Brendan Shick | Freelance Film, Broadcast, & Digital Media

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Oscar Lineup & Predictions 2019

Feb 24 2019 by Brendan Shick Add Your Thoughts

For the third year in a row, I’ve managed to screen all the Oscar nominees in all 24 categories before the ceremony – totaling 37 feature films and 15 shorts this year.

Likewise, my picks and predictions are included below. I’ve posted this every year since 2012, so you can follow my track record from past years:

Best Motion Picture of the Year


Will Win: Roma

Dark Horse: Green Book

My Favorite: toss up (from this list), Bad Times at the El Royale or Never Look Away (overall)

Should Have Been Nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale, Free Solo, If Beale Street Could Talk, Never Look Away

Roma has always been the favorite to win the top prize. The only reason there’s any conversation otherwise comes after Green Book surprised at the Producers Guild Awards. That top prize matches the Oscar’s Best Picture nine times out of ten.

Green Book still seems a less likely winner than Roma given the conventional wisdom that only films nominated for Best Director stand a chance at Best Picture. That would be Roma, The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman, and Vice this year (Cold War is the fifth nominee for Best Director, but missed the nominees in Best Picture).

Best Achievement in Directing


Will Win: Roma

Dark Horse: The Favourite

My Favorite: The Favourite (from this list), Never Look Away (overall)

Should Have Been Nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale, Free Solo, Green Book, Never Look Away

The strangest part about these nominees is that Pawlikowski got nominated for Best Director without a Best Picture nomination. This really should not happen now that there are eight Best Picture nominees, but could be a consolation nomination thrown to a film whose director would easily win Best Foreign Language film in any year that Roma wasn’t released.

Vice is nominated in eight categories and Spike Lee has generated a lot of buzz with his first Oscar nomination. However, to find the eventual winner, there is no need to look past the two overall front-runners, Roma and The Favourite – leading the pack with ten nominations each. Any other choice would be a decent surprise.

Really, any winner other than Directors Guild winner Cuarón would be a decent surprise. Roma has been the overall favorite for months now and the DGA correctly predicts the Oscar about 90% of the time. The Favourite would be next in line if the ‘never-Netflix’ contingent of the Academy makes their voice heard.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Will Win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Dark Horse: Christian Bale, Vice

My Favorite: Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

This one *should* be a pretty tight race, but it appears that it is anything but. Having already picked up the Screen Actors Guild award in the same category, Rami Malek is one of the more likely wins across all categories. The voting bodies of SAG and the Academy are more similar than most other guilds, so this is a pretty strong indicator. The only caveat is the Academy has William Dafoe as its fifth nominee versus SAG’s John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman), but the amount of votes this will change should only be relevant in a much tighter race.

Expect Malek to beat out the incredibly transformative and unrecognizable performances of Mortensen and Bale as well as the star power of Bale and Cooper – who will benefit somewhat from their past track record of Oscar wins and nominations. Bale is the most likely upset.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


Will Win: Glenn Close, The Wife

Dark Horse: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

My Favorite: Glenn Close (The Wife) or Lady Gaga (A Star is Born)

Should Have Been Nominated: Cynthia Erivo, Bad Times at the El Royale

Glenn Close should be the top pick here, again without too much trouble. It will definitely be a come from behind win. Before the Golden Globes, Close wasn’t really considered a possibility, but is now the top pick, having also won the Screen Actors Guild award.

Spoilers would come only in the form of Olivia Coleman or perhaps newcomer Lady Gaga. The other main challenger would be Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place), but although she picked up a nomination from SAG, she’s already sitting out the Oscar race in favor of Yalitza Aparicio instead. The Favourite and Roma will both be hard to overlook, with ten nominations each, but the SAG nominations make it pretty clear which side of that divide voters trend toward.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Dark Horse: Sam Elliott, A Star is Born

My Favorite: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) or Mahershala Ali (Green Book)

This is a pretty firm win for Mahershala Ali. His recent win for Moonlight might ordinarily hurt his chances, but this role is so different that few even mention that as a potential issue.

Upsets would come only from Richard E. Grant or Sam Elliott. I lean towards Elliott only because it seems more voters have screened A Star is Born. As the only nominee not to make the Screen Actors Guild list (in favor of Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy), Rockwell seems unlikely – despite the Academy’s probable desire to throw Vice some wins somewhere.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


Will Win: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Dark Horse: Amy Adams, Vice

My Favorite: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

This is by far the hardest acting category to pin down this year. You can typically look to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and get your expected result there, but since Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place) won that, you’d be wrong already.

