Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Movie Review: Never Look Away

Never Look Away **** / *****
Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Written by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Starring: Tom Schilling (Kurt Barnert), Sebastian Koch (Professor Carl Seeband), Paula Beer (Ellie Seeband), Saskia Rosendahl (Elisabeth May), Oliver Masucci (Professor Antonius van Verten), Cai Cohrs (Kurt Barnert 6 Jahre), Ina Weisse (Martha Seeband), Evgeniy Sidikhin (NKWD Major Murawjow), Mark Zak (Dolmetscher Murawjow), Ulrike C. Tscharre (Frau Hellthaler), Bastian Trost (Hausarzt Dr. Franz Michaelis), Hans-Uwe Bauer (Professor Horst Grimma). 
At 188 minutes, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Never Look Away takes its time – as it must. The film focuses on a German artist named Kurt Barnert – loosely based on Gerard Richter – who came of age under Nazi rule and then had to live on Soviet Socialist rule until he finally escaped to the West at nearly the age of 30. The film is also about the relationship he had with the two most important women in his life – first, his fragile Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) and then the beautiful fashion student Ellie (Paula Beer) – who he will marry. Not coincidentally, they share a name, and they look similar to each other. The film has some big themes, but Donnersmarck doesn’t beat you over the head with them. Like his great The Lives of Others, the film is about Germany in transition – here, from Nazi control to Soviet control, and then to more freedom. It is about how people can operate under these different ideologies – or cannot – how they can go from spouting Heil Hitler, to spouting socialist propaganda. And how ultimately both totalitarian regimes stifle artistic freedom – seeing that as dangerous.
The film opens with Aunt Elisabeth bringing young Kurt to an art exhibit of “degenerate art” – being put on by the Nazis. Modern art, which the sneering, condescending tour guide dismisses completely. It doesn’t celebrate German history, or its glorious future, so what is the point. Hitler had very definite ideas of what art should be, and in Germany at that time if you didn’t align with that idea, you didn’t produce art. It is the same when Kurt becomes an art student a decade later. He has undeniable talent; he becomes celebrated in East Germany as a great artist. But he has to paint in the same social realist style as everyone else. When you live with that kind of stricture, that oppression of your work, can you ever truly know who you are as an artist? When he finally gets out of Soviet control, and heads to West Germany, he enrolls at another art school. He is a painter, but is told by everyone there that painting is dead. They are doing all sort of strange, challenging modern art with all sorts of different mediums. And Kurt is blocked. He has no idea who he is as an artist, or what he wants to say.
Through this all is his relationship with Ellie, and his memories of Aunt Elisabeth. Aunt Elisabeth suffered from some sort of mental illness, and is taken away and institutionalized during the war – where she is sterilized. After that, she disappears into the camps. The film also follows her doctor – Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch) – who willingly goes along with what the Nazis wanted, and then is protected when the Soviets take over. He’s one of those amoral psychopaths who always seems to land on his feet, because he doesn’t really have any ideology to hold onto (he shares the Nazis obsession with bloodlines, but that’s hardly it). The film is careful about how it portrays him – never in a good light – and yet, you wait for him to get his comeuppance, and doesn’t ever quite arrive. Even the good characters in the film, although they hate him, have to find a way to live with him – even live off of his money – for years. You understand that this is how it had to be in Germany after the war – not only making peace with the countries past and its sins, but the sins of the people you saw every day.
You can argue that Never Look Away is a little too long, that it both tries to do a little too much, but at the same time is a little too repetitive. You may be right. And yet, I cannot say that I felt that Never Look Away was too long, and honestly, the three-hour runtime didn’t feel that long either. The film is meticulously crafted Caleb Deschanel’s excellent cinematography, that shocked everyone by getting an Oscar nomination this year, really is wonderful. You do have to accept some pretty amazing coincidences in the storytelling to make the film work, but those coincidences are designed to get to a larger truth. For Donnersmarck, this is a return to form. The Lives of Others was made in 2006, and won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar over the favorite Pan’s Labyrinth that year (I still think I would have voted for the Del Toro movie – but it’s close) and the only other film he’s made since was the very bad The Tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie back in 2010. Here, he’s made a beautiful and thought provoking film, a disturbing one and one that continues to grow in your mind after seeing it. It’s not quite a great film like The Lives of Others was – but it’s a very good one, and hopefully means we won’t have to wait so long for another film from Donnersmarck.

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World**** / *****?
Directed by: Dean DeBlois.
Written by: Dean DeBlois based upon the book series by Cressida Cowell.
Starring: Jay Baruchel (Hiccup), America Ferrera (Astrid), F. Murray Abraham (Grimmel), Cate Blanchett (Valka), Gerard Butler (Stoick), Kit Harington (Eret), Jonah Hill (Snotlout Jorgenson), Kristen Wiig (Ruffnut Thorston), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fishlegs), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Ragnar the Rock), Craig Ferguson (Gobber), Justin Rupple (Tuffnut Thorston), AJ Kane (Young Hiccup).
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World completes what really is one of the best animated trilogies out there. With each new film in the series, director Dean DeBlois has found ways to push the animation farther, to make the films more beautiful, almost more dreamlike, and continue the story in a beautiful, and emotional, way. Most animated sequels are content to simply repeat the formula of what made the last film successful – so we get a law of diminishing returns with each new film in the series. What the How to Train Your Dragon series has done is deepen the characters and their relationships with each new film, and watch how they mature. It’s certainly the best series Dreamworks Animation has ever been a part of – and rivals any other animated series you can name.
In this, the last film in the series, young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now the leader of Berk after his father died in the last film. He struggles with the burden of leading his people – especially since he has also seen it as his mission to save all the dragons he can, since most people still want to hunt and kill them. Berk is now overstuffed with people and dragons, and are drawing unwanted attention. Master dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) in particular has his sights set on Hiccup’s Dragon Toothless – he has killed all the other Night Fury’s, and wants to finish the job. As bait, he has a female of the same species – all white, instead of all black – and this draws Toothless’ attention, and begins to make Hiccup question whether Toothless’ place is really with him in Berk, or with the dragons. Toothless is the alpha after all – and where he goes, all the others will follow.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World doesn’t completely avoid all the pitfalls of sequels. The film insists on bringing back all the characters from the previous films, and giving them enough screen time to warrant paying their celebrity voice cast – but really we didn’t need any of Hiccup’s old friends in this film, other than Astrid (America Ferrera) – who we know he will eventually marry. The film struggles to find the others something to do – so we get weird scenes of Jonah Hill’s Snotlout hitting on Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett), lots of scenes of bickering between the twins (Kristen Wiig and Justin Rupple, replacing TJ Miller for obvious reasons) – and for some reason a running commentary from the male twin about his fake beard and his insistence of the marriage between Hiccup and Astrid. These scenes, thankfully, don’t last very long – and are pretty much jammed in the first half of the film – but they are a little bit of distraction.
Otherwise though, The Hidden World is one of the best animated films you are likely to see this year. You can tell that the legendary Roger Deakins acted as a visual consultant on all three of these films, and I don’t think any of them has looked as stunning as the best moments here. Director DeBlois also has a lot of confidence in his visual storytelling – there are times where minutes on end go by with no dialogue at all. The action sequences in the film are as stunning as anything you will see in a live action film this year.
And then, there is the ending of the film – and the series – which puts a definite endpoint on it. In many ways, the series has been building to this emotional point – certainly this film does – and when it arrives, you may well be surprised by how emotional you get at it. My wife always says that in animated film, characters from two different worlds cannot co-exist for long, and that’s true here as well. But over the years, the relationship between Toothless and Hiccup has become so deep and meaningful, its conclusion will bring a tear to your eye. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is an early year treat – and will certainly remain one of the best animated films of the year.

Movie Review: FIghting With My Family

Fighting with My Family *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Stephen Merchant.
Written by: Stephen Merchant.
