There’s a lot to unpack about this year’s Academy Award nominations. One of the best parts about this season is just venting with other film-lovers about how badly the Academy dropped the ball in some categories, but this year’s biggest slip-ups have less to do with the nominations and more with straight-up shenanigans--and the 91st ceremony hasn’t even aired yet: Kevin Hart was dishonorably discharged as host, a new category was scrapped because of social media ridicule (nobody seemed to like the Teen Choice Awards-sounding “Most Popular Movie” category), and most recently, the Academy received extreme criticism for attempting to relegate several of the technical categories to commercial-time in an attempt to reduce the length of the ceremony (fortunately, they ixnayed this decision once they saw the pitchforks).
The nominations also have their share of blunders: the most notable oversight has to be Steve McQueen’s thrilling, timely, sprawling crime drama “Widows” receiving zero nominations. A close second is the exclusion of “First Man” from all the major categories, only receiving predictable nominations for its technical prowess. Is this because of the unwarranted accusations of anti-patriotism, as the movie did not (gasp!) prominently feature the American flag during the moon-landing scene? Not confirmed…but probably. The third and final is less of a shock, as it is a smaller film by a first-time feature director, but Carlos López Estrada’s “Blindspotting” deserved recognition for its powerful performances and screenplay.
Now, for the nominees.
The Best Picture category already has observers predicting what the winner will be: Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma”. While money shouldn’t be put down just yet, it seems like the personal, emotional, gorgeously shot Netflix film will be the first foreign language film in history to win the Academy’s highest honor.
Supporting this prediction is the social-media discontent directed at other prestigious award ceremonies for awarding their top prizes to “Green Book” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Golden Globes, Producers Guild, etc.), both of which are so sanitary, plainly made, and historically narrow-minded that film lovers have been tearing their hair out trying to figure out why they’ve been winning top honors.
Giving either “Green Book” or “ Bohemian Rhapsody” Best Picture would be unfortunate for the Academy’s newfound integrity. It isn’t enough to nominate films like “Roma”, “Black Panther” and “BlackKklansmen” if the only goal is to shallowly placate audiences from grilling the event for exclusionary selection methods. Each of those films deserve recognition, but the point is that their nominations do not even matter if Best Picture goes to a “Driving Miss Daisy” clone or a walking-on-eggshells-treatment of an LGBT icon.
“Vice” and “A Star is Born” both have eight nominations, the latter film suffering from a dive in traction since its release. Bradley Cooper’s musical-drama will win Best Original Song for ‘Shallow’, but after that, it is not the odds-on-favorite in any category.
“Vice” is a predictable choice, yet still an aggravating one. Receiving the critical reception equivalent of a shrug, “Vice” only seems to have squirmed into the awards scene because it forced Christian Bale to take up unhealthy eating habits (again). The audacity of his transformation into one of recent history’s biggest villains (former VP Dick Cheney) seems to have blinded Academy voters to the fact that “Vice” is ultimately limp. Expect Bale to win.
Lady Gaga will not win Best Actress in a Leading Role, seeing as how she will already be leaving the event with Best Song; the other nominees in this category, however, all stand an equal chance of winning. Yalitza Aparicio, the star of “Roma”, has made history by becoming the first indigenous woman to be nominated for Best Actress. She deserves to win. Her work in that film is miraculous.
Mahershala Ali will win his second Supporting Actor award for his work in “Green Book”, which doesn’t contain a quarter of the nuance he brought to his role in “Moonlight” but is enjoyable enough to render Oscar voters unanimous in their decision. Regina King is absolutely going to win Supporting Actress for the ferocity, warmth, and palpable tenderness she brought to “If Beale Street Could Talk”. Expect “If Beale Street Could Talk” to also win Best Original Score for Nicholas Britell’s heartstopping, overwhelmingly tender music.
You can be damned sure Adam McKay won’t win Best Director, as “Vice” is far too clumsy for its creator to run away with this sort of honor. Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski is the surprise nominee, as many expected “Cold War” to only receive recognition in the Foreign Language Film category. It’s always exciting to see the Academy shine a light on some of the most exciting directors around. Same goes for Yorgos Lanthimos, who with ‘The Favourite’ has established himself as one of the most imaginative and prolific creators around. But the winner is bound to be Alfonso Cuaron, which will mark the fifth time a Hispanic filmmaker has won in the last ten years (Cuaron for “Gravity”, Guillermo Del Toro for “The Shape of Water”, and Alejandro G. Inarritu for “Birdman” and “The Revenant”).
The dark horse for the Adapted Screenplay category is the Coen Bros. Netflix film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, which would make it the third time they’ve won the award. But fate is leaning towards Spike Lee winning his first Oscar after five nominations and 30-plus years of filmmaking; the scathing anti-Trump sentiments in “BlackKklansmen” film don’t hurt its chances, either. Best Original Screenplay is a roll of the dice. It would be kickass if “The Favourite” won for its deadpan, hilarious, deeply disturbing writing, but as of now it seems like the hopefulness and good cheer of “Green Book” will carry the day.
Seeing as how no war-films are nominated in either of the Sound-work categories this year, it’s anybody’s game to win. It would be lovely to see the great “Black Panther” leave the event with a handful of awards, but Editing will more likely go to “A Quiet Place” for its remarkable, tense control of noise (and lack thereof). Mixing is anybody’s guess, as “A Star is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” both feature giant concert set-pieces, “First Man” sports head-rattling chaos in its lift-off scenes, and “Roma” envelopes your entire living room in the heartbeat of 1970s Mexico City.
Best Animated Feature will definitely go to “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse”, which ended up being a better superhero film than the long-anticipated “Incredibles 2”.
As for the rest: “Roma” basically has a down-payment on Best Cinematography (hats will be devoured if it loses); “The Favourite” will snatch up Makeup & Hairstyling, Costume Design, and Production Design; “First Man” will win Visual Effects (unless Academy voters watched “Ready Player One” on mind-altering drugs and decided it actually looked good); Documentary Feature is a triple-threat between “RBG”, “Minding the Gap”, and “Free Solo”; the unfortunate decision will be made to give Film Editing to the sloppily composed “Vice”; and, as always, the Short Subject categories are a melee (these are the ones even experts can’t predict).
Nothing is set in stone with regards to predictions about anything, which is why they’re fun. The best recommendation to give is that you find your movie buddies, print out some online ballots, and watch the awards together and see who emerges as the winner. It’s rare anybody marks their ballots with 100% accuracy. And it isn’t unheard of for actors, filmmakers, or crew to stick their feet in their mouths in the weeks leading up to the ceremony with bad tweets, tone-deaf comments, or other shenanigans, effectively torching their chances. So stay warm in a movie-theater, catch up on nominees, and keep on the lookout for drama, because it’s awards season.