Oscar favourites: 2019 picks and predictions

Alex Holmes

This February, we’ve had the Super Bowl (too many touchdowns to count), and the Grammys. Now, it’s time for my personal favorite TV event of the year (besides “Game of Thrones,” of course): the Oscars. The 91st Academy Awards take place Sunday, February 24th, at 8 p.m. There were plenty of snubs, surprises, and predictable nominees this year, but of what we’ve got, I’ve picked who I think will win the biggest awards, and who I think should win. It’s important to note the difference: ‘will win’ is my prediction, and ‘should win’ is my pick. Without further ado, here are my picks and predictions, in no particular order:


Best Supporting Actor


Will win: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”


Ali, already having won in this category during the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards essentially has this in the bag. One potential threat would be Sam Elliott for “A Star Is Born”, given that Ali won two years ago for “Moonlight”, and this is Elliott’s first nomination during a legendary career. The only other possibility is Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, as this is also his first Oscar nomination, and his performance has been praised as both comedic and heartstring-pulling.  Ultimately, though, this is Ali’s award to lose.

Should win: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”


While I would have preferred Timothee Chalamet’s heartfelt and authentic performance as a meth addict in “Beautiful Boy” had he not been so rudely snubbed by the Academy, Ali is certainly a worthy winner this year.  Portraying a real-life African-American pianist who was driven around the segregated south during a 1960’s concert tour by a white driver, he displays more range than ever before, delving deep into a character who doesn’t seem to fit into either world he’s associated with.


Best Supporting Actress


Will win: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”


Perhaps what is the most foreshadowing of King’s forthcoming Oscar win is the supporting actress winner at the Screen Actors Guild Awards this year. King was snubbed by SAG-AFTRA, and it was expected that any one of her top competitors and fellow Oscar-nominees would win: Amy Adams, Emma Stone, or Rachel Weisz. Alas, the winner was announced, and it was Emily Blunt for “A Quiet Place” who wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. What this most clearly reveals is that voters can’t decide on a winner without King in the mix, and her first Academy Award win is essentially locked at this point.


Should win: Emma Stone, “The Favourite”


While King turned in a finely tuned performance as the supportive mother in “Beale Street”, there were a few roles this year that stood out to me as containing greater emotional complexity and thespian range. The two that leap to mind are Emma Stone as a conniving scullery maid in “The Favourite” and Amy Adams as the manipulative wife in “Vice”. Stone demonstrated an impeccable talent for crafting a character that you at first root for and eventually hate, all while maintaining a raw and infectious sense of glee that makes her performance eminently enjoyable.


While most people, after watching “Vice”, come out of the theater raving about Christian Bale’s chameleonic work as Dick Cheney, I thought that Adams’ turn as Cheney’s wife, Lynne, was equally impressive. Playing another power-hungry character à la Stone’s in “The Favourite”, Adams completely disappears behind her wig and makeup and becomes a ruthless wife who threatens to leave her husband if he doesn’t get off his ass and do something to win more power. Recognizing that she, as a woman, could not obtain real power in American politics from the late ’80s to the early 2000s (although one could argue not much has changed), through cunning manipulation, she ensures that Dick takes power for her. Adams embodies the classic woman behind the man with a femme fatale-ish twist.


Unfortunately, since there can only be one winner, I would end up picking Stone, only because her character has more screen time than Adams’, and thus creates more of an emotional arc.


Best Lead Actress


Will win: Glenn Close, “The Wife”


This is her seventh Oscar nomination and she still has not won, so Academy voters may want to award Close the prize if for no other reason than her career’s work. She has also won the two biggest awards pre-Oscars, the Golden Globe for Lead Actress in a Drama, and the SAG for Lead Actress. Ever since her Globe upset win over Lady Gaga, she’s ridden a wave of support and swept every award since then, and there’s no inclination that the wave will stop before the Oscars. If anyone were to win besides Close, watch for Gaga, but at this point, she seems like a longshot.  


Should win: Glenn Close, “The Wife”


Why does Glenn Close deserve to win an Oscar this year? It’s not because she’s earned seven Academy Award nominations and not won once. And it’s not because “The Wife” is a timely, #MeToo-aligned movie about a man taking credit for a woman’s work. She deserves to win because her work in “The Wife” is stunning. I think of the scene when she lets out all of her rage on her unsuspecting husband, and blows him and her audience away with her voracity. I think of the opening scene of the movie when her husband learns he has won a Nobel Prize, and she is sitting on the other end of the line with a look of shock and understanding at the same time. I think most of all of the scene when she is fighting with her husband and they learn they have become grandparents. She switches from anger to joy instantly, in a moment of unimpeded emotion that triggers something incredibly powerful and almost primal within the heart of every one of her audience members. Gaga who?


Best Lead Actor


Will win: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”


Malek won the Globe and the SAG, and despite earning a negative critical reception, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and its star have made boatloads of money at the box office and charmed (or fooled, if you ask me) Oscar voters and the general public. Malek has received much praise this awards season (whether it’s deserved is another thing entirely). Even if people didn’t like the film, most people (not me), thought Malek was great. He seems like a pretty sure bet to win, but Christian Bale still has a shot.


