Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? would take this category in a landslide. It was 2018’s most commercially successful documentary, and the kind of audience favourite that voters would have flocked to recognize. Leave it to the Academy’s documentary branch to throw a last-minute plot twist in the works and leave it out altogether. You could practically hear John Bailey’s indigestion acting up when he found out. Instead, we have three independent features that critics lauded but were not big audience draws, and only two mainstream hits that, while still hugely popular with moviegoers, did not yield quite the same impact as Neville’s Mr. Rogers tribute. Now, I don’t think Neville’s film really needed to win this award, as its success speaks for itself. I actually think voters made the right call by choosing to highlight underdogs like Hale County and Of Fathers and Sons here. Sometimes all it takes is an Oscar nomination for people to sit up and take notice, and these films truly deserve that attention.

Hale County is the most unusual choice I’ve seen this branch make in many years, because it’s very free-form and minimalist. It plays more like an art collage or tone poem than a traditional documentary, and yet it’s all the better because of that. I’m not sure it’s necessarily the best film of the five, but I’d argue it’s the liveliest and most innovative one. It’s a film, moreover, that speaks to the very nature of life itself for a group of people who are otherwise occluded from the grand narrative, and so they deserve this moment more than anyone else. Of Fathers and Sons and Minding the Gap are quite good, too. The former is the kind of document on religious radicalization that everyone deserves to see, if not just to make sense of the mindsets terrorizing the Middle East. The latter is an immensely personal testimony on what it means to grow up in economically disadvantaged and abusive environments, and features some of last year’s most breathtaking editing work. In any other year, they would be excellent winners.

Sadly, many voters will choose not to watch the lesser-known entries here, either from lack of time or interest. Odds are, they’ll have seen Free Solo and RBG and vote for one or the other. RBG is the weakest nominee by virtue of how conventionally it presents Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s story. It warms the heart, but doesn’t stimulate the mind in the same way as, for instance, reading a comprehensive book on the Notorious RBG would. Ginsburg may be an icon and hero to many, but that’s not always enough to overcome a film that plays things too safe. Meanwhile, Free Solo’s greatest strength is in how immaculately photographed it is. Alex Honnold’s rope-free ascent up El Capitan is surely going to go down as one of the iconic moments in 2018 film, and I think that will be why voters will ultimately settle on it. The experience of watching it is such a unique thrill that no other nominee can deliver, and Honnold’s feat is so extraordinary in and of itself that voting for it will be akin to congratulating him in person. Sometimes the narrative just writes itself, which is why I knew Free Solo would triumph as soon as the nominees were announced.

WILL WINFree Solo

SHOULD WINHale County This Morning, This Evening

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Capernaum (Lebanon) — Nadine Labaki
  • Cold War (Poland) — Paweł Pawlikowski
  • Never Look Away (Germany) — Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
  • Roma (Mexico) — Alfonso Cuarón
  • Shoplifters (Japan) — Hirokazu Kore-eda

Last year’s Cannes really won the day here, didn’t it? CapernaumCold Warand Shoplifters were all films that played In Competition back then, and as we all know by now, Shoplifters took home the Palme d’Or. Very deservedly, too. Had Roma not come along and began asserting its complete dominance after debuting at the Venice Film Festival, I think Shoplifters would have had a better time of capturing people’s attentions, because it overflows with empathy and love. As a film, I very much prefer it to Roma, and I’m not afraid to say so. In a just world, voters would hand this category over to Kore-eda’s masterpiece, since Roma doesn’t need both this and Best Picture. Spread the love! Be generous! Be daring!

But no, that would be too forward-thinking. A Roma win would be the fail-safe in case it doesn’t end up as the Best Picture winner. And even if it inexplicably loses, the beneficiary would be Cold War rather than ShopliftersCold War’s gets in Director and Cinematography prove it would have swept the floor here had Roma not existed. Shoplifters is either third or fourth at the end of the day, depending on how the ultra-melodramatic Capernaum fares with sentimental viewers looking for a good cry (in fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if some voters had to debate whether Shoplifters or Capernaum made them cry harder). The German three-hour art epic Never Look Away seems like a safe bet for last place, though. It’s hard to get anyone to willingly sit down for a three-hour film nowadays, let alone one not in the English language.

