The Oscars 2019: Who's Going to Win and Who Should Win Instead
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The Oscars 2019: Who’s Going to Win and Who Should Win Instead

Sam Hunter weighs in on his predictions for the 2019 Academy Awards.

I don’t work for a legacy media company, so I can’t call up twenty Academy voters and ask them what they think about Black Panther. But predicting Oscar winners isn’t just about access or tracking the guild winners. It’s also about considering our cultural moment, watching public response to the nominees, and a fair bit of guesswork. I once guessed every multiple choice question on an AP Calculus exam, so this should be easy! I guess I did bomb the calc test, but I care a lot more about film awards than derivatives.

I’ll also offer my own thoughts on which nominee would be the most deserving winner as well as a film that I think should’ve been in contention. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen every nominated film, which I try to note where it’s relevant. I’ll also be avoiding the short categories and best documentary feature award altogether, not because short and documentary filmmakers aren’t doing incredible work, but because I haven’t had a chance to see any of the nominees.

And if you think I’m wrong, come argue on Twitter.

Best Picture:

WILL WIN: Roma
SHOULD WIN: Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Vox Lux

The top race is maybe the most wide-open in recent years, but there’s a clear top tier of possible winners. I considered Black Panther and Green Book, either of which could pull it off due to the ranked ballot, but I think Alfonso Cuarón’s widely-acclaimed Roma is heading for a big night. Choosing it for the top prize allows Academy voters to nod towards multiculturalism, feminism, and craftsmanship without picking a politically contentious nominee like BlackKklansman or Vice. It’s undeniable that Roma was one of the year’s best made films; I’ll be picking it in several craft categories.

As for wishing Vox Lux was nominated…I am willing to be alone on this. Brady Corbet’s film spoke to me like no other 2018 release and while it likely never had a chance at the Oscars, I wish awards season had been kinder to this strange, beautiful little film.

Best Director:

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here

While I could easily see Roma missing the top prize, Cuarón feels like a lock in this category. As deserving as Yorgos Lanthimos, Spike Lee, and Pawel Pawlikowski are of this award, Cuarón’s well-received campaign and status as one of the world’s greatest working auteurs looks destined to continue Mexican directors’ run of success in this category.

It wasn’t surprising, but the Academy’s continued snubbing of female directors is even more absurd in the wake of the #MeToo movement. So many female directors did Oscar-worthy work this year, including Josephine Decker, Debra Granik, Marielle Heller, Tamara Jenkins, and Chloé Zhao. But my pick for a nomination is Lynne Ramsay, whose masterfully made You Were Never Really Here has been deeply neglected by the Academy.

Best Actress:

WILL WIN: Glenn Close, The Wife
SHOULD WIN: Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Toni Collette, Hereditary

I feel for Glenn Close. She’s a phenomenal actress who deserves recognition for her incredible body of work. But even her staunchest supporters admit that The Wife is not her most memorable or best performed role and I believe the trophy should go to the year’s best performance regardless of that actor’s awards record. This year, that means Yalitza Aparicio’s jaw-dropping talent.

This was a banner year for female leads. Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga, and Melissa McCarthy are all certainly worthy, as are Toni Collette, Elsie Fisher, Regina Hall, Joanna Kulig, and yes, Vox Lux‘s Natalie Portman. But Yalitza Aparicio’s turn in Roma was the best performance of the year, period.

Best Actor:

WILL WIN: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born 
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Okay, I’ll admit it. A Star Is Born is the only film I’ve seen in this category. But I also don’t regret skipping Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice, and Willem Dafoe’s film, At Eternity’s Gate, flew way under the radar. I’m going with Malek because of the Academy’s inexplicable support for alleged pedophile Byran Singer’s film. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Bale notches a win: the Academy loves biopics even if I usually don’t.

My personal favorite male lead this year was Charlie Plummer in Lean On Pete, but I’m not surprised his largely-unacknowledged performance failed to garner a nomination. However, it did surprise me that Ethan Hawke was snubbed for his widely acclaimed role in First Reformed. Hawke is an industry figure and this was probably his career-best; make it make sense!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

WILL WIN: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD WIN: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Claire Foy, First Man

This is arguably the year’s strongest category. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz delivered titanic performances in The Favourite, Marina de Tavira excelled in Roma, and Amy Adams is a routine fixture in this category. But someone has to come out on top and I think Regina King is that someone. I wouldn’t rule out Adams snagging a career win at the same time as Glenn Close does the same, but King’s turn in Beale Street was my favorite part of the film. With Barry Jenkins’s film left out of the rest of the top categories, I suspect voters will break for King and recognize Adams some other time.

I’m picking Claire Foy as the snub to recognize largely because “a bunch of boys” was the year’s best line read. But I also understand why she was left off the list. First Man‘s script largely kept her off the screen and with so few demonstrations of her incredible talent she just didn’t make the cut.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

WILL WIN: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
SHOULD WIN: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Nicholas Hoult, The Favourite

Yawn.

