I’m very much not in the prognosticating business. I’ve tried writing Oscar predictions posts in the past, but after looking back at them I’ve decided to skip that type of write-up this year. Not because I’ve been particularly terrible at predicting the outcomes, but because many of the outcomes I picked were based (at least partly) on personal biases of who I wanted to win. So instead of writing an Oscars predictions post, I’m just going straight for the “who I want to see nominated/win” part. I know that some of these are possible or even likely, and many of them are very unlikely, but until the nominees are announced I can still hope.
Of the possible nominees, I’ve only seen the supposed front-runner, “Caroline” (you can see it here). It is a heartbreaking and well-acted short that says more in 10 minutes than many movies say in 100, about poverty in America’s heartland and humanity’s insistence on judging people before getting to know them. It’s powerful, and assuming it is nominated I would be happy to see it win.
I have seen four of the possible nominees in this category: “A Night at the Garden,” “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” “Black Sheep” (hyperlinks for the short films lead you to the places online where you can watch them) and “Zion.” Some consider the Netflix original “Zion” the front-runner, but of the ones I have seen, that was my least favorite. I was quite fascinated by “A Night at the Garden,” which shows footage from a 1939 Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden (the third MSG, which was demolished back in 1968). It’s both historical and ultra-timely, considering the 2017 white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville and other similar rallying efforts by the far-right. If you watch “A Night at the Garden” and enjoy it, check out the other short documentaries from the journalists at Field of Vision.
I’ve now seen all ten of the shortlisted Animated Shorts, but the five I would consider the best are “Bao” (which you may have seen playing before “Incredibles 2” in theaters), “Age of Sail,” “Late Afternoon,” “Weekends,” and “Pepe le Morse.” An absurdly comedic but ultimately touching story about how a family deals with the death of a grandfather, father, and husband, the French short “Pepe le Morse” (or “Grandpa Walrus”) would be my pick for the win. “Weekends,” from a former Pixar animator, might be my second-favorite (though “Late Afternoon” is very heart-warming).
“Roma” should have this locked away already (since it’s the only foreign film in consideration for a Best Picture nomination), but I actually preferred Japan’s “Shoplifters,” about a family of petty thieves who takes in a young kid they find on the streets. “Burning,” South Korea’s entry in this category, is another probable nominee you should see (if only because I need someone to discuss it with!). Aside from those three, though, none of the other foreign films I saw last year impressed me greatly.
The two highest-grossing docs of the year, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “RBG,” will probably be nominated, but I preferred “Free Solo,” the incredible National Geographic documentary about a rock climber who scales cliff sides without the help of a rope or net. The intense death-defying climbing scenes are a draw, obviously, but I actually preferred the times when the relationship with his girlfriend is examined (should someone who risks their life every day consider how their loved ones would feel, or should they continue pursuing their goals regardless?). My favorite documentary of the year, “Fahrenheit 11/9,” failed to make the shortlist cut and therefore cannot be nominated (perhaps it was too divisive). Michael Moore used his unique perspective to examine several facets of current American life in a way that middle-of-the-road folks could relate to, if they could set aside for a moment that it was Moore talking about it.
“Isle of Dogs” was one of the year’s best movies, and therefore would be my choice for Best Animated Feature. It will probably be overlooked in favor of “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” which would also be deserving if it won. Rounding out the field of nominees, I would start with “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” but then I’m not sure I saw another animated feature worth nominating.
Let’s face it; three of the five nominees in this category should come from “A Star is Born.” “Shallow” seems destined for a win in this category, but how can you deny “I’ll Never Love Again (Extended)” or “Always Remember Us This Way” a nomination? I’m not even sure “Shallow” is the best of the three, but it’s the only one submitted for eligibility. My guess is that the “A Star is Born” people didn’t want to have multiple nominees, which would split voters and lead to a different film being awarded. “A Star is Born” is Lady Gaga at her best (unless you’re hoping to bust a move on the dance floor, and then her ten-year-old stuff is what you’re looking for). For the other two slots, I would choose “All the Stars” from the awesome “Black Panther” album curated by Kendrick Lamar and “A Place Called Slaughter Race,” a ridiculous Alan Menken composition from “Ralph Breaks the Internet.”
I feel very strongly about this category this year. You know that if you follow me on Twitter (which you should…@Tweeting_Burd). The five nominees should be, in order, “First Man,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Black Panther,” “Isle of Dogs,” and “BlacKkKlansman.” Justin Hurwitz’s follow-up to “La La Land” (which won him the Oscar), “First Man,” should win in a landslide. If not, then maybe Nicholas Britell’s work on “If Beale Street Could Talk” could win and I wouldn’t throw a hissy fit (his “Vice” score was also very good, but not nearly as good as these five). If anyone other than these two composers wins, I will protest in the streets.
Truly, this is the category that has disappointed me the most this year. “The Favourite” is probably the favorite, but I didn’t really enjoy that costume dramedy from the director of “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Scared Deer” (two other movies I also did not like at all). Of the probable nominees, I would give the award to “Roma,” but if it were up to me, the field of nominees would include “Isle of Dogs,” “Sorry to Bother You” (probably the most original and outrageous story concept of the year), and “Game Night.” None of them have a chance, though, so I’m stuck being lukewarm about all of the nominees.