WILL WINRoma

SHOULD WINShoplifters

Best Animated Feature

  • Incredibles 2 — Brad Bird, John Walker & Nicole Paradis Grindle
  • Isle of Dogs — Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales & Jeremy Dawson
  • Mirai — Mamoru Hosoda & Yūichirō Saitō
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet — Rich Moore, Phil Johnston & Clark Spencer
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse — Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

It was a weak year for animated films, and sadly, this lineup reflects that. Spider-Man and Incredibles 2 are the only films here that I truly like, while I have problems with the other three. Isle of Dogs is Wes Anderson’s weakest effort in years; Mirai’s protagonist is so insufferable that he sinks the film; and Ralph Breaks the Internet is mostly a commercialized bauble from a company that is growing too powerful for its own good. I don’t know what to tell you, folks. If this is the best we can come up with, then I worry. I worry a lot.

While Spider-Man and Incredibles 2 kind of tower over everything else, only one of them actually gives me hope for the future of animated film… and no, it’s not the Pixar sequel. Spider-Man (or maybe I should call it Spider-Verse to distinguish it from the 1,000 other Spider-Man films out there) feels like it’s going to usher in a new era of films that won’t be afraid to experiment with the form and take genuine risks. Not only that: it’s going to be seen as a classic of the comic book genre down the line and held up as a pristine example of what it means to inspire in every sense of the word. People will point to it and say it has changed their life. That’s the kind of impact it will hold.

Of course it should win. Any other outcome would age terribly in the years ahead. It’s fortunate for us that it’s rocked the precursors so much that its victory seems all but inevitable at this point. It will almost make the more unpleasant outcomes palatable. Almost.

WILL WINSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

SHOULD WINSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (from short stories previously written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, as well as the short stories “All Gold Canyon” by Jack London and “The Gal Who Got Rattled” by Stewart Edward White)
  • BlacKkKlansman — Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee (from the book Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth)
  • Can You Ever Forgive Me? — Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty (from the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk — Barry Jenkins (from the novel If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin)
  • A Star is Born — Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters (from the 1954 screenplay by Moss Hart and the 1976 screenplay by Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne & Frank Pierson; based on a story by Robert Carson & William A. Wellman)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an inspired nomination, even though one can quibble about its placement here, since only two of its six tales are actually adapted from preexisting material. It won’t win, of course, but as a fan of the film, I’m happy Roma didn’t steal all of Netflix’s thunder. A Star is Born is also an interesting entry, since it’s based on two prior remakes and an original film from the 1930s. We hardly get such nominations nowadays, since year after year almost all of the films nominated in this category are from book-based sources. It’s a testament to Bradley Cooper et al. for taking a time-worn tale and giving it new life as a deeply felt look into modern stardom and its pitfalls. Again, it won’t win, but I’m not mad at its inclusion.

In fact, there is not one weak link here, which means voters did a good job of choosing quality screenplays to highlight. My two favourites are Can You Ever Forgive Me? and If Beale Street Could Talk. The latter has a slight edge for me because I think Barry Jenkins did a superlative job adapting the first James Baldwin novel to the screen. No easy feat, that. The former script is very wise, witty and laden with emotional resonance. I’m very glad it pulled an upset with the Writers Guild, since it’s unlikely to receive the most votes at the Oscars. You take the victories you get, however small they may be sometimes.

Like with most of the categories, this is a bizarre year because none of these nominees took home more than one precursor. The only two that didn’t win anything, Buster Scruggs and A Star is Born, were never in serious contention to begin with, so their nominations are the reward. BlacKkKlansman won the BAFTA, If Beale Street Could Talk the Critics Choice, and (as already mentioned) Can You Ever Forgive Me? the WGA. What this indicates more than anything is a true lack of passion for any one script, so what it will come down is narrative. The only nominee with any narrative to speak of is BlacKkKlansman, because co-writer Spike Lee has never won an Oscar. Knowing he’s not going to win in Best Director, it feels plausible that voters will let this be his ticket to the podium instead. Add this to the fact that non-Best Picture nominees here have a much harder time winning, and you see why this feels like a foregone conclusion.

