Updated: Dec 8, 2019
It’s easy to look at the Oscars this year and think that Hollywood still hasn’t learned its lesson about inclusion and diversity.
Not a single woman was nominated for Best Director. In most of the Best Acting categories, all but one of the contenders is white. Two of the nominees for Best Picture, Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book, are being called out for their lackluster and controversial attempts at showing diversity onscreen.
Clearly, there’s still room for improvement in terms of representation in Hollywood.
But here’s an interesting piece of information for you: Four out of the last five Best Director winners were born in Mexico.
One of them, Alfonso Cuarón, is going to bring home the prize again this year and his movie Roma, a foreign-language auteur piece, is going to be declared the night’s big winner.
That’s just a taste of our predictions for Hollywood’s biggest night on Feb. 24, as Curbside Press raises a glass to all things great about film in the year 2018.
Below is a list of the prizes and who we think will end up with them. There’s also a grab-bag of honorable mentions that deserve a spotlight, too.
Not all the Oscar categories have been included (you’re welcome.) That’s either because we are too poor to see enough of the contenders in those areas to weigh in or because we’ve touched on some of those predictions elsewhere.
“A Star Is Born”
What Will Win: Roma
As stated above, Roma is going to win the big prize on Sunday night. It got dozens of wins on the awards circuit already and it picked up a total of 10 Oscar nominations (tied for the most with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.) We’re calling it: the same year that Netflix made history as the first streaming service to get a Best Picture nomination, it will win the top award.
It’s just as well, too, because Roma is a gem. It’s an autobiographical love letter from filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón to the woman who raised him in 1970s Mexico City. The film’s protagonist is the sheepish Cleo, an indigenous nanny who faces down countless trials while also having to support an upper class family in a broken household.
The monochrome Roma allows the film medium itself to do most of the talking, with artful lighting, framing and sweeping long takes that are staples of Cuarón’s style. From breathtaking vistas to simple domestic quarters, every second of Roma is just a pleasure to look at.
Despite an almost painstakingly slow opening act, Roma is quite gripping. The master’s touch of the man behind the camera make it a worthy recipient of the gold this year.
What Should Win: A Star Is Born
Before most of its competition premiered late last year, A Star Is Born was talked about as a virtual lock for the biggest prizes of Oscar season. A love story about two musicians, it’s a moving allegory of one fading star giving the last bit of its light to a bright new one.
Bradley Cooper’s 2018 re-envisioning of the romance is actually just the latest iteration in a long line of films with the same name.
The original A Star Is Born came out in 1937, starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. It was remade in the 1950s, starring Judy Garland and James Mason, and also in the 1970s starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The screenplay was even adapted into a Bollywood movie not too long ago.
But Cooper’s directorial debut is its own movie -- and he shows his chops in nearly every aspect of this production. He not only calls the shots as director, he also stars in it alongside the breathtakingly talented Lady Gaga -- who deserves her Best Actress nomination even more than Cooper deserves his Best Actor nod.
More than a love story, the film deals with depression, anxiety, addiction, sexism and personal identity.
All of the original music was written with care in this film, and heartbreaking numbers like “Shallow” (which will capture the Best Original Song prize) could draw teardrops from a statue. A Star Is Born doesn’t just rely on its soundtrack, though. Its mobile-yet-patient camera, flashy sets and stellar performances draw us into scenes. We feel every moment.
It should break hearts, then, that A Star Is Born will suffer from early contender bias that will keep it from capturing big prizes at The Oscars. By the time Hollywood's big night comes around, most voters will have forgotten about this crowning achievement in cinema.
Honorable Mentions: The Favourite, Black Panther
The Favourite was one of the most enjoyable and handily feminist contenders of the year.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ film features a plot centered around three female leads who each wield more influence over the plot than all of the male roles combined. Each of the main actors (we try not to use terms like “actress” at Curbside if we can avoid them) carries her respective role with aplomb.
Emma Stone keeps her Oscar streak going with a hilarious and endearing turn as the high-born-yet-low-status Abigail who’s trying to secure a spot by the Queen’s side. Rachel Weisz delivers as the calculating and fearsome Lady Sarah, who already occupies that spot and doesn't want to give it up. Olivia Colman is lights out in portraying the ailing and self-indulgent Queen Anne. It’s no accident that all three of them received acting nominations for their work.
