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Oscar 2005 Winner Predictions

It’s comforting to know that one of my favorite critics, David Edelstein, doesn’t take the Oscars very seriously.

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Oscar 2005 Winner Predictions

It’s comforting to know that one of my favorite critics, David Edelstein, doesn’t take the Oscars very seriously (in a recent column for Slate, he called the awards “worthless as a measure of artistic merit but fascinating as a measure of how establishment Hollywood hopes to present itself to the world”) but has no problem admitting that he relishes the opportunity to play the political pundit for a month or two. Another good critic, Charles Taylor, is considerably less nice, rightfully condemning In Touch-style punditry in one of his Salon pieces before sticking it to Finding Neverland. This is my way of saying that, while the winner predictions below are completely objective, the commentary certainly is not. In short: If I hate the film, you’re going to hear about it dammit! On a lighter note, if you read last year’s column, you probably remember that we unveiled one prediction every day until a few days before the big night. Since we got a kick out of seeing you grovel for more, we’re going to do it again this year!

PICTURE: Yes, The Aviator has the most nominations, but does anyone remember what happened to Bugsy? Yes, The Aviator won the Producer’s Guild Award, but so did The Crying Game (the same year Unforgiven won the Oscar). Yes, the The Aviator has made the most money in the category, but didn’t the first two Lord of the Rings films make a shitload at the box office? Yes, The Aviator has the Miramax machine behind it, but the studio is now on the brink of collapse (rumor has it the company has completely axed its publicity department—wait, this just in, they’re moving to Los Angeles!). Seriously: The consensus seems to be that this is Million Dollar Baby’s award to lose (everyone’s talking about it and the oddsmakers have placed their bets!), and though it’s difficult to say if the passion in the Hollywood community for the film mirrors the public’s own (or how much of this consensus can be written off as wishful thinking), I find it difficult to believe that the Academy will pass on a film with as much heart as Million Dollar Baby. As far as I’m concerned, Eastwood had this award in the bag as soon as conservative nuts like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Medved started ragging on the film, likening Eastwood’s evocation of spiritual freedom to a pro-euthanasia rant. Don’t count Sideways out, but this one goes to Million Dollar Baby.

Will Win: Million Dollar Baby

Should Win: Million Dollar Baby

ACTOR: It seemed so obvious, and yet everyone thought I was nuts when I predicted Clint Eastwood would score a nomination here over Paul Giamatti. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to say that the acting legend will win this award (not because Jamie Foxx gave a bad performance in Ray, but because Eastwood gave a better one in Million Dollar Baby), it’s just that Foxx has been so far ahead of the pack that the only way he’s going to lose this award is if he kills a small child or if Ray Charles miraculously comes back to life before ballots are due. Since more people seemed to have been endeared than turned off by the attention-grabbing stunts Foxx has been putting on at every awards show from the SAGs to the Grammys, it’s unlikely that all the votes he’s been losing to other actors in this category, especially Eastwood, will be enough to translate into a loss. Note to Entertainment Weekly: Should Foxx lose this award, please spare us the racism editorial in the issue following the Oscar telecast. Foxx is nominated (and likely to win) not because he’s black but because he gave a great performance in Ray, but should he lose this award it’s going to be because another person deserved it more.

Will Win: Jamie Foxx (Ray)

Should Win: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)

ACTRESS: Anyone who’s seen my Village Voice Take Six ballot knows that my pick for the best performance of last year was Annette Bening. I repeat this at the risk of my cinephile membership card being revoked, because it’s simply not cool in some circles to swoon for a performance like this one. Being Julia is by no means a “hip” film, and if I had to pick the single greatest acting moment of the year it would probably be the scene from Vera Drake in which Imelda Staunton evokes the world falling to its knees in her titular character’s eyes, except I can’t think of another actor this year who’s carried a film as forcefully and compellingly as Bening did hers (no offense to After the Life’s Dominique Blanc and Before Sunset’s Julie Delpy, both of whom would have been nominated here if this world were remotely fair). From her character’s vicious hostility to her earnest compassion, Bening displays a range of emotion in Being Julia that movingly evokes a woman’s fear of growing old without the love of those around her and how much that may have to do with the sad yet ingenious way she is able to disguise emotion behind artifice. Bening had the distinction of being the first lock of the Oscar season, but her frontrunner status in this category began to slip soon after Vera Drake and Million Dollar Baby came charging out their respective gates. Academy voters will have an easier time relating to Bening’s emotional crisis in Being Julia, but because Million Dollar Baby is infinitely more popular and its subject matter is every bit as “touchy” as Boys Don’t Cry’s, I’m having a hard time imagining Bening scoring a win here, especially after her chilly acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. Make no mistake: Good publicity is half the battle if an actor wants to win an Oscar, and with 60 Minutes and Oprah on her side, Swank has plenty of hype to spare. What with the Bening/Swank rematch largely a media invention, and Vera Drake heading into Oscar night with two more nominations than Being Julia, consider Staunton a likelier upset than Bening. Will it happen? Probably not.

