21 Feb 19
The lead-up to the 91st Academy Awards, airing 7 p.m. Sunday on ABC, has been bumpy, to say the least.
There will be no host. Comic actor Kevin Hart was ready to assume the mantle, and then some old homophobic tweets materialized. No more Kevin Hart.
Actor Rob Lowe croons a tune to Snow White during the opening number for the 61st Academy Awards presentation in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/ Reed Saxon, File)
It’s not the first time the telecast has gone hostless. The infamous Rob Lowe-dancing-with-Snow White production number was included in the 1989 ceremony that had no host. So be warned: Anything can happen when no one is steering the ship.
The host dust-up wasn’t the only misstep. The introduction of a popular film category was jettisoned almost as quickly as it was announced; an uproar prompted the performances of all the best-song nominees, instead of just a handful, as was previously decided; and most recently, four awards — cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, and live-action short — set to be presented during commercial breaks, will be handed out during the actual telecast as usual, thanks to an outcry from industry types.
And, of course, the academy is cracking down on the length of speeches. The ceremony is notoriously long, and this year’s producers hope to keep it to three hours (good luck) by reportedly imposing a 90-second window for each speech, including the time it takes to get to the stage.
Audiences would be better served if the powers-that-be banned the endless lists of thank-yous. One of the reasons folks tune in is the hope that somebody will say something interesting — whether the speech is controversial, funny, cringeworthy or heartfelt. Everybody remembers Sally Field’s “You Like Me” speech from the 1985 telecast, when she won best actress for “Places in the Heart,” but my favorite speech was during the 1996 telecast.
When Kary Antholis accepted the Oscar for best documentary short for his “One Survivor Remembers,” the subject of his film, Gerda Weissmann Klein, accompanied him to the podium. He made his speech, the music came up, but Weissmann Klein stayed put and began talking about surviving a concentration camp during World War II: “Since the blessed day of my liberation, I have asked the question, ‘Why am I here? I am no better.’ In my mind’s eye, I see those years and days, and those who never lived to see the magic of a boring evening at home.”
It’s rare that the speeches are that compelling, but maybe this year’s 90-second window will inspire somebody to greatness. In the meantime, here are my predictions for this year’s Academy Awards.
Yalitza Aparicio in a scene from the film “Roma,” by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. (Netflix via AP)
The widely beloved “Roma,” about a woman and the family she takes care of in 1970s Mexico City, seems to be a lock, and with good reason. It’s a beautiful film (with the best car-driving-over-dog-poop scene ever) shot in black and white by the amazing Alfonso Cuaron, who won the Oscar for best director in 2014 for the Sandra Bullock-in-space-movie “Gravity.” “Green Book,” about a white man who chauffeurs a black musician on tour through the Deep South of the 1960s, and the Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” both popular at the Golden Globes, don’t seem to have the necessary heft. “The Favourite,” with its back-stabbing portrayal of Queen Anne’s court, does, as does the biographical “Vice,” about former vice president Dick Cheney, but both appear to be nonstarters. “A Star is Born,” the fourth remake of the iconic love story between a man whose star is waning and a woman whose star is rising, had momentum, but it has since slowed. I still hold out hope for “Black Panther,” the Marvel superhero flick with an almost entirely black cast, but if this category could be decided magically with just my vote, I would choose “BlacKkKlansman,” based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black man who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan. It is Spike Lee at his best and a movie for and of our time.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in “The Wife.” (Graeme Hunter Pictures)
Yalitza Aparicio as a domestic worker in Mexico in “Roma,” Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in “The Favourite,” Lady Gaga as the rising star in “A Star is Born,” and Melissa McCarthy as literary forger Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” are no small potatoes, but they ain’t Glenn Close. Close’s nomination for “The Wife” is her seventh. She has yet to win,and it’s time for fortune to smile on the 71-year-old actress. An Oscar would put right the losing streak in a career full of winning roles, but Close’s agonizing portrait of a woman who puts aside her own career ambitions in favor of her husband’s is deserving in its own right.
Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in “Vice.” (Matt Kennedy, Annapurna Pictures)
Four of the contenders — Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate,” Viggo Mortensen as chauffeur Tony Vallelonga in “Green Book” and Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” — play real people, with Bradley Cooper as the down-and-out singer Jackson Maine in “A Star is Born,” a role that almost feels ripped from real life because of its iconic status. All the nominees give strong performances, but Bale inhabits Dick Cheney in all the scary right ways. Plus he has the weight-gain advantage (Oscar catnip) — he packed on 40 pounds for the role. It’s possible Malek could upset the applecart. He, too, transcends mere imitation, and the troubled film (director Bryan Singer was fired toward the end of the shoot for alleged bad behavior) was a hit with audiences. Regardless, this will be Bale’s night.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” (Tatum Mangus/Annapurna Pictures via AP)
Amy Adams is becoming the Glenn Close of her generation — six nominations but no wins. Sadly, her Lynne Cheney in “Vice,” as scary right as Bale’s Dick Cheney, won’t change her run of bad luck. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, as warring cousins after Queen Anne’s heart and power in “The Favourite,” split the vote, and Marina de Tavira’s nomination is recognition enough for her role as a mother dealing with the breakup of her marriage in “Roma.” Regina King, as a mother trying to save her daughter’s boyfriend after he’s imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” has all the momentum — and I do mean all. The Oscar is hers to win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali in “Green Book.” (Universal Pictures via AP)
At one point, Richard E. Grant, as Lee Israel’s drinking buddy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” was the one to beat, but no longer. Adam Driver is solid as a white cop who helps infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in “BlacKkKlansman,” as is Sam Rockwell as President George W. Bush in “Vice.” It comes down to Mahershala Ali, as musician Dr. Don Shirley (really a lead role), in “Green Book,” and Sam Elliott, as the brother and caretaker of alcoholic singer Jackson Maine in “A Star is Born.” Ali will most likely take home the Oscar, but once again, if I had a magic vote, I would give it to Elliott — if only to hear that voice deliver an acceptance speech.