The set design and costuming is superb. The use of wide angle fish-eye lenses to capture distorted life in royal England is unique. The dialogue is deft.
As for Black Panther, we’re seeing the beginnings of change at the Academy Awards. After much debate last year over whether to create a new category for blockbuster films, the Oscars committee decided instead to grant Ryan Coogler’s 2018 global phenomenon with a Best Picture nomination. It’s deserved, to be sure, since the film was not only commercially successful but also a cultural tidal wave.
Black Panther likely won't pick up much consideration for the top prize, though, and that’s fine. It was an immensely entertaining film, but not all of its elements rise to the level of Best Picture. Maybe some huge superhero project will someday, though, and it will owe its allegiance to Black Panther for paving the way.
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Who will win: Christian Bale
His turn as Vice President Dick Cheney is as impressive as it is disturbing. Just like Adam McKay’s The Big Short (2015), this film is two parts comedy, one part historical drama, and one part political statement.
Bale is the central gear from which the whole twisted thing turns. His transformation (while also a credit to the makeup department) is complete and unrelenting. True to his reputation as one of the most intense method actors working today, Bale put on some serious pounds in order to completely assimilate to the role of the heart-attack-prone politico.
Oscars voters love character actors for these awards, and Gary Oldman’s victory last year for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour gives Bale all the momentum for the gold here. He’s already got a Supporting Actor trophy from 2011’s The Fighter and now he’ll have a Lead Actor one to complete the collection.
Who should win: Christian Bale
Honorable mention: Rami Malek
His performance as one of the most iconic rock ‘n’ roll frontmen of all time was about the only good thing about Bohemian Rhapsody. The film was plagued with production woes, controversy and just about everything else that can go wrong in life. Its Best Editing nomination is a slap in the face of professional-grade cinema, and a story about Queen deserved better than the meandering plot that we got with this movie.
That said, Malek really brought his all to this film and he deserves recognition for his rise to the heights of award season conversation. He got an important Golden Globe for his role and even nabbed a SAG Award that many thought was Bale’s. This kid’s going places.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Who will win: Glenn Close
Close has all the momentum behind her with big wins on the circuit already. Added to that, she stars in a role that provides The Academy with everything they could hope for to pick up some woke points. She plays Joan Castleman, a woman who’s given her entire life -- her very persona -- to a place beside her Nobel prize-winning husband. She’s nearing the end of a life that she realizes is not her own, and the movie shows her impassioned attempts at seizing agency in a world created by men. It’s a fitting statement in any day and age, even more so in the Me Too Era.
Her seventh Oscar nomination should be the one that finally gets her a win. For a fun aside, check out this video of her appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.
Who should win: Glenn Close
Honorable mention: Lady Gaga
So yes, she’s acted before, most famously in the TV show American Horror Story, but Gaga absolutely smashed onto the scene last year with A Star Is Born.
She is so believable and relatable, and not just because she is playing an onscreen version of someone we already know her to be: a talented singer and songwriter. She shows more depth in the role than that, really letting us connect with her and feel her panic, passion and pain.
This is a well-deserved nomination, even if her role is overshadowed by others who have been performing on the screen for longer. Not for nothing, she actually tied Close in this category at the Critics’ Choice Awards last month.
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
Who will win: Sam Elliott
This is perhaps the boldest prediction we will make for this year’s award show. Elliott was completely snubbed at the Golden Globes without even a nomination, and he lost at both the SAG Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards last month. Those are often seen as the litmus test for who will take home the acting statues come Oscars night.
Here’s why we think he will overcome the odds: he’s a veteran actor whose career spans five decades. This is his first-ever nomination and his time is running out to receive his due. Most importantly, he commands every scene he’s in of A Star Is Born. Give the mustachioed gentleman with the hickory voice a statue!
Who should win: Sam Elliott
Honorable mention: Mahershala Ali
Most critics and analysts have Ali winning here, repeating his success from 2017 when he won this same prize for his role in “Moonlight”. He’s won the big precursor awards for his victory to make sense, and he’s fresh on everyone’s minds for his stellar role in Season 3 of HBO’s “True Detective”. Simply put, he is on cloud nine even without a win this year.
