Well, 2018 came and went, almost like a flash in the pan, but it was around long enough to leave behind a host of outstanding films. The difference being that there doesn’t seem to be a clear frontrunner in the major categories. That’s good, because people like me love to outguess the next person, and with the degree of difficulty increasing, it’ll be more satisfying picking the correct winners (or downright devastating if I get them wrong).

The 91st Academy Awards is arriving with typical controversy – actor-comedian Kevin Hart was tapped as host, only to renege when past homophobic comments and tweets arose. The Academy held on until the last minute, hoping Hart would reconsider but, citing he didn’t want to be a “distraction,” he went ahead with the benching. That means the Oscars will go without a host for the first time since 1989, when someone thought it would be a great idea for Rob Lowe to sing “Proud Mary.”

Let’s get back to the movies, where it looks like Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma may have the inside track to victory. It, along with The Favourite, scored 10 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. After winning at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards, it seems like it may do the unthinkable for Netflix (which is win Best Picture without wide theater distribution and being a film spoken almost entirely in Spanish). It’ll be interesting to see how Roma does, considering the Academy has shown love for Cuarón in the past (i.e., Gravity).

Right on Roma’s heels is The Favourite, the latest from director Yorgos Lanthimos. His previous offering, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, was overlooked by the Academy, but The Favourite, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, is a favorite amongst the Academy voters. The blistering black comedy, with blockbuster performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, has the legs to make it to the finish line on February 24th.

The acting categories, like Best Picture, is muddled and without a clear frontrunner. But momentum has been building for Glenn Close (long overdue), Regina King (long overlooked). Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Rami Malek are favorites for Best Actor, while Mahershala Ali may take home his second Oscar.

Overall, this looks to be an unpredictable Oscars. This is a welcome change from previous years, and below we’ll take a closer look at those categories, along with my predictions.

Best Picture

Black Panther

BlacKkKlansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

A Star Is Born

Vice

Black Panther took a huge step forward in the Best Picture race after it scored a SAG victory. It’s unfathomable, though, that a superhero film could actually win, but Black Panther has already broken through like no other superhero film has. It’s the first of its genre to be nominated for Best Picture, and if general opinion had a vote it would likely win.

I’d love for BlacKkKlansman to win. It would officially mark a comeback for Spike Lee and simultaneously be retribution for Do the Right Thing not winning Best Picture 30 years ago. It didn’t pick up any wins from the other major awards houses, but something’s telling me not to overlook Lee and his social commentary on today’s America.

I don’t understand all the love for Bohemian Rhapsody. At best, it’s a so-so biopic, not to mention it’s as safe as they come. But Rhapsody is one of the most financially successful biopics in cinema and managed to win a Best Drama Golden Globe. If anything, disgraced director Bryan Singer’s involvement may be its undoing. BAFTA suspended Singer from awards contention, so the Academy may one-up that gesture by not voting it Best Picture.

The Favourite has a decent shot, since it won a BAFTA for Best British Film. It also has 10 Oscar nominations – tied for most with Roma. Still, this doesn’t feel like a movie the Academy will get behind as the best picture.

Green Book was chugging along as a frontrunner. It won a Globe for Best Musical/Comedy, and its feel-good tone always strikes chords with Academy voters. But it’s been mired in multiple controversies - the most glaring being its inaccuracies as the Don Shirley estate condemned its account of the deceased pianist. Another (and likely more egregious) issue is the continuing use of the “white savior” trope, since Tony Vallelonga, Shirley’s driver, is seen by many as nothing more than a racist and a bigot. At this point, I don’t think it’ll win but I won’t be surprised either way. By the way, did I mention Viggo Mortensen, who played Tony, used the N-word during an awards season Q&A?

Roma has the best chance to win. It won Best Film and Best Foreign Language Film at BAFTA, and it also won a Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film. Roma has plenty of momentum, but its toughest obstacles include the fact it’s a Netflix release; and no foreign language film has ever won an Oscar for Best Picture. History, though, will likely be made since Alfonso Cuarón is loved during awards season.

A Star is Born, at one time, was an Oscar frontrunner. But its prospects have since cooled and it’s on the outside looking in. Sad, because I found this to be beautiful work.

Um, Vice… no. No chance. It’s not even that good. Some critics downright loathe it. This should’ve never made the cut since there are plenty of better films out there which are more deserving.

Darkhorse: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, A Star Is Born

Who I Like: Roma

Who I Think: Roma

Best Director

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Adam McKay, Vice

Incredibly, this is the first time the Academy nominated Spike Lee for Best Director – an egregious oversight. This is vindication for his decades of quality filmmaking, and it’s buoyed by a powerful film that evokes memories of his magnum opus, Do the Right Thing. His chances are good, but he has competition.

McKay is liked by the Academy. He was nominated in 2016 in this category and won for Best Adapted Screenplay, but his Vice is not as good as 2015’s The Big Short. He’s a longshot.

Pawlikowski is a surprise, but a nice one. Pawlikowski directed a foreign film not many have seen nor heard of. This is a situation where the nomination is the win.

Lanthimos has been slowly gaining favor over the years. The Greek director, responsible for The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed his most accessible film to date, although it’s not his best work. Still, it’s good enough to win, and directing three nominated acting performances in the same movie should say something.

