My Oscar Predictions (2019)

As is now my tradition, this is my public historical record of my personal Oscar ballot that will either validate my personal genius or forever serve as evidence of my dumb hubris. Last year I went a stunningly accurate 21 for 24 in the awards with all my major misses coming from the crapshoot short categories. I take that as a sure sign that this year will represent a severe reverting back to the mean, so take that into consideration when coming up with your own Oscar ballots.

Another reason for my lack of confidence in my predictions this year is the high level of uncertainty surrounding everything about the Oscars. This year we have seen the Academy announce and the retract a Best Popular Film Oscar. They announced Kevin Hart as host and then after a PR disaster that left everybody looking bad, he withdrew and now that leaves us with apparently no host this Sunday. Originally only two musical performances were slated in the broadcast until Lady Gaga put her foot down and now we will have all the Best Original Songs represented. And finally the Academy announced that four awards were going to be awarded during commercial breaks until the industry revolted and now all the awards will be shown live again. In short, it has been a banner year for the Academy. But with the kind of confidence that can only come from an ill-informed pundit, I shall dive in headlong into the task.

This year, the categories Best Documentary Short is going to be my “crapshoot” categories in which I make completely arbitrary calls because I have not seen any of the nominees (again, how hard would it be to package all the shorts to be viewed on streaming for $15? I would pay to see that). And for the rest of the categories as per usual I’m going to distinguish between what movie should win and what movie will win. You should assume that my will win picks are the ones I’m actually putting my (theoretical) money on.

BEST PICTURE

The Nominees:
BlackKklansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite
Green Book (WINNER)
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

Should Win: Roma or The Favourite
Will Win: Roma

Guild season has been, shall we say, wild. For the first time in living memory none of the Best Picture nominees have managed to set themselves ahead of the pack as awards were spread around in the multiple guild awards (most Oscar voters tend to belong to one or more of the guilds, thus wins there have often been seen as predictive). Roma won the Director’s Guild, often seen as the most predictive of Best Picture success, and the BAFTA award, the U.K.’s equivalent of the Oscar. Black Panther won in the Actors Guild, the largest single body in the Academy, and is also the highest grossing movie of the year, and is thus a movie that the ratings-starved Academy would definitely see as a great PR move to award. Green Book won the Producers Guild. Meanwhile the Writer’s Guild went rogue and gave the award to Can You Ever Forgive Me and Eighth Grade, two movies that didn’t even get nominated for Best Picture (but are certainly more deserving that a few that actually did). So really, the field is wide open and you could convince me that multiple candidates have a viable path to the Oscar.

For most of the time that I have been following the Oscars I have more often than not found myself shaking my head as the superior movie gets chosen over the “safe” one. In recent years with deserving movies like 12 Years a Slave, Spotlight, and Moonlight among others picking the Best Picture, my position of automatically scoffing at the narrow-mindedness of the Academy has softened somewhat. Unfortunately that means I feel like this is they year they revert back to form and a bone-headed decision like handing the Best Picture to Green Book, or *shudder* Bohemian Rhapsody is not out of the question. But if one narrative has managed to stick this awards season it is that Netflix has arrived as a studio (cemented by Netflix joining the MPAA to become the seventh major studio in Hollywood). It seems right that the Academy might just give the Best Picture to Roma to complete the coronation. That Roma would also be a deserved winner is besides the point.

Also it is absolute malarkey that If Beale Street Could Talk isn’t here. I know that this has nothing to do with determining who actually will win the award Sunday night but I just felt like I needed my strong protest to the movie’s omission noted.

My Ranking: (1) Roma; (2) The Favourite; (3) BlackKklansman; (4) Black Panther; (5) A Star is Born; (6) Green Book; (7) Vice; (8) Bohemian Rhapsody.

BEST DIRECTOR

The Nominees:
Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
Pawel Pawilowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (WINNER)
Adam McKay, Vice

Will and Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

With Cuarón sewing up the Director’s Guild Award, this should be one of the easiest categories to predict for the night. Roma is a virtuosic enough movie that his hand in it should be plainly obvious, and the fact that this is his most personal film gives the award the right amount of narrative heft. The only potential spoiler might be if the Academy gives it to Spike Lee 30 years or so after snubbing him repeatedly as an act of finally doing the right thing.

BEST ACTOR

The Nominees:
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Should Win: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Will Win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

The real answer of who should win this award is obviously Ethan Hawke from First Reformed who at this point is taking up Leonardo Di Caprio’s mantle of “most egregiously snubbed actor who probably will have physically dismember himself to finally be recognized by the Academy” (in First Reformed‘s case, wrapping oneself with barbed wire was apparently not enough).

