A hostless Oscars. That’s the prospect we’re looking at. As you can see above, it worked really well in 1989. That must be why they’ve never tried it again since. It was just too perfect. I’m not saying the show needs a host or even that its success hinges on a host’s performance. I will say that having no host under the pretext that there were no quality choices is just, plain lazy! I present to you, exhibit A:
That’s right, The People’s Critic tossed his hat into the ring a full two months ago, and nary a jingle has he heard from the Academy. So there it is: laziness. So on we go, hostless, but the show must go on!
That being said, as I do every year (ever the reliable host), I have laid out all 24 categories and their nominees along with my humble (yet educated) opinion on who will bring home the gold at this year’s ceremony, held Sunday February 24th. Last year was a rough one for me, having only correctly predicted 13 of the 24 categories, but this year is my year. You can take these predictions to the bank. So win those office pools, impress your friends. These are iron-clad locks!
But first, no Oscar night is complete without The People’s Critic’s time honored traditional Oscar Dinner Menu. Chicken Streeps are off the menu this year for only the second time in the past six years! This year, we bring you Ginsberger Sliders paired nicely with the Salad of Buster Scruggs and a lovely chicken dish, If Beale Street Could Squawk, and that’s just to name a few of this year’s offerings – but I digress.
Scroll to the end for links to PDFs of my Oscar Dinner menu, predictions, and a blank ballot. Ok, let’s get into it.
Part I: Shorts and Sound
This first group will focus on the five categories that are usually the toughest to call as they are either short films not easily viewed by most people or they are those two lovely sound categories that many have trouble differentiating between.
Best Short Film (Live Action) – Nominated films are:
As is the custom for this category, we have quite the worldly set of nominees. We’ve got the US, we’ve got Spain, we’ve got Ireland. However, Canada swings in and says, “Hold my Molson, eh!” with two nominations here. Both Canadian films are French language films from Quebec, and they they couldn’t be more different. Fauve is a terrifying and chilling story of adolescent antics gone wrong, and Marguerite is an emotional and moving portrait of an aging woman coming to grips with her past and present. Marguerite packs a lot into 19 minutes and also includes reference to a character named Rosalie (which is my daughter’s name), so this is an easy pick as it allows me to come to the same conclusion whether I choose with my heart or my head.
Best Short Film (Animated) – Nominated films are:
“One Small Step”
If you’re like me, then you had a day last summer where you were just settling in for a fun and exciting sequel to The Incredibles and then found yourself attempting to explain to a toddler how metaphorical dumpling babies in the short film Bao emphasized the parental emotions associated with an empty nest coupled with the symbolic resentment one harbors towards the realization that something one has created now displays apathy towards its creator. That, in a “dumpling-shell,” is Bao, Pixar’s latest short animated film. Pixar, my pick to win last year lost to the film I least enjoyed, the manipulative Kobe Bryant short with John Williams music, Dear Basketball. Dare I go against them again in a category they have dominated throughout the decade? I did not love Bao, but it was unique and culturally diverse with universality embedded. This is where these films shine; the ability to represent multiple deep themes in a charismatic way with visual pizzazz. My favorite of these films is easily Weekends, which depicts a young boy’s experience being shuffled between parents after their recent divorce. It is powerful, heartfelt, and has a great hand-drawn visual styling. However, last year I was turned off by the manipulative Love Basketball, and this category has a history of rewarding the tear-jerker over the think-piece. Don’t let me down again, Pixar!
Best Documentary (Short) – Nominated films are:
“A Night at the Garden”
“Period. End of Sentence.”
Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Black Sheep. The industry has been quick to respond to the ignominy pointed out just three years ago with the hashtag, #OscarsSoWhite. The movement associated with this hashtag pointed out the unfairly low representation of minorities in the Academy and in the industry. Furthermore, films like those I listed above honored now is justified and appropriate. While the movement may have helped voters see a basic institutional racism, it does not take away from the quality of films that have risen out of the discussions. That being said, the documentary categories tended to always be the one place diversity was able to shine, albeit for horrific circumstances like Syrian Civil War rescue workers and honor killings in Pakistan. Most of these films represent a shift as well, however. A shift from the exterior horrors into the much more complex emotions associated with hate. Four of the five nominated films for documentary short attempt to shine a light on shadows of hate. Black Sheep revolves around a young man accepting environmental hate in order to survive. Lifeboat is a story about North African migrants looking for sanctuary. Period. End of Sentence. gives a first hand look at the stigma on menstruation in India and Pakistan. Finally, A Night at the Garden is a 7 minute film that speaks for itself about the dark history Americans have in the name of “patriotism.” All of these are good, and all of them have something really powerful to say. This is the hardest category to call in this first group. More importantly, it has never been easier to see most of these films; End Game and Period. End of Sentence. are available on Netflix, Black Sheep has been made available for viewing on The Guardian’s website, and A Night at the Garden is available on Field of Vision’s website. Black Sheep is the film to beat, in my opinion. The events, decisions, and fallout of those decisions is quite provocative.
