The Oscars (2019)

After an embattled few months beset with controversy, the Oscars have finally arrived. For reasons beyond understanding, I do enjoy the show. Partly because I like movies, but mostly because it’s fun to dunk on the Oscars. This sort of thing isn’t unique to the Oscars, but this year seems especially ripe. This is partly due to the standard snubs and occasional recognition of poor art or the strange injection of political bickering into the arena (by which I mean internal Hollywood politics rather than national politics, though those have increasingly reared their ugly head as well), but there’ve also been some rather baffling decisions. The show is going without a host, which most seem to regard as a disaster (and to be fair, the only other time the show went without a host did not go well), but which could turn out fine. Aside from the opening monologue (possibly including an interminable musical number during which I am usually forced to crack open my first alcoholic beverage of the night) and maybe one or two extraneous and usually useless bits later in the show, they don’t really do all that much. Then the Academy decided not to air a few key awards (Cinematography and Editing), but at least they reversed that decision when everyone pointed out how stupid that was. There’s been some tussle about how many musical performances (a longtime bugaboo of mine, but I’m a weirdo) that I’m not sure I even want to look into. There’s been all sorts of other controversy about the ceremony, the nominees, and so on, but it’s gone on for so long that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The funny thing is that so much of this is based on bland speculation that isn’t really backed by much. Remember when everyone was super certain that La La Land was going to win, then they had that insane snafu onstage? There was, like, a momentary acknowledgement that the Oscars did something right, then everyone started complaining again.

In a recent interview with Steven Soderbergh, he mentioned the real reason we should all be excited by the Oscars:

The show itself is clunky and weird sometimes. But the work that the academy does, in terms of archiving alone, I don’t care what kind of show they’ve gotta put on to make the money to pay for that stuff. The academy library is one of the most amazing resources in the United States. As a filmmaker, understanding what they’re doing for cinema culture, I’m very sympathetic to their problem, and part of me doesn’t get that worked up about it because I’m like, Look, they’ve gotta put on this show. It pays for all this great stuff. All of my stuff, all the prints, negatives, it’s all there, for nothing. I used to have that shit in a climate-controlled vault in Hollywood. It wasn’t cheap.

I have to admit that I didn’t realize this, and it honestly completely turns my opinion on the ceremony. Yeah it’s an overlong, narcissistic ceremony where self-satisfied Hollywood elites hand themselves awards, but apparently it all goes to pay for some important stuff, and as Soderbergh notes, the archival services alone are probably worth it.

In general, my approach this year will be the same as ever: I will drink some beers and snark it up on Twitter (@mciocco if you’re somehow reading this and don’t already follow me there), or more accurately, I will be retweeting people who are funnier than I am. Back in day, we used to use our stone knives and bearskins to do this thing called liveblogging, but social media makes it all easier these days. I’ll put the predictions below, of course, but any further updates will be on Twitter. If, for some ungodly reason, you want to read a decade plus’ worth of previous predictions and commentary on the Oscars, check them out here: [2017] | [2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004]

