The second year of the Oscar Blitz on this blog has been a wild ride, and I thank each and every one of my readers for taking it with me. Tomorrow’s the big night, and after five weeks of in-depth analysis and general shit-talk, it’s time to put my non-existent money where my loud mouth is. If you’ve read the analyses, you know who I want to win, but what I want doesn’t matter (don’t tell my girlfriend or my mother that I admitted that), it’s what the nearly 10,000 Academy voters collectively decide will happen.
While the individual branches of the Academy nominate their chosen films and people in their specific fields, now everything’s been opened up to the entire voting membership. Everyone gets a ballot and selects one film to win each category, with the exception of Best Picture, where ranked choice determines the winner. Nearly every member has been solicited – if not outright bribed – by studios and production companies in hopes of wooing their votes, and while the makeup of the Academy’s membership has been evolving over the last few years, there are still some fairly typical behaviors that make the results a bit predictable. Combine that with all the information the other major awards have given us over the last month, and we can all make some fairly educated guesses on a good number of categories.
Will the established trends win out, or will there be surprise upsets? Will we get winners based on creative hype and critical praise, or will we see a bunch of “Lifetime Achievement”-style winners who simply get the Oscar because it’s their turn? We’ll see tomorrow night, but for now, I’ll put my best foot forward (hopefully instead of in my mouth), and give you my best guess. Links to each category will be provided as we go along. There’s no host other than me for this, so let’s get to it!
This has basically been a two-horse race since the Golden Globes, when Rami Malek won on the Drama side and Christian Bale won on the Comedy side. It’s also a bit interesting that in both cases, the winners were also given major prosthetic makeup jobs to help make their characters. None of the other nominees has a realistic chance. Bradley Cooper was functional. Viggo Mortensen was nominated as a lead because the character’s son wrote the film, even though Mahershala Ali is the true lead, and there’s no way he’d be nominated here, because the Academy can’t abide three legit contenders. Willem Dafoe’s nomination is merely an exercise in bafflement.
So yeah, it’s either Malek or Bale, and really, it’s Malek. Even though the two split the Globes, Malek’s won every other major award for which he’s been nominated, and over Bale in the process. He’s taken home the SAG and the BAFTA in addition to his Globe. His star has been rising rapidly over the last few years, and he’s about to hit the pinnacle here. Bale already has an Oscar, and honestly, he’ll probably win a couple more over the course of his career, so yeah, the voters are ready for Freddie.
Prediction: Rami Malek
Vote: Christian Bale
Another two-horse race that has rapidly become a one-horse. Lady Gaga was fine, but she was essentially playing herself. Melissa McCarthy gave the best performance of her career, but unless you’re Tom Hanks, going from comedy to drama doesn’t often pay off. And as for Yalitza Aparicio, she wasn’t even nominated for anything else, her inclusion just a byproduct of the Roma marketing campaign.
Like Best Actor, the split started in the Golden Globes, with Olivia Colman winning for Comedy and Glenn Close for Drama. There was even a bit of intrigue, with Colman winning the BAFTA. But that’s a British crowd giving the award to a British actress. Glenn Close, chosen as this year’s “Lifetime Achievement” winner, got the Julianne Moore treatment, starring in a movie that’s aggressively average but used as a platform to promote her and only her, so that she can finally win on her sixth nomination. Colman got the BAFTA, but Close got the SAG and the Spirit, and she’ll get the Oscar tomorrow. It’s not the best performance of the nominees, but it is the best performance of Close’s career, so it won’t seem too egregious.
Prediction: Glenn Close
Vote: Olivia Colman
Best Supporting Actor:
While Richard E. Grant won the Independent Spirit Award tonight, his win is just a blip on the radar screen, a token award to make sure Mahershala Ali didn’t sweep all the Supporting Actor awards, mostly because since Green Book is through Fox, it wasn’t eligible to be considered an indie.
Ali’s performance is stellar, no doubt, but again, he should have been up for Best Actor. But that would have created two competitive acting categories, which is just unheard of these days. As such, he’s been given every major award that he’s been up for this cycle, and he’ll get his second Oscar in three years tomorrow night.
