By Chip Chandler — Producer
I can't think of another recent year where almost every Oscar category feels so wide open.
As I look at the ballot in almost all 24 races (download yours here), I can make arguments for two equally plausible winners (sometimes more) in virtually every category, from the shorts to Best Picture.
It's not just me: It seems like Oscar prognosticators who are far more connected than I am are struggling, too. No film has steamrolled through the precursor awards from the various guilds (Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild, etc.) In fact, all eight Best Picture nominees has won one or more big prizes.
So what I'm saying, basically, is I have no idea how Oscar Night is going to go, and that makes me excited to watch (which is nice, because after all of this year's exhausting controversies swirling around the broadcast, I was a bit wary).
Here's my best effort in picking winners (and shoulda-beens) in each of the categories. I've seen 50 of the 52 nominated films, lacking only Best Foreign Film nominees Capernaum and Never Look Away (also up for Best Cinematography), but that doesn't make me feel any more secure. But we'll see when the Oscars air at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 on ABC!
Nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice
This ... is not a great batch of films, nor is it representative of the best films of 2018, not by a long shot. For my tastes, it's the worst lineup of Best Picture nominees since 2014 foisted American Sniper, Birdman, The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything on us.
By that measure, I guess we're lucky that only three junk movies made it in: Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and Vice.
As I've written before, Bohemian Rhapsody contains exactly one good scene (the climactic concert at Live Aid), with a whole lot of straight-washing and straight-up nonsense before it. Green Book is way too pleasant for the tumultuous times it depicts, and it focuses on the least interesting character in the car. And Vice, despite strong lead performances, just doesn't work.
Roma and The Favourite both come into this category with the year's-best 10 nominations each, but I just don't think Yorgos Lanthimos' punk period drama is going to be to enough voters' taste to take the top prize. (Then again, who would have thought a romance between a fish man and a mute woman would do that last year?)
A Star Is Born, for whatever reason, just couldn't maintain its momentum from this fall, when it opened as the unquestioned frontrunner. BlacKkKlansman, somewhat to my surprise, wasn't forgotten after its August opening, and finally rewarding director Spike Lee with a competitive Oscar some 30 years after Do the Right Thing was snubbed must be tempting, but I don't think it has a major shot here (look below for where it will win).
As I mentioned above, all of the films in this category have won a major award, but Black Panther got perhaps the biggest one — Outstanding Cast from the Screen Actors Guild. That's the SAG's equivalent of Best Picture, and (as the name suggests) it's voted upon by the actors, the largest branch in the Academy. I'm not predicting that Black Panther will win, but doing so would not be from out of left field. And if Oscars' Best Picture is representative of the entire year in film, it's not a bad choice at all.
So that leaves Roma, a breathtakingly beautiful masterpiece from Alfonso Cuarón. If it wins, it'll be the first foreign language Best Picture winner and the first Netflix film to win, as well. Its strong showing across the board (including one shocker of a nomination for supporting actress Marina de Tavira) shows it has a deep appreciation across all branches of the Academy.
Will win: Roma
Should win: Roma or The Favourite
Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma; Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Aparicio, a nonprofessional actress, absolutely holds the screen throughout Roma, but her nomination feels like it's reward enough. Gaga truly surprised me in her naturalistic performance in A Star Is Born, but in all of the remakes of this classic tale, none of the lead women have won the Oscar, and if Judy Garland can't, then Gaga doesn't stand a chance. And I'm still surprised McCarthy's turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me? didn't get any more love (same with the movie as a whole): She's phenomenally good.
Close is the surest thing to a lock for the entire night. She's on her seventh nomination without a win, but this isn't entirely a make-good Oscar: Though The Wife isn't solid across the board, Close is truly sensational. Her biggest competition is Colman, whose Queen Anne is a spectacular creation (though perhaps not the film's lead?).
Will win: Close
Should win: Close
Left out: Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns; Viola Davis, Widows; Toni Collette, Hereditary
Nominees: Christian Bale, Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Cooper, I guess, stands an outside chance here to make up for the fact that he didn't get a director nod, but it's a very outside chance. Dafoe shoulda won last year for The Florida Project, but I suspect not enough voters saw his turn as Vincent Van Gogh in Julian Schnabel's impressionistic biopic. Mortensen hasn't had much momentum despite the film's overall success.