Should win: Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”


This was a hard category to decide, having to choose between Christian Bale’s inhabited performance as Dick Cheney in “Vice”, and Cooper’s emotional yet arrogant (he directed himself, and there are plenty of close-ups of his reddish face) turn in “A Star Is Born”. I’d have to pick Cooper in the end. Those close-ups paid off, and the connection is real in “A Star Is Born”. He deepened his voice and grew out his beard to play a drunken rock star in the remake of a remake of a remake, and while not as impressive visually as Bale’s transformation, it resonates much more strongly, leaving you in tears by the end of the movie. Despite the potential for his character’s drunken stupor to turn cliché and idiotic, Cooper doesn’t strike a false note in a finely calibrated performance worthy of Best Actor.


Don’t even bring up Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” to me. The most grossly overrated performance of the year, in my opinion, he gets the strut down, but that’s about it in a performance that is overshadowed by prosthetic teeth and a terribly written character (Queen himself was great, but the movie fails to do him justice). Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book” was good, not great, and Willem Dafoe was exceptional in “At Eternity’s Gate” but didn’t compare to Bale or Cooper.


Best Director


Will win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”


Cuarón will win. Period. End of sentence.


Should win: Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”


Cuarón’s most personal film to date, based off his real-life experiences growing up in Mexico City in the 1970’s and his real-life nanny, “Roma” is directed pristinely. The immersive world of the film, meticulously recreated from his memories and sometimes shot on location is enough on its own to warrant a Best Director award. Combine that with a beautiful look, feel, and sound design that plants Mexico City squarely in your living room (it’s on Netflix, but it works even better in the theater).


Best Original Screenplay


Will win: “Green Book”


Despite numerous controversies, including an Islamophobic tweet by the head screenwriter, “Green Book” is still the favorite to win original screenplay. It won the Golden Globe for screenplay and the movie was selected as an AFI Movie of the Year. It probably won’t win Best Picture, so screenplay is its consolation prize.


Should win: “The Favourite”


While each screenplay does have its own merits, only two stand out as completely worthy of the honor. “Roma” deserves accolades in other categories, but its dialogue and plot are too sparse to be a contender. “Vice” does an admirable job, but its first half drags slightly, and it is ultimately too unfocused to win here. “Green Book” is the least deserving on the list, with cliché scenarios, typical story beats, and not enough memorable dialogue for a movie about two people talking (albeit on a road trip).


That leaves “The Favourite” and “First Reformed”. Both are highly original and peppered with entertaining and thought-provoking lines, from the seemingly mundane to the irresistibly frivolous. Since I can only choose one, I’d opt for Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s script for “The Favourite” because of its joyfully anachronistic machinations that shoot the rewatchability value of the film through the roof.  


Best Adapted Screenplay


Will win: “BlacKkKlansman”


Spike Lee’s latest work has finally gotten him the Oscar recognition he deserves – though perhaps not in the right categories. The film’s screenplay has earned numerous accolades, though no Globe nomination. Similar to “Green Book”, screenplay may be the ‘consolation’ prize for Lee’s film, as it isn’t likely to win in any other category.

Should win: “If Beale Street Could Talk”


While “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” gets points for sheer creativity and rambunctiously funny dialogue, this category should be a no-brainer. Adapted from the James Baldwin novel (need I say more?), “Beale Street” expertly captures the pains and joys of the Black experience in 1970’s Harlem. It doesn’t sugarcoat issues of race (ahem, “Green Book”), but it doesn’t paint a too depressingly bleak portrait of American society either. It walks the fine line between light and dark, with moments so beautiful they make you want to hug the film, and moments so existentially terrifying (the Brian Tyree Henry life in prison scene), that they make you want to look away and ignore. But in the end, and perhaps most important of all, the film tells us that we can’t look away. These issues exist and we have to address them, and the way it stands right now, a black man can go to jail for a crime he did not commit, and he can’t just call up the Attorney General as a Get Out of Jail Free card whenever he wants.


Oh, and don’t forget that practically every line in this movie is deeply poetic.


Best Picture


Will win: “Roma”


Can any movie besides Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece, “Roma” win the top prize? Short answer: no. Despite being a black and white, foreign language, Netflix film (all notoriously detrimental to a movie’s Oscar chances), Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” is still the critical darling of the year, with the highest Metacritic score of any 2019 movie. “Roma” has won almost every Best Picture-equivalent award it has been nominated for, including Best Foreign Language film at the Golden Globes, and Best Picture at the Critics Choice Awards (a historic predictor of the Oscars). “Roma” has been one of the front runners for the award since its premiere, and with the downfall of its two closest competitors, “Green Book” (bogged down by four controversies involving its director, screenwriter, and lead actor), and “A Star Is Born” (it’s just lost steam. A lot of steam), it is almost a lock for Best Picture. While there is potential for one of those other two, or maybe even “Black Panther” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”, it’s unlikely that anyone other than Cuarón will be hoisting that golden trophy on the 24th.


Should win: “Roma”


Cuarón’s sun-dappled spectacle of his own childhood memories dazzles throughout. From the gorgeous black and white to the fluid camerawork, “Roma” is a lush film. Cuaron focuses on Cleo, based on his real-life nanny, who serves a middle-class family in early 1970s Mexico City. The acting by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio in the lead role is deeply empathetic, and Marina de Tavira as the broken wife is superb. The story builds to an emotional climax unlike any I have seen this year. “Roma” is available on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to see this bold, beautiful masterpiece that deserves to be honored as the Best Picture of the year.