I’ll admit, most people are saying Regina King will win this award. However, considering only Amy Adams, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone were nominated for SAG awards, I think it is a stretch to look beyond those three choices. Of those three, it’s probably easiest to see The Favourite getting some love, but with two nominees, vote splitting could hand Adams a win instead.

Best Writing, Original Screenplay


Will Win: The Favourite

Dark Horse: Green Book

My Favorite: The Favourite (from this list), Bad Times at the El Royale or Never Look Away (overall)

Should Have Been Nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale, Never Look Away

Based on historical trends, guild awards become significantly less helpful as we move past the acting categories. There’s no chance for that to lead you astray here, as the Writers Guild already awarded a film that didn’t make the Academy’s cut.

With the controversy surrounding Green Book and Nick Vallelonga, this seems like a fairly safe bet for The Favourite, whose snappy, witty dialogue is a good fit for this category. This is probably one of the top two most likely categories for it to win out of its ten nominations.

Green Book is still the clear runner-up. Should it pull off the upset, it might be enough of a signal that it will also upset the Best Picture award at the end of the night.

Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay


Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Dark Horse: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

My Favorite: If Beale Street Could Talk

Considering Spike Lee winning Best Director is a huge stretch, his nomination here seems like an opportunity for a nice consolation prize. This is historically something that happens to well-respected writer/directors who are snubbed repeatedly in the Best Director/Best Picture categories. Lee fits that mold by now.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? won at the Writers Guild, but historically that’s not been nearly as strong a predictor of Academy votes as many other guild awards. Still, it’s compelling enough to make me think it’s the runner-up, with If Beale Street Could Talk also a distinct possibility.

Best Achievement in Cinematography


Will Win: Roma

Dark Horse: The Favourite

My Favorite: Never Look Away

Should Have Been Nominated: Free Solo, If Beale Street Could Talk

Historically, the Cinematography Branch has nominated a lot of foreign language films in this category, often otherwise under-recognized ones, yet this marks the first time three of the five nominees aren’t in English. Two are black and white.

There’s really no question here that Roma will pick up the award, despite four bold challengers. Never Look Away is easily the best shot film of the year, but will under-perform due to fewer overall nominations and its perceived lack of general accessibility as the runner-up to the runner-up in the foreign language race.

Best Achievement in Production Design


Will Win: The Favourite

Dark Horse: Black Panther

My Favorite: The Favourite

Should Have Been Nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale, Crazy Rich Asians, Solo: A Star Wars Story

Production design and costume design awards historically match about half the time. This year both are a tight race between The Favourite and Black Panther. I think the safest thing to do is to split my choices between the two.

With a minor Black Panther advantage in costuming, I’m going with The Favourite here. Considering the extravagantly dressed locations, it seems like a safe bet regardless. Plus, it’s hard to imagine the film coming into the night with ten nominations, then leaving with nothing – and this is probably the category where The Favourite most lives up to its name.

Best Achievement in Costume Design


Will Win: Black Panther

Dark Horse: The Favourite

My Favorite: The Favourite

Should Have Been Nominated: Crazy Rich Asians

This one is close to a toss up. Traditionally an English period drama takes the award, and 14-time nominee Sandy Powell is usually tough to bet against. The only catch here is that Powell is nominated against herself with a pair of English period dramas – and of course Mary Queen of Scots also fits the genre.

Powell was last nominated in 2016, also against herself for Carol and Cinderella, and lost that year to Mad Max: Fury Road. This was probably due to vote splitting more than the Academy going against their tradition, but the formula of that year’s nominees seems perfectly replicated this year, which leaves me giving Black Panther the slightest advantage.

Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling


Will Win: Vice

Dark Horse: Mary Queen of Scots

My Favorite: Pretty even field

If you like picking the correct winners, then it is always a blessing any year a famous actor is put in impeccable prosthetics to impersonate a famous historical politician. It makes for an easy makeup & hairstyling pick. Technically, there are two such nominees this year, Vice and Mary Queen of Scots, but there are several reasons why the former has a distinct advantage.

First, it agrees with the Academy’s politics. Second, the Adam McKay biopic will already be on a lot of eyes. Third, the historical figures in question – most notably Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush – are all still in recent memory, so the actors must look exactly like their historic counterparts. Despite eight nominations, Vice is no complete shoe-in for any other category. Voters won’t let it leave empty-handed.