Prediction: Mahershala Ali
Vote: Richard E. Grant
Best Supporting Actress:
While all four acting categories have had some intrigue to them, this is the only one where the result isn’t set in stone. Regina King won the Golden Globe and the Spirit Award. Emily Blunt, who isn’t even nominated here, won the SAG. Rachel Weisz won the BAFTA over her co-star Emma Stone and fellow nominee Amy Adams. There’s a fifth nominee, but the disgusting overhyping of Roma doesn’t even merit mentioning her.
Ostensibly, you could consider this another two-horse race, especially because Weisz beat out Stone, throwing some water on the usual assumption that two nominees from the same film will split votes and cancel one another out. But here’s the rub. There are a lot of people upset that If Beale Street Could Talk didn’t get more recognition from the Academy, and it should be noted that despite only two wins, Regina King won both times she’s been nominated. I think it’s a fairly safe bet that she’ll go 3-for-3.
Prediction: Regina King
Vote: Regina King
This is an interesting one to call. The Golden Globes and Spirit Awards don’t differentiate between Original and Adapted Screenplay in their awards. For the Globes, the award went to Green Book, which is up for Original, while Can You Ever Forgive Me? is up here. It also won the Adapted Screenplay award from the Writers Guild. At the BAFTAs however, the award went to BlacKkKlansman.
I’m hesitant to lean toward Can You Ever Forgive Me? for three reasons. One is the fact that it’s been 20 years since a film won this award while not being nominated for Best Picture (Gods and Monsters), so we’re even talking before the expanded field. Second, winning the WGA award here doesn’t really say all that much, as it’s writers awarding writing, so a movie about a writer trying to write is just so far in the wheelhouse that it might as well not even count.
Third, it’s something of a leitmotif for the Academy to use one or both of the Screenplay awards as a consolation prize for a director or film that won’t win either of those top two prizes. As such, I see this as the perfect opportunity to make sure Spike Lee doesn’t leave tomorrow’s ceremony empty-handed. There’s absolutely no excuse that he doesn’t have a win to his name by this point, and it’s even worse that it’s taken him this long to be up for Best Director or Best Picture, so this will be the olive branch from the Academy. There is the potential for an upset in Barry Jenkins’ favor, as he won this award a couple years ago for Moonlight, and this is his only personal nomination of the night, but I don’t really see it happening.
Vote: If Beale Street Could Talk
This is certainly the harder of the two writing categories to predict. As mentioned, Green Book got the Globe in the singular Best Screenplay category, but that’s it. Bo Burnham won the WGA award for Eighth Grade, which is not nominated here (and rightly so), beating out Green Book, Roma, and Vice, all of which are on this list. Green Book also fell short at the BAFTAs, where the Original Screenplay award went to The Favourite.
To me, this leaves two possible winners, neither of which have a perfect resume. Both Green Book and The Favourite have wins against the other at the Globes and BAFTAs respectively. You can also argue that the BAFTAs were again just honoring British cinema, while Green Book has its detractors because the story is a bit one-sided, being written by Tony Lipp’s own son. You could also make the case for The Favourite to win as a consolation, as it’s not going to win Best Picture or Best Director most likely. The problem with that is that Yorgos Lanthimos didn’t write the script. It’s up his alley, certainly, but it’s not his script. I lean towards The Favourite, and I have a feeling Lanthimos will get tons of praise heaped upon him by winners like Ridley Scott got for Gladiator, even though there was no way he was going to win Best Director that year.
Prediction: The Favourite
Vote: The Favourite
You would think this’d be a three-horse race, as much of the lauding has been on three of the five nominees, and at the BAFTAs, only those three were nominated. Disney and Pixar were shut out entirely! They have entries here, but they’re definitely considered second tier.
Still, there is no contest here. While Isle of Dogs and Mirai are tremendous films with beautifully animated stories, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has swept the animated fields all year. It got the Golden Globe, the Annie Award, the BAFTA, and the Producers Guild Award. It was the best singular piece of animation style and technology on display last year, so it’s certainly a worthy champion, even if it didn’t have the best overall story.
Prediction: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Vote: Isle of Dogs
There isn’t much predictive data to go on here. The Shorts are notoriously difficult to call. My personal favorite was Animal Behaviour, because it was uproariously funny and was the only nominee that didn’t deal with a parent-child dynamic. The only result we have to go on is that Weekends won the Annie award, but take that with requisite salt, because it was the only entry from this field that was up for the prize. Maybe that means the Animators thought it was the best of the best, or maybe they thought it was just the best available.
