I used to be really good at predicting the Oscars. I had a tidy formula: The picture had to be both accessible and grand in scale or intent; it had to flatter the voters or make them feel virtuous for voting for it. In 2014, a lot of my colleagues were predicting that Richard Linklater’s masterful Boyhood would win Best Picture. After all, it had swept most of the critic’s awards. But I had a strong hunch it wouldn’t. The film was too long, too personal, not quite accessible enough (I’d heard more than one person call it the dreaded B word—boring). I suspected that the far showier Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a film that should’ve been disqualified for the title alone, would win, and I was right.
But all that changed in recent years, as the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag shook the Academy to its core and they were finally compelled to do the right thing and expand their membership to include more young people and people or color. Suddenly, the Oscars were less monolithic (a great thing!) and therefore less predictable.
I predicted that La La Land would win Best Picture in 2017 (and I was right for 30 confusing seconds, too!), but the artsy, meditative, beautiful Moonlight did. An indie coming of age film about a black queer youth? This was unprecedented, wonderful, and, yes, game changing.
All of this is my way of saying, well, I have no idea what’s going to happen this year. A few years ago, I would’ve assumed that my favorite film of the year—Roma—had no shot. Again, too long, too artsy, too personal. It has subtitles! And from friends I’d once again heard the “B” word. I also might’ve considered the fact that a Mexican director—Guillermo del Toro—had won Best Picture the previous year. Would the Oscars really award Mexican directors its highest honor two years in a row? But that’s old-school thinking. My suspicion is that this new class of Oscar voters doesn’t care about trends or legacies. They have good, varied taste and are simply looking for the best picture and performances (how they overlooked Ethan Hawke for First Reformed still remains a mystery).
Okay, let’s take a look at how the race is shaping up with picks for some of the main categories. Again, I know nothing.
A Star is Born
Who will win: Roma
Who might win: God help me, Green Book
Who should win: Roma
Analysis: Honestly, this is a pretty mediocre lineup, with one truly great film (Roma), four genuinely good ones (A Star is Born, BlackKklansman, Black Panther, The Favourite), and three duds (Green Book, Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody). There were so many better films this year that should’ve been nominated (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Eighth Grade, If Beale Street Could Talk, just off the top of my head). If any of my top five wins, I’ll be okay with it. Watch out if one of the bottom three takes the gold. Somebody at the Academy will be receiving a STERNLY WORDED LETTER.
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Who will win: Alfonso Cuarón
Who might win: Spike Lee
Who should win: Alfonso Cuarón
Analysis: Can you believe that this is Spike Lee’s first nomination for Best Director? That is literally criminal. I’d be happy to see him take home a long overdue gold guy, but much as I admired BlackKklansman, I don’t think it’s his best work. It would be tantamount to Scorsese finally winning for The Departed.
ACTOR IN A LEAD ROLE
Christian Bale, Vice
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Who will win: Christian Bale
Who might win: Rami Malek
Who should win: Bradley Cooper
Analysis: This is my no guts, no glory pick. Most prognosticators are picking Malek to win for his entertaining portrayal of Freddie Mercury. But it would be rare for a television actor, in his first major film role, to take home such a big award. Then again, that’s old school Oscar prognosticator thinking. Aaaah! I just can’t help myself!
(P.S. Both Ethan Hawke, in First Reformed, and Joaquin Phoenix, in You Were Never Really Here, gave better performances than either of the two frontrunners. #SorryNotSorry)
ACTRESS IN A LEAD ROLE
Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Yalitza Aparacio, Roma
Who will win: Glenn Close
Who might win: Olivia Colman
Who should win: Melissa McCarthy
Analysis: What a stellar lineup! Five great performances and any one of these women deserve to win. I’m partial to Melissa McCarthy and Olivia Colman. That being said, her royal Glenn-ness is long overdue and The Wife really allows her to shine.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlackKklansman
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
Who might win: Richard E. Grant
Who should win: Richard E. Grant
Analysis: Ali is a great actor, but I wasn’t a fan of this film—the script was too facile. But Ali has cleaned up all the pre-Oscar awards so this one is a bit of a no-brainer. That being said, Grant—who gives a career best performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me?—is killing the Oscar campaign season, charming interviewers and fanboying over Barbra Streisand. Could he sneak in for the upset? Fingers crossed!
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Amy Adams, Vice
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Who will win: Regina King
Who might win: Rachel Weisz
Who should win: Rachel Weisz
Analysis: The pleasant surprise here is de Tavira, who was so wonderful in Roma and didn’t get a lot of pre-Oscar award-season love. But Rachel Weisz is everything in The Favourite, one of the most smart, perfectly calibrated, and memorable performances of the year (although arguably she and Stone are actually co-leads along with Colman). I’d also love to see Amy Adams to get off the schneid, as they say in sports, and finally win her first Oscar but not for Vice. Never for Vice. That being said, King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk is the essence of a supporting part. She absolutely shines in a few key scenes. Who could argue with this brilliant actress snatching the gold?
Who will win: The Favourite
Who might win: Ugh, Green Book
Who should win: Can You Forgive Me? (But since it’s not nominated, First Reformed.)
Analysis: I’d really love to see Paul Schrader win for his searching, deeply felt First Reformed script, but I’m not holding my breath. But I really dug The Favourite, so I can hardly complain here.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born
Who will win: BlackKlansman
Who might win: If Beale Street Could Talk
Who should win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Analysis: My guess? Spike won’t win Best Director and this will be his (not too shabby) consolation prize. An aside: Isn’t it wild that A Star is Born—once heralded as Best Picture frontrunner—might walk away with nothing more than a “Best Song” win?
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Never Look Away
Who will win: Roma
Who might win: Cold War
Who should win: Roma
Analysis: I confess I’ve only seen three of these contenders (Roma, Cold War, and Shoplifters). All are varying degrees of good and great (I was disappointed that Lee Chang-dong’s Burning didn’t make the cut), but Roma is the film of the year. My only concern: Will voters who picked it in the Best Foreign Language Film category feel they’ve been-there-done-that when it comes times to vote for Best Picture?
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Hale County This Morning; This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
Who will win: Free Solo
Who could win: RBG
Who should win: Minding the Gap
Analysis: How on earth is Won’t You Be My Neighbor not on this list? That’s it. That’s the analysis.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse
Who will win: Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse
Who might win: Incredibles 2
Who should win: Spider Man: Into the Spiderverse
Analysis: Talk about a come-from-behind win (probably). Barely a month ago, Spiderverse wasn’t even in the conversation. Then it came out, blew everyone’s collective minds, and is now poised for the win against some formidable competition.