But you guys, Bohemian Rhapsody is bad. Apart from any moral issues regarding the movie’s director or whether they gloss over Freddie Mercury’s gayness, the movie is just fundamentally bad. It is easily one of the worst movies in recent memory to get a Best Picture nomination. But I guess Rami Malek is the best thing about the movie and he has stormed through awards season so that’s where my money is going. But I can think of a dozen other performances that should win instead.

BEST ACTRESS

The Nominees:
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Should Win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Will Win:
Glenn Close, The Wife

First off, this is a phenomenally strong slate. The seeming deflation of Lady Gaga’s chances for Best Actress as well as the abrupt halt of A Star Is Born’s entire Oscar momentum is among the most curious things about this Oscar season. Given the Oscar’s love of awarding singers turned actors (Cher and Jennifer Hudson among others), it seemed like a slam-dunk for Lady Gaga when she turned in a fantastic performance in A Star Is Born. But perhaps due to the fact that she is a phenomenal success in her field and the availability of another category where she will obviously win (more on that later) the need to award her here doesn’t seem to be as urgent.

Meanwhile having been nominated seven times before and not won, it seems that Glenn Close is up for what would amount to be a de-facto lifetime achievement which will be well deserved. The only pity is that Olivia Colman, a much less illustrious industry veteran, will probably miss out after turning in the best performance of her career. Meanwhile her fellow first-time nominees Aparicio and McCarthy would easily have been front-runners in any other year, but unfortunately the competition is tough this year.

(Update: Well this broke my bracket. Do I care? HECK NO!)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

The Nominees:
Mahershala Ali, Green Book (WINNER)
Adam Driver, BlackKklansman
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam RockwellVice

Should Win: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Will Win: 
Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Here’s one thing we know for sure: If Mahershala Ali hadn’t provided the great performance he had there would be no way that Green Book would’ve been able to overcome the overwhelming amount of bad press and controversy surrounding it to become an awards player this season. Ali is undoubtedly the best thing about the movie and is the clear favorite to pick up his second Best Supporting Actor nod (which in a completely fair world should mean he is on course for some juicy lead roles right? Right?).

But if there should be a shock on the night it might be by finally giving an award to Richard E. Grant who has two things going for him. First, there is the sense that Grant, who has long been the consummate workman performer, is finally due. And second, with Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the Writer’s Guild award but not garnering a Best Picture nomination, there is a sense that it could possibly have an impact on the awards that the movie actually did win. It’s still an outside chance, but I think Can You Ever Forgive Me?‘s late breaking momentum might be enough to dislodge the 100% certainty of Ali’s win to maybe a 95% chance.

Of course the undisputed actual best supporting performance this year is Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 and it isn’t even close (#paddingtonwasrobbed).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

The Nominees
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (WINNER)
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Will and Should Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Should ALSO Win: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

First off, let’s address the double case of category fraud with the two actresses from The Favourite. They, along with Olivia Colman, are clearly leads in the movie and Weisz and Stone only end up in the Supporting Actress category due to a technicality due to the murky Academy rules separating a lead from supporting role. Of course, though each of them provide excellent performances they are inevitably going to split the vote meaning that it is extremely unlikely that any of them win the award. And while Amy Adams may be long overdue for an award (six nominations, zero wins), I doubt that Vice is the movie that helps her break that duck (the correct performance she should have won for is obviously in Arrival, which she was criminally not even nominated for). de Tavira’s nomination meanwhile is an incredible honor, but I think is also her ceiling here.

Meanwhile, as I have mentioned earlier, it is an absolute travesty that If Beale Street Could Talk did not garner a Best Picture nomination. My theory is that the movie came out too late to garner the kind of momentum it needed for awards season. And that is my theory as to why why Regina King didn’t get a nomination for the Screen Actor’s Guild or BAFTA, but the fact that she garnered a nomination at the Oscars speaks to some late-breaking momentum. And there is the sense that King might win as a consolation prize for If Beale Street Could Talk, which should have much more nominations (in my perfect Sunday night, it would sweep the three awards it got nominated in).

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Nominees:
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book (WINNER)
Roma
Vice

Will Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed

The lack of a clear front-runner means that, like in recent years, the chance of one movie sweeping up most of its nominations is going to be slim to none. And that is why I think The Favourite, easily the most script-heavy movie on this list, is the, well, favorite here. The Screenplay award also represents the last clear chance for The Favourite to pick up one of the “Big Five” awards, and I think that will happen here.

