Oscars roundtable: 4 pundits answer what will win Best Picture and more

William Ackerman: 

As the Golden Globes are rapidly approaching and the guild awards have begun, Oscar nominations are right around the corner. While there is a front runner this year, it is still early enough that things could significantly change come Oscar night.

That aforementioned front runner is the blockbuster musical A Star is Born, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. The third remake of the 1930’s classic has been enchanting audiences since its early October bow, and is not only the front runner for Best Picture, but for Best Actress as well. The film is also considered a major contender for Best Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score and Song. Musicals have struggled to gain awards traction in recent years, with high profile successes like The Greatest Showman, Into the Woods and Les Miserables largely failing to win many major awards. 2016’s La La Land was widely expected to end the musical’s losing streak until the Academy decided to award the African American starring Moonlight in a reaction to the previous year’s #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Having awarded Moonlight and last year’s directed by a Mexican The Shape of Water, A Star is Born will have to hope its lack of minority demographic appeal does not hurt its awards chances. Helping A Star is Born is the relative lack of major breakout limited or independent releases. Having received the expected Golden Globe and SAG nominations, the film will have to hope that its competition don’t overcome their challenges

Hoping to challenge A Star is Born’s dominance over the awards field is the Alfonso Cuaron directed Netflix feature, Roma. Cuaron is an Academy favorite, having won Best Director previously for the 2013 blockbuster, Gravity. While a film like Roma may be more typical Academy bread and butter these days than a mainstream appeal film like A Star is Born, it faces several major hurdles. Netflix original films have struggled to gain awards traction ever since they released their first awards bait film, Beasts of No Nation a few years ago. It is widely believed that the academy does not respect films that are not first and foremost released to theaters. Roma was also shut out of the Best Picture Drama category at the globes, in a year where the mixed reviewed but audience favorite Bohemian Rhapsody got in. The Screen Actors Guild awards shut out the film altogether. The film does not seem to be gelling so far is categories other than that for best foreign film.

Few other films are expected to seriously challenge A Star is Born for Best Picture. Indies like Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk and The Favourite simply don’t have the buzz to overtake it. The likely audience favorite going into the night will be Black Panther. The Marvel epic hopes to careen its massive cultural significance to the African American community, its immense box office success and strong reviews into Oscar gold. However, as no other superhero film has even been nominated for Best Picture, it is hard to see the film taking home the prize. But of course, its possible. If the Academy decides to award an African American focused film, they have the more Oscar friendly choices of If Beale Street Could Talk and BlacKkKlansman as voting options.

Other contenders for a nomination based on performance at the Globes and SAG nominations include Bohemian Rhapsody, the mixed reviewed Freddie Mercury biopic which still managed a Best Picture Globe nomination and a SAG ensemble nomination, Mary Poppins Returns, which has the very Disney feel Academy voters may view as disposable, and Vice, the well acted but mixed reviewed Dick Cheney bio pic from The Big Short director, Adam McKay.

Final predictions

The Nominees
Bohemian Rhapsody
Black Panther
The Favourite
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born

The Winner A Star is Born
Runner up Roma

Drew Renner:

Best Picture: Black Panther. Why? For many reasons beyond the obvious “to prove they’re not racist” that took Moonlight to the promised land. Yes, Black Panther empowers Africans like no other movie has, showing how a black nation could have developed without the interference of the European colonists. It also empowers women though, they are literally the strongest warriors in the country and get an equal say in government. While all that helped Black Panther become a cultural sensation, a very strong 88 on metacritic shows that the movie deserved praise for its other merits as well. This would be a lock if not for the fact that it is an action movie, one deemed not important enough by the academy’s elitist preferences. This could actually work in its favor though, as the voters will view it as not only awarding Black Panther for its own achievements, but Marvel for the last ten glorious years. They can make fun of their sophistication anyday, but people like the actors know Marvel makes the world a better place for them. Any one of them can now do a paycheck movie that will not embarrass them on the future, it might even be one of their most celebrated roles. And, in all honesty, Marvel is the one that is bringing people to the theaters and if not for them all these other award contenders would be Netflix exclusives.

Surprise nominations: The most surprising nominations will be from earlier in the year. Aside from Star and The Favorite, critics and consumers have apathetically shrugged at this Fall’s crop of Oscar Bait films. The voters normally have very short memories, and a movie like Eighth Grade released all the way back in July would be forgotten by now. But in 2019 I think it gets in. Ethan Hawke’s First Reformed is another than could benefit, but I’m not sure enough people will have seen it. Audience favorites like Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians could also sneak in due to the lack of competition.

Director: Bradley Cooper will win. The biggest competition comes from Spike Lee, a legendary but only sometimes beloved man who has never even been nominated before. While the academy could give him the Scorsese treatment, basically gifting him a Lifetime Achievement in the form of best director, I think Spike’s character is more in line with actors like Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke and Eddie Murphy. These would have been feel-good moments but they just couldn’t resist snubbing them on the biggest stage. Cooper also got potential Best Acting winning performances out of himself and Lady Gaga of all people. He may be a rookie but has clearly learned a ton from working with the best and brightest.

