Starting tomorrow, The House will predict the winners in all four General Field categories of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, airing February 10th on CBS. To start things off, here are our thoughts on some of the smaller categories, most of which you probably won’t see televised Sunday night in order to make room for countless performances and seemingly arbitrary duets between artists who have no business sharing a stage, let alone a microphone.
Best Pop Solo Performance: Unlike the Academy Awards, the Grammys are now living in a post-gender world. Both male and female artists can be nominated in the same genre categories, which means, duh, that women dominate Best Pop Solo Performance. This one is Record of the Year nominee Kelly Clarkson’s to lose, but the only thing NARAS loves more than giving Grammys to Adele, is giving Grammys to live renditions of songs whose studio versions are ineligible, so don’t be surprised if the soon-to-be Oscar winner beats out Clarkson’s “Stronger” to land her ninth Grammy for “Set Fire to the Rain (Live).” Sal Cinquemani
Best Pop Vocal Album: The old maxim that “might equals right” seems appropriate when considering Grammy voters’ preferences in the Best Pop Vocal Album category, which has long been a repository of radio-friendly personas with thundering and often overbearing pipes. Sorely missed among this year’s nominees are Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan and newcomer Jessie Ware, two British artists whose exquisite, understated work on The Haunted Man and Devotion has quite literally been drowned out by the Kelly Clarksons and Pinks of the world, a missed opportunity for the Academy to spotlight artists whose nomination isn’t predicated on sheer volume and popularity. The safe bet this year is the sole Album of the Year nominee, Fun’s Some Nights. Kevin Liedel
Best Dance Recording: I mean, it’s not like they nominated Rebecca Black, right? Given that Grammy’s vice president is on the record saying this category means nothing to him, the only two takeaways surrounding Al Walser’s clearly bought-and-paid-for nomination are that it exposes EDM for the check-cashing Monster Energy Drink nightmare the genre always was, and that Walser stole a slot that clearly deserved to go to Sweet Brown’s “Get Me a Cold Pop (Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Dat).” If Walser’s checkbook is still open, he could pull off the win. But if the number of YouTube cover versions are any indication, this award is Swedish House Mafia’s. Eric Henderson
Best Rock Performance: Taking this category at its word, the golden gramophone should go to the gut-bustingest nominee. This year, that would be The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” a glory of a song built on tommy-gun drums and the sawed-off attack of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach. But there’s a strong argument to be made on behalf of Alabama Shakes: Though at times more gospel than rock, Brittany Howard’s vocal dynamism on “Hold On” gets you where you live in a different but no less immediate sense than “Lonely Boy.” If we factor in sales, the Keys take this one, but the Mumfords could always make a sneak attack based on their current darling-status. And remember: Handing a Grammy to Bruce Springsteen isn’t exactly a difficult procedure. Ted Scheinman
Best Alternative Music Album: In what world does the Southern Gothic warbling of Tom Waits belong in the same category as M83’s shoegazing stadium anthems? Here, apparently. No other category screams Miscellaneous Shit the Academy Doesn’t Know What to Do With quite like Best Alternative Music Album, a nebulous designation where innovative artists tend to get shoehorned. Hence we see Waits, M83, Björk, and Gotye standing uncomfortably together with likely winner Fiona Apple like some haphazard criminal lineup. It’s further evidence that expanding this category (just as pop, rock, and other genres have) is long overdue. Liedel
Best R&B Performance: A histrionic Estelle acquits herself nicely from the concept of unqualified happiness, which should appeal to Mary J. Blige fans everywhere, and freshman Luke James’s early-and-often falsetto yelps would give Felix Baumgartner vertigo. But this category is unquestionably coming down to the two performances that wetly whisper seductive nothings in listeners’ ears (and, incidentally, the two performances that landed in place and show in this year’s Pazz & Jop singles poll). If Usher’s tantric quiet storm “Climax” represents not only his best, but also his most mature performance yet, even he’s no match for Miguel, who imbues his Midnight Love update “Adorn” with prowling, stately chivalry. Henderson
Best Americana Album: Responding 15 years too late to the phenomenon known as “alt-country,” the NARAS cleaved “Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album” into two separate categories in 2009. In the three years since, the Academy has favored hoarier acts with Americana honors: Levon Helm beat out Wilco in 2010, only to duplicate his success two years later. (In between, Mavis Staples won for the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone.) Based on this admittedly slender bit of historical precedent, the smart cash is on Bonnie Raitt over her younger, if no less banjo-devoted, competitors. Slipstream is rock-solid Raitt, even if there isn’t an original to be found on the album (I’ll take her covers of Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright, and Gerry Rafferty over the Mumfords’ maudlin mandolins any day). But the category, for all its retrospective energy, is still in its infancy, so don’t be surprised should the academy fall for the semi-hip rusticity of Mumford & Sons or the Avett Brothers. Raitt’s is the better album, while the Lumineers, a newer and more imaginative act than the Mumfords or Avetts, deserve the silver. Scheinman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Film Editing
Sigh, can we just edit this whole Oscar season from our memories?
Sigh, can we just edit this whole Oscar season from our memories? AMPAS has officially brought more queens back from the brink than this year’s season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars. Now that the academy has reneged on its plans to snip four categories from the live Oscar telecast, after first attempting damage control and assuring members that it will still run those four awards as not-so-instant replays in edited-down form later on in the show, we can once again turn our attention to the other editing that’s so vexed Film Twitter this Oscar season. We yield the floor to Twitter user Pramit Chatterjee:
People, actual fucking people, are watching scene after scene like this and are saying “bruuuh! best. movie. of. the. year”?
