|Original caricature by Jeff York of the cast of BLACK PANTHER (copyright 2019)|
The Academy Awards will finally be given out this Sunday, February 24, after months of inept management by those at the AMPAS and ABC that would seem to suggest that those in charge of the Oscars don’t actually like the Oscars. How else do you explain the attempt to create a new award to hand out that was fashioned after the People’s Choice Awards to honor a most popular film? The thought of a non-merit Oscar diminished the Academy’s brand and they quickly pulled that god-awful idea after they were excoriated all over social media. Then there was the whole Kevin Hart fiasco concerning his past homophobic jokes that he didn’t seem too eager to distance himself from. Ultimately, that debacle discouraged others from accepting the hosting gig, and now the ceremony shall go without one.
Worst of all, just two weeks ago, the Academy made the awful decision to hand out four Oscars during commercial breaks. That brought upon a storm of protest, and the Academy caved. (They’re not only tin-eared but yellow-bellied.) Year in and year out, the AMPAS and ABC seem hell-bent on keeping the show to just three hours, but why? Length of time has little effect on the ratings. When TITANIC won a record 11 Oscars at the 1998 ceremony, the show was almost 4.5 hours long, and yet it got 55 million viewers. The reason Oscar viewership is down these days is mostly due to the glut of award shows on TV and the fact that it’s not must-see TV to catch the Academy Awards live. Not when clips are uploaded online minutes after they run on-air.
There are plenty of ways to trim the Oscar telecast – scrap the egregious clip packages, lengthy dance numbers, strained banter between the presenters, and the endless walks to the stage – but the simple fact is most of the audience that tunes in for the show don’t mind the lengthy running time. We want to see the winners pour their hearts out and give a speech not rushed by a jittery producer anxious to cue the band. Those genuine moments are what we tune in for, for God’s sake. Do you know that the egregious 15-second clock starts counting down the minute a victor’s feet hit the stage? It’s true. Sadly, ridiculously true. Again, are the people running the Oscars even fans of the Oscars?
Well, I, like many movie buffs, care about the show and giving every winner their whole time in the sun. It’s fun to see the stars, and with live television, anything can happen too, so what’s not to love? And please God, let Richard E. Grant win Best Supporting Actor because not only does the talented actor deserve the award for his performance in CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME, but he has been the stand-out delight all awards season long with his enthusiasm, cheeky humor and chronicling of it all on social media. He is tickled positively pink by it all. And we are by him. Hey, maybe Grant should be the Academy prez. Consider his name put into nomination by yours truly.
So, without any further ado, this film fan and critic is going to share his thoughts on each category and attempt to make informed predictions. I’ve included caricatures that I drew too, of all eight Best Picture nominees, to add some panache to all my pontificating. Enjoy!
Can a Netflix film win, even though the likes of Steven Spielberg keep complaining about streaming services ruining the collective movie experiences in theaters? Yes, I think it can. Thus, I predict ROMA will win the top prize and become the first foreign language film to do so. The nominations of its two unknown actresses by the actor’s wing, the largest voting bloc, is a harbinger of how popular the film whether it’s playing on the big or small screen. And its record 10 nominations this year show it has broad support across all disciplines.
Alfonso Cuaron, the multi-hyphenate behind ROMA, is probably as much a lock as any this year, but just as one predicts such a thing, along comes Spike Lee to steal. Lee should win outright for BLACKKKLANSMAN and being ignored by the Academy for DO THE RIGHT THING and MALCOLM X indicates the Academy owes him something. Still, I predict Cuaron will win his second directing Oscar in five years. (He won at the 2014 ceremony for GRAVITY.)
Rami Malek has the momentum after winning at both SAG and BAFTA, and BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a ginormous hit at the box office too. All that helps his already terrific performance prevail, not to mention the fact that he’s playing a beloved real-life figure in the late, great Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen. This award will honor both artists.
