To describe this 91st Oscar season as “cataclysmic” might sound hyperbolic, but if you’ve been paying attention you’ll forgive the D-R-A-M-A in that adjective. The year has been chalk full of embarrassing Academy missteps like not properly vetting Kevin Hart as their announced host, and the dumb “popular movie” category they floated and were ridiculed for.
All year long the current leadership of the Academy has shown a distressing lack of respect for Hollywood artists and a complete lack of understanding about why people even watch the Oscars in the first place (Hint: it isn’t for the late night TV comic hosts, who people can watch any night of the week if they want: It’s for the movies, the celebrity glamour, the tradition, and the funny, endearing, or teary speeches). All of their idiotic announcements (no songs other than Lady Gaga’s to be performed, not all categories to be broadcast live, last year’s acting winners not invited to present) have been walked back after public disgust or industry outrage.
In short we’re going into Oscar night with the assumption that the current leaders literally have no idea what they’re doing…
The damage that the Oscars have done to their own brand this year is substantial but we won’t know if this is ‘meteor, meet dinosaurs!’ serious until the 91st Annual Academy Awards play out on Sunday night on ABC. Will it be utter chaos or just like any other ceremony…?
What we do know at this writing!
We have the list of presenters which includes the usual assortment of current stars, odd choices, and, weirdly, only one classic movie presence (Barbra Streisand). Off-movie celebrities like Serena Williams and Chef Jose Andres will be introducing each Best Picture nominee, and all the Original Songs will be performed by their original performers or writers with the exception of Black Panther’s “All the Stars” (no announcement on who is singing it yet) and “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns which will be sung by Bette Midler. Queen will also perform, presumably a medley of their hits, with Adam Lambert in tow. The show will go hostless — the delightful rumor that Whoopi Goldberg will be the surprise host has been debunked by the ladies of The View.
Who might win? We’ll take the categories in the order they were presented at the last ceremony just to have an order though they always switch up the order from year to year. Fair warning: this year is more confusing than usual so take this all with a grain of salt. Ready?
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Will Win: Mahershala Ali has cleaned up all season for his leading role (Category Fraud alert!) in Green Book but is he really all that convincing as a gay man? We say no, though your mileage may vary. Plus he won just two years ago for a better performance (Moonlight) so why is this happening? Why?!
Should Win: Richard E Grant wipes the floor with the Supporting Actor competition with this fully developed alcoholic streetwise character. “Jack Hock, big cock” is his introduction and he never stops being hilarious, touching, and unpredictable throughout a great queer film Can You Ever Forgive Me?
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Will Win: People love Christian Bale’s chameleonic weight gains and losses so his transformation into Dick Cheney should do the trick. Though with makeup effects this good — they made his neck larger and you’d never know he wasn’t balding — one wonders why Bale puts himself through so much harmful yo-yoing in his physique for these parts he takes.
Should Win: The hard-to-describe Swedish movie Border (well worth watching) which has some of the best makeup effects you’ll ever see… and which you won’t be able to unsee, fair warning.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Will Win/Should Win: A total nail-biter. It’s either going to be Sandy Powell’s incredible work on the palace tragicomedy The Favourite, mixing period silhouettes with ultra modern textiles and techniques and an amazingly rangy color palette (considering the heavy use of blacks and whites) or Ruth E Carter’s futuristic creative work on Black Panther imagining a technologically advanced hidden African society. We’re rooting for Black Panther primarily because Carter has never won despite incredible work and the very cool Powell (imagine a costume designing version of Tilda Swinton) already has three Oscars, famously starting her third winning speech 9 years ago with a flippant “I already have two of these.”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Will Win: We suspect this is a tight race between two blockbuster docs, the mountain climbing Free Solo and the biography RBG. Given RBG’s iconic nature and the current political resistance climate we think RBG has the edge to win.
Should Win: Abstain as we haven’t yet seen all five.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Will Win: Going out on a limb here to say that this is where First Man fans rally for that underappreciated historical drama about the moon landing. But this could just as easily go to the any of the other nominees: Roma, Black Panther, A Quiet Place, or Bohemian Rhapsody
Should Win: First Man
BEST SOUND MIXING
Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody probably has this one sewn up, primarily for providing the joy of that soundwall of Queen hits. Queen is a great band but that doesn’t mean we should be throwing statues at a bad movie about them!
Should Win: Roma and First Man both have incredible soundscapes and if they want to honor a music drama for the win, A Star is Born‘s mix is a lot more challenging and compelling than reliving Queen’s greatest hits collection.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Will Win: The Favourite. Oscar voters love royalty porn and palaces, so why not? The film is a work of art. Those tapestries alone!
Should Win: The Favourite but we wouldn’t be mad if Roma‘s immersive take on Mexico City in 1970 or Black Panther‘s imaginative Wakanda took it, instead.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Will Win: Mexico’s Roma, hands down, though Poland’s Cold War would have easily won in a non Netflix/Roma dominant year.
Should Win: Japan’s Shoplifters. Rent it. You’ll weep. But really this is a great category this year. Lebanon’s Capernaum is also riveting
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Will Win: Tough call as there hasn’t been a clear frontrunner as there too often is in each and every acting race. It’s either going to be Regina King’s warmth and fortitude as a distraught mother in If Beale Street Could Talk or Rachel Weisz’s lacerating quips and heartbreak in The Favourite.
Should Win: We’re rooting for Regina since Rachel has a leading role (Category Fraud alert!) but that said, Rachel is fan-tas-tic in The Favourite
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Will Win: Weekends for a wild guess, though Pixar’s Bao is the most widely seen.