Of course, while If Beale Street Could Talk not getting a Best Picture nomination represents the biggest egregious snub of the year, First Reformed not picking up automatic nominations for Picture, Director (Paul Schrader), and Actor (Ethan Hawke) is a close second. But if the Academy could not find it in themselves to award Schrader for writing unquestionable canon films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I doubt they are going to hand him the award here.

(Update: Green Book wins. And I need a drink.)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Nominees:
A Star is Born
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
BlackKklansman
 (WINNER)
If Beale Street Could Talk
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Will Win: BlackKklansman
Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

My sentiments about If Beale Street Could Talk have been well documented already so I don’t need to repeat them, except to say that again this could be a place that the Academy might try to rectify their mistake and give Barry Jenkins a proxy directing win here.

Meanwhile, if the awards are going to spread out, it seems again that this is the spot where the Academy decides to give Spike Lee his first win which will most definitely be deserved. The only other question is if the late Writer’s Guild Award to Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Nicole Holofcener gives it enough momentum to play spoiler. Again, this is another strong category.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The Nominees:
The Favourite
Never Look Away
Roma (WINNER)
A Star Is Born
Cold War

Will and Should Win: Roma

Of all the categories that the Academy could’ve consigned to the commercial breaks, trying to put cinematography (in an awards ceremony about the cinematic arts) was probably the most boneheaded decision they could make. This year unfortunately does not see Rachel Morrison, the first woman nominated for cinematography, repeat for her work in Black Panther. And while Suspiria was probably always going to be too weird to receive major awards consideration, it seems a shame that Thai cinematographer Sayombu Mukdeeprom (Call Me By Your Name, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past) remains unrecognized by the Academy.

But this category firmly belongs in Alfons Cuaron’s grasp as his Roma offers a masterclass in black and white photography and composition, and with his customary long takes being especially understated, it is his to lose.

BEST FILM EDITING

The Nominees:
BlackKklansman
Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
The Favourite
Green Book
Vice

Will and Should Win: The Favourite

First off, Roma is egregiously left off the list mostly because of a wrongheaded belief that the best edits are the ones you notice. Now if that is the criteria by which the Academy is voting, then The Favourite, with its impeccable comic timing and flashy cuts should win the day. BlackKklansman should be the only major spoiler, but if any of the other movies win it’s going to probably mean we’re in for a long, horrid night (and that I’m going to have to make myself a stiff drink).

(Update: Gross. Gross. Gross.)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

The Nominees:
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs

Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (WINNER)

Will and Should Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

While Disney continues to prove themselves as experts in the sequel-making department, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came like a breath air, completely reimagining and expanding the boundaries not only of what can be achieved in animation but what a comic-book movie could look like. The only real competition should be Wes Anderson’s stop-motion Isle of Dogs, which similarly expanded the craft even if it isn’t necessarily among his best work (which shouldn’t be a knock against Isle of Dogs, Anderson’s ceiling is extremely high).

BEST FOREIGN FILM

The Nominees:
Capernaum
Cold War
Never Look Away
Roma (WINNER)
Shoplifters

Will and Should Win: Roma

Somehow inexplicably Lee Chang-Dong’s Burning did not make the cut, the only real blemish on what is again a fantastic list. But given that Roma is the nominal front-runner for Best Picture, it has to be considered the presumptive winner year. The only drama is if the Academy decides to split the winners, in which case Cold War should take advantage (Pawel Pawilowski’s Best Director nomination indicates broad support).

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

The Nominees:
Free Solo (WINNER)

Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

Will and Should Win: Free Solo

Once again, here is a category with an inexplicable snub as Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the Fred Rogers documentary that was easily the closest thing to a breakout box-office hit is naturally not nominated (because God forbid a documentary be popular). Of the remaining nominations, I think Free Solo has the edge simply because it happens to be the rare documentary that has a visceral impact and isn’t merely cerebral. But if not Free Solo, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy decide to shower some love and adulation on the OG Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Nominees:
Black Panther (WINNER)

BlackKklansman
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

Will and Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

First off, this seems as good an opportunity to wonder why we all collectively underrated First Man (I recently rewatched the movie and realized I had made the same egregious mistake myself). While not being in the Best Picture, Directing, Editing, and acting competitions is problematic enough, it is Justin Hurwitz’s magnificent score being left out that seems like the biggest snub. In any case, apart from Mary Poppins Returns, all the remaining nominees feel like strong choices that I would have no objections winning the award. But no soundtrack seems more essential to the success of the movie more than Nicholas Britells meditative score to If Beale Street Could Talk, and if the movie went 3 for 3 for the night, I would be a very happy person indeed.

