We’re now under three weeks away from the 91st Academy Awards. It seems like that’s a lot of time for changes to happen in the Oscar race, and that’s true, but at this time, the 24 categories seem to all be down to one or two contenders, with one or two exceptions. So who’s going to win? What easy calls do we have this year? Let’s dive in.
Best Live Action Short
This seems to be a pretty dicey category. Three short films all have a chance to win here: Marguerite, Skin, and Detainment. Detainment, I think, is in third place, and the film has a very dark subject matter, which may not help it. Also, petitions from the family members of the subjects of the film are trying to get the film removed from the lineup. That may make voters uncomfortable putting it at number one, so while I was thinking earlier it would win, it seems to be a distant third. Marguerite has a more optimistic subject matter, and doesn’t have as many scars on it as Detainment, but I’m going with Skin, another film with a tougher subject matter, but one that seems to have gotten a lot of fans since the nominations were announced.
Best Documentary Short
Another category that could go a lot of different ways, but I think the momentum seems to be with Black Sheep. Though subject matters like Nazism (A Night at the Garden), life-saving surgeries (Endgame) and women’s equality (Period. End of Sentence) are definitely not going to make it an easy win. The pendulum of momentum could easily swing back to any of the other three films, so it’s not going to be over until the envelope is opened.
Prediction: Black Sheep
Best Animated Short
This seems to be the easiest of the short categories to predict, and I think it’s Pixar and Bao that win. Pixar rarely misses, especially in the short category, so I’d be wary of predicting anybody else here.
Best Visual Effects
This seems to be a two-way race, and it’s going to come down to a blockbuster versus a biopic. Traditionally at the Oscars, we see the Visual Effects category go to a film that’s either up for Best Picture or a film that’s up for multiple awards. In two recent cases where we had non Best Picture nominees fill up the five slots, the films with multiple nominations (Interstellar and Blade Runner 2049) pull off the win against the more CGI-heavy Hollywood blockbuster fare (both years they were Planet of the Apes films). I predict that will happen again this year as First Man takes down Avengers: Infinity War. Then again, since we have our first superhero film up for Best Picture, and Avengers ties right into Black Panther, there’s a shot that if people feel bad about that film not being nominated here, or potentially going home empty-handed, they might sympathize with another Marvel nominee. The chances are slim that that would be the reasoning, but I’m throwing it out there in case.
Prediction: First Man
Best Sound Editing
In recent years, the sound categories have tended to line up. Dunkirk took both of them last year, Mad Max: Fury Road did two years before that, and Gravity did two years before that. I’m predicting they will line up again this year with First Man.
Prediction: First Man
Best Sound Mixing
There might be a hiccup here, though. Sometimes we see the mixing category go to a film about music. Whiplash won four years ago, Ray won over a decade ago; you can even go back to Bird winning in the 80s. So there’s a good shot that A Star is Born takes home the prize. But since the film has been on the decline so much over the last few weeks, I don’t see it happening.
Prediction: First Man
Best Original Score
There seems to be a passion spot here for Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. It would also serve as the first win for Nicholas Britell, who’s composed the acclaimed scores of Moonlight and Vice as well as Beale Street. I think that passion will bleed through, but look out for the Black Panther score.
Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Song
This may be the easiest category in the techs to predict: “Shallow” from A Star is Born. I don’t imagine Gaga and co. missing here.
Prediction: “Shallow” from A Star is Born
Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Another easy one: Vice. It looks to be the likely choice, and neither of the other two nominees seem to have the strive to come back and beat it.
Best Production Design
I feel like this’ll be a two-way race, and the two films could sweep both this category and Best Costume Design. It’s going to come down to Black Panther and The Favourite. Black Panther won the Critics Choice Awards for both categories, and BAFTA will probably pick The Favourite in both categories. Both guilds for Costumes and Art Direction have separate categories, so it feels like the late momentum from BAFTA and having more nominations in total will help The Favourite win.
Prediction: The Favourite
Best Costume Design
While Ruth E. Carter’s costume design for Black Panther sure stands out this year, I feel like Costumes will line up with Production Design and go with The Favourite.
