Here are my snap opinions on this years Oscar nominations. If you’re wondering, The 91st Academy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 and for US viewers will air live on ABC beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST /8:00 p.m. EST.
I hope to come back with a more detailed analysis for filling out your office ballots in the days before the ceremony.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
- Christian Bale in “Vice”
- Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born”
- Willem Dafoe in “At Eternity’s Gate”
- Rami Malek in “Bohemian Rhapsody”
- Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book”
I don’t know anything about Willem Dafoe’s performance, but it is never a shock to see his name. He’s a great actor and gives out a lot of positive energy on set, so I imagine he is well-liked within the Academy. Leaving that as a wild card, I think the big question here is whether the Oscar goes to Christian Bale for a full-body-plus-makeup transformation just one year after it went to Gary Oldman for a similar feat. I think Bale is just too good and too unrecognizable to ignore here, but maybe a contingent will be siphoned off by Rami Malek’s also-uncanny evocation of a real figure. No one seems to think Bradley Cooper or Viggo Mortensen have much of a shot, but if the tide is going for their movies that night, who knows.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
- Mahershala Ali in “Green Book”
- Adam Driver in “BlacKkKlansman”
- Sam Elliott in “A Star Is Born”
- Richard E. Grant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
- Sam Rockwell in “Vice”
Sam Elliott and Richard E. Grant would seem to be the old-timers who get bonus points for their body of work. The Academy also loves Mahershala Ali (who doesn’t?!). I think the favorite here is Richard E. Grant, provided the Academy actually watches Can You Ever Forgive Me? — a big if; it was a late-breaking film in this awards season.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
- Yalitza Aparicio in “Roma”
- Glenn Close in “The Wife”
- Olivia Colman in “The Favourite”
- Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born”
- Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Glenn Close seems to be peaking and Lady Gaga seems to have peaked. That said, there is a lot of love out there for Olivia Colman (including from me) and it would be great to see her recognized for her unforgettable Queen Anne in The Favourite.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
- Amy Adams in “Vice”
- Marina de Tavira in “Roma”
- Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk”
- Emma Stone in “The Favourite”
- Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite”
Really sad that Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz will probably cancel each other out, but not sad that this one will likely go to Regina King. She is a force! This is one of the categories I would bet on today.
Best animated feature film of the year
- “Incredibles 2” Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle
- “Isle of Dogs” Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson
- “Mirai” Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito
- “Ralph Breaks the Internet” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer
- “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
PIXAR usually wins this one, but my Spidey-senses are tingling this year. Spider-Man has been generating incredible buzz and praise for the bold animation style. Up against Disney and PIXAR sequels, a foreign film (which has a hard time getting votes from an Academy that has more friends among the domestic nominees) and Wes Anderson’s alienating and possibly culturally-insensitive Isle of Dogs, I think this web-shooter has a shot!
Achievement in cinematography
- “Cold War” Lukasz Zal
- “The Favourite” Robbie Ryan
- “Never Look Away” Caleb Deschanel
- “Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
- “A Star Is Born” Matthew Libatique
The one thing most people dislike about The Favourite was the pervasive use of fish-eye lenses. It was a strong directorial choice, but the Robbie Ryan will probably suffer for it. (The movie is actually beautifully lit.) Really, I think the only choice here is Alfonso Cuarón’s double-duty lensing on Roma. It is odd to vote for a director in the cinematography category, but the movie looks that good. Clearly, he learned a few things when working with triple-winner Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki.
Achievement in costume design
- “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Mary Zophres
- “Black Panther” Ruth Carter
- “The Favourite” Sandy Powell
- “Mary Poppins Returns” Sandy Powell
- “Mary Queen of Scots” Alexandra Byrne
I will be shocked if The Favourite doesn’t win here. Even up against herself with Mary Poppins, Sandy Powell’s work on The Favourite is just that good. Shout out to the other nominees, though, who also did outstanding work. Black Panther used costumes to not only create Wakonda, but the individual tribal identities within the society. Mary Zophres and Alexandra Byrne also did pitch-perfect period work with a certain gimlet eye.
