The surprising snub of Fatih Akin’s Golden Globe-winning In the Fade, a film that suggests a willfully trendy episode of Law & Order: Berlin that weirdly plays out from time to time on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey, was supposed to make calling this award easier. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless, Ildikó Enyedi’s On Body and Soul, and Ruben Östlund’s The Square are all, to varying degrees, esoteric in ways that have proven to be anathema to AMPAS voters, so it isn’t worth entertaining the possibility of them prevailing. And as A Fantastic Woman hits so many buttons, not to mention that melodramatic sweet spot that has pushed such dire films as Juan José Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes and Alejandro Amenábar’s The Sea Inside to victory here, to bet against Sebastián Lelio taking the podium seems unwise.
And then we watched The Insult, which recounts in rollicking fashion how the harsh words exchanged between a Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian refugee over a leaky drainpipe leads to violence and, then, a courtroom confrontation that draws national attention. At one point, the Lebanese Christian’s attorney—and this is before the big reveal that he and the prosecuting attorney are related—goes on a harangue about how trendy it is to sympathize with Palestinians. The scene is emblematic of this schematic film’s propensity for laying out its themes in as blatant a manner as possible. Take into account the controversy that surrounds the release of Ziad Doueiri’s films—his prior The Attack violated the Arab League boycott of Israel and left-wing critics are campaigning to get The Insult banned throughout Lebanon—and you’re looking at the perfect recipe for an Oscar victory lap.
But there’s only so many risks that Eric Henderson and I allow ourselves to take during prediction season. I’m more certain than Eric is that the geopolitical issues at the center of Doueiri’s film will be of interest to AMPAS members: The Insult is conspicuously “even-handed” in its approach, and unlike two past losers in this category, Paradise Now and Omar, it doesn’t task AMPAS voters to wrestle with the complexities of Palestinians being provoked to commit the sort of violence that actually leads to the loss of human life. But I also agree with Eric that the equally schematic and heavy-handed A Fantastic Woman benefits from a number of other factors: from being “in the conversation” more; for its star, trans actress Daniela Vega, having given one of last year’s breakout performances (she’s also scheduled to present on Oscar night); and for having the woke-iest title of any film heading into an Oscar telecast that’s bound to out-woke all that have come before it.
Will Win: A Fantastic Woman
Could Win: The Insult
Should Win: On Body and Soul
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
For appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore, one film has the upper hand here.
Given what Eric wrote about the sound editing category yesterday, it now behooves me to not beat around the bush here. Also, it’s my birthday, and there are better things for me to do today than count all the ways that Eric and I talk ourselves out of correct guesses in the two sound categories, as well as step on each other’s toes throughout the entirety of our Oscar-prediction cycle. In short, it’s very noisy. Which is how Oscar likes it when it comes to sound, though maybe not as much the case with sound mixing, where the spoils quite often go to best picture nominees that also happen to be musicals (Les Misérables) or musical-adjacent (Whiplash). Only two films fit that bill this year, and since 2019 is already making a concerted effort to top 2018 as the worst year ever, there’s no reason to believe that the scarcely fat-bottomed mixing of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody will take this in a walk, for appealing to voters’ nostalgia for drunken karaoke nights of yore.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: A Star Is Born
Should Win: First Man
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt.
If it were biologically possible to do so, both Ed and I would happily switch places with A Quiet Place’s Emily Blunt, because we’d much rather give birth in a tub while surrounded by murderous blind creatures than have to once again write our predictions for the sound categories. As adamant as we’ve been that the Academy owes it to the nominees to air every category, which they agreed to after an extended “just kidding,” it might have given us pause had the sound categories been among the four demoted by Oscar. But no, we must now endure our annual bout of penance, aware of the fact that actually knowing what the difference is between sound editing and sound mixing is almost a liability. In other words, we’ve talked ourselves out of correct guesses too many times, doubled down on the same movie taking both categories to hedge our bets too many times, and watched as the two categories split in the opposite way we expected too many times. So, as in A Quiet Place, the less said, the better. And while that film’s soundscapes are as unique and noisy as this category seems to prefer, First Man’s real-word gravitas and cacophonous Agena spin sequence should prevail.
Will Win: First Man
Could Win: A Quiet Place
Should Win: First Man
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Actress
Sometimes it’s important to just step back and pay your respects to a remarkable actress.
Sometimes it’s important to just step back and pay your respects to a remarkable actress for having given a performance that, while not your, um, favourite nominated one, is still deserving of an Oscar victory lap. Now, if only others felt the same. Very early on in the awards season, there was already a sense that this award could become a career-achievement coronation for the six-time losing Glenn Close—and that people were going to have a problem squaring that with the fact that her Oscar would be tied to a film perceived to be a piffle. That’s not an inaccurate perception, but it’s difficult to remember a time when critics have used that as an excuse to not do their homework.
In short, have you seen The Wife? Indeed, until the awards-media system’s attention shifted full time into covering AMPAS’s A Series of Unfortunate Oscar Decisions, it seemed as if every day brought us a new article by some pundit about the Oscar race in which it strangely sounded as if the The Wife was still a blind spot for the writer. Which is shame, because Close gives good face throughout the film. Certainly, few Oscar-nominated films this year are as absurd as The Wife, but I’ll do battle with anyone who thinks Close is getting by on her legend alone. Close’s triumph is recognizing The Wife’s inherent ludicrousness and elevating it, and without condescension, with a kabuki-like verve that seeks to speak to the experiences of all women who’ve been oppressed by their men. It’s a turn worthy of Norma Desmond.
Today, the most reliable Oscar narrative is the overdue performer. And if you take stock in that narrative, then you’ll understand why I texted Eric, my fellow Oscar guru, the following on the morning of November 29: “I think Close is going to Still Alice at the Oscars.” After that morning, when the New York Film Critics Circle officially kick-started the Oscar season (and gave their award for best actress to Regina Hall in Support the Girls), no actress ran the table with the critics and guilds, but most of the cards that matter did fall into place for Close, and much as they did for Julianne Moore ahead of her winning the Oscar for Still Alice.
This was a done deal when Close won the Golden Globe, received a standing ovation, and gave the night’s most impassioned speech, immediately after which Eric conceded that my instincts had been right. Of course, that was no doubt easy for him to admit given that, by that point, the oxygen had already seeped out of A Star Is Born’s awards campaign, leaving only Olivia Colman in Close’s way. Colman has worked the campaign trail in spectacular ways, giving speeches that have been every bit as droll as this, but in the end, she doesn’t have the SAG, and as bold and subversive as her performance certainly is, it isn’t sufficiently big enough to convince enough AMPAS members that Close should continue waiting for Oscar.
Will Win: Glenn Close, The Wife
Could Win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Should Win: Olivia Colman, The Favourite