And the Oscar Goes to…
The 2019 Academy Awards
text by Kathryn Brooks and Ron Jensen
February 24 is Hollywood’s night to shine. To honor the best films of 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present Oscars in 24 categories. The ceremony will be televised on ABC beginning at 6 p.m. MST. Those star-struck fashionistas among us can tune in at 4:30 p.m MST to take in all the glitz and glam of the red carpet scene.
Fingers crossed, the 91st Academy Awards will be shorter in length. Audiences, especially the lucrative 18-to-49 demographic, have shown they don’t want to stay up to watch another boring awards show: the 2018 Oscars, which clocked in at a whopping three hours and 53 minutes, drew a record-low number of viewers. Determined to never let that happen again, the Academy promises to keep this year’s ceremony under the three-hour mark. To save time, they’ve done away with the host (partially out of necessity), practically threatened winners to keep their acceptance speeches short and made the decision to give out awards for editing, cinematography, live-action short and makeup and hairstyling during commercial breaks.
But let’s get back to what the evening is all about – celebrating films and those who had a part in the process. Here we look at six Oscar categories from the point of view of who may go home a winner and who may have what it takes to make it a real race to the finish.
A Star Is Born
By all accounts, Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s poetic odyssey through his childhood in Mexico City, stands head and shoulders above any film this year. But there are two red flags. The dialogue in this black-and-white piece is spoken in Spanish and no foreign-language film in 91 years of Academy records has ever won Best Picture. Plus, Roma was released by Netflix, the streaming service. That may annoy the Hollywood’s studio big-wigs enough to cast their vote elsewhere.
If so, the Academy has a chance to “do the right thing” and reward Lee the honor for BlackKklansman. Overlooked in the past, the cinema giant is now getting his first Best Picture nomination.
But history can also be made by a win for Marvel’s hugely popular Black Panther, the first comic book movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture. Matching its huge commercial success ($1.3 billion worldwide) with filmmaking artistry, Black Panther gave underserved black audiences the chance to relate to superhero characters who look and sound like they do.
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Even people who grumble about Bohemian Rhapsody as a so-so movie are justifiably over the moon about Malek’s electrifying, tour de force performance as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. The actor captured Mercury right down to his overbite, wearing prosthetic teeth and channeling his every movement and gesture.
After winning the Golden Globe for Best Actor, Bale thanked “Satan” as his inspiration for playing Dick Cheney in Vice, depicted as the most powerful and dangerous Vice-President ever. His commitment to put on 45 pounds for the role will win votes. More crucially, Bale’s skill in revealing the simmering rage under the Dick’s deceptive quiet demeanor may just earn him the Oscar.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
This is as impressive a lineup of actresses that voters could ever wish for. It could cost the stellar Colman the nod since many considered her role more supporting than lead. And it may hurt that Aparicio, a Mexican schoolteacher, has never acted before. McCarthy, now proving she can do drama and comedy, might confuse the voters. It seems to boil down to a seasoned veteran versus a serious newcomer.
In the era of #TimesUp, the seasoned Close finds the tormented heart and soul of a woman who’s had to live in the shadow of her ungrateful husband. It’s her seventh acting nomination and she’s never won. If there’s any justice, she may take home the prize.
In a debut performance that lights up the screen, Gaga can act as well as she sings, which is really saying something. Bette Midler was in the same position when she lost the Oscar for her brilliant 1979 starring debut in The Rose. But that won’t make it hurt less.
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
This is the first nomination for 74-year-old Elliott, an underrated gem of an actor who spun gold out of the few scenes he was given as Bradley Cooper’s brother. Two more scenes and he could have won this category. Rockwell has even less screen time as Dubya in Vice, but he just won last year for Three Billboards. And it won’t sit right if Driver, the white guy, wins for BlackKklansman. So, on to the remaining two contenders.
Oscar voters seem to love Green Book, despite finding fault about its purported lack of accuracy in portraying real-life characters. To show that love, the Academy will probably honor Ali with a second Oscar to bookend the one he already won for 2016’s Moonlight. You got a problem with that? We didn’t think so.
As Melissa McCarthy’s drunken partner in crime, Grant again demonstrates the comic and dramatic skills he’s been showing since his 1987 film debut in the classic Withnail & I. Amazingly, this is the first acting nomination for him.
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Adams has been nominated six times without winning. Will her turn as Lynne Cheney in Vice change that? Unlikely, but not impossible. With apologies to first-time nominee De Tavira and past Oscar-winner Stone, things look to break down to King and Weisz.
As King naysayers like to point out, she wasn’t nominated by her peers in the Screen Actors Guild or by the British Academy, nor did the low-grossing If Beale Street Could Talk make the Best Picture cut. No matter. King rules as a mother fighting to save her daughter’s fiancé from trumped-up rape charges.
The Favourite tied Roma with a record 10 nominations this year. And there’s been mounting support for Weisz’s delicious take on a lady of Queen Anne’s court who’ll stop at nothing — sex, revenge and violence — to show how a woman can win power in a man’s world.
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Although Lee is long overdue, his first nomination in this category may have to be enough recognition this year. Pawlikowski, the gifted Polish director whose 2013 movie Ida won an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film, may have a shot. But most are speculating that the Best Director Oscar will go to Cuarón.