Movie Maniac

Outguessing Oscar: Here are Movie Maniac’s Academy Award predictions

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A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
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A musician helps a young singer and actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.

Feel the uncertainty in the air?

That’s because it’s been a rocky road to the Oscars this year, rattled with new awards that were scrapped, on-air plans that were rescinded and let’s not even start on the Kevin Hart host saga.

Speaking of, there will be no host for the 91st Academy Awards, something that hasn’t happened since the 61st Oscars back in 1989, the wacky year Rob Lowe clumsily danced with Snow White onstage. (Yes, that really happened.)

But uncertainty permeates this year’s nominees, too. There are really no “sure” things heading into this year’s awards, to be held Sunday night, Feb. 24. Hey, outguessing Oscar is always futile. But it’s fun to try.

Here my predictions in major categories.

Best picture

“Black Panther”

“BlacKkKlansman”

“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”

“Roma”

“A Star Is Born”

“Vice”

This can go many ways, as “Black Panther” won the top Screen Actors Guild prize for best ensemble (its version of best picture). It’s highly doubtful, though, that the Academy would honor a comic book film as best picture (though that would be great) — just it being nominated is a feat.

“Green Book” took the Producers Guild award for best picture, which usually matches the Oscar, but some feel it is too slight (and controversial). It could pull it off, although no directing nomination lessens its chances.

My favorite, “A Star is Born,” could possibly pull off a major upset, but it seems unlikely.

That leaves “Roma” as the frontrunner. I’m of the small camp that doesn’t get all the accolades for “Roma” (it’s certainly good, just not phenomenal to me), but if it does win it will be the first foreign-language film to do so (and since it will be probably win best foreign language film, as well, it’ll be the first to win both categories).

Oscar guess: “Roma”

LEAD ACTOR

Christian Bale, “Vice”

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”;

Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Three-time previous nominee Dafoe (supporting for “Platoon,” “Shadow of the Vampire” and last year’s “The Florida Project”) is pretty much the long-shot here. Two-time previous nominee Mortensen (lead for “Eastern Promises” and “Captain Fantastic”) turned in fine work, but he’s not getting any buzz to win. Neither is my personal favorite Cooper (who has previously been nominated for lead actor for “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Sniper” and supporting for “American Hustle” as well as producing “American Sniper”). And that I don’t understand — it’s his best performance to date (and he directed himself).

That leaves previous winner Bale (supporting for “The Fighter”) and first-time nominee Malek. Bale seemed the early favorite for his unrecognizable turn as Dick Cheney, until Malek won the SAG and BAFTA awards for his role as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, and I think he’ll just barely edge out Bale for the Oscar, too.

Oscar guess: Malek

LEAD ACTRESS

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”

Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

First-time nominee (with her first acting role) Aparicio is a long-shot here, as is previous nominee (supporting for “Bridesmaids”) McCarthy, although her rare dramatic turn is certainly deserving. First-time nominees Gaga absolutely wowed while Colman was absolutely delightful.

But it really comes down to Close, who with this seventh nomination is the most nominated living performer with no Oscar wins. She’s won almost every pre-cursor award this season, pointing to signs that she will finally win that elusive Oscar. It’s really the only (almost) certain thing of the night.

Oscar guess: Close

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”

Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

The winner of the SAG award for supporting actress has also gone on to win the Oscar for the last nine years. But this year’s SAG winner, Emily Blunt for “A Quiet Place,” wasn’t even nominated here, so we know that streak will be broken.

Otherwise, de Tavira was the surprise nominee, so she’s a long-shot. So is Adams (previously nominated five times for supporting for “Junebug,” “Doubt,” “The Fighter,” “The Master” and lead for “American Hustle”), although her turn as Lynne Cheney in “Vice” is wildly entertaining.

Previous best actress winner Stone (for “La La Land”) could benefit if there is a sweep for “The Favourite,” as could previous winner Weisz (supporting for “The Constant Gardener”), and she did win the BAFTA award, which could give her an edge.

But most signs point to first-time nominee King as a protective, supportive mother who tries to keep her daughter’s family intact.

Oscar guess: King

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”

Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”

Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Last year’s supporting actor winner Rockwell (for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) is kind of the long-shot here. First-time nominees Driver and Grant aren’t getting much buzz to win, either, despite fine performances.

My personal favorite here, Elliott, finally gets his first Oscar nomination after decades in the business, but he probably won’t win.

Because almost all signs point to previous supporting actor winner Ali (for “Moonlight”) as African-American classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley. He’s won almost every major award so far, and is deserving of a second Oscar in just two years.

Oscar guess: Ali

DIRECTOR

Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Adam McKay, “Vice”

Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

I’m still miffed that Cooper was overlooked for a nomination for “A Star is Born,” but no matter.

Previous nominee Pawlikowski (for “Cold War”) seemed the surprise here, so he’s a long-shot, as is McKay (previously nominated for directing “The Big Short” and a winner for writing its adapted screenplay).

Previous nominee Lanthimos (original screenplay for “Lobster”) could benefit from a sweep of “The Favourite,” much like his actresses, but it’s doubtful.

Lee, with his first directing nomination (he’s been previously nominated for writing “Do the Right Thing” and producing the documentary “4 Little Girls”) could cause an upset, but he’ll probably win adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman” instead.

Which leaves two-time previous winner Cuaron (for directing and editing “Gravity”), who also has three other Oscar noms this year for “Roma” (best picture, cinematography and original screenplay). His recent Directors Guild Award win almost cements his win here — only seven times since its inception has the DGA award winner not won the Oscar. It’s not undeserved, Cuaron skillfully guided first-time actors to fine performances and gave his personal story an artful, poignant, nostalgic feel. It’s a passion project, all right — and it shows, passionately.

Oscar guess: Cuaron

KANSAS CONNECTION

University of Kansas film professor Kevin Willmott is also nominated along with Lee for co-writing “BlacKkKlansman” (along with Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz) and they are heavily favored to win best adapted screenplay. Willmott’s 2004 film “C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America” and his 2009 film “The Only Good Indian” (which had scenes shot in Wichita) both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. “The Only Good Indian” was the opening night film for the 2009 Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita.

WHERE TO WATCH

The 91st Academy Awards will air at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, on ABC and KAKE.

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Rod Pocowatchit is an award-winning independent filmmaker and SAG/AFTRA-eligible actor who has written and directed four feature-length films, all made in Kansas. He has been a journalist for 29 years and is also an internationally award-winning page designer.
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