Prediction: The Favourite
Best Film Editing
This category will be tricky. The Best Picture frontrunner, Roma, is missing, and The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody, two of the least likely to win in this category, won at the ACE Eddie Awards for Best Film Editing for their respective genres (drama for Bohemian, comedy for The Favourite). Vice is my pick here right now, but a win at BAFTA for either Favourite or Bohemian could push their respective film over the edge for the win, but this might be one where you throw a dart at the wall and whichever one it hits wins.
Should be an easy pick here: Alfonso Cuaron for Roma.
Best Foreign Language Film
Normally I’d say this is an easy pick for Roma, but let’s not dismiss the possibility that Cold War pulls off a surprise win. There may be a mentality within the Academy to spread the wealth between the two foreign language films, both of which are in the directing race, and both scored cinematography noms, too. If Cold War had missed for Director, it would be a different story, but there’s a chance for an upset here, especially if Roma wins for Best Picture. And don’t forget that back in the days of Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that scored multiple nominations and lost Best Foreign Language Film, that upsets can’t be ruled out. For now, though, I’m going with the smart money on Roma.
Best Documentary Feature
The Producers Guild of America awarded Won’t You be My Neighbor? as the best documentary of the year. The Directors Guild of America awarded Three Identical Strangers as the best directorial achievement in documentaries this year. Neither one is up for the Oscar. The two films that I think have a shot are RBG, which is also up for Best Original Song, and Free Solo, which was a box office smash. Traditionally, documentaries that do well at the box office win, so Free Solo definitely would line up with that idea, but RBG has two nominations, and with the subject of the doc being in all the headlines lately, I feel like there’s enough momentum, for now, to pick RBG for the win.
Best Animated Feature
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. ‘Nough said.
Prediction: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Adapted Screenplay
This feels like the spot where BlacKkKlansman will strike. Spike Lee, one of four writers on the film, has never won a competitive Oscar, and since his film has five nominations, it feels like it’ll happen. Then again, we could see passion votes for Barry Jenkins and his script for If Beale Street Could Talk, which did get a Globe nomination when BlacKkKlansman did not, and it did win at Critics Choice. I’d say if BAFTA doesn’t pick BlacKkKlansman, I’ll switch over to Beale Street.
Best Original Screenplay
Again, another category where you can argue for all five of the nominees. First Reformed, written by Paul Schrader, won the Critics Choice, and it’s the first nomination for the legendary screenwriter, so they may reward him. Roma, if it starts to sweep, could pick up an additional win for its script. Vice, from screenwriter Adam McKay, has a shot, too, since it’s up for eight awards, and McKay won three years ago for co-writing The Big Short. Then there’s Green Book, which has repeatedly been hit by controversies, one of which involved writer Nick Vallelonga’s 2015 anti-Muslim tweet, but still won PGA and the Globe for Musical/Comedy Film, and it also picked up the catch-all Screenplay prize. So there’s support for that one. Then there’s The Favourite, which has been consistently nominated for its script, yet has failed to win anywhere yet. The Favourite also did not qualify for the Writers Guild of America awards, so it can’t win there, but it feels like BAFTA will go for it. However, if Green Book wins BAFTA, it will be all over. For now, I’m predicting Green Book at the Oscars.
Prediction: Green Book
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
This category will go one of two ways: we’re all overthinking it and it’s Regina King, or we’re looking to see who BAFTA goes with and pick them to win the Oscar. The scenario I’ve been referencing endlessly this year has been the Supporting Actor race three years ago. That year, it felt like Sylvester Stallone had it all locked up for Creed, but at the last minute, in swoops Mark Rylance, after a BAFTA victory, to win for Bridge of Spies. This year with Supporting Actress has perfectly lined up so far: King won both Critics Choice and the Globe; a non-Oscar-nominee wins at the Screen Actors Guild, and the expected winner’s film is not up for Best Picture. I think the competitor that Regina has to look out for is Rachel Weisz in The Favourite. Her role is one that Oscar has awarded in the past: the devilish villain. Look to recent examples like Heath Ledger, Christoph Waltz, J.K. Simmons, and Allison Janney. Rachel’s performance and role fits right in there, and while this would be her second Oscar win, she’s never won at BAFTA, which I think makes her the frontrunner there. However, there is something we need to watch for that’s not in Rachel’s corner. Another category on Oscar night may give another actor his second Oscar on his second try, Maherhsala Ali. The acting categories don’t do that often. In fact, it’s hard for a lot of actors to win multiple Oscars without losing a few in-between. So for now, I’m picking Regina King. Though a BAFTA win for Rachel Weisz could make me change my mind.
