In my introduction to last year’s Oscar predictions, I refer to the 2017–18 awards season as “one of the most tumultuous” in recent memory, a superlative that would almost seem too weak when discussing the events of this year. Each of the major industry guilds – from the Screen Actors Guild, to the Directors Guild, to the Producers Guild, to the Writers Guild – has chosen a different movie for their top prizes. Even in cases when major precursors have generally lined up in picking a frontrunner, there may be reason to believe they’re not as safe as we think. Rational predictions are based primarily on available data, but if one’s gut instinct leads them in a different direction, that’s taken into account when appropriate. Many of my picks here differ from the frontrunners, but in a year this hectic, such diversions may be warranted.
BEST PICTURE: Roma
It seemed like a slam dunk for most of the season, and while the turbulence of the campaign may have rattled its status loose, there’s still good reason to believe Roma will triumph on Sunday. It has Netflix’s campaign machine behind it and is one of the most acclaimed films of 2018, with few voicing outright opposition to it. If it doesn’t win, there are many other possibilities: from Green Book shoring up support from the Academy’s traditionalist demographic; to Black Panther building a coalition of the tech branches and younger voters more receptive to a superhero film; to The Favourite striking a balance of the techs plus actors and writers.
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma
In this category, Cuarón represents one of this year’s few cases of a contender winning all of the precursors needed to feel like a lock.
BEST ACTOR: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
What started as a three-horse race between Malek, Vice’s Christian Bale, and A Star Is Born’s Bradley Cooper has gradually whittled its way down to a solid Malek lead.
BEST ACTRESS: Glenn Close – The Wife
After six previous losses, there’s a feeling that it’s time to reward Glenn Close. You’ll hear no argument from me, and I do agree that this will be her year. However, if anyone else wins, it’ll likely be The Favourite’s Olivia Colman, whose BAFTA win may foretell strong support from the Academy’s sizable British contingency.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
Green Book has been the subject of near constant controversy from minute one, but Mahershala Ali, whose performance has been praised down the board, has navigated the movie’s bad press better than essentially anyone else involved. Winning a second Oscar only two years after the first is somewhat unusual, but it’s not unheard of.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Every year, I seem to have one prediction that flies in the face of all conventional wisdom regarding the category, and here, the narrative seems to point to Regina King’s work in If Beale Street Could Talk. And while she would receive my personal vote if I had one, I don’t think she will win. In Best Supporting Actor, some have bandied about the possibility of Can You Ever Forgive Me’s Richard E. Grant upsetting Ali, paralleling Mark Rylance’s victory over Sylvester Stallone in that race a few years ago. But the conditions of that contest are far more replicable here: much like Stallone, King has missed key nominations at major awards like SAG and BAFTA, while Weisz, like Rylance, has generally been cited everywhere. The Favourite also benefits from broad appreciation down the board, tying Roma as the film with the most nominations. I think the conditions are right for an upset.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The Favourite
While a safe predictor for the screenplay Oscars are usually the Writers Guild awards, that doesn’t help much here: The Favourite wasn’t eligible, and the winner of the WGA Award – Eighth Grade – isn’t nominated for the Oscar. Nevertheless, I anticipate extensive support for The Favourite across many different factions of the Academy, and surely its sharp screenplay is an easy beneficiary of that love.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: BlacKkKlansman
While WGA winner Can You Ever Forgive Me? has to be considered a serious contender here, it’s also worth noting that this category may be the only opportunity to reward BlacKkKlansman, a widely beloved movie that many hope will win at least one award.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
The Disney/Pixar dominance of this category will be interrupted this year, as the acclaimed Into the Spider-Verse is set to take home the gold.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: RBG
The Academy at large tends to like documentaries that are more structurally traditional (i.e. talking head interviews and archival footage) or politically relevant. RBG meets both criteria. Free Solo’s gripping cinematography and subject matter certainly gives it a “wow” factor, but it’s also possible that many voters may see RBG as a chance to formally praise the film’s subject.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Roma
It only makes sense that the nominee that has a very good chance of winning Best Picture would win here as well. Some have suggested that this could play against it, with voters wanting to highlight another film, like Cold War. But there’s no real evidence that such an effort is underway in meaningful numbers, and thus, I stick firmly with the established consensus in this race.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Black Panther
Black Panther and If Beale Street Could Talk’s scores have gotten the most attention out of all the nominees, but the former likely has an edge because it’s more likely to win multiple awards elsewhere; many films that have multiple nominations in the technical categories often win more than one Oscar.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Shallow” – A Star Is Born
Though A Star Is Born’s fortunes have faded in many of the major races, support for “Shallow” has held firm throughout the season.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Roma
Besides Director (another projected win for Alfonso Cuarón), it’s one of the closest things we have to a sure thing this year.
BEST FILM EDITING: Bohemian Rhapsody
I’m of the opinion that Bohemian Rhapsody’s rapidfire cutting is downright miserable to watch at times, but in this category, Best Editing often translates to “Most Editing.” That leaves it between this and Vice, and I’m going with the movie that’s been more widely seen and discussed in the home stretch of the voting period.
BEST SOUND MIXING: Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST SOUND EDITING: Bohemian Rhapsody
I’ve heard some say that A Quiet Place can take Sound Editing, but in accordance with the Academy’s persistent belief that best equals most, it’s more likely that what amounts to a glorified concert movie will win both sound prizes.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Black Panther
It’s either this or The Favourite, and I suspect that the more outwardly elaborate and instantaneously breathtaking worldbuilding of Black Panther’s production design will help it win.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Vice
Honestly, it’s pretty startling how much Christian Bale looks like Dick Cheney in Vice, and certainly such a visible and extensive transformation will stick out to voters.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Favourite
The Academy loves period costumes, and The Favourite’s costume designer, Sandy Powell, is a three-time winner of this category, demonstrating the breadth of her career achievements and the amount of respect she has accumulated in the industry.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Avengers: Infinity War
Visual Effects is one of those categories that will deliver upsets under even the best of circumstances, but Infinity War seems like a pretty safe “default” pick, and there hasn’t been much of a movement to promote any other nominee.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: Bao
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM: Period. End of Sentence.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: Marguerite
The short films are difficult to predict, but there are rules of thumb that can help. In the case of Animated Short, I went with the entry most likely to have been seen by a large number of people (Bao played before Incredibles 2). For Documentary Short, two of the nominees – Period. End of Sentence. and End Game – are streaming on Netflix, but the latter, which is a fly-on-the-wall doc about palliative healthcare, may be seen as too low-key or dour to stand out. In Live Action, where all of the nominees seem to be about something dour, there’s less to hold on to. After some deliberation, I will go with Marguerite, which appears to be the least controversial or grim out of the five (which isn’t saying a whole lot, considering that the other four are all about missing, endangered, and/or murdered children).