91st Oscars: Oscar Guy’s Final Thoughts

There’s not much time left. Sunday, we will find out just how much we did and did not know about this Oscar season. While I’ve contributed quick thoughts to our Rundown articles, I always like to do more with my final prediction post of the year. This will include how I think the races will finish out, what has the best chances of surprising, and what I overall felt about the nominees, non-nominees, and other general thoughts. Please note that I have not made it through all of the Oscar nominees, so my thoughts will be based on what I have seen and what I see as problem nominees if that applies.

The categories below are sorted in order from least competitive to most competitive.

I will not be sharing my personal thoughts on the quality of the foreign language and documentary categories, but I’ve seen both short film categories, so I can offer my thoughts on those. I don’t know that my guesses would have much impact. I have still written a little something on each.

Best Animated Feature

Who Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. For the most part, one animated film of the year usually stands out so strongly that picking anything else would be a bad idea. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is that film. While it wasn’t really in the race until its release, the critics adored it and it’s managed to sweep up nearly every award out there putting it into the lead by a distance.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Isle of Dogs. Sequels are rarely ever nominated by the Academy and there are two on this list. Yet, winning is an even tougher climb, meaning neither is likely to overcome Spidey. Of course, even Isle of Dogs, the inventive feature from Wes Anderson isn’t likely to either, but if anyone could, it would be he. Then again Incredibles 2 could consolidate Disney/Pixar fans into one camp and push that film to victory.
My Personal Thoughts: Hands-down, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best of this bunch. That’s not to say the others aren’t good. I am particularly fond of Ralph Breaks the Internet, but nothing holds a candle to Spider-Man, nor has anything since Kubo and the Two Strings.

Best Foreign Language Film

Who Will Win: Roma. A Best Picture nomination is pretty much a guarantee for this category. Roma is also poised to take home a couple of other prizes, there really isn’t any competition.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Cold War. This film surprised everyone by picking up nominations in Directing and Cinematography as well as Foreign Language Film. That means the film has its fans. That said, most of those fans will be voting for Roma in those two categories, so the only way this one wins is if they vote Roma in Best Picture and leave this category for Cold War.
My Personal Thoughts: To date, I’ve only seen Roma, so I don’t have an opinion here.

Best Directing

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron. He has dominated awards season and picked up the single most important prognosticator for Oscar success: the Directors Guild of America award. With nearly every other award under his belt, Cuaron is the odds-on favorite to win it here.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Spike Lee. Don’t count out Spike Lee, the legendary director who earned his first Oscar nomination in a distinguished career. Cuaron has an Oscar, so some voters might want to spread the love and give the unheralded Lee the bid.
My Personal Thoughts: Barry Jenkins should have been nominated for his stellar work on If Beale Street Could Talk. The rest of these nominees are solid and while I might have voted for Jenkins myself, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is one of the year’s best films and is far more engaging and effective than Roma is.

Best Original Song

Who Will Win: “Shallow”. The song has dominated the awards season like few others in Oscar history, giving it a near-complete lock on this category.
Who Could Potentially Upset: “All the Stars”. That said, stranger things have happened in this category and surprises certainly occur. That’s why “All the Stars,” “The Place Where the Lost Things Go,” and “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” have outside chances at the award. Considering all of that, songs written for films about musicians are far more likely to win in this category than films that are not.
My Personal Thoughts: Personally, I think there are better songs in Mary Poppins Returns, though at least “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” the worst song in that film, wasn’t nominated. As to what missed, “Ashes” from Deadpool 2 is by far the best original song this year and its a disappointment that the studio didn’t even campaign it. “A Place Called Slaughter Race” from Ralph Breaks the Internet is also quite good. Of these nominees, “I’ll Fight” is the best of them, followed by “All the Stars,” then a tight pair of “Lost Things” and “Shallow” in third/fourth. “When a Cowboy…” is the absolute worst of them all.