Should Win: Abstain. Haven’t yet seen them all.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Should Win: Isle of Dogs and Spider-Verse are both grand imaginative entertainments.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will Win: First Man. Lately the winner in this category has been the film with the lowest gross (in a category that regularly nominated blockbusters). Funny, right? And that moon landing is just sublime filmmaking.
Should Win: Avengers: Infinity War. But for whatever reason superhero movies almost never win. Spider-Man 2 (2004) is literally the only superhero film that’s ever won this Oscar (competitively speaking – Superman got a special Oscar in 1978)
BEST FILM EDITING
Will Win: This category is sometimes an Oscar bellwether as to what will win Best Picture. If it goes to Green Book, expect that to take the prize. If it goes to Bohemian Rhapsody or Vice, there may be other factors at work like the challenge of turning a troubled production into a blockbuster or “Most” Editing respectively. We’re guessing Vice but it’ll be close either way.
Should Win: Either of the two that look like they have no shot at it: the confrontational BlacKkKlansman with it crosscut conversations with classic cinema, or The Favourite, with its merciless comic precision and its soulful and strange dissolves.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Will Win: We have a suspicion that Period. End of Sentence, currently streaming on Netflix, which is about an upstart factory producing tampons for women in rural India might take it. It’s the rare non-depressing Doc short nominee.
Should Win: …but we’re rooting for End Game, also streaming on Netflix. This emotionally charged short is about end-of-life care and new ways of looking at and making peace with death. It’s from two-time Oscar winning gay documentarian Rob Epstein (of The Times of Harvey Milk, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, and The Celluloid Closet fame)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Will Win: We’re guessing either Detainment or Skin
Should Win: Marguerite, the lone live-action short nominee this year that is not a traumatically violent story involving little boys (weird trend alert!). It’s a drama about an aging woman who realizes her nurse is a lesbian, which then prompts her to remember her own lost love.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman because it’s a chance to finally give Spike Lee a competitive Oscar and the film and screenplay are damn good, too.
Should Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me? a screenplay from the great writer Nicole Holofcener (who usually directs her own screenplays – but not this time), and Tony winner Jeff Whitty (of Avenue Q fame).
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Will Win: Another tough call. If Green Book wins this, we expect it to take Best Picture, too. And that’s what we’re currently thinking.
Should Win: The Favourite
Will Win: Roma
Should Win: Cold War, that other gloriously shot black & white foreign movie in the mix this year.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Will Win: Black Panther
Should Win: It’s a strong category this year since Isle of Dogs, Mary Poppins Returns, If Beale Street Could Talk, and BlacKkKlansman would also make fine winners. In fact both Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman already won Grammys (in separate categories) recently.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Will / Should Win: If Lady Gaga doesn’t take this for “Shallow” there will be (gay) riots. You may recall that I am obsessed with this movie and remain unashamedly in its corner. Early prediction: the performance of “Shallow” will be the highlight of the ceremony, unless someone like Glenn Close gives a pitch perfect quotable speech.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón for his personal and artistic triumph, Roma.
Should Win: Tough call but we’d probably vote for Spike Lee and BlacKkKlansman, since Cuarón already has a directing Oscar and Lee famously doesn’t. Yorgos Lanthimos, the iconoclastic director behind The Favourite (and The Lobster and Dogtooth and Killing of a Sacred Deer) would also be a sound choice.
Will Win: Rami Malek has this wrapped up. During your Oscar party you should have your guests lipsync to Queen hits during commercial break. Whoever does the best job should get a toy Oscar as a party favor because apparently spirited lipsynching is enough to win an Oscar now? [sigh]
Should Win: Bradley Cooper hands down. That his raw soulful lived in performance as a troubled rock star falling in love isn’t picking up trophies is bewildering. Plus he does his own singing and songwriting. Rami Malek could never.
Will Win/Should Win: Glenn Close in The Wife. Yes, there’s a chance that Olivia Colman upsets Close’s long-denied coronation with her hilarious and moving work as Queen Anne in The Favourite but we think Hollywood will realize it’s time to honor Close’s career with the trophy she’s been long denied. This is her seventh nomination and it’s not a pity nomination: she’s spectacular in the movie and I’m proud to have been quoted on one of the earliest posters, saying so. She’s now the most nominated actress of all time to have never won. At least until Sunday.
Will Win: Who knows? Our crystal balls are so cloudy. The precursor awards have been as tumultuous as the Academy’s constant walked back press releases about their show. Roma won the Directors Guild Award, Black Panther took the Screen Actors Guild Award, Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book owned the Globes, Roma nabbed the Critics Choice, Green Book won the Producers Guild Award, and then Roma and The Favourite cleaned up at BAFTA. Plus the Oscars use a “preferential” ballot for Best Picture (which they don’t use on the other categories) which means you can win the top prize even if you didn’t get the most #1 votes (provided you have a lot of #2 and #3 votes), as long as another film doesn’t win outright with too many #1 votes on the first count to have to go down the list — look, it’s complicated! (They basically have to rank the nominees.)
In the end we think it’s going to either Roma or Green Book, which both appear to be beloved in Hollywood and will surely get a lot of #1 through #3 votes, but Black Panther wouldn’t be surprising if no film dominates on first count because nobody hates Black Panther. Hesistant prediction: Green Book.
Should Win: The Favourite.
HOW DUMB WILL THESE PREDICTIONS LOOK ON SUNDAY NIGHT?
We’ve predicted a ‘spread the wealth’ kind of night with all the Best Picture nominees winning at least one Oscar like so: Roma and Green Book (3 each), Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and Black Panther (2 each), and The Favourite, A Star is Born, and BlacKkKlansman (1 each). The wild cards are definitely Roma and The Favourite. They each have ten nominations and it’s easy to see scenarios wherein they pick up a lot more than we’ve predicted here, maybe as high as 5 Oscars each!
HAPPY OSCAR WATCHING, ALL!