Will Win: Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)

Should Win: Annette Bening (Being Julia)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: With Jamie Foxx’s frontrunner status in the Best Actor race diminishing by the second, some have speculated that the Academy might award the actor in this category should voters decide to go for Clint Eastwood’s performance in the lead category. This kind of speculation is specious because it assumes that everyone who votes for the Oscars converge in some hypothetical room and vote in tandem before sending off their ballots. Plenty of useless ink has been spilt about Foxx’s performance in Collateral being a lead role but not much has been said about Foxx riding the success of Ray to an undeserved nomination here. In short: Foxx may be the big man on campus in the Best Actor race, but he’s a small fry here. Also out is Clive Owen. Like his Closer co-star Natalie Portman, Owen was on fire after winning the Golden Globe, but if the actors who vote in this category couldn’t muster enough votes to get him nominated for a SAG award, then a victory for him on Oscar night seems very unlikely at this point. For his performance as Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster in The Aviator, Alan Alda nabbed his first Oscar nomination, and though his presence here came as a surprise to many, the veteran actor shouldn’t be counted out—if Virginia Madsen stands to benefit from a vote split in the Supporting Actress category, it may very well happen to Alda here. In the end, though, this is really a two-man race between Morgan Freeman and Thomas Haden Church. In a Jay Leno appearance last week, a generous Church joked that he stands no chance against Freeman, and he may be right. Though Church’s amusing performance in Sideways was toasted by critics across the country, the actor’s character isn’t as sympathetic as Freeman’s Million Dollar Baby saint. Besides, can you imagine Lowell Mather from Wings winning an Academy Award? If Cate Blanchett is due for an Oscar then Freeman is doubly due: For Million Dollar Baby, the actor scored his fourth nomination in less than 20 years. If anything is working against Freeman it’s the subtlety of the performance, which blends so effortlessly into the film’s spiritual and emotional patchwork that it scarcely calls attention to itself. Because a vote against Freeman is like kicking a dog when it’s down, I can’t imagine the actor not taking this one home.

Will Win: Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)

Should Win: Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: This year’s SAG winners were Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman and Cate Blanchett. Because no one wants to read a prediction article that smells like everyone else’s, and because anyone who seriously follows the Oscars knows that the chances of the four SAG winners winning the Academy Award are relatively slim, it’s wise to predict that at least one of these actors will be very disappointed on February 27th. Last year, I may have overestimated the Academy’s liberal guilt when I predicted House of Sand and Fog’s Shohreh Aghdashloo would defeat Renée Zellweger. I won’t make the same mistake again, and as such I’m going to say that Hotel Rwanda’s Sophie Okonedo is the long shot in this category. Also out is Laura Linney, who’s probably just lucky to be here after Kinsey was unjustly shut out in the Original Screenplay and Best Actor categories. Blanchett may have the SAG but Natalie Portman has the Golden Globe. Though the idea of “Oscar winner Natalie Portman” probably scares me as much as it does a lot of other people, I do think the young actress’s pervy performance in Closer will siphon some of Blanchett’s votes by virtue of The Aviator and Closer being the two glamatron Hollywood productions in the category. This, I think, may benefit Virginia Madsen, whose sympathetic performance in Sideways has wowed critics, audiences and actors alike. Unlike Zellweger last year, I don’t think there’s an immediate need to give Blanchett a make-up Oscar for loosing to Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998 (you know, the year Fernanda Montenegro should have won), and though the actress surely benefits from playing the recently deceased Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator, how many Oscar voters consider her performance, at best, a really good impersonation? If enough people think this way, it might be enough to swing the odds in Madsen’s favor.

Will Win: Virginia Madsen (Sideways)

Should Win: Virginia Madsen (Sideways)

ART DIRECTION: Anyone who tells you this race is between the Dante Ferretti/Francesca LoSchiavo tag team from The Aviator and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Rick Heinrichs and Cheryl Carasik is probably right. As the cult of Million Dollar Baby intensifies and The Aviator’s Best Picture chances diminish, it’s easy to write off the Scorsese film’s chances in the technical categories, but no matter what you think of The Aviator’s emotional center (or lack thereof), there weren’t many films this year that looked as good as this one, except perhaps for A Series of Unfortunate Events. For The Aviator, acclaimed production designer Ferretti earned his seventh nomination in 15 years (six of those he shares with his set decorator LoSchiavo) and may just take an Oscar home for the first time, ending one of the more egregious losing streaks in the Academy’s history. But when the Art Director’s Guild awarded A Series of Unfortunate Events last week, the group happily set up Heinrichs and Carasik as possible spoilers on Oscar night. Because the guild is still too young to be seriously treated as an accurate Oscar predictor in this category (in the last eight years, the group has awarded three films that have fallen short on Oscar night), Oscar’s own history is more telling: Fifteen out of the last 20 winners in this category have been Best Picture nominees. Though this bodes well for The Aviator, it should be noted that three of the five times a Best Picture winner or nominee didn’t win (or wasn’t represented) in this category, the award went to a film with fantasy or comic book roots: Dick Tracy and two Tim Burton films, Batman and Sleepy Hollow (whose production designer was Heinrichs). Since much has been made about A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Burtonesque aftertaste, that’s gotta bode well for the film, right? There’s certainly lots of love for the film in the technical categories, but I’m thinking it’ll fall short in most of them. If Bugsy could win against Hook in this category back in 1992, I’m thinking The Aviator will pull off a victory here.

Will Win: The Aviator

Should Win: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

ANIMATED FEATURE: No matter what anyone tells you, there is only one lock this year at the Academy Awards and it’s not Jamie Foxx in the Best Actor category. Since a vote for Shark Tale or Shrek 2 over The Incredibles is like a vote for week-old bread over freshly baked cinnamon buns, Brad Bird should start making some room in his display cabinet for the Oscar he’ll be collecting on the 27th. I don’t care how much money Shrek 2 made, it doesn’t hold a candle to the class, wit and affection (not to mention critical hosannas) of Bird’s film. If the writer-director gets on stage and tells his audience that his win came as a complete and total surprise, feel free to throw something at the screen because it’ll be obvious to everyone that he’s lying through his teeth. Then again, because The Incredibles is leagues better than its competition, perhaps Bird has earned the right to play things a little humble on Oscar night.