So that leaves Bale's eerie recreation of Dick Cheney and Malek's buck-toothed impersonation of Freddie Mercury. A big meh to both of them, sorry.
Will win: Malek
Should win: Cooper
Left out: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams, Vice; Marina de Tavira, Roma; Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
As I alluded to with Olivia Colman's Best Actress nod, Weisz and Stone really seem like the leads, or perhaps all three are all supporting each other? Whatever the case, Weisz seems like she could be a spoiler in this race. So does Adams, who has been nominated six times without a win. King, a beloved actress, seems to be the most likely to win here (on her first nomination), but she's a fine choice — especially as the likely sole winner from the overlooked If Beale Street Could Talk.
Will win: King
Should win: King
Left out: Claire Foy, First Man; Elizabeth Debicki, Widows
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Sam Rockwell, Vice
Green Book has been battered by controveries throughout its Oscar run, but Ali has been utterly unaffected. I wouldn't necessarily have expected him to win again so soon after 2016's Moonlight, but he's one of the most likely wins for the whole night. And, despite my utter indifference to Green Book's charms, I'm not surprised — mostly because Ali's Dr. Don Shirley is the true lead of the film, even if the filmmakers don't realize it. But Grant's charming and quietly devastating work in Can You Ever... is even better, I think.
Will win: Ali
Should win: Grant
Left out: Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther; Alessandro Nivola, Disobedience; Steven Yeun, Burning; Hugh Grant, Paddington 2; Raul Castillo, We the Animals
Nominees: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman; Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War; Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite; Alfonso Cuarón, The Favourite; Adam McKay, Vice
It always surprises me to see director nods without matching Best Picture nominations, but Pawlikowski's work on Cold War is brilliant (but unlikely to win all the same). Lanthimos is a newly minted Oscar darling, but his films are still probably not accessible enough to triumph here (though Favourite is so deserving). McKay has done far better work than Vice.
So, this is essentially a two-man race between Cuarón and Lee. The latter has never won, and he'd be the first black filmmaker to take this trophy, but Cuarón's strength over the season will be hard to beat. (Personally, I'd give it to Lee to spread the love around and to recognize his remarkable career, and especially on this, one of his better films.)
Will win: Cuarón
Should win: Lee
Left out: Ryan Coogler, Black Panther; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Marielle Heller, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Nominees: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite; Paul Schrader, First Reformed; Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly, Green Book; Alfonso Cuarón, Roma; Adam McKay, Vice
Shrader wrote Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, but First Reformed is is first-ever nomination. That's insane. But it seems more likely that either Green Book or The Favourite will win here, and I think the biting royal comedy will eke it out. Fingers crossed, because Green Book's script is one of its most risible elements.
Will win: The Favourite
Should win: First Reformed
Left out: Eighth Grade, Sorry to Bother You, Tully
Nominees: Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, BlacKkKlansman; Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters, A Star is Born; Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
As mentioned above, Spike Lee has never won a competitive Oscar (just an honorary one in 2016) and he has only been nominated two other times before this year. Craziness. He'll deservedly win this time, and I think you can expect a great speech, too. In any other year, Holofcener and Whitty's wonderful adaptation would have won, though.
Will win: BlacKkKlansman
Should win: Can You Ever Forgive Me? or BlacKkKlansman
Left out: Leave No Trace, We the Animals, Wildlife, Burning, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Animated Feature Film
The revolutionary Spider-Verse will take this one in a walk, though all of this year's nominees are worthy, particularly Incredibles 2.
Will and should win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Left out: Early Man, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Nominees: Cold War, The Favourite, Never Look Away, Roma, A Star Is Born
Alfonso Cuarón will likely become the first to win both Best Director and Best Cinematography for the same film, but don't overlook Cold War's sumptuous black-and-white images. (Disclaimer: Never Look Away is one of only two films I haven't been able to see this cycle.)
Will win: Roma
Should win: Roma or Cold War
I'm dying to see Carter take this one, but I think Powell's intentionally anachronistic Favourite will snatch this one (maybe as a way to reward her for both of her successes this year).
Will win: The Favourite
Should win: Black Panther
This is a great slate in what was an especially terrific year for documentaries. The most-likely winner is RBG, the hagiographic portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, especially given the zeitgeist, but it's honestly the one I would have left out of the running. The vertiginous Free Solo is a strong contender, too.
