Oscars 2019 predictions: Roma or Black Panther? Rami Malek or Bradley Cooper? Decoding who's likely to win
It’s that time of year again. The 91st Oscars will air bright and early at 6:30 am on Monday 25 February, and they’re sure to generate chatter.
It’s that time of year again. The 91st Academy Awards will air bright and early at 6:30 am on Monday 25 February, and they’re sure to generate chatter.
It’s been a controversial road to the Oscars, beginning with the Academy announcing a separate-but-equal “Achievement in Popular Film” award last year (presumably so Black Panther would have a major spot) before online backlash made them reconsider. As it turns out, Black Panther is up for Best Picture anyway, but the controversies continued.
At first, the plan was to neither have all five Best Original Song nominees perform, as is tradition, nor to bring back last year’s winning actors to present this year’s trophies, decisions that were also eventually reversed. Additionally, the awards for Best Editing, Best Hair & Makeup, Best Live Action Short and Best Cinematography were scheduled to be presented off-air, a decision that was walked back just days ago.
Still, whoever ends up winning, it’s sure to be a morning of memorable speeches, eye-catching gowns, and out-of-context clips of films you haven’t heard of that make you go “Ooh, that one looks interesting!”
Today, we take a look at six major categories — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor — in the hopes of figuring out not only who will win the year’s biggest awards, but who should. Maybe the Academy will get it right this year. Or maybe it’ll be a disaster. There’s only one way to find out.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali — Green Book
Adam Driver — BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott — A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant — Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell — Vice
As usual, the biopic is the Academy’s flavour of the month. Four of the five nominated performances here are based on real people, though Adam Driver’s understated Phillip Zimmerman and Richard E. Grant’s delightfully eccentric Jack Hock were heavily fictionalised. Sam Rockwell won the award last year for his nuanced performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but his nomination this year comes as a result of a brief appearance as George W. Bush — rather, a brief impersonation akin to stand-up comedy. The two most likely candidates however, each deliver standout performances.
Will Win: Mahershala Ali — Green Book
Ali won the same award for Moonlight two years ago, and he re-appears for a film that feels more palatable (see: less challenging) to old-school Academy voters. He performs admirably as the uptight, closeted gay musician Doc Shirley, and it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he won. Though the family’s response to the performance (they called the film “a symphony of lies”) and Green Book’s general antipathy towards the inner life of its subject leave a sour taste.
Should Win: Sam Elliott — A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut is scattershot in its storytelling, though its performances do the heavy-lifting, conveying drama through posture and chemistry. While Cooper and Lady Gaga are (rightly) nominated for their expressiveness, Sam Elliott is tasked with wielding subtlety in this melodramatic tale. Elliott deserves every accolade in the world for his voice alone, but the way he speaks with his eyes is magnificent.
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams — Vice
Marina de Tavira — Roma
Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone — The Favourite
Rachel Weisz — The Favourite
Three of the five nominees are based on real people once more, though only one of them is still living (Amy Adams’ domineering conspirator Lynne Cheney). Meanwhile, Rachel Weisz’s stone-cold Sarah Churchill and Emma Stone’s deliciously cunning Baroness Masham, both from royal courtroom comedy The Favourite, are likely to split the vote. This is the most interesting of the four actor lineups, and it even includes a surprise appearance by Roma’s Marina de Tavira, who’s been absent from every other major award ballot. Though, this is also one of the few categories this year that feels easily predictable.
Will Win: Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk
Should Win: Regina King — If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk is an egregious Best Picture snub this year, as are the omissions of lead actor Stephan James, lead actress Kiki Layne and supporting actor Bryan Tyree Henry. Regina King is sort of a representative; this, along with the momentum of winning the Golden Globe and nearly every Critics’ award, covers the “will win” part of the equation. Her strength within vulnerability as a mother trying to clear her son’s name, however, make her an absolute “should.”
