Hark, the Academy Awards are tonight.
They’re silly and stupid, yes, but they do matter for some people; they matter for me. I’ve written about this before: Fall movie season is my season.
Over the past five months I’ve watched as many movies as I can to prepare for this very night, and lo, I have thoughts. Not all the thoughts like some on the internet–I’m not sure I can spot the difference between Sound Mixing and Sound Editing when I’m watching a movie–but enough to make a silly exercise like predicting the Oscar winners a worthy endeavor for a personal blog.
Below, I’ll give my predictions (and preferences) for each of the eight major categories PLUS one for Best Live Action Short (I paid $15 to see all five in a single screening last week). Here goes:
Live Action Short
My Prediction: Marguerite
My Preference: Skin
This is a bleak category, man, truly. Marguerite is the happiest of the nominees, which doesn’t say much, really, but possibly makes it the best choice to root for. The Canadian drama is a sweet, emotional film. But my preference skews darker, to the American drama that tackles the circularities of racism come home to roost. Let’s move on.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters
My Prediction: BlacKkKlansman
My Preference: BlacKkKlansman
From what I read, BlacKkKlansman is the odds-on favorite for this award, which I agree with wholeheartedly. When I think about Spike Lee’s film I remember the absurdist situational comedy at play in nearly every seen, the vitriol spewed by some, and the truth preached by others. It is a movie of words and ideas and emotions (and images, too, yes) first and foremost, which for me vaults it ahead of its nominees: most of which have less to say.
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay
My Prediction: The Favourite
My Preference: The Favourite
The Favourite is a low-key gem: a Drunk History retelling of the court of Queen Anne with a dash of acid-trip Little Bunny Foo Foo on the side. It’s strange. But it works, it really does. Of the Oscar movies I saw I had the most fun watching this. Crazy but true. It’s not a film that carries on its back any big ideas in the way that First Reformed or BlacKkKlansman do, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say. It feeds its audience vegetables, and they taste too damn good to notice they aren’t junk food.
Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
My Prediction: Mahershala Ali
My Preference: Adam Driver
I’m learning a lot about myself by doing this exercise. I don’t consider myself a BlacKkKlansman guy but here we are: I’ve got that film winning both times it has appeared on my list. Driver is a tremendous actor and he steals this movie. When he’s on screen the film shines, and when he’s not the story suffers for it.
I like the rest of the performances here–no shots at Mahershala who I think is undone by his material–but they don’t shine like Driver does, and I like to award my supporting cast for burning bright.
Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
My Prediction: Regina King
My Preference: Emma Stone
Another year, two more supporting races that feel preordained weeks before the telecast. I suppose if the Academy is worried about declining viewership totals they should start by introducing some level of intrigue to the categories, right? Supporting actress is a strong category this year, though I prefer Stone and her game of deception to King, though my dear Emma won’t win.
Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
My Prediction: Rami Malek
My Preference: Christian Bale
Another category where we basically know the winner before the envelope is opened. I did not care for Bohemian Rhapsody, nor do I find Malek’s Freddie Mercury particularly interesting. He’s all prosthetics and dubbed voice; give me Bradley Cooper who does a more interesting job with the same task. Over both, however, stands Christian Bale–the best actor of his generation. He’s doesn’t hide behind his prosthetics as much as he vanishes beneath them. And unlike Malek, he’s able to find the (diseased) beating heart of his character; he’s acting, Malek is working on an SNL impression.
Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
My Prediction: Glenn Close
My Preference: Lady Gaga
Wait, are all the acting categories foregone conclusions? What a bore. I watched The Wife on a plane a few days ago and it left me a bit underwhelmed as a whole (you get the sense that the Christian Slater-Glenn Close bar scene played much louder on tape than it did in the final film). Close simmers until she boils over, yes, but there’s a noisy bit of plot that rips the emotion right from under the scene undercutting her performance.
Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born is a dynamo. Bradley Cooper’s look might be the film’s lasting lineage, but Gaga takes control about halfway in and never lets go.
BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee
Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski
The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay
My Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón
My Preference: Alfonso Cuarón
Cuarón and Pawlikowski are the picks here, methinks, though I have a soft spot for Lanthimos and his insistent fish-eye lens. I prefer Cold War‘s cinematography to Roma‘s, but Cuarón has a more developed sense of where to set his camera and how long to leave it running.
A Star Is Born
My Prediction: Green Book
My Preference: Roma
2019 is an important year for movies. I don’t think history will judge the quality of these films as particularly high, though I do think we’ll view it as a clear sea change for the Academy Awards: it’s the start of a more diverse and inclusive slate of nominees. 2019’s nominees aren’t perfect, of course, they can’t be until more women and people of color are given the opportunity to helm their own movies. But I really do feel this year’s slate is different–if not necessarily good.
My body loves Queen but my brain hates Bohemian Rhapsody, and its inclusion here is a crime against good taste; same for Vice. Green Book is the kind of Oscar catnip the 2019 Internet rebels against, and BlacKkKlansman is more interested in critiquing today’s society than telling its own story.
The year’s best movies include A Star Is Born, The Favourite, Black Panther, and Roma, in some order, and there are movies this year NOT nominated for Best Picture we’ll remember fondly, as well: First Man! First Reformed! The Oscars rarely gets it right in the moment, and I don’t think they start tonight, either. Green Book is fine, I think, and when I saw it last night I felt the animosity toward this film to be totally overblown and totally weird.
I think we must consider the role of the Oscars in today’s society: are they meant to recognize future historical significance? How can they even do that? Or are they meant to create promotion and buzz for the movies as a business, and therefore reward as many movies as possible? I lean toward the latter, which makes those of us who fanboy and fangirl over the Oscars emotionally conflicted. We care more about this award show than the body who puts it on: that’s silly!
And yet, I find myself writing this on Oscar night, waiting for something great to happen.