Sunday, February 24, 2019

2019: The Year Oscar Stopped Trying

Academy President John Bailey: Welcome to the Academy Awards! First of all, you spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. As such, Ann Coulter in blackface will no longer host this year’s ceremony. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Instead, we have teamed with Robert Zemeckis, harnessing 15-year-old technology to bring you a host that everyone loves. So please welcome The Soulless, Hollow-Eyed Conductor from The Polar Express!

TSHECFTPE: Thank you all for having me, it’s a great honor to host this, the most smoothly executed Academy Awards of all time. Now, did someone say Os-Os-Oscars? We got ’em!

[cut to concerned muttering throughout Dolby Theatre]

[cut to an oblivious Tom Hanks sipping a cup of hot chocolate]

[someone inaudibly whispers something to Academy President John Bailey]

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. The Soulness, Hollow-Eyed Conductor from The Polar Express has been dismissed as host of the ceremony. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Let’s just move on to Best Supporting Actress.

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. We previously announced that the Harvey Weinstein Tribute to Young & Aspiring Supporting Actresses would occur during a commercial break. However, after further consideration we have decided to cancel it. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We shall proceed with the award without further comment.

Jeremy says: This category makes for a great start because it really underlines the meaninglessness of these awards. Why are you even reading this? Oh, you’re not.

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are both brilliant in The Favourite, but part of what makes them so great is that they’re so in tune with each other. Given the film, this may be a bit ironic, but it’s not a contest. Both performances are certainly among the year’s best, but I’d be most pleased with a tie.

Likewise, Regina King’s authentic emotional punch and Marina de Tavira’s understated brilliance are such a far cry from Weisz and Stone’s mannered work that it’s impossible to say x is better than y. However, maybe in some of the other acting categories we’ll be able to do that with more clarity. (Lest I get called out for not mentioning Amy Adams, she’s great as always, but Vice certainly isn’t among her greatest roles.)

King has the benefit of that powerhouse living room scene, and with the Favourites potentially splitting their votes, I’m going to predict she wins it.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Regina King
Jeremy’s Preference: Rachel Weisz or Emma Stone or Regina King

Chris says: Yeah, King has been dominating this category and this one seems like a foregone conclusion. It will be richly deserved, and since for some reason she didn’t win a Pulitzer, a Nobel and a Peabody for season 2 of The Leftovers, the award recognition seems definitively overdue. Her power comes from the way she anchors every moment, even when she’s observing, reacting, or just in the background. She is the conscience, and the emotional intelligence, of scene after scene. It’s a great performance that will hopefully lead to more equally great roles.

I’m in agreement with Jeremy on the perfect chemistry between Stone and Weisz - the big sticking point being that they’re arguably both leads rather than supporting. I mean, Stone definitely is - she’s the protagonist of the damn movie, and we very rarely lose track of her, while Weisz and Colman spend larger chunks of the film off-screen. But it’s probably splitting hairs to determine any of the three as “supporting.”

At gunpoint, I might say that my favorite of the three is Weisz. Her ability to deliver a ruthless line like it means nothing to her is unmatched, and makes me wish she’d get - or pursue - more rules with this kind of mean streak. As far as her chances go, she - like Stone - already has an Oscar to her name. Although that’s a sore point with her fellow nominee Amy Adams. Tell you what: You can give Weisz the Oscar this year, but only on the condition that she gives her 2005 Oscar to Adams. The case of Weisz’s missing Oscar for The Brothers Bloom will have to be adjudicated at another time.

Amy Adams: OK, but what about the Oscar nominations I should have gotten for Enchanted and Arrival? What about those, huh?

Chris says: That, you’re gonna have to take up Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins). They’ve got plenty of Oscars to go around, those two. They won’t even notice those nominations are gone.

Prediction: Regina King
Preference: Regina King or Rachel Weisz

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

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. The previously announced presenter for Best Supporting Actor - Billy Crystal playing dual roles in a stirring rendition of the fried-chicken conversation from Green Book - has been removed from the program. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will proceed without further comment.

Chris says: There’s been a trend toward first-timers in the supporting-actor category in recent years, with each of the last five winners being first-time nominees. This year’s group has three more that fit the bill, including two Long-Time Respected Character Actors Finally Getting Their Due, a la Whiplash’s J.K. Simmons and Three Billboards’ Sam Rockwell. The two most recent winners round out the category - Rockwell and Mahershala Ali.

At least with Ali, there’s an “MVP of a bad movie” case to be made. He took a half-written role and made a memorable character of it, even if the movie surrounding him never did either the actor, the character nor the real-life subject justice. He seems to have emerged as the frontrunner almost by default. It’s not just that none of the other four nominees picked up steam on their own, but that the movies they starred in didn’t do so. And so the movie that seems to be most popular with the Academy’s old guard has pushed Ali to the top of the heap. Green Book has seemingly charmed the pants off the very same voting bloc that believed it was being progressive in awarding Driving Miss Daisy the top statuette 29 years ago, and the two central performances are a big reason why the film works even to the limited extent that it does. (Now would be a good time to point out that Ali in Green Book is a co-lead role, not a supporting one, but then again we just had a similar discussion about The Favourite and I’m bored with it.)

If A Star is Born had taken off as the Oscar favorite the way everyone expected it to , I’m guessing that momentum would have swept Sam Elliott right to the podium. But for some reason, despite both the movie and its chief creator being almost universally liked in the industry, it plateaued months ago and denied Elliott at a great career-capping moment. Then again, he’s not even the best of the Long-Time Respected Character Actors Finally Getting Their Due; that would be Richard E. Grant, whose towering performance in Withnail and I was completely ignored by all award bodies, and spent the last three decades doing such reliably great work that when he got back around to playing another brilliant, charming drunkard, even the Academy couldn’t resist. He’s taken enough hardware during the lead-up to the big dance that it wouldn’t necessarily shock me if he pulled the upset, especially if some voters simply decide they want to spread the wealth after Ali was awarded just two years ago. It would certainly set a nice early precedent for the broadcast.

Adam Driver has done such a high volume of astounding work in such a short period of time - working almost exclusively with respected auteurs in the process - without getting even a hint of Oscar love that I must admit his nomination for BlacKkKlansman was a pleasant (and deserving) surprise. Let’s hope this is the first of many nominations.

As much as I love Rockwell, his nomination is the clear eyesore of this group, his SNL-level performance (basically hitting only the most obvious tics and cadences that a thousand George W. Bush impressionists have done before, without ever creating an actual human character) landing the last slot in a category that had far more adventurous options to choose from, saddled by a voting body without the adventurousness to nominate them. That would be Burning’s Steven Yeun, or Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan, or The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Bill Heck, or The Hate U Give’s Russell Hornsby, or fucking anyone from The Death of Stalin, with Simon Russell Beale being my choice. And then there’s Hugh Grant in Paddington 2. He would have fit right in with those other first-time nominees! Also, this was also the year he starred in A Very British Scandal, which was ostensibly a three-hour movie that just happened to be split into three one-hour installments. I believe, had it been released as a feature, he would very much have been in the conversation for Best Actor. But I digress.