Starring: Florence Pugh (Saraya Knight), Nick Frost (Ricky Knight), Lena Headey (Julia Knight), Jack Lowden (Zak Knight), Dwayne Johnson (Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson), Thomas Whilley (Young Zak), Tori Ellen Ross (Young Saraya), Olivia Bernstone (Ellie), Leah Harvey (Hannah), Mohammad Amiri (Ez), Jack Gouldbourne (Calum), Elroy Powell (Union Jack), Hannah Rae (Courtney), Julia Davis (Daphne), Stephen Merchant (Hugh), Vince Vaughn (Hutch), Ellie Gonsalves (Maddison), Aqueela Zoll (Kirsten), Kim Matula (Jeri-Lynn), James Burrows (Roy Knight).
Fighting with My Family shouldn’t be as good as a movie as it is. The film is clearly designed to be a promotional tool for WWE – wrapping up the wrestling giant in feel good packaging, telling an underdog sports story with a straight face, which is odd because the movie itself admits that wrestling is “fixed, not faked”. So while the film builds to the type of final match triumph that most sports movies of this ilk build to, it’s odd here since we in the audience know that the ending has been scripted before they step into the ring, although the movie itself doesn’t acknowledge this. The film really wants you to believe that this was a classic underdog story – one in which WWE Superstar Paige becomes the champion on pure grit and determination – and that clearly isn’t the case.
And yet, I could not help but be won over by Fighting with My Family despite knowing this. A large part of that is because of the performance by Florence Pugh in the lead role – who showed in Lady Macbeth that she is a great actress, and here shows that she is a movie star as well. She exudes charm and humor and you are immediately on her side from her first moments. The supporting cast is all fine as well – in clichéd roles to be sure, but fine just the same. Nick Frost is better here than he’s been in any not directed by Edgar Wright as Paige’s lovable lug of father, a former criminal, turned amateur wrestling, and while Lena Headey has less to do with her role as her mother, she’s excellent as well. Vince Vaughn is in fine form as the clichéd tough love coach pushing Paige after she is signed by the WWE, and has to work her way up the ladder through boot camp. Best of all is Jack Lowden as Paige’s brother Zak – who dreamed of being a pro-wrestler his entire and is devastated when his sister is picked, and he isn’t. The film wisely sticks with him as well – and shows his journey after Paige moves to Florida to pursue her dream.
The film was written and directed by Stephen Merchant, who co-created The Office and Extras with Ricky Gervais, and is now out on his own. He has a few scenes as an actor as well as the uptight father of Zak’s girlfriend, that makes good use of his unique gifts. The film has the same kind of humor that Merchant is known for, but with a lighter, less cynical, less awkward heavy touch. He keeps things going smoothly, and with good humor. He also knows when to get out. He makes good use of producer Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who shows up twice in an extended cameo, poking fun of his own image (and Vin Diesel).
I’m not going to argue that the film is great, or that you will likely remember it long after you’ve seen it. I will say, if you are a sucker for an “inspirational” sports movie (and I am) then this one more than scratches that itch, and with a great performance by Pugh – making me want to see whatever she has next even more than I already did.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Oscar Recap

So Green Book, eh? It’s going to be ugly on Film Twitter for a while after this one – the likes of which we haven’t seen before – since Crash was the pre-Twitter days. As much as some of the winners since Crash haven’t been overly popular with Film Twitter – nothing has been as maligned as Green Book.
If you hated Green Book, and want to look at the bright side of things, last night’s winners surely do indicate an Academy in transition. I think people often think that the Academy speaks in a singular voice, but that’s just not true. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Screenplay winners where you couldn’t possibly pick two more different films than Green Book and Blackkklansman – which are essentially polar opposites of each other. Blackkklansman criticizes everything Green Book stands for. The Academy also embraced Black Panther – including giving the long overdue Ruth E. Carter a costume design win, and the wonderful work of Hannah Beachler, who gave a great speech. You had more women winning than ever before – the aforementioned Carter and Beachler, along with Lady Gaga for Song, director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi one of the winners for Free Solo, Nina Hartstone won of the Sound Mixing winners for Bohemian Rhapsody, director Rayka Zehtabchi who won for Best Documentary Short, director Domee Shi who won for Animated Short. Three of the four acting winners were not white, the diverse winners for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, etc. Alfosno Cuaron on stage three times – including Best Director, which for the 5th time in 6 years went to a Mexican director – and for the first time to a Foreign Language film. He also became the first director to win a cinematography Oscar for a film he shot himself.
The show itself was, for the most part, pretty good. The show ran just over three hours, and I for one, didn’t really miss having a host. Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler got the show to a good start (what’s that? They had a pointless and poor performance by Queen to open the show – I don’t remember that) giving us a rapid fire monologue, and then getting right to the awards itself. The musical performances were mainly forgettable – none more so than Jennifer Hudson’s of the RBG song, which although that woman can belt, I forget as soon as it was over. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs song was better, and who can really complain about Bette Midler – even if, I basically forgot that song as well. But the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga performance of Shallow from A Star is Born is an Oscar all timer – a great performance, perfectly introduced (with no real introduction) and an emotional high point of the show. If they had seen that performance before they voted, maybe Cooper could have prevented the injustice of the Best Actor category.
For the most part as well, the speeches were very good to great. The makeup winners for Vice were awful – but almost so historically awful that you’ll at least remember it. But you won’t soon forget Regina King’s speech for her deserved win for If Beale Street Could Talk, Ruth E. Carter’s speech for Costume Design – fitting it happened in the same year as Spike Lee finally won, and she called him out in his speech – Hannah Bleachler’s emotional speech was also great. I wasn’t a huge fan of short doc winner Period, End of Sentence – but that was a good speech, as was the Animated Short winner. You got another all timer moment when Spike Lee won – perfectly announced by Samuel L. Jackson – who Spike leapt into. The beeped swear word, the speech, the emotion, the standing ovation – that was amazing for Spike – and for those of us who think he should have won an Oscar decades ago. And yet none of those moments compare with Olivia Colman – a shocked winner for The Favourite – who delivered a funny, emotional, shocked speech. She is also the kind of character actress finally given the role of a lifetime who never really wins in the lead category. That was a great moment.
Now, because we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we can admit that while Colman’s win was deserved (in my opinion anyway) and the speech was an all-timer, we can still feel bad for Glenn Close losing for the seventh time. She is the most nominated actress to have never won an Oscar (she’s tied for second with Richard Burton – Peter O’Toole holds the record with 8 noms, and no wins – although he won a Lifetime Achievement Award – something I assume we’ll see for Close sooner rather than later). Will the 71-year-old Close get another shot at a competitive Oscar? Well, they do have Sunset Blvd. in development, so who knows? Still, it’s never fun to see an expected winner – especially a deserving, never awarded veteran – losing on Oscar night. The Academy could have avoided this by just giving her the Oscar she deserved for Dangerous Liaisons 30 years ago.
Does all of that take the sting out of the fact that the worst picture nominee in a decade ended up with four Oscars? I’m talking of course of Bohemian Rhapsody – whose two sound wins aren’t really defensible when First Man, Roma and Black Panther were all nominated – even if the sound of that film was actually quite good. The editing win is perhaps a little more defensible, even if the work itself isn’t as good – as Ottman had a massive challenge on his hands, being given the work of two different directors and having to make sense of it. The Rami Malek win remains a mystery to me – as it has all season. I like Malek as an actor – and as I said, if someone wanted to make a better biopic of Freddie Mercury, I’d be all for casting him again. But there wasn’t much for him to work with there, and he didn’t even do his own singing. I’m perplexed as to how Bradley Cooper lost all momentum and couldn’t pull off this victory. With 4 acting nominations under his belt, he is probably (along with his American Hustle co-star Amy Adams, with six acting noms, and no wins) the actors the Academy are probably most looking to give an Oscar to – and soon. They have entered Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet territory before they finally won.
