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Revisiting the Past: An Interview with Master Puppeteer Basil Twist

Twist discuss his work, new and old, and the direction he’s going in as we approaches 50.



Revisiting the Past: An Interview with Master Puppeteer Basil Twist
Photo: Richard Termine

Twenty years ago, Basil Twist wowed audiences with his mesmerizing abstract fantasy Symphonie Fantastique, presented in a small basement space at the HERE Arts Center in Soho. Twist, then 28, conjured up a beguiling and phantasmagoric world inspired by the evocative music of Hector Berlioz’s 19th-century composition of the same title. Aided by lights, dyes, and bubbles, he created his magic by manipulating pieces of fabric, feathers, plastic, vinyl, and fishing lures—all suspended in a small tank filled with water.

In the two decades since, Twist has come into his own as a master puppeteer and international theater artist, continuing to make his own distinctly individual works while also collaborating with other artists both on and off Broadway, as well as in the ballet world. He also made a small foray into the world of Hollywood, contributing to Alfonso Cuarón’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. His dazzling creativity has been honored with Obie, Drama Desk, and Bessie awards, as well as a 2015 MacArthur “Genius” grant.

Proving you can go back to the past, Twist has returned to HERE to recreate his original 1988 career-making triumph. This time, Symphonie Fantastique is presented at the theater’s main stage, with five puppeteers working in a water tank double the size of the one featured in the original production and with the Berlioz score performed live with dramatic flair by pianist Christopher O’Riley (host of NPR’s From the Top). As an additional perk, Twist pulls back the curtain to allow audience members to visit backstage after the show to meet the puppeteers and discover how the magic is created.

Recently, I got to sit down with Twist to discuss his work, new and old, and the direction he’s going in as he approaches 50.

Symphonie Fantastique seems like a major turning point in your career.

I went to puppetry school in France and then I had five years of playing in this soup of New York City in the ’90s. I was performing in nightclubs and working as a puppeteer for other people like Theodora Skipitares and Roman Paska. I had also made a show of my own—a small one-person show that was part of the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater—and I got on the cover of The Puppetry Journal. I thought that it was about as far one can go and that I had made it! After Symphonie Fantastique a whole other life started for me.


Take us back to when the piece first came together for you. I understand it was triggered when you discovered a cracked aquarium on a sidewalk.

At the time, I was living with my boyfriend in a small studio in the West Village. I needed my own space to work so I got another little studio that I found through an ad in the back of the Village Voice and that’s where I just played. So yeah, I saw this aquarium and brought it back to my studio and I played with it. I used to get everything for my work from Materials for the Arts, which is still an awesome organization. And I also used to get lots of stuff from the street. It felt like there was better garbage on the street back then!

Did you start with the intention of creating something abstract?

When I was in France, there was a festival of puppetry and music. It was provocation to explore the relationships between puppetry and music and it immediately made me think that I want to see something abstract relating to music. I know I’m not the first. Hanne Tierney, who I worship, was doing it before me. Her abstraction was always related to text—actual drama—and then she’d abstract the characters. I wanted to just have the music. Although with Symphonie Fantastique a narrative always comes in. It’s inescapable, as you just project things into it. When I watch the show now, there’s this particular moment where I always see a face. And I didn’t intend that. It’s just the fabric and the light. I wonder how many people can see it.

So, I wanted to do an abstract piece and I knew that it would have a relationship to music. Again, it was something from the street. I was walking past a record shop that had milk crates on the sidewalk and I saw an album of Symphonie Fantastique with this weird psychedelic cover. It had the image of sunflower with two faces. So I bought the record. I also remembered the title from my childhood because my parents had it in their record collection. I listened to the record and then I had these fantastic dreams.

The piece has five movements and I had this really ambitious idea that I was going to do each movement with a different element—smoke, fire. I’d already played with water [in the aquarium], so I decided I was going to do the third movement underwater. Then I got my first grant from the Henson Foundation to develop something and I bought a larger aquarium. But it was so heavy and hard to move that I decided to do the whole piece underwater. The main thing was the idea of abstraction, and then the water thing was just a cool way to achieve that. It was just very carefree the way it came about.