Chris’ Prediction: Mahershala Ali
Chris’ Preference: Richard E. Grant

Jeremy says: Oh man, Hugh Grant is so good in Paddington 2. Know who else is so good? Brendan Gleeson in Paddington 2. Damn, where’s the love for Paddington 2?

I pretty much concur with Chris’s thoughts. Grant has the ability to turn up the charm, but he also captures the tragic implications of his character, whose personality masks desperation and depression.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Mahershala Ali
Jeremy’s Preference: Richard E. Grant

Chris says: I can’t believe I forgot to mention Brendan Gleeson. As the president of the Brendan Gleeson Fan Club, and as someone who was calling for his Paddington 2 Oscar a year ago … I am deeply ashamed. *snaps rolling pin in half*

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Mary, Queen of Scots

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After careful consideration, the previously announced Female Penis Joke Extravaganza has been cancelled. Just because it’s a fictional species’ genitalia doesn’t make it mockable. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We now present Best Makeup and Hairstyling without introduction.

Jeremy says: I was under the impression that Christian Bale simply willed himself to look like a weird version of Dick Cheney during various stages of his life, but apparently there was also makeup involved, so that seems like the likely winner. Of course, there’s always the chance of a win from a period piece that recreated an over-the-top job from a famous old painting, but Vice seems to have the momentum here.

Border, however, makes for an unlikely dark horse. Its characters of mysterious origin have a certain indelible quality that could well stick in voters’ memories. And while certain aspects of the look would probably be puppeteering that actually falls under effects, voters could lump it all together. They probably won’t, but hey, it’s the only film I saw this year where the guy behind me asked, “What the fuck?” during a specific scene.

Chris says: Wait, so you mean his penis doesn’t hide inside his body and then protrude whenever he’s ready to get his fuck on in the woods? I mean … that’s what all penises do, right?

Jeremy? Back me up on this.

Jeremy says: Um… well… I don’t talk during movies, so I didn’t have the chance to ask follow-up questions.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Vice
Jeremy’s Preference: Border

Chris says: As much as I would love to see Border pull the upset, Decade-Spanning Biopic Wherein We Put a Famous Actor in Fat-Man and Old-Man Makeup is pretty much what this category exists to award. With some notable exceptions - the overly obvious lines on the sides of Bale-Cheney’s mouth, for example - the Vice makeup works. Suspiria also would have been a worthy nominee - and I’m kinda surprised it didn’t make the cut, especially given its elaborate work transforming Tilda Swinton into Lutz Ebersdorf - but despite its late-fall positioning by Amazon, it never picked up any award steam, even in technical categories.

Border, aside from being the best movie of these three nominees (by a not-insignificant margin), really does do remarkable work on its two central characters, who never come across as prosthetic curiosities but feel wholly authentic.

Chris’ Prediction: Vice
Chris’ Preference: Border

Best Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Upon further consideration, the previously announced introduction for costume design - a song-and-dance routine between Rob Lowe and a 16-year-old girl in a “Slutty Snow White” costume - has been called off. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will proceed with the category without further comment.

Chris says: Let me ask you a question. In Mary Queen of Scots, did Queen Elizabeth wear dangly Murder Murder Murder / Kill Kill Kill earrings? Did Mary Poppins perform a nude performance-art piece with only black-gloved hands strategically covering her naughty bits? Did either film use bloody headbands and eyepatches as bold extensions of character?


So tell me why they’re nominated for costume design over Sorry to Bother You. To say nothing of Paddington 2 - which among other things created a host of indelible lewks (sorry) for Hugh Grant’s perpetually disguised villain - or the brilliantly understated work in If Beale Street Could Talk. Academy Costume Design Branch gonna Academy Costume Design Branch, I guess.

Mary Queen of Scots getting a costume-design nod was the most predictable thing to happen all Oscar season. And while I’m not knocking the work itself, I’d just like to point out that the film’s costume designer was previously Oscar-nominated for Elizabeth, then won the Oscar for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. As far as the scope of the Academy’s imagination and thought process when it comes to costumes goes, I’m going to let those facts speak for themselves.

As for the remaining nominees, I’m thrilled that Black Panther’s costumes (and production design, for that matter) have gotten the kind of love I was afraid they wouldn’t get when I first saw the movie a year ago. The distinctive color choices and combination of various African styles (as well as Ruth Carter’s own unique flourishes and inventions) are not only a balm among the MCU’s other earthbound installments but an evocative cultural statement in their own right, an indispensable component to what basically amounted to the creation of an entire new world.

The Favourite would certainly be a worthy winner and Sandy Powell - three-time winner and double nominee this year - can never be discounted. But as much as I like the movie and its costumes, it would be such an Oscar-type winner in this category that I’ve gotta pull hard for Black Panther to take it.

Chris’ Prediction: Black Panther
Chris’ Preference: Black Panther

Jeremy says: Yeah damn, those Paddington 2 costumes were great, weren’t they?

Anyhow, The Favorite really does nail the costumes in a way that the Academy doesn’t necessarily care about but since it’s also a period piece, that makes it a very strong contender. If it weren’t for the sheer magnitude of Black Panther, which so cleverly merges history with innovation, and style with practicality, it’d be a deserving winner. I still wasn’t going to predict it, because we’re talking about the Oscars here. But Chris has inspired me, so why not?

Jeremy’s Prediction: Black Panther
Jeremy’s Preference: Black Panther

Best Animated Short
Animal Behaviour
Late Afternoon
One Small Step

Best Live Action Short

Best Documentary Short
Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After serious deliberation among our ranks, our previously announced introduction for the short-film categories - Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer hand-in-hand with the two boys who got stuck in quicksand in Fauve, sponsored by the Make-a-Wish Foundation - has been called off. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will now salute our shorts without further introduction.

Jeremy says:  Apparently Academy voters decided that not all five nominees for Animated Short were allowed to be poignant looks at growing up and the cycle of life. How else to explain the inclusion of Animal Behavior, a dreadfully obvious sitcom that fails in direction, character design, script and acting?

Ignoring that one, Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas’s One Small Step is the most straightforward of the remaining nominees, following a father-daughter relationship through a series of shoes. Late Afternoon artfully uses handrawn animation to depict a series of memories as an elderly woman struggles to find them. The most seen film, Pixar’s Bao, is actually a pretty damn strange one, as a woman watches her son growing up as a dumpling. It’s executed in a very sleek and entertaining manner that almost makes you overlook that it doesn’t quite push its strange conceit to its potential.

But the film with the most unchained creativity is Trevor Jimenez’s Weekends, about a boy lost in the two worlds of his divorced parents. Jimenez captures the confusion of his character with superb artistry. It may be a bit of an ambitious pick for the Academy, especially with a Pixar film in the mix, but it would show that they aren’t always about being overtly obvious.

The live-action shorts also have a theme: children in perilous situations. But here, the outlier is a subtle, well-done portrait of an old woman nearing death who regrets that she never realized her sexual desires. Delicately acted and smartly underplayed, it’s the strongest film of the bunch. But I have a difficult time seeing it win when the other titles offer the Academy voters the things they love so much.

Skin is perhaps the most Oscary of all, with a story of racism that veers into sensational territory. But the comparatively quieter Fauve could be sleeper hit for its depiction of a fun day of trespassing gone wrong.

