by Ken Bakely
Another year, another awards season. And this one has been particularly chaotic: from upset wins to wide arrays of controversies, it’s impossible to tell exactly who or what is in the lead for many of the big prizes in this year’s Oscar race. But tomorrow, the nominees will be announced and we’ll know who our finalists are. As with every year, I’ve compiled some predictions for the top categories. They’re ranked by my estimated likelihood of nomination. Listed are my predicted five (or ten for Best Picture), plus one possible contender that could upset (or two for Best Picture).
Without further ado, let’s get started.
UPDATE (January 23): Like last year, I have added my accuracy score and initial thoughts on the final nominees to each category.
|3||A Star Is Born|
|10||If Beale Street Could Talk|
SPOILERS: A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns
COMMENTS: The three frontrunners for this prize appear to be Roma, Green Book, and A Star Is Born, though things seem to be quickly gravitating towards the top two as Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut has underperformed at several key precursors. Certainly it would be wonderful to see Roma take the prize, though I fear that the old guard of the Academy is still sufficiently influential to tip the balance of power in favor of Green Book in all its milquetoast, non-committal attempts at discussing the realities of racism (for a much more perceptive movie on the subject, see Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, also a likely nominee here). Down the chart, we see a vast array of choices: The Favourite rides off its strength in the acting and writing branches; Black Panther remains in the minds of voters as a cultural phenomenon and representative of a hope for more diverse and inclusive media; and Bohemian Rhapsody proves that while many great movies dominated at the box office in 2018, bad movies can still be blockbusters, too.
As Best Picture exists on a sliding scale, anywhere between five and ten movies can be nominated, depending on how the votes shake out. The top seven on this list feel like they’re safer than the more flexible bottom three, though there’s no guarantee of how many total nominees we’ll see for this category tomorrow.
REACTIONS: 8 for 8. I’d say Roma remains the frontrunner for now, but I’m intrigued by BlacKkKlansman’s overperformance in some of the technical categories. Could that upset?
|3||Bradley Cooper||A Star Is Born|
|5||Yorgos Lanthimos||The Favourite|
SPOILER: Paweł Pawlikowski – Cold War
COMMENTS: Cuarón is far and away the frontrunner here, which opens up the remaining slots for some possible surprises. To start, Lee feels safe as a fellow nominee, but beyond there, things could get interesting. Cooper is definitely more likely than not to get in, but there seems to be a stigma in the directors’ branch regarding A-list stars who head behind the camera (see Ben Affleck’s Argo). McKay and Lanthimos have appeared at enough precursors to feel like likely nominees, though a late groundswell of support for Cold War could push Pawlikowski over the line. When it comes to Green Book’s Peter Farrelly, there’s certainly a good chance he winds up here, but this seems like the archetype of a movie that seriously competes in Best Picture while missing in some craft-specific lists (another parallel to the Argo year).
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Cooper out, Pawlikowski in. I had an inkling that Cooper might miss here, but it was still surprising to actually see it happen. All in all, this was a very good year for recognition of foreign language films in the major awards.
|2||Rami Malek||Bohemian Rhapsody|
|3||Bradley Cooper||A Star Is Born|
|4||John David Washington||BlacKkKlansman|
|5||Viggo Mortensen||Green Book|
SPOILER: Ethan Hawke – First Reformed
COMMENTS: Bale, Malek, and Cooper are the lead contenders for this Oscar, though I suspect Bale has the edge at the moment. Washington seems like a very likely (and very deserved!) nominee if BlacKkKlansman performs as well as I would expect. For the fifth slot, I have an inkling that Mortensen could miss for a number of reasons; from a cooler reception to his performance than that of his co-star, Mahershala Ali; to his much-noted gaffe at the start of awards season that has remained in the minds of many due to Green Book’s subsequent onslaught of bad press in the subsequent months; to simply the notion that this field has a relatively even field of two or three spoilers under the top five that each have a fighting chance. Perhaps I’m dreaming, but I think Ethan Hawke’s phenomenal work in First Reformed could be that upset.
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Washington out, Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate in. I knew that Dafoe could possibly sneak in, but I had incorrectly assumed that the film was just too low-profile to actually break through. Still no clue who ends up winning this, though the SAG Awards this weekend could shed some light on this race.
|1||Glenn Close||The Wife|
|2||Lady Gaga||A Star Is Born|
|3||Olivia Colman||The Favourite|
|4||Melissa McCarthy||Can You Ever Forgive Me?|
|5||Emily Blunt||Mary Poppins Returns|
SPOILER: Yalitza Aparicio – Roma
COMMENTS: This has mostly evolved to a two-horse race between Close and Gaga, with the odds tilting further to Close as she continues to win precursor awards. Colman and McCarthy have deservedly shown up as nominees at essentially everywhere they need to in order to get nominated, but they haven’t been able to substantially impact the win count. The fifth slot is open, and my guess slides towards Blunt due to her citations at the Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, and Critics’ Choice Awards. While I would love to see Aparicio get in here for her debut performance in Roma, she hasn’t been named at enough precursors for me to confidently predict a nomination.
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Blunt out, Aparicio in. Her inclusion is a wonderful surprise indeed.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
|1||Mahershala Ali||Green Book|
|2||Richard E. Grant||Can You Ever Forgive Me?|
|3||Timothée Chalamet||Beautiful Boy|
|5||Sam Elliott||A Star Is Born|
SPOILER: Sam Rockwell – Vice
COMMENTS: This contest seems to be moving in Ali’s direction, and the odds now considerably favor him picking up his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar this year. Grant seems like a safe second choice, while Chalamet has remained a static middle-tier nominee, neither gaining nor losing momentum throughout the season. Driver has been blessed by the consistent solid performance of BlacKkKlansman throughout the season, while Elliott, once a frontrunner, has fallen back due to A Star Is Born losing steam in the last few weeks. If Vice overperforms in the other categories, watch out for Sam Rockwell to make an appearance here.