WILL WINBlacKkKlansman

SHOULD WINIf Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Screenplay

  • The Favourite — Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
  • First Reformed — Paul Schrader
  • Green Book — Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie & Peter Farrelly
  • Roma — Alfonso Cuarón
  • Vice — Adam McKay

Sorry Glenn Close, but you won’t be playing kingmaker on Sunday. It will be this category, which may give us the biggest clue as to which film will walk away as the Best Picture winner. First, though, we must eliminate the contenders that don’t stand much of a chance to win: First Reformed, Roma and Vice. I’m fine with Vice losing for the simple fact that its script is not very good to begin with. Roma’s nomination I’ve always found a bit odd, since it’s not a film you’d immediately note as well-written. It’s a testament to its strength with voters that it made it in over, say, Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, which recently won the WGA over presumptive frontrunner Green Book (more on that in a bit).

I am, however, saddened that Schrader’s fine screenplay for First Reformed is not enough of a threat here. Sure, you can argue it’s derivative of masters like Bresson and Bergman, and that maybe it’s not as incisive as it wants to be. Yet what it yielded to me was one of last year’s greatest films, and without the script it wouldn’t have gone anywhere. Also, regardless of his sometimes off-putting persona, Schrader and his mighty pen have brought us classics ranging from Taxi Driver to Raging Bull, and so an Oscar for his achievements wouldn’t hurt. Better now than an awkward Honorary Oscar in five years.

Anyway, this is all to say that the Oscar will go to either the writing team from The Favourite or the one from Green Book. The latter’s crew is a motley one to put it mildly, consisting as it does of an Islamophobe and a serial flasher. No one with a vote seems to care an iota, since they’ve already come this far. But was Green Book’s WGA loss a sign that the tide is (finally) turning? By all accounts, it should have won that with ease, since The Favourite was ineligible. Instead, the underdog of underdogs took it in a stunning shakeup that puts Green Book’s chances in serious doubt. If it can’t win when it’s not up against The Favourite, how can it win otherwise?

The short answer: it won’t. Probably. If it wins, then we have every reason to assume it will win Best Picture. That’s why this category is so important. I, on the other hand, believe The Favourite will pull this off and thus pave the way for a Roma victory. Both films are tied for the most nominations, and I don’t see The Favourite only managing one win. It’s not going to be strong enough to take Best Picture, but with Green Book’s surge slowing, I think it has all the momentum needed to take this category instead.

WILL WINThe Favourite

SHOULD WINFirst Reformed

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams — Vice (as Lynne Cheney)
  • Marina de Tavira — Roma (as Sra. Sofía)
  • Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk (as Sharon Rivers)
  • Emma Stone — The Favourite (as Abigail Hill, Baroness Masham)
  • Rachel Weisz — The Favourite (as Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough)

This is a refreshing change from last year, when every acting category was sewn up months in advance. Here, at least, there is a competitive race that holds few clues right up until the envelope is opened. And those clues? That Amy Adams and Emma Stone will almost certainly not be called as winners because they have not won anything major, and that Marina de Tavira will either take Marcia Gay Harden’s torch as the next precursor-less Oscar winner, or sit in her seat and clap sadly as either Regina King or Rachel Weisz walks to the podium. We don’t know for sure which way it will go because she’s literally never lost. This is her first nomination anywhere, so she remains an unknown quantity. I’m going to assume she won’t win, because if she couldn’t get nominated anywhere else, it indicates that the passion is probably not going to spring for her overnight. At best, she may be in third. It’s hard to say.

So: will it be King or the Queen’s favourite? That depends on which precursors you choose to prioritize. If you think SAG and BAFTA are must-haves, then understandably your belief in King’s chances will have shrunk, since she was not nominated for either award. Weisz (predictably) scooped up the BAFTA in her absence and seems to have the British bloc behind her. She hit a snag, though, when it came to SAG, because Emily Blunt won there instead — presumably because King was assumed to be the de facto frontrunner, and without her on the ballot, voters were free to choose the underdog. If Weisz was truly within reach of that trophy, she should have won the SAG. The fact that she didn’t is a strike against her.