Will Win: The Incredibles

Should Win: The Incredibles

CINEMATOGRAPHY: No precursor award probably means as little (or as much) as the award handed out each year by the American Society of Cinematographers: Only six times since 1987 has the winner of the group’s top honor gone on to win the Academy Award in this category. Tellingly, though, four of the five were Best Picture winners. Where the ASC often makes eccentric choices (Searching for Bobby Fisher over Schindler’s List, Peggy Sue Got Married over The Mission), the Oscars are a little bit more predictable: In the last 20 years, only three times has the winner in this category not been nominated for Best Picture: Glory, A River Runs Through It, and Legends of the Fall. Vying for the award is Robert Richardson for The Aviator, Zhao Xiaoding for House of Flying Daggers, Caleb Deschanel for The Passion of the Christ, John Mathieson for The Phantom of the Opera and Bruno Delbonnel for A Very Long Engagement. With Richardson representing the only Best Picture nominee, he’s certainly the man to beat. Pundits have discussed five-time nominee Deschanel as a possible threat, and while the man’s popularity with the Academy can’t be denied (he earns his fifth nomination this year), Xiaoding strikes me as a likelier spoiler. Not only is The House of Flying Daggers the most critically acclaimed film in the category, Xiaoding has also raked in more awards than Richardson and Delbonnel. But Xiaoding doesn’t have the industry cred (House of Flying Daggers was his first film) and Delbonnel just won the ASC award for sepia-toning A Very Long Engagement to death, which can probably be written off as one of those eccentric choices that won’t translate into an Oscar victory. Assuming Phantom of the Opera’s tacky costume jewelry gets very little votes and the three artiest nominees cancel each other out, Richardson should be able to ride Aviator’s Best Picture nod to his second Oscar.

Will Win: Aviator

Should Win: The House of Flying Daggers

COSTUME DESIGN: The Costume Designers Guild has been handing out awards for six years now and only twice has the group anticipated the Oscar winner here: 2004’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and 2003’s Chicago. That the guild has failed to even nominate future Oscar winners some years (Moulin Rouge, Gladiator, Topsy-Turvy and Shakespeare in Love) makes them especially unreliable as a barometer for the winner in this category. A more accurate gauge may be the Oscars themselves: In the last 20 years, more than half the winners here have been Best Picture nominees. The odds, then, do not favor Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events or Troy. Besides, the Academy members who cast their votes in this category consistently display a preference for gaudy period costumes over fantasy and contemporary garbs (since 1985, The Return of the King and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert are the only exceptions). Sandy Powell won an Oscar for her work on Shakespeare in Love and it’s impossible to imagine her gorgeous Tinseltown outfits from The Aviator losing to the more subdued outfits from Finding Neverland and Ray. Colleen Atwood, who won an Oscar two years ago for Chicago, is equally beloved, and though her contributions to A Series of Unfortunate Events are stunning, The Aviator is the one with the Best Picture nomination. The Scorsese film may experience a Bugsy-style disappointment on Oscar night, but it’s impossible to see it losing in this category, one that the Barry Levinson film won back in 1992.

Will Win: The Aviator

Should Win: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

DIRECTING: If there is one category every Oscar pundit is watching closer than any other it’s this one. I won’t insult anyone’s intelligence by making a case for Taylor Hackford, Alexander Payne or Mike Leigh, because everyone knows they all stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning here. Now, anyone who frequents Oscar-related message boards may have noticed that the war being waged on these sites is not between fans of Million Dollar Baby and fans of The Aviator but fans of Million Dollar Baby and fans of Martin Scorsese. This is an important distinction because, let’s face it, The Aviator does not have the critical support or public adoration of the Clint Eastwood film: If Scorsese wins here it is not because his film is better than Eastwood’s but because he’s long overdue for an Oscar. As much as I supported Scorsese two years ago for Gangs of New York, I can’t help but be turned off by the vitriol his most ardent fans are spewing on message boards: They’ll have you believe that Scorsese deserves the Oscar in spite of The Aviator being sup-par by the director’s standards and that Eastwood is just some actor-turned-director (you know, like Kevin Costner and Robert Redford), which ignores the fact that Eastwood’s reputation as a serious auteur (like Roman Polanski’s) equals if not exceeds that of Scorsese’s in some circles. Better filmmakers than Scorsese have never won in this category, and surely I can’t be the only one who believes that winning an Oscar doesn’t validate someone’s craft. I thought Scorsese fans were edgier than this? Then again, Scorsese films used to be edgier than The Aviator. Eastwood enters the Oscar race with a Golden Globe and DGA award to his name. The only person in 20 years to lose the Oscar after winning both of these awards in the same year is Ang Lee (for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). History, then, is on Eastwood’s side (as is anyone who sympathizes with Eastwood now that right-wing nuts like Rush Limbaugh are out to destroy his film). Damien Bona, co-author of Inside Oscar and author of last year’s Inside Oscar 2 says it best in a recent post on the Unofficial Academy Awards Discussion Board: “The question is asked by Scorsese’s partisans: What does he have to do to win an Oscar? The answer is simple: he just has to make a movie as good as Million Dollar Baby.”