What was it like recreating the show 20 years later?

Well, this is essentially the same production that I opened in San Francisco, soon on the heels of the success of the original show but just a little bit bigger. I thought of changing things, but as we were getting into it, I realized that it would be impossible because it’s so densely knit together. The props had been in storage so I decided to just try to get it back the way it was. To a degree, it became a bit of a museum archival effort. I needed to replace certain things—like this purple plastic thing. But then I couldn’t because that store closed on Canal Street 15 years ago and you can only get that stuff now if you order it online from China. I was so frustrated because I’m such a tactile person and I used to go to Canal Street and just touch stuff. If you can’t see how flexible it is you don’t know if it will work in the same way.

What about the lighting? Hasn’t that technology changed over the years?

This new stuff is better overall but there were these moments which we created with those old tools and whatever limitations or qualities that they had got integrated into the choreography of the show. We used to use color scrollers for color changes. The wet environment was not friendly to any mechanical thing so those things would foul a lot. But I miss this one moment in the show where you would see the movement of the scrollers when the lights changed colors. It was a physical thing because light in this show is a physical thing. Now we use LED lights, which just change from one color to another without that magic color wipe. Also, incandescent lights are able to get really low, and I use a lot of darkness in the show. The LED lights just pop off and pop on and we can’t get dark in the same way.

Was it difficult to train others to work the show? Is it scripted now, so you don’t have to be present backstage yourself?

It’s very scripted to a degree. The water has its improvisation, but the puppeteers have a very severe track—the choreography between themselves. Over the years all these wonderful artists have gravitated to me, so I have this great community and family of puppeteers who have worked on many of my shows. This really is the A team. It’s amazing for me to be able to now watch the show and to actually give notes—especially to the guy who’s doing my part. Because I know I would get by a lot on some indescribable feeling that I have that I can’t translate into words. Even when I was teaching him I would have to do it and show him. Now I can give notes. Not everybody can take the notes I give, but they make sense to us in that world. I can say, “Can you make your flashlight more lonely?,” and they are all game to receive it.


You mentioned the water as something you cannot control. Does it behave differently every night?

To a degree. But I understand the wildness of the water, and that wildness is choreographed in. The best example of that is the moment in the third movement where I put this silver stuff in and it just falls. That’s the moment where I tell the puppeteers, “Don’t mess it up. Let it do exactly what it’s supposed to do.” I can always tell if they have hit it or they’re pushing it or they put it in the wrong way. Their job is to get it all ready, put it in, and then stand back. It’s a little different every night and it’s always perfect. Because it’s like physics: it’s water currents, it’s gravity, it’s buoyancy, and it’s reflection and light—and it just all comes together with this exquisite music playing. It’s one of my favorite parts of the show.

How did your career develop after the initial run of Symphonie Fantastique?

I never went back to water. I did Petrushka immediately after because I really wanted to do something extremely figurative with high-level technique. There’s an incredible ensemble of puppeteers who came out of that show, and they’re great New York puppeteers who I rarely see because they’re so busy. Then I did these wonderful collaborative shows, where there’s a whole other gesture that’s trying to happen and I’m just supporting it. I was lucky to work with Christopher Wheldon and started to do a few ballets. It’s an enchanting world, but that world has its goals and its purpose and I’m like the little sprinkles on top. I also still work with Lee Breuer, bringing my magic to his incredible force. I think we have a great synergy there. In between, I would make the Basil Twist shows and try to make them be really different from that last one. So Dogugaeshi, the Japanese piece I made at the Japan Society—it was all sliding screen doors and I got to go to Japan. I actually came back to the work of Symphonie Fantastique with the Rite of Spring [in 2014], although on a totally different scale. It took me that many years to get back to that.

What exactly was your involvement with Alfonso Cuarón’s film version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban?