In the documentary category, the prize will likely go to the nominee that’s the least depressing, has the most positive message, and doesn’t tackle the same subject as other nominees from the last few years: Period. End of Sentence. The story of Indian women making and selling pads in a country where menstruation is taboo is sure to inspire. If voters are feeling aesthetically adventurous, the re-enactment-heavy, Morrisesque Black Sheep about a Nigerian immigrant boy dealing with racism in England by trying to become white, could beat it.

Jeremy’s Predictions: Weekend / Skin / Period. End of Semtence.
Jeremy’s Preferences: Weekend / Marguerite / Black Sheep

Chris says: Yeah, watching Weekends was a bit bittersweet - the same kind of bittersweet you get every couple of years during the animated-shorts program when a film emerges that: a) is clearly the best and most imaginative piece of animation in the bunch; and b) has no chance of actually winning. Bao was an unusually divisive Pixar effort that I enjoyed entirely because of the conceptual weirdness of its metaphor, but I agree with Jer that it ultimately could have gone farther. Though I should preface this with the statement that I’m always wrong on the shorts categories, Bao does seem like the sure winner here, right?

My thought at the end of Skin was that, largely because of its short-film runtime, it really couldn’t justify the extreme direction it goes in its back half, which considering the audacity of the narrative choice, is oddly rushed-through. With this in mind, I was not surprised to discover that a feature-length version of the film is in production, which makes this seem like more a proof of concept than anything else. Perhaps a clumsy short can become a nuanced feature. In any case, it’ll probably win. At the very least, it’s guaranteed to stick in people’s memory for a very specific reason. Marguerite is the only live-action short that I thought worked; it’s not a masterpiece or anything, but there’s a gentle humanity to the treatment of its two characters. While nominated live-action shorts often feel like feature-length ideas awkwardly whittled down, Marguerite seems very comfortable as a short story rather than a novel. Madre is an embarrassing absurdity, its emotional exploitations somehow managing to make the short about the kid who dies in quicksand seem restrained by comparison.

Black Sheep features the sharpest and most confident filmmaking of the doc shorts. Period. End of Sentence. is a weirdly upbeat PSA masquerading as a movie. LIFEBOAT is fine. End Game - co-directed by a two-time winner for documentary feature - has good material, but its structural problems hint at a conspicuous discrepancy between its intentions and the final result. We’re introduced to a bunch of characters dealing with end-of-life care - and all of them get title cards during the credits - yet we spend almost all of our time with only one patient (and her family), thus rendering everyone else almost irrelevant. A Night at the Garden is a fascinating document but not necessarily a great film, but gets a million extra points for being only seven minutes long. Although … I mean, an America in which a burgeoning Nazi movement can gather by the thousands and descend into violence? Unrealistic!

Chris’ Predictions: Bao / Skin / Period. End of Sentence.
Chris’ Preferences: Weekends / Marguerite / Black Sheep

Best Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After a healthy round of debate, our previously announced presentation for Best Visual Effects - a hologram of John Wayne giving his unfiltered thoughts on the role of women in the most recent Star Wars films and also about how menstruation is illegal in outer space - has been postponed. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will now proceed with the visual-effects category and will be taking no questions.

Chris says: With respect to the scope of the work involved on a giant CGI epic like Avengers: Infinity War, and to the sequences of the film that do have genuinely impressive effects … I mean, give me a fucking break. When your most prominent figure and world-destroying antagonist is a flimsy, flat, ugly computer-generated eyesore, that should be disqualifying for any competition of best anything, let alone effects specifically.

Leaving aside campaign resources and overall visibility, I would humbly submit that if you think the effects in Infinity War are superior to those in, say, Annihilation - on craft terms, but even more importantly in terms of the artistry of their deployment - you perhaps should not be in charge of choosing nominees for this category, let alone winners. Not that I expected Annihilation to score a nomination here (or anywhere), but it’s obnoxious to see a movie that’s hurt by its CGI as much as it’s helped earn not only a nomination for that work but an almost certain victory. Fuck you, Thanos. If I could snap my fingers and make you go away, I would.

Annihilation’s effects are astonishing, full stop - but more than that, they also don’t look anything like the effects in any other movie, nor are they used in remotely the same fashion that effects are routinely used in mainstream cinema. I realize “poetic conflations of physical forms” and “abstract psychological distortions” aren’t as sexy a sell as “we made a computer-generated alien who sort of looks like Josh Brolin” and “we blew a whole bunch of shit up,” but … y’know, still.

I didn’t care for Solo or Ready Player One much more than I did Infinity War, but both had stronger visual effects. But none was nearly as impressive as the work in First Man. I realize NASA stories and outer-space movies are old-hat by now, but that doesn’t make the seamless brilliance of First Man’s special-effects accomplishment any less impressive. It won’t win, if only because everyone seems to have strangely ignored the film itself, which seemed at least as much the Academy’s cup of tea as something like Green Book or A Star is Born and yet barely made an impression in the industry even with its strong critical reception.

Fun fact: A movie called Christopher Robin was also nominated in this category.

Chris’ Prediction: Avengers: Infinity War
Chris’ Preference: First Man

Jeremy says: The real special effect in Christopher Robin was how much of the film the title character spends moping and trying to get paperwork done without any of the damn Winnie the Pooh characters, amiright?

Ready Player One definitely beats Infinity War if you’re looking for everything-and-the-kitchen-sink special effects, and a surprise win for it would not be out of the question. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that First Man does, in fact have more support than Infinity War. While it’s possible the film has zero traction, it’s also possible that there’s a certain unspoken admiration — not unlike Neil Armstrong’s quietness, eh eh? — for the way the film reconstructs these amazing NASA crafts and flights, as well as the meditative moon landing.

Jeremy’s Prediction: First Man
Jeremy’s Preference: First Man or Ready Player One

Best Sound Mixing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Star is Born

Best Sound Editing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. The previously announced presenter for the sound categories - Louis CK explaining how foley works by micing himself masturbating into a grapefruit - will not go forward. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Now, please join us in recognizing our beloved sound artists. Please help us get them off the stage as fast as possible.

Jeremy says: The main question is whether the sound categories will be a complete lovefest for the cleaned-up Queen tracks of Bohemian Rhapsody, or if Sound Editing will go to a film with more interesting soundscapes. (A third possibility involves A Star is Born, but my gut suspicion is that the Queen songs edge it out.)

In editing, there are two films that could grab enough attention to take the prize: First Man and A Quiet Place. Both works display a varied collection of quiet and loud moments that are key to their respective films. So do we take prestigious space travel or a classy genre thriller? I’m going to gamble on the latter and say A Quiet Place

Jeremy’s Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody for mixing, A Quiet Place for editing
Jeremy’s Preference: First Man for mixing, Roma for editing

Chris says: Just give First Man some technical awards, will ya? I’m not even a big champion of the film itself, but there’s too much remarkable craft to ignore, and yet the Academy seems content to ignore it.

Chris’ Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody for mixing, A Quiet Place for editing
Chris’ Preference: First Man for mixing, First Man for editing

Screaming Human Bear Hybrid from Annihilation: Are you two cowards really going to do a whole sound category conversation without mentioning me?