Best Actress

Who Will Win: Glenn Close. She’s a legend who doesn’t have an Oscar, weaker actresses have won on that reason alone and that’s why she’s the frontrunner, having won almost every other major award out there.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Olivia Colman. Except BAFTA (British Academy). They went with Olivia Colman in a clear rejection of the narrative (even if they didn’t reject narrative in Supporting Actor). Colman’s performance has been lauded nine ways to Sunday, so she could prove a spoiler if Close’s legend status doesn’t help her out, which it will.
My Personal Thoughts: Toni Collette was terrific in Hereditary and her failure to be nominated over the likes of Yalitza Aparicio or Lady Gaga is an insult. Collette might even have been my choice for the winner. However, among this bunch, based on what I’ve seen, Olivia Colman should win.

Best Cinematography

Who Will Win: Roma. Although the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) went elsewhere, Alfonso Cuaron’s cinematography of Roma is one of the most awarded achievements of the year. While ASC doesn’t like directors honing in on cinematographers’ territory, the Academy has no concerns, so they’ll give Cuaron one of three potential Oscars without thinking.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Cold War. It was the actual ASC winner and most cinematographers won’t vote for Cuaron, so the likelihood of an upset might hinge on the other black-and-white film in the category.
My Personal Thoughts: Two terrific achievements deserved to be on this list: If Beale Street Could Talk and Black Panther. Both were filled with shots that left the viewer in awe and neither were given nearly the attention they deserved. Of this bunch, I would probably go with Roma as it does have many gorgeous shots.

Best Actor

Who Will Win: Rami Malek. Malek has steamrolled the competition in the late races and has emerged as a sentimental favorite for victory. While his win isn’t as assured as some others, it’s a pretty safe bet.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Christian Bale. Bale won many awards leading up to the Oscars, but stumbled in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and BAFTA races, leaving Malek a clear field to run to victory. That Bale already has an Oscar is a small factor.
My Personal Thoughts: I’m not sure that Willem Dafoe does enough to merit inclusion. Stephan James from If Beale Street Could Talk, John David Washington from BlacKkKlansman, and John Krasinski from A Quiet Place all deserved some recognition. Of the nominees, I’d go with Bale for his spot-on portrayal that makes Dick Cheney a sometimes sympathetic figure, though Mortensen and Malek were pretty good as well with Cooper better than nearly all of them.

Best Supporting Actor

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali. Until the televised awards, Richard E. Grant was the leader of this race. Then Ali managed to take every single televised award, including the one Grant had the hometown advantage on (BAFTA). That has cemented Ali, who is the co-lead of his film, as the frontrunner.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Richard E. Grant. His bravura performance deserves all of the awards, but it appears that he’s going to continue to be an unrecognized great character actor (ask Thelma Ritter how that feels). There’s also a dark horse, sentimental favorite bubbling under: Sam Elliott. His career and popularity alone might propel him to the top of the race as well.
My Personal Thoughts: Elliott, who doesn’t do a lot in A Star Is Born, is good, but not definitive. Grant is of course brilliant and Ali is good, though clearly not the best. Rockwell and Driver were non-entities in their films. As to who should have been nominated? Brian Tyree Henry in If Beale Street Could Talk is the classic definition of a supporting actor. There sadly, weren’t many other options for this category.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Who Will Win: BlacKkKlansman. This will likely be the only opportunity for voters to recognize Spike Lee, possibly ever. Though, this means the gates may open and the Academy may be more receptive to him. However, I see little chance that they’ll ignore this opportunity.
Who Could Potentially Upset: If Beale Street Could Talk. Unless voters want to recognize the most lauded screenplay of the year. If Beale Street Could Talk earned tons of awards even if Can You Ever Forgive Me? surprised at the Writers Guild of America and Leave No Trace surprised at the USC Scripter awards.
My Personal Thoughts: Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther were strong adaptations, as was Love, Simon. The best of the un-nominated was probably Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Of the nominated bunch, I would have no hesitation selecting Beale Street.