And now, Green Book. I didn’t hate it as much as many did. Part of that is undeniably because I saw the film in ideal circumstances – at TIFF, with a packed house who clearly loved it, and before all the think pieces about it came out. I enjoyed the film for what it is – a liberal fantasy of race relations from the 1960s, that probably could have been made in that decade (minus the one scene that acknowledged Don Shirley’s sexuality). But to call it the best film of the year? When they could have given the Oscar to Roma or Blackkklansman or The Favourite or A Star is Born or Black Panther is frankly silly. I admire the way Mahershala Ali handled himself this season – and if you were going to award one thing from that film, his performance would be it. But still, when they could have awarded Richard E. Grant, Adam Driver or Sam Elliott? The screenplay win is another one of those mystifying wins. I had not predicted Green Book to win the Oscar – but for some reason, right before Julia Roberts announced the win, I knew it was going to Green Book. This is a textbook case as to why I think the Academy should go back to 5 nominees for Best Picture, and get rid of the ranked ballot. The preferential ballot has given us some good winners – Spotlight and Moonlight for example – that I don’t think would have won otherwise, but I cannot help but think in another era, Green Book doesn’t win.  
The Academy is changing – and you can see that in some of the wins and nominations this year. But you can also see that the old guard is holding on tight – for now anyway. For the most part, I liked the show itself, but the winners were a mixed bag.
As for my predictions – I missed Best Picture (I had Roma), Actress (I had Close), Documentary (I had RBG), Editing (I had Blackkklansman), Production Design (I had The Favourite), Sound Editing (I had First Man), Visual Effects (I had Avengers) – and all three shorts – so I only went 14/24. Not good – so hopefully you didn’t use my predictions to place any money on the show. If you did, too bad for you I guess.
I am glad the Oscar season is over. As much as I like it, it can be exhausting, and even with some great moments and winners, there were some not so great winners last night as well. But it’s behind us for now – and we won’t have to think about it again for a few months.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Oscar Predictions Recap

Below, I'll give you a quick rundown of my predictions if you don't want to wade through my previous, very long post. I have my winner predictions, as well as what I think should win of the nominees, the weakest nominee in each category, and finally what I think SHOULD have won if I pick anyone (nominee or not).

Will Win
Best Picture: Roma
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Best Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Screenplay: Green Book
Best Adapted Screenplay: BlackKklansman
Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary Film: RBG
Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Film Editing: Blackkklansman
Best Costume Design: Black Panther
Best Production Design: The Favourite
Best Make-Up & Hairstyling: Vice
Best Score: Black Panther
Best Song: A Star is Born – The Shallow
Best Sound Editing: First Man
Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War
Best Documentary Short: A Night at the Garden
Best Live Action Short: Marguerite
Best Animated Short: Weekends
Should Win
Best Picture: Blackkklansman
Best Director: Spike Lee, Blackkklansman
Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Best Supporting Actor: Adam Driver, Blackkklansman
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Original Screenplay: First Reformed
Best Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman
Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary Film: Free Solo
Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Film Editing: Blackkklansman
Best Costume Design: The Favourite
Best Production Design: The Favourite
Best Make-Up & Hairstyling: Border
Best Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Song: A Star is Born – The Shallow
Best Sound Editing: Roma
Best Sound Mixing: Roma
Best Visual Effects: First Man
Best Documentary Short: A Night at the Garden
Best Live Action Short: Fauve
Best Animated Short: Weekends
Nightmare Scenario – If the Worst Nominee in Every Category Wins
Best Picture: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Director: Adam McKay, Vice
Best Actor: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Best Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife (who I still quite liked!)
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Vice
Best Original Screenplay: Green Book
Best Adapted Screenplay: A Star is Born
Best Animated Film: Ralph Breaks the Internet
Best Documentary Film: RBG (which I still think you should see)
Best Foreign Language Film: Capernaum
Best Cinematography: A Star is Born (which is still quite good)
Best Film Editing: Green Book
Best Costume Design: Mary Queen of Scots
Best Production Design: Mary Poppins Returns (even if it’s the best thing about the movie)
Best Make-Up & Hairstyling: Mary Queen of Scots
Best Score: Mary Poppins Returns
Best Song: RBG – I’ll Fight
Best Sound Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Visual Effects: Christopher Robin
Best Documentary Short: Lifeboat
Best Live Action Short: Detainment
Best Animated Short: Animal Behavior
And Just a Reminder Of Who Really Should Win If I Could Pick Anyone
Best Picture: First Reformed
Best Director: Paul Schrader, First Reformed
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Best Actress: Toni Collette, Hereditary
Best Supporting Actor: Steve Yeun, Burning
Best Supporting Actress: Elizabeth Debicki, Widows
Best Original Screenplay: First Reformed
Best Adapted Screenplay: Buning
Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Documentary Film: Won’t You By My Neighbor?
Best Foreign Language Film: Burning
Best Cinematography: Roma
Best Film Editing: You Were Never Really Here
Best Costume Design: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Production Design: Paddington 2
Best Make-Up & Hairstyling: Suspiria
Best Score: Mandy
Best Song: A Star is Born – The Shallow
Best Sound Editing: Annihilation
Best Sound Mixing: You Were Never Really Here
Best Visual Effects: Annihilation
Best Documentary Short: A Night at the Garden
Best Live Action Short: Fauve
Best Animated Short: Weekends

Oscar Winner Predictions

Okay, so we’re almost there. Below are the Oscar predictions in all categories – including the shorts, since I was able to see all 15 of them this year. In fact, I have seen ever film except for Minding the Gap (blame it on Hulu not being in Canada) and Never Look Away – which hasn’t opened in Toronto yet – but will tomorrow, so I will try and see it then).
I’ll do another post which just wraps up the Who Will Win/Who Should Win if you don’t want to read all 9,400 words below.
8. Black Panther
For It: It is the biggest film of the year – one of the highest grossing films ever nominated (next only to Avatar), so if they want the popular choice to win, it’s this. It’s hard to find too many people who don’t like the film – even if it’s not their first choice, meaning it could do quite well on a ranked ballot.
Against It: The film didn’t get a directing, acting or writing nomination – it needed to break through somewhere for it to be a serious contender. They have not been a fan of superhero movies in the past – this is the first time one actually got nominated – and that is likely to be the win for this film.
7. Vice
For It: The film did remarkably well in the Academy – picking up three acting nominations, a director nomination and a writing nomination, to go along with the tech nods it got. It clearly has a lot of support within the Academy.
Against It: The reviews were very mixed – in that it kind of became a love it or hate it film. That’s good to get nominated, as it was ranked #1 on a lot of lists clearly, but bad on the ranked ballot – where I suspect a lot of people will have it very low on their lists.
6. The Favourite
For It: It received 10 nominations – tied for the most of any film. It got three acting nominations – the biggest branch of the Academy – as well as Director and Writing, and a host of tech awards. The support for the film is broad, and while it has its detractors, it isn’t as vocal as some. It will be ranked high on some, and the mid-tier in others, meaning it could rise.
Against It: It’s hard to see it pull this off. It isn’t the frontrunner for any of the Acting wins, or director, and maybe not even screenplay. I don’t think we’re looking at a shutout the likes of Gangs of New York/The Color Purple/The Turning Point – but it’s possible.
3. BlacKkKlansman
For It: The film debuted early – both at Cannes, and then at the summer box office, and kept the buzz going throughout the season. It has been nominated everywhere, without missing a beat, something not a lot of other contenders can say. If you’re looking to poke Trump in the eye, and give it a film about race that isn’t simplistic, this is your choice. It could do very well on a ranked ballot, if other contenders split. Giving Spike a long overdue Oscar will be a cause for some.
Against It: Spike is probably winning the screenplay Oscar, perhaps even Director, so I don’t think the cause will be that vocal. While it’s been nominated everywhere, it doesn’t have that signature win that points to this actually crossing the finish line in first place.
