Ever since I was a kid, I’ve watched the Oscars. I remember Bob Hope hosting, the infamous broadcast when the Oscars ran short – one of the most painful times in the history of live TV – and David Niven’s perfect response to an on-stage streaker. Yes, there are times it feels like a marathon – or worst, the “Is it safe” scene from Marathon Man. But I love movies, so I’ll deal with the pain. This year the broadcast goes without an emcee following Kevin Hart getting tweeted out of the gig. It will be interesting to see how the Academy handles it, but it could end up being a genius move. They could start the night off with a recap of the year in clips, then go straight into the awards. Considering how often the emcee has bombed, the lack of one may be a positive.
In preparation for the ceremony on February 24th, I’d like to share my picks for who will go home with Oscar. I won’t do all the categories – I’ll wait until that night to see who gets Best Costume – but I’ll cover the main categories. One caveat: I’ve never been great at predicting the winners, so my choices might be the kiss of death on the film’s chance of winning. Anyway, here goes:
Best Animated Feature
Ever since Belle danced with the Beast and opened the possibilities of computer animation in feature films, animation has been a major factor for the yearly box office. This year features two extremely well-received sequels to major hits that struck box office gold: Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks The Internet. Either one could have won this year, if not for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse. It’s the best Spider-Man movie ever, and the animation is a wonder to behold.
Best Original Song and Score
You can put a check mark beside “Shallow” from A Star Is Born right now. It’s been a huge hit, and it creates an exclamation mark moment in the film when Lady Gaga’s vocal soars before belting out the chorus. The only song that might upset it is Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” from Black Panther. However, I’ll go with Black Panther for the original score. Ludwig Goransson both captures the feel of Africa and delivers a thrilling signature theme that gets the blood pumping.
News came out a few days ago that the Academy had decided to drop this category from the live broadcast, along with Live Action Short, Film Editing, and Makeup/Hairstyling. For me, though, this is the premiere technical category, and should remain as a part of the show. The Cinematographer (also known as Director of Photography, even though they work primarily with lighting) is responsible for how the film looks on the screen, whether it’s shot in glorious black and white or in rich, bold colors. This year there are three international nominees, with Mexico’s Roma, Poland’s Cold War, and Germany’s Never Look Away. Director Alfonso Cuaron did his own cinematography for Roma, while Never Look Away boasts a Hollywood veteran, Caleb Deschanel (father to Zooey and Emily). Deschanel’s been nominated 5 times previously, including for The Right Stuff and The Natural, so he might be a sentimental favorite. But I’ll go out on a limb and pick Matthew Libatique for A Star Is Born.
Best Screenplays (Original and Adapted)
Since Cooper was shut out of the Best Director category (see below), I’d like A Star Is Born to win Best Adapted screenplay. Taking a property that’s already been filmed multiple times and making it fresh and vibrant is a major accomplishment. For Best Original, I’ll go with Green Book. Roma might sneak in a win here, but much of the movie was improvised, so taking this category seems a bit like cheating.
Best Supporting Actor
I’d love for Sam Elliott to win an Oscar after his long career, which started with his first film performance in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But Mahershala Ali in Green Book is just too good. He’s riveting every second he’s on the screen as Dr. Don Shirley, and his interplay with Viggo Mortensen crackles like electricity in the atmosphere.
Best Supporting Actress
Two nominees from the same film tends to cancel each other out, so Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone would have to overcome that to win. Even so, I think Regina King should take home the gold for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk. It would be an underdog win, for while she won the Golden Globe in January, she was even nominated for the SAG awards.
This is a strong slate of nominees, all deserving of recognition, but Christian Bale’s embodiment of Dick Cheney in Vice is so perfect you think it’s Cheney on the screen. If not Bale, then Rami Malek has the strongest momentum, having already won at the Golden Globes (along with Bale), the BAFTAs, and the Screen Actors Guild. But for the Oscar my money’s on Bale.
If any category has a lock on it, it’s this one. Glenn Close is in Paul Newman territory with her 7th nomination and no wins, and she’s already picked up hardware at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild for her performance in The Wife. If there were an upset winner, I’d go with Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne in The Favorite. And perhaps it isn’t good to compare Close to Newman. Remember, Newman’s 7th nod was for his fantastic performance in The Verdict, but at the ceremony he got beaten up by Gandhi.
It’s unconscionable that Bradley Cooper was shut out of this category – A Star Is Born didn’t direct itself. Cuaron is the front runner for Roma, though he already has a statue for Gravity. Instead, I hope the Academy will honor not just a fine movie but an outstanding career and bestow the Best Director honors on Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman.
Each one of the eight nominated pictures this year is strong, so I won’t be upset with whoever wins. It would be marvelous for Black Panther to win, but that’s probably too far a step for the Academy voters. Still, Marvel can laugh all the way to the bank – a bank they could buy outright with the $1.3 billion worldwide gross of Black Panther. It’s hard for a foreign language film to take the top prize, since it has its own category. That’s likely where Roma will win, and it seems greedy for it to take home the main prize on top of that. Instead, I’ll go with Green Book, which is blessed with a sparkling script and two of the best performances of the year.
Please feel free to make your own prognostications in the comments. In a little over a week, we’ll see how the Academy has actually voted.