Handicapping the 91st Academy Awards

Tomorrow will be the culmination of the entertainment accolades season as the Academy Awards will be doled out. The ratings for at least the past 5 years have been steadily eroding, with a record low last year. As a response the Academy has been desperate to come up with solutions to solidify audience interest, only to fail and flail repeatedly the past year.

Nonetheless, the Oscars are being handed out tonight, and so here is the handicapping of the categories. Analysis here is less about validity as it is factoring in the political mindset of Academy members. The past few years have seen activism stepping to the fore with the decisions, and so deciding on the winners is a skewed enterprise. This year there are fewer assured winners, and many categories can go in a number of directions.

As such here are my predictions for tonight, in ascending order of import.

Visual Effects:
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Christopher Robin”
“First Man”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
— The surprising absence of “Black Panther” here means this becomes more of the popular choice.
Winner: Avengers: Infinity War

 

Costume Design:
“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
— Traditionally this is the realm of period pieces, and here we have two such choices. While there is a chance they split the vote I’ll lean on the multi-nominated title.
Winner: The Favourite

 

Makeup and Hair:
“Border”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Vice”
— One of the bet-the-rent categories. There has been loud praise for how eerily Christian Bale resembled Dick Cheney.
Winner: Vice

 

Production Design:
“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
— Expect the love for the film to come forward as they reward Wakanda.
Winner: Black Panther

 

Sound Editing:
“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
— While these frequently go to sci-fi epics it feels like the Academy will praise the film with limited dialogue, and SFX filling that void.
Winner: A Quiet Place

Sound Mixing:
“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“First Man”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
— Looking at the two concert even films dividing the vote and opening things up for the popular pick.
Winner: Black Panther

 

Original Song:
“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
— While the film has been bypassed throughout most awards shows this is all but a lock for Lady Gaga.
Winner: “Shallow”

 

Original Score:
“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
— With no real distinguishing choice here the musical remake feels like it has the inside lane.
Winner: Mary Poppins Returns

 

Best Foreign Language Film:
“Capernaum” (Lebanon)
“Cold War” (Poland)
“Never Look Away” (Germany)
“Roma” (Mexico)
“Shoplifters” (Japan)
— Given that the title is also up for Best Picture this seems almost automatic.
Winner: Roma

 

Film Editing:
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin
— Two of these picks won at the Eddie Awards, but I am betting on chosing against the resistence in other categories working in favor here.
Winner: Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Best Documentary Feature:
“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
— Even though “Free Solo” had enthusiasm throughout the year this feels like it is going to be a political layup for the Academy to reward their favorite Supreme Court justice.
Winner: RBG

 

Animated Feature:
“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
— While the Pixar sequel became the most successful animated feature in history it is not receiving the level of affection needed.
Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Cinematography:
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique
— The nominations are made by those in the guild, but the final vote is for the general Academy membership, so they should lean to the flashy period film.
Winner: The Favourite

 

Original Screenplay:
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay
— There has been a groundswell of support over the racial morality tale, and it should be awarded for signaling purposes.
Winner: Green Book

 

Adapted Screenplay:
“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 Coen brothers are always a player in this category. There is a shot that the POC production gets notice, but one feels a little bit more audacious.
Winner: BlacKkKlansman

 

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”
— Pretty much a solid choice can be made across the board. So other considerations will go into the pick.
Winner: Mahershala Ali

 

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
— Stone and Weisz will split their votes, but there seems a clear favorite here anyway.
Winner: Regina King

 

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”
— Malek was tabbed at the Golden Globes, but they divide categories between Comedy and Drama. This one feels like a slam dunk.
Winner: Christian Bale

 

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?”
— Elizabeth Colman has a real shot here, but for the Academy to award more of a career trophy.
Winner: Glenn Close

 

Director:
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
— Cuaron has earned a number of trophies, including from the Director’s Guild. He could be seen as the favorite, but I will be expecting another career achievement-type of award tonight.
Winner: Spike Lee

 

Best Picture:
“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”
— This year it has become more difficult than expected. As I see it this could be a three horse race. Last fall “Star” was a seeming lock for awards sweeps here, but in recent weeks it has faded from favor. “Rhapsody” has a shot and plenty of support. But there seems to be momentum – and a Producers Guild award – for my pick to win.
Winner: Green Book