4. A Star Is Born
For It: A genuine pop culture phenom, the film grossed a ton, and became the film of the fall that every adult saw, even if they only saw one. It is loved by many, got three acting nominations (and could win any or all of them), and has broad support among the Academy as a whole. Missing the directing nomination hurts, but it could take the Argo path for the win.
Against It: The Argo path centered on the “poor Ben” narrative – something much harder to sell with Bradley Cooper, who picked up three other noms for this film this year. The film may have peaked too soon – it’s getting love from everyone, but doesn’t really have that signature win that helps.
3. Bohemian Rhapsody
For It: This was a massive hit at the Box Office, which saved it this season after the critics did not like it (it has the worst score of any Best Picture nominee on Metacritic since that site started). The two big Globes wins really propelled this film into the mix as a serious contender. Rami Malek could easily win Best Actor – and it has some tech love as well.
Against It: Without a Director or Writing nomination, it’s hard to see this one really break through. The whole Bryan Singer thing isn’t going away any time soon, and even if he wouldn’t actually win an Oscar, it will hurt. Those reviews speak for some – meaning it will be ranked lower on some people’s ballots.
2. Green Book
For It: The Globes wins helped a lot – the PGA win helped even more. This is a film that appeals to the stereotypical older Oscar base – which is less important now, but still very important. Its biggest supporters will put it as number 1 – and are unlikely to care about the backlash that has been there since the moment the film debuted. Mahershala Ali is headed for a win, and the Original Screenplay Oscar could easily go here as well. It’s a feel good story – and there is not a lot of that in this race.
Against It: That backlash has been loud and vocal and sustained ever since the film debuted, and it’s not going away anytime soon, so there will be a lot of people who will rank it low – meaning others could pass it. The demographics in the Academy have changed – the older segment is important, but less so than even five years ago. No director nomination hurts it.
1. Roma
For It: The critics are behind it, and the Academy clearly loves it – it got 10 nominations, tied for the most of any film, and the two surprising acting nominations (including the shocker in supporting actress) means it has support in the largest voting block – the actors. Yes, it’s missed some of the bigger wins this season, but it’s not eligible for all of them, being a Mexican film – which means it may not be that big a deal. There has been a minor backlash, but it hasn’t really stuck – so it’s hard to imagine too many people ranking it too low.
Against It: No foreign language film has ever won this award before (the closest was the silent film The Artist), so this would be a major change. While the whole Netflix thing certainly didn’t hurt it in the nominating round, I do wonder if some traditionalists will not want it to win for that reason alone.
Analysis: I do think we have a three-way race here –coming down to Green Book and Roma, with an outside shot for Bohemian Rhapsody. Either way, Twitter will explode when one of those win – either in happiness or anger that will make the rage directed at Crash in 2005 look muted by comparison.
Who Will Win: I think Roma has enough to actually get across the finish line, but it will be closer than any of us would like to imagine.
Who Should Win: While I would be fine with a Roma win – my favorite of the nominees was easily BlackKklansman – which I think would send a real message that this Academy has really, truly changed.
Least of the Nominees:
I know I’m supposed to say Green Book, but sorry, Bohemian Rhapsody, was the worst film nominated easily – and I honestly like Vice less than Green as well. But yes, Green Book, would be a bad winner as well.
5. Pawel Pawilkowski - Cold War
For Him: The love for him is real, as he got in with a more muted campaign, and late release date. The Academy clearly loves his style – his last film won the foreign language film Oscar. If some Academy members hadn’t watched this before the nominations, they may come on board in this round when they catch up with the film.
Against Him: Only one director has ever won for a film not nominated for best picture – and that was in the Oscar’s second year. That is a fatal flaw that he will not be able to overcome.
4. Adam McKay - Vice
For Him: They clearly love the film – 8 nominations say that – and with this and The Big Short, he has effectively left behind his more broadly comedic past, meaning the Academy as a whole won’t mind voting for him. There is nothing subtle about his direction – he lets you know he’s there.
Against Him: Out of the five films nominated here, his is the most divisive – he’ll have his supporters, but I don’t think it’s going to be close to enough to get him in.
3. Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
For Him: Lanthimos has slowly become a favorite for the Academy – Dogtooth got nominated for foreign language film, The Lobster got in for Screenplay – and The Favourite is his big coming out party for the Academy. With 10 nominations, they love his film.
Against Him: How many of those noms are going to result in a win? He could get in if the film rises and becomes a real threat to win – which I don’t really see happening here.
2. Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
For Him: Lee is a legendary director, and it’s shameful and surprising that this is his first nomination for Best Director – so if they truly want to right a historic wrong, give him the Oscar as well. His film is widely liked, and he was able to make a film that is clearly a Spike Lee film, with more audience friendly style as well.
Against Him: Lee is still a controversial figure, and some will never like him. His film is less nominated than Roma or The Favourite (or even Vice). You’d feel better about this happening had he won a big prize this season, and he hasn’t. Lee is likely to win the Screenplay Oscar, and he isn’t far removed for that Lifetime Achievement Oscar – that will be enough for some.
1. Alfonso Cuarón - Roma
For Him: The critical community is firmly behind him, and even when his film wasn’t eligible for Best Picture at the Globes, he still won Best Director. Even if Green Book or something else ends up winning Best Picture, Cuaron is clearly the prohibitive frontrunner for this win.
Against Him: He has won before – and not that long ago – and nobody who directed a foreign language film has ever won this. Couple this with a potential Netflix backlash, and you have the slimmest of chances of him losing.
Analysis: This is really being Cuaron’s to lose – he’s far out ahead of the rest of the competition, and while there is a sliver of hope for Lee to sneak in, it is only a sliver.
Who Will Win: This has been locked for Alfonso Cuaron for Roma for a while now – even when A Star is Born seemed poised to win Picture, Cuaron was out in front here, and I don’t see that changing.
Who Should Win: Sometimes, the Academy has a chance to right an historic wrong and give it to the most deserving candidate, and they have that chance here with Spike Lee for BlackKklansman. Nothing would make me happier on Oscar night than seeing Lee win this.
Least of the Nominees:
This call is easy – Adam McKay for Vice – and his direction took an already smug screenplay, and made it even worse. With so many worthy candidates this year, McKay’s nomination is mystifying.
5. Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
For Him: This is Dafoe’s fourth nomination in total, and second in two years – and he has yet to win. He is clearly in the realm of “I can’t believe he hasn’t won yet” territory. He got nominated over candidates with more buzz and support (Ethan Hawke, John David Washington) – so clearly they loved the performance.
Against Him: It’s hard to win a Best Actor Oscar for a film that received no other nominations – especially when it was a surprise nomination to begin with. He will continue to be one of those actors you cannot believe hasn’t already won.
4. Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
For Him: This is his third nomination, and he hasn’t won yet. He is in the film that could easily win Best Picture, and is headed for a few other wins as well. If a Green Book wave comes along, watch out.
Against Him: His controversial use of the n-word hurt him a little bit, and even the Globes – who loved Green Book – didn’t give him the Best Actor in a Comedy prize. It’s hard to see him overcoming those things to pick up the win.
3. Christian Bale - Vice
For Him: Oscar loves it when you transform yourself into a real person – and no one did that more drastically than Bale with Dick Cheney this year. Even some who didn’t like the movie, did like his performance in it, which could propel him up the list a little bit.
Against Him: He’s the only nominee in this category with an Oscar at home already, which always hurt a little, and there is another performance of someone transforming themselves nominated with a better shot at winning. Some people really do hate this film.
2. Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
For Him: He wrote, directed, produced and did some of the music for A Star is Born, and still delivered an absolutely brilliant lead performance. With the Best Picture win seemingly now a long shot, and no chance at director (and not a great one for screenplay) – are they really going to let Cooper walk away on Oscar night empty handed? This is his fourth acting nomination, and he has yet to win – he’s due.
