Oscar Predictions: Round 1 - Getting Back in the Game

Clockwise: Roma, The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, A Star is Born, First Man, If Beale Street Could Talk
And we are back in the game with Oscar predictions! I apologize that this has been such a quiet year on Cinemablographer. I hope that things pick up here heading into the end of the year. It’s been a crazy year at POV and I’ve been doing some other freelancing, so I’ve simply been a bit busy elsewhere. (Thanks to everyone for sticking around!)

Following a few weeks of catch-up, I’m mostly up to speed heading into award season. At this point in the year, my two favourite films are the Mr. Rogers documentary about the value of kindness and the one where Nicole Kidman mercilessly beats the shit out of everyone. Amazing films, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Destroyer are, but they aren’t going anywhere near Best Picture. Ditto some of the year’s other best films like American Animals and Suspiria.

Like most other people, I think A Star is Born is the front-runner. (A point I made somewhat prematurely in September and was taken to task by a few Facebook friends, but I stand by it.) A Star is Born just has that perfect crossover appeal between arthouse audiences and mainstream moviegoers. Even someone who approaches it skeptically or cynically can’t help but be moved by the power and emotion of the experience. The film has the double novelty of being sensational debuts of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper as a film actress and director, respectively, and I think they both prove their merits in two award-calibre performances. While A Star is Born has a stronger opening act than closing one, imperfect films are no stranger to Oscar, with movies like The Departed and No Country for Old Men winning even when many people thought a problematic ending could have derailed them. It’s still early, but the film is so impeccably well done and acted I think it’s a fair bet for Picture, Actress, Actor, Song, and (maybe) sound mixing given that the songs were recorded live and musicals generally do well there.

On the director front, put Alfonso Cuarón out in the lead for Roma and watch for him in Best Cinematography as well. Cuarón takes over for his usual director of photography, three-time Oscar winner Emanuel Lubezki, and does Chivo-level work behind the camera. Roma is an exquisitely shot film that makes outstanding use of space and time, and the complexity of his compositions are such precise feats coordination that it’s hard to imagine Cuarón being overlooked for work that makes Roma feel like a classic in the making.

If we cap Best Picture at the minimum of five contenders—or at least assume these films are the five nominees that will also be represented in the race for Best Director—I think the other players are Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, Damien Chazelle’s First Man, and Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman. Admittedly, The Favourite is the one that I haven’t seen since it has yet to play Toronto, but word from festivals like Venice, Telluride, and New York is very, very strong with special props going to Olivia Colman (London Road) for a tour-de-force performance, while Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are drawing raves as rivals competing for Queen Olivia’s affection. Backed by Fox Searchlight, the defending distributor after The Shape of Water, the film is in the right hands and looks to be a big break for Lanthimos, who has built a solid reputation in the smarthouse crowd thanks to darkly funny arthouse hits like The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

First Man, however, is having a weird start to its theatrical run. Ongoing controversies says that it omits the American flag during the moon landing (a flat-out lie, since it’s featured prominently in no less than two shots) and that it’s too conservative (which doesn’t jive with the other controversy…). The backlash and disappointing box office for First Man are hurdles, but I don’t think Chazelle, Ryan Gosling, and company need to worry. First Man is an exceptionally well-crafted and smartly-played film that offers a thoughtful, intimate perspective on a pivotal chapter of history. It’s going to play well with many branches, especially technical ones, so its cumulative support should outweigh any bogus hot takes that arise this season.

BlackKkKlansman, on the other hand, is a wild card. Spike Lee has yet to be nominated for Best Director and BlackKkKlansman is a return to form. It’s a wild, incendiary, and timely look at the long history of racism in the USA that only Lee could have made. Heck, Lee’s the only one who would have even tried to make it. It’s hard to overlook the director’s bold hand as Klansmen proudly unite in a chorus of “America first!” cheers or as Harry Belafonte delivers an Oscar-worthy monologue about the plight of African Americans that resonates with passion and rage for the Black Lives Matter movement. Lee is long overdue, even if he got an honorary award during the mess of #OscarsSoWhite, and a win for him could be a fine combination of merit, politics, and timing. Just imagine the acceptance speech!

Other contenders to watch:

Barry Jenkins’ ensemble drama If Beale Street Could Talk is probably the film to beat for the SAG’s Best Ensemble prize, but expect major issues of pacing to keep it from winning the top prize on Oscar night.

Black Panther is a hit and a very well made film, but it’s still a comic book movie. It was one of the ten best movies of the year in June…is it still up there now?

Crazy Rich Asians is a mega hit and will presumably play very well with the SAG and the Golden Globes. It also has a bit of a Devil Wears Prada vibe as a smart summer hit with great performances and a sharp script. It could squeak in with Michelle Yeoh in supporting and an adapted screenplay nomination depending on how the late-breaking films pan out. Prada would have been nominated if Best Picture had been a flexible five to ten field in 2006.