Prediction: Black Sheep
Best Sound Editing – Nominated films are:
A Quiet Place
Best Sound Mixing – Nominated films are:
A Star Is Born
As per the usual, I deal with these two categories together. Not because they are the same (although the nominees would have you think otherwise), but because they are often confused. Sound editing is the art of recording sound effects, background music, as well as sound creation. Sound mixing is taking all of the sounds recorded and needed for a film, along with the dialogue, and putting it all together, adjusting the levels, etc. Films that are technical achievements usually see their successful evening at the Oscars start here. This may be the place to recognize a film that did not get the acclaim it deserves, First Man. Last year, Dunkirk won both of these awards; however the real truth is the sound team that routinely works for Christopher Nolan won as they generally do (Dark Knight, Inception, Dunkirk). This logic will work in my favor, I believe. First of all, I will eliminate the musicals, which ironically are less technical and precise than the rest of the field. Now for editing, I will select First Man. The immersive effect of Damien Chazelle’s team of editors is a major contribution to the film’s overall success. That coupled with the fact that the same team was nominated and lost for La La Land (a musical) solidifies the fact that they win here. Now for mixing, I have a different choice. First Man is a stoic film, especially in character dialogue, Roma is a different story. There is so much layered audio in this film that Robert Altman would be proud. Roma will be a big winner this year both technically and creatively and it will all start with Sound Mixing.
Prediction: Sound Editing – First Man; Sound Mixing – Roma
Part II: Songs, Styles, and Sets!
This set of predictions rounds up the lower tier categories and begins the accent to the major ones. These predictions will focus on the six categories that make up the atmosphere of a film: Original Song, Original Score, Costume Design, Production Design, Makeup, and Visual Effects.
Best Original Song – Nominated songs are:
“All The Stars” – Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” – RBG
“Shallow” – A Star Is Born
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” – Mary Poppins Returns
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
I said last year that after seeing Black Panther, I was ready for this category in 2019, but that was before I understood the force of this Mark Ronson guy who teamed up with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper to produce “Shallow.” While “All the Stars” did get a nod, the awards season has been basically gaga for Gaga. I don’t see it going any other way
Prediction: “Shallow” from A Star is Born
Best Original Score – Nominated films are:
Black Panther (Ludwig Göransson)
BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat)
Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)
When a musical in the mix, I tend to give it some weight, and this year we do have one in Mary Poppins Returns. This was so easy two years ago with a musical like La La Land nominated for 13 Oscars, but this year, the musical categories are tricky. Last year my pick was upset for Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Shape of Water. Desplat appears again for a quirky little score from Isle of Dogs. But then there’s this Nicholas Britell, who was nominated for Barry Jenkins’s previous film, Moonlight. He is nominated again here for If Beale Street Could Talk. His score for Moonlight was excellent, but had no chance of beating La La Land. This time, however, I think it is his to lose.
Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
Best Costume Design – Nominated films are:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots
Last year, this was the easiest pick of them all. This category favors the period piece, and for 2018, we had Phantom Thread, a beautifully made, and poetic film about what else, clothing! This year, we have two aristocratic period pieces about royalty, but one is a double nominee. Sandy Powell who designed the costumes for The Favourite also designed the costumes for Mary Poppins Returns. Does this factor in? She and her competition for Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne, both have had great success designing wardrobes for various queens; Byrne for the Elizabeth films and Powell for Shakespeare in Love. My gut tells me to go with the double-down favorite, which would be The Favourite.