Do you not remember how I haunted your dreams?

Have you forgotten the primal terror of my screams, the unspeakable testimony I whispered in your ear, the anguished despair I left rattling around in your bones, the ineffable sensation of existential oblivion I left hovering in your subconscious forever?

Do you not remember?

Did you not tremble?

Cowards, the both of you.

Best Original Score
Black Panther - Ludwig Göransson
BlacKkKlansman - Terence Blanchard
If Beale Street Could Talk - Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs - Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns - Marc Shaiman

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for Best Original Score, Richard Spencer paying tribute to the music of Wagner -

Alvy Singer: Wagner, Max.

Academy President John Bailey: - has been disinvited. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will now honor the music that brings motion pictures to life.

Chris says: The partnership between Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard has been such a rich one - operatic and mournful, regal and experimental - that I had long given up on the thought of Blanchard ever getting any long-overdue recognition from the Academy. They’re not alone - it’s been the same, for example, with the Coen Brothers and Carter Burwell (whose only two nominations, both very recent, are for non-Coen efforts). That Lee’s films have always been so eminently musical has only made their lack of Oscar love (either for Lee himself or Blanchard) a more absurd joke. And so, very few of this year’s nominations were as rewarding as Blanchard. It only took 27 years and the Academy somehow overlooking his scores for Malcolm X and 25th Hour - I mean, have you heard those scores lately?? because jesus - among others.

For that reason - and yes, this is the “career Oscar” argument - I’m personally rooting for him to win, though my personal favorite of the nominees is Nicholas Britell for If Beale Street Could Talk. Speaking of director/composer partnerships, he and Barry Jenkins have already made for quite a pair, between this and Moonlight (for which Britell also should have won). Beale Street is at times profoundly intimate, and Britell is essential to the way the film operates. The emotional memory, the intangible, delicate sense of atmosphere, even touch and smell … it’s all contained so perfectly in the score. Coincidentally, it is reminiscent of Blanchard at times - as well as Taxi Driver (Bernard Herrmann) and others from a more classical Hollywood tradition - and seemed to evoke him more explicitly in Britell’s un-nominated score for Vice.

All due respect to the other three nominees, I kinda feel like it has to be Britell or Blanchard here.

Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk
Preference: If Beale Street Could Talk (or BlacKkKlansman)

Jeremy says: I was a little sad that Justin Hurwitz’s meditative score for First Man didn’t get a nod here, but I feel like Beale Street has this one locked up, sad as that may be for the great Blanchard.

Prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk
Preference: If Beale Street Could Talk

Best Original Song
“All the Stars” from Black Panther
“I’ll Fight” from RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow” from A Star is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. The previously announced introduction for Best Original Song - Ryan Adams and Ruth Bader Ginsburg performing a rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” - has been canceled. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Without further introduction, we will now proceed with the category.

Jeremy says: This prize was always going to go to “Shallow.” And that could even be more of the case now that A Star is Born has lost all the steam it had early in the award season. After all, voters might think, they have to give it something. And while Kendrick Lamar and his team’s great Black Panther soundtrack could likewise be that film’s only shot at an Oscar, it doesn’t have the same showiness and isn’t integral to the plot in the same way as “Shallow.”

While I found the old-school vibe of Mary Poppins Returns delightful — especially by Rob Marshall standards — all the movie’s songs are primarily designed to remind you of better songs from the original film. And “The Place Where the Lost Things Go” isn’t even the most memorable one. “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” is also a pastiche, but a more distinct one.

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention “I’ll Fight,” and I stand by that.

Jeremy’s Prediction: “Shallow”
Jeremy’s Preference: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” or “All the Stars”

Chris says: Piggybacking off the conversation in our previous category, the musical elements that have run through the Coen Brothers’ work are substantial - with Inside Llewyn Davis and O Brother, Where Art Thou being the two most obvious examples - and it would be nice to see it get honored for once. “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” appears in the screwiest and funniest of Buster Scruggs’ chapters, and kicks in just after that segment’s hilariously violent punchline. Within the film, it adds to the humor of the situation, in backwards, ironic sort of way. But on its own, it’s revealed as the genuine and lovely country ballad that it is. Also, the Academy ignored “Please Mr. Kennedy” and thus deprived the world of Adam Driver saying “Outer ... Space!” on stage for the entire world to see. So an upset - which, just to be clear, has zero chance of happening - would be simple justice.

In the unlikely event of an upset, the more likely candidate is “All the Stars,” and I’d be more than happy to see that happen. Then again, Kendrick Lamar already has a Pulitzer, so what does he need with a mere Oscar?

Chris’ Prediction: “Shallow”
Chris’ Preference: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”

Best Cinematography
Cold War - Lukasz Zal
The Favourite - Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away - Caleb Deschanel
Roma - Alfonso Cuarón
A Star is Born - Matthew Libatique

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Upon further evaluation, our previously planned introduction for Best Cinematography - Virginia governor Ralph Northam, in honor of the inclusion of two black-and-white nominees, moonwalking through a soulful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” - has been canceled. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will proceed with the category without further ado.

Chris says: It’s been pointed out - to my mild surprise, which I suppose means I’m a bit more of an optimist than I assumed - that no black-and-white movies have won Best Cinematography since the Academy stopped splitting it into two categories in 1967. I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, The Man Who Wasn’t There didn’t win a fucking cinematography Oscar?”

No, friends. No it did not. However, this year, not only are two black-and-white efforts nominated, but it seems like almost a foregone conclusion that one of the two will take home the prize. Cuarón - serving as his own DP for Roma after extensive planning with his normal cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki - has few contemporaries as a visual storyteller. The question is whether he’ll get penalized by voters for shooting his movie rather than hiring a DP - which was speculated as the reason why Cold War’s Lukasz Zal - the most likely upset winner - won the ASC Award over Cuarón. I still think they’ll probably give it to Roma, but wouldn’t count Cold War out. Both would be deserving. I’m much higher on Roma overall than I am on Cold War, but there’s something about those intimate, Academy-ratio compositions that seems to strike at the heart of what the film is trying to explore through its characters and time periods - far better than the film as a whole, I’d say.

The other nominees all do terrific work, but I would have much preferred seeing James Laxton’s woozy, romantic, yet troubling images in If Beale Street Could Talk recognized over any of the three - not to mention Mart Taniel (November), Bradford Young (Where is Kyra?), Bruno Delbonnel (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Chayse Irvin (BlacKkKlansman) or Tom Townend (You Were Never Really Here).

But at least - with now six black-and-white nominees in the last 10 years - we should finally be able to call one of them a winner come Monday morning.

(I’m still mad about The Man Who Wasn’t There, though.)

Chris’ Prediction: Roma
Chris’ Preference: Roma

Jeremy says: Now, you could probably make a compelling case that Roma would be a deserving recipient for the beach sequence along. But that’s before you remember all the marvelous images that Zal so magnificently captured in Cold War: sunlight in a ruined church, a drunken dance on a dance floor, the Seine by moonlight, a series of stage performances and shift in tone and style. In its short runtime, Cold War manages to dance through at least 25 different shots that would be the best shot in any other film of the year.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Cold War
Jeremy’s Preference: Cold War

Best Documentary
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After much deliberation, the previously announced presenter for documentary feature - Bill Maher, with a prepared statement about how unfair it is that his religion documentary wasn’t nominated for an Oscar ten years ago - has been reconsidered. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will proceed with the category without further comment.