Against Him: You have to wonder if the film peaked too soon, and has been replaced by newer, fresher contenders. His two biggest competitors transformed themselves into real people, which is Oscar catnip. He hasn’t won as many prizes for Best Actor as you may think.
1. Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
For Him: Malek received way better reviews for his performance than the film itself did – even when the film was at its weakest this season, he was a legit contender. They love it when you transform yourself into a real person, which he did. Even the Bryan Singer stuff won’t hurt him as much – since apparently Singer was fired because he didn’t get along with Malek. The SAG award is the big one, and he won it.
Against Him: But the Singer stuff is still there (and was when Malek agreed to work with him). While the film has broad appeal, I wonder if there are enough people passionate enough to hand him the win.
Analysis: I really do see this as a two horse race and closer than the precursors would have you believe (since Malek has one the two big ones there) – but it’s kind of silly to say Malek doesn’t have the inside edge.
Who Will Win: I’m not quite sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way, Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody became nearly a sure thing here – I think it’s closer than that, but he’s probably pulling it out.
Who Should Win: With my top four choices in this category not nominated, I’ll gladly throw my support behind Bradley Cooper for A Star is Born – who really did deliver a great performance in movie, bringing more humanity to what could have been a clichéd role.
Least of the Nominees:
I’m not sure you can fault him, but Viggo Mortenson in Green Book is so broad, and pretty much one note, that he looks kind of silly next to the other nominees. Here’s hoping his Oscar clip is the moment he folds a pizza in half to eat it while sitting on a hotel bed.
5. Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
For Her: With 10 nominations, they clearly love Roma – and it’s looking more and more like Best Picture winner as well. If this becomes a Roma sweep, she could get swept along.
Against Her: It’s tough to win the Lead Acting prizes as a complete unknown, which is what she would be doing – even tougher to do it in a foreign language film. The nomination is a huge win for her, and will have to be enough.
4. Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
For Her: She has her passionate supporters out there – so passionate that it’s hard to see them abandoning her now. It is the type of performance from a mainly comedic actor that allows you to see them in a completely different light, which has worked in the past.
Against Her: The film didn’t break through for Best Picture, and while McCarthy has been a nominee everywhere this year, she isn’t really winning anything. In another year, this could be the winner, but for some reason it just hasn’t gotten the traction this year.
3. Olivia Colman - The Favourite
For Her: The buzz for her has been strong ever since Venice, and it’s the type of big, hilarious performance with just enough subtly that can win in this category. She is well respected character actress, making good on getting a big lead role – and they like that. The also clearly love the film – with 10 nominations. The Globe win – and the great speech – helps.
Against Her: Character actor makes good is more a narrative in the supporting categories than the lead ones – and some say she belongs in the supporting category. The Globe win came when she didn’t have to go head-to-head with the top two contenders.
2. Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
For Her: One of the biggest stars in the world, she made her big screen debut, and knocked it out of the park. This is the type of debut that they Academy loves to reward, and Best Actress prize has gone to younger people before. The film is loved – broadly – by all.
Against Her: She had more of a chance when A Star is Born looked to sweep – and join the likes of It Happened One Night, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Silence of the Lambs winning Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. Now that that isn’t going to happen, there’s less pressing need to have her win here. Plus, she’s going to win an Oscar for Best Song anyway – something they’re more comfortable doing for music stars anyway.
1. Glenn Close - The Wife
For Her: This is Close’s 7th Oscar nomination – and she still hasn’t won, tying her with Richard Burton for second most ever without a win (Peter O’Toole had 8 – but also a lifetime achievement Oscar). The reviews for her performance have been great, and it’s run a long, slow, steady campaign for her all year – and she’s picking up the wins she needs. The SAG award all but sealed it.
Against Her: They did not love the film – this is its only nomination – which is a tougher sell. They have not gone with the long overdue winner as much in the past two decades as you may think they do.
Analysis: I really do see this as a two-way race, and since there is a way for them to give them both Oscar that night, I suspect they will.
Who Will Win: I think Glenn Close for The Wife is able to hold off Lady Gaga, and finally win an Oscar – but it may be close.
Who Should Win: I don’t have the same feeling of guilt for overlooking Close – if it were up to me, she would have had an Oscar three decades ago for Dangerous Liaisons – and I’ve always loved Olivia Colman and her work in The Favourite is the best work they nominated this year. I’d love to see her win.
Least of the Nominees:
This is always hard, when you legitimately think all five nominees were excellent in their roles – especially when you think the two weakest are also the two mostly likely to win. Put a gun to my head, and I’d say Glenn Close in The Wife is the worst, but this is the one category this year with no one who stands out as a really bad pick
5. Sam Rockwell - Vice
For Him: The Academy clearly loves Rockwell, who got in with limited support this season, and is looking to win back-to-back Supporting Actor Oscars for the second time in history (Jason Robards did it in 1976-1977). People still love to hate on George W. Bush for being an idiot, and Rockwell gave them that chance.
Against Him: There is no depth to this performance is there? It was one note to me. His nomination was somewhat a surprise, and he just did win last year, and with other worthy competitors, it’s hard to see them wanting to award him so soon.
4. Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
For Him: Driver has clearly become one of the best actors of his generation, and the Academy finally found the role to nominate him for the first time. Expect many more nominations over the course of his career. If they want to get out ahead, they can just give him the Oscar now.
Against Him: Driver has been a fairly consistent nominee this season, but he hasn’t won that Big Prize, that you’d want him to in order to say he has a real shot at winning this award. If, like me, they think this is the first of many nominations, they’ll wait.
3. Sam Elliott - A Star Is Born
For Him: It’s been an up and down season for Elliot, who seemed poised to win this award, then looked like he may be overlooked completely, and then coming back strong with the nomination. He is a very well respected veteran – you cannot believe this is his first nomination – and unlike some other elements of the film, his performance never seemed to get overexposed. A sneaky contender for the win.
Against Him: You would like to see him win something before the Oscar to really call him the frontrunner here. He’s looking to go on the James Coburn path to a win, and that’s hard.
2. Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
For Him: Grant got off to a hot start early in the season, as he dominated the Critics circuit in winning these awards. He is the type of well-respected veteran character actor who can easily find himself winning an Oscar, even if he has never been nominated before, if they like his performance enough.
Against Him: The heat on the performance has cooled somewhat, as Grant has become an also ran at the big awards shows and the film failed to crack the best picture lineup. I suspect he peaked too early.
1. Mahershala Ali - Green Book
For Him: Even those who don’t like Green Book seem to steer clear of criticizing Ali too much for his work in the film. They clearly do love the film, and they also love him – this is his second nomination, and could easily be his second win. He has won the prizes he needs to down the stretch.
Against Him: Will the Green Book backlash finally become too big for even Ali to overcome? Will the fact that he’s already won – and Elliot, Grant and Driver have not – propel one of them to victory?
Analysis: An odd race to be sure, with Ali seemingly comfortably in the lead for the win, but as such a recent winner, he is vulnerable. But to who? If Elliot, Grant or Driver really push, they may be able to make this competitive.
Who Will Win: I do think Mahersala Ali for Green Book is looking like your winner unless something shocks on Oscar night.
Who Should Win: I have been a big Adam Driver fan for a while, and even if his best performance remains Paterson, his work in BlackKklansman is truly great, and I would love to see him take home the prize.
Least of the Nominees:
I generally really like Sam Rockwell, but his work in Vice brought nothing of real interest to the part of George W. Bush for me – if they didn’t nominate the vastly superior interpretation by Josh Brolin, why’d they nominate this?
5. Marina de Tavira - Roma
For Her: They clearly love Roma – and her in particular, since she got the nomination with almost no precursor support or name recognition. If a newcomer is going to win an acting Oscar, this is the category they are going to do it in. If a Roma sweep happens…
Against Her: The nomination here is the real win for her. She hasn’t been in the race all season, so being late probably isn’t really going to get her the win – despite how much they loved her work.