Achievement in directing
- “BlacKkKlansman” Spike Lee
- “Cold War” Pawel Pawlikowski
- “The Favourite” Yorgos Lanthimos
- “Roma” Alfonso Cuarón
- “Vice” Adam McKay
Thank god Spike Lee finally has a nomination in this category. I really hope the Academy gives him a statue as well, but I’m not holding my breath. I think this category is Cuarón’s to lose. The amount of directorial skill on display in Roma is staggering. Also cool to see the Academy recognize Polish master Pawe? Pawlikowski. Of course most of the best directing in any given year is in films not in the English language, but rarely does this category reflect it!
Best documentary feature
- “Free Solo” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
- “Hale County This Morning, This Evening” RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
- “Minding the Gap” Bing Liu and Diane Quon
- “Of Fathers and Sons” Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
- “RBG” Betsy West and Julie Cohen
Two giant “snubs” here, as the documentary branch continues to make its own artistic choices. I applaud them, as long as they aren’t punishing the makers of Three Identical Strangers and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for making money. The other big box office doc this year was RGB (well, relatively). That and the chance to send a political message makes it the favorite. However, Free Solo has been coming on strong at the end of the year. It also happens to be one of the most wrenching viewing experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve heard great things about Minding the Gap and know nothing about the other two nominees. This is a category where a few taste-maker Academy members will watch all the nominees and you’ll start to see a buzz develop around the lesser-known nominees pretty late if they are surging.
Best documentary short subject
- “Black Sheep” Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn
- “End Game” Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
- “Lifeboat” Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser
- “A Night at The Garden” Marshall Curry
- “Period. End of Sentence.” Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton
Your guess is as good as mine.
Achievement in film editing
- “BlacKkKlansman” Barry Alexander Brown
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” John Ottman
- “The Favourite” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
- “Green Book” Patrick J. Don Vito
- “Vice” Hank Corwin
Wow. This is a real murderers row of editors who are absolutely at the top of their game. The Academy tends to vote for the flashier, cut-heavy movies in this category, which hurts Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody. (Those editors can console themselves with the fact that they shaped nominated performances.) Total guess here, but some of the editorial choices in The Favourite (rabbit dissolve! rabbit dissolve!) will be too edgy for Academy tastes, leaving Vice and BlacKkKlansman as the edgy-but-safe choices. It will probably go to Hank Corwin, who continues to explore with Adam McKay this stream-of-conscious, Kuleshovian non-sequitur style that was already brilliantly done in The Big Short. Very worthy, but for me a Spike Lee joint is incomplete without the editing of Barry Alexander Brown. BlacKkKlansman manages to collage all of cinema history — and tell a funny, suspenseful and poignant story. Basically every possible editorial and emotional cinematic mode is displayed and done to perfection. Having working in feature film editorial and also, at one point, interned for Spike Lee, I certainly have a bias here. But dammit, just give some hardware to BAB!
Best foreign language film of the year
- “Capernaum” Lebanon
- “Cold War” Poland
- “Never Look Away” Germany
- “Roma” Mexico
- “Shoplifters” Japan
Duh. Only one of these is nominated for Best Picture. The voters could and should throw a curveball and vote for another film here. But I doubt they will.
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
- “Border” Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer
- “Mary Queen of Scots” Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks
- “Vice” Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia DeHaney
When I saw Vice, I knew I had seen the winner for Best Makeup. Not to take away anything from the other nominees. Also, this category could easily support five options. Off the top of my head, the makeup in Black Panther, The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody would all be worthy. This is a category general home viewers can actually understand, and the Academy should consider giving in more oomph!
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
- “Black Panther” Ludwig Goransson
- “BlacKkKlansman” Terence Blanchard
- “If Beale Street Could Talk” Nicholas Britell
- “Isle of Dogs” Alexandre Desplat
- “Mary Poppins Returns” Marc Shaiman
I don’t have a strong read on this category. Mary Poppins seems like the music-based option here, but it is also based on music from the original film. I have heard some praise from musician types of Terrence Blanchard’s score for BlacKkKlansman, but I have no idea if any of that talk filters through to the Academy voters. Alexandre Desplat is probably the most recognizable name here — he’s won twice, including just last year.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
- “All The Stars” from “Black Panther”
Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth and Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe
- “I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
- “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman
- “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt
- “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
Music and Lyric by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch
“Shallow” — another safe early bet.