Jeremy says: It doesn’t seem to matter much whether RBG is any good, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves an Oscar even though she won’t technically get one because there are rules, people. It would be interesting if an experimental method existed to discover just how incompetent the documentary would have to be in order to lose. I guess the biggest deal-breaker would be a lack of feel-good inspirational stuff.

Regardless, the inevitability of RBG’s Oscar is a shame because three of the other nominees really delve into their subjects in daring ways - emotionally, artistically and physically - and the fourth has some cool shots of mountain-climbing.

Talal Derki went undercover as an al-Qaida sympathizer to tell the story of a terrorist family in Of Fathers and Sons, and the bravery of the filmmaker alone probably makes it the most likely upset. RaMell Ross’s Hale Country This Morning, This Evening is by far the most meditative and least narrative-driven film, which also makes it the least likely to win.

However, I’d most like to see an upset come from Bing Liu’s Minding the Gap, which follows many years in the lives of young skateboarders while exploring the effects of abuse and toxic masculinity on their lives.

Jeremy’s Prediction: RBG
Jeremy’s Preference: Minding the Gap

Chris says: While a hagiographic mediocrity like RBG - especially in this political moment - does seem like a total Academy move, I still get the sense that Free Solo has the most momentum. And that’s certainly a better movie than RBG, even if I’d ultimately rather see more challenging Minding the Gap or Hale County take the prize.

The big surprise in this category is the exclusion of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? - a still-hagiographic but far-superior profile doc than RBG that seemed, prior to the nomination announcement, like it would be one of the favorites to win the thing. Oh well.

Chris’ Prediction: Free Solo
Chris’ Preference: Minding the Gap

Best Production Design
Black Panther
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for production design - Kevin Spacey paying tribute to phallic architecture and decor - has been cancelled. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will proceed with the category without further comment.

Chris says: I’ll keep this short, mostly because a lot of it would be a reiteration of what I said about costume design, with the same two films - Black Panther and The Favourite.

Though the winner is likely to be one of those two, I’d like to focus on Roma. The film certainly qualifies as a period piece - albeit, being set in a familiar-enough contemporary-adjacent setting, without the typical design flourishes we typically associate with “period piece” - but its nomination also represents the exact type of movie that too often goes overlooked in this category. Just the sheer detail of the interiors - every piece of set decoration inside every room of the house, every corner of the neighborhood - is paramount to the way Roma works as an experience, and as a depiction of a time and place. Not just the home, or the city street, or the movie theatre, or the hospital, but the entirety of the way Cuarón uses this (largely reconstructed) city to define his memories, his ideas and his characters.

Describing an autobiographical film set in a childhood home as “lived-in” is probably too obvious, but … yeah, this movie feels really fucking lived-in. The accomplishment of its production design is reminiscent of the partial recreation of the city in Gangs of New York (which hilariously lost this category to Chicago) and nearly rivals the production-design achievement of Cuarón’s own Children of Men (which hilariously was not nominated in this category).

I love the production design of Black Panther and The Favourite and I’ll be pleased when one of them wins, but Roma - shoutout to Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez - hits another level.

But while we’re here, let me just go on the record once again declaring, with regard to a Wes Anderson stop-motion animated movie, that Isle of Dogs got absolutely fucking jobbed on this one. Paddington 2, Sunday’s Illness and Robert Mockler’s Like Me also come to mind.

Prediction: The Favourite
Preference: Roma

Jeremy says: Yeah, there’s really not a bad pick here, which I can’t really say about other categories, ahem. But I would have liked to see the titles Chris mentioned as well.

Prediction: The Favourite
Preference: Black Panther

Best Editing
BlacKkKlansman - Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody - John Ottman
The Favourite - Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Green Book - Patrick J. Don Vito
Vice - Hank Corwin

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for the editing category - The Guy From the Focus Group During the End Credits of Vice self-aggrandizingly lecturing the audience about why he understands editing better than they do - has been reconsidered. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We have no further comment at this time.

Jeremy says: OK, so two of these films are completely shapeless both as features and from scene to scene: Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody. While I can sympathize with poor John Ottman having to go through acres of awkward over-shot coverage and keep the surviving Queen members happy, I’m not sure giving him an Oscar is the right way to make it up to him. I mean, he did get paid. Word on the street, however, seems to be that Oscar voters are going to stick it to us shitty critics by giving the Queen movie honors it clearly doesn’t deserve.

What makes matters worse is that they have an snappy, propulsive editing job by Barry Alexander Brown for BlacKkKlansman to award. While certainly owing some of the pizazz to Spike Lee’s ingenuity — the complementary off-kilter angles during phone calls and the racist propaganda outtakes in the opening scene come to mind — Brown really makes it sing.

Yorgos Mavropsaridis’s precision cuts in The Favourite would also be worthy, but that’s even more of a long shot.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Bohemian Rhapsody
Jeremy’s Preference: BlacKkKlansman

Chris says: A familiar feeling of dread set in as I was watching Vice. “Oh fuck, this is totally gonna win the Oscar for editing, isn’t it?”

That feeling persists, despite Bohemian Rhapsody’s recent precursor victories. Vice certainly gets the Most Editing vote. The space between what it truly, madly, deeply believes it’s accomplishing and what it actually accomplishes is vast. I’ll touch on this more in the director category, but it’s so clear what kind of movie McKay is convinced he’s making - and what kind of filmmaker he believes he is, or at least desperately wants to convince himself he has become - that I mostly just consider Hank Corwin to be the collateral damage of McKay’s hubris.

BlacKkKlansman, though … I mean, that movie fucking sings. The shifting and balancing of wildly divergent tones - you know, the thing McKay thinks he’s doing? - is truly a marvel, and Brown (like Blanchard) has been an essential collaborator of Lee’s for a long time without any Oscar validation.

Chris’ Prediction: Vice
Chris’ Preference: BlacKkKlansman

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk - Barry Jenkins
A Star is Born - Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for best adapted screenplay - Morgan Freeman, in character as Hoke from Driving Miss Daisy - has been reevaluated. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Let’s move on without any further controversy.

Chris says: If this is the way Spike Lee’s gotta win his first [competitive] Oscar, so be it. Not to discount his writing, but it would be a lot more satisfying for him to get the gold for Best Director - on account of being one of the defining directors of his generation and all - and deliver an acceptance speech on his own, as opposed to sharing the stage with three other esteemed gentlemen who are, nonetheless, not Spike Lee.

Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us and win both?

BlacKkKlansman does seem to have emerged as the favorite here, though with its recent WGA win, Can You Ever Forgive Me? might be primed for an upset. And while, in a vacuum, I’d be thrilled to see Nicole Holofcener pick up an Oscar, she is also, as it happens, not Spike Lee.