Will Win: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)

Should Win: Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: For many years, the voters in this category built a reputation for failing to nominate some of the most important documentaries of their time (off the top of my head: Crumb, Hoop Dreams and Brother’s Keeper) and making some rather left-field-though not necessarily wrong-choices on Oscar night (for example, One Day in September winning over Buena Vista Social Club in 2000). Several years ago, the powers-that-be cracked down and required voters to see every film in the category before picking a winner (gasp!). Who knows what kind of effect this has had on the race for Oscar gold in recent years, but the winner in this category two years running (The Fog of War and Bowling for Columbine) also happened to be the top box office draw. If that’s all that it took to win the Oscar, then Super Size Me, in which an ingenious Morgan Spurlock shows absolutely no regard for his physical well-being by eating at McDonald’s everyday for a month and coming to the no-kidding-Sherlock conclusion that fast food is bad for you, would have this award in the bag. Only the third documentary in history to cross the $10 million mark at the box office, Super Size Me is clearly indebted to the work of Michael Moore, whose award for Bowling for Columbine two years ago can be seen in part as a consolation prize for the Academy’s snub of Roger & Me back in 1990, but may be regarded too much as a youth-pandering stunt by the older demographic that votes here. Tupac: Resurrection also did well at the box office, but because the Academy likes to honor documentaries that focus on the lives of less controversial figures (Maya Lin) and whose roles as martyrs are more easily set in stone (Anne Frank and Harvey Milk), I can’t imagine very many votes going to this documentary about the life and death of slain rapper Tupac Shakur. That the best film in the category, The Story of the Weeping Camel, recently won the Director’s Guild Award means absolutely nothing: Only one time in the last 20 years has a DGA winner in the documentary category (Barbara Kopple’s American Dream) gone on to win the Oscar. Even if the film’s transfixing mix of documentary and narrative storytelling doesn’t confuse voters, the subject matter may not be depressing or “important” enough for their tastes. That leaves Twist of Faith, a Sundance player about a firefighter who confronts the priest who abused him as a child and who lives just a few miles away from his home, and Born into Brothels, Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski’s bleak but nonetheless inspirational look at the lives of young children living in Calcutta’s Red Light district. I wasn’t the only one troubled by the way Briski’s reaction to the plight of her subjects threatens to become the impetus of the piece, but voters may relate to the horror and desperation on the woman’s face, especially so soon after the southeast Asia claimed the lives of many people in the area.

Will Win: Born into Brothels

Should Win: The Story of the Weeping Camel

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Vying for the 2005 Oscar in the Documentary Short category are: Autism Is a World by Gerardine Wurzburg (who won in this category in 1993 for Educating Peter), which journeys into the mind of a woman with autism; The Children of Leningradsky by Hanna Polak and Andrzej Celinski, about various social ills (including AIDS and drug abuse) plaguing post-Soviet Russia’s homeless youth; Hardwood, a recent footnote on VH1’s Best Week Ever, about Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis’s complicated relationships with two women, one black and one white, and the sons he fathered with each of them (the film is directed by Mel’s son Hubert); Mighty Times: The Children’s March by Robert Hudson and Bobby Houston (the makers of the Oscar-nominated Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks), which documents how children braved fire hoses and police dogs in 1963’s segregated Birmingham; and Sister Rose’s Passion by Oren Jacoby and a previous two-time nominee Steve Kalafer, about a Dominican nun’s determination to fight anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church and whose dissertation research helped the Vatican to formally declare in 1965 that Jews were not responsible for the death of Jesus. At first glance, The Children of Leningradsky looks as if it has this one in the bag, except I’m going to give the edge to Sister Rose’s Passion, which won a prize at the last Tribeca Film Festival and where it was pitched as a foil to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. According to a Seton Hall press release, “a final segment of the documentary shows Sister Rose shaking her head and looking unhappy while viewing an Internet trailer for Gibson’s film, which some Jews and Christians have said blames Jews for the Crucifixion of Jesus.” Everyone knows Holocaust-themed films do well at the Oscars, and though voters may show their fairness by throwing a tech award (or two) in Passion of the Christ’s direction, I can’t imagine them passing up the irony of awarding Sister Rose’s Passion here.

Will Win: Sister Rose’s Passion

FILM EDITING: Another bitch to predict. The Academy has a habit of rewarding boxing films in this category, from Body and Soul and Champion to Rocky and Raging Bull, so I’m thinking that Joel Cox’s work on Million Dollar Baby will follow suit. But while the power of Eastwood’s film derives in part from its elegant editing, some in the Academy are bound to associate “best editing” with “most editing,” in which case Ray could siphon some votes from Million Dollar Baby and its main competition here: Thelma Schoonmaker’s work on The Aviator. Schoonmaker won an Oscar in 1981 for Raging Bull and Cox took one in 1993 for Unforgiven. On Sunday, one of them is taking home a second, but with Million Dollar Baby the film to beat now in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, I can’t see Martin Scorsese’s editor besting Clint Eastwood’s editor here.