As for making a choice, I’m going with Bao. In the 19 years that there has been an Animated Feature and Animated Short category, Disney/Pixar has only been completely shut out three times, and the last time was in 2011. Bao is a funny, well-animated quasi-tearjerker, and branding will definitely be on point. Is it the best of the set? No, but it is the most recognizable, as voters who didn’t attend a screening will still have seen it as the lead-in to Incredibles 2. I think the default wins out here.
Vote: Animal Behaviour
Taking a look at the first of the four categories that were canceled then reinstated, Cinematography is the first harbinger of how I think Oscar Night will go in a larger sense. Roma is tied for the most nominations, but I hesitate to pick it to win Best Picture. However, I do see a similar tack for Alfonso Cuarón as he got the last time he was up for a slew of awards, which was for Gravity. The film was popular, and technically very well made, but it had no business being up for Best Picture, because the performances were shit and the script read like it was written by a 12-year-old.
I see similar results this time. Roma will pick up quite a few awards, and Cuarón will have ample opportunity to thank the Academy and his cast and crew, but this is an overrated movie that got caught up in marketing hype. That said, the Cinematography, which Cuarón handled himself, is the one true superlative element of the film. The other nominees are worthy, but this is the one technical award that was signed, sealed, and delivered before Kumail Nanjiani even finished reading the list of films. You can tell that this one was never really taken seriously, as three Foreign Language nominees are on the list, which means there’s a decent chance that the voters have only seen – at best – 60% of the field.
Conventional wisdom would say that period dramas would be the front-runner here, and certainly, The Favourite was my preferred choice of the bunch. However, this is the year where basically anything can happen. It was kind of a down year for quality cinema overall, and there have been so many easily-avoidable missteps by the Academy that basically any category can be thrown into flux.
That’s why I’m inclined to pick Black Panther as the winner here. After the immediate and universal backlash over the “Popular Film” category, the Academy has been desperate to appeal more to a younger generation of movie-goers, and as such, almost certainly feel a need to recognize films that appeal to them, all the while doing everything they can to avoid getting more commercialized pressure from ABC. In that respect, this is one of the perfect opportunities to sway things in their favor a bit. Instead of awarding the same old “stuffy” period pieces, let’s give the Oscar to the insanely innovative designs for the Wakanda costumes. It’d be a subtle win, but an effective one.
Also, the fact that it wasn’t relegated to the commercials may imply that the producers of the broadcast feel like there’s some intrigue to be had here. Obviously no one knows the voting results yet, so they can’t be sure, but they’ve definitely talked to Academy members (it would be naive to think otherwise) and probably have an idea of a preliminary vote based on hearsay, so that tells me they want to have people see this one. It may be nothing, but I just have an odd feeling.
Prediction: Black Panther
Vote: The Favourite
The results are all over the place on this one, as is usually the case. In fact, the only film with multiple wins is – of course – the one the Documentary Branch refused to nominate, with Won’t You Be My Neighbor? winning the Independent Spirit Award and the Producers Guild Award. It was also up for the Directors Guild Award. But it’s not up here, so fuck people who like movies, I guess.
Of the films that are on the list, Free Solo and RBG were both up for the Producers Guild and Directors Guild. Hale County This Morning, This Evening was nominated for Directors Guild and Independent Spirit. Of Fathers and Sons was nominated for the Spirit, as was Minding the Gap, and director Bing Liu received the Truer Than Fiction Award as an up-and-coming documentary filmmaker over RaMell Ross of Hale County.
So what does this mean? Fuck if I know. I’d say that Hale County and Of Fathers and Sons (both of which kind of sucked) are out of the running. If we’re going for indie cred, then Minding the Gap wins. Otherwise, it’s between Free Solo, which was the second highest grossing documentary behind Mr. Rogers, and RBG, which could win with some residual love and hope that Justice Ginsburg stays alive for at least two more years. It’s a hard choice, so I’ll just flip a coin, like I did when I predicted the nominees (horribly, it should be noted). I have almost no confidence in this pick, but I’ll go with it.