(Update: Robbed. But if anyone was going to do it, I guess I’m glad it’s Black Panther.)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

The Nominees:
“All the Stars”, Black Panther
“I’ll Fight”, RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow”, A Star is Born (WINNER)
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs”, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Will Win: “Shallow”, A Star is Born
Should Win: “All the Stars”, Black Panther

Look, of all the categories on display, this is the closest to a gimme award. In a year when the Academy is desperate for a ratings and public relations win, do you really think they are going to pass up the chance to hand an international superstar Lady Gaga a trophy and a platform on primetime television while sending her halfway to her EGOT? I don’t think so either. Although Kendrick Lamar getting to add an Oscar to his Pulitzer Prize is quietly what I’m pulling for, there is no contest here. Gaga is getting her Oscar.

BEST SOUND EDITING

The Nominees:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
First Man
A Quiet Place

Roma

Will and Should Win: First Man

(Update: Gross.)

BEST SOUND MIXING

The Nominees:
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody (WINNER)
First Man
Roma
A Star is Born

Will and Should WinFirst Man

(Update: Double gross. Because you know, it’s really hard trying to get all of Queen’s ALREADY recorded music to sound right in a sound mix)

This is the category most people have confusion distinguishing (sound editing is about the creation of specific sounds; sound mixing is about how dialogue, sound effects, music work together to create a full soundscape). In any case this confusion tends to mean that whoever wins one award usually wins the other and I think First Man gets the nod here, although again anyone who recognizes the power of subtle sound will recognize Roma greater qualities.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Nominees:
Black Panther (WINNER)

The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Roma

Will Win: The Favourite
Should Win: Roma

On the one hand, Roma managed to recreate Mexico of the 1970s with startling realism as to resemble a documentary film so that is an achievement in itself. But it is also has the least showy production design of the lot. Instead it is up against a period piece that has ten other nominations in The Favourite while Black Panther has a strong shout too. I think The Favourite has the inside track here.

(UpdateSo chronologically Best Costume Design (below) busted my bracket, but at least I was justified in saying that these awards tend to go hand-in-hand).

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

The Nominees:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther (WINNER)
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

Will and Should Win: The Favourite

All the reasons I think The Favourite is the front-runner for Best Production Design applies here.

(Update: Well that’s my ballot officially busted, but I honestly am not complaining about it.)

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

The Nominees:
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice (WINNER)

Will and Should Win: Vice

This is a category that definitely awards the movie with the “most-est” makeup and hairstyling, so making Christian Bale unrecognizable as Dick Cheney makes Vice the movie that will certainly win.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

The Nominees:
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man (WINNER)
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Will and Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Look, this category could have (and some might argue should have) been a Disney conglomerate clean sweep as first of all Black Panther finds itself inexplicably shut out while dominating the nominations elsewhere while for my money, no superhero movie proved more visually interesting than Ant-Man & the Wasp. But seeing as Avengers: Infinity War probably doesn’t have a single frame that did not have a visual effect somewhere, it should win here although First Man stands to play the spoiler.

(Update: I did not expect this win, but honestly I cannot be angry at this.)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Nominees:
Animal Behaviour
Bao (WINNER)
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

Will and Should Win: Bao

Apart from the truly oddball (and Canada’s own) Animal Behaviour, most of the other shorts fall into the same-y category of narratively thin stories that pack emotionally resonant punches. Given that, Pixar’s Bao stands to benefit as the only short with anything close to name recognition.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

The Nominees:
Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin 
(WINNER)

Will and Should (?) Win: Marguerite

For the most part movies that get nominated follow Thomas Hobbes maxim about life: they tend to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. And most of the movies on this list continue that tradition as the mine the miseries of life to depressing effect. Since Marguerite, a film about a elderly woman who confronts her latent homosexuality and tries to find love, is the only film that bucks that trend somewhat I expect it to stand out from the pack.

(Update: Well just goes to show you that it pays off actually watching the shorts. I’m just gonna skip these next year.)

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT (CRAPSHOOT CATEGORY)

The Nominees:
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night in the Garden
Period. End of Sentence (WINNER)

Will Win: Black Sheep

I’m almost certain that this is the category most Oscar voters fill out last (if they fill it out at all). Like the Live Action Short Film category, this award has traditionally been filled to the brim with dreary, if depressingly accurate, depictions of the darker corners of life and this year does not seem to be any different. While Netflix’s two entries End Game and Period have the distribution to give them a leg up, from buzz alone it seems like the Oscar is going to go to Black Sheep. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Period especially ends up playing spoiler.

(Update: Dammit. Always pick the uplifting outlier. Always. Rookie mistake.)

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