With surprise acting nominations for Roma, and such a strong showing for The Favourite, the Best Picture race has left behind a few of the films everyone presumed were the frontrunners. Remember, though, we’re dealing with the preferential ballot and the vagaries of new members. In one sense, all bets are off. The Best Director category appears to be a bit of a hot mess at the moment, in terms of how we generally use it as a reliable indicator as we go about predicting. In general, historically, Best Picture and Best Director are conjoined twins. In recent years, however, they have been separating, with Screenplay attaching itself more and more to the top prize. With Picture and Director separated, one wonders if having a directing nomination will even matter at all. Can A Star is Born or Green Book or even Bohemian Rhapsody still win without one? Yes, I think, it’s possible.
Speaking of stats, however, there is only one movie right now that has landed in all of the right places. That might not matter in the end. It might be Roma’s to win in all respects. For instance, with Cold War’s strong showing in Best Director and Cinematography, might Cold War win in Foreign Language leaving Roma wide open to win Best Picture? Well, if Best Picture were down to five that might be the case. But it doesn’t work that way anymore. Roma has a clear advantage with the preferential ballot, to be sure. It is absolutely a film that people will name number one but also push to the top of their ballot even if it wasn’t their favorite. And honestly, with some of the nominees in decidedly “no way” territory, the Best Picture lineup looks pretty weak overall, making it even more possible that it could make Netflix Oscar history on the big night.
But the real winner this season so far, the stealthy dark horse, is most definitely Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. It’s the only film that has hit: PGA, DGA and SAG ensemble hat trick, and the only Oscar contender to hit Picture, Directing, Writing, Editing and Acting. Roma doesn’t have SAG ensemble, or any SAG noms, and it doesn’t have editing. The Favourite doesn’t have SAG ensemble. Black Panther doesn’t have DGA or Oscar director. Vice doesn’t have SAG ensemble.
BlacKkKlansman is the stats champ at the moment. But even with the strong cards its holding, that doesn’t mean it’s the frontrunner. After all, Spielberg’s Lincoln was a stats champ in 2012 but Argo took it home and Life of Pi won Best Director. But the lay of the land is still worth noting nonetheless. What may very well make the difference for BlacKkKlansman is the Trump factor. And also love for Spike Lee who not only has seen his first Oscar nomination for Directing but who now stands to become the first African American film director to win. Remember, Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture but their directors did not win. That good will towards Spike could prove to be a strong factor this year, especially since Alfonso Cuaron already won Best Director at both the DGA and the Oscars for Gravity. Then again, his pal Alejandro G. Inarritu made history by winning twice, back to back. Never underestimate the Three Amigos.
Best Picture is still a crap shoot, on account of the preferential ballot. The new members have also thrown a massive wrench in the works, showing they really aren’t going to vote the way Oscar voters have voted in the past. When you do this long enough you learn how to count on a few things because the demographics at the Academy hadn’t changed. I didn’t know if the new members will be enough to really move the needle but they clearly have made it wobble. Because of that, it might not even be useful to look at either history or stats. You have to kind of fly blind.
My hot take for wins this a.m. would be:
Best Picture: Roma vs. BlacKkKlansman vs. The Favourite – with an outside shot still for Green Book
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma (with an outside shot for Spike Lee)
Best Actor: Christian Bale, Vice
Best Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
Supporting Actress: Regina King vs. Amy Adams vs. Marina de Tavira
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali vs. Richard E. Grant
Original Screenplay: First Reformed vs. Green Book vs. The Favorite vs. Roma (vs. Vice?)
Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Most likely, the Best Picture winner is also the screenplay winner, so predict accordingly.
Here is an updated chart.