This category is so boring. While all of the nominated performances were competent, none measure up to any of the supporting actress nominees. I’m picking Mahershala Ali to bring home a second trophy. While he’s a great actor, my heart certainly isn’t in it for Green Book to win anything. Given the choice I would toss most of this category for Brian Tyree Henry, Nicholas Hoult, Daniel Kaluuya, and Alex Wolff.

Best Original Screenplay:

WILL WIN: Nick Vallelonga, Brian Curry, & Peter Farrelly, Green Book
SHOULD WIN: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Boots Riley, Sorry to Bother You

I like when she puts her tongue in me.

I wouldn’t surprised if The Favourite walks away empty-handed like Lady Bird did last year. The film’s centering of queer female romance and Yorgos Lanthimos’s wacky sensibilities probably doomed this film’s chances for the top trophy, but I’m hoping its alternately wild and heart-wrenching script takes down my expected victor, Green Book, whose screenplay stinks like a ninety-six year old French whore’s vajuju.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

WILL WIN: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee, BlackKklansman
SHOULD WIN: Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This category is much stronger than its original screenplay counterpart, which makes my choices that much tougher. My pick to win is largely dependent on two things being true: that Spike Lee won’t win best director and that A Star Is Born has a dismal night. Voters know that Lee deserves a competitive Oscar and might hand him this one to make up for past snubs. I’m also counting on A Star Is Born flopping outside of best original song; if it manages to notch a win here, watch out for a possible best picture upset.

The Academy doesn’t show much love to animated films, as evidenced by Spider-Verse missing every category except best animated film. It’s a shame every year, but especially this time: Spider-Verse‘s screenplay is the tightest, most creative superhero script of all time. I tend to lean towards recognizing art or independent film over studio blockbusters, but Spider-Verse has the range.

Best Animated Feature Film:

WILL WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
SHOULD WIN: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: ???

Speaking of Spider-Verse, it’s the runaway favorite in this category. Disney and Pixar’s entries Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet could pull off an upset, but this is simply one of the best animated movies ever made. It should’ve received a slew of other nominations and the least the Academy can do is give the film this award.

I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for what else could’ve been nominated; I only saw three animated films in 2018 and all were nominated. Please let me know what I’m missing!

Best Foreign Language Film:

WILL WIN: Roma, Mexico
SHOULD WIN: Cold War, Poland
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Burning, South Korea

This category is another gap in my knowledge. I live in rural Ohio where it’s difficult to find screenings of foreign films until they’re released on digital. I haven’t yet seen Japan’s widely-acclaimed entry, Shoplifters, nor have I caught my suggestion for an alternate nominee, Burning. Film criticism is impossible without access; limited releases make it difficult to write about global films without receiving screeners. If anyone wants to toss me some DVD’s of next year’s nominees I’ll happily write a review of each of them.

Roma seems the prohibitive favorite here. I might even vote for it if my vote actually counted just to make sure that the film receives recognition. But, assuming Roma does indeed win best picture, I would love to see this award go to Cold War, a deeply moving drama also nominated for direction and cinematography. Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot’s performances have haunted me every day since I watched this film.

Best Original Score:

WILL WIN: Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD WIN: Nicholas Britell, If Beale Street Could Talk
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Justin Hurwitz, First Man

I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Panther takes this award, especially if it ends up sneaking in for best picture. Voters ranking the Marvel film as their second or third choice for the top prize might worry if it wins without taking some other trophies and vote for Ludwig Göransson’s excellent work here.

But the award should go to Beale Street for its unparalleled use of score in storytelling. No other film except perhaps Annihilation hit such a pitch-perfect match between the screen and the score.

Best Original Song:

WILL WIN: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
SHOULD WIN: “Shallow,” A Star Is Born
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: “I’ll Never Love Again,” A Star Is Born

Yes, it’s a meme. Yes, it’s over the top. Yes, it’s the only category this film is going to win.

But if A Star Is Born only wins one award it needs to be this one. Not only is “Shallow” a banger in its own right, its narrative and thematic incorporation into the film make it stand out from the pack.

(Maybe you thought I’d sneak in another Vox Lux shout-out, but even I can’t justify wanting an Oscar nod for “Wrapped Up“.)

Best Sound Editing/Best Sound Mixing

WILL WIN: Bohemian Rhapsody
SHOULD WIN: First Man
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Annihilation 

My picks are the same for both categories and I’m writing this the night before the ceremony so I’m only doing one write-up.

I’m not surprised that the Academy completely snubbed Alex Garland’s sophomore feature, Annihilation, but I am disappointed. The fact that it didn’t even get any craft nominations is especially sad; those last thirty minutes, right?

Unfortunately, I bet the Academy is going to toss a couple awards to Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Maybe his name won’t be on the trophies, but no concert scene is worth passing up more deserving nominee First Man, which was also not directed by an alleged pedophile.