On the other hand, this category left me very pleased. It’s my hope that “BlacKkKlansman” comes away with a win in this category, and that’s not necessarily unimaginable. The way Spike Lee infused this true story with timely references to the current political climate was both shocking and hilarious. Barry Jenkins won this award two years ago, for “Moonlight.” I would love to see him nominated again for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” which respectfully tells the story of a falsely imprisoned young man and his newly pregnant wife. It’s a beautiful romantic drama, and the script (adapted from the James Baldwin novel…what better source material could a screenwriter ask for?!) deserves praise. To fill up this category, I would nominate “First Man,” “A Star is Born,” and the funny and dramatic “Can You Ever Forgive Me?“, though “The Death of Stalin” was also very well-written (and one of the year’s best comedies). Other films that I loved (but that won’t be nominated) are “The Old Man and the Gun” (the script was good, but the way Robert Redford used it was great) and “Widows” (which took a new approach to the heist movie by not focusing so much on the heist itself but the lead-up).
I believe Richard E. Grant should take home this trophy for playing the “company” to Melissa McCarthy’s “misery” in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” He has had a long career in smaller roles, but his turn in that film was a revelation. He was made the play that character. I would also love to see Sam Elliot (for “A Star is Born”), Michael B. Jordan (for “Black Panther”), and Adam Driver (for “BlacKkKlansman”) nominated in this category. Mahershala Ali will likely be nominated, too, though I thought his role in “Green Book” was only slightly better than the rest of the movie around it. In a dream world, Gabriel Byrne would be nominated for “Hereditary.” He hit every cue necessary to make audiences relate to his character and feel horrified about what was happening around him.
I feel pretty confident that the nominees will be Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk), Claire Foy (“First Man”), Amy Adams (“Vice”), and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (both from “The Favourite”), but again I’m not in the predicting business. I would love to see King win, and it seems as though she might. I also greatly enjoyed Gina Rodriguez in “Annihilation” and Patricia Clarkson (a recent Golden Globe-winner for her role in the mini-series “Sharp Objects) in the little-seen, small-scale drama “The Party.”
Lady Gaga did a commendable job in her first movie role (and what a big role it was), but she definitely could have handled certain scenes much better than she did. Of the probable nominees, Glenn Close would be my choice to win. That said, I believe Toni Collette deserves a nomination (and possibly a win??) for her performance in “Hereditary,” but that’s a horror movie so it definitely won’t get any nominations. I would also love to see some recognition for Julia Roberts and her extraordinarily empathetic work playing the mother of a recovering drug addict in “Ben is Back.” I do actually hope Melissa McCarthy is nominated for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”…which is not entirely out of the question. Likewise, Yalitza Aparicio (a schoolteacher who has never acted before) could get lucky with a nomination for “Roma,” and that would certainly be deserved.
Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”) and Christian Bale (“Vice”) gave the two best performances of the year, so I’m happy that people have been recognizing them as the front-runners in this category. I hope the Academy also nominates Ryan Gosling for “First Man.” He played Neil Armstrong in a way that was true to the real-life man, even if his quiet demeanor didn’t exactly shine brightly on the big screen. In his first major film role, John David Washington (son of Denzel) was shockingly good in “BlacKkKlansman.” I didn’t see that one coming. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear Robert Redford’s name called out on nomination morning? Redford has said “The Old Man and the Gun” would be his last acting role. It’d be great to send him off on top.
“First Man” director Damien Chazelle would join Spike Lee, Barry Jenkins, Alfonso Cuaron, and Bradley Cooper (for “A Star is Born”) as the nominees for Best Director, if it were up to me. Unfortunately it’s not, and only two (possibly three) of those are likely to hear their name called for this category. Coming up just short, but still deserving acknowledgment, would be Steve McQueen’s work directing “Widows.”
If I could choose a field of up to ten Best Picture nominees, it would look like this: “BlackKklansman,” “First Man,” “Isle of Dogs,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “A Star is Born,” “Hereditary,” “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” “Searching,” “Widows,” and “Shoplifters.” Now, I know this is far-fetched. In reality, “BlacKkKlansman” and “A Star is Born” are the only two I’m confident will be nominated (I’m also about 70% sure that “If Beale Street Could Talk” will be). If I were picking, “BlacKkKlansman” would be the winner. And in this year’s relatively wide-open field, I still have some hope that it might actually play out that way. That said, thinking more realistically, if “Roma” wins I will be happy for the cast and crew. Though it didn’t blow me away, there is no doubting that it is a very well-made film. If it’s “A Star is Born” or “If Beale Street Could Talk,” likewise. They deserve accolades. Even “Black Panther.” I think “Logan” might have been better, but regardless, “Black Panther” is one of the best superhero films of all time. And I know what it would mean if it won.
But, I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Tomorrow morning we’ll know the nominees, and then tune in on February 24th to watch the 2019 Academy Awards!
(No, really, please tune in…they need the viewers.)