91st Academy Awards: Predictions and Insight

We have finally made it to the end of a long, confusing, frustrating, yet somewhat exciting awards season. The 91st Academy Awards arrive in a few days, so it’s time to put up some predictions for what may happen. There are some safe bets, thought a lot of this race is still up in the air, which is hardly surprising given a lot of shake-ups, controversy, and other factors that have made this year’s crop of films memorable for reasons stemming beyond quality. Regardless, I have laid out all the categories, highlighting my predictions for the winner, with additional thoughts below each.

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

I wouldn’t have thought I’d be starting out with so much uncertainty, but here we are. It’s a wide-open race where Globes went for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, Black Panther picked up the SAG Ensemble, the DGA chose Alfonso Cuaron, along with the Critics Choice and BAFTA. What does that mean for the big winner on Oscar night? I have no idea. Chances are Roma takes it all, though Green Book is right behind it. And yet here’s the thing, I’m still of the mind that BlacKkKlansman could come out on top, which is crazy, but that preferential ballot makes it hard for me to believe it falls so low. Then again, perhaps Black Panther goes the distance for being well-liked, massively popular, and a film that captured the zeitgeist. Maybe The Favourite’s mainstream appeal, for a Lanthimos film, could score it plenty of points to be the big winner. This is indeed a tough call, but my heart wants me to go with Spike Lee.

Lead Actor: 
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born” 
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” 
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Film opinions aside, Malek seems like a nice enough fellow who registered with plenty in his portrayal of the legendary Freddie Mercury. The actor has won numerous awards leading up to this point, even with plenty of criticism and controversy surrounding the making of the film. Malek seems like a pretty safe bet, though the much-respected Christian Bale has been right behind him all the way. Chances of seeing Bradley Cooper walk away with anything are slim to none at this point as well, though stranger things have happened.

Lead Actress:
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma” 
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” 
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” 

With several past nominations, as well as the SAG, Globe, and Critics Choice awards already sitting on her shelf, what chance is there for Glenn Close to miss out on an Oscar this time around? Well, if Olivia Colman has a say, she could prove to be the real favourite. Still, the momentum is well in Close’s favor at this point, and I’d expect that to carry through to the end.

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”

In a different world, veteran actor Sam Elliot would be gearing up to walk to the stage with ease. However, Mahershala Ali has swept all the award shows leading up to the Oscars, and not even of Richard E. Grant’s joy of being included has slowed down the Green Book star. Surprises happen, but this seems like the one acting category that’s a lock. 

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice” 
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk” 
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite” 

Not a lock is the supporting actress category, which may be the most open categories of the major awards. King is still the most likely winner and my prediction, but things have taken exciting turns in the past few weeks. Her lack of SAG and BAFTA nominations are notable, though she did win the Critics Choice award. Weisz is the other probable winner, with a BAFTA to back it up (the SAG went to non-nominee Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place). That said, lots of support has come to Roma’s Marina de Tavira, who’s had no major award wins leading up to this point. Keep in mind that patterns are only valid until they are not and something is going to change here.

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War” 
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” 
Adam McKay, “Vice”

The consensus here seems to be along the lines of, “Alfonso Cuaron is going to win his second Oscar, but how fun would it be to see Spike Lee come up on stage and give a memorable speech?” Lee may have his chance in other categories, but the achievement of Roma on a production and technical level seem to have it standing firm in a group ranging from excellent to Adam McKay.

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

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse feels like a film too good to be true, and yet it has walked all over pre-December presumed-winner Incredibles 2 when it has come to various animation awards. Phil Lord and Chris Miller seem to be roaring back with a vengeance after their Lego Movie snub, and they’re bringing Peter Ramsey, the first black director nominated for this award (shared with two other talented directors), with them.

Animated Short:
“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine 
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall 
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez 

Here’s part 1 of “Shorts Categories Tend to be Unpredictable.” Go with Bao, the most seen entry that happens to have emotional and inclusion elements, given the direction and culture put in by Chinese-Canadian artist Domee Shi, the first woman to direct a Pixar short. I’m a big fan of Weekends, but does it have enough views to go the distance?

Adapted Screenplay:
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen, Ethan Coen 
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee 
“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, Will Fetters

Can You Ever Forgive Me? may have won the WGA, but voters want to award veteran filmmaker Lee. BlacKkKlansman is audacious, poignant, and quite funny. It takes a high concept and turns it into a mainstream buddy cop comedy-drama very effectively. Maybe there’s enough sentiment for Barry Jenkins’ strong work in adapting James Baldwin’s novel, but not being a Best Picture nominee casts doubt over that possible win.

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

Here’s a tip – if Green Book wins here, that you can bet it will take Best Picture. I don’t see that happening, and I also see The Favourite’s witty banter and intrigue winning out for the most votes here. Paul Schrader got the nomination, which is where his path ends this time around. Roma is being praised for many areas outside its screenplay. Vice does have 8 nominations and could turn that into a win beyond its one likely category, but I would still say it’s best to stick with the English period film.

“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan 
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel 
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

It’s nice to see two black-and-white foreign films competing here, but Roma still has the edge. Even with Cold War’s ASC win, Cuaron has been cleaning up in this area, with Emmanuel Lubezki serving as a kind of spirit guide. This would make it the first time a director won for shooting his own movie as well, which would be a neat feat to have accomplished.