So this is where I am at: despite missing both SAG and BAFTA, I think Regina King still takes it. Winning both the Golden Globe and Critics Choice helped build her momentum, and she campaigned like no tomorrow when it mattered — even going so far as locking in a presenting opportunity at BAFTA the very second Weisz was led off the stage. She’s also so well-liked and admired by her peers that I’m sure many of them are voting for her for that reason alone. I believe the stars have aligned for her in a way they haven’t for Rachel Weisz, and that’s enough for me. Hers is my favourite performance in the category anyway, so I couldn’t be happier at the expected outcome.

WILL WIN: Regina King

SHOULD WIN: Regina King

Best Supporting Actor

  • Mahershala Ali — Green Book (as Don Shirley)
  • Adam Driver — BlacKkKlansman (as Det. Philip “Flip” Zimmerman)
  • Sam Elliott — A Star is Born (as Bobby Maine)
  • Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me? (as Jack Hock)
  • Sam Rockwell — Vice (as George W. Bush)

Do… I… have to write anything here? Because like Original Song and “Foreign Language” Film, this category feels like one of the safest locks of the night. Mahershala Ali has taken everything: the Globe, the Critics Choice, the SAG and the BAFTA. People love him. They love what he does in Green Book. Maybe they feel a bit sorry for him for having to put up a brave face amidst all the film’s numerous scandals. Regardless of the reasons for why people want him to win, he’ll win. And, yes, it’s not the preferred outcome for a lot of us. Richard E. Grant is spectacular in Can You Ever Forgive Me? and has proven to be one of the most charming people on the planet. He deserves this Oscar more than anyone else in the category. After all, Ali already has one and doesn’t look like he’s in a hurry to win this one. The best that will come of it is that a black actor other than Denzel Washington will have finally won multiple trophies. Good for history in one sense. Not so when it comes to the actual performance.

I can’t wave a wand and change this outcome. I’ve come to terms with it because Mahershala Ali seems like a nice guy who deserves a rich and fruitful career. Who knows, maybe have two Oscars will lead to even bigger and better things for him. One has to find the silver lining here, because otherwise you’ll drink one too many pinots and start smashing plates at the wall. Or you’ll need to get your stomach pumped because you bitterly chomped down on several folded pizzas. Either way: not pleasant.

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali

SHOULD WIN: Richard E. Grant

Best Actress

  • Yalitza Aparicio — Roma (as Cleodegaria “Cleo” Gutiérrez)
  • Glenn Close — The Wife (as Joan Castleman)
  • Olivia Colman — The Favourite (as Anne, Queen of Great Britain)
  • Lady Gaga — A Star is Born (as Ally Maine)
  • Melissa McCarthy — Can You Ever Forgive Me? (as Lee Israel)

When Glenn Close rose to give her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes, it seemed as though the race had ended there and then. A few moments before, Olivia Colman gave a delightful and personality-infused speech after winning the Comedy Globe, and in that brief space it seemed as if she could pull it off with her sparkling charm. But that was when it was assumed Lady Gaga would walk off with the Drama Globe win and leave Close’s overdue narrative in considerable doubt. That did not happen. Close’s narrative prevailed, she stood up and spoke from the heart, and forced the room to stand up with her. With that came wins from the Critics Choice (albeit tied with Lady Gaga) and SAG, and more rousing speeches followed. It’s come to the point where even people who dislike The Wife (or even believe she’s not the best nominee) are still voting for her, because they think it’s her time. And we’ve seen how powerful this narrative can be time and again.

Colman did win the BAFTA, giving those people who think she could still upset (like me) some hope that the race is not as one-sided as it appears. If Close were truly undeniable, she would have swept the precursors in the same way Mahershala Ali did. So while Close’s win seems about 95% assured at this point, there’s still a 5% chance Colman could pull off the night’s ultimate upset. And I hope it happens, because I’m one of those people who believe the best performance should prevail — and Colman gives the best performance here. Quibble all you want about whether she’s a true lead or not. To me, it makes little difference: she’s phenomenal.

