Thursday, February 21, 2019

Fearless Oscar predictions 2019

Well, I can at least guarantee you that none of these predictions will be played during the commercial break.

I'm not sure whats up at the ol' Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences lately. They've grown rather flip-floppy. A while back they announced they would add another category for best popular film -- a brazen attempt to curry mainstream favor by giving out nominations to blockbuster hits. Quickly dubbed the "Black Panther Award," it was wisely withdrawn.

Then Kevin Hart was tapped as host, then he wasn't, then maybe he was again, and now there will be no host at all.

Finally, barely more than a week out from the festivities, the Academy said they planned to give out four awards during the commercial breaks -- including cinematography. Ludicrous. Outside of the director and screenwriter, the director of photography is (not really) arguably the most important member of the creative team.

Again, wiser heads prevailed... begging the question of where they were to begin with.

So here are my annual picks and predictions for the Oscars. As always, I provide my prediction of who will win, and my pick of who I think should win. And, in a tradition I think is unrivaled for pure chutzpah, I cross out the names of some nominees who I deem undeserving and replace them with better candidates -- the dreaded (and desperately in need of a © mark) "Chris Cross."

Best Picture

The Nominees: 
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“A Star Is Born”

The Chatter: I'm sad to say this year has become a "Roma" train, and nothing's going to slow it down. Three top rivals -- "A Star Is Born," "Green Book" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" -- have all faced backlash campaigns.

For "Star," I think there's an anti-Lady Gaga resentment out there. Hollywood likes for stars to stay in their lane. Don't try to be the biggest singer in the world and a movie star, too, goes the thinking.

"Rhapsody" exaggerated the extent to which the members of Queen were estranged from each other and moved up the year when Freddie Mercury found out he had AIDS. Pretty standard historical fudging, by Hollywood standards.

The criticism of "Green Book" is less coherent. First it was a "magical Negro movie," then it was a "white savior movie," then director Peter Farrelly got #MeToo'd for showing his wang on the sets of his gross-out comedies in the '90s, then co-star Viggo Mortensen said the n-word during the press tour, then the co-screenwriter (the real-life son of Viggo's character) retweeted something he wasn't supposed to, then Don Shirley's family resented the movie's implication they weren't very close. (Hint: Shirley said so himself.)

It was my favorite movie of the year, and I'm confused and vexed by the attacks on it. The film is like an actual screen -- people are projecting their own biases and distortions on it instead of judging the movie for what it is. It's the ultimate irony for a story all about individuals growing beyond their own bubble.

My thoughts on "Roma" are known -- it's the sort of movie critics and other filmmakers love and audiences have to endure. The first hour is pure death, and the character of the maid never gets any kind of interior.

Still, if there's a stalking horse, it's "Green Book." The film's treatment has been so unfair, there's a bit of a backlash building against the backlash. Plus industry people are a bit worried about giving their top prize to a streaming service movie that got a barely-there theatrical run.

"Vice" is an unabashed hatchet job that tries to steal the M.O. of "The Big Short" but forgets to be funny. "Black Panther" is, at best, the third-best superhero movie of 2018. “BlacKkKlansman” is Spike Lee's best movie in a decade but doesn't deserve a spot alongside "Malcolm X" and "Do the Right Thing." Lots of better choices out there.

Prediction: "Roma"

Pick: "Green Book"

Chris Cross: I'll replace "Vice," "BlacKkKlansman," "Roma" and "Black Panther" with "The Hate U Give," "Avengers: Infinity War," "The Wife" and "Cold War."

Best Actress

The 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?”

The Chatter: I'm glad to say Glenn Close has this thing locked up, as she should. The Best Actress award has historically favored young ingenues, whereas Best Actor has a tradition of "it's his time." This year Hollywood is aching to give glory to an actress who's been very good for a very long time, nominated for six Oscars prior without winning.

Plus, she's simply the best. "The Wife" is a masterful performance, one mask inside another.

Lady Gaga was solid, deserves the nomination but not the award. It's hard to believe the most famous person in the world as a nobody, and she convinced me. Melissa McCarthy was terrific in a career-changing turn few people actually saw.