Will win: RBG
Should win: Minding the Gap, Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Left out: Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, Shirkers, Charm City
This is a brutal category. Click the links above to read what I wrote about them individually as well as for links to see all but Period and End Game, both of which are on Netflix. End Game is especially powerful, but Night at the Garden is the one I can't stop thinking about. Yet I think Period, which is the most hopeful, will take it home.
Will win: Period. End of Sentence.
Should win: A Night at the Garden
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice
Bohemian and Vice are both certainly the most edited, though neither are particularly strong. Bohemian's John Ottman is getting the lion's share of the credit for pulling the film together following the dismissal of director Bryan Singer.
Will win: Bohemian Rhapsody
Should win: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite
Left out: Widows
Foreign Language Film
Nominees: Capernaum, Cold War, Never Look Away, Roma, Shoplifters
Another strong lineup — at least the three I've seen (I'm still hoping to catch Capernaum and Never Look Away over the weekend, if I'm able to get press screeners). Shoplifters won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival, yet the affectingly warm film isn't really in the conversation. Cold War will pick up plenty of votes from those who think Roma's likely Best Picture win (as well as all of its other expected wins) should be reward enough, but I think enough will seek to reward Roma across the board for it to win here, too.
Will and should win: Roma
Left out: Burning, Border
Makeup and Hairstyling
Nominees: Border, Mary Queen of Scots, Vice
The much-lauded transformation of Christian Bale into the thick, smirking Dick Cheney will take the win, but Border's eye-popping prosthetic work is a must-see.
Will win: Vice
Should win: Border
Left out: Suspiria
Nominees: Ludwig Göransson, Black Panther; Terence Blanchard, BlacKkKlansman; Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk; Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs; Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns
Britell's work is swooningly romantic, and Blanchard's has a fantastic groove (plus, it's his long-deserved first nomination). I think that Black Panther will get rewarded here, though.
Will win: Black Panther
Should win: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman
Left out: Justin Hurwitz, First Man
Nominees: "All the Stars," Black Panther; "I'll Fight," RBG; "The Place Where Lost Things Go," Mary Poppins Returns; "Shallow," A Star Is Born; "When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings," The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
HAAA AH AH AH AH, AAAH AAAH, AH AH AH AH HAAA. 'Nuff said.
Will and should win: "Shallow," A Star Is Born
Left out: "Suspirium," Suspiria; "Girl in the Movies," Dumplin'; "Revelation," Boy Erased; "OYAHYTT," Sorry to Bother You
Nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma
The visual overload of Favourite's sets should take this one, but the Afro-Futurist look of Black Panther was my favorite (no "u").
Will win: The Favourite
Should win: Black Panther
Left out: Hereditary
Animated Short Film
Weekends won the Annie Award for best short, which probably gives it a strong advantage here, but since Bao screened with Incredibles 2 and was therefore seen by the most voters (and because it's Pixar), I'm going with it for the win.
Will win: Bao
Should win: Late Afternoon
Live Action Short Film
This category is SO FREAKING BRUTAL, y'all. Like, you don't even know how brutal. Four of them feature children in danger, so my hunch (and that's all it is) is that the one film that doesn't, Marguerite, is the one that'll win. I've seen it described as slight compared to the others, but I don't find that to be a valid criticism at all.
Will and should win: Marguerite
Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma
Nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born
These categories are the hardest for nonindustry-types to understand, but here are the basics: Sound Editing refers to the sounds created for a film, and Sound Mixing refers to the overall sound elements that are mixed together. Musicals usually win the mixing category, so look for the Live Aid concert in Bohemian Rhapsody to take it. I'd put First Man at the top because the way the sound effects of the roaring and creaking shuttles add to the overall power of the film, but I could also see A Quiet Place walking away with it because of the importance of sound to the film as a whole.
Will and should win (Editing): First Man
Left out (Editing): Annihilation
Will win (Mixing): Bohemian Rhapsody
Should win (Mixing): A Star Is Born
Left out (Mixing): Mary Poppins Returns
Nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story
Some of the battle sequences in Infinity War felt just the teeniest bit unfinished, but the Great Snap and its aftereffects were top-notch. But First Man mostly avoided the use of CGI and is stronger for it. Plus, superhero films actually haven't won here since Spider-Man 2 in 2004.
Will and should win: First Man
Left out: Annihilation, Black Panther