Will Win: Million Dollar Baby

Should Win: Million Dollar Baby

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: If the film honored in this category should ideally reflect a foreign culture’s social and political upheavals, three of the five films fit the bill: Germany’s Downfall, a stirring evocation of the last days of the Third Reich, South Africa’s Yesterday, about a woman dying of AIDS and her relationship to her daughter, and The Sea Inside, the real-life story Ramón Sampedro, a man paralyzed from the neck down, and his struggle to end his own life after 26 years confined to his bed. When Spain chose not to submit Bad Education for Oscar consideration, the country’s selection committee proved that they wanted this award badly. The Sea Inside is an “issue film” that’s provoked much debate in its homeland, and though it hasn’t exactly lit up the American box office, at least not in the way Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar’s films have, its Golden Globe victory and record-breaking performance at the Goyas suggests there’s plenty of love for the film on the other side of the Atlantic. I haven’t seen As It Is In Heaven or Yesterday, but it seems that the only film that can beat The Sea Inside is France’s The Chorus, a film that doesn’t have any right to be here when better films like Italy’s The Keys to the House were left out in the cold. The Chorus has no personality. In short: If the film were dubbed into English and Robin Williams’s face was superimposed over Gérard Jugnot’s, you would have an incredibly hard time telling the thing apart from American-made claptrap like Patch Adams. Naturally, audiences are lapping it up, but while the film has made more money in less time than The Sea Inside, the box office champ doesn’t always win here: Nowhere in Africa would go on to out-gross the controversial El Crimen del Pade Amaro but the latter had several million on the former heading into Oscar night, and the somber satire No Man’s Land made only a smidgen of what the playful Amélie did. With mercy killing also the subject of a Best Picture contender, I’m thinking The Sea Inside will benefit from the attention the media is giving to the issue of euthanasia, which may be enough to propel the Spanish film ahead of The Chorus’s singing orphans.

Will Win: The Sea Inside

Should Win: Downfall

MAKEUP: Precursors matter, right? Well, as much as I’d love to tell you which of the three films nominated in this category also caught the attention of the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hairstylist Guild Awards, the group has yet to announce their nominees. Beating out The Aviator, De-Lovely, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Hellboy in order to get here are the makeup people behind Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events, The Passion of the Christ and The Sea Inside, all first-time nominees. Though the Academy didn’t go for Passion of the Christ in any of the big categories, there was lots of love for the film in the technical ones. Mel Gibson gave audiences lots of reasons to turn away from his film, not least of which was the disturbing state of Jim Caviezel’s body throughout the film, and no matter what you may think of the film, it’s impossible to deny its aesthetic craft. Besides, the film’s makeup effects designer, Keith VanderLaan, who is nominated alongside makeup artist Christian Tinsley, not only has the longest resume but an even longer list of friends, having worked with countless Oscar winners in this category. A Series of Unfortunate Events caters to the gothic tastes of the voters in this category, but this may be Passion of the Christ’s best shot at Oscar gold.

Will Win: The Passion of the Christ

Should Win: The Passion of the Christ

SCORE: Just as we can count on Jack Nicholson to show up to every Oscar ceremony wearing sunglasses, we can rely on the Academy to nominate John Williams in this category. For his memorable Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban score, Williams will make what feels like his 400th trip to the Oscars. He hasn’t won in some time, but it’s not going to happen this year—maybe in 2006, when the Academy will likely nominate him for both Memoirs of a Geisha and War of the Worlds. Also out is James Newton Howard: Though the Academy likes him enough to consistently nominate him in spite of the crap he scores (The Prince of Tides, My Best Friend’s Wedding), I can’t imagine his atmospheric contribution to the divisive The Village beating the competition here. Ditto Thomas Newman: For Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, he scores his seventh nomination, but if he couldn’t win for American Beauty he’s not going to win for this film. That leaves two first-time nominees to battle it out: John Debney for The Passion of the Christ and Jan A.P. Kaczmarek for Best Picture nominee Finding Neverland. Debney’s score is infinitely superior, but a vote for Passion of the Christ over Finding Neverland is like a vote for fire and brimstone over pixies and sugarplum fairies.

Will Win: Finding Neverland

Should Win: The Passion of the Christ

SONG: Oscar nuts know that if there is one category the Golden Globes aren’t very good at predicting it’s this one. Two years ago, U2’s “The Hands That Built America” from Gangs of New York won the Globe only to lose the Oscar to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile, and three years ago Sting won the Globe for his song on the Kate & Leopold soundtrack only to lose to Randy Newman on Oscar night, ending an epic-length losing streak for the popular composer. Some will tell you that the biggest Oscar snub this year wasn’t Paul Giamatti but Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart’s Golden Globe-winning “Old Habits Die Hard” from the Alfie soundtrack. Without the Rolling Stones singer in the category, the Oscars have made this category much easier to predict. The two best songs in the category, “Al Otro Lado Del Río” from The Motorcycle Diaries and “Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)” from The Chorus, are long shots here, entering the race without Globe nominations. The horrendous “Accidentally In Love” from Shrek 2 is out, because The Counting Crows are soooo 1994. The easy choice here is “Learn To Be Lonely” (or, as I like to call it, “The Elephant Man Song”) from The Phantom of the Opera. Specially written for the Joel Schumacher film by the show’s original composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Charles Hart, the song is further proof that some films are only made to make money and win Oscars. That the song doesn’t work up much of a sweat and sticks out like a sore thumb against Webber and Hart’s older material may not be a problem, if only because “Learn To Be Lonely” is also nowhere near as bad as some of the other songs in the musical. Except Josh Groban’s insanely overproduced yuletide ballad “Believe” from The Polar Express may be the most memorable song in the category. Groban’s albums have sold millions and the ladies seem to love him, but in this showdown between Groban’s pipes and a song from the most popular musical of all time, I give “Learn To Be Lonely” the edge.