The more I look at it, the more this category seems like a prime opportunity for various individuals who were either overlooked for Best Director honors or who seem unlikely to win said Best Director honors. Bradley Cooper was famously left out of the director category, but A Star is Born just doesn’t have any heat at this point so I can’t see it being the one to pull it off. The best script of the bunch is Barry Jenkins’ for If Beale Street Could Talk, a swirling poem of raw honesty and tough love, built on elliptical moments and brutal observations and mid-conversation tone shifts, with voiceover grace notes - descriptions and internal monologue - judiciously and beautifully sprinkled in. Jenkins was passed over for directing honors as well … but with the competition, and with Jenkins already having a recent Oscar under his belt in this same category, I’m guessing it’s Lee’s (and, yes, Wachtel’s, Rabinowitz’s and Willmott’s) to lose.

Chris’ Prediction: BlacKkKlansman
Chris’ Preference: If Beale Street Could Talk

Jeremy says: It would be kind of amazing if Lee won for what is a rather ambitious, albeit enthralling, mix of plot, politics and history. Jenkins’s elegant script seems much more the Academy’s taste. So I’ll predict that.

Jeremy’s prediction: If Beale Street Could Talk
Jeremy’s preference: BlacKkKlansman

Best Original Screenplay
The Favourite - Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
First Reformed - Paul Schrader
Green Book - Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma - Alfonso Cuarón
Vice - Adam McKay

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for best original screenplay - Mel Gibson, who has a bone to pick with Adam McKay about what type of person would start wars all over the world, and stacks of newsletters on the subject - has been canceled. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Let us proceed without any further discussion.

Jeremy says: I’m pretty sure Vice is in the wrong category. Isn’t it adapted from the Wikipedia article “List of Bad Things Dick Cheney Did”?

This category is a little tricky seeing as the winner of the Writers Guild of America’s version of this award, Eighth Grade, wasn’t even nominated here, while The Favourite wasn’t eligible there and is here. It would seem to me that First Reformed and The Favourite are clearly the two best screenplays up for the award, but some people seem to be saying, “Eyyyy, Green Book is-a-gonna win, mamaluke!” To that I say, “Get outta here, gabbagool!”

If we allow that, yeah, the hilarious ribald material may mean  The Favourite is not the period piece the Academy is looking for, I think they have to give it to Paul Schrader’s tale of despair, anxiety and soul-searching. OK, reading that back I realize Green Book will probably win, but I’m sticking with it.

Jeremy’s Prediction: First Reformed
Jeremy’s Preference: First Reformed

Chris says: First, a true story …

Paul Schrader: Members of the Academy, hi! Here is my screenplay for the movie Taxi Driver. I hope you enjoy it!

Academy: Meh

Paul Schrader: OK, well here’s one I wrote called Blue Collar

Academy: Nope

Paul Schrader: Well this one here, it’s about the porn industry, it’s called Hardco —

Academy: The fuck outta here

Paul Schrader: Raging Bull?

Academy: LOL no

Paul Schrader: Alright, this one’s called Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. I’m really proud of it

Academy: (thinking) You know what? … Yeah, we’re gonna go ahead and nominate … your brother, Leonard Schrader, for Kiss of the Spider-Woman. Fuck you.

Paul Schrader: Ever heard of Jesus? Well guess what, The Last Temptation of Christ, boom

Academy: Eat shit


Academy: (vigorous wanking motion)

Paul Schrader: Affliction. Here it is. Read it and weep. Can’t pass this one up, I just know it

Academy: Go fuck yourself

Paul Schrader: Got a new one. Bringing Out the Dead.

Academy: Eat a dick

Paul Schrader: Look I know it won’t matter but here, it’s called First Reformed

Academy: Ugh, fine, we’ll take it

Chris says: And scene.

But seriously, all those scripts and somehow Schrader never got a fucking screenplay nomination? For that reason alone I’m rooting for him to win. I mean, he won’t, of course. And maybe it’s just as well that the people who didn’t even think Taxi Driver was worthy of a writing nomination give First Reformed’s Oscar to the Uncredited Wedding Party Guest from The Godfather and his hilariously racist dad.

It does seem like a two-horse race between Green Book and The Favourite, and if that’s the case, can we please just give it to The Favourite and not suffer the indignity of this Vallelonga guy giving an acceptance speech where he accidentally says something terrible about Muslims while co-writer Peter Farrelly stands in the background quietly trying to figure out a way to take out his penis without anyone noticing?

Anyway, I know screenplays are a lot more than dialogue, but the 200th-best line in The Favourite is better than anything in Green Book.

Vice’s “screenplay” is a collection of furiously scribbled post-it notes, and somehow it probably has a better chance of winning an Oscar than another beautiful script by the guy who wrote Raging fucking Bull.

Fuck, just show me Peter Farrelly’s penis and let’s get this over with.

Prediction: Green Book
Preference: First Reformed

Best Animated Feature
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Our previously announced presenter for best animated feature - Skydance Animation head John Lasseter, who charitably offered to be paid in long hugs instead of the standard appearance fee - has been removed. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will move on without further comment.

Chris says: Here’s something I never expected to say: Brad Bird made a really damn good movie for Pixar that once again proves he’s one of the elite action filmmakers in the business, and this movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and this movie … is the third-best of the five nominees.

It’s nothing against Incredibles 2, which, as I mentioned, is terrific. But this is just one of those years for the animated feature category. There are five good movies here, and three of those are particularly good. When you consider that last year’s selection included Ferdinand and The Boss Baby, this year looks like a miracle. It’s not quite on par with 2015 (with Inside Out winning in a loaded group), but it’s pretty close. (2009 was also pretty great.)

For me, it’s a toss-up. I do think that by all rights one of these damn Wes Anderson stop-motion efforts should get an Oscar, in which case I’ll say Isle of Dogs should win. Then again: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which snuck in at the end of the year and knocked people’s socks off, emerged as a deserving frontrunner and did so largely on the strength of its form, in particular the wildly experimental and versatile way it uses computer animation. Experimentation is not exactly modern studio computer animation’s strong suit, so a win here would be a legitimate statement for the medium - and perhaps a bar-raiser. One can hope.

Another wrinkle: Among the five people nominated for Spider-Verse are Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the duo that was so famously, and unceremoniously, dumped from Solo: A Confused, Rudderless Star Wars Story With No Voice of Its Own. Winning an Oscar - tellingly, for a film that takes a familiar and overexposed IP and injects brilliant new life into it - would be poetic justice.

In terms of my actual prediction, history gives me some pause. I know everyone is assuming Spider-Verse will take the Oscar, and it just might. But Pixar is such an industry juggernaut, and it hasn’t lost in this category since 2006 - and that was Cars. (Full disclosure: There have been a few Pixar movies that were not even nominated for Best Animated Feature, Finding Dory being the most notable example.)

Last time a Pixar movie was an underdog was 2012, with Wreck-It Ralph being the odds-on favorite. And then Brave pulled the upset anyway and kept Pixar’s streak alive. It’s competitive this year, but something tells me Pixar squeezes out another one.

Chris’ Prediction: Incredibles 2
Chris’ Preference: Isle of Dogs or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Jeremy says: I’m just gonna go ahead and agree with Chris, except I think Spider-Verse will take it (although I wouldn’t be shocked if Incredibles 2 won). Hey, the voters have to feel like they’re being edgy in one category, right?