Cuarón is the frontrunner and, since he’s already received directing accolades at the Globes, DGA and BAFTA, his win at the Oscars is all but certain.

Darkhorse: Spike Lee

Who I Like: Alfonso Cuarón

Who I Think: Alfonso Cuarón

Best Supporting Actress

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Amy Adams, Vice

Marina de Tavira, Roma

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Emma Stone, The Favourite

King, like Spike Lee, has been overlooked for years (I bet you forgot she played Cuba Gooding Jr.’s wife in Jerry Maguire). Her nomination comes on the heels of a magnificent performance and it’s validated with a Critics Choice Award and a Golden Globe. She will be tough to beat.

De Tavira was fantastic in Roma, but for her to win will take a miracle. This is de Tavira’s only major nomination, so this is another situation where the nomination is the win.

Amy Adams, sadly, won’t win. She’s deserving of the nomination, but she’s been overlooked in the past for better performances and it would seem unfair to win for a so-so film. Adams will win one day (I hope) – just not right now.

Stone and Weisz will likely split votes. That’s the biggest problem when a film sports multiple recognized performances. Academy voters will have too tough a time choosing between the two, so they’ll likely not vote for either. That means King should have an easier path.

Darkhorse: Amy Adams

Who I Like: Regina King

Who I Think: Regina King

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Elliott, A Star is Born

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Ali looks to add another Oscar since winning two years ago for Moonlight. Ali’s profile has risen significantly, and despite Green Book’s controversies he’s managed to win Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Critics Choice awards.

Grant was the funniest thing in an already funny Can You Ever Forgive Me?. I’d love for him to win, especially since he was nominated at BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG. But it’s not in the cards since Ali has been racking up wins.

Talk about overlooked – Sam Elliott’s nomination is his first by the Academy, and it couldn’t be more deserving. He’ll be a sentimental favorite, but with only a SAG nomination to validate his performance in A Star is Born, he will go home without a statue.

Rockwell is still riding momentum from his Three Billboards win last year. That’s not enough, especially since he already lost at the Golden Globes in January.

I’m happy for Adam Driver – his acting, which was already strong, has improved over the years. He’s representing himself and the snubbed John David Washington (the son of Denzel was excellent). If anyone could upset, it could be Driver – he was nominated at BAFTA, Golden Globes and SAG.

Darkhorse: Sam Elliott

Who I Like: Richard E. Grant

Who I Think: Mahershala Ali

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Glenn Close, The Wife

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Yalitza Aparicio’s nomination is pleasant but unexpected, considering she wasn’t nominated at the other major awards houses. She is fantastic and, along with co-star Marina de Tavira, is proof Alfonso Cuarón’s constant lobbying paid off. Still, Aparicio is a longshot, but making it this far is a major accomplishment for a schoolteacher making her acting debut.

McCarthy’s slowly making the transition from comedy to drama, and with Can You Ever Forgive Me? she’s making a strong first impression (McCarthy was also nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG). She’s good, and in other years she would be a favorite. But the nomination is as close as she’ll get to an Oscar. Her future is bright, though, as long as McCarthy continues to go with more dramatic roles.

Lady Gaga was an early favorite (she’s been nominated for a BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG), but this category has only 2 legit favorites – sadly, she’s not one of them. Gaga will likely have to “settle” for winning Best Original Song, but she’s still an amazing talent regardless. If anything, she is this year’s darkhorse.

One frontrunner is likely Glenn Close, who’s won at the Golden Globes and SAG and is a BAFTA and Independent Spirit award nominee. This nomination is Close’s seventh – she’s been passed over for decades. This may be her chance to finally take home an Oscar.

The other frontrunner is Colman – she put forth the best performance in a film with multiple best performances. She, like Close, won a Golden Globe, and was nominated for a SAG (losing to Close). Colman just won a BAFTA, so this will one will be close.

Darkhorse: Lady Gaga

Who I Like: Glenn Close

Who I Think: Olivia Colman

Best Actor

Christian Bale, Vice

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Considering he was snubbed for Best Director, many feel Bradley Cooper will win here to make up for that. He was also nominated at the Globes, BAFTA and SAG, but A Star is Born is all but forgotten at this point.

Bale, having just won at the Golden Globes, provided a performance that Academy voters love. He played a real person, and the fact that that person was our Vice President adds gravitas and depth. And Bale did what Bale always does – he transformed himself and was nearly unrecognizable. Gary Oldman won last year for doing the same thing, so Bale may be the favorite.

Mortensen is probably the least favorite – using the N-word at a presser tends to produce those results. He was good – good enough for audiences to forget the racism Vallelonga harbored. Regardless, Mortensen was a long shot coming in, having lost at BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG (but his N-word use probably contributed to him losing, too).

I love Willem Dafoe, and I love that he’s made his way back to the Oscars. I thought his performance in The Florida Project was divine, but he’s topped it as Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate. He is a longshot, affirmed with only one other nomination (Golden Globe) for this role.

Rami Malek is a frontrunner and, with wins at BAFTA, Golden Globe and SAG, he’s likely a lock. He’s the best thing about Bohemian Rhapsody, the knock being he’s boasting a great performance in an okay movie. But he and Bale are neck and neck and it’ll interesting to see how this turns out.

Darkhorse: Bradley Cooper

Who I Like: Christian Bale, Rami Malek

Who I Think: Rami Malek


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