Well everyone, it’s finally time. After the longest, most unpleasant Oscar season yet, the 91st Academy Awards will finally be presented in the most unpredictable race ever. Who will win? Who will lose? Will Glenn Close, Spike Lee, and Ruth E. Carter earn their first Oscars? And will the Academy every get their sh*t together? My guesses are Roma, everyone else, some of them, and not a chance. However, as scared as I am of being wrong (and losing once again to that blasted Lena Smith), I can’t wait to see how this all unfolds on Sunday evening.
When it comes to Best Picture, things have boiled down to a two-way race, with two legitimate challengers. Roma is in a dogfight with Green Book, while The Favourite and Black Panther battle it out as underdog. Each has a major stat holding it back. Roma would be the first film since Birdman to win Best Picture without Best Editing (important to note that Birdman had confusing editing that threw off the older Academy voters who liked the film), and before that it would be Ordinary People in 1980. However, it goes deeper than that: it is still a Netflix film, which holds deep-seeded resentments inside the Academy, and beyond that, it is a foreign language film, which has never won Best Picture. Both films also lack a SAG Ensemble nomination – only two films have won Best Picture without it, and they were Braveheart and The Shape of Water. Meanwhile, Green Book has an easier stat to overcome without the Best Director nod – Ben Affleck did it back in 2012 (before then it was Driving Miss Daisy in 1989, a slightly foreboding stat given the subject matter in both films). As for the latter films, The Favourite faces a similar stat to Green Book, as no film has won Best Picture without a DGA nod since Driving Miss Daisy, and never before it, while Black Panther, despite the promising SAG win, would have to be the first film since Grand Hotel in 1932 to win Best Picture without a single directing, acting, screenplay, or editing nominations. All of those are damning stats, with the exception of Green Book, and yet I still cannot bring myself to predict it, for two reasons. First, I just can’t see the New Academy, which has made such daring picks such as Moonlight and The Shape of Water, awarding a mostly predictable, if not necessarily bad, historical drama Best Picture. And second, and most important of all (for me, at least), Green Book fails the Travis Test. Since I started making legitimate Top Ten lists in 2009, no film has won Best Picture without a placement on my Top Ten list. It’s a deciding factor that could have helped me predict The Shape of Water and Spotlight had I read the tarot cards correctly. Green Book, while not unbearable (it doesn’t fail the same way that, say, Bohemian Rhapsody does), does NOT pass the Travis Test. The other three films do (as do BlacKkKlansman and A Star Is Born, for what it’s worth). Which means I have to go with my favorite stats as well as my gut to make a judgment call. And at the end of the day, the only film that rolls off the tongue more comfortably when I say “And the Academy Award goes to…” is Roma. So I’m calling it now: Roma will win Best Picture.
Now, because that guess is most likely wrong and I’m presumably on thin ice with you all after getting Best Picture wrong the last three years in a row, let’s move into the categories where I am certain, just to remind you all that I’m somewhat competent at what I am doing. For example, Rami Malek, Glenn Close, and Mahershala Ali will all win their respective acting categories with relative ease, with slight, but insignificant, challenges from Christian Bale, Olivia Colman, and Richard E. Grant, respectively. Alfonso Cuarón will win Best Director with almost no resistance (he’s the Patriots of the Oscar world). And The Favourite should benefit from the Nick Vallelonga fatigue and the Eighth Grade WGA upset in order to win Best Original Screenplay (which will be so nice, considering it is the best script in almost two decades). The only two question marks remaining are Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. For Best Adapted Screenplay, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman has been the presumptive favorite all along, but it keeps struggling to get a win – most recently, it lost the WGA to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, it’s biggest competition here. However, I don’t expect the Academy to have this same level of indecision. Lee has never won an Oscar, despite the fact that he wrote or directed (or both) Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X, and 25th Hour, three of the greatest films ever made. This will be Lee’s The Departed, the chance to honor a great man for a great film, despite the heavy competition he faces. As for Best Supporting Actress, expect one of two things to happen. Either Regina King defies all the odds and all the stats to win Best Supporting Actress (very possible considering her goodwill in the industry and her two excellent speeches in precursors) or Rachel Weisz pulls off the Mark Rylance-level upset and wins a second Academy Award. Option 1 is the smarter of the two, but I just can’t bet against the stats – or my heart, considering my love of Weisz’s performance and my indifference to King’s good, not great turn. Oh, and ending on a mortal lock: put all your money on “Shallow” to win Best Original Song. That’s as close to a lock as you’re going to get.
