I’ve been watching the awards season pass with some interest—I checked out the highlights of the BAFTAs a couple weeks ago. There weren’t a lot of surprises there, and I’m not expecting the Oscars to be full of surprises, either. I mean, maybe Whoopi Goldberg will be the host, but beyond that?
The whole season has been a bit of a shit-show, hasn’t it? And I’m not even talking about the ceremonial issues. Three months ago, before the nominations even dropped, A Star Is Born was anointed as an Oscar favourite, now it’s the red-headed stepchild, considered a favourite for Best Original Song but not much more. That’s a typical narrative of awards momentum, but it seems like this year there’ve been a higher number of pre-award scandals and debates.
Back in January, Film Twitter got up in arms about the injustices to the nominees—I weighed in myself on a perceived snub or two—and for a few days there were a lot of #MyBestPicture-type posts, with all those obscure gems people wanted to see considered for the big prize. On the one hand, I’m inspired by the ascension of Roma to Oscar front-runner because it’s so art-house and unlikely in many ways, but at the same time I chortled a little when I saw all those folks arguing that films like Leave No Trace were snubbed. Have you seen this show before? The Academy isn’t in the habit of recognizing some obscure indie that 20 people saw in cinemas, and don’t @ me about Moonlight two years ago. This event was invented in 1929 to help promote studio product, and that’s what it’s still doing.
On Thursday morning I was invited on CTV Morning Live to talk about the Oscars, and chatted with the very gracious Ana Almeida. If you’d care to check out our conversation, go here. Otherwise, what follow are my rough notes on nine categories (six of which we talked about on air).
All will be revealed on Sunday night. Don’t bet the house based on my ruminations, I’ve certainly been wrong before. But I hope you enjoy it all.
Best Foreign Language Film:
Roma has a lot of momentum, but my fingers are crossed for the wonderful Cold War (still in cinemas) to take it.
Best Original Screenplay:
The Favourite remains my favourite. If the problematic Green Book wins this one I’ll be damn annoyed. I’d be OK if they give it to First Reformed, though it hasn’t a chance.
Best Adapted Screenplay:
This is maybe the most hotly contested category of the night, one that often celebrates an edgier film. To wit: last year the award went to Jordan Peele for Get Out. It’s tough to say if voters will reward BlacKkKlansman, or A Star Is Born, or If Beale Street Could Talk, or even Writers Guild-winner Can You Ever Forgive Me? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that last one.
Best Supporting Actor:
Mahershala Ali has won a bunch of the pre-Oscar awards for his role in Green Book. I’m a fan of his, but not of the film. For years I’ve enjoyed the work of Richard E. Grant, the Swaziland-born actor whose first role in Withnail and I and many great parts since still impress. I’ll be cheering for Grant for his work in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but if the Brits at the BAFTAs didn’t give him the award, the Oscar voters aren’t likely to, either.
Best Supporting Actress:
This one is going to Regina King for her role in If Beale Street Could Talk, a film many people are saying should’ve been nominated for Best Picture. King is good in the movie, which I liked, but didn’t love. Rachel Weisz took this award at the BAFTAs for The Favourite, but that choice is a bit weird. That film has three lead roles, her and Olivia Coleman and Emma Stone. I adored The Favourite, but it seems weirdly political that Weisz should be up for a supporting role. King will win this one.
Rami Malek is the frontrunner here. People love Bohemian Rhapsody, despite the scandal with its director, Bryan Singer, and despite that reviewers, including me, have lambasted the movie. I liked the music and the performances, but the film is a collection of cliches. People are also impressed by Christian Bale’s physical transformation in Vice, but that movie isn’t nearly as beloved. Bradley Cooper is the dark horse, but this will probably go to Malek.
It will most likely be Glenn Close. She’s great in The Wife, but more importantly she’s been nominated multiple times and has never won—this will be a Body of Great Work Oscar, like Al Pacino got for Scent Of A Woman. Olivia Coleman is much acclaimed for all the British TV she’s done, and everyone likes The Favourite. She won the BAFTA, but I don’t think she’ll win here.
Speaking of the Body of Work recognition, this is a chance for the Oscars to give love to Spike Lee, for BlacKkKlansman. Do The Right Thing, a classic by any standard, lost in 1989 to the appalling Driving Miss Daisy, and the Academy is still embarrassed by that. Still there’s a lot of love for Alfonso Cuarón and Roma. This could be close.
Roma gets Best Picture so long as the Academy is ready to anoint a film produced by Netflix. If it isn’t Roma, it could be Green Book. I really hope not. They’re not front-runners, but I’d love to see The Favourite or A Star Is Born or even Black Panther get the prize. Can you imagine if a superhero movie won Best Picture? That would be a genuine sign of change, a surprise, and let’s face it, when the Oscars play it safe and predictable, no one remembers. People only remember the upsets.