Prediction: Free Solo
Vote: Minding the Gap
As I said, the Shorts are hard to predict, but it was glaring that in each category, there were four films that shared a common bond and one outlier that didn’t. In the case of the Documentary Shorts, it was the fact that all but one was a complete downer, especially the highlight reel of archive footage that doesn’t actually qualify as a documentary, A Night at the Garden. Oddly enough, that one is getting a lot of advertising here in Los Angeles, knocking the footage down to 30 seconds and adding the slogan, “It can happen again,” which is more commentary than in the actual film. Maybe it pulls the upset. God I hope not.
Really, this should be in the bag for Period. End of Sentence. It’s a film about women, minority women especially (by American standards). It deals with sexual taboos that we don’t face in our society, which immediately breeds sympathy. And most importantly, it’s the only film of the set that is in any way uplifting, so I have to think the voters will want to celebrate it tomorrow night.
Prediction: Period. End of Sentence.
Vote: Period. End of Sentence.
This category has some competition. Hank Corwin won the BAFTA for Vice, while John Ottman won the ACE’s Eddie Award for Bohemian Rhapsody. This is another of the four categories that was initially sent to the commercials, and so I have to wonder if there’s something in that decision that we should know. My mind immediately wonders if this is a case of the most obvious film winning, or if it’s a case of the voters perhaps getting something wrong.
In either case, that would make me lean towards Bohemian Rhapsody. Ottman won the Eddie Award, which comes from other editors, but there have been some vocal detracting posts, pointing out some weird composite sequences throughout the film. I can definitely see a situation where the Academy, knowing Ottman won despite the critiques, decided to push the category aside in hopes that there would be no controversy. Of course, not seeing the forest from the trees, the Academy didn’t for one second think about the real controversy of leaving these categories out in the first place.
Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody
In just about any other year, this would be a fascinating race. Normally you can pick a winner if they’re nominated in other categories (except for Pan’s Labyrinth for some reason), but this year, we have three nominees in other categories. That would ostensibly eliminate Capernaum and the incredible Shoplifters, but really, despite Cinematography nominations for Cold War and Never Look Away and a Best Director nod for Pawel Pawlikowski, this is the most obvious pick of the night, because Roma is up for a whopping nine other awards.
This also may be what stops Roma from winning Best Picture. The film is going to get a few awards, and Alfonso Cuarón is the front-runner for Best Director. But this is also the perfect award to give him (even though technically it goes to Mexico as a country) if you’re an Academy voter who isn’t comfortable with a foreign film winning the top prize. It’s won every Foreign Language equivalent award, so yeah, it’s a done deal.
Live Action Short:
Again, these are hard to call. All of the nominees take home some honor or other at any number of film festivals, which they have to do in order to even be eligible for these categories. Also, like the others, we have a “one of these things is not like the others” entry which may win simply for being different.
In this category, that choice would be Marguerite, which is the only nominee not led by child actors. It’s also an exploration of lesbian romance, which should get the attention of LGBT voters. Being directed by a woman also gets a raised eyebrow from those who complain about women not getting enough representation.
The only other real competitor is Skin, which has already seen enough praise that a feature-length version has already been made. It’s also the only American entry in the field, which gives it an accessibility advantage. Third, in the famously liberal industry, a film that deals in fantasy wish fulfillment by dispensing some extreme poetic justice to a neo-Nazi is bound to get some votes. Rather than flip a coin here, I’ll simply go based on personal preference and hope for the best. If I even get one Short right this year, it’ll be an improvement over last year.
Makeup & Hairstyling:
It’s curious that this was the fourth relegated category, because if you’re going to try to save time, why eliminate the shortest category, the only one that still only has three nominees?
The answer, of course, is that the result is so obvious that the producers felt it didn’t even bear mentioning. Of the three nominees, Vice is the only major nominee elsewhere, and since it’s more likely than not that Rami Malek will beat out Christian Bale for Best Actor, it’s only appropriate that the other major contributing factor to this version of Dick Cheney gets proper recognition.
My guess is that we have a three-way race in this category. I say “guess” because we really have nothing to go on here. In the two ceremonies that judge original music, the winners of the Golden Globe (First Man) and the BAFTA (A Star is Born) are not nominated here.