Cuarón came to see Symphonie Fantastique 20 years ago and he was very taken with it. He hadn’t even made Y Tu Mamá También at the time. When I see that film, which was the sensation, I actually see water things in there too. Then he got asked to take on the Harry Potter franchise. They hadn’t even released the second movie yet and were already changing gears with a new director. When he was revving up he was insistent that he didn’t want to be stuck only using computer graphics. He wanted to have some real magic and he asked that I be a part of it. So I made the dementors underwater. It was like a Symphonie Fantastique puppet, but it actually had a head and hands and we just moved it underwater. We did lots of film tests but in the end, of course, they did it with computers, but the stylistic model you can see looks like Symphonie Fantastique. It was small, but it’s a nice thing.


To get back to this current celebration of your career milestone from 20 years ago, how do you feel about revisiting Symphonie Fantastique?

I’m still processing it. I was worried that it wouldn’t go well and I’m glad that it obviously is. There’s a shape to the two decades and this production of Symphonie Fantastique is a lovely bow to have—all these things that fed in between the bookends. It’s the same show, but it feels fresh and still alive. Coming back to HERE also definitely has a shape. I love this institution and I’m so grateful that they’re behind this and so happy that it’s happening. This is the artist that I wanted to be 20 years ago and I’m so glad that it’s still true.

What’s coming up next for you?

I got the Rome Prize so I’m going to the American Academy in Rome in the fall. It’s a weird thing because you can’t actually plan for this. You need to make alternative plans, and then this thing shows up. My alternative plan was to make a new show in the smaller space downstairs at HERE—a piece called Grandma’s Russian Painting, which is very much inspired by my grandmother Dorothy Williams. I was calling it a performative installation. It’s a very personal thing. Anyway, I’m postponing it because I’m going to Rome.

Aren’t you also approaching your half-century?

Exactly. I will turn 50 in Rome. So it will be a year there, like an artist retreat. You can use it as a specific time to focus on something. I did propose a subject to them: a show that I’ve been talking about for 10 years. It’s an erotic show—dangerously erotic and not in the comedic way of puppets having sex—that’s maybe abstract in way, taking the inanimate and giving a vital sensuality to it. So hopefully that will happen. But they made it clear that the time may also be spent to recharge, a time to seek inspiration, a time to reflect. And what more poetic place to do that than in Rome.




2019 Oscar Nominations: The Favourite and Roma Lead Field, Bradley Cooper Snubbed for Director, & Cold War Surprises

Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards were announced today and The Favourite and Roma led the way.



The Favourite
Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Nominations for the 91st Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning. Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma led the nomination count with 10, followed by Adam McKay’s Vice and Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born with eight, Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther with seven, and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman with six.

Cold War made a strong showing, with Pawel Pawlikowski claiming his first nomination for best director. Notably snubbed in the category was Bradley Cooper and Peter Farrelly, whose Green Book is considered the favorite to win best picture after its victory at the Producers Guild Awards. Elsewhere, Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy) had to make way for Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born) in best supporting actor, while Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate) snagged a spot in the best actor race thought to be reserved for John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman).

See below for a full list of the nominations.

Best Picture
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star Is Born

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Adam McKay (Vice)
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

Best Actress
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)


Best Actor
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (Vice)
Marina de Tavira (Roma)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Best Costume Design
Mary Zophres, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther
Sandy Powell, The Favourite
Sandy Powell, Mary Poppins Returns
Alexandra Byrne, Mary Queen of Scots

Best Sound Editing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

Best Sound Mixing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Star Is Born


Best Animated Short
Animal Behaviour
Late Afternoon
One Small Step

Best Live-Action Short

Best Film Editing
Barry Alexander Brown, BlacKkKlansman
John Ottman, Bohemian Rhapsody
Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite
Patrick J. Don Vito, Green Book
Hank Corwin, Vice

Best Original Score
Ludwig Goransson, Black Panther
Terence Blanchard, BlacKkKlansman
Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
Alexandre Desplat, Isle of Dogs
Marc Shaiman, Mary Poppins Returns

Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons

Best Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.


