(Clockwise from top left) stills from Roma, The Favourite, Bohemian Rhapsody, BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, and Cold War.
This year’s Oscars might be one of the hardest to predict in recent memory. While some awards seem to be locks (bet all of your money that “Shallow” will win for Original Song), many categories, including Best Picture, remain uncertain. The guilds have selected inconsistent winners, the backlash against some films continues to spark debate online, and this year’s Golden Globes were a real thing that somehow actually happened. Roma, perhaps the most critically acclaimed film of the year, missed out on early buzz due to its inability to compete for Best Drama at that very awards program. The film also had to convince those in the film industry to award a production distributed by Netflix; a win for the company would verify the disruptor’s status as a major force in Hollywood. Despite the many unknowns surrounding the ceremony, including if anyone will host it, I attempt to predict the winners of a few of the larger categories.
Who will win: Roma
Who should win: Roma
Realistically, one could make a case as to why any of the eight nominated films will win Best Picture. Bohemian Rhapsody (despite not being very good) made many moviegoers happy to hear Queen songs; the Academy is made up of a bunch of old white men who probably love Green Book; and Hollywood loves movies about itself, so they might reward A Star is Born. At first, this race seemed to be between Roma and A Star is Born, but the latter, while nominated and clearly respected by all the various guilds, has failed to actually pick up any major awards on the circuit so far. In its place, Green Book has cemented itself as a frontrunner, although the large swath of controversy surrounding the film will certainly cause it to be last on some people’s ballots, hampering its Oscar chances due to the preferential balloting system. Notably absent from the Best Director category: Peter Farrelly for Green Book. Perhaps the Academy does not love the film as much as many hypothesized? The Academy has long overlooked Spike Lee, director of BlacKkKlansman, which received six nominations, making the film a strong dark horse in the race. Another film to not write off is The Favourite. Despite not winning a large number of awards so far, the Academy honored the film with ten nominations, tying it with Roma for most nominations. Clearly beloved, The Favourite could end up consistently high on many ballots.
Ultimately, this race exists without a clear frontrunner, and Roma has all the momentum. Despite winning many awards from critics, it was not until the Academy Award nominations that the film’s Oscars chances were validated. Picking up nominations in a variety of categories, including two pleasantly surprising ones in acting categories, the film established itself as a serious contender. Alfonso Cuarón’s win at the Directing Guild of America (DGA) for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film, which historically closely aligns with both the eventual Best Picture and Best Director winners at the Oscars, also points to Roma being the film to beat.
Notable snubs: If Beale Street Could Talk, First Man, Eighth Grade, Widows and First Reformed. There will be no rematch of the infamous 2017 ceremony, which pitted Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins against each other with their films La La Land and Moonlight, respectively. Unfortunately, their new efforts (Chazelle’s First Man and Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk) failed to break into this year’s race, despite their being two of the year’s very best films.
Actor in a Leading Role
Who will win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Who should win: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Against all odds, Rami Malek has emerged as the frontrunner to accept this award on Feb. 24. He won a Golden Globe for this performance, but crucially did not compete against the perceived frontrunner Christian Bale (Vice), as the Globes separate acting awards by genre (Drama and Comedy/Musical). Ironically, Bohemian Rhapsody plays more like a musical—working best as a gathering people into a theater to communally listen to Queen songs—than a drama, hitting every familiar beat of a biopic while straight-washing Freddie Mercury’s life. Similarly, Vice is not a particularly funny film. At the Academy Awards, however, category fraud across genres does not exist, although the process by which the Academy selects performers to run in Leading Role and Supporting Role certainly remains contested. While many originally tipped Bale in this battle, Malek has pulled ahead, winning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. While this award, similar to the aforementioned award handed out by the DGA, dos not always correlate with the corresponding Oscar, the SAG win for Malek suggests he has a very high chance of winning at the Academy Awards.