WILL WIN: Glenn Close

SHOULD WIN: Olivia Colman

Best Actor

  • Christian Bale — Vice (as Dick Cheney)
  • Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born (as Jackson “Jack” Maine)
  • Willem Dafoe — At Eternity’s Gate (as Vincent van Gogh)
  • Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody (as Freddie Mercury)
  • Viggo Mortensen — Green Book (as Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga)

We began this season thinking Bradley Cooper had it in the bag. Three previous nominations (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper) to his name and now a directorial debut that has become box office smash on top of that, including a truly lived-in performance that saw him transform into a convincing musician with a crippling alcohol addiction. Surely, surely voters would get on board. But then Rami Malek and Christian Bale materialized and stole the thunder right from under him. Why? Because they were playing historical figures, of course. Performances based on real people have won this category five times in the past six years (Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea was the exception). Voters love their impersonations, as they have a quantifiable way of measuring a performance’s supposed quality. Good impersonation? Here’s an Oscar for you, chum! I mean, yes, it sucks that actors in fictional roles don’t get as fair a shake. Cooper had the bad luck of being the only fictional character in his category, and there’s nothing you can do. One hopes he will have a better shot next time.

While initially it seemed a tight race between Malek and Bale, eventually SAG and BAFTA rolled around and confirmed that Malek does, indeed, have the race locked up. I feel it’s a combination of industry respect, a love of Freddie Mercury and his legacy, and Malek’s barnstorming Live Aid recreation. When taken as a whole, though, the performance is severely lacking in conviction and spirit. I’m not sure why voters don’t seem to recognize this. It takes far more than putting in false teeth and adopting a half-convincing accent to become the rock legend that is Freddie Mercury. While Malek tries, he doesn’t pull it off in the long run. Heck, I’d rather see Viggo Mortensen’s thickheaded Italian stereotype win, because at least there’s some entertainment value there. There was nothing enjoyable about watching Malek sucking back those horse teeth every ten seconds like an old man in dire need of a denture adhesive. We can do better than that, Academy, surely.

WILL WIN: Rami Malek

SHOULD WIN: Bradley Cooper

Best Director

  • Alfonso Cuarón — Roma
  • Yorgos Lanthimos — The Favourite
  • Spike Lee — BlacKkKlansman
  • Adam McKay — Vice
  • Paweł Pawlikowski — Cold War

I’m not going write at length about this category. There are no women here, for one. There’s also the fact that I’m not personally invested in any of the contenders. Lanthimos and Lee are probably my favourites, and I would personally vote for Lee if I could because he brings the boldest vision to the table. And, hey, I think the man deserves an Oscar to commemorate his long and visionary career. This is one of those times where the deserving nominee is also the veteran. Alas, unlike Glenn Close, Lee has not been able to capitalize on a similar overdue narrative, and he may have to be content with a Screenplay win and presumed runner-up status (as I certainly don’t believe Lanthimos, McKay or Pawlikowski will amass more votes than him).

The man who has won practically everything (and then some) is Alfonso CuarónHe will win the Oscar, too. It’s a nice feeling when someone’s intensely personal vision is rewarded. And Cuarón has made some wonderful films in his career. It’s also dispiriting that he directed this tasteless PSA about autism, which means I can’t really be excited about this outcome, but I’m glad others will be. It’s nice to see your favourites win!