This is objectively bad. Someone with no idea about editing will notice it. My brain is on fire thinking that this is an OSCAR NOMINATED MOVIE! FUCK! pic.twitter.com/QVDCxe2iaf
— Pramit Chatterjee 🌈 (@pramitheus) January 26, 2019
Very fuck! The academy would’ve been shooting itself in the foot by not airing what’s starting to feel like one of this year’s most competitive Oscar categories—a category that seems like it’s at the center of ground zero for the voters who, as a fresh New York Times survey of anonymous Oscar ballots confirms, are as unashamedly entertained by a blockbuster that critics called utterly worthless as they are feeling vengeful against those who would dare call a film they loved racist. Interestingly enough, the New York Times’s panel of voters seems palpably aware that Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is the nominee this year that’s going to go down in history as the “right thing” they’ll be embarrassed for not “doing.” No arguments from this corner. Lee’s film is narratively propulsive and knotty in ways that ought to translate into a no-brainer win here. (My cohort Ed recently mused that he’d give the film the Oscar just for the energy it displays cutting back and forth during phone conversations.)
We’re glad that the academy walked back its decision to not honor two of the most crucial elements of the medium (editing and cinematography) on the live Oscar telecast, but what we’re left with is the dawning horror that the formless flailing exemplified by the clip above might actually win this damned award. Guy Lodge sarcastically mused on the upside of Pramit’s incredulous tweet, “I’ve never seen so many people on Twitter discussing the art of film editing before,” and honestly, it does feel like Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody getting publicly dog-walked like this stands to teach baby cinephiles-in-training the language of the cut as well as any of the myriad montages the show producers intended on airing in lieu of, you know, actually awarding craftspeople. But only a fraction of the voting body has to feel sympathy for John Ottman (whose career, for the record, goes all the way back with Bryan Singer), or express admiration that he managed to assemble the raw materials from a legendarily chaotic project into an international blockbuster. The rest of the academy has their ostrich heads plunged far enough into the sand to take care of the rest.
Will Win: Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: BlacKkKlansman
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Honestly, we’re so gobsmacked by AMPAS’s skullduggery that we can’t even see what’s right in front of us.
In less than a week, AMPAS has successfully stoked the anger of just about every creative in Hollywood, and perhaps sensing a widespread boycott of the Oscar telecast in response to the banishment of four awards to commercial breaks, the academy has now “clarified” its latest attempt to reboot the Oscars for the TL;DR generation. Yesterday, in a letter signed by the academy’s board of governors—which includes president, director of photography, and hater of cinematography John Bailey—members were assured that the four winning speeches will in fact be included in the broadcast, but with all the walking and talking that it takes to announce the winners edited out. Also, those four categories may or may not be given the short shrift in 2020, as apparently there’s a “rotation” system in place that will, I guess, leave the door open for us to not see Lady Gaga walk on stage next year to accept the best actress award for her performance accepting the Golden Globe this year for “Shallow.”
Honestly, we’re so gobsmacked by AMPAS’s skullduggery that we can’t even see what’s right in front of us. Case in point: When I sat down to write this article, I thought this award was going to be a slam dunk for Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but as it turns out, the film isn’t even nominated for its costumes. Because sanity prevailed when voters decided they didn’t find any kind of magic in Brian May pulling out his old Queen outfits for the making of Bryan Singer’s film, maybe it will prevail again and AMPAS will take the Oscars off its planned keto diet. And if it doesn’t, we’ll take some solace in three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell—who for the third time in her career has been nominated twice in the same year—collecting this award for her gloriously ostentatious, stitch-perfect garbs for The Favourite.
Will Win: The Favourite
Could Win: Black Panther
Should Win: The Favourite
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Actor
Throwing questions of artistic merit out the window, opponents of a Rami Malek win have dutifully cast doubt on his ideological purity.
Given how this accursed Oscar season has thrown one obscenity after another at everyone who has any investment whatsoever in the institution of the Academy Awards, it’s as though AMPAS is inviting the world to burn the Dolby Theater down on Oscar Sunday, as Mélanie Laurent’s Shosanna does to the Cinema Le Gamaar at the climax of Inglourious Basterds. And at this point, considering that one of the four awards being banished to commercial breaks is cinematography, and that AMPAS president John Bailey is himself a cinematographer, the presumption of self-sabotage seems credible.
Such are the affronts to progress toward anything other than ABC-Disney’s maniacal bottom line to reverse the show’s declining ratings, and the deadening effect every bad idea has had on our souls, that Rami Malek winning the best actor Oscar for leading with his teeth throughout Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody slots toward the bottom of our shit list. Malek, who cemented his frontrunner status with a BAFTA win last weekend, may be taking a page, if not the whole ream, from Eddie Redmayne’s shamelessly charming campaign playbook. But in the category’s absence of Ethan Hawke, who ran the table with critics for his performance in First Reformed, is anyone’s reserve of outrage bottomless enough to howl about the inevitable results here, beyond wounded fans of A Star Is Born? (Though, don’t get us wrong. We’re happy to give Bradley Cooper the award if it keeps him from going behind the camera again.)
Throwing questions of artistic merit out the window, opponents of a Malek win have dutifully cast doubt on his ideological purity. You don’t have to flash back to Casey Affleck to regard this tack as a grisly mistake, even if you don’t happen to believe Malek got Bryan Singer kicked off of Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody for preying on underage boys. This is an Academy that nominated Green Book for five awards. Good intentions are still more than enough, and what you say is still as important, if not more so, than what you do. And if portraying Freddie Mercury as a misguided homosexual who just needed to find Britain’s one good gay somebody to love leaves a pretty foul taste in our mouths, at least Malek has managed to avoid letting the N-word slip from his mouth on the promotional circuit.
Will Win: Rami Malek, Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody
Could Win: Christian Bale, Vice
Should Win: Any actor willing to publicly stand up in support of airing all 24 categories.