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Chalamet out, Rockwell in. It turns out that Chalamet was much more vulnerable than I thought, and Vice turned out to be very well-represented up and down the board.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
|1||Regina King||If Beale Street Could Talk|
|3||Rachel Weisz||The Favourite|
|4||Emma Stone||The Favourite|
|5||Margot Robbie||Mary Queen of Scots|
SPOILER: Claire Foy – First Man
COMMENTS: When this season began, King looked like a runaway favorite, sweeping the board at the early critics’ awards. But disappointingly, it seems like Beale Street distributor Annapurna Films has cast their awards derby lot entirely with Vice, at the expense of the other films on their slate. Consequently, King has missed crucial nominations at the Screen Actors Guild Award and BAFTA, thus opening up the possibility that someone else, like Amy Adams in Vice, could forge ahead. Elsewhere in this category, Weisz and Stone look like safe bets for nominees, while the fifth slot is a tossup between Foy and Robbie, though there’s a universe out there where Crazy Rich Asians’s Michelle Yeoh could surprise. After all, there’s often at least one acting contender that materializes on nominations morning without support from the precursors, and it’s traditionally in a supporting category… (Or perhaps, like with Hawke, I’m projecting my own wish list onto my predictions. I suppose it’s a mixture of both).
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Robbie out, Marina de Tavira for Roma in. As I said, there’s often a supporting nominee that otherwise had no awards traction, but I my guess who it would be was incorrect. Despite having heard discussion of de Tavira possibly getting in for her excellent performance in the film, I thought it was just more wishful thinking.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
|1||The Favourite||Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara|
|2||Green Book||Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and Peter Farrelly|
|5||First Reformed||Paul Schrader|
SPOILER: Eighth Grade – Bo Burnham
COMMENTS: The Favourite’s wonderfully acidic and endlessly entertaining dialogue could be enough for it to win here, perhaps augmented by the other contenders not having enough juice to put up a serious challenge for the Oscar in the first place. Green Book co-writer Nick Vallelonga has done more than his fair share in adding to the film’s host of bad PR, and the Academy’s reticence to give screenplay awards to sparsely-structured movies may hurt Roma. Meanwhile, Vice’s polarized reputation is largely owed to its brash narrative style, and First Reformed may be too off-the-radar for it to rally enough voters.
REACTIONS: Perfect score. I still think The Favourite is the prohibitive… erm, frontrunner here.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
|1||If Beale Street Could Talk||Barry Jenkins|
|2||BlacKkKlansman||Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee|
|3||Can You Ever Forgive Me?||Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty|
|4||A Star Is Born||Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters|
|5||Black Panther||Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole|
SPOILER: Leave No Trace – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
COMMENTARY: The field for Adapted Screenplay seems more sparse than Original – I can’t see anything getting close to being nominated besides the titles mentioned here and maybe one or two others. Beale Street has the most precursor support, but I could certainly see BlacKkKlansman picking up steam off its growing awards season momentum.
REACTIONS: 4 for 5. Black Panther out, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs in. The Coen brothers remain beloved by the writers’ branch. I do wonder if BlacKkKlansman is now favored to win this Oscar, based on its solid performance overall, and therefore the assumed desire of Academy members to make sure it doesn’t go home empty-handed.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
|Rank||Film||Country of Origin|
SPOILER: Capernaum – Lebanon
COMMENTARY: The convoluted voting process in this category renders it very difficult to predict what’s actually getting nominated, though Roma seems like a slam-dunk, considering that there’s a very good chance it could win Best Picture.
REACTIONS: 3 for 5. Burning and The Guilty out, Capernaum and Never Look Away (Germany) in. Obviously didn’t foresee Never Look Away sliding in here, and especially didn’t foresee it picking up a technical citation (Best Cinematography).
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
|1||Won’t You Be My Neighbor?|
|4||Minding the Gap|
SPOILER: Three Identical Strangers
COMMENTS: 2018 was an incredible year for documentaries, and it will certainly be interesting to see what gets honored here to commemorate it. As I’ve said before, movies like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and RBG might not be terribly accomplished or innovative, but they seem like public services; reminders that the world is, and has always been, home to many good, benevolent people who try to make the world a better place through affecting positive and inclusive change when everything else feels so dismally hopeless.
REACTIONS: 3 for 5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Shirkers out; Hale County This Morning, This Evening and Of Fathers and Sons in. Surprised to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor miss here, but in categories with obscure or confusing nomination procedures, safe frontrunners seem to miss on a semi-regular basis. Regardless, I’m pleasantly surprised to see the Academy go for Hale County, and would be glad to see a few more small films like it breaking into these categories every year.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
|2||Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse|
|3||Ralph Breaks the Internet|
|4||Isle of Dogs|
SPOILER: Tito and the Birds
COMMENTS: For the first time in a very long time, a non-Disney/Pixar title looks poised to have a real chance at winning here, though at the moment, I’m still a little wary to pull the trigger and predict an Into the Spider-Verse win. It’s probably me being overly cautious, but there is a tendency for this category to house some shocking omissions (I still think about The Lego Movie missing here in 2015).
REACTIONS: Perfect score. Into the Spider-Verse is probably favored. Looking back on my hesitation to predict it in first, I think it was largely a vague suspicion that, like what we saw in the Documentary category, it could have been another case of a beloved contender missing the nomination. Now that it’s here, it probably wins.
And there you have it, my predictions for the nominees at the 2019 Oscars. Check back later this week to see my scores.
The nominations for the 91st Academy Awards will be announced on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, in a live broadcast slated to air at 5:30AM Pacific Standard Time.