18 Feb 19
The Mercury News
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Oscar, you’re a hot mess.
From the mocked, thankfully scuttled proposal to create a Most Popular overall film category to a decision to go hostless once comedian Kevin Hart dropped out over past homophobic remarks, the 91st Academy Awards keeps playing ping-pong with controversy in what is one clumsy run-up to the big night Feb. 24.
Organizers hit another snag a mere two weeks before the ceremony, infuriating film lovers and insiders with a call to hand out certain awards — cinematography, editing, live shorts, makeup and hairstyling — during commercial breaks. Never mind that these nominees often transform an average film into a great one. Fortunately, the idea was eventually scrapped.
Even Pixar, that perennial Oscar darling, hits the red carpet looking a bit out of sorts this year with the upstart “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” likely to scurry off with the animated prize. (Don’t fret; the Emeryville-based company might well score a victory for best animated short for its delightful “Bao.”)
Given all the uncertainty and controversy going on, predicting who and what will take home a prize is a tricky endeavor. But it’s still fun. So here are my daredevil picks in the major categories.
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams, “Vice”; Marina de Tavira, “Roma”; Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Emma Stone, “The Favourite”; Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite.”
Who Will Win: Adams nailed Lynne Cheney, but don’t expect her to get called to the podium or invited for tea at the Cheney residence. De Tavira, whose animated wranglings with narrow garages and a disinterested spouse perked up “Roma,” but there’s not a whisper about her. Stone surprised all by pulling off feisty and cunning better than expected, but she’s already won and an Oscar (for “La La Land”) and she’ll divide votes with costar Weisz. Speaking of Weisz, she could sneak in, given she gave two incredible performances in the past year (the other was in “Disobedience”), but that’s not likely.
So King will reign supreme. Her confrontation scene in “Beale Street” with her son-in-law’s accuser is one of the most intense and complicated acting moments of 2018.
Who Should Win: King. No question.
Nominees: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”; Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”; Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”; Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; Sam Rockwell, “Vice.”
Who Will Win: As a detective infiltrating the KKK, Driver turned what could have been a rote role into one with greater depth. But low-key performances rarely get noticed in this category. Elliott literally offered up his voice to Cooper and the film was all the better for it. But he didn’t have enough screen time playing the brother who’s seen it all. Grant took the gay-sidekick role into something more authentic, but as exceptional as he was, it was a prickly role that some might not embrace. Rockwell gave us a standout down-home George W. impersonation, but he won last year, people! So expect the classy Ali to step up and collect his second best supporting actor prize. The “Moonlight” star and Oakland native never faltered in his portrayal of the conflicted, erudite and brave pianist Don Shirley.
Who Should Win: The reason “Green Book” works at all is the chemistry between Ali and Mortensen. Ali brought more finesse to the role and never once overplayed his more reserved and refined character. That scene when he’s performing passionately on the piano after enduring more racism on the road is acting perfection.
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Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”; Glenn Close, “The Wife”; Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”; Lady Gaga, “A Star is Born”; Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Who will win: This boils down to a showdown between novices and veterans. Aparicio inhabited the role of a domestic worker who’s on the outside looking in. But her naturalistic style isn’t showy. Oscar likes theatrics. Colman could have simply swept in and chewed up the gorgeous scenery, but she created a far more complex queen. But others in this race clocked more screen time. Gaga stole our hearts and souls but she’s an acting newbie in voters eyes. McCarthy gave her absolute all, but Oscar won’t forgive her for cranking out a lot of duds lately.
So, in a night of honoring some win-less veterans, Close finally gets her due for her elegant, classical work in “The Wife.”
Who should win: Gaga. She took ownership of every electrifying moment onscreen. She was vulnerable. She was tough. She made us feel the pain of loving someone in spiraling pain and steadfast self-hatred. It was one of the most raw, honest performances of the year.
Nominees: Christian Bale, “Vice”: Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born”; Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”; Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”; Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book.”
Who Will Win: The Academy drools over performances based on real folks, as evidenced by four of the five nominees here. Heck even the fifth – -Bradley Cooper — played someone based on a previous character. From this bunch, the one who uncanningly disappears and looks and acts like the one he’s portraying is Bale. His Cheney was en pointe in a scattered movie, but he’s won before. Dafoe painted a heartbreaking performance as the brilliant, tortured Vincent Van Gogh, but that stroke of genius will sadly go unrecognized; Cooper is the dark horse in the bunch; his “Star Is Born” might not be collecting many Oscars, but there’s a last-minute sentiment that he deserves something more for giving us such a passionate film. Mortensen proved to be his own worst enemy on a publicity tour; but he deserves that nomination. But none of that matters, as the award will go to Malek, who rocked the role of Queen’s Freddie Mercury. He’s unstoppable at this point.
Who Should Win: Dafoe. It’s an astonishing performance in a gorgeous, woefully underrated drama. His tormented face still haunts me.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”; Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”; Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”; Adam McKay, “Vice”; Paweł Pawlikowski, “Cold War.”
Who will win: Cuaron composed a masterwork, but he’s been here before. Lanthimos loosened-up the buttons on what could have been the usual stiff period piece but his cruel intentions might be too much for prim voters; McKay’s hyperactive direction made “Vice” a jittery jumble. Pawlikowski’s intimate romantic drama “Cold War” was an 88-minute pastiche of eloquence and heartache. It will receive the cold shoulder.
This is Lee’s year. The influential 61-year-old has never won an Oscar and while a trophy should have been in his hands for “Do The Right Thing,” his “BlacKkKlansman” is undeniably one of his strongest films ever.
Who should win: Lee. OK, the love story in “BlacKkKlansman” didn’t rung true, but that first and final sequences leave you staggered and speechless for days afterwards.
Nominees: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Green Book,” “Roma,” “A Star is Born,” “Vice.”
What will win: “BlacKkKlansman” hurled a fireball at U.S.’s incessant racism and possesses the passion to surprise. But it won’t. “Bohemian Rhapsody” bites the dust because it comes with WAY too much baggage. “The Favourite” was wicked and tart but it’s too damn edgy and has too many bunnies in it. “Green Book” would be coasting along in the driver’s seat — if we were riding in the early 2000s. “Roma” is rightfully an awards magnet — but it comes from Netflix, and voters remain wary of the streaming giant and how they see it adversely affecting theater chains nationwide. Politics will defeat it. “A Star is Born” hit very high notes, but some consider it “Shallow.” Then there’s the erratic “Vice,” which stands zero chance of winning.
So the Oscar will go to Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” a sensational, of-the-moment superhero movie that not only gave us powerful African pride and imagery but badass female characters too.
What should win: “Roma.” It’s a magnificent, monumental piece of art with top-tier acting, cinematography, directing and screenwriting. Yes, it’s slow-moving, but it also a film that flings open a window to the kind of people and stories rarely represented onscreen. It asks us to be compassionate of all around us, a universal message needed most urgently now.
Randy Myers is a freelance correspondent covering film and is the president of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.
THE 91st ACADEMY AWARDS
When: 5 p.m. Feb. 24
Where: ABC; live stream of red carpet begins 3:30 p.m. twiter.com/theacademy