As seems to now be a pattern, a Swedish foreign language film, Border, rounds out the three nominees. There are no fewer hurdles or lesser execution on the screen here, but with no other nominations, it’s the least likely competitor because few people will have screened it.

Best Achievement in Film Editing


Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Dark Horse: Vice

My Favorite: The Favourite (from this list), Bad Times at the El Royale or Never Look Away (overall)

Should Have Been Nominated: Bad Times at the El Royale, Free Solo, If Beale Street Could Talk, Never Look Away

I have gone back-and-forth on this one, but I think it is at least safe to say that either Vice or Bohemian Rhapsody will come out on top. Beyond that, there’s not too much to go on.

Green Book is also a possibility and this is probably the second category (along with screenplay) that it would need to pickup (in addition to Mahershala Ali’s near lock) before completing a possible Best Picture upset.

Best Achievement in Sound Editing


Will Win: First Man

Dark Horse: A Quiet Place

My Favorite: First Man

Should Have Been Nominated: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Sound could be tricky this year. Usually both categories go to the same film, but with many possible winners, I will split mine up rather than risk a winner-takes-all approach.

I also genuinely think this is a year the Academy will split them up as well. First Man seems like the obvious choice on the editing side, taking the role of the traditional sci-fi nominee. However, don’t count out Bohemian Rhapsody (since it is the likely sound mixing winner), Roma (since everyone who saw it in theaters raves about the sound mix), or even A Quiet Place.

Usually, four of the five nominees match between mixing and editing and the fifth nominee is the obvious also-ran. Since sound is so important to a A Quiet Place on a basic plot level, I put it as the most likely upset instead.

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing


Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Dark Horse: A Star Is Born

My Favorite: A Star Is Born

Should Have Been Nominated: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Sure, First Man and Roma are real possibilities on the mixing side for the same reasons they are competing on the sound editing side. However, in years where the Academy does split up the categories, it’s usually to give sound mixing to a musical.

Two musical options are on the ballot this year: Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. Either could win and both are deserving, but does that fact split voters and send the trophy to First Man instead?

Best Achievement in Visual Effects


Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Dark Horse: First Man

My Favorite: Solo: A Star Wars Story or First Man

There’s not necessarily a clear winner in visual effects this year. Solo: A Star Wars Story, Avengers: Infinity War and Ready Player One have the highest volume of special effects, while First Man and Christopher Robin are more subtle and could go unnoticed as a result.

Of course, First Man is the only film imitating real-life events, and therefore obtains a higher level of difficulty. Still, most people seem to think the Academy will go with the category’s more traditional genre, a summer blockbuster, in Avengers: Infinity War.

Best Achievement in Music, Original Score


Will Win: Black Panther

Dark Horse: If Beale Street Could Talk

My Favorite: either one

Should Have Been Nominated: First Man, Never Look Away or The Favourite (if it were original…)

I never know whether to go with the score that I’d most enjoy listening to on its own or the one that is uniquely a companion to its film. The Academy doesn’t always seem to know either. Recently, they have gone with the latter option.

That’s led me to place Black Panther slightly ahead of If Beale Street Could Talk. If Beale Street Could Talk is a traditional string composition that you instantly fall in love with. It’s catchy, a tad repetitive and draws much attention to itself, mostly in a good way. Black Panther is very unconventional, but with more material and a perfect companion to the film.

Much of Ludwig Göransson’s work and technique here probably goes completely unnoticed if you’ve not heard him discuss it at length. For my ballot’s sake, let’s hope Academy voters are paying attention.

Best Achievement in Music, Original Song


Will Win: A Star is Born, “Shallow”

Dark Horse: Black Panther, “All the Stars”

My Favorite: A Star is Born, “Shallow”

Should Have Been Nominated: Ralph Breaks the Internet, “A Place Called Slaughter Race”

As is the case in many years, it’s a race of notable artists (Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga), two musicals (A Star is Born and Mary Poppins Returns), and a token song-written-for-a-documentary. The obvious winner is where the first two overlap: “Shallow” the breakout hit and heart & soul of A Star is Born.

Considering the most popular comment about Mary Poppins Returns is “the songs weren’t really that good,” and the most popular comment about A Star is Born is exactly the opposite, this should not be too surprising. In fact, Black Panther probably has the better shot at a surprise upset.

Best Documentary Feature


Will Win: Free Solo

Dark Horse: RBG

My Favorite: Free Solo

Should Have Been Nominated: Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The feature documentary winner rarely goes to the best made film, focusing instead on bringing light to the largest issue. So, Free Solo isn’t your typical winner in a category that usually goes to an exposé of a major issue of our time. That said, the stunning cinematography, moving climax, and deep exploration of unique subject matter will catapult it to a win.