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

Yes, it’s a shame that Won’t You Be My Neighbor was passed over, especially since it could be in the place of RBG, the weakest of these nominees, yet one of the frontrunners. Still, with a BAFTA win in its favor, along with the scope and praise that’s been recognized by many, Free Solo stands to climb to the top of Oscar mountain in this fairly wide-open category. All of that said, what a pleasure it would be to see Bing Liu win for Minding the Gap

Best 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

Part 2 of the unpredictable shorts series doesn’t get any easier. A lot of good notice is going to Period. End of Sentence, as it’s the only uplifting one of the bunch. Black Sheep is certainly timely enough, given the sad story of how one young man dealt with racism. Still, there’s a lot of emotion to go with the craft behind End Game, a Netflix release. 

Best Live Action Short Film: 
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe 
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley 
“Mother,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv 

Part 3 and the trickiest of the short categories, as this could go in any direction. Each live-action short has received its share of acclaim. Marguerite is the only standout in terms of theme, let alone possible division, as it doesn’t rely on children in peril to tell a story. Meanwhile, Skin is already on its way to becoming a full-length feature. Given the lack of a sure thing, I’m just going to stick with my favorite, Fauve, which was a Sundance favorite.

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

How do you bet against Roma here? With ten nominations and a possible Best Picture win, does this become the first film to win that highest prize, along with Best Foreign Language Film? It would appear to be a lock, but strange things can happen here. Amazon has done right by Cold War, getting the film two other big nominations for the Cuaron film to contend with. If any movie could upset, it’s Pawlikowski's romantic epic.

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

This category is pretty baffling, given the lack of Roma (let alone my gripes about First Man’s snub). As it stands, a win for any of these Best Picture nominees could be a huge indicator, particularly for BlacKkKlansman. However, having the “most editing” sometimes equals “best editing” in the eyes of voters, which could be why Vice is a possible winner here, though Bohemian Rhapsody did win the ACE.

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

This awards season has been crazy enough that I wouldn’t be surprised to see another tie, complete with Mark Wahlberg once again assuring the audience that it’s no BS. Still, with the lack of a war film to make this decision easy, there’s an argument for every nominee. Black Panther is the big action film, so that could secure a win, although Bohemian Rhapsody took home a guild award to help it out as well. First Man seems like an excellent choice given all that it’s doing with its production, though you could say the same about the other confident entries. 

Sound Mixing: 
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody” 
“First Man”
“A Star Is Born”

Compared to editing, sound mixing is a bit of an easier category to navigate. Keeping eyes on the two music-based features among the nominees, A Star is Born could have been a safe bet, but it’s Bohemian Rhapsody that has dominated these categories among the guilds. Bringing Queen’s music to life has apparently gone a long way for many, so get ready to see the film break free with another win here.

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

Hats off to Ludwig Goransson for delivering an incredible score for an MCU feature, the franchise needed it. That said, up until recently, it seemed like a battle between First Man and Beale Street for the Oscar. With First Man not a contender, one would think my favorite score of the year has it locked up. And then Terence Blanchard finally got a nomination. Another terrific score, his years of work with Lee could be a benefit that translates into a win. 

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 
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

The biggest upset of the night would be “Shallow” not winning for Best Original Song. It’s not impossible, but the hugely successful single has everything working in its favor, including the necessity to award the former front runner, A Star is Born for something. That said, the most exciting thing about this category is that we’ll get to see Tim Blake Nelson perform on stage, ideally in costume.

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

All due respect to First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, and Roma, but this is a battle between afro-futurism and historical landmarks. Hannah Beachler’s work to create Wakanda certainly registered with many proud to proclaim, “Wakanda forever,” on the drop of a dime. At the same time, shooting The Favourite on location to capture led the cutting nature of the film’s tone to elevate to another level, thanks to the atmosphere. Still, keeping recent wins for Blade Runner 2049 and Mad Max: Fury Road in mind, I’ll opt for another win in favor of building a world from the ground up.

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

Speaking of costumes, here’s a batch of familiar nominee types. Three-time winner Sandy Powell has a good chance with Best Picture nom The Favourite, which plays into the standards when it comes to regal period films. However, the colorful look and inventiveness of the very popular Black Panther by past nominee Ruth E. Carter could secure her first win here. 

Makeup and Hairstyling:
“Mary Queen of Scots”

You have a Best Picture nominee, with a central performance that relies on the makeup to help bring Dick Cheney. While this category sometimes goes another way for the sake of terrible superhero movies (Suicide Squad) or forgettable horror films (Wolfman), one could pretty confidently place their focus on Vice

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

This is trickier than some would think. You may be able to safely count out Solo and Christopher Robin, but there’s a lot of deserved admiration for Ready Player One. That said, the big battle is between Thanos and Neil Armstrong. The MCU has yet to win in this category, and it could be its time. However, the fantastic Damien Chazelle biopic does a lot right in its realistic recreation of a monumental event. I’m thinking VES Guild winner Avengers: Infinity War may win this one in a snap, but it could go either way.


That’s it for predictions. We'll see where things end up, but stay tuned for a couple upcoming Out Now with Aaron and Abe podcast episodes that will feature even more prediction thoughts, as well as a fun results show arriving pretty close to after the end of the Oscar broadcast!


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