Director Alfonso Cuarón. (Getty Images: Andrew H. Walker)
Yorgos Lanthimos for “The Favourite,” Adam McKay for “Vice” and Pawel Pawlikowski for “Cold War” will have to live to fight another day because Alfonso Cuaron has this category sewn up. The “Roma” director has taken home all the other big awards — Golden Globe, Director’s Guild, Critics’ Choice, New York Film Critics’ — so there’s pretty much no stopping this juggernaut. If anyone could, Spike Lee, for “BlacKkKlansman,” would be the one. If my magic vote prevails … who knows?
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Will “Roma” take home the Oscar for best foreign language film, too? Although it’s never happened before, this is the year it could. That said, Oscar voters are notorious for splitting their votes to share Oscar love, so it’s possible Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” another lovingly made black-and-white film with a personal point of view (it’s based on the director’s parents), could take this category. Rounding out the nominees are “Shoplifters,” from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, a meditation on what constitutes a family; “Capernaum,” Nadine Labaki’s drama about a Lebanese boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world; and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “Never Look Away,” which looks at art and Germany’s Nazi past through the life of an artist loosely based on Gerhard Richter.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Disney-Pixar’s superhero family is back in “Incredibles 2.” MUST CREDIT: Disney-Pixar
Superheroes are duking it out for the win. “Incredibles 2,” about a family of superheroes, will be hard to beat considering this is a Pixar movie and Pixar generally owns this category, but “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which finds recently-bitten-by-a-radioactive-spider Miles contending with parallel universes with other Spider-People, has buzz. This could be Sony Pictures Animation’s year. Wes Anderson’s stop-motion “Isle of Dogs,” Mamoru Hosoda’s “Mirai” and Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” are the rest of the nominees.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
“Bao,” another Pixar film, will win. The short about a mother raising a Chinese dumpling that’s come to life is winning, sweetly weird and beautifully animated. “Animal Behavior,” from the husband-and-wife team of Alison Snowden and David Fine, who won an Oscar for their animated short “Bob’s Birthday” in 1994, Irish director Louise Bagnall’s “Late Afternoon,” Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas’ “One Small Step,” and Canadian-born filmmaker Trevor Jimenez’s “Weekends” are the other nominees.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Oscar-nominated live action short “Detainment,” directed by Vincent Lambe. (Courtesy of ShortsTV)
Of the nominees — “Detainment,” which looks at the notorious case of two British 10-year-olds who kidnapped from a mall and killed a 2-year-old; “Fauve,” a romp that turns tragic for two boys; “Marguerite,” a gentle film about an older woman facing her past; “Mother,” a tightly wound film in which a woman tries, over the phone, to help her son who can’t find his father while on vacation; and “Skin,” about American skinheads who face unexpected retribution — “Detainment” is the most compelling. It’s not without controversy (Irish director Vincent Lambe failed to inform the victim’s parents that he was making the film), which could keep it from going home with a trophy. It’s possible that voters will prefer something less difficult to watch and award “Marguerite,” but I’m sticking with “Detainment.”