Combine this with a lack of attention being paid the other nominees, and this is a clear pick. In fact, most of Free Solo‘s competition (Shirkers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) didn’t even make the nominations list.

Best Foreign Language Film


Will Win: Roma

Dark Horse: Cold War

My Favorite: Never Look Away

Should Have Been Nominated: Us & Them

In some past years, our Oscar ballots have been graced with a foreign language nominee that receives a second nomination in another category – creating a ‘give-me’ answer in what could otherwise be a shot-in-the-dark category. This year has two such nominees, Cold War and Never Look Away. This would make things a bit difficult if it weren’t for Roma sweeping in with its ten total nominations.

Despite an easy-to-spot front runner in Roma, there are films here that would be strong contenders in any other year. Sure, Roma earned a Best Picture nomination, but Cold War, directed by former category winner Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida), is up for Best Director and would be a shoe-in any other year. There is your dark horse pick if the Academy doesn’t want to give Cuarón everything. Nominating Pawlikowski for Best Director without so much as a Best Picture nomination also hints at this slight possibility.

Never Look Away is precisely the film-about-art that the Academy would completely swoon over were it not hidden among a list of nominees with much more notoriety. Even Shoplifters and Capernaum are highly-lauded entrants that would be the winner or runner-up in a more typical year.

Best Animated Feature


Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Dark Horse: Incredibles 2

My Favorite: Ralph Breaks the Internet

This one is a two-horse race between Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Incredibles 2 with Ralph Breaks the Internet being a surprise possibility. King Pixar is the natural choice, but Spider-Man is by far the more revolutionary film in the animation community, and it has generated an appropriate amount of late recognition to that effect. Lord and Miller benefit here from getting snubbed with The LEGO Movie a few years back. Plenty of people would like to correct that error.

Though spring or summer releases often suffer from being forgotten by awards season, I think this is a rare case where being released later, during awards season, will actually hurt Spider-Man‘s chances. Ultimately, this comes down to how many voters will have made the time to screen the surprise challenger during a busy awards season – considering their initial assumption would have been that Pixar (Incredibles 2) or Disney Animation Studios (Ralph Breaks the Internet) would have locked this category up as usual (anyone remember that time Brave won an Oscar instead of the original Wreck-It Ralph?). Did Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse have enough rabidly vocal fans to counter?

Best Short Film, Animated


Will Win: Bao

Dark Horse: No, not really

My Favorite: Bao or One Small Step

Should Have Been Nominated: Lost & Found, Tweet Tweet

Commonly referred to as the ‘Pixar-category’ this is possibly the easiest short category to guess, at least when Pixar doesn’t have an off-year. A Pixar short wins roughly 50% of the time – possibly even in years when it’s not deserved.

This year’s nominee, Bao, is one of the studio’s more deserving entries, so there will be no shockers here. One Small Step and Late Afternoon are similarly heart-touching and strong competition, but without the name recognition that Pixar inherently provides.

Best Short Film, Live Action


Will Win: Marguerite

Dark Horse: Fauve or Skin

My Favorite: Madre

The final two categories on the Oscar ballot have a reputation for being hardest to pick – a virtual toss-up year-after-year. Uncharacteristically, there’s a strong consensus forming around Marguerite this year, despite the strong tension created in each of the other four nominees.

I think minimalist Madre plays this tension best, and is probably my personal choice, but the Academy usually goes for the lightest of the bunch – consequentially my least favorite. This could be as a result of having one film that goes just a little against-type creating an easy consensus among viewers who don’t share my sensibilities, and leaving the other four nominees just splitting votes between themselves. This year’s prediction fits well with that analysis.

Best Documentary, Short Subject


Will Win: Period. End of Sentence

Dark Horse: Lifeboat or Black Sheep

My Favorite: Lifeboat or A Night at the Garden

Should Have Been Nominated: Zion

There are rarely many clues for the final ballot category, and this year is no exception. To be honest, any five nominees could be a contender.

Lifeboat and A Night at the Garden were my favorites, but it is rare that my favorite wins this category.

Brendan Shick

Brendan Shick is a freelance DP, gaffer, and sports broadcaster serving primarily the Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Fort Wayne, IN, regions. You can find out more by following this blog, his recent work on Vimeo, or by connecting with him on Twitter or LinkedIn. Brendan is also an occasional contributor to the Project Updates feed for one of his most recent films, To Turn Back Time.

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