Golden. (L-R) John David Washington in BlacKkKlansman, Yalitza Aparicio in Roma and Mahershala Ali in Green Book
Culture Movies

Our Oscars forecast: Who will win, who could win, who should win

The lack of consensus among early awards giving bodies on a best picture fave makes this year’s Academy Awards prognosticating especially tricky—the best possible setup for an Oscar ceremony. Here, our much sweated-over predictions.
Andrew Paredes | Feb 24 2019

Let’s not even get into the exceptionally chaotic run-up to this year’s Oscar ceremony—the precursor awards have doled out their fair share of uncertainty on the road to the Academy Awards. The lack of consensus has made Oscar prognosticating this year especially tricky. To recap: the Golden Globes and the Producers Guild rewarded their highest prizes to Green Book (with the Globes also throwing a drama win to Bohemian Rhapsody); the Screen Actors Guild handed their ensemble prize to Black Panther; the two more recent prizes—the Directors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television—decided to crown Roma as their cinematic biggest achievement of the year. 

I’ve name-dropped four best picture nominees already, which means that at least half of the field could conceivably go home with the night’s top prize. That makes for an especially nail-biting finish to a contentious awards season—the best possible setup for an Oscar ceremony. Read on for my (much sweated-over, most hand-wrung) predictions for who will come out on top in the above-the-line categories. Because Oscar traffics in jaw-dropping upsets, I’ve hedged my bets with a “could win” category. And in keeping with the suspense, I’ll save best picture for last.

 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Incredibles 2

Isle of Dogs

Mirai

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph Breaks the Internet

The voices of Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Shameik Moore, and Kimiko Glenn give more life to the characters in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Photograph from Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.

WILL WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. No question.

COULD WIN: Pixar has a Goliath-like record in this category but…Incredibles 2? Who are we kidding?

SHOULD WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. No question. It’s fresh, it’s bracing, it’s a story well-told. And it’s the first cannon shot over the bow telling you that, yes, the time of comic-book movies as viable awards contenders is coming.

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Capernaum

Cold War

Never Look Away

Roma

Shoplifters

Roma. We called it the most beautiful film of 2018 when Netflix launched it a few months back. Photograph from IMDb

WILL WIN: Roma has this more or less in the bag, despite contenders like Cold War and Shoplifters having their own ardent supporters. Apart from its many wins, it is also the most nominated picture (tying with The Favourite) at this year’s Oscar derby. And if you want to get into statistics: Over Oscar’s history, Roma is the fifth non-English film—joining Z (1969), Life Is Beautiful (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Amour (2012)—to also be nominated for best picture, and the other four all went on to win this category.

COULD WIN: The fact that it also snagged nominations for its director and cinematographer means that there is also broad support for Cold War.

SHOULD WIN: Roma. Again, hands-down. I could go on a long-winded parsing of its many virtues, but as my editor Jerome Gomez put it when he titled my review, it is simply “the most beautiful film of the year.”

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, BlacKkKlansman

Nicole Holofcener, Jeff WhittyCan You Ever Forgive Me?

Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, Will Fetters, A Star Is Born

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

A combination of righteous outrage and outrageous comedy: BlacKkKlansman. Photograph from Focus Features LLC

WILL WIN: For being able to contain both righteous outrage and outrageous comedy, and more importantly, make a statement in these racially tense times, BlacKkKlansman should walk away with this.

COULD WIN: Especially in the era where Oscar started nominating more than five titles to the best picture race, winners in the writing categories tend to be a bellwether award for the supreme prize. So we can eliminate the three Oscar orphans from the list (Could You Ever Forgive Me?, If Beale Street Could Talk, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs). So that leaves…A Star Is Born? I don’t think so.

SHOULD WIN: On the subject of outrage, it’s a downright crime that this clever, lived-in, and ultimately touching forgery drama didn’t get a nomination for either picture or director. If Oscar rewards this prize to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, it will be a true victory of merit over zeitgeist.

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara, The Favourite

Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Green Book

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Adam McKay, Vice

The workings behind the delighful The Favourite. Photograph from 

WILL WIN: The Writers Guild of America didn’t nominate it due to eligibility issues, but those issues aren’t a hindrance with the Academy. Expect The Favourite to emerge the victor in the more interesting of the two writing races.

COULD WIN: Broad support for Green Book from older Academy voters could stage an upset and carry it over the finish line here. (But, oh, what a stomach-sinker that would be.)

SHOULD WIN: I have a soft spot for Paul Schrader’s ambitious and go-for-broke First Reformed, but as a testament to the alchemy and art of writing, The Favourite is hard to beat.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

Can we ever forgive the Academy if they hand the Oscar to Mahershala Ali (Green Book) instead of giving it to Richard E. Grant's (Can You Ever Forgive Me?). Photograph from Universal Studios

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali has swept up practically every precursor prize, and is obviously one of the bright spots in what one Oscar voter calls a “retrograde and borderline offensive” movie on race relations. (For the reasons why, do a YouTube search on “Seth Meyers” and “White Savior”.)

COULD WIN: A charming and poignant performance aside, Can You Ever Forgive Me?’s Richard E. Grant has been a deeply charming presence on the awards circuit, crying when Barbra Streisand acknowledged a tweet and leading the standing ovation at every award his competitor snagged. It’s not hard to imagine his late momentum gaining him his own Mark Rylance moment.