Best Foreign-Language Film
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Best Production Design
Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart, Black Panther
Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton, The Favourite
Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas, First Man
John Myhre and Gordon Sim, Mary Poppins Returns
Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez, Roma

Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Best Cinematography
Robbie Ryan, The Favourite
Caleb Deschanel, Never Look Away
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Matty Libatique, A Star Is Born
Lukasz Zal, Cold War

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mary Queen of Scots

Best Animated Feature
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


Best Adapted Screenplay
Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, and Eric Roth, A Star Is Born
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott, BlacKkKlansman
Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Original Screenplay
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, and Nick Vallelonga, Green Book
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice

Best Original Song
“All the Stars,” Black Panther
“I’ll Fight, RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow,” A Star Is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

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WATCH: Stylish Queer Short Film Stay Makes Its Online Premiere

Brandon Zuck’s sexy and stylish gay thriller Stay debuts for free online.



Brandon Zuck

Writer-director Brandon Zuck’s sexy and stylish gay thriller Stay made its premiere on the film festival circuit back in 2013, but the L.A.-based filmmaker is finally debuting it for free online. The short film, which Zuck claims is loosely based on events from his past, follows Ash (Brandon Harris) and his ex-boyfriend, Jacks (Julian Brand), on a road trip to the Florida Keys where the pair get mixed up in a fatal drug deal.

“I think maybe I was holding onto the film because it’s such a part of me,” Zuck says about his decision to release Stay on YouTube, which has been criticized by queer creators and organizations like GLAAD for ever-changing content guidelines that appear to target content made by and for LGBT people.

“YouTube started age-restricting my other LGBT films and—to be totally honest—I got furious. YouTube is this faceless behemoth and there’s nothing someone like me can do to fight any of it directly. Really the only thing I could think of was just putting more queer content out there. And Stay was sitting right there on my desktop where it’s always been. So I just hit upload. And it got age-restricted. C’est la vie. Next.”

Watch Stay below:

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2019 Oscar Nomination Predictions

How has Oscar royally screwed things up this year? Let us count the ways.



Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

How has Oscar royally screwed things up this year? Let us count the ways. The hastily introduced and unceremoniously tabled (for now) “best popular film” Oscar. The impending commercial-break ghettoization of such categories as best cinematography and best film editing, but most certainly not best song and best animated feature. The abortive attempts to unveil Kevin Hart as the host not once, but twice, stymied by the online backlash over years-old anti-gay Twitter jokes and leading AMPAS to opt for George Glass as this year’s master of ceremonies. The strong-arming of its own membership to deter rank-and-file superstars from attending competing precursor award shows. If these end up being the last Oscars ever, and it’s starting to feel as though it should be, what a way to go out, right? Like the floating island of plastic in the Pacific, the cultural and political detritus of Oscar season has spread far beyond any previous rational estimates and will almost certainly outlive our functional presence on this planet. And really, when you think about it, what’s worse: The extinction of mankind or Bohemian Rhapsody winning the best picture Oscar? In that spirit, we press on.



There will be plenty of time, too much time, to go deep on the many ways Green Book reveals the flawed soul of your average, aged white liberal in America circa 2019. For now, let’s just admit that it’s as sure a nominee as The Favourite, Roma, and A Star Is Born. (There’s snackable irony in the fact that a movie called The Front Runner became very much not an Oscar front runner in a year that doesn’t appear to have a solid front runner.) And even though few seem to be predicting it for an actual win here, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman has an almost spotless precursor track record, showing up almost across the board among the guilds. Predicting this category would’ve been easy enough when Oscar limited it to five films, but it’s strangely almost as easy this year to see where the line will cut off between five and 10. Adam McKay’s Vice may be without shame, but you don’t have to strain hard to see how people could mistake it for the film of the moment. Bohemian Rhapsody is certainly lacking in merit, but, much like our comrade in chief, Oscar has never been more desperate for people to like and respect him, and a hit is a hit. Except when it’s a Marvel movie, which is why Black Panther stands precariously on the category’s line of cutoff, despite the rabid enthusiasm from certain corners that will likely be enough to push it through.

