Oscar Predictions 2019

The 2019 Oscars will showcase an industry in transition and turmoil. As the Academy’s desire for inclusivity broadens to include more minorities and international members, the show’s producers are promising fan-friendly changes that they hope will raise viewership numbers well above the 26.5 million viewers from last year, which was the lowest-rated telecast in Oscar history.  

How do you bring back an audience that, at least in part, tuned out because it was tired of political talk from celebrities? Producers promise to keep the show to a maximum of three hours, for one. There’s no official host this year, which should spare us silly gags like feeding the audience. It will certainly also help that Best Picture nominees “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” earned more than $200 million at the box office, and “Black Panther” reached $700 million.

As for the awards themselves, there are some locks of course, but there’s also often a surprise or two when the envelopes are opened, which makes it fun (if not infuriating for prognosticators). Below I’ll go through the “big six” categories and tell you who should win and who will win each.

Best Actress is Glenn Close’s to lose. This is her seventh career nomination, and she has never won. Her performance in “The Wife” may not be showy, but it is terrific, and given that she’s been doing great work her entire career, there’s no doubt this is her time. Lady Gaga is nominated for “A Star Is Born,” and she will go home with an Oscar, but hers will be for Original Song (“Shallow”), not acting. If Close is upset it will be Olivia Colman from “The Favourite” who does it. Colman won the BAFTA (British Oscar) for her performance as Queen Anne, and she is sublime as the childlike queen with way too much power. Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”) are honored just to be nominated. Will win: Close. Should win: Close.  

For Best Actor, all eyes are on Rami Malek for his turn as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s not always Malek’s singing voice (what we hear is a compilation of Malek, Mercury, and singer Marc Martel), but Malek did do a fabulous job of capturing Mercury’s mannerisms. It’s a remarkable, and bold performance. But then so is Christian Bale’s work as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” a character Bale said was inspired by Satan. It may be too politically polarizing to win, and Bale has won before (for “The Fighter”), but that doesn’t detract from how extraordinary he is here. Speaking of extraordinary, Viggo Mortensen is perfect as Tony “The Lip” Vallelonga, the racist meathead at the heart of “Green Book.” Mortensen’s handling of the character’s evolution is spot on at every turn, allowing us to like and root for this flawed man without a second thought. Also nominated are Bradley Cooper for “A Star Is Born” and Willem Dafoe for “At Eternity’s Gate.” Will win: Malek. Should win: Mortensen.

Speaking of “Green Book,” Mahershala Ali is the strong favorite to win Supporting Actor. He provides a nuanced, layered, and thoroughly impressive piece of acting, notably more stellar than his work in “Moonlight” two years ago, for which he also won the Supporting Actor Oscar. He’s competing against last year’s winner, Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”), for “Vice”; Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; the venerable Sam Elliott for “A Star Is Born”; and Adam Driver for “BlacKkKlansman.” Will win: Ali. Should win: Ali.

Supporting Actress is the toughest acting category to predict. The precursor awards have varied, so there’s no frontrunner. Oscar pundits like Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and to be sure she is wonderful as a mother fighting for the freedom of her daughter’s husband. King won the Golden Globe, but that’s it in terms of momentum. This is the sixth career nomination for Amy Adams, who plays Lynne Cheney in “Vice.” She’s good, but this isn’t a career-best performance. Two actresses from “The Favourite” are competing here as well: Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Conventional wisdom suggests they’ll cancel one another out, but Weisz recently winning the BAFTA may be enough to propel her to a win. Rounding out the category is Marina de Tavira from “Roma.” Will win: King. Should win: King.

“Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron, who won the Best Director Oscar for his last film, “Gravity,” has already won the Golden Globe, Director’s Guild (DGA) and BAFTA this year, so he’s a lock for Best Director again. “Roma” is a visionary masterpiece, full of symbolism and beautiful images that are easy to recognize for its craftsmanship. Curiously, this is the first time since 1987 that two Director nominees are from foreign language films: “Cold War” director Pawel Pawlikowski is also in this category. Relatedly, “The Favourite’s” Yorgos Lanthimos is Greek, and he made a splendid black comedy with great performances. If Cuaron is upset it’ll probably be Spike Lee, who is the sixth African-American to be nominated for Director; no African-American has ever won. This is Lee’s first career Director nomination; he is the favorite to win Adapted Screenplay. Adam McKay, who previously directed “The Big Short,” completes the category for his work on “Vice.” Will win: Cuaron. Should win: Lanthimos.

And finally, Best Picture. Critical favorite “Roma” is the logical choice, as it won the Director’s Guild and BAFTA, both foretellers of Oscar glory. But it’s also in black and white, Spanish, and slowly paced, so one wonders if voters (like many film lovers) will have the patience to sit through all 135 minutes of it. “The Favourite” tied “Roma” for the most overall nominations with 10, but is a love it-or-hate it type of movie, so it likely will not have the overall support needed to win. Similarly, “BlacKkKlansman” and “Vice” are too politically divisive. Both “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” excelled in their musical moments, but struggled during mundane dramatic scenes – neither feels complete enough to win. “Black Panther” is a social and cultural breakthrough; if there’s a surprise upset in this category, this could be it. Of the eight nominees, though, “Green Book” feels the most like a Best Picture Oscar winner: It’s a sentimental period piece with a great script and performances, racial themes, a touching story, etc. Unfortunately director Peter Farrelly isn’t nominated for Best Director; only four films in 90 years have won Picture without a Director nomination, so if “Green Book” truly is “Roma’s” biggest competition, it will have to overcome that historical precedent. I don’t think it will. Will win: “Roma.” Should win: “The Favourite.”

The 91st Academy Awards are Sunday night, February 24th on ABC at 8 p.m.

Complete list of predictions:

Picture: Roma
Actor: Malek
Actress: Close
Supp. Actor: Ali
Supp. Actress: King
Director: Cuaron
Animated: Spiderverse
Adapted Screenplay: Blackkklansman
Original Screenplay: First Reformed
Cinematography: Roma
Documentary: Free Solo
Foreign: Roma
Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Sound Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Production Design: Black Panther
Costume Design: The Favourite
Score: Black Panther
Song: A Star Is Born
Makeup/Hair: Vice
Visual Effects: Avengers
Animated short: Bao
Doc short: Black Sheep
Live Action short: Marguerite