4. Emma Stone - The Favourite
For Her: Nobody dislikes Emma Stone, and her performance has been widely praised since the film opened. It is almost a lead (maybe is a lead), and it wouldn’t be the first time a lead won the Supporting Actress prize. They also love the film, and maybe looking to give a big prize.
Against Her: She would be a much better candidate for the win – perhaps even the frontrunner – had she not just won for La La Land two years ago. There is no real need to give a second Oscar so soon.
3. Rachel Weisz - The Favourite
For Her: They love the film, and it has provided Weisz with some of the very best reviews of her career. She is almost a lead (maybe is a lead) and it wouldn’t be the first time a lead won in this category. If they want to give the film a big prize, she could sneak in.
Against Her: She would better candidate without the win for The Constant Gardener – which was a while ago (hence why she’s above Stone) but that and the fact that neither her or Stone have really grabbed the lead in the race over the other one probably dooms her.
2. Amy Adams - Vice
For Her: This is her sixth nomination, and Adams is still looking for the win, so she is very clearly in cannot believe she has not won yet camp. Vice was nominated for a lot of Oscars, and unlike de Tavira, she is not an unknown or Stone and Weisz, she doesn’t face internal competition. If they want to give Vice something, this is likely it.
Against Her: Poor Adams, just never seems to be the right choice at the right time. Her role in Vice is fine, and she plays it well, but there’s not a lot of there there if you know what I mean. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride Amy will likely have to wait for nomination 7.
1. Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
For Her: King has become a go-to actress for dramatic work like she does in If Beale Street Could Talk. She is excellent in everything, and although If Beale Street Could Talk had a rough go on the awards circuit, hers was the one thing that showed up consistently – and also delivers wins. It’s hers to lose.
Against Her: She is the only nominee not in a Best Picture contender, and most of her great work has been on TV – meaning some will see her as one of theirs, not one of ours. This is her first nomination – and Adams 7th.
Analysis: This is a two-way race – but barely. Adams is in it because she’s never won before, not because anyone particularly loves that performance. That could be enough to propel her over King – but I’d hate to be on Twitter if that happens. Then again, the SAG award went to Emily Blunt – who wasn’t even nominated – so who the hell really knows – perhaps Weisz has more of a sot than I think.
Who Will Win: I really don’t see Adams beating out Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk this year – and she should win it easily. But Should doesn’t always happen.
Who Should Win: Another easy choice – Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk is the best of the nominees this year, and in the best film to boot.
Least of the Nominees:
I love Amy Adams – but there is not much to her work in Vice. She deserves to be an Oscar winning actress – I just hope it’s for a performance that she really deserves it for (or at least one of her top 10 in what has been a great career already).
5. First Reformed – Paul Schrader
For Him: He wrote one of the most acclaimed films of the year, and he is legitimate Hollywood legend, who amazingly has never been nominated before. The film has big fans (like me) and if they want to give it an award, this is the one shot it has.
Against Him: Had the Academy liked it more, it would have been nominated for Best Picture, Director and Actor. It was not.
4. Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
For Him: Your Best Picture winner often wins a screenplay Oscar even if, as is the case with Roma, the screenplay isn’t the most praised element (see Birdman, Argo and many others). If this is your winner, he’ll get votes.
Against Him: Cuaron is likely to take home Oscars for Picture, Director, Cinematography and Foreign Language Film for Roma. Are they really going to give him FIVE Oscars for one film?
3. Vice – Adam McKay
For Him: They clearly like McKay, and his film – it got nominated for enough – and it isn’t heading for a win anywhere outside of Makeup. If they like it enough, he gets in.
Against Him: He won just a couple of years ago for The Big Short – which was a much more liked film than this one is. There is no pressing need to give him second Oscar.
2. The Favourite – Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
For Them: If critics voted, this would be your winner – as it is one of the most awarded screenplays of the year already. It has the bite and wit of an Original Screenplay winner, and the film is not likely to win another major Oscar. They could pull it out.
Against Them: Critics don’t vote, which is going to hurt them a little. Had Lanthimos been a writer on the film, it would stand a better chance of getting this consolation prize, but he wasn’t.
1. Green Book – Nick Vallelonga & Brian Hayes Currie & Peter Farrelly
For Them: They clearly love the film, and the screenplay beat all comers at the Golden Globes. Awarding the film is a way to give Farrelly an Oscar that he cannot win for Director, and won’t like win for Best Picture.
Against Them: The backlash against the film is very real, and could cost them – especially since co-writer Vallelonga’s twitter feed became an issue.
Analysis: It’s down to Green Book vs. The Favourite, and unfortunately, I think Green Book is the leader right now. If the backlash continues to grow, that could change.
Who Will Win: I do think Green Book has enough supporters to get it over the finish line here.
Who Should Win: The only thing that may make me happier than seeing Spike Lee with an Oscar is seeing Paul Schrader with one – and First Reformed was the best screenplay of the year for me.
Least of the Nominees:
Tough call for me between the safe and boring Green Book and the smug Vice. Why choose?
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel & Ethan Coen
For Them: The are legitimate Hollywood legends, who got in despite a weak campaign, and a last minute switch to the Adapted Category. They clearly love them.
Against Them: But not enough. The film didn’t get any other major nominations, and they already have two writing Oscars at home each – not to mention directing and Picture Oscars. There is no real need here.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins
For Him: You could argue he had the most difficult task of the year, taking a James Baldwin novel, and translating it so perfectly to the screen. The structure of the screenplay is brilliant – a true writer’s screenplay.
Against Him: They didn’t love the film enough to get it into Picture, so the nomination is probably the most he can expect. Since he won this for Moonlight not long ago, there’s no pressing need to give him another one.
3. Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty
For Them: The film has it ardent supporters, and it’s looking like it’s heading for losses in the other two categories. It is subtle, funny and heartbreaking screenplay.
Against Them: Had the supporters like it more, it would have gotten more nominations. It didn’t.
2. A Star Is Born – Eric Roth & Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters
For Them: Clearly one of the most loved movies of the year, and the fact that there were able to write a screenplay that worked as well as it did despite all the other versions is a minor miracle. If A Star is Born starts a sweep, it could be swept along. And if it doesn’t start a sweep – are we really going to go through the ceremony and NOT see Bradley Cooper win an Oscar? This could be it.
Against Them: When it was looking to win the five major prizes – Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay – it would have had a better chance. Since that isn’t happening, I’m not sure they can pull it out. If you have problems with the movies, it’s with the screenplay in the second half.
1. BlacKkKlansman – Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz & Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
For Them: One of the most praised and incendiary films of the years, they will want to give the movie something – and it’s not likely winning anything else major. This is a way to give Spike Lee an Oscar, even if they prefer Roma as a film.
Against Them: Is it too much of a screenplay by committee? Often they like more singular visions than this. The Star is Born fans are still out there.
Analysis: It wasn’t long ago, that I thought Blackkklansman was a sure thing here – but as A Star is Born has become weaker everywhere else, and it’s looking more and more like Cooper isn’t going to win any Oscars, I wonder if that film get in here to award him specifically.
Who Will Win: The screenplay for Blackkklansman is entertaining, fiery, political and for a film they will want to give an award to. It’s probably a sure thing.
Who Should Win: I’m torn here, between the great work on Blackkklansman and If Beale Street Could Talk – two very different screenplays. My love of Lee puts it over the top.
Least of the Nominees:
All five are fine screenplays – but if I had to choose, I’d say A Star is Born – mainly because the second half of that film seems to be on rails.