Best Actor: Rami Malek. Cooper is another good choice here but I doubt he will win actor and director. Rami is a much flashier choice that will also earn points with progressives. And his performance, by itself, could take a mediocrely reviewed movie to a best picture nomination.

Best Actress: Lady Gaga. Easy win despite it being her first big role. Voters will relate and remember their own “Shallow” moments which they grasped their destinies and became stars.

Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali. He won not too long ago, but it’s just supporting. Voters will also likely be watching True Detective while making their choices, so Ali will be in the front of everyone’s minds.

Supporting Actress: Regina King. Beale Street hasn’t been making a very big impact overall, but everyone is talking about King. Olivia Coleman could be a spoiler here but I think it is too late to switch her from the leading category.

Biggest Snub: Everything First Man. They might even announce it for a nomination and then rescind it.

Who will host the Oscars? Ron Howard.

Julien Rodger:

I look for A Star Is Born to be more popular with the acting block than it was with critics and to triumph. The only thing The Shape of Water and Moonlight had in common was being emotional films and the voters have been affected by A Star Is Born’s ending. Roma also ends in an emotional place and I can’t underestimate how much the Academy likes the “3 amigos” Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Innaritu. However giving Netflix Best Picture feels early. Its award can be Best Director as Cuaron owns every shot. Black Panther is the sleeper with the Academy going all in on a landmark film for black audiences and rewarding Marvel.

Playing real life historical figures has always been a great way to win an Oscar, so I’ll take Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody to upset Bradley Cooper in Best Actor. Lady Gaga can be A Star Is Born’s acting win. As Drew alluded to, like Emma Stone in La La Land actors could relate to their own rise to fame in her character. Olivia Colman has an acclaimed, big performance, so she could spoil. In Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali wins his 2nd Oscar over Richard E. Grant after Can You Ever Forgive Me? proves to be too small to win a major award. In Supporting Actress Amy Adams finally wins her Oscar over Regina King and the two The Favourite nominees Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. I look for Stone to be a sleeper as like Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained there’s been a chain of thought that if she hadn’t won already for La La Land she would have been the favorite, and in the end they may just give it to her. If Ali loses it’s more likely King wins to guarantee a black winner in a major category.

For surprise nominees I have A Quiet Place appealing to the same voters who put in Get Out Last year. Paul Schrader could be nominated in Best Director for First Reformed while his film misses Best Picture as the film looks too bleak for the latter category, but could gain the attention of the directors similar to Bennett Miller’s nomination for Foxcatcher. For snubs a part of me believes Bradley Cooper is in danger to miss a nomination for Best Director despite A Star Is Born being a frontrunner with the directors deciding he hasn’t earned his place quite yet for directing a remake. Another snub could be Glenn Close in The Wife, once thought as a potential winning performance the voters deciding they just don’t like the film enough.

Gerry Nassar:

For Best Picture the once front runner A Star is Born appears to be running out of steam. A dozen nominations, a Best Actress win for Gaga and Adapted Screenplay win for Cooper will be enough of a reward for Cooper’s directing debut. Roma is the critical darling but the Netflix stigma will prevent it winning Best Picture. That leaves two films released earlier in the year making their way up the leader board – Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman.  While the Academy would love to hand over as many Oscars as possible to Panther, I don’t think they will award it BP. It is still a Marvel film after all and regardless of what the media and critics would like us to believe – not the best one. Not even the best one of 2018! That leaves BlacKkKlansman with a greater than expected shot at taking top honours – only if Spike Lee doesn’t win Best Director. The film has Spike Lee on form, is topical and was a box office success. Its biggest competitor may actually end up being Green Book.  It has all the hallmarks of a ‘safe’ Best Picture winner and is liked by audiences and critics alike. This Oscar season is one of the most wide open in years as no clear front runner has emerged.  With the Golden Globes a day away and the PGA, DGA and SAG awards yet to be awarded, this is my favourite time to make predictions because at this stage none of the front runners are locked in.   

While Roma isn’t likely to win BP, Cuaron is favourite to take home his second directing Oscar. Spike Lee is his closest competitor and could sneak in for being “long overdue.” As strong as Cooper’s directing was in A Star is Born, the Academy isn’t likely to grant him an Oscar for his debut film.

Lady Gaga is close to a lock for Best Actress.  Bale’s tour de force as Dick Cheney in Vice should be enough to earn him his second Oscar regardless of the mixed response to the film itself. The only thorn in his side may be Rami Malek whose performance also dominates a film with a less than stellar critical response. Though unlike Vice, the film is beloved by the general audience.  Finally, the Best Supporting Oscars look to be going the way of Mahershala Ali and Amy Adams for Vice. Regina King could upset here. The Favourite’s Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz will cancel each other out.

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