Will Win: The Phantom of the Opera

Should Win: The Polar Express

ANIMATED SHORT: In this category, only Academy members who’ve seen all the nominated shorts can pick a winner, and since there are very few opportunities for members to see these shorts outside of the one or two screenings the Academy sponsors on both coasts, I’m guessing these screenings tend to attract older and very bored members of the Academy and serious animaniacs alike. Which is to say, the winner here will likely be one that is not too academic or morose and not too avant garde. Jeff Fowler and Tim Miller’s Gopher Broke is not—I repeat—is not a Pixar film, it just looks like one. At the Saturday Afternoon with Oscar presentation where the shorts in this category were showcased, audiences went absolutely berserk for this one (I’m talking Oprah Winfrey audience berserk!), which follows a hungry gopher’s foiled attempts to get vegetables to fall off numerous trucks that zip through a country road. The gopher is a hoot, as is the final gag (you could say the gopher is made to be the butt of a very big joke), but while its uproarious response means the short is popular, it doesn’t exactly linger in the imagination, not unlike last year’s loser Gone Nutty. Much funnier and conceptually audacious is Bill Plympton’s Guard Dog, which seeks to explain why dogs are so easily frightened of innocent creatures and sights, from pigeons to a girl jumping rope. If this one doesn’t win it’s because some members may prefer the 3D style of Gopher Broke or be turned off by Plympton’s macabre sense of humor. Mike Gabriel and Baker Bloodworth’s Lorenzo, a Walt Disney production, suggests a lost Fantasia short as directed by Carlos Saura. Like the Dali-inspired Destino that lost in this category last year, Lorenzo—about an evil feline spirit that puts a curse on a pompous cat named Lorenzo, whose tail comes to life and reeks all sorts of havoc—is drenched in sensuality but isn’t very deep. Now, if the rantings of the idiot behind me at the Academy screening I attended are to be taken seriously, then Chris Landreth’s Ryan may be too deep. Landreth portrays the descent of Ryan Larkin from Oscar-nominated animator to panhandler as a Cronenbergian fever dream with Larkin living out his days in a Naked Lunch-esque homeless shelter tortured by color-coded visions of his successes and failures. The most radical short in the category, Ryan is also the most meta, which means it may be a little too dry and cold to pull off a victory here if—like the idiot behind me—Academy members actually fell asleep during it! (If Ryan wins, it’s because I’ve completely underestimated the voters in this category.) My winner prediction, then, is the sentimental Birthday Boy, in which a little Korean boy places metal objects, namely screws, on a local train track and builds an army of toy soldiers and tanks from the flattened metal. Though the 3D boy brings to mind bad memories of the clunky-looking human characters from Ice Age and The Polar Express, there’s a haunting and ethereal quality to the way director Sejong Park’s evokes the confusion of war in the birthday boy’s reality and how the symbols and sensations of war work their way into his playtime. If Birthday Boy wins it’s because it’s kid-friendly but adult-minded.

Will Win: Birthday Boy

Should Win: Ryan

LIVE ACTION SHORT: If a Clerks-era Kevin Smith had directed a musical it might have looked something like Nacho Vigalondo’s snarky, crowd-pleasing 7:35 In the Morning, about a woman who walks into her favorite diner and discovers that a man with dynamite strapped to his body has been slowly incorporating the diner’s patrons into an elaborate song-and-dance number. Like Gopher Broke in the animated short category, I can’t imagine this one lingering in anyone’s mind—unless of course you’re bothered by the way the film makes light of a terrorist act, in which case you won’t be voting for it anyway. The best short here is Two Cars, One Night, a love story in miniature by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Cohen about a girl and two boys who wait in separate cars while their parents drink at a local pub. In the expansive divide between the two cars, Cohen evokes with great visual textures the torment, fear, and pleasure of the girl’s courtship with one of the boys and the boredom of the world that contains them. Pity that voters are likelier to fall for a more manipulative spectacle: Andrea Arnold’s Wasp, about a horny 23-year-old with four very hungry kids, could be a deleted scene from All or Nothing, except Mike Leigh would never use an egregious insect attack to remind one of his characters of their parental responsibilities. A parent-child relationship is also put through the ringer in Gary McKendry’s Everything in This Country Must, a pretentious creation about the ties between an armored tank accident that killed a woman and her child and an incident two years later that brings a group of soldiers to the aid of a man and his daughter. Like Wasp, the short is gruelingly heavy-handed, allowing whatever social message it might have to impart (something about strained British-Irish relations) to be lost beneath its contrived allegorical put-ons. Then there’s Little Terrorist, which begins with a ludicrous shot of a Pakistani boy’s cricket ball falling into a mine field (!) and the boy accidentally landing in Indian Kashmir (!!) after trying to retrieve the ball and being shot at by soldiers (!!!). It’s in India that a Hindu Brahman and his daughter save the boy from capture and the trio grapple with the problems they have with each other’s religions. Little Terrorist is scarcely complex in that it has little to say about strained Indian-Pakistani relations that’s of any great significance, but Academy members are likely to respond to the message of tolerance the director evokes in the story’s comic streak. I imagine this one is a really tight one between Little Terrorist and Wasp, with Everything in this Country Must close behind, so take your pick. Since Wasp’s shock tactics are the most shrill, I’ll go with that one.

Will Win: Wasp

Should Win: Two Cars, One Night

SOUND EDITING: The Academy began handing out awards for sound effects editing semi-regularly since the early ‘60s, and in the history of this category, not a single animated film has ever won (that is if you don’t count Who Framed Roger Rabbit winning over Die Hard and Willow in 1988). Anyone whose ears are still bleeding after catching The Polar Express understands why the film is here, and while the presence of two animated films in this category in the same year points to the ever-growing respect for the genre’s technical achievements, if Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. and Aladdin couldn’t pull off victories in their respective years, it’s difficult to imagine these two films, especially The Incredibles, bringing down Spider-Man 2, the kind of big, loud and expensive production that typically wins this award.