Best Production Design:

WILL WIN: Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton, The Favourite
SHOULD WIN: Fiona Crombie & Alice Felton, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Jason Kisvardy & Stephen Dudro, Sorry to Bother You

For me, this one comes down to a technicality. I’m confident that The Favourite‘s period accoutrements will tickle the Academy’s fancy, but my endorsement is tight between that film and Black Panther. Ultimately, the latter film’s extensive use of CGI limits my willingness to award it for production design, although it’s curious to see how the field’s definitions change as the use of CGI in live-action films becomes more commonplace.

Best Cinematography:

WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Ashley Connor, Madeline’s Madeline

This is a tight race for me between Roma and Robbie Ryan’s exquisite work on The Favourite. I’m ultimately inclined to award Cuarón’s beautifully crafted images that more fully explore the affective capacities of black-and-white filmmaking than any other film this decade. I’m also inclined to believe that Academy voters have been sufficiently charmed by his auteur sensibilities to give him a personal clean sweep of picture/director/foreign language/cinematography.

I would feel pretentious for suggesting that Ashley Connor be nominated for her work on arthouse film Madeline’s Madeline, but the Academy one-upped me by tapping Caleb Deschanel for Never Look Away. I’m sure his work is lovely, but I had never even heard of his film before it was nominated. Connor could have received the same out-of-nowhere recognition.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

WILL WIN: Vice
SHOULD WIN: Mary Queen of Scots
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Suspiria

I unfortunately missed watching all of this category’s nominees, but I am confident of a few things. First, I think the Academy will be continue to be enamoured with biopic makeup departments, especially of recent figures such as Dick Cheney. Second, I think that the trailer for Mary Queen of Scots showcases better hair and makeup work than Christian Bale’s fake face. Third, if the Academy is going to fall for prosthetics, why the hell wasn’t Suspiria nominated for the triple-Tilda?

Best Costume Design:

WILL WIN: Ruth Carter, Black Panther
SHOULD WIN: Ruth Carter, Black Panther
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Caroline Eselin, If Beale Street Could Talk

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy goes for the period stylings of The Favourite or Mary Queen of Scots, but this is a category where Black Panther‘s excellent craftsmanship can and should secure a win. Ruth Carter’s work is astounding in cinematic and cultural scope just like the film she worked on, continuing to prove why the Academy needs to televise all of its awards.

Best Film Editing:

WILL WIN: Hank Corwin, Vice
SHOULD WIN: Yorgos Mavropsaridis, The Favourite
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Joe Bini, You Were Never Really Here

You Were Never Really Here not even being nominated in an editing category that includes Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and Green Book is absolutely absurd. I think the upper-class liberal Academy voters will go for Vice‘s juvenile dunking on George W. Bush instead of the far more capable nominees BlackKklansman or The Favourite, but I’m still just pissed that Lynne Ramsay’s films get treated like dirt.

Best Visual Effects:

WILL WIN: First Man
SHOULD WIN: First Man
SHOULD’VE BEEN NOMINATED: Annihilation

This category is full of CGI-packed blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War and Solo: A Star Wars Story that could sneak in on behalf of their studios. But I consider these films to be cinematic duds, leaving the gorgeously made First Man as the deserving frontrunner. I would’ve liked to see Annihilation offer more cerebral sci-fi CGI than Disney usually puts out, but I’ll be happy if First Man can bring it home.

And that’s the ballgame! We’ll know soon if my predictions are spot-on or completely off base, but I’m hoping for at least a few upsets to keep things exciting. Maybe Vox Lux can snag best picture on write-ins.

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Sam Hunter is a cinema studies graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. He writes about films, especially queer cinema and indie dramas. He's on Twitter at @huntersl444 and can be reached at huntersl444@gmail.com

4 comments on “The Oscars 2019: Who’s Going to Win and Who Should Win Instead

  1. Matthew Liedke

    So much yes to both of your snubs for Actor and Supporting Actor! Hawke was incredible in “First Reformed” and it’s my favorite film of the year. I think Nicholas Hoult went a bit under the radar this award season in “The Favourite” because of how good the three leads were. However, he was still amazing and deserves recognition.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. animationfan

    If any animated film should have been nominated, it is Masaaki Yuasa’s “Night is Short, Walk on Girl.” It is a wacky masterpiece that takes advantage of it’s medium to tell a wonderful story. The Academy tends to push away most foreign films, especially if they’re not from the biggest distributors, so the more family-friendly Mirai was nominated instead. Don’t get me wrong, that was a good movie, but I don’t think it is Oscars-worthy. I wish animation was taken more seriously and the Best Animated Feature Film had more films nominated like the Best Feature Film category. However, I am excited to see Spider-Verse win the award. It is so deserving of the award and I hope the win signals a new age of animation where more risks are taken and more attention is brought to movies that aren’t Disney/Pixar.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the favourite and black panther will battle for production and costumes, great point about the practical set only being in the first half of black panther

    Like

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