Prediction: The Favourite (Sandy Powell)
Best Production Design – Nominated films are:
Mary Poppins Returns
The production design Oscar goes to the art director who best accomplishes the appropriate mood for an audience’s experience through visuals, movement, and other varieties of art direction. Only three of the nominated films above are also nominated for Best Picture, but rarely do winners for Production Design and Best Picture intersect. Last year was one of those rare occasions where The Shape of Water surprisingly took both Oscars for Picture and Production Design. This may be the beginning of a new trend as I’m going with the film that clearly has the most unique and authentic look of the bunch and could easily be the Best Picture winner as well.
Prediction: The Favourite
Best Makeup and Hairstyling – Nominated films are:
Mary Queen of Scots
For six years in a row now, regardless of the quality of nominated films, only three films managed nominations for Best Makeup and Hairstyling. This category continues to circle the drain with two moderately weak choices for the “makeup” category and the obvious winner. Turning Christian Bale into Dick Cheney most definitely deserves some recognition. This is the category that made the phrase, “Oscar winning film Suicide Squad” a reality.
Best Visual Effects – The nominated films are:
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
AKA, the blockbuster award. Now we get down to films that the average filmgoer can evaluate. The Visual Effects Oscar goes to a film that demonstrates greatness in the world of special effects. It’s no coincidence that three of these five films were in the top 25 grossing films of 2018. The last three years now, a certain galaxy far, far away missed out on this one, and I expect the trend to continue. The force was definitely not strong with this one, so the real question is, can Avengers: Infinity War win an Oscar? Not since Avatar has the number one box office film of the year won this award. I thing this is the year that changes.
Prediction: Avengers: Infinity War
Part III: Don’t Shoot Me, I’m the Cinematographer!
Part three of The People’s Critic’s Oscar predictions begins the major film awards. These predictions will be for seven very different categories: Documentary Feature, Animated Film, Foreign Language Film, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, and everybody’s favorite – Cinematography (renamed, the “Emmanuel Lubezki Award” by The People’s Critic – Cinematography dorks will get that one). This year, however, Emmanuel Lubezki will not exactly win the Emmanuel Lubezki award, but he will be partially responsible for why this year’s winner does win it.
Best Documentary Feature – Nominated films are:
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG was one of my top ten films of the year. I am thrilled and not surprised that it is nominated for best documentary feature. That being said, I just saw Three Identical Strangers and am still scratching my head how that movie was not nominated. Anyway, enough about films not nominated; let’s talk about the ones that are. While the Academy is overwhelmingly liberal, RBG is a political film, which could alienate some voters. The other four are less political, but only one really seems like it can compete with RBG, and that is Free Solo. Still RBG is just the documentary subject we need right now. The documentary is quite linear, and nicely arranges the details of Ginsburg’s life. Plus, assuming there is not an opera playing that night, perhaps Ginsburg will be in the house to accept, which would be outstanding television.
Best Animated Feature – Nominated films are:
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Many are counting on Disney to improve its record to 13 – 5 in the history of this category with either Incredibles 2 or Ralph Breaks the Internet. You’d think with two in contention, it would be a slam dunk; however, for the first time in many years, this category seems pretty open. Spider-Man has been cleaning up in this category during awards season, but that does not mean the Academy will follow suit. And do not count out Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. His last foray into animated features garnered him a nomination as well for The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which inevitably lost to Disney/Pixar’s Up. So who will win? I think we may be looking at a rare losing year for Disney as not even Mr. Incredible can stop the momentum of Spider-Man.
Prediction: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Best Foreign Language Film – Nominated films are:
Never Look Away
In 2013, the film Amour accomplished what only seven other films had ever done before it: get nominated for both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture. This year we have the eighth, and perhaps best film ever to achieve this milestone, making it a shoe-in for this category. There is no way Roma does not win this award. More on Roma later.
Best Original Screenplay – Nominated films are:
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Green Book (Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly, & Nick Villelonga)
Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
The Favourite (Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara)
Vice (Adam McKay)
I always love this category. As a writer (or to put it more modestly, one who appreciates writing), the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay has a special significance. Last year, I was stunned when Jordan Peele took this award for Get Out over Martin McDonagh for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This year I see it as a three-way race between Green Book, Roma, and The Favourite. Green Book has gained a lot of momentum over awards season, but it also has received some criticism for its handling of racism and its story’s accuracy. This criticism has also been fueled by the family of the central character, Don Shirley. We will have to wait and see if such criticism will hurt its chances, but if it does, the Original Screenplay nomination will surely be affected. I do think this will be the case, which should open the door for Davis and McNamara’s excellent script for The Favourite.