Personally, I discount Mary Poppins Returns because it’s all a rehash and Isle of Dogs because there have been claims of cultural appropriation, and I’m guessing the Academy voters don’t want to step in that. Really, as much as I liked it, I’m thinking this was more a hat tip to reigning champion Alexandre Desplat than anything else.
So that leaves us with the smooth jazz score of If Beale Street Could Talk, the funk fusion of BlacKkKlansman, and the blend of orchestral and hip hop from Black Panther. I’m picking Black Panther for two reasons. One, this is another prime opportunity to give it some love and push back from the “Popular Movie” brink, and two, because it’s the only Best Picture nominee up in both Music categories.
Prediction: Black Panther
Vote: Black Panther
I’m not even wasting my breath on this one. We all know what’s winning. It’s one of three awards (the other two being Foreign Language and Animated Feature) that’s been locked from the very beginning. It’s not even worth the time. I’m just glad the Academy was once again made to pull its head out of its ass and make sure every nominee got to perform, even if it is just a 90-second truncated version.
This is another award that presents an ideal opportunity for Black Panther to pick up a win. Crowd favorites get below-the-line awards all the time, but it’s usually in the more technical fields, like Sound Editing and Visual Effects. Here, instead, if I’m right, we’re giving the most popular film of the year two design awards and one for music. This gives lie to the theory that we’re just giving it token awards, especially if it wins here and for Costume design, as that bucks previous trends. On the flipside, this could be another pickup for Roma, as it needs to build a winning resume if it has any chance of winning Best Picture.
Prediction: Black Panther
Vote: Black Panther
In most years, the Sound categories have four common nominees and one outlier. Occasionally, the odd one out does win, and it’s happened recently, so there’s reason to believe it can happen here.
And well it should, as no film depended more on the sound design than A Quiet Place. It’s fitting to not be nominated for Mixing, because there weren’t too many on-set sounds, but the foley artists had their work cut out for them. Also, this was an extremely popular film that only got this one nomination, so I can definitely see the voters using this as another attempt to push back on “Popular Movie.”
Prediction: A Quiet Place
Vote: A Quiet Place
Sound Mixing tends to favor music movies, because there is a lot to mix with all the disparate elements at play, including crowds, instruments, and vocals. To that end, I think we can eliminate all but A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody.
As for who wins, while it isn’t uncommon for one of the outlier nominees to win, it is pretty rare for both to win. And for what it’s worth, Bohemian Rhapsody focuses much more on music performance than A Star is Born. Also, for a film to actually contain scenes of sound mixing, it’d be weird for it not to win. It also got the overall Best Sound award at the BAFTAs, so you figure it’s got to win at least one of the awards here.
Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody
Vote: A Star is Born
Of the five nominees in this field, only one – First Man – is nominated in any category besides this one. As such, I’d say it’s fairly cut and dry that it should win. It’s a shame that the film didn’t get more recognition, as it’s a bit of terrific, but for all the talk about liberal media, it was the manufactured controversy by conservative media – claiming the film was insufficiently patriotic because it didn’t include a scene of Armstrong planting the American flag on the Moon and saluting it – that curtailed its box office performance and made the Academy squeamish about heaping more praise on it.
Prediction: First Man
Vote: First Man
This is another open-and-shut win for Cuarón. He’s got the Globe, the Directors Guild Award, and the BAFTA. The only one he didn’t win was the Spirit, and that’s because he wasn’t nominated (Roma won Foreign Film, so it was eligible). None of the other nominees have been able to pull an upset. The real question is if this win leads him to finally win Best Picture (he got Best Director for Gravity, but lost Best Picture to 12 Years a Slave), or if history will repeat itself.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón
Vote: Spike Lee
Believe it or not, we actually have a legit competition this year, as five of the eight nominees have won this award, or its equivalent, at a major ceremony. The two Golden Globe winners were Green Book (Comedy) and Bohemian Rhapsody (Drama). The BAFTA went to Roma, while The Favourite picked up Best British Film. The Best Ensemble award, which is the SAG version of Best Picture, went to Black Panther, as did Stunt Ensemble. The Producers Guild added another win for Green Book.