SHOULD WIN: And then, of course, there is that charming and poignant performance. Between Mahershala Ali and Richard E. Grant, give it to the journeyman Brit for doing heavier lifting.

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, Vice

Marina de Tavira, Roma

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Emma Stone, The Favourite

The magnificent Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk. Photograph from Annapurna Pictures

WILL WIN: There is the problematic lack of nominations in the SAGs and BAFTAs, but expect a groundswell of goodwill to sweep barely-leading If Beale Street Could Talk’s Regina King up to the podium.

COULD WIN: There is speculation of a “she-is-due” moment giving Amy Adams her Oscar moment, but winning for such a polarizing movie might not let that pan out. More conceivable is the rising whispers among the voting membership of a second supporting prize for Rachel Weisz after The Constant Gardener.

SHOULD WIN: And why shouldn’t there be rising whispers? Rachel Weisz took on what is probably the most difficult of The Favourite’s triumvirate of female roles, somersaulting from swaggering condescension to cool malice to bewildered desperation without breaking a sweat.

 

BEST ACTOR

Christian Bale, Vice

Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

He could be the champion. Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody might give Christian Bale in Vice some tough competition. Photograph from Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

WILL WIN: What was once shaping up to be a two-horse race has evolved, with Rami Malek of Bohemian Rhapsody snagging major awards like SAG and BAFTA. Ugh.

COULD WIN: Christian Bale is the closest competition that Rami Malek has, but the fact that his wins at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice are victories at awards bodies with zero intersection with Academy voters is a tad problematic. There is also some love for Bradley Cooper’s assured debut as writer, director, songwriter and actor among some quarters in the Academy voting membership…not that they’ll come right out and admit it.

SHOULD WIN: Next to nobody saw his performance in At Eternity’s Gate, but Willem Dafoe rose above the tortured artist trope and gave Vincent Van Gogh a clear-eyed sense of mission and destiny.

 

BEST ACTRESS

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Glenn Close, The Wife 

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Glenn Close as the long-suffering, more talented other-half in The Wife. Photograph from Meta Film London Ltd

WILL WIN: Remember that “she-is-due” moment I alluded to with Amy Adams? Multiply that by ten and increase it to the hundredth power with Glenn Close.

COULD WIN: Nope. There is no could. There is only will. It’s Glenn Close.

SHOULD WIN: If we’re being honest, Glenn should have won this award decades ago for either Fatal Attraction or Dangerous Liaisons. The merit award this year goes to The Favourite’s Olivia Colman, whose monarch teetering from insanity to megalomania was first a funny, then chilling, sight to behold.

 

BEST DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman

Adam McKay, Vice

Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Directing his masterpiece: Alfonso Cuarón on the set of Roma. Photograph from IMDb

WILL WIN: This is the first of the nail-biter categories that I sweated over. But in the end, I had to go with Alfonso Cuarón, who won the crucial Directors Guild prize, a bellwether award that usually dictates to Academy voters who they should write down on their ballots.

COULD WIN: Oscar is littered with winners who got their victories in the form of career tributes (think recent examples Martin Scorsese and James Ivory). Spike Lee could join that belated rewards club—never mind that BlacKkKlansman isn’t exactly his best movie. There might also be a prevalent notion that rewarding Cuarón this prize—especially given that a Mexican has won this category four times in the last five years—might be an embarrassment of blessings.

SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, for showing everyone what directing is all about: a tightly controlled vision that nonetheless frees the mind and opens the heart. He also wrote, shot, and edited his film (with his chances at snagging the cinematography prize also quite good). He spearheaded the transformation of a weed-choked parking lot into a bustling Mexico City  avenuecirca early ‘70s, and coaxed an indelible lead performance out of a primary school teacher. He did everything but run the concession stand.

 

BEST PICTURE

BlacKkKlansman

Black Panther

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

A Star Is Born

Vice

And so we come to the ultimate nail-biter of them all: best picture. Will Roma make it a clean sweep and make history as the first foreign language film to win best picture? Or will naysayers that decry the business model-disrupting shenanigans of Netflix (like Steven Spielberg) scuttle its chances? Will Green Book ride a wave of audience-pleasing goodwill (especially among older, white voters), or will the Academy membership anoint something more forward-looking like Black Panther to advance the cause of racial equality (and satisfy the mandate to reward more popular movies)? Here goes:

Will BlacKkKlansman's very contemporary issues of racial tension and racial identity make it this year's movie? Photograph from Focus Feartures LLC

WILL WIN: BlacKkKlansman, as a nod to the zeitgeist. It’s not an accident in this American moment of rising white nationalism that three of the best picture nominees tackle questions of racial identity and racial tension. Of the three, Green Book has a problematic, retrograde thesis, which makes it an iffy option.Meanwhile, Black Panther’s lack of nominations in the above-the-line categories makes it a shaky choice. (Except it to pick up a few craft category wins, though.)

COULD WIN: The experts say Roma, and its status as a favorite is exactly the reason why it’s ripe for an upset. That said, if no upsets happen on Oscar night and Oscar doesn’t spread the wealth, this award will go to Alfonso Cuarón’s black-and-white meditation on memory and family.

SHOULD WIN: Anybody who’s seen me blubbering at the local wide-screen premiere of Roma knows where my loyalties lie.

 

Banner photo from Focus Features LLC, Carlos Somonte, and Universal Studios.