Prediction: The Favourite (Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara)
Best Adapted Screenplay – Nominated films are:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, & Kevin Willmott)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters, & Eric Roth)
These films are the rare few who challenge, and at times overcome, that old adage that the book is better than the movie. This year’s crop is much stronger than last year’s. And following 2017’s year’s triumphant win for Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McRaney for Moonlight, seeing his name again should send shivers down all of the other nominees’ spines. Last year, the academy rightfully celebrated James Ivory, but this year is truly anybody’s to win. My hunch; however is that Spike Lee’s incredible script for a mostly honest historic portrayal of a far too familiar story for today’s American culture will prevail. This is also perhaps the place were the Academy will likely choose to honor Lee’s film as the other categories will be more challenging for him to win.
Prediction: BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, & Kevin Willmott)
Best Film Editing – Nominated films are:
This is an impressive award to win and the Academy does not treat that lightly. The winner for Best Film Editing has often been the film that wins Best Picture, and look at that! All five of the films nominated here are also nominated for Best Picture. What is interesting is the omission of Roma in this category. We also do not have a war movie this year, which is a departure from the previous two winners: Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge. Often, great editing goes unnoticed by the viewer because of how seamless the story has been woven together. Showy editing can break through like with 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, but we don’t have anything like that either. Of these five films, Vice and The Favourite have the seamless quality, and of those two only The Favourite has a real shot at Best Picture. With this logic, I have to go with The Favourite.
Prediction: The Favourite
Best Cinematography – Nominated films are:
Never Look Away
A Star Is Born
Ok, let’s talk about cinematography. Cinematographers are the directors of photography who oversee decisions on camera and lighting concerns. To excel at this requires the talent of an artist and the technical knowledge of a director. As I alluded to in the introduction to this section, we do not have Emmanuel Lubezki nominated this year, but he was partially responsible for why one of these films is nominated. Lubezki is the go-to director of photography for Alfonzo Cuarón, and he was all set to hire Lubezki for his ultra personal, semi-autobiographical masterpiece, Roma. However, Lubezki is also the go-to director of photography for a lot of people now that he’s won three Oscars, so while he was able to do the preparation work, he was not able to shoot the film due to logistical reasons. Cuarón then decided to shoot his own film rather than hire an English-speaking cinematographer, which would complicate his direction. The result is spectacular. Cuarón’s closeness to the material allowed for meticulous, complex, and imaginative camera work worthy of this award, and perhaps even one or two more.
Prediction: Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
Part IV: The Big Ones!
The final installment of The People’s Critic’s Oscar prediction series lists my picks for the six major film awards: Directing, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor, Actress, Actor, and Picture. These are the categories decided by the largest blocks of voters and, thus reveal the academy’s consensus feelings on the great films of the year. Are we talking total free-for-all like 2015 and 2016 where different films won editing, picture, and director, or something like last year where The Shape of Water dominated. This year, I think we’ll see some divergence, but no Chariots of Fire-style upset for Best Picture where Bohemian Rhapsody rides into the sunset with the big prize a la Golden Globes.
Best Director – Nominees are:
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
This is the category that said to me, “You need to see Cold War.” Two foreign films getting mainstream nominations is quite an achievement. Each of these films is crafted by filmmakers who have a distinct craft and signature look to their films. That certainly was the case with last year’s winner Guillermo del Toro, and it is going to be the case this year. The film most impressively directed is Roma. It harkens back to a cinematic experience that feels both fresh and classical. Not only because of its stark black and white style, but also because of its precision, pacing, and marriage of new and old. The story is personal to Cuarón, and he makes it personal to us as well. This is his finest work, and he’s made a lot of fine work.
Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Best Supporting Actress – Nominees are:
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Acting categories need the least amount of explanation. The supporting role awards are traditionally a bit more exciting. This year is no exception. This is a year where two Spanish-speaking actresses were nominated for their work in a foreign film. Both turned in performances worthy of winning as well. We love honoring English actors, but when it comes to roles spoken entirely in another language, only seven actors or actresses have ever succeeded in wining the Oscar. That statistic will remain because we have Regina King here. No need to talk about whether Stone and Weisz will cancel each other out. This is King’s to lose. She was outstanding as Sharon Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk, and there’s really no one else in the discussion.
