With no host and a Marvel movie up for Best Picture, the 91st Academy Awards is shaping up to be the most atypical Oscars in recent memory, and too hard to call. Consequently, we’ve eschewed our annual form guide to instead indulge in some honest and witty commentary regarding the major categories, nominees and likely winners.
You’ll find the full list of nominees here.
Despite abandoning the proposed Most Popular Film Category after a considerable backlash, the Academy have surreptitiously integrated it into the Best Picture category, with Bohemian Rhapsody, A Star Is Born and Black Panther competing with more traditional Best Picture fare – Roma, Green Book, Vice, The Favourite and BlacKkKlansman. In a more conventional year the likely winner would be The Favourite or Green Book, but with the Academy being more progressive these days, anything could happen. Bohemian Rhapsody could claim the Oscar based on popular choice – it did win the Globe, after all. We all know why Black Panther is nominated, although curiously, much of the predictable backlash over its inclusion was more about it not being the best Marvel movie of the year. There will be controversy if it wins, and if it doesn’t.
Notable absentee: First Man – easily one of last year’s best films.
Two transformative performances this year: Christian Bale as the corpulent Dick Cheney in Vice, and Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek with distracting dentures. Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) is the popular choice but unlikely to win, and both Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) and Willem Dafoe (At Eternity’s Gate) have the best chance with career-best performances. Malek already has a Globe and a SAG for the rockin’ role of Freddie Mercury, and is likely to take home Oscar too.
Notable absentees: John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) – Denzel has taught his boy well. Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther is up for Best Picture, so why not?
The always wonderful Olivia Colman should be the firm favourite for The Favourite, but it’s going to be close, as in Glenn Close, who has been twice victorious this awards season with a Globe and a SAG for her performance as the soul-searching spouse of a Nobel Prize winner in The Wife. There’s no denying Lady Gaga can act, but to date she has played a singer in A Star Is Born and a vampire in American Horror Story: Hotel – hardly a stretch! A more challenging role (Lady Macbeth, perhaps?) would confirm whether or not she’s worthy of the gold. Melissa McCarthy for Best Actress? It’s not a joke, unlike some of her dire comedy performances. As con-woman Lee Israel in the biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me?, she’s great, although we can never forgive The Happytime Murders. Then there is Yalitza Aparicio for Roma – she won’t win, but the presenters might struggle with her name.
Notable absentees: Toni Collette’s harrowing tour de force in Hereditary, and Nicole Kidman’s transformation into a Keith Urban lookalike in Destroyer.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Why was Adam Driver recognised for BlacKkKlansman and not John David Washington with a Best Actor nom? Sam Rockwell (Vice) won last year in this category, and the leads in A Star Is Born overshadowed Sam Elliott’s performance. That leaves the always excellent Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) to duke it out.
Notable absentee: Timothée Chalamet battling addiction in Beautiful Boy.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams (Vice) has received five past nominations without a win, and the trend is likely to continue this year. The Oscar will go to Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz for The Favourite, although Marina de Tavira (Roma) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) could surprise.
Notable absentee: Claire Foy as Mrs. Armstrong in First Man.
Alfonso Cuarón is a brilliant filmmaker is likely to grab this for Roma, having already received the Globe and Directors Guild Award. So is Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite), but his off-kilter style is more likely to bemuse the Academy. Spike Lee is the popular choice and should win for BlacKkKlansman – he’s only won an Honorary Oscar to date and deserves a Best Director statue for this film. No to Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War (has anyone seen it?) and Adam McKay for Vice.
Notable absentee: Peter Farrelly for Green Book. Gone are the days when Best Picture and Best Director nominations went hand in hand. Curiously, Bruce Beresford didn’t receive a nom for 1989 Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, which has a similar theme.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Possibly the hardest category to call this year – they’re all belters. Roma or The Favourite is a safe bet.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Ron Stallworth’s bizarre-but-true memoir BlacKkKlansman deserves to win, although Can You Ever Forgive Me? is an equally eccentric and unlikely true tale.
Costume Design: Black Panther – Did Marvel raid the wardrobe department of The Lion King stage production?
Cinematography: Roma – Black & white, gritty, experimental, real.
Original Song: Shallow – A Star Is Born. If the film wins any awards, it will be this one.
Visual Effects: First Man – Damien Chazelle keeps it practical and real.
Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Innovative and vibrant, it’s like a comic book brought to life. Pixar shouldn’t have the monopoly on this category.
Foreign Language Film: Roma. Muy bien!
No host this year could be a very good thing. How often have you groaned at a flat gag, missed Billy Crystal, recalled the fiasco of Anne Hathaway and James Franco in 2011, and yelled at the screen “JUST GET ON WITH IT!”At the very least it bodes well for a much shorter ceremony.
Getting political at the Oscars was a no-no in the past. Vanessa Redgrave’s infamous acceptance speech in 1978 was met with gasps, but times have changed. Nowadays a political bent can elicit cheers and is almost mandatory, and inclusivity and diversity in film is just as important as artistic merit.