Will Be Nominated: BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, and Vice

Closest Runners-Up: If Beale Street Could Talk and A Quiet Place

Should Be Nominated: BlacKkKlansman, Burning, First Reformed, Let the Sunshine In, and Zama

Best Director

Yorgos Lanthimos

Everyone can agree that Bohemian Rhapsody will be one of the best picture contenders that doesn’t get a corresponding best director nomination, but virtually all the other nominees we’re predicting have a shot. Including Peter-flashing Farrelly, whose predictably unsubtle work on Green Book (or, Don and Dumber) netted him a widely derided DGA nomination. The outrage over Farrelly’s presence there took some of the heat off Vice’s Adam McKay, but if any DGA contender is going to swap out in favor of Yorgos Lanthimos (for BAFTA favorite The Favourite), it seems likely to be McKay. As Mark Harris has pointed out, Green Book is cruising through this awards season in a lane of its own, a persistently well-liked, well-meaning, unchallenging throwback whose defiant fans are clearly in a fighting mood.


Will Be Nominated: Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Alfonso Cuarón (Roma), Peter Farrelly (Green Book), Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)

Closest Runners-Up: Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Barry Jenkins (If Beale Street Could Talk), and Adam McKay (Vice)

Should Be Nominated: Lee Chang-dong (Burning), Claire Denis (Let the Sunshine In), Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), Lucrecia Martel (Zama), and Paul Schrader (First Reformed)

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio

Had Fox Searchlight reversed their category-fraud strategizing and flipped The Favourite’s Olivia Coleman into supporting and Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone into lead, the five best actress slots would arguably have been locked down weeks, if not months, ago, unless Fox’s bet-hedging intuits some form of industry resistance to double female-led propositions. As it stands, there are four locks that hardly need mention and a slew of candidates on basically equal footing. Hereditary’s Toni Collette has become shrieking awards show junkies’ cause célèbre this year, though she actually has the critic awards haul to back them up, having won more of the regional prizes than anyone else. The same demographic backing Collette gave up hope long ago on Viola Davis being able to survive the Widows collapse, and yet there by the grace of BAFTA does she live on to fight another round. Elsie Fisher’s palpable awkwardness in Eighth Grade and winning awkwardness navigating the Hollywood circuit have earned her an almost protective backing. But we’re going out on a limb and calling it for the rapturously received Roma’s Yalitza Aparicio. Voters could, like us, find it not a particularly great performance and still parlay their good will for her into a nomination that’s there for the taking.

Will Be Nominated: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma), Glenn Close (The Wife), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born), and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

Closest Runners-Up: Toni Collette (Hereditary), Viola Davis (Widows), and Elsie Fisher (Eighth Grade)


Should Be Nominated: Juliette Binoche (Let the Sunshine In), Toni Collette (Hereditary), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Regina Hall (Support the Girls), and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)


John David Washington

Take Toni Collette’s trophies thus far in the competition and double them. And then add a few more. That’s the magnitude of endorsements backing First Reformed’s Ethan Hawke. And his trajectory has the clear markings of an almost overqualified performance that, like Naomi Watts’s in Mulholland Drive, cinephiles decades from now will wonder how Oscar snubbed. If Pastor Ernst Toller and Sasha Stone are right and God is indeed watching us all and cares what the Academy Awards do, Hawke’s nomination will come at the expense of John David Washington, whose strength in the precursors thus far (SAG and Globe-nominated) is maybe the most notable bellwether of BlacKkKlansman’s overall strength. Because, as with the best actress category, the other four slots are basically preordained. Unlike with best actress, the bench of also-rans appears to be one solitary soul. A fitting place for Paul Schrader’s man against the world.

Will Be Nominated: Christian Bale (Vice), Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody), Viggo Mortensen (Green Book), and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Closest Runners-Up: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)

Should Be Nominated: Yoo Ah-in (Burning), Ben Foster (Leave No Trace), Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), Meinhard Neumann (Western), and John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman)