Prediction: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Supporting Actor – Nominees are:
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlackKKLansman
Sam Elliot, A Star is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Sam Elliot is a welcomed name here. His performance in A Star is Born is excellent, but he found his name missing from quite a few awards nomination lists this year. He made the one that counts most though, and I do see a scenario where he gets it. It’s a long shot, but it’s a shot. I think we’re in for a repeat. Sure Sam Rockwell is here, and he did win last year, but the repeat I’m talking about is Mahershala Ali, who won in 2017 for Moonlight. This is a near sure thing, the way I see it. I think Elliot’s sudden entrance into the game is the only outlier. Elliot has been acting for 50 years with nary a nomination, and suddenly here he is representing a movie that many loved, but is not likely to win much. Elliot could fall into the career achievement-Oscar situation or the let him represent A Star is Born in a non-music category kind of way. If you’re looking for an edge that no one will see coming in your Oscar pool at work, take Elliot for the long shot, but if you’re playing it safe and logical, it’s Ali.
Prediction: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Best Actress – Nominees are:
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
This has been the category of clear winners in the past. Cate Blanchett was the clear winner in 2014 for Blue Jasmine, Julianne Moore was the clear favorite in 2015 for Still Alice, Brie Larson was the clear winner in 2016 for Room, in 2017 Emma Stone was the clear winner for La La Land, and last year everybody knew Frances McDormand had it made for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This year is no exception. Glenn Close has been basically unstoppable all awards season, and her acceptance speeches have been so on point, I almost wonder if members are voting for her on that premise alone!
Prediction: Glenn Close, The Wife
Best Actor – Nominees are:
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
How is back to back Willem Dafoe nominations not the story here? I used to be really bad at calling this category. I missed Ejiofor, Redmayne, and McConaughey, but redemption was afoot the past three years with DiCaprio, Affleck, and Oldman. This year, I am trying to keep the streak alive, but it will not be that easy. If there’s one thing everyone who walks away from Bohemian Rhapsody unanimously agrees on, it’s Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury. There’s also a little twinge in my gut anytime I overlook Christian Bale for his portrayal of Dick Cheney. It is difficult to parse out the finer performance here. Both portrayed real people, both underwent incredible transformations, and both have won multiple awards for these performances already. It really comes down to considering voter preference at this point. Will they recognize the new, young performer on his first nomination or give a second Oscar to the veteran who has been consistently turning out great performances all decade. My first instinct is to take Bale on this because of the fact that Malek does not actually sing in the film, but neither did Jamie Foxx when he won for Ray. Malek did recently win the SAG award over Bale, which positions him for the win here, so I will hesitantly go with Malek. I really hope I get this one!
Prediction: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Best Picture – Nominees are:
A Star is Born
Eight films were deemed worthy of Best Picture honors this year, down one from the past two years, which had nine, which I have to assume would have been If Beale Street Could Talk. It should be there. This is a historic slate of nominees. The first Marvel movie to get this honor, a foreign film, the highest grossing music bio-pic ever, a remake of a film that has been made three previous times, a first Best Picture nomination ever for Spike Lee, and three more traditional choices in Vice, Green Book and The Favourite. This award is relatively up for grabs. All have performed well during awards season most recently with Black Panther winning Best Ensemble Cast at the SAG awards. Four films have very real chances of pulling this one off: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Roma, and Green Book. By my estimation, all four of these films will have already been winners before the winner for Best Picture is read aloud. Two of these films made my top ten list of the year, and one of them will be the winner. Roma is the most beautiful film of the year. It illustrates everything I love about film by capturing a beautiful and personal story with stunning detail and told well through visually immersive camera work. With a win here, I believe it will also usher in a new era in film distribution giving Netflix its first Oscar winning Best Picture.
The Final Cut
According to my predictions…
- The biggest winner will be Roma winning 5 of its 10 nominations.
- The biggest loser will be A Star is Born losing every award except the Best Original Song.
- A Marvel Studio film will win an Oscar, just not the one nominated for Best Picture.
- The biggest upset will be: Rami Malek over Christian Bale for Best Actor.
- The surest bet will be: Glenn Close for Best Actress.