Jeremy’s Prediction: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Jeremy’s Preference: Isle of Dogs or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Best Foreign-Language Film
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. Following protests from the Association Against the Defamation of Foreign Directors with Long, Funny Names, we have canceled the feature “A Joke for Each Letter In Florian Maria Georg Christian Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck.” The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Now on to the nominees, both von Donnersmarcks and non-von Donnersmarcks alike.

Jeremy says: Once upon a time, a foreign film was nominated in a bunch of other categories, and even won three Oscars, but still lost the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The loser was Pan’s Labyrinth, and the winner was The Lives of Others, directed by none other than Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

F to the Henckel is back, and so is Cold War director Pawel Pawlikowski, who won for Ida. But one suspects that neither director will repeat, because Roma has this one locked. up. After all, The Lives of Others upset dates back to a time when the voters had to actually watch all the nominees.

While Cold War — as I mentioned earlier — has some of the best images of the year going for it, and there’s something to be said for Pawlikowski’s economic storytelling, it can’t quite compete with the sweeping achievement of Roma as a whole.

Never Look Away is a unique achievement in that you don’t quite realize until the final act exactly what it’s building toward. This story of an artist discovering his voice has rarely been told in such a striking manner, and in a way that subverts the expectations of what the narrative is pushing for.

Add in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, and this really becomes an impressive year for this category. Kore-eda has always had a unique ability to capture the human condition, and telling such a personal story about fragile children only gives the film an even stronger emotional impact. And if voters wanted a spunkier disadvantaged child, they had Capernaum as an option.

But the only real way I can see Roma not winning is if voters decide to tick the box for another film close to their hearts because they think Roma already has all the recognition it needs.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Roma
Jeremy’s Preference: Roma

Chris says: Here’s a fun fact for you. Since 1981, only three (3) Japanese films have been nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film, and that’s after a few decades in which Japan was a consistent presence in the category. (In total foreign-film nominations, Japan is tied for fourth among all countries with 16.) The last nominee was 2008’s Departures (which won, undeservingly) and before that it was The Twilight Samurai. This means that no Hirokazu Kore-eda film has ever even been nominated for the Oscar, let alone won it.

Even though I preferred Roma to Shoplifters (both are very good), I’m kinda rooting for a spread-the-wealth vote, with Shoplifters walking away with the upset. Maybe Cold War has just enough to support to siphon off some Roma votes to allow Kore-eda’s sensitive, widely-loved family drama to squeak through?

OK fine, it’s unlikely, but still. Especially if Roma wins Best Picture, it would certainly be nice to see Shoplifters pick up some hardware. Who needs the foreign-language Oscar when you can win the whole damn thing?

I’m tempted to ask, “Ugh, what the hell did the Academy possibly see in Capernaum?” before realizing that, of course, they saw exactly what I saw, except it’s the exact sort of thing that always wins those motherfuckers over.

Taking a quick gander at the list of submissions, László Nemes’ Sunset (Hungary), which starts rolling out in late March, would be my favorite of the nominees had it made the cut … unless the Academy had also nominated Chang-dong Lee’s astonishing Burning (South Korea). I’d just like to note for the record that a South Korean film has never been nominated in this category. The Academy could have made history! Instead they nominated Capernaum.

Chris’ Prediction: Roma
Chris’ Preference: Roma

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?

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After deep contemplation, our previously announced introduction to the Best Actress category - Adrien Brody doing an impromptu Google search of each of the nominated actresses and hastily listing off all of their film credits - has been called off. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. We will be moving along with no further Googling and no further explanation.

Chris says: Perhaps I’m way off, but this seems like a quietly hyper-competitive category. I don’t have the inside info to know whether I’m right or wrong, and I know there are, officially, two heavy favorites, and one that seems to have emerged as the likely winner. But I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if any of these five won. Which is not to say I’m expecting it, necessarily, but that I feel like it’s primed for a possible upset and I really don’t know which of the three underdogs - Yalitza Aparicio, Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy - would be the most likely to pull it off. I can talk myself into, or out of, each narrative.

Gaga was considered the co-frontrunner until A Star is Born sputtered, but couldn’t she have just enough support to come out on top if the votes are split somewhat evenly? McCarthy probably has the worst odds, but Can You Ever Forgive Me? has been something of an overachiever on the award-circuit, including an unexpected WGA victory - in which it bested three Best Picture nominees - and a whole host of awards for both McCarthy and Richard E. Grant. She’s so well-liked in the industry, I’d have to assume she’ll have some support.

And then there’s the heretofore unknown Aparicio, whose victory would certainly make the best story. I could see this happening if Roma is an even bigger juggernaut than we think it is, in which case a lead performance that’s impossible not to like could easily benefit.

But yes, I know: It’s probably Glenn Close vs. Olivia Colman. This is a weird case of an actor becoming an Oscar frontrunner for a movie that practically no one - including much of the voters, no doubt - ever even saw. And they’re not missing much. Close and her co-star Jonathan Pryce are both strong, but The Wife is a lousy movie with material that’s just fertile enough that I’m convinced it could have really been something if anyone had bothered to direct the damn thing. As it is, this is the Career Oscar tendency at its worst - Close has six previous nominations with no wins - because a win here likely comes at the expense of a truly great Olivia Colman performance (even if its “lead” status is borderline) in her first-ever nomination. I’ve been a fan of Colman for years - ever since I first saw her pop up in Mitchell and Webb’s work; her performance in 2011’s Tyrannosaur was also Oscar-worthy - and I think this thing should be hers.

It would be pretty ridiculous for a movie with three titanic co-lead performances - Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz - get shut out of the acting categories. And since the other two seem unlikely to take the supporting-actress prize, Colman is the one shot. The Favourite is probably the best acting showcase of the year, and not in a Yelling and Crying Big Oscar Moment sort of way. It’s just three great actresses lighting it up. Anyway, TEAM COLMAN.

While we’re here, let me just say that there were many worthy Best Actress candidates who could have taken Close’s place - among them Kathryn Hahn (Private Life), Helena Howard (Madeline’s Madeline), Rachel McAdams (Game Night), Sakura Andô (Shoplifters), Thomasin McKenzie (Leave No Trace, which got overlooked all over the place) and, as always, Juliette Binoche (Let the Sunshine In).

Chris’ Prediction: man whatever, Glenn Close I guess
Chris’ Preference: Olivia Colman

Jeremy says: I don’t have a whole lot to add. Chris kind of touched on this at the beginning of this article, back in the day, but if Colman is nominated in this category, her two co-stars should be as well. Especially Stone. If I hadn’t already predicted a few long shots I might go for something wild but I’ll just go for that stodgy, stagey trash film.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Glenn Close
Jeremy’s Preference: Olivia Colman

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

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership - we really did. But in this case we cannot rescind the nomination of Rami Malek. And now, to present the Best Actor to a person who is not himself, please give a warm welcome to Ethan Hawke!

Ethan Hawke: Have you ever given one of the best performances of the year, and directed another (in a musical biopic no less!), and neither got nominated, but Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury? Isn’t anybody going to do something?!?