5. Mirai
4. Ralph Breaks the Internet
3. Isle of Dogs
2. Incredibles 2
1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Analysis: A very interesting three-way race is developing here – Mirai and Ralph Breaks the Internet – don’t have a shot, but the other three do. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came out of nowhere to be the most acclaimed of the bunch – and cleared its biggest hurdle by being an unconventional nominee. Then again, Wes Anderson fans – and there are many – may see Isle of Dogs as their chance to finally give the acclaimed auteur an Oscar – although the problematic issues with the film could easily hurt it. The safest bet is Incredibles II – Pixar has won nine of these, including the other two films from Brad Bird, but only one Pixar sequel (Toy Story 3) is among those winners. Pick your poison.
Who Will Win: Why do I have a sinking suspicion Incredibles II is going to take this? I don’t know, but I’m going to predict Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which has the momentum.
Who Should Win: For me, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the best superhero film of the year, and the best animated film of the year – both in a cakewalk, and would make for an exciting winner.
Least of the Nominees:
On the caveat that I have not had a chance to see Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet isn’t up to the level of the other three – even if I quite liked it.
5. Hale County This Morning This Evening
4. Of Fathers & Sons
3. Minding the Gap
2. Free Solo
1. RBG
Analysis: Critics love this lineup, because three riskier choices than normal – Hale County This Morning This Evening, Minding the Gap and Of Fathers & Sons made the cut – but the Academy doesn’t really do riskier here, so I’m afraid they won’t be in the running for the win. So it comes down to the awe-inspiring Free Solo – which amazes everyone who sees it on a big screen and the more conventional RBG – about a figure who continually becomes more beloved. Bet on RBG.
Who Will Win: I think this is a tight two-way race – and without Won’t You Be My Neighbor? To siphon votes from it, I think RBG wins this one.
Who Should Win: I have not had a chance to see any of the either Minding the Gap – blame it Hulu not liking Canada I guess – so of the four I have seen, Free Solo would get my vote. I do think that Of Fathers & Sons deserved a lot more attention though, and would be fine with it winning, and Hale County This Morning, This Evening is a beautiful, powerful film – and the type that never wins this award, so I’d be fine with that one as well.
Least of the Nominees:
Again, I’ve only seen four – and RBG is clearly the weakest of those four (even if I quite like it, for what it is).
5. Never Look Away
4. Capernaum
3. Shoplifters
2. Cold War
1. Roma
Analysis: When one of the nominees is up for 10 Oscars – including Best Picture – and likely to win Picture and Director, it seems dumb to bet against Roma, doesn’t it? And yet, because Roma is going to win Picture and Director – not to mention Cinematography – all of which would have Oscars going to Cuaron, I have a feeling that they may well give it something else this year (like some critic’s groups did). The obvious choice would be Cold War – which also picked up multiple nominations, and they clearly love. But Shoplifters and Capernaum have strong supporters as well. The fact that those three could split votes doesn’t help any of them.
Who Will Win: I still think Roma is going to win – and you’d be silly to place money on anything else. And yet…
Who Should Win: On the merits, I think Roma should win this one. But because Cuaron is winning elsewhere this year, part of me would really love to see Shoplifters take this one.
Least of the Nominees:
I have not seen Never Look Away – so I cannot say for sure, but I really, really disliked Capernaum..
5. Never Look Away – Caleb Deschanel
4. The Favourite – Robbie Ryan
3. A Star Is Born – Matthew Libatique
2. Cold War – Lukasz Zal
1. Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
Analysis: A very interesting lineup here – made so by having three foreign language nominees. The shock of Never Look Away being nominated probably should not have been so shocking – it’s Deschanel’s sixth nomination after all (he has yet to win) – but I have a feeling not enough people will see it to make a legit contender. Robbie Ryan has been doing great work for years, and it’s wonderful to see him finally breakthrough for The Favourite – I just think it’s perhaps a little too show-offy with those fish eyes for the win. Matthew Libatique has been doing great work for a long time as well – and it’s about time he picked up his second nomination – this time for A Star is Born – I just don’t see it as your winner. This is Zal’s second nomination in a row working with Pawlikowski – and the work on Cold War is even better than Ida – if they tired of seeing Cuaron up there, he could shock. But there has hardly been a cinematography award this season that Roma did not win – and Cuaron cleared his biggest hurdle by being nominated – the branch may have wanted to protect its own. With him nominated, it’s hard to see him losing.
Who Will Win: The only way Roma loses is if they really want to spread the wealth around and give it to someone else. I don’t see that happening.
Who Should Win: Who I am to disagree with everyone else – Roma is the clear deserving winner here.
Least of the Nominees:
Um, I guess A Star is Born – on the caveat that I have not seen Never Look Away yet – but it is very good work.
5. The Favourite – Yorgos Mavropsaridis
4. Green Book – Patrick J. Don Vito
3. Vice – Hank Corwin
2. Bohemian Rhapsody – John Ottman
1. BlacKkKlansman – Barry Alexander Brown
Analysis: I have to be honest here and I admit I have no idea who is going to win. It’s an odd lineup to be sure. I don’t see The Favourite winning, because normally they go with the Best Picture winner, or at least a close one or an action movie. Green Book makes no sense to me personally, but hey, they love it and it could win best picture, so who knows? Vice has the type of show-offy work that could get the win. Bohemian Rhapsody could get it as a consolation prize. Blackkklansman is the only one that makes sense to me – the editing work is brilliant on that one – so wishful thinking it’s the frontrunner.
Who Will Win: I do think Blackkklansman is going to win – but anything other than The Favourite would not surprise me.
Who Should Win: For the Birth of a Nation/Harry Belafonte sequence alone Blackkklansman should win this – and it’s hardly the only great moment.
Least of the Nominees:
I’m sorry, but I don’t see how Green Book got in here. What about its editing is that great?
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4. Mary Poppins Returns
3. Mary Queen of Scots
2. The Favourite
1. Black Panther
Analysis: This is likely a two-way race – I don’t really see The Ballad of Buster Scruggs coming through here, and while stranger things have happened, if they’re going with period clothes it won’t be Mary Poppins Returns or Mary Queen of Scots. It’s between the great superhero work by Ruth E. Carter picking up her third nomination for Black Panther or the legendary Sandy Powell, who has three Oscars already to go along with 14 nominations for The Favourite. Those wins may hurt Powell, but Oscar history is more on her side.
Who Will Win: It will be close, and I can see it go either way, but I think Black Panther pulls this one out.
Who Should Win: I really do think The Favourite has the best work – because the work is great, and really helps to tell the story in the different ways it dresses the men and women.
Least of the Nominees:
Maybe it’s just because I didn’t really love the film, but the Mary Queen of Scots nomination strikes me as the type of thing they nominate without thinking.
5. First Man
4. Mary Poppins Returns
3. Roma
2. Black Panther
1. The Favourite
Analysis: Like Costume Design, I think this is essentially a two-way race between Black Panther and The Favourite – the other three are fine, but not in the running. I think this is even closer than Costume Design though, as the world building and creation of Black Panther is amazing. But they typically love their period films here – so it’s hard to argue against The Favourite.
Who Will Win: I’ll say The Favourite, although I wouldn’t be shocked to see Black Panther.
Who Should Win: I’ll say The Favourite – although I wouldn’t be disappointed in Black Panther.
Least of the Nominees: Mary Poppins Returns
does an expert job of copying the original film – but doesn’t bring much new to it.
3. Mary Queen of Scots
2. Border
1. Vice
Analysis: If Suicide Squad can win this, anyone can. Still, they’ll likely want to give something to Vice and this is its only chance – although Border would be an inspired choice.
Who Will Win: I think Vice is the clear favorite here, as they like to award Best Picture nominees, and they did transform a lot of famous people into other famous people.
Who Should Win: I would love to see the ever weird Border take this if only because it’s so weird it would be interesting to see it as an Oscar winner.
Least of the Nominees:
Not to knock the work on Mary Queen of Scots – but there were better choices, no?