I'm embarrassed by the inclusion of Olivia Colman and Yalitza Aparicio. The former, because it's clearly a supporting performance and this rampant category-hopping has got to stop somewhere. The latter, because she's a non-actress and it shows.

Prediction: Glenn Close

Pick: Glenn Close

Chris Cross: I'll replace Yalitza Aparicio and Olivia Colman with Rachel Weisz -- from "Disobedience," not "The Favourite" -- and Nicole Kidman from "Destroyer."

Best Actor

The Nominees: 
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

The Chatter: This one appears to be Christian Bale's to lose, and I'm fine with that despite my overall distaste for "Vice." It's such a mesmerizing transformation that after a few minutes you don't even question that it's Dick Cheney. The look, the speech, the mannerisms -- spot on.

Plus, Hollywood loves nothing more than to demonize a Republican.

Personally I'll take Bradley Cooper. I thought he gave a very subtle, heartfelt performance as a man who everyone thought had it all, but felt empty and lost inside. A close third would be Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury -- someone I would've called inimitable until Malek did it. He's been courting aggressively on the awards circuit, so he could sneak in with a win.

Mortensen was great, though Mahershala Ali was a co-equal lead -- I think relegating him to the supporting category is part of the grievance against "Green Book." I was glad to see Willem Dafoe sneak in for the tiny, lovely "At Eternity's Gate."

Hard to knock anyone out of a very deserving field, though I would've liked to see Ethan Hawke recognized for "First Reformed." He's in the midst of the richest part of his acting career, though in smaller films few people see.

Prediction: Christian Bale

Pick: Bradley Cooper

Chris Cross: I'll replace Dafoe with Hawke. I'd also like to see Jason Clarke from "Chappaquiddick," but I can't find a spot for him.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees: 
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

The Chatter: The ridiculousness of having Emma Stone, the main character in "The Favourite," in this category is galling. You could make an argument that Weisz is a supporting performance -- I'd swing against it, but it's a reasonable position. But calling Stone's character anything other than the protagonist is a strike against credulity.

But it's become a favored tactic, campaigning for the lower category for a better shot at winning, and one that's worked. See: Viola Davis in "Fences."

Regina King will win, and deserves to. She's the best thing about "If Beale Street Could Talk," a gorgeous film whose two main characters don't really connect with the audience.

Prediction: Regina King

Pick: Regina King

Chris Cross: I'll replace Amy Adams and Marina de Tavira with Nicole Kidman from "Boy Erased" and Olivia Colman, putting her where she belongs.

Best Supporting Actor

The 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”

The Chatter: Historically this has been one of the most competitive categories, but the field is a little thin this year. Mahershala Ali has nearly run the table on the preliminary awards and seems slated for another win. I still think it's a leading performance, but he was put here because the studio doesn't want him to compete with his co-star, Mortensen.

Richard E. Grant was also very good, so I'd dub him the closest competition. I'll take him as my pick as the best of the actual supporting performances. I'm a big Sam Elliott fan and think he got screwed last year for "The Hero," but he only really has one substantive scene in "A Star Is Born."

The one nomination here that really rubs me the wrong way is Sam Rockwell. He was doing a "Saturday Night Live"-level impersonation of George W. Bush, played for broad laughs. Steve Carell had a much meatier part, and made the most of it, in the same movie.

Ironically, the one actor I really wanted to see here was Jonah Hill. He's received a couple of nominations I don't think he deserved, and then he pulled out a real humdinger in a non-comedic role in "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot." Can't wait to see what he does next.

Prediction: Mahershala Ali

Pick: Richard E. Grant

Chris Cross: I'll replace Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell and Sam Elliott with Jonah Hill, Steve Carell and Russell Hornsby from "The Hate U Give."

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees: 
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay

The Chatter: This category could go any which way. Typically original screenplay has been used to recognize a small film by up-and-comers. None of the nominees really fit that mold. "Eighth Grade" would be a prototypical winner, and took the Writers Guild Award, but it's not even nominated here.

If you can believe it, this is the first Oscar nomination for the 72-year-old Schrader, the scribe behind "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull" and other iconic films. I'd love to see him win, but "First Reformed" is a pretty out-there choice. The last act probably seems bonkers on paper, but I think it rings emotionally true.