Jeremy says: The murmur started early in the campaign, when there were many candidates and the ceremony seemed such a far way off. At the time, it seemed like a joke — late night fodder. “What if this awkward performance from this embarrassingly bad Queen movie won Best Actor?” Of course, at the time, no one thought it could happen. Now, as we’ve eked closer to the big day, people aren’t so sure.

No, Ethan, I’m afraid no one is going to do something about Rami Malek becoming the unstoppable juggernaut winner for Best Actor. There is no hope left in the world. Hell, I could name 20 performances better than the nominees but what’s the point? I’m going to get my suicide vest.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Rami Malek
Jeremy’s Preference: Willem Dafoe

Chris says: I can’t believe we’re fucking doing this.

If there’s any definitive example of the Academy’s reactionary backsliding … well, OK, it would be awarding Best Picture to Green Book. So that’s TBD. But if there’s a second definitive example of it, it would be awarding a performance like Malek’s, in a movie like Bohemian Rhapsody. I seriously thought we were done with this shit. Bohemian Rhapsody is all of prestige period cinema’s crassest, cheapest, laziest impulses all rolled into one, and Malek’s performance is the epitome of the superficial awards-bait mimicry that so many of us have been decrying for years. Bohemian Rhapsody is an embarrassing self-parody, and Malek epitomizes that.

I say that as a Malek fan. His work on Mr. Robot can go toe to toe with any cinematic lead performance. I even admire the energy he puts into his Freddie Mercury cosplaying. But there’s nothing he can do with this role. The script gives him nothing, the direction gives him even less. He’s as much a victim as anything else.

For that matter, this might be the weakest crop of Best Actor nominees that I’ve ever seen. It’s not that the nominees are bad, just that most of them are good actors who’ve done much better work elsewhere. I love Willem Dafoe but would have rather seen him win last year. Christian Bale outclasses the rest of Vice (and for a time it seemed like he was emerging as the frontrunner), but he relies on Lip Acting to a conspicuous degree (all those open-mouthed pauses between line readings), and still often comes across as an impression instead of a character. (It’s a stronger physical performance than anything else - not the weight itself but the way he carries himself, the way his body moves, the way he seems to react to his body.) Viggo … I mean, sure, it could have been worse.

The only nominee who might genuinely do career-best work is Bradley Cooper, so he gets my vote. But overall I’m just baffled at the collection of nominees they came up with this year. How in the hell did Stephan James not garner any attention? Or Joaquin Phoenix for any of his three standout performances? Or Robert Redford, already snubbed for All is Lost, for his beautiful swan song The Old Man & the Gun? John David Washington for BlacKkKlansman? Paul Giamatti for Private Life?


Chris’ Prediction: Rami Malek, FUCKING KILL ME
Chris’ Preference: Bradley Cooper

Best Director
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. While we previously announced that we would be awarding the best director category via mail, we have reconsidered this decision and will be including it on the live broadcast after all. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow.

Chris says: In terms of handicapping a race, this is one of the cleanest categories I’ve ever seen. Alfonso Cuarón: frontrunner. Spike Lee: darkhorse. Those other three guys: No fucking shot.

Of the three non-winners, only one is truly and thoroughly undeserving of the honor of being nominated, and practically an affront to the craft of direction, and that is Vice’s Adam McKay. Only McKay desperately attempted to prove himself an audacious, truth-telling amalgam of Oliver Stone, Spike Lee and Lars von Trier, in the process only proving himself to be a woefully inept imitation of all three. He made a feature-length Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man and then created a mid-credit surrogate FOR HIMSELF, IMPORTANT POLITICAL AUTEUR to justify it. This bumbling dumbfuck Wikipedia-As-Filtered-Through-Tweetstorms of a movie got a Best fucking Director nomination.

Even if I leave out all of the more obscure names that were nowhere near the Academy’s radar, what about Barry fucking Jenkins? Lynne fucking Ramsay? Chang-dong fucking Lee? Paul motherfucking Schrader? Alex fucking Garland? Wes fucking Anderson? Ryan fucking Coogler? Debra fucking Granik? Paul fucking King? Christopher fucking McQuarrie? Joel fucking Coen and Ethan fucking Coen?


Guys: Can you even IMAGINE how insufferable his next movie is going to be now that you’ve given a thousand Oscar nominations to fucking VICE?


Props to Pawlikowski, and I love that Lanthimos earned a Best Director nod - even though my company on Team Yorgos seems to be thinning out of late - but this is a Cuarón vs. Lee fight.

In a fair fight, I might give the slight edge to Cuarón - but in that fair-fight world, Lee would have already bagged Oscars for Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X, and that’s just for direction - but I’m Team Spike on this one. Cuarón has a couple of Oscars already and Roma might win the top prize. While Career Oscars can be annoying when someone wins for a second-rate film, that’s not the case here. BlacKkKlansman is a banger, and it’s Lee through and through.

Chris’ Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón
Chris’ Preference: Spike Lee

Jeremy says: BlacKkKlansman is Spike Lee at his best — funny, political, challenging and entertaining. BlacKkKlansman is one of his best films, which says a lot. It hits on all sorts of different angles, and hits hard. Cuarón and Lanthimos’s work can’t be undervalued, but Lee deserves to take him the Oscar. Of course, that means he won’t, unless the Academy hates Mexicans more than black people.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón
Jeremy’s Preference: Spike Lee

Best Picture
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star is Born

Academy President John Bailey: You spoke out, and we heard you, our esteemed membership. After careful consideration, we have decided that we will not be moving forward with our originally planned Best Picture presenters, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. In light of your counsel, we determined that we could not in good conscience but those poor, poor Hollywood legends through another embarrassing shitshow like this. The Academy regrets the error. Thank you for giving us this chance to learn and grow. Let’s just finish this goddamn thing.

Jeremy says: We’ve made it to the big finale. BlacKkKlansman is brilliant and challenging. Roma is immersive and fulfilling. The Favourite is subversive and smart. Black Panther gives smartness and legitimacy to its genre. A Star is Born is sincere and genuine. The other films were also nominated for Best Picture.

It would be silly to award Best Picture to any film after the first three I mentioned, but the Academy is a silly organization. So the question comes down to, can you live with yourself for predicting Green Book? Well dear reader, I cannot.

Jeremy’s Prediction: Roma
Jeremy’s Preference: BlacKkKlansman

Chris says: I’ve already unleashed too much pessimism over these last … uh, several thousand words … so I’m not going to pick Green Book. I’m not. Dammit, I’m not going to pick it. There’s that nagging voice utterly convinced that’s exactly what the Academy is going to do, and I am choosing to ignore that voice. Roma is going to win this thing. It has to, right? They’re not going to give Best Picture to fucking Green Book.

Three of the weakest Best Pic nominees in recent memory have made for a uniquely frustrating Oscar season, but at least I still really like four of the eight BP finalists - The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, Roma and Black Panther. And A Star is Born is pretty solid, too. We’ve already given the others more than enough attention.

Chris’ Prediction: Roma
Chris’ Preference: The Favourite (or BlacKkKlansman) (or Roma)
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