Christian Bale — Vice
Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe — At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen — Green Book
We’re back to four biopics. Six of the last eight winners of this award have been based on real people, so, this year feels like a foregone conclusion. Bradley Cooper is the odd one out, though his masculine insecurity, the precise ways he leans to accommodate his hearing loss, and his southern drawl in the vein of co-star Sam Elliott are just as award-worthy as any real-life impression. Willem Dafoe is subtly, painfully brilliant as the troubled Vincent van Gogh, but there’s a good chance most Academy voters didn’t bother watching a film as low-profile as At Eternity’s Gate. Viggo Mortensen appears in a film with considerably more buzz, Green Book, in which he plays a cartoonish Italian American caricature (your mileage may vary), but Mahershala Ali is likely to take Best Supporting Actor for superior work in that same film, which dilutes Mortensen’s chances.
Will Win: Rami Malek — Bohemian Rhapsody
To figure out who the Academy is going to award Best Actor in a given year, swap out “Best” with “Most.” Rami Malek is this season’s “most” performer; his Freddie Mercury was a lock for the nomination before we’d even seen a trailer (he eventually took the Screen Actors Guild/SAG award, the British Academy/BAFTA award and the Golden Globe for Drama). When Malek isn’t lip-syncing, he draws out his spoken lines like a classic Bond villain. It’s not at all what Mercury sounded like, and it doesn’t gel with the film or the realism of the other characters, but the performance is showy enough to feel like your conservative uncle’s vague memory of Freddie Mercury, which only increases Malek’s chances.
Then again, if that’s the criteria, might I suggest…
Should Win: Christian Bale — Vice
Bale isn’t doing an accurate impression either, but where Malek’s exaggeration was at odds with his film, Bale’s over-the-top Dick Cheney is perfectly in line with Vice, a film with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. The Academy likes to reward body transformations, and while it’s usually a lazy go-to, it would actually make sense here. Not just because Bale put on an unhealthy amount of weight for the role, but because he plays Cheney as a repulsive warmonger disgusted with his physical being. He slopes, and growls, and externalises a feeling of sickness from deep within, embodying the story’s most despicable qualities.
Yalitza Aparicio — Roma
Glenn Close — The Wife
Olivia Colman — The Favourite
Lady Gaga — A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy — Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This year’s stellar Best Actress lineup features supremely varied work. Yalitza Aparicio hides in plain sight as soft-spoken maid Cleo; Melissa McCarthy rides the line between obnoxious and entertaining as foul-mouthed forger Lee Israel; Lady Gaga delivers a fiery-yet-vulnerable performance as starry-eyed pop sensation Ally. And yet, this high-calibre race still comes down to just two nominees:
Will Win: Glenn Close — The Wife or Olivia Colman — The Favourite
It’s a tight race in every respect, including using previous awards as predictors. Glenn Close took the SAG award. Olivia Colman took the BAFTA. They each won a Golden Globe (Close for Drama, Colman for Comedy) and they deliver wildly different performances that the Academy might choose for different reasons.
Should Win: Glenn Close — The Wife or Olivia Colman — The Favourite
Close plays a woman living in her husband’s shadow, a role which requires her to build an entire story through increasingly frustrated reactions. It’s her seventh nomination so she certainly deserves the break, but one wonders if her performance is almost too subdued for the Academy. On the other hand, Colman’s Queen Anne embodies The Favourite’s tonal bipolarity. The film veers between mawkish and sincere, depending on whether it wants you to laugh at or cry with its characters. One performance is subtly precise, the other is aggressive and audacious. Both are fearless, and either one would be a worthy pick.
Spike Lee — BlacKkKlansman
Paweł Pawlikowski — Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos — The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón — Roma
Adam McKay — Vice
All fine filmmakers in my book. Though in a year like 2018, which saw great women-directed films like Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, Deborah Granik’s Leave No Trace, Tamara Jenkins’ Private Life, Josephine Decker’s Madeline’s Madeline (and so many more), another all-male Best Director lineup is a shame.
Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón — Roma
Should Win: Spike Lee — BlacKkKlansman
Both films are tremendous, so you could make the case either way. Roma is tender and exquisitely photographed. It feels like walking through Cuarón’s living memories, and the sound mix alone transports you to a different time and place. BlacKkKlansman is a fiery takedown of white supremacy from Spike Lee, one of America’s greats. He’s as precise at juggling clashing tones as he was 30 years ago. Lee, despite an illustrious career including 1989 Best Picture snub Do the Right Thing, has never won the award. In fact, this is his first nomination, and given that Cuarón already won for Gravity (2013), it feels like Lee is well overdue.
A Star is Born
This might be the strangest Best Picture race in years, as there appear to be no clear frontrunners.
Firstly, it’s nearly impossible to predict based on the season’s major awards: Roma won the BAFTA for Best Film, Bohemian Rhapsody took the Golden Globe for Best Drama, Green Book won big at the Producers Guild, Black Panther was awarded SAG’s Best Ensemble, and the Writers Guild of America gave its top honours to Can you Ever Forgive Me? and Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade, which aren’t even nominated here. Furthermore, each film on the list has both major advantages and disadvantages from a voter standpoint.
Black Panther is a proud celebration of Blackness and a milestone for Hollywood, but the Academy is known to have reservations when it comes to genre films. BlacKkKlansman is an incisive takedown of white supremacy in Trump’s America, but may it might be a hard pill to swallow for a voting body that still skews older and white. Bohemian Rhapsody is a biopic about a beloved late musician, but it’s also poorly assembled, and directed by a man accused of sexually assaulting children. The Favourite is a bawdy period-costume film about three queer women, but it may be too zany for an award body trying to maintain an air of seriousness.
Green Book is a feel-good racism film about the troubles faced by Black Americans, but it centers white perspectives — traits it shares with now-reviled Best Picture winners Crash (2005) and Driving Miss Daisy (1989) — a bad look for a voting body attempting to diversify. Roma on the other hand, would represent the biggest paradigm shift for the Academy. It would be the first ever non-English language winner (the film is in Spanish and indigenous language Mixtec), and while it’s the nominee with the strongest artistic case, it was also produced by Netflix, whom many in Hollywood see as a negative force in film distribution.
A Star is Born is apolitical enough to be non-controversial, but feels too safe a choice even for the Academy (It’s a third remake — a fourth, if you count Aashiqui 2). Vice has a chance by virtue of being a biopic, but it may be too scathing for conservative voters, and too on-the-nose for their left-leaning counterparts. Every other category seems to come down to one or two choices, but Best Picture this year has at least six likely winners. Given the bizarre ranked ballot system, this also means some films might split the vote, so we could be in for an upset.
Might Win, but Shouldn’t: Bohemian Rhapsody or Green Book
Both choices are safe and un-challenging, but pay lip-service to progress. Regardless of quality, either one would represent backward steps. Not only for the kinds of films awarded — they only scratch the dramatic surface of their subjects’ race and sexuality — but for whom the Academy rewards with its platform. Bestowing Best Picture on Bohemian Rhapsody would be a travesty in light of Bryan Singer’s sexual assault accusations, and Green Book writer and producer Nick Vallelonga (the son of the film’s subject, Tony Lip) was recently found to have been spreading dangerously racist propaganda in addition to harassing female coworkers. Plus, neither film is nearly as remarkable as the others the list, though for an award that tends to be a potent political representation for Hollywood, quality is almost secondary.
Should Win: Black Panther or Roma
If the Best Picture in a given year is meant to be the face of the industry, then few choices are better than Black Panther and Roma. The former was a globally beloved box-office smash that represents a new direction for Hollywood, dismantling the myth that Black actors can’t open movies internationally. Roma, a gorgeous film about the inner life of an indigenous Mexican maid, would be similarly a major statement about whose stories matter. Just as importantly, though, both films are impeccably designed, and their directors, Ryan Coogler and Alfonso Cuarón, imbue them with deeply personal sensibilities, telling nuanced stories about social hierarchy that also happen to deliver the kind of bold visual panache the Academy prefers.
(All images from Twitter and Instagram).
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