5. Mary Poppins Returns – Marc Shaiman
4. Isle of Dogs – Alexandre Desplat
3. BlacKkKlansman – Terence Blanchard
2. If Beale Street Could Talk – Nicholas Britell
1. Black Panther – Ludwig Goransson
Analysis: I think seven-time nominee Marc Shaiman will continue to be an also ran for Mary Poppins Returns – as a score, it’s the least memorable one here. Two-time winner and 10-time nominee Alexandre Desplat has become almost an automatic nominee – but I don’t think Isle of Dogs gets him that third Oscar. It’s good that Ludwig Goransson broke through – and Black Panther has a shot has come on very strong. I love, love, love the fact that Blanchard FINALLY got his first Oscar nomination – and he has a real shot to win for Blackkklansman – as it is some of his very best work. And yet, I cannot help but think that even though it wasn’t a major nominee, that the beautiful, haunting score for If Beale Street Could Talk wins Britell his first Oscar – in part for his brilliant work on the nominated Moonlight two years ago.
Who Will Win: I changed my mind on this account at the very last minute, and think that Black Panther is taking this one – but really, any of the top three could do it.
Who Should Win: I am torn, because I love Blanchard’s work, but I think If Beale Street Could Talk is the year’s best score outside of Mandy.
Least of the Nominees:
Seriously, do you remember the score for Mary Poppins Returns? I barely remember the songs.
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings
4. Mary Poppins Returns - The Place Where Lost Things Go
3. RBG - I’ll Fight
2. Black Panther - All the Stars
1. A Star Is Born - Shallow
Analysis: All season long, I’ve been saying this is really a race to see who will lose to Shallow from A Star is Born – and I still that is the case here, because it’s clearly the most memorable song of the year, and the year’s most memorable musical moment in a film. So unless the Academy is sick of it, this is one of the safest choices of the night.
Who Will Win: This has been locked since the first screening – Shallow from A Star is Born is winning this.
Who Should Win: I cannot disagree with everyone else – Shallow from A Star is Born is the best one of the year.
Least of the Nominees:
The bland and forgettable I’ll Fight from the weakest for me.
5. A Quiet Place
4. Roma
3. Black Panther
2. Bohemian Rhapsody
1. First Man
Analysis: They like loud, and the they action in this category. I think if First Man had become the Oscar film everyone thought it would be coming out of the festival circuit, it probably could have taken this one. But because it didn’t, and because they’re going to want to see Black Panther win something, I think it probably hold it off. And then there is Bohemian Rhapsody – whose nomination doesn’t make much sense to me, but whatever – it could win.
Who Will Win: I’ll say First Man wins this one, but I’m not sure why – it could just as easily be Bohemian Rhapsody.
Who Should Win: The sound work on Roma completely blew me away when I saw it in a theater – which I hope voters did to – and would be my choice.
Least of the Nominees:
I get the sound mixing nomination – even if I don’t like it – but sound editing for Bohemian Rhapsody?
5. Roma
4. A Star Is Born
3. Black Panther
2. First Man
1. Bohemian Rhapsody
Analysis: More often than not, this matches the Sound Editing award – and again, they’ll want to give Black Panther some love. Now, they do love musicals here more than editing so A Star is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody are possible wins, and the work on First Man is great, so don’t count that out either.
Who Will Win: I think Bohemian Rhapsody is going to take this one, but really any of the top 3 could easily win this.
Who Should Win: Again, the sound work on Roma is astonishing – and if you saw it in the theater, you know that.
Least of the Nominees:
Again, Bohemian Rhapsody. I mean, he just lip synched over the music, right?
5. Christopher Robin
4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
3. Ready Player One
2. First Man
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Analysis: The only below the line category without a Best Picture nominee, so watch out. I don’t think Christopher Robin has any shot here, and they have been surprisingly not overly generous with even well liked Star Wars movies here, so I wouldn’t count on Solo winning either. I’m not really sure they liked Ready Player One enough to give it this award. First Man had brilliant effects, more seamlessly integrated than any of the other nominees – and they’ve liked that in recent years, so it certainly has a shot. Still, I think Avengers: Infinity War is the one to beat here – thrown the Marvel fans a bone.
Who Will Win: I could be talked into First Man – and had it been a Best Picture nominee, I would have been – but without it, I’ll say Avengers: Infinity War takes it.
Who Should Win: I want to say First Man, because they really are effortlessly integrated – but I think I love the more overt work on Ready Player One even more.
Least of the Nominees:
It’s good work to be sure – but if they were going to nominate a film for talking childhood bear movie, it should have Paddington 2, not Christopher Robin.
Documentary Short
5. Lifeboat
4. Black Sheep
3. Period. End of Sentence
2. End Game
1. A Night at the Garden
Analysis: You never really know how they’ll go with the short films, because you never really know who takes the time to watch the films let alone vote for them. Having said that, I sense a three horse race developing here. The timely and empowering Period. End of Sentence is inspiring and feel good, which you really cannot say about the other nominees. End Game is from an Oscar winning pair of directors, and is a moving and powerful film about end of life care, that is guaranteed to leave voters in tears – if they vote on emotion, this is there choice. But I think the shortest nominee – the 7 minute A Night at the Garden – made up of footage from a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939, that is edited down to a powerful, disturbing package – packs the biggest punch.
Who Will Win: I’m going to bet A Night at the Garden takes it – but that could be wishful thinking on my part, because I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see something else win.
Who Should Win: As a short documentary, A Night at the Garden is a concise, disturbing, powerful statement – and clearly the best of a fairly good pack of nominees.
Least of the Nominees: Despite its undeniable important subject matter, I’m not sure that Lifeboat really adds much to the conversation about the migrant crisis in Europe.
Life Action Short
5. Detainment
4. Madre
3. Fauve
2. Skin
1. Marguerite
Analysis: Again, who bothered to watch these and who bothered to voted is really the deciding factor here. What I can say is that massive amount of controversy surrounding Detainment probably disqualifies it. Other than that, go ahead and pick, it wouldn’t be a bad guess. Fauve won a prize at Sundance – and putting kids in peril is always a good way to get votes, although the Goya winning Madre also puts a kid in danger, which could affect it (and considering the controversy around Detainment, perhaps they’ll want to avoid it altogether). If you want to go with the typical – boring, old Academy types argument, then you’d say Marguerite would be your winner. But there is so much buzz around Skin that I cannot help but wonder if it will pick up votes because people have heard about it.
Who Will Win: Really, I’d say flip a coin between Marguerite and Skin – and go with the winner. I will say at this point, I’d go with Margeuerite, which is least like the others than anything else, and Skin is rather controversial, which could hurt it.
Who Should Win: Other than the weakest of the lot, I could make the argument for any of the other four. At the moment, I’ll go with Fauve – which didn’t quite have as immediate an impact as some of the others, but is the one that keeps growing in my mind and haunting me the further I get away from it.
Least of the Nominees: Despite its undeniable assets, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly the point of Detainment was? What are we learning here? Why this story? And I’m not sure the film ever really answered that
Animated Short Films
5. Animal Behavior
4. One Small Step
3. Late Afternoon
2. Bao
1. Weekends
Analysis: Once again, you’re never quite sure what they will do. Having said that, you have to think that Pixar’s Bao is the frontrunner – since it is the most widely seen, and unlike some Pixar shorts, it is widely liked. Having said that, you could see the older Academy members going for Late Afternoon – a touching film that speaks to aging. But I do think the wonderfully animated, and deeply touching Weekends seems to be loved by everyone who has seen it – so if they’re watching them all, it could easily take it.
Who Will Win: Again, it could go to anyone really – but I think Weekends can and will take it.
Who Should Win: Like those who have seen it, Weekends, is clearly the standout here, even if I love Bao more than most Pixar shorts.
Least of the Nominees: This is a strong lineup – in that I think all five films are quite good. Having said that, I think Animal Behavior is the weakest of the bunch – perhaps because it’s the longest, and overstays it’s welcome, which when you’re a one-joke film, it is easy to do.