Best motion picture of the year
- “Black Panther” Kevin Feige, Producer
- “BlacKkKlansman” Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” Graham King, Producer
- “The Favourite” Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers
- “Green Book” Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers
- “Roma” Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers
- “A Star Is Born” Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers
- “Vice” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers
Remember this category has ranked voting, so one must think in reverse. The movies that get the least votes here are probably Vice, Green Book (assuming the Academy spurns Golden Globe opinions) and Bohemian Rhapsody. Where do those voters put their next top votes? Maybe A Star is Born? If I had to guess, it is between that and Roma. But who knows, maybe everyone decides Black Panther is their second-favorite movie? The Favourite and BlacKkKlansman, my two picks here, by the way, seem too divisive to win in a ranked ballot. But ya never know.
Achievement in production design
- “Black Panther” Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart
- “The Favourite” Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton
- “First Man” Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
- “Mary Poppins Returns” Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
- “Roma” Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez
Oh man, this is a tough one. If any movie screams Production Design Oscar it is The Favourite. However, think of all the cool Afro-future designs in Black Panther and all the specific and nostalgic work done in Roma. It’s really hard to say which way the Academy will swing here.
Best animated short film
- “Animal Behaviour” Alison Snowden and David Fine
- “Bao” Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb
- “Late Afternoon” Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco
- “One Small Step” Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas
- “Weekends” Trevor Jimenez
“Bao” is the PIXAR short here, and they usually win. It was a bit divisive among regular filmgoers, but I think the Academy will, um, eat it up.
Best live action short film
- “Detainment” Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon
- “Fauve” Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon
- “Marguerite” Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset
- “Mother” Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado
- “Skin” Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman
Your guess is as good as mine. I have not read about much less seen any of these.
Achievement in sound editing
- “Black Panther” Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone
- “First Man” Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
- “A Quiet Place” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
- “Roma” Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay
These are all very worthy nominees and all have a strong argument for why they should win. Roma and First Man will be harmed by all the people watching on their stereo mix DVD screeners. They could still win, but I think A Quiet Place and Bohemian Rhapsody jump out here. Both are movies where sound is central. Quiet Place isn’t nominated in mixing, but that may actually help concentrate its votes here.
Achievement in sound mixing
- “Black Panther” Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin
- “Bohemian Rhapsody” Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali
- “First Man” Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis
- “Roma” Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García
- “A Star Is Born” Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow
Again, all outstanding pieces of work. When I think of these films in terms of mixing, I think of how Rami Malek’s voice was blended with a Freddie Mercury sound-alike so well in Bohemian Rhapsody. That said, Black Panther has the action film bonus. The Academy likes to reward all the detailed mixing involved when a movie has boatloads of sound effects. The one they should really reward for that is Roma. Roma also has the advantage of having Skip Lievsay as part of the team. The man is a legend and has shockingly only won once before (Gravity) despite being the Meryl Streep of audio.
Achievement in visual effects
- “Avengers: Infinity War” Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick
- “Christopher Robin” Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould
- “First Man” Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm
- “Ready Player One” Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk
- “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy
Black Panther and Aquaman are being called snubs here, but both had loads of effects that were rushed, not due to any fault of the effects team. The same could be said for Solo and Infinity War, though, so I don’t blame them for feeling slighted. This category has been difficult to predict lately, sometimes going to the most obvious effects extravaganza, sometimes going to subtle story-based uses like Ex Machina. I personally haven’t seen First Man or Christopher Robin, but it seems like they could slot into the latter category. In terms of effects extravaganzas, Ready Player One seems like the most likely Academy choice, although personally I was not a fan of the avatar character designs. Still, it had that sequence where the characters enter The Shining which had everyone talking. No other effects were praised so much this year.
- “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
- “BlacKkKlansman” Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
- “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
- “If Beale Street Could Talk” Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins
- “A Star Is Born” Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters
Two of these are also nominated for Best Picture. This isn’t always a category that follows the Big Papa, but if it did, look for BlackKklansman with its delicious dialogue to take it over the more conventional A Star Is Born. If the voters decide to spread the love, I think Beale Street is in a good position.
- “The Favourite” Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
- “First Reformed” Written by Paul Schrader
- “Green Book” Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
- “Roma” Written by Alfonso Cuarón
- “Vice” Written by Adam McKay
My sense is that Nick Vallelonga and maybe Green Book entirely is toxic at this point, due to the tweets controversy. Roma and Vice don’t strike me as strongest in terms of their screenplay. That leaves The Favourite which has some acerbic and witty period dialogue and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, which was sadly shut out in other categories. I would give it to First Reformed but I think The Favourite will be the favorite… unless everything is coming up Roma.