Call me a biased Hoya, but I truly believe Cooper deserves this Oscar. Unlike Malek, he actually sang the songs in his film, let alone sang them live; the musical performances in A Star is Born were all captured live, not dubbed over by studio recordings. Cooper proved himself an excellent singer, significantly altering his voice for both the songs and all of his dialogue. The Academy denied Cooper a nomination for his excellent directing in his first feature behind the camera; hopefully they make up for that snub by awarding him Actor in a Leading Role. At the Golden Globes, Cooper’s presence in both acting and directing categories likely split voters, who did not want to reward him both categories. Perhaps Cooper’s sole existence in Actor in a Leading Role focuses the love for his passion project towards this category.
Notable Snubs: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed; Ryan Gosling, First Man. Ethan Hawke gave the single best performance of the year. That is all.
Actress in a Leading Role
Who will win: Glenn Close, The Wife
Who should win: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma or Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Glenn Close remains the frontrunner for this category, with her SAG win for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, besting fellow favorite Lady Gaga. Apparently, Close gives a great performance in The Wife, but who’s to say since no one has seen this film. The Wife only just became available to purchase or rent online, after an incredibly short theatrical run. Film critics “joked” that for the longest time the only way to see it was by renting it on a JetBlue flight, which is indeed a true fact. Lady Gaga appears to have missed out on Oscar glory, losing to Close at almost every turn this awards season. Whether due to her repeating the same “there could a hundred people in a room” anecdote over and over again, or A Star is Born’s failure to achieve sufficient awards momentum, Gaga appears out of the race. The Academy could opt for a more mainstream choice with her, but Close seems poised to capture this award come the 24th.
A welcomed surprise in this category was the inclusion of Yalitza Aparicio, the school teacher who makes her acting debut in Roma. Aparicio gives an amazing performance, carrying the emotional weight of the film. While the nomination is weighty recognition, unfortunately, Aparicio will most likely have to settle for the nomination alone. A win for a lead performance in a foreign film seems too unlikely when it has not been recognized throughout the entirety of the awards season. Besides rooting for this massive upset in this category, I also hope Olivia Colman wins this award. She gave a hilarious performance in The Favourite, and she won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes, giving a marvelous speech. Unfortunately, due to the trio of fantastic performances in The Favourite, I would be surprised if any of them win; Colman’s co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are both nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role, where there will certainly split votes, cuaising neither to win. Personally, I found Stone’s performance to fit under the category of leading rather than supporting, given the narrative adopts her point of view for much fo the film as we enter the film’s crazy world with her. All of these factors will likely lead to the Academy overlooking some of the best performances of the year.
Notable Snubs: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade; Viola Davis, Widows.
Who will win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Who should win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
While Alfonso Cuarón will likely be on stage accepting this award come the night of the ceremony, this category remains no less interesting. Despite Cuarón winning Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film from the DGA, the Academy’s long history of ignoring Spike Lee could earn him a win here, especially if they reward Roma with Best Picture. In an effort to recognize notable performance on both sides of the camera, particularly in years without a clear frontrunner, the Academy often splits Best Picture and Directing awards in order to cover multiple bases. This would allow them to honor Spike Lee, who somehow only just this year received his first nomination for Directing (he has been nominated once for Best Original Screenplay and once for Documentary [Feature], in addition to an honorary award he received in 2016). In addition to Cuarón, the Academy nominated another two directors from outside the United States: Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite and Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War. Nominating three foreign directors, two of whose films are not in English, the Academy clearly did their homework by watching these three incredible, non-mainstream films. Pawlikowski’s nomination, especially, deserves praise, as his beautiful film Cold War must compete against Roma in Foreign Language Film. In any other year, Cold War could surely win the award, but the fact that the film is competing against a Best Picture nominee does not bode well for its chances. However, do not underestimate the chances of the Academy pulling a shocking move and rewarding Cold War and Pawlikowski with a win in either Directing or Foreign Language Film.
Notable Snubs: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade; Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born; Damien Chazelle, First Man
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PC: Clockwise from top left: Carlos Somonte/Netflix, Fox Searchlight, Alex Bailey/Twentieth Century Fox, Ama- zon Studios, Universal Pictures, David Lee/Focus Features.