After that, it’s a question of “How much is the love going to be spread amongst the eight nominated films, and who wins what?” As I’ve stated since the beginning of the season, Roma will also win Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography, while Green Book will win Best Supporting Actor. BlacKkKlansman will win Best Adapted Screenplay, while A Star Is Born will win Best Original Song. After that, things become fairly “fill in the blank.” Bohemian Rhapsody has the Malek win in the bag, and will likely win Best Sound Mixing to boot (it’ll also compete for Sound Editing and Editing, but we’ll get to that). The Favourite should win Best Original Screenplay easily, and I’m predicting it for Best Supporting Actress as well, but I doubt it’ll stop there. Thanks to its lavish period décor, look for it in Best Production Design and Best Costume Design as well (god, I hope it wins Costume Design). That seems to be the recent trend with the Academy – give two films four Oscars apiece, allowing one to be the “Best Picture” while the other is the “Most Technically Brilliant Picture.” And then there’s Vice. I can see the Academy heaping a ton of Oscars on Vice or none at all – it is that decisive of a film. However, at the end of the day, I think Vice will win two Oscars – one deserved and one kind of not. The first is for Best Makeup, which is an undeniable award. Just looking at Christian Bale (and Steve Carell and Tyler Perry and Sam Rockwell…) and you have to vote for Vice. The other award I’m predicting is for Best Editing, and here is why. First, let’s eliminate the competition. Green Book and The Favourite are non-starters. My original prediction, BlacKkKlansman, has had little to no traction, killing it dead. And as for Bohemian Rhapsody…I mean, come on. It had love from ACE, and it certainly could win here (the concert scenes trick you into thinking the film is well edited), but other than that, it’s just not going to happen. Next, let’s look at Vice. Not only is it the Most Edited film of the bunch (lots of changing timelines, quick cuts, fast asides, and so on), but editor Hank Corwin, well-liked in the industry, lost the last time he tried these tricks. He was up against the juggernaut Mad Max: Fury Road, and the Academy had to surpass him in favor of Flaming Guitar Man. With Corwin doing the Exact Same Thing in a year where there’s absolutely no competition, they can rectify the mistake of their past, even if The Big Short technically can’t win here. The only film I don’t think will win any awards is Black Panther. Despite that SAG win, as well as the Grammy win for Best Original Score, I get the feeling that the Academy is generally ambivalent towards the film – they liked it enough to nominate it, but not enough to reward it. Look for Panther to go home empty handed – and if I’m wrong, look for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design as its best bets.
In the rest of the technical categories, things basically become a test of the stat system. In Best Sound Editing, will they vote the same way they do in Best Sound Mixing (Rhapsody), or will they go with the loudest film (First Man)? In Best Visual Effects, will they go for the big budget Avengers film or will they go for something more simple and honest (Christopher Robin or First Man)? In Best Original Score, will they go for a Best Picture nominee like Klansman or Panther or will they go for the most respected score in If Beale Street Could Talk? These are the questions that will keep me up at night, but I will yield to my gut and to experts and predict two wins for First Man and a win for Nicholas Britell’s If Beale Street Could Talk score (as tempting as a Terence Blanchard win would be). Which leaves us with the Features and Shorts. In Best Documentary Feature, you can take it to the bank: Free Solo is winning here, hands down. While I would personally vote for the shattering, perfect Minding the Gap, the technical feat alone in Free Solo is going to give it the edge needed to take home the Oscar. Ditto for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It is on a roll with voting branches, and its just far and away the best nominee of the bunch. There has never been an animated film like it, and I’m not sure there will be again. And as for the shorts, here’s what I can tell you. Bao is a Pixar film (and a good one at that) and will likely defeat a good, not great year for animation. Three of the Live Action Shorts are literally about Watching Kids Die, and a fourth features a Kid Shooting Someone, so look for Marguerite as the sole respite in a depressing field (nothing like an elderly woman feeling she missed out on happiness and love to lift your spirits). And in Best Documentary Short, End Game is the best made, most complete of the shorts, and it’s directed by two previous nominees. Look for it to have the edge over a somewhat weaker year for Best Documentary Short.
You can see my full list of predictions below. The Academy Awards will be held Sunday at 8:00. I’ll be announcing them live, so make sure you’re watching. Stay tuned for Queen, Lady Gaga, Bette Midler, all the categories, no host, and a massive clusterf*ck. See you then, and feel free to make your own predictions in the comments.
Best Picture: Roma
Best Actor: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Actress: Glenn Close – The Wife
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite
Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Feature: Roma
Best Documentary Feature: Free Solo
Best Documentary Short: End Game
Best Live Action Short: Marguerite
Best Animated Short: Bao
Best Original Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Song: “Shallow” – A Star Is Born
Best Sound Editing: First Man
Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Production Design: The Favourite
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Costume Design: The Favourite
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Best Film Editing: Vice
Best Visual Effects: First Man