Prediction: Regina King
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
This is the easiest acting category of the year. As previously mentioned, it’s Mahershala Ali all the way for Green Book.
Prediction: Mahershala Ali
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Now with the Globe, SAG, and a tie at Critics Choice in her back-pocket, it feels like Glenn Close is indeed finally going to have an Oscar on her mantle. Her film, The Wife, may only have the one nomination, but I feel like even if Lady Gaga or Olivia Colman win BAFTA, it’s Glenn’s to lose at the Oscars.
Prediction: Glenn Close
Best Actor in a Leading Role
This race has a lot of comparisons this year to four years ago. Early on, it felt like Michael Keaton was unbeatable for his role in Birdman. He won the Globe for Comedy/Musical and both the Actor in a Comedy and Critics Choice award for Best Actor. Then SAG happened, and Eddie Redmayne, who took the Globe for Drama, won. From there BAFTA was his, and eventually the Oscar. This year’s comparisons are, of course, Christian Bale, who got out front early, and Rami Malek, whose win at SAG definitely shows a shift in who’s winning. Since Bohemian Rhapsody focuses on a British rock legend, the same way Theory of Everything focused on a British science legend, I think Rami will have BAFTA. Then again, Christian Bale has gone 0/3 at BAFTA, and one of those three nominations was for The Fighter, which he won the Oscar for. So there is a definite overdue factor in play for the Welsh chameleon. Also, we’ve seen that when the Makeup and Hairstyling award goes to a physical transformation, the actor involved in the transformation wins, too. That’s been true with both Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady and Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour. Even though both those films had their critics, as does Vice, I’m still going to pick Rami Malek to win the Oscar, especially if he does win at BAFTA.
Prediction: Rami Malek
Alfonso Cuaron hasn’t slipped up yet for the precursor awards, so I feel like he’s a slam-dunk now for the Oscars.
It feels right now like the ball is in Roma’s court. It tied with The Favourite for most nominations, it looks like it has a key win in an above-the-line category (Best Director), and with recent political movements looking to build a wall between the US and Mexico, a film that was made in and celebrates that country looks like a politically correct move for the Academy, the same way Moonlight’s win felt like one, too.
Then again, I do feel there will be some resistance to vote for it number one on the preferential ballot for some voters. The fact that it’s a 135 minute black-and-white streaming film in a foreign language with a slow start will stop some voters. Will all that be enough for another film to capitalize on? Well, let’s look to who else is in the game. Green Book, which would have the same wins as Moonlight (Picture, Supporting Actor, and one of the screenplays), and it also has picked up in box office totals in recent weeks in the US. But, as already mentioned, multiple controversies may make voters queasy about voting it number one. The Favourite may benefit from a strong BAFTA performance, but it doesn’t seem to have the support right now. Ditto to Vice and BlacKkKlansman.
However, two films that lack nominations in the writing and directing categories, Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody, have been lighting it up lately with surprise guild wins. Black Panther won the SAG ensemble award, and Bohemian Rhapsody’s win at ACE Eddie over competitors like Roma, First Man, and BlacKkKlansman, all of which arguably had better editing and were better films, signals there is support for the film, regardless of the controversy around the film’s director and the critical response. Are either of these two awards enough to push them past Roma? Nope. I think that unless Green Book, which is the most likely to take down Roma, performs stronger at BAFTA then we’re expecting and also wins a few guild awards (WGA and any tech guild wins would help), we could see a very different result on February 24th.
Keep in mind, there are several storylines that can play out here at the Oscars, and several hate-campaigns, controversies, and political landmarks could make a stink on the potential winners between now and February 19th when Oscar voting ends. For now, though, I have some solid picks and reasonings behind my picks in tough categories. That doesn’t mean I’m locked-in with these picks, but there’s certainly enough time left for someone to throw a wrench in a race or two.