Best Supporting Actress

Who Will Win: Regina King. How does a frontrunner feel so soft? King dominated the precursors until she wasn’t nominated at SAG or BAFTA, which hobbled her chances. As such, she’s only managed to win one televised award, which injures her visibility.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Rachel Weisz. Does anyone even remember she has an Oscar? That and the potential shut-out of The Favourite could propel her to victory.
My Personal Thoughts: Olivia Colman really should have been here instead of the lead as this was a genuine ensemble cast and she was certainly no more important than Weisz or Emma Stone. Emily Blunt deservedly won the Supporting Actress prize at SAG and should have been nominated. I would probably dump Amy Adams for her as there’s nothing much new in Adams’ performance.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Who Will Win: Vice. There are only three nominees, so it should be easy to pick a winner. To an extent it is. Vice is the most honored makeup work of the nominees and the convincing transformations of real life people will go a long way with voters.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Mary Queen of Scots. This category has yielded a few surprises over the years and a lot of times, it’s in favor of films no one thought would win. Enter Mary Queen of Scots.
My Personal Thoughts: The Favourite and Suspiria are the two I would most want to see here with the former ultimately being the year’s best makeup work. In this bunch, Vice is a respectable winner.

Best Sound Mixing

Who Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody. Musicals sometimes do well in this category and the Live Aid concert alone could be a major factor in this film winning, though several recording sessions might also boost its potential. The Cinema Audio Society (CAS) weighed in and found the film favorable, giving it the best boost imaginable.
Who Could Potentially Upset: First Man. With A Quiet Place out of the running, there are a couple of films that could top Bohemian Rhapsody in something of a surprise victory: Black Panther and First Man. I give the edge to First Man as it would follow in a long tradition of space-centered films winning this award.
My Personal Thoughts: The most egregious exclusion is A Quiet Place, which had the absolute best sound mix of the year. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Suspiria would have been worthy nominees over most of these. As to the best of this bunch, First Man is easily the best.

Best Film Editing

Who Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody. Not a conventional winner as there aren’t a lot of edits in the film, but the bulk of the attention has been on the Live Aid concert, which is well cut enough to get voters to celebrate it.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Vice. On the other hand, the most effective and obvious edits were in Vice, a film which is looking to go home with only one Oscar and fans could find their way to vote for it here since they often love more, not necessarily good, cuts.
My Personal Thoughts: A Quiet Place featured a superb editing job and Suspiria had that mesmerizing and haunting early-film scene with the breaking of one of the dancers. Can You Ever Forgive Me? and First Man also had strong edits. I’d probably give the award to A Quiet Place, though in this group, the best editing was BlacKkKlansman followed closely by The Favourite and Vice. Green Book had no business being on this list.

Best Production Design

Who Will Win: The Favourite. It might seem like an obvious choice, since this category was once only interested in costume dramas, but things have changed and while The Favourite remains in the lead, a surprise is quite likely in this category.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Black Panther. Simply because of its inventive design, this is the best one to potentially upset The Favourite. While Roma‘s massive constructed sets could be a shock victor, First Man‘s faithful recreation of the space race and Mary Poppins Returns‘ colorful settings could also both make plays.
My Personal Thoughts: This is a solid set of nominees, though films like Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Suspiria, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse deserve some consideration. I might give the award to either Suspiria or Spider-Man, but among these nominees, Black Panther would likely get my vote.

Best Original Screenplay

Who Will Win: The Favourite. At the beginning of the season, I think many prognosticators would have been shocked at how quickly this category has turned. While Favourite wasn’t eligible for the WGA, it has largely done well among precursors. That said, its support now appears to be much softer than previously thought.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Green Book. What’s most disturbing is that it’s not First Reformed or Vice or even Roma that has emerged as Favourite‘s competition. It’s the white guilt Green Book that’s getting the most buzz for picking up this prize. Part of that may be the feeling that the film needs these awards to make it a Best Picture winner, but I’ve got my doubts. Still, if anything surprises, it’s this one while Vice probably has more right to be the potential upset winner than any of the others.
My Personal Thoughts: Toss Green Book. That script is terrible. Roma doesn’t have much in the way of plotting or purpose, so it’s odd to see it on this list. I haven’t seen Eighth Grade yet, but it has to be better. I’d also add Hereditary to the list for its audacity and A Quiet Place for its originality. I’d give this award easily to The Favourite.

Best Visual Effects

Who Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War. This is one of the major toss-up categories, but there are so many this year it’s impossible to order them effectively. I put this one near the top of that list simply because it seems like a more obvious selection than the others. I’ve seen plenty of wide-ranging guesses in this category, though, so who knows.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Ready Player One, First Man. There isn’t just one potential victor here, but three. So difficult to pick is it that I’ve given both a mention. Ready Player One has the most effects while First Man has the most realistic effects.
My Personal Thoughts: For all of its faults, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald had some terrific effects in it. Black Panther was pretty good as well. Among them all, I’d probably give the prize to Fantastic Beasts, but of the nominees, Ready Player One and First Man would be neck-and-neck and I’m not entirely sure I could effectively decide.