Glenn Close will win for THE WIFE due to her superb work and the fact that she’s been nominated seven times without a victory. Expect a standing ovation when she takes the stage to collect her long-overdue prize.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
As I wrote earlier, it should be Grant, but it will be Mahershala Ali. He’s terrific in GREEN BOOK, but his role is a lead, not supporting. The Academy does this sort of thing all the time and the larger role in the category usually takes it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Speaking of misplaced leads, what on God’s green earth are Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz doing in this category? Their co-leads in THE FAVOURITE, but they’ve both won before so they were placed here by the PR folks to give Oscar-less Olivia Colman a better shot at the top prize. My guess is Regina King will best them both here, because those two will split votes. Amy Adams could steal, but her part of Lynne Cheney all but disappears for the last hour of VICE. She’ll win sometime soon, but this year it’s King, an industry favorite, for the crucial scenes she had in IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK.
Cuaron should prevail for ROMA here too. He’s going to have quite a night.
VICE had to tell a lot in its narrative, covering decades, so my guess is it will prevail, but the editing in BLACKKLANSMAN and THE FAVOURITE was better. Dark comedy is dependent upon knowing just when to cut to keep the humor sharp, and that’s more of an accomplishment that keeping a story moving along.
BEST SOUND EDITING AND MIXING
I predict that BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY will take both sound awards for its blending of all that music on-stage and off, and the mixing of Malek’s voice with his lip-synching of Mercury.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Oscars tend to go for the literate when they can, and the tony quipping, and veddy British comedy on display in THE FAVOURITE favors it.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Here is where Spike Lee gets his due. He won an honorary Oscar in 2015, but this one is in the competition should taste twice as sweet. (BTW, the adaptation of BLACKKKLANSMAN is by Lee, along with co-screenwriters Charlie Wachtell, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. Bravo to all for this witty, searing, and memorable script.)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In any other year, Pawel Pawlikowski would be a lock for COLD WAR. But not in the year of ROMA.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Welcome to the Oscars, Marvel, and congrats on SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE winning in a very tough category.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
It should be BLACK PANTHER, but the Academy tends to love period pieces in the production design and costume design category. That gives the edge to THE FAVOURITE.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
A period piece almost always wins here, but this year the costumes for BLACK PANTHER were so gorgeous, bold, and crucial to the story, I think Ruth E. Carter squeaks by Sandy Powell.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
This category is so chock full of brilliance, the Academy couldn’t make room for WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR and THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS. The winner is often political, and in year two of Trump, that should favor the notorious RBG.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE. (Ahhh, I see what you did there.)
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
All of them are terrific this year, but the one that most have seen is BAO since it was the short attached to INCREDIBLES 2. Voters vote for what they’ve seen in the secondary categories.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
More politics in the age of a POTUS who defends racists as “some very fine people” should help SKIN win. The tale of a white supremacist who gets what’s coming to him, served up in a TWILIGHT ZONE-style version of justice, is catnip for the majority that veer left in Tinsel Town.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The tender and moving score for IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK helped make that movie the extraordinary love story it is, and I think composer Nicholas Britell created the year’s best score, so I’m probably biased here. Still, it’s an informed guess.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Last fall, Lady Gaga seemed to be the favorite to take the gold for Best Song and Actress, but now she will likely only be victorious for writing this terrific ballad. Sadly, I predict this will be the only Oscar for A STAR IS BORN. Too bad Bradley Cooper isn’t one of the songwriters of “Shallow,” but at least he shared the Grammy victory with Gaga for singing it. And he’s going to sing it onstage with her Oscar night. That will be something extraordinary.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
VICE will prevail for making Christian Bale utterly unrecognizable as the devil.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Will the Oscars award three Marvel movies in one night? I think so, considering that the Visual Effects Society gave AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR its top prize and that award has predicted the Visual Effects Oscar in six out of the last 10 years.
What Oscar victory will I be cheering for the loudest? Ethan Hawke’s Best Actor win for his career best in FIRST REFORMED…in a parallel universe. Despite winning over 30 critics prizes for the film, he was snubbed by the Golden Globes, SAG and Oscar. Shame on all of them.
Of those nominated, I am keeping my fingers crossed for Spike and Richard E. Grant. Who knows? Perhaps Bradley Cooper will score an upset in the Best Actor category. Crazier, unpredictable things happen all the time at the Oscars. There’s almost always one jaw-dropper so maybe that will be it. God knows it would make for the kind of moment that movie fans tune into the show to see. One of these days, the Academy leadership will understand that.