As Iggy Pop once said, “It will all be over soon.” He also thanks “whoever threw that bottle at my head,” because what we have here is not unlike an Iggy Pop concert, minus the cool Iggy Pop songs. You sometimes have to wonder, what are we even doing here? Are we actually pretending that we’re talking about the best films of the year, when so many brilliant films have fallen by the wayside, or are we doing something else entirely? I don’t expect my enthusiastic Oscar-watching friends to understand the demons I wrestle with, but I would say this: wait twenty years and then get back to me.
There’s the bizarre mass furor surrounding Green Book, which took the Three Billboards hysteria from last year and doubled it. Took the La La Land hoopla from the year before and tripled it. Who is the racist in our midst? Who is the sexist among us? How can we purge our village of sinners to preserve the sanctity of the Oscars? Yes, the Oscars. That’s right, the Oscars. That’s what we’re talking about here. The way you hear people cry and moan on Twitter about movies or contenders potentially winning is maybe as good a sign as any that our empire is crumbling. My god, people. That means that the film that should be, by any previous year’s definition of widespread industry approval, the frontrunner for Best Picture — Green Book — can’t be the frontrunner any longer.
The Oscar race is different than it used to be because the industry is different, because guild membership is different, because film coverage is different, because people are mostly losing their minds 24/7 since 2016 and no one can think clearly enough to see through the fog of fear and panic. So what once was “we just pick the best picture (or at least the one most people like best)” now comes freighted with a lot of different factors. If I were the Academy, I would simply say fuck it, let’s go back to five nominees and pick the best of the baitiest candidates, throw in a popular film category, maybe a first-time directing category, and be done with it. This current compromise system often seems more prone to falter in its prime directive of rewarding the most valuable films of the year. The preferential ballot does not represent the best film chosen by the most voters — instead, it represents the last film left standing, the film that offended all the voters the least. Less Great Expectations, more And Then There Were None.
Even if Peter Farrelly had managed to earn an Oscar nomination as Best Director, there is still the matter of the offscreen drama around a variety of things. It was supposed to be Bohemian Rhapsody that earned the worst of that scorn; the art can’t survive on its own. The filmmakers must be fully vetted to ensure maximum purity, to the extent that one bad apple infects the entire cast and crew. Every line of dialogue, every casting choice, every scene must be parsed and scrutinized. If it ain’t woke, you can’t fix it. Bohemian Rhapsody has managed to barely scrape by, though it’s been fatally wounded in the quest for Best Picture. With Bradley Cooper out of the director’s race, it looks like A Star Is Born also is out of the running, if we follow what stats have taught us.
This Oscar year is still all over the place. If you look at the editing category, you’ll find five films: Vice, BlacKkKlansman, Green Book, The Favorite, and Bohemian Rhapsody. Then you pare that down to which ones have directing and editing: Vice, BlacKkKlansman, and The Favourite. These, by rights, should be your frontrunners for Best Picture, but somehow they still aren’t. That is how weird this year is.
So which films can win Best Picture? Well, for starters, I would not be entirely surprised if Black Panther made history and became the first film since Grand Hotel to win Best Picture without a writing, directing, or acting nomination. I do not see this as entirely outside the realm of possibility because it is just that kind of year.
Can BlacKkKlansman rally enough support by dint of what it isn’t? It isn’t in a foreign language, isn’t a Netflix release, isn’t a superhero movie, and it isn’t written and directed by white guys. Is all that plus its undeniable brilliance enough to propel it through multiple rounds of preferential roulette so it can pull off a win? Can it win with the WGA and pull a Moonlight? Can Spike Lee do the seemingly impossible and beat Alfonso Cuaron at the DGA? At this point it seems unlikely. We have to wait a full week until BAFTA. Might Spike’s film rise up there? Is there enough time for a whole new consensus to build around that movie instead?
Can Green Book still win? Sure it can. But it requires people override the ebb and flow of online outrage over the filmmakers and the need for purity. If enough industry people simply vote for the film they like best, they might choose Green Book and give a big “fuck you” to the people online, specifically rebuking the high status tweeters (particularly the loudest white folks, people, calm down) who are convinced Green Book is corrupting our village with evil and torment.
So what is the least troublesome frontrunner? I suppose everyone would say Roma, but this is not based on Roma having won anything recently. It should win the DGA this weekend but it has not otherwise scored many points, other than the Critics Choice which doesn’t really count as a legit industry precursor. Still, somehow, it’s seen by many as the de facto frontrunner. By sheer virtue of its genius, imagine that! However, it does have roadblocks from a stats perspective, like being a foreign language film, for starters. Since it’s already nominated in the foreign language category, it presumably will win there, which may remove the need for many voters to list it for Best Picture on their ballots. Or will they love it that much to give it the win in both categories? Some think that voters will give Cold War the foreign language win and give Roma Best Picture. But unless a confidential memo gets sent out to all the voters, there’s no way to ensure that everyone is on board with that plan. Maybe with five films up for Best Picture that would be possible, but with the preferential ballot and eight films up for Best Picture that seems like hard math to cipher.
Either way, we call it right now:
The Frontrunner: Roma
Challengers: Green Book, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman
The frontrunner: Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
The challenger: Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
The frontrunner: Glenn Close, The Wife (Globe/SAG)
The challenger: Olivia Colman, The Favourite (Globe); Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
The frontrunner: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (Globe/SAG)
The challenger: Christian Bale, Vice (Globe)
Best Supporting Actor
The frontrunner: Mahershala Ali, Green Book (Globe, SAG)
The challenger: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me
Best Supporting Actress
The Frontrunner: Regina King (Globe)
The challengers: Marina de Tavira, Roma (In a Roma sweep); Amy Adams (as Vice’s one win)
The Frontrunner: Green Book (Globe)
The challengers: Paul Schrader, First Reformed; Alfonso Cuaron, Roma; Tony McNamara and Deborah Davis, The Favourite
The Frontrunner: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk (Scripter)
The challengers: Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman; A Star is Born
Foreign Language Film:
The frontrunner: Roma
The challenger: Cold War
The rest of the categories are as yet undecided, and could flip either way, depending. We have to wait until all of the guilds and BAFTA ring in to declare the frontrunners in the crafts categories.