Best Sound Editing

Who Will Win: A Quiet Place. While it didn’t get the corresponding Sound Mixing nomination, this film is entirely about the invention of and use of sound since there’s an absolute minimum of dialogue. That it wasn’t nominated for Sound Mixing is a crime, but not winning here would be tantamount to negligence.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Bohemian Rhapsody. That said, somehow the non-effects-heavy Bohemian Rhapsody seems to be generating a lot of buzz. Surprisingly, First Man isn’t, though it could definitely win. Of course, if there’s a surprise sweep for Black Panther, it would be logical for this category to go with it.
My Personal Thoughts: A Quiet Place is the hands-down winner of these nominees and apart from Fantastic Beasts, Bumblebee, Spider-Man, and Ralph Breaks the Internet, I can’t think of many better choices than these (drop Bohemian and Roma, though as they have no business being here).

Best Original Score

Who Will Win: If Beale Street Could Talk. Until the Oscar nominations came out, this category was clearly headed in First Man‘s favor even though Beale Street‘s score is easily superior. With it out of the competition, one would think Nicholas Britell’s terrific work would be the frontrunner and it barely is, but the whole category could go a number of directions.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Black Panther. First among the upset contenders is Black Panther, though its more pop-centric style might not appeal to the membership at large. BlacKkKlansman is a bit more traditional and Terence Blanchard is a well regarded composer, so he could win. Mary Poppins Returns is also possible, but its an accomplishment of songs, not score, which some would feel derivative. More likely to win if the competition looked at quality would be Isle of Dogs, which is a strong score in its own right.
My Personal Thoughts: I’d bump BlacKkKlansman and Mary Poppins Returns in favor of Suspiria and First Man and then I’d just hand the award to If Beale Street Could Talk with Suspiria in second.

Best Costume Design

Who Will Win: Black Panther. The battle royale of this Oscars is the costume design category. While it could easily go either way, I’m giving a slight edge to Black Panther. Not the least reason of which is that its costumes are inventive, well researched, and compelling. The biggest reason, though is that Ruth Carter is a bit of an Oscar legend herself, though to a much lesser extent than another double-nominee in this category. I suspect that Carter has a slight edge.
Who Could Potentially Upset: The Favourite. Costuming legend Sandy Powell, on her 13th and 14th nominations this year alone (now tied with Jean Louis in fourth place on the list and likely to pass third (Irene Sharaff) and second (Charles LeMaire) in the next couple of years). She won’t ever pass all-time nominee Edith Head, but she’ll probably get over 20 before the end of her career. That said, she has only won three awards and The Favourite sits right in the Academy’s wheelhouse for what they feel is the purpose of this category: period frocks.
My Personal Thoughts: While I would be tempted to drop Ballad of Buster Scruggs, I haven’t seen it, so I shouldn’t. Potential replacements (at least over the not-spectacular work on Mary Poppins Returns) are in short supply. Among these nominees, I would give it to Black Panther, but The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots each feature solid sets of designs.

Best Documentary Feature

Who Will Win: Free Solo. With Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Three Identical Strangers out of the running, it’s impossible to know for sure who will win, but Free Solo seems to have done best with the precursors so far, so it probably has a slight edge.
Who Could Potentially Upset: RBG. The big question is how many people will vote RBG just to thumb their nose at the state of politics in Washington? I bet quite a few people will, which could lift RBG to the top, even though the critical response wasn’t as good as some of the others. Then again, I could see Minding the Gap and Hale County winning, as well as Of Fathers and Sons because of the dangerous conditions it was filmed in.
My Personal Thoughts: I haven’t seen any of this year’s documentaries, so I have no opinion.