Supporting Actress

Emily Blunt

Every Oscar prognosticator worth their bragging rights has spent the last couple weeks conspicuously rubbing their hands together about Regina King’s chances. The all-or-nothing volley that’s seen her sweep the critics’ awards and win the Golden Globe, and at the same time not even get nominations from within the industry—she was left off the ballot by both SAG and the BAFTAs—are narrative disruptions among a class that lives for narratives and dies of incorrect predictions. But despite the kvetching, King is as safe as anyone for a nomination in this category. It doesn’t hurt that, outside the pair of lead actresses from The Favourite, almost everyone else in the running this year feels like a 7th- or 8th-place also-ran. Except maybe Widows’s Elizabeth Debicki, whose fervent fans probably number just enough to land her…in 7th or 8th place. Vice’s Amy Adams is set to reach the Glenn Close club with her sixth Oscar nomination, and if she’d only managed to sustain the same loopy energy she brings to Lynne Cheney’s campaign-trail promise to keep her bra on, she’d deserve it. Which leaves a slot for supportive housewives Claire Foy, Nicole Kidman, and Emily Blunt. Even before the collapse of Mary Poppins Returns, we preferred Blunt’s chances in A Quiet Place.


Will Be Nominated: Amy Adams (Vice), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite), and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

Closest Runners-Up: Claire Foy (First Man), Nicole Kidman (Boy Erased), and Margot Robbie (Mary, Queen of Scots)

Should Be Nominated: Sakura Ando (Shoplifters), Zoe Kazan (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Rachel McAdams (Disobedience), and Haley Lu Richardson (Support the Girls)

Supporting Actor

Timothée Chalamet

The same people who’re curiously doubting Regina King’s nomination chances seem awfully assured that Sam Elliott’s moist-eyed, clearly canonical backing-the-truck-up scene in A Star Is Born assures him not only a nomination but probably the win. Elliott missed nominations with both the Golden Globes and BAFTA, and it was hard not to notice just how enthusiasm for A Star Is Born seemed to be cooling during the same period Oscar ballots were in circulation. Right around the same time, it started becoming apparent that BlacKkKlansman is a stronger draw than anyone thought, which means Adam Driver (who everyone was already predicting for a nod) won’t have to suffer the representationally awkward fate of being the film’s only nominee. Otherwise, the category appears to favor previously awarded actors (Mahershala Ali and Sam Rockwell) or should have been previously awarded actors (Chalamet). Leaving Michael B. Jordan to remain a should have been previously nominated actor.

Will Be Nominated: Mahershala Ali (Green Book), Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and Sam Rockwell (Vice)

Closest Runners-Up: Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born) and Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)


Should Be Nominated: Timothée Chalamet (Beautiful Boy), Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman), Hugh Grant (Paddington 2); Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), and Steven Yeun (Burning)

Adapted Screenplay

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Get beyond the best picture hopefuls BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk, which seem deservedly locked, and A Star Is Born, which is even more deservedly iffy, and you’ll see the screenwriters’ branch deciding just how seriously to take themselves this year, and whether they’re feeling like spiritually reliving the moments that found them nominating Bridesmaids and Logan. If so, then expect Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther to factor in here. If they most definitely don’t feel frisky, then maybe the foursquare First Man has a shot at reversing its overall downward trajectory. If they’re seeking that “just right” middle ground, then Can You Ever Forgive Me? and The Death of Stalin are in.

Will Be Nominated: BlacKkKlansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, The Death of Stalin, If Beale Street Could Talk, and A Star Is Born

Closest Runners-Up: Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, and First Man

Should Be Nominated: BlacKkKlansman, First Man, Leave No Trace, The Grief of Others, and We the Animals

Original Screenplay

First Reformed

It’s not unusual for some of the year’s most acclaimed movies whose strength isn’t necessarily in their scripts to get nominated only in the screenwriting categories. First Reformed, which even some of its fiercest defenders admit can sometimes feel a bit like Paul Schrader’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” greatest-hits package, stands to be another of them. But it’ll be a close call, given the number of other equally vanguard options they’ll be weighing it against, like Sorry to Bother You, which arguably feels more urgently in the moment in form, Eighth Grade, which is more empathetically post-#MeToo, and even Cold War, which had a surprisingly strong showing with BAFTA. Given the quartet of assured best picture contenders in the mix, First Reformed is going to have to hold off all of them.


Will Be Nominated: The Favourite, First Reformed, Green Book, Roma, and Vice

Closest Runners-Up: Cold War, Eighth Grade, and Sorry to Bother You

Should Be Nominated: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Bodied, First Reformed, Sorry to Bother You, and Western

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