Will Win: Spider-Man 2

Should Win: The Incredibles

SOUND MIXING: If there is one category this year where every single nominee seems to be in the hunt and a winner may be determined by as little as one vote, it’s probably this one. An excellent case can be made for all the nominees: The Aviator has all the flying planes and crashes; The Incredibles too; The Polar Express is loud and scary; Ray has all the music; and Spider-Man 2, well, it seems like it’s going to win in the other sound category. Which is to say: This one is anyone’s guess! Though I think a lot of people may be underestimating The Polar Express’s chances here and elsewhere, with the film competing against The Incredibles in both sound categories, I doubt it can pull ahead and become the first animated film to win this award. If sound people were the only ones that voted here I would have said that this one is Spider-Man 2’s to lose, except everyone in the Academy votes for this one, which means more “respectable” productions like The Aviator and Ray are liable to siphon the superior Spider-Man 2’s votes. The best case that can be made for Ray seems to be that music-driven films sometimes win here but I don’t know if Bird’s surprise win in this category back in 1988 is exactly the best example. In 20 years, this award has gone to a Best Picture nominee on 12 occasions—all other times it’s gone to noisy sci-fi and even noisier war epics. Bird’s win may be the only one that doesn’t quite jive—it is, quite simply, a triumph of understatement. Ray’s Behind the Music-style sound design is certainly not as good, but if it wins here it’s because the film makes you know that that the sound is on and that it’s on non-stop. Besides, it can’t hurt that the film has a Best Picture nomination. So, if Ray is likely ahead of Spider-Man 2, can it pull ahead of The Aviator? Since this is a category that most often favors swoony romances, like the similarly air-bound (and crappier) The English Patient, I’m going to say that The Aviator will score a point or two more than Ray as they head into the home stretch.

Will Win: The Aviator

Should Win: The Incredibles

VISUAL EFFECTS: Spider-Man was nominated for two Academy Awards back in 2003, losing to Chicago in the Sound Mixing category and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in this one. By the end of its theatrical run, Spider-Man 2’s cumulative domestic gross was $30 million less than its predecessor’s, but $373 million was still enough to land the film on the all-time box office chart (the only film this year to be nominated for an Academy Award that made more money was Shrek 2). Critics and audiences seemed to like the second Spidey film better than the first, not least of which because of the special effects: People haven’t learned to fly through the air and shoot spider webs out of their veins yet, but the consensus seems to be that the film’s effects are better than the first one’s. In addition to The Two Towers, Spider-Man had to compete against Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones in this category two years ago. The competition is considerably less stiff this year, with Spider-Man 2 up against Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and I, Robot. The various f/x people nominated for I, Robot have contributed to previous Best Picture winners like Gladiator and Titanic, but I doubt anyone who votes in this category puts I, Robot in the same league. (The Alex Proyas film is actually better than those two monstrosities, but I have a feeling the voters here will kindly disagree with me.) With good reason, Prisoner of Azkaban is the first Harry Potter film to be nominated in this category, and while the Alfonso Cuarón is widely considered the best film in the series, the effects in the film may not be attention-grabbing enough. It seems like this is Spider-Man 2’s award to lose.

Will Win: Spider-Man 2

Should Win: Spider-Man 2

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: It’s nice to know that playwright José Rivera can now call himself an Oscar nominee. The man has the distinction of adapting the most popular text in this category, but a victory for The Motorcycle Diaries here seems as likely as a win for Before Sunset without a Best Picture nomination. At this point in the Oscar race, Finding Neverland is almost lucky to be nominated for anything, so this race is strictly between Paul Haggis and Alexander Payne and Tim Taylor. For adapting several stories from F.X. Toole’s Rope Burns, some may consider Haggis’s Million Dollar Baby screenplay a more “difficult” enterprise than Payne and Taylor’s adaptation of Rex Pickett’s Sideways. Payne is perceived as a strong writer, but he hasn’t actually produced an original work since his 1996 break-out Citizen Ruth. Though many people find the talkiness and quirkiness of Sideways appealing, these are attributes that typify the kind of films that more easily win in the other screenplay category, where Charlie Kaufmann is likely to triumph this year. With Million Dollar Baby poised to take down The Aviator in the Best Picture category, it’s difficult to imagine the film not winning here.

Will Win: Million Dollar Baby

Should Win: Before Sunset

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Forget about Mike Leigh: Much has been made about the fact that his nominated scripts (from Secrets & Lies to, now, Vera Drake) are really collaborative efforts between the British auteur and his actors and that he doesn’t actually write any of them himself. Also out are Hotel Rwanda and The Incredibles—the former’s heart and spirit, not its screenplay, can be credited for its appeal, and it’s difficult to imagine the latter becoming the first animated film in history to win in this category. That leaves John Logan (The Aviator) to duke it out with Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). The Best Picture nominee in this category doesn’t always win. Case in point: Logan lost in this category in 2001 when his Gladiator script lost to Cameron Crowe’s screenplay for Almost Famous. Like Gladiator, The Aviator isn’t what I would call a “writer’s film,” which means that this is Kaufman’s award to lose. Since Being John Malkovich, which unjustly—though not surprisingly—lost in this category to American Beauty, Kaufman’s clout has considerably risen. This is the third time one of the man’s head-trips are up for Oscar gold so it may be time to finally toss a laurel in his direction.

Will Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Should Win: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Awards

Oscars 2019: Complete Winners List

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

The 91st Academy Awards are now behind us, and the telecast told us just about nothing that we don’t already know about AMPAS. Which isn’t to say that the ceremony wasn’t without its surprises. For one, whoever decided to capture Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s performance of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born in one single take that would end with the pair sitting side by side, rapt in each other and framed in Bergman-esque repose, should hereby be responsible for every Oscar ceremony moving forward.

For some, though not us, Green Book’s victory for best picture came as surprise. As our own Eric Henderson put it in his prediction: “Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.”