Best Animated Short Film

Who Will Win: Bao. There is a lot of competition here as all of these are worthy nominees. Bao likely benefits from being very familiar to most voters thanks to its prominence before awards season. That said, it’s a soft frontrunner.
Who Could Potentially Upset: One Small Step. The most likely to triumph instead is One Small Step, which is a bittersweet tearjerker with a more uplifting ending than Bao.
My Personal Thoughts: I couldn’t say what deserved nomination as I haven’t seen anything outside of this group, but Late Afternoon spoke best to me, so I’d have to give it the prize, though I liked Bao and One Small Step as well.

Best Live Action Short Film

Who Will Win: Marguerite. No one can say with certainty which direction this category will go. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Marguerite is the only one of these five very dark, somber films to have any measure of hopefulness in it. That brightness may well be what carries it to victory.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Skin. I might hazard to say that Mother could be a surprise winner, but the chatter seems to favor Skin with its strong message and pseudo-shock ending. That said, any one of these films could resonate well enough to be carried to victory.
My Personal Thoughts: Again, I haven’t seen anything outside of this list, but among these, I’d put Mother at the top with Marguerite and Detainment not far behind.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Who Will Win: Lifeboat. Honestly, any of these shorts could win as the Academy hasn’t shown a particular predilection in this category in quite some time. That said, Lifeboat‘s subject matter has a solid chance of triumphing.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Period. End of Sentence.. Then again, the subjects of all of these shorts have potential and I could see this going any which way. My initial prediction was Period. End of Sentence., but I honestly have no clue.
My Personal Thoughts: I haven’t seen any of this year’s documentaries, so I have no opinion.

Best Picture

Who Will Win: Green Book. What a tumultuous season it’s been. While many of the major categories have solidified around one particular contender, there are no candidates in Best Picture that could say they have had any measure of consistent support. Each film has positives and negatives going for it and Green Book might be the biggest beneficiary of the preferential system. Going against Green Book is its lack of a directing citation. It would be the first film since Argo to win without it. It would also be only the fifth film in Oscar history to accomplish that. This makes it a weak frontrunner.
Who Could Potentially Upset: Roma, The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman. Then again, it might not. There’s a lot of concern that the film is a very sterile look at race relations. I like to call it the Feel Good Movie About Racism. It’s the kind of white guilt victor that was common in the prior four or five decades. Yet, it now feels quite out of place. That doesn’t mean much though as the Academy still has a lot of voters who like that kind of thing (think Steven Spielberg among others). That doesn’t mean a lot, though. Roma has a lot going for it. Apart from the three almost-certain wins this year, giving it a boost towards being the most honored, a common occurrence for Best Picture winners, it lacks a Film Editing citation. The last film to win without it was Birdman in 2014. That’s not terribly long ago, but the exceptional history before that points to it being a significant detriment. That no foreign language film has ever won is also a point against it. Also working against it is the Netflix connection. Hollywood has been resistent to embracing the streamer because of its terrible theatrical release model. These films are meant to be seen on the big screen and studios and other filmmakers struggle to understand why it should be eligible for Oscar if they aren’t going to play by the rules everyone else does. That said, precedents are made to be broken and Cuaron’s film could be the first to do so, especially considering it managed to win BAFTA over hometown favorite The Favourite. That film, along with BlacKkKlansman are also strong potential winners with the preferential ballot helping both. They have all the requisite nominations (directing, acting, writing, and editing), so both would be fitting into history quite well. If Spike Lee is a surprise winner for directing, then BlacKkKlansman might just be sailing to victory. Black Panther could stun everyone with none of the requisite nominations. Bohemian Rhapsody could ride popularity to a win. A Star Is Born could rise from the ashes of its success and win as well and Vice would be the ultimate political statement (though BlacKkKlansman would too).
My Personal Thoughts: There is no question that If Beale Street Could Talk should be nominated. It would hands-down be my choice. Other candidates I’m disappointed didn’t make the list are A Quiet Place and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, though neither was even remotely on the radar. Among this list, I would rank them in this order: BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, and Black Panther, followed by Roma, A Star Is Born, and Vice almost interchangeably. That leaves Bohemian Rhapsody in seventh and Green Book a distant eighth.

And that’s all I have to say about this year’s Oscars. Enjoy this year’s race and don’t forget to keep reading the site after all the hubbub subsides and our final predictions post tomorrow featuring everyone’s final predictions, not just my own.

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