Nick Vallelonga of "Green Book" has been tainted for retweeting Trump, so that's out. Cuarón is going to win at least three Oscars already -- Best Picture, Best Foreign Language film and Best Director -- so Academy voters will be tempted to spread the love. Plus, there's about a page-and-a-half of actual story there.

"The Favourite" would be the safest choice, a period costume drama. But it has a lesbian angle, so that will be enough to make it an edgy choice. I think it's 9/10ths of a great script that failed to stick the landing. It doesn't end, it just stops.

Prediction: "The Favourite"

Pick: "First Reformed"

Chris Cross: I'll replace "Vice" and "Roma" with "Chappaquiddick" and "Sorry to Bother You."

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees: 
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

The Chatter: "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" was a surprise winner at the WGAs, so it's got a shot. It's a terrific tale -- the blackest sort of comedy. I think people like "Beale Street" but recognize it's not as good as "Moonlight."

There seems to be a real effort to praise Spike Lee. He's not going to win best director so people want to see him win somewhere else. He's been in the wilderness for the last 20 years after a strong career start, so I think he has a good shot.

Normally I'd say "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" has the Netflix taint, but it doesn't seem to be hurting "Roma."

For my pick it comes down to "Forgive Me" and "A Star Is Born." I could swing either way, so let's.

Prediction: "BlacKkKlansman"

Pick: "A Star Is Born"

Chris Cross: I'll replace "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," "BlacKkKlansman" and "If Beale Street Could Talk" with "The Wife," "The Hate U Give" and "Love, Simon."

Best Director

The Nominees: 
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

The Chatter: I've pointed this out in other venues, but if Cuarón wins as expected, it would mark nine out of the last 10 times the best director award has been a person of color, a woman or a foreign-born person. Take that, diversity mavens.

Cuarón has run the table on the other awards, including the Directors Guild Award, which is so predictive it's easier to count the number of times the DGA winner didn't take the Oscar than did.

I'm not a big fan of this field. I loved seeing my favorite foreign language film, "Cold War," being recognized here and in cinematography. But I wouldn't have kicked out Bradley Cooper for his slot.

Yorgos Lanthimos, the king of kooky auteur projects, was brought in as a hired hand for "The Favourite" and mostly contained his penchant for excesses, other than a few fish-eye lens shots. McKay's "Vice" never could see around the writer/director's bile to tell a real story.

For my money, the best directed movie of the year was Debra Granik's "Leave No Trace," a film of pure stillness and empathy.

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón

Pick: Pawel Pawlikowski

Chris Cross: Screw it. I'll kick the whole field and swap them out with Peter Farrelly for "Green Book," Bryan Singer (and the guy who finished the film) for "Bohemian Rhapsody," George Tillman Jr. for "The Hate U Give," Debra Granik for "Leave No Trace" and Bradley Cooper for "A Star Is Born."

Best Documentary Feature

The Nominees: 
“Free Solo,” Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” RaMell Ross
“Minding the Gap,” Bing Liu
“Of Fathers and Sons,” Talal Derki
“RBG,” Betsy West, Julie Cohen

The Chatter: I haven't seen "Hale County" or "Of Fathers and Sons." "RBG" was my favorite doc. I also really liked "Shirkers." Despite the outcry, I don't mind seeing "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" left off this list -- like Mr. Rogers and his show, I found it nice, and a little dull. "Free Solo" has a strong shot to win, though I found it hard to connect with its subject, a witless man/child who risks his life for no reason.

Prediction: "RBG"

Pick: "RBG"

Chris Cross: Trade the rambling "Minding the Gap" for "Shirkers."

Best Documentary Short

The Nominees: 
“Black Sheep,” Ed Perkins
“End Game,” Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
“Lifeboat,” Skye Fitzgerald
“A Night at the Garden,” Marshall Curry
“Period. End of Sentence.,” Rayka Zehtabchi

The Chatter: I didn't get to see any of these this year. The only one I hear buzz about is "Black Sheep."

Prediction: "Black Sheep"

Best Animated Feature

The Nominees: 
“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

The Chatter: Could this be the year the non-Disney or -Pixar film actually wins? They've taken the prize 10 out of the last 11 years and their two entries are both subpar sequels.