Realistically speaking, this eliminates Vice, A Star is Born, and BlacKkKlansman, which sucks because in my analysis last night, I basically put it out there that two of these were in my top three. I also mentioned BlacKkKlansman as one of only two deserving nominees in my mind.
So who takes it all? Hard to say. Normally Green Book wouldn’t have a chance because it’s a comedy, and the Academy hates that, but the PGA award boosts its profile. The backlash from Don Shirley’s family may prevent it from winning Original Screenplay, but I’m not sure it knocks it out of the running for Best Picture, again because of the PGA endorsement (Best Picture goes to the Producers, so an endorsement from other producers speaks volumes). If I’m right about the other categories, it would be the second time in recent years that the Best Picture winner only took home one other award, in this case Supporting Actor for Mahershala Ali (Spotlight only got Original Screenplay before winning Best Picture).
I don’t see Black Panther winning, because while it’s a great film, this is the first comic book movie nominated here, so it would be beyond shocking if it also became the first winner. Bohemian Rhapsody would also be an unlikely winner, as major film critics get to join the Academy and vote, and critics on the whole were lukewarm at best to this movie.
So that leaves us with the two leading nominees, The Favourite and Roma, as well as Green Book, which again has received some backlash, but not enough to stop its momentum. All three have winning caliber based on previous results, and all have a drawback. For Green Book, it’s the aforementioned controversy and the fact that critics don’t like it as much as the others. For The Favourite, it’s the fact that this is very much an #OscarsSoWhite type of movie, and it’ll be hard to see the younger, more diverse members go for it. For Roma, it’s the fact that it was overrated before it even came out, and there has been pushback for the insane number of nominations, many of which came out of nowhere.
This is why we have ranked choice for this category. Any of these films can get a plurality on the first ballot, but I don’t think they can win outright, so it will come down to second and third place votes to determine the winner. Of these three, I think Green Book has the most consensus likability. It may not win on the first go-round, but I can see a lot of second and third round votes pushing it over the finish line. As for the others, while I love The Favourite, it strikes me as the type of film that might actually get the most first place votes from the Academy’s old guard, but not enough on subsequent ballots to maintain a lead.
For Roma, I think it’ll win three awards (which would tie it with Bohemian Rhapsody and Black Panther for the most if I’m right – this very much strikes me as a “spread the wealth” year), all of which will go to Alfonso Cuarón in one form or another. Nothing else in the film will likely win anything, which means to give Roma Best Picture would basically be to say, “Everything about movies sucked last year except Alfonso Cuarón,” and I just don’t think that’s the message to send.
Finally, while I fully acknowledge that despite all of this Roma still has a strong chance to win, I just can’t bring myself to predicting it. This has nothing to do with the quality of the film itself, but a simple matter of precedent. Many of the predictions I’ve made here tonight have to do with previous results which inform the picks. Well here are two things that have never happened before: a) a Best Picture winner coming primarily from a streaming service, and b) a non-English language film winning Best Picture. Foreign Language films have only even been nominated a handful of times, Amour being the most recent, then you have to go back to Letters From Iwo Jima and Life is Beautiful. Could this be the first one to break through and win? Absolutely. But I have a habit of never betting on the unprecedented. If it’s never happened before, I can’t bet on it, because ostensibly I don’t know that it actually can happen. Also, there’s still a pretty powerful bloc of voters who won’t want a film to win that wasn’t traditionally released in theatres. Netflix winning Best Picture could inexorably alter the movie distribution dynamic going forward, and there are a lot of voters who don’t want to see that happen, particularly producers and studio executives.
So, when it’s all said and done, I pick Green Book over Roma, because I don’t think the Academy and its voting membership want to make this the Alfonso Cuarón show, because no Foreign Language film or streaming film has ever won the top prize, because the late push back against Green Book won’t be enough to derail its chances, and because with the ranked choice procedure, I think Green Book is the most likely to get consensus over multiple voting rounds.
Prediction: Green Book
Vote: The Favourite
That’s all for now. I’ll be running a live blog tomorrow night during the broadcast. I hope you all enjoy it, as well as the Oscars themselves, if nothing for the train wreck possibilities!
Join the conversation in the comments below! Do you agree with my predictions? Do they at least make sense if you don’t? Did you really want a lengthy breakdown of Original Song and now want to throttle me because I didn’t do one? Let me know!