Green Book won the People's Choice at TIFF--which can only be taken with a grain of salt since voting opened online this year and there was no requirement for people to have actually seen the film in order to vote for it. (How many votes did the distributor send in?) But a new spin on the Driving Miss Daisy routine with powerhouse performances is certainly catnip for voters.

The unknown factors remaining are Mary, Queen of Scots, which is a terrific-looking battle between Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie; the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, which could either benefit or suffer from the popularity of the documentary (Felicity Jones seems miscast); and the unpredictability of The Big Short director Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney drama Vice. The latter looks terrible based on the trailer, but it boasts some big performances and topical material. Does anyone even need or want a satire of the Bush clan right now? 

But let’s not kid ourselves. It’s October and this is all for fun.

Here'e the first round of Oscar predictions along with some added “For Your Consideration” gongs for contenders that deserve a spot in the conversation.

Best Picture
Black Panther
Crazy Rich Asians
The Favourite
First Man
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

What about: Beautiful Boy, Boy Erased, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Frontrunner, On the Basis of Sex, Vice, Widows

FYC: Won’t You Be My Neighbour?, Destroyer, Suspiria

Best Director
Damien Chazelle, First Man
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

What about: Ryan Coogler, Black Panther;  Peter Farrelly, Green Book; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Jason Reitman, The Frontrunner; Adam McKay, Vice; Steve McQueen, Widows; Josie Rourke, Mary, Queen of Scots

FYC: Karyn Kusama, Destroyer; Nadine Labaki, Capernaum 

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Ryan Gosling, First Man
Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

What about: Christian Bale, Vice; Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy; Clint Eastwood, The Mule; Lucas Hedges, Boy Erased; Hugh Jackman, The Frontrunner; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody; Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun

FYC: Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy (being campaigned as "supporting" but it's a lead and he deserves it)

Best Actress
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Nicole Kidman, Destroyer
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

What about: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma; Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns; Viola Davis, Widows; Kathryn Hahn, Private Life; Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex; Kiki Layne, If Beale Street Could Talk; Julia Roberts, Ben is Back; Saoirse Ronan, Mary Queen of Scots; Emma Stone, The Favourite

FYC: Julianne Nicholson, Who We Are Now

Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver, BlackKkKlansman
Sam Elliot, A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

What about: Harry Belafonte, BlackKklansman; Bradley Cooper, The Mule; Russell Crowe, Boy Erased; Joel Edgerton, Boy Erased; Robert Forster, What They Had; Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite; Topher Grace, BlackKklansman; Sam Rockwell, Vice

Best Supporting Actress
Claire Foy, First Man
Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians

What about: Amy Adams, Vice; Elizabeth Debicki, Widows; Vera Farmiga, The Frontrunner; Aunjanue Ellis, If Beale Street Could Talk; Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Marina de Tavira, Roma

FYC: Carmiña Martínez, Birds of Passage 

Best Adapted Screenplay
Boy Erased
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

What about: Beautiful Boy; Crazy Rich Asians; First Man; Leave No Trace; Mary, Queen of Scots; The Sisters Brothers; Suspiria, Widows

FYC: American Animals, Suspiria

Best Original Screenplay
The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book

What about: Disobedience, Isle of Dogs, On the Basis of Sex; Private LifeSorry to Bother You

FYC: Destroyer

Best Score
Black Panther
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk

What about: Suspiria, Disobedience, A Star is Born

Best Original Song
"Ashes" - Deadpool 2
"All the Stars" - Black Panther
"I'll Fight" - RBG
"I'll Never Love Again" - A Star is Born
"Shallow" - A Star is Born

What about: "Hearts Beat Loud" (Hearts Beat Loud), "Suspirium" (Suspiria), "Revelation" (Boy Erased), "Gravity" (Free Solo)

Best Film Editing
Black Panther
First Man
A Star is Born

What about: Avengers: Infinity War, Beautiful Boy, Boy Erased, Green Book, SoloWidows

Best Cinematography
Cold War
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

Best Costumes
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Queen of Scots

What about: If Beale Street Could Talk, Crazy Rich Asians, Suspiria, Bohemian Rhapsody, On the Basis of Sex, Mary Poppins Returns

Best Make-up and Hair
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary, Queen of Scots

What about: Suspiria, Mary Poppins Returns, Bohemian Rhapsody, Colette

Best Production Design
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary, Queen of Scots

What about: Suspiria, Crazy Rich Asians, Solo, Colette

Best Documentary
Of Fathers and Sons

What about: The King, Maria By Callas, McQueen, On Her Shoulders, Quincy, Science Fair, Three Identical Strangers

Best Foreign Language Film
Belgium – Girl
Lebanon – Capernaum
Mexico – Roma
Poland – Cold War
UK – I am Not a Witch

FYC: Birds of Passage (Colombia)

What are your early predictions?