The animated feature game has been lackluster for a few years now. They really struggle to fill out this category with five worthy nominees.

Prediction: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Pick: "Isle of Dogs"

Chris Cross: I don't have replacements, but neither "Ralph Breaks the Internet" or "Incredibles 2" deserves to be here.

Best Animated Short

The Nominees: 
“Animal Behaviour,” Alison Snowden, David Fine
“Bao,” Domee Shi
“Late Afternoon,” Louise Bagnall
“One Small Step,” Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
“Weekends,” Trevor Jimenez

The Chatter:Disney/Pixar almost always runs the table in this category.
Prediction: "Bao"

Pick: “One Small Step"

Best Live Action Short

The Nominees: 
“Detainment,” Vincent Lambe
“Fauve,” Jeremy Comte
“Marguerite,” Marianne Farley
“Madre,” Rodrigo Sorogoyen
“Skin,” Guy Nattiv

Prediction: "Madre"


Best Foreign Language Film

The Nominees: 
“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Japan)

The Chatter: Other than ordained winner "Roma," this is actually a really good list. "Cold War" is my favorite but I also adored "Shoplifters" and "Capernaum." There's a slight chance "Cold War" could win since "Roma" is going to collect bigger prizes.

Prediction: "Roma"

Pick: "Cold War"

Chris Cross: Let's translate "Roma" into "Let the Sunshine In."

Best Cinematography

The Nominees: 
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique

The Chatter:  I won't deny the extraordinary beauty of "Roma," despite how I feel about it. Interesting to have four foreign films, including three foreign language ones, out of five.

Prediction: "Roma"

Pick: "Cold War"

Chris Cross: I'll stand pat with this list.

Best Film Editing

The Nominees: 
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin

The Chatter: It's interesting that Alfonso Cuarón didn't get nominated here, since he edits his own films and previously won an Oscar for "Gravity." But there really isn't much editing in "Roma," which largely consists of long, panning shots.

Tough call here. None of these are action-oriented films that get a chance to show off fancy editing.

Prediction: "Vice"

Pick: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Best Sound Editing

The Nominees: 
“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

The Chatter: Time for my annual primer on sound editing vs. sound mixing: sound editors are responsible for selecting or creating all the sounds you hear in a production, while a sound mixer assembles it all together. Editors do most of their work during production, while mixing is a post-production role. Don't feel bad if you don't understand the difference; most Academy voters don't, either.

Prediction: "First Man"

Pick: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Best Sound Mixing

The Nominees: 
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
“A Star Is Born”

Prediction: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Pick: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Best Production Design

The Nominees: 
“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

The Chatter: This category often comes down to science fiction vs. costume drama, and the latter usually wins.

Prediction: “The Favourite"

Pick: “Mary Poppins Returns"

Best Original Score

The Nominees: 
“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

The Chatter: I loved the weird, moving, atonal score for "If Beale Street Could Talk." I think Alexandre Desplat gets nominated every year; he's the new John Williams.

Prediction: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Pick: “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Best Song

The Nominees: 
“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

The Chatter: The cowboy song from "Buster Scruggs" is oddly the most singable of the bunch. Lady Gaga seems destined to notch another letter on the way to her EGOT.

Prediction: "Shallow"

Pick: "Shallow"

Best Makeup and Hair

The Nominees: 
“Mary Queen of Scots”

The Chatter: This usually goes to the biggest physical transformation, especially turning a lean, beautiful person into an old, fat one. Odd that "Stan & Ollie" didn't get a nod; John C. Reilly's transformation was at least as impressive as Christian Bale's, and he didn't even gain weight for the role.

Prediction: "Vice"

Pick: "Vice"

Chris Cross: Only three nominees here so no need to cross anyone out to add "Stan & Ollie."

Best Costume Design

The Nominees: 
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Mary Zophres
“Black Panther,” Ruth E. Carter
“The Favourite,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Sandy Powell
“Mary Queen of Scots,” Alexandra Byrne

Prediction: "The Favourite"

Pick: "Mary Queen of Scots"

Best Visual Effects

The Nominees: 
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

The Chatter: The best superhero flick of the year will get its due.

Prediction: “Avengers: Infinity War”

Pick: “Avengers: Infinity War”

No comments:

Post a Comment