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BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
The real question here is why “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” the documentary about PBS children’s TV show host Fred Rogers, wasn’t nominated. It was the feel-good hit of the summer and one of the top-grossing documentaries. At least the almost-as-popular portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “RBG,” made the cut. This is the one I’m rooting for. “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” which looks at life in the Alabama county, the skateboarding film “Minding the Gap” and “Of Fathers and Sons,” about the life of a radical Islamist family in Syria, round out the nominees.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
This is a tough category. All are equally deserving — and harrowing: “Black Sheep” is about a black family who moves from London to escape racism and ends up living in a town run by racists; “End Game” looks at medical practitioners innovating how terminal patients deal with the end of life; “Lifeboat” follows volunteers who rescue Libyan refugees from sinking craft in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea; “A Night at the Garden” documents, through archival footage, a Nazi rally held at Madison Square Garden in 1939; and “Period. End of Sentence” examines the stigma surrounding menstruation in India. A documentary short about sanitary pads? That’s got to be a first for the academy, and the one to beat.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Adam Driver, left, and John David Washington in “BlacKKKlansman.” (Focus Features)
Minnesota natives Joel and Ethan Coen have cleaned up in this category before, but I don’t see their “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” a collection of short films about cowboys, pioneers, gunfighters and such, taking the gold this year. Instead, voters likely will honor a movie that didn’t win elsewhere, which will provide an opportunity for “BlacKkKlansman.” Other nominees in this category are “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “A Star is Born.”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“Vice” is certainly original, with all sorts of storytelling flourishes such as Shakespearean dialogue, breaking the fourth wall and more, but “The Favourite” stands to win. Its success lies in words. In fact, a second viewing of the film is recommended to catch all the delicious quips and bon mots. “Roma,” “Green Book” and “First Reformed,” about a minister who faces a dark night of the soul after meeting an environmental activist, round out the category.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
This image released by Warner Bros. shows Bradley Cooper, left, and Lady Gaga in a scene from the latest reboot of the film, “A Star is Born.” (Neal Preston/Warner Bros. via AP)
“Shallows,” from “A Star is Born,” would have to take a gun and shoot somebody to lose this category — and even that probably wouldn’t stop it from winning. The song is everywhere, and it still gives me goosebumps. I do have a soft spot for “When a Cowboy Trades his Spurs for Wings,” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” but it doesn’t stand a chance, nor do the other nominees: “All the Stars,” from “Black Panther”; “I’ll Fight,” from “RBG”; and “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from “Mary Poppins Returns.”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
It’s possible that “Mary Poppins Returns” will win here, although there is much about the film, including its music, that is forgettable. I’m putting my money on “Black Panther” for its barrier-breaking use of music. “BlacKkKlanspman,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “Isle of Dogs” are the other nominees.
Another “Roma” lock, although the depth of “Cold War’s” black-and-white palette may possibly be more worthy. Alfonso Cuaron, who is the cinematographer, is going to be a busy man on Oscar night. Other nominees are “The Favourite,” “Never Look Away” and “A Star is Born.”
BEST FILM EDITING
Christian Bale and Amy Adams in “Vice.” (Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures via AP)
“BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favorite,” “Green Book” and “Vice” are the nominees. What, no “Roma”? Finally a chance for another film to shine. Here’s hoping it’s “Vice.” Of the things it does well, keeping the story comprehensible — there is much to digest — is one of them. “BlacKkKlansman” could sneak in a win, but “Vice” seems the logical choice.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Finally a category “Black Panther” is likely to win. Often period dramas, like “The Favourite,” which is also nominated, triumph here, but I’m betting on superheroes, if for no other reason than the mind-blowing conceptualization of Wakanda. “First Man,” about astronaut Neil Armstrong and the first walk on the moon; “Mary Poppins Returns,” the sequel to 1965’s “Mary Poppins”; and “Roma” are the other nominees.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Emily Blunt, left, and Millicent Simmonds in “A Quiet Place.” (Paramount Pictures)
It seems ironic to choose a movie that is all about silence, but “A Quiet Place,” a horror movie about aliens that hunt people by sound, is the one to beat. If you’re wondering why the team behind it are worthy, consider this: They hit on what the monsters sound like by using a stun gun on a grape. “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “First Man” and “Roma” are the other nominees in this category.
BEST SOUND MIXING
So what’s the difference between sound editing and sound mixing? Good question, and the Washington Post’s Sonia Rao has the perfect answer: “If sound editing is like composing music, designing a set or collecting materials for a house, … then sound mixing would be like conducting that music, filming on that set or actually building the house. Editing involves creating and gathering individual sounds; mixing is what happens to them afterward.”
Given that helpful definition, how do “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star is Born” stack up? “First Man” is my choice, despite “Roma” being in the mix, because of the movie’s extreme soundscape — from the silence of empty space to the sound of rockets blasting off.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Ryan Gosling in “First Man.” (Universal Pictures via AP)
This is the category that rewards the saying, “Go big, or go home,” and the nominees — “Avengers: Infinity War,” with Marvel superheroes taking on the world-conquering Thanos; “Christopher Robin,” about a grown-up version of the A.A. Milne character; “First Man”; Steven Spielberg-helmed virtual reality film “Ready Player One”; and the Han Solo stand-alone “Solo: A Star Wars Story” — do just that. Who will win? The biggest and loudest is “Avengers: Infinity War,” but “First Man” will be handed the Oscar. The movie looks like it was actually filmed on the moon.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Even with two period dramas — “The Favourite” and “Mary Queen of Scots” — as competition, “Black Panther” should take this category without breaking a sweat. The innovative costumes effectively combine modern sensibility and cultural identity in a comic book world. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” and “Mary Poppins Returns” are also nominated.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
[related_articles location=”right” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”]The Swedish film “Border,” about a customs official who can smell fear, is an interesting nomination, but it can’t compete with “Vice,” nor can “Mary Queen of Scots.” “Mary Queen of Scots” may have more intricate hairstyles, but Christian Bale looks just like Dick Cheney — and not at all like Christian Bale. It’s “Vice” for the win.
The report contains information from the Associated Press.