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón

SHOULD WIN: Spike Lee

Best Picture

  • Black Panther — Kevin Feige
  • BlacKkKlansman — Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele & Spike Lee
  • Bohemian Rhapsody — Graham King
  • The Favourite — Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday & Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Green Book — Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly & Nick Vallelonga
  • Roma — Gabriela Rodríguez & Alfonso Cuarón
  • A Star is Born — Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper & Lynette Howell Taylor
  • Vice — Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay & Kevin J. Messick

And here we are. The moment of truth. Eight films. One winner. No firm frontrunner, but much like in past years, two films that seemingly have the most going for them: Roma and Green BookRoma took home three important precursors: the Critics Choice, the BAFTA and the DGA. Green Book won only two: the Golden Globe for Best Comedy and the PGA. At face value, Roma seems to have the advantage by virtue of plurality, but we must not forget that Green Book won the only precursor with a preferential ballot — the same kind of ballot used to determine the Oscar winner. People believed it couldn’t be done because of the film’s chaotic and near-disastrous PR campaign, which saw scandal after scandal materialize. And yet, that didn’t faze it. In fact, I think more people doubled-down on it than turned away because they bought into the (untrue) belief that Green Book was being targeted by a smear campaign. In reality, though, the stupidity of the people involved with it was being unearthed just like it would for any other film. You want to spread lies about Muslims on Twitter? Flash your penis at women on your film set? Conveniently forget to consult important people about the factual veracity of your film? Well, expect to live with the consequences. That’s how it is.

In spite of these embarrassments dogging it, Green Book could still win. It’s got the backing of audiences, and those with simpler tastes can’t get enough of its old-fashioned charms. What makes it harder is the absence of Peter Farrelly on the Director ticket and the fact that it’s probably going to win only one other award (Supporting Actor). Spotlight was the last film to win Best Picture with only one other award, but that was the kind of anomalous event that won’t be easily repeated. The film’s surprise loss at the WGA also shows that its scandals could very well be catching up to it. They’ve been around long enough to marinate in people’s minds, and it’s possible that people originally on the fence about it ended up not supporting it after all. This is all conjecture, of course. This awards season has been so bumpy that a Green Book win would seem like the natural conclusion. And yet, I have my doubts. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri had a similar stench about it last year, and we all know that it lost in the end.

Roma is an unconventional choice if there ever was one: a film not in the English language, in black and white, and one distributed by Netflix (i.e. the Great Bogeyman of Hollywood). Those are significant hurdles, to put it mildly. However, as stats fall left and right every year, why shouldn’t these ones fall, too? A non-English film was bound to win someday. Ditto a Netflix feature. If there was any film to do both, then Roma would be it. The fact that it’s been showered with love this season also shows how much people are willing to go to bat for it. It’s been so strong that it tied for the most nominations, and even pulled a dark horse like Marina de Tavira to the fore. The support is broad, it’s enthusiastic, and — most importantly — it’s greater than any other film on the ballot. I think history will be made Sunday night. I feel it in the air.

What would little ol’ me like to see win? I’d be okay with Roma taking it, more so for the momentousness of the occasion than for the film itself. However, I think the best film here is The Favourite. It’s the film I can see myself revisiting with pleasure. And while I don’t think it’s necessarily a timely work or anything, I think it would be cool to see the Academy let its hair down for once and choose the more outré option. I think people will look back and really admire the gumption, in the same way Moonlight’s shock win against La La Land continues to be held in high regard.

WILL WINRoma

SHOULD WINThe Favourite


Bonus: Guess the Oscar Clip!

Amy Adams, Vice: Younger Lynne’s angry pep talk.

Mahershala Ali, Green Book: “Not black enough!”

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma: Telling Sofia about her pregnancy.

Christian Bale, Vice: Breaking the fourth wall.

Glenn Close, The Wife: “I can’t take the humiliation.”

Olivia Colman, The Favourite: “I don’t want to hear it!”

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born: Breaking down in rehab.

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate: “I am my paintings.”

Marina de Tavira, Roma: “We women are always alone.”

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman: “I never thought about my religion.”

Sam Elliott, A Star is Born: The “12 notes” monologue.

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Asking Lee to make him younger in her book.

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk: “Trust [love] all the way.”

Lady Gaga, A Star is Born: “I don’t sing my own songs.”

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody: Revealing his AIDS diagnosis.

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Speaking before the judge.

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book: “Nobody plays like you.”

Sam Rockwell, Vice: “Well, hot damn!”

Emma Stone, The Favourite: The snort after being slapped.

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite: Telling Harley that he smells like a “96-year-old French whore’s vajuju.”

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