In the end, the awards went down more or less as expected, with the only real shock of the evening being Oliva Colman’s stunning upset over Glenn Close in the best actress race. (Glenn, we hope you are on the phone right now trying to get that Sunset Boulevard remake to finally happen.) Black Panther proved more indomitable than expected, winning in three categories (none of which we predicted), and Free Solo pulling a victory over RBG that was the first big sign of the evening that, then and now, AMPAS members vote above all else with their guts.

See below for the full list of winners from the 2019 Oscars.

Picture
Black Panther
BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book (WINNER)
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Documentary Feature
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (WINNER)
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen

Animated Feature
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore and Phil Johnston
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman (WINNER)

Cinematography
Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón (WINNER)
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

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

Production Design
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler (WINNER)
First Man, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre and Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman

Original Song
All The Stars from Black Panther by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
I’ll Fight from RBG by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Shallow from A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

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

Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War, Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, and Daniel Sudick
Christopher Robin, Chris Lawrence, Mike Eames, Theo Jones, and Chris Corbould
First Man, Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, and J.D. Schwalm (WINNER)
Ready Player One, Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, and David Shirk
Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Dominic Tuohy

Sound Mixing
Black Panther, Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, and Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, and John Casali (WINNER)
First Man, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, and Mary H. Ellis
Roma, Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, and José Antonio García
A Star Is Born, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, and Steve Morrow

Sound Editing
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst (WINNER)
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay

Makeup and Hairstyling
Border, Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, and Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, and Patricia Dehaney (WINNER)

Live Action Short Film
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv (WINNER)

Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi (WINNER)

Animated Short
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi (WINNER)
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez

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Awards

Oscars 2019: Who Will Win? Who Should Win? Our Final Predictions

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them.

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Roma
Photo: Netflix

No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits. Across the last 24 days, Ed Gonzalez and I have mulled over the academy’s existential crisis and how it’s polluted this year’s Oscar race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again. We’re spent, and while we don’t know if we have it in us to do this next year, we just might give it another go if Oscar proves us wrong on Sunday in more than just one category.

Below are our final Oscar predictions. Want more? Click on the individual articles for our justifications and more, including who we think should win in all 24 categories.

Picture: Green Book
Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Original Screenplay: Green Book
Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Foreign Language: Roma
Documentary Feature: RBG
Animated Feature Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence
Animated Short: Weekends
Live Action Short: Skin
Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design: The Favourite
Cinematography: Cold War
Costume Design: The Favourite
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Song: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual Effects: First Man

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Awards

Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Picture

The industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again.

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Green Book
Photo: Universal Pictures

“I’m hyperventilating a little. If I fall over pick me up because I’ve got something to say,” deadpanned Frances McDormand upon winning her best actress Oscar last year. From her lips to Hollywood’s ears. No one is okay with the Academy Awards the way they are, and everyone seems sure that they know how to fix them. Cut out the montages, bring back honorary award presentations, give stunt performers their own category, let ranked-choice voting determine every category and not just best picture, overhaul the membership ranks, hold the event before the guilds spoil the surprise, find a host with the magic demographic-spanning mojo necessary to double the show’s recent audience pools, nominate bigger hits, nominate only hits.

But first, as McDormand herself called for during her speech, “a moment of perspective.” A crop of articles have popped up over the last two weeks looking back at the brutal showdown between Saving Private Ryan and Shakespeare In Love at the 1999 Academy Awards, when Harvey Weinstein was at the height of his nefarious powers. Every retrospective piece accepts as common wisdom that it was probably the most obnoxious awards season in history, one that indeed set the stage for every grinding assault we’ve paid witness to ever since. But did anyone two decades ago have to endure dozens of weekly Oscar podcasters and hundreds of underpaid web writers musing, “What do the Academy Awards want to be moving forward, exactly? Who should voters represent in this fractured media environment, exactly?” How much whiskey we can safely use to wash down our Lexapro, exactly?

Amid the fox-in-a-henhouse milieu of ceaseless moral outrage serving as this awards season’s backdrop, and amid the self-obsessed entertainers now wrestling with the idea that they now have to be “content providers,” all anyone seems concerned about is what an Oscar means in the future, and whether next year’s versions of Black Panther and Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody have a seat at the table. What everyone’s forgetting is what the Oscars have always been. In other words, the industry’s existential crisis has polluted this race so thoroughly that it feels eerily similar to the 2016 election cycle all over again, and Oscar’s clearly splintered voting blocs may become ground zero for a Make the Academy Great Again watershed.

In 1956, the Oscars took a turn toward small, quotidian, neo-realish movies, awarding Marty the top prize. The correction was swift and sure the following year, with a full slate of elephantine epics underlining the movie industry’s intimidation at the new threat of television. Moonlight’s shocking triumph two years ago was similarly answered by the safe, whimsical The Shape of Water, a choice that reaffirmed the academy’s commitment to politically innocuous liberalism in artistically conservative digs. Call us cynical, but we know which of the last couple go-arounds feels like the real academy. Which is why so many are banking on the formally dazzling humanism of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and so few on the vital, merciless fury of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman.

And even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the academy’s new members, there’s that righteous, reactionary fervor in the air against those attempting to “cancel” Green Book. Those attacking the film from every conceivable angle have also ignored the one that matters to most people: the pleasure principle. Can anyone blame Hollywood for getting its back up on behalf of a laughably old-fashioned but seamlessly mounted road movie-cum-buddy pic that reassures people that the world they’re leaving is better than the one they found? That’s, as they say, the future that liberals and Oscar want.

Will Win: Green Book

Could Win: Roma or BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

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