  • Best Picture: Roma. This category is way more open than you’d expect. The big argument against Roma winning is that Hollywood is terrified of Netflix and won’t want to legitimate anything associated with them. But the academy loves their black-and-white arthouse auteurs, and Roma does have some momentum from other awards season wins. Green Book is the sort of bland that critics hate, but which the academy might love, and it’s proven pretty resilient to all the criticism hurled its way (including criticism of some dumb comments made by Viggo Mortensen in an interview). It’s also garnered some awards season wins, making it a solid contender. Similarly, Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have weathered the controversy surrounding its director (and the blandening of some story elements), but people love Queen and Freddie Mercury and apparently the musician bio-pic isn’t played out to some people (it’s one of my least favorite sub-genres to start with, but it’s been a popular Oscar sub-genre, so…) I’m betting it won’t win here because it’ll get love in the Best Actor category. A Star Is Born was an early contender, but seems to have flagged considerably during awards season. I kinda considered it as the sorta “safe” choice: no real controversy surrounding it, it doesn’t reward Netflix, it’s got an actor turned director (something the Academy tends to love), and oh yeah, the story itself is a remake of movies the Oscars have recognized on multiple occasions before (though I don’t think it’s won best picture). Alas, the aforementioned nominees seem to be weathering their respective storms remarkably well, so A Star is Born will have to settle for recognition elsewhere (which I think there’s a fair chance it will get). I don’t think any of the other nominees have a particularly good chance. It’s possible that the academy will want to recognize Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman (thus righting the wrong of Driving Miss Daisy beating Do the Right Thing way back when), but I’m doubting that (and ironically there’s a pretty good chance that Green Book will win, thus forcing Lee to relive the loss). Vice seems far too divisive to actually win. The Favourite is too odd to really win this and should just be glad to be nominated. And there’s no way the academy will ever actually recognize a super hero movie here, not even Black Panther (it’s pretty remarkable that it’s made it here in the first place). It’s a weird category this year, and the whole “preferential ballot” voting thing could cause some quirks, so who knows. Of note: I’ve only seen half the nominees, which is a pretty poor showing for me (update, so I saw one more, making it 5 out of 8).
  • Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma. Thanks to the whole preferential ballot voting in Best Picture, it’s no longer a guarantee that the best picture also has the best director. That being said, it could happen this year. And if it doesn’t, it’ll probably be because Roma doesn’t win best picture. Cuarón has been doing well during awards season and has momentum. However, it’s quite possible that Spike Lee will take it (perhaps more as an apology for the aforementioned loss way back when, or perhaps as a silver lining when Green Book wins best picture?) The other nominees are of the “just be glad you got nominated” sort. This category is much less open…
  • Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite. Strong contender in Glenn Close, mostly because it’s a sorta lifetime achievement award for her and she’s got some momentum with wins in awards season, but so does Colman, so there’s that too. I’m doubting any of the other nominees could stand up to those two though.
  • Best Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody. He’s been on a tear during awards season, and again, the film has weathered its controversies well. Also of note, this award has gone to an actor starring in a biopic for 11 of the last 16 years. That’s pretty friggin nuts. I suppose it could go to Christian Bale for Vice, but that movie, again, feels to divisive to win a major award like this one. Potential dark horse with Bradley Cooper, who may win because he was kinda/sorta snubbed for best director. That still feels unlikely though. Willem Dafoe might take a sorta lifetime achievement award here, I guess, but I’m doubting it (though I guess it’s a biopic, so there’s that). And Viggo Mortensen seems out of the running.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk. She’s done well in awards season, and Beale Street didn’t get much other love, so this seems to work. However, Rachel Weisz could very well take it, and she won at least one of other other awards, so she’s got that going for her. However, her costar Emma Stone is also nominated and might only serve to split the vote, so I’m going to stick with King…
  • Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book. He’s got a lot of momentum and has apparently been very charismatic during awards season. On the other hand, he’s won this before, and Richard E. Grant has had some buzz around him as well. Still, I think Ali will take it (if we assume Green Book won’t win best picture, this could be an acceptable way to recognize that movie without pissing people off). At some point, there was buzz around Sam Elliott, but I’m guessing that never materialized…
  • Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite. It’s quite possible that Green Book will win this one too, but I seem to be betting against that movie so I might as well stick with it. Also possible that the academy will go with Paul Schrader for First Reformed, though that’s a bit of a dark horse. There hasn’t been much consistency with this category during awards season, so this is pretty open.
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman. I’m guessing Spike Lee won’t win Director or Picture, but this could be the place where the academy gets him an easy win. The movie has won a bunch of other awards, but not the WGA award, so it’s possible for Can You Ever Forgive Me? or A Star is Born to sneak in here. The latter might even be a good bet, as again, this category is often seen as a consolation prize.
  • Best Film Editing: Vice. I haven’t seen this, but the Academy tends to go with the most visibly edited movies, and I hear this one is exactly that. Bohemian Rhapsody could take it, despite not being particularly accomplished in Editing (that one scene when they first meet the producer or whatever is ruff), because the film had a troubled production in which director and accused rapist Bryan Singer was fired from the film, and most people credit editor John Ottman with salvaging the footage and wrangling it into something coherent (that people love). But who even knows anymore? I could totally bomb this entire ballot.
  • Best Cinematography: Roma. Hard to bet against the popular arthouse black-and-white flick, though I suppose Cold War could also take it here, though it seems like the lesser choice.
  • Best Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War. Duh. I mean, I suppose First Man has an off chance here, but the whole point of that movie was that you focused on inside the capsule, rather than the grand shots of rockets and whatnot. Yeah, there’s that one shot (you know the one), but it doesn’t feel like enough for this award.
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
  • Best Costume Design: The Favourite
  • Best Production Design: The Favourite
  • Best Original Score: BlacKkKlansman
  • Best Song: Shallow, A Star Is Born
  • Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Best Documentary: RBG
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Roma

I’m the least confident of these choices as I’ve ever been. It seems like anything could happen, and yet, even those surprises don’t feel like they’ll be very exciting. We shall see soon enough, I guess…

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