Green Book was the one Best Picture contender that we did not go see, due in large part to the controversy that has plagued the film. Ali, however, is a stellar actor and even without seeing the performance, we can assume he did an admirable job.
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Who will win: Regina King
Despite missing out on some key precursor awards, King is pretty much the only person who’s a lock for Supporting Actress. Stone and Weisz being nominated for the same film will only wash each other out of a preferential ballot and Marina De Tavira was a surprise nomination for most. Amy Adams, the only real competition, simply has not been generating the same buzz.
King channeled her own role models into the part of the family matriarch whose strength doesn’t give out from under the weight of her family’s problems. As one of the few women of color in the Oscars conversation this year, there’s some social justice, too, in her taking home the gold.
Who should win: Regina King
Honorable mention: Amy Adams
Opposite the physical metamorphosis of Christian Bale, it can be easy to not notice how much Adams brings to the role of Lynne Cheney. While Adams portrays Lynne as the kindly Middle-American housewife, she’s also the real reason why the Cheney name amounts to anything in the film. In one scene, she rouses Dick out of drunken mediocrity and pushes him to go on to control the highest seats of power.
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
Who will win: Cuarón
He already won the award in 2014 for Gravity and he is the talk of the town for Roma this year. He did nearly everything on this film, from calling the shots and filming them to editing the thing almost single-handedly. If you’re looking for an auteur putting together a unique and artful masterpiece, look no further.
Who should win: Cuarón
Honorable Mention: Bradley Cooper
The fact that he didn’t even get so much as a nod is an absolute disgrace. You could chalk it up to the fact that Cooper had more time on his passion project than any of the other contenders (about four years), or the fact that A Star Is Born is just his first movie. Either way it’s a hollow argument.
For one, Jordan Peele got a nomination last year for his smash directorial debut Get Out. While it’s a great film, it didn’t show the kind of technical know-how that came out of the director’s chair in A Star Is Born.
As for the time element, Cooper took so long because he had a hand in absolutely every aspect of this film. He helped write the music, he used his impressive collection of Hollywood connections to recreate huge concerts and award show scenes for the movie, and he assembled an amazing cast and crew for this film.
While his film garnered an impressive eight total nominations for his efforts, I’m taking the moment to recognize Cooper’s directing achievement since The Academy somehow forgot to.
“Incredibles 2,” Brad Bird
“Isle of Dogs,” Wes Anderson
“Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
“Ralph Breaks the Internet,” Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
What will win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Like most years, the Animated Feature award is no contest. Unlike most years, the Disney-Pixar projects aren’t favored to win this time around.
This film is deservedly getting a lot of credit for innovating the animation genre and is going to be a gold standard for how to make comic-style family movies for decades to come.
With an absolutely groundbreaking mix of animation styles and an attention to detail that few films bring to the table, this is one of the most deserving recipients of an award this year. Spider-Verse is a masterpiece, and for more about what we liked, check out our full review from last year.
What should win: Spider-Man
Honorable Mention: Isle of Dogs
While it lacks the panache and cleanness of some of the great stop-motion animation coming from studios like Laika out of Portland, this Wes Anderson flick has a stellar cast and a unique aesthetic. Ignoring some of the (frankly overblown) controversy about cultural appropriation, this artsy animation is Anderson trying out something new in an interesting way.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters
Who will win: “BlacKkKlansman” - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee
BlackKkKlansman is an entertaining and socially significant retelling of a true story, but it’s unfortunately not technically or dramatically unique enough to really stand out in the other categories this awards season. It’s a shame, too, since this year sees veteran director Spike Lee get his long overdue first nomination for Best Director. Just so, expect him to win some hardware for writing this screenplay.
What should win: BlacKkKlansmen
Honorable Mention: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
It’s a small-cast historical drama starring a main character we root for despite her rough edges and proclivity for forgery. What’s not to love?
“The Favourite,” Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
“First Reformed,” Paul Schrader
“Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“Vice,” Adam McKay
What will win: The Favourite
Since it will be short of collecting big wins in any other categories, I think The Favourite will eke by its competition in this category. Aside from the costuming and production awards it’s up for against stiffer competition, this is really the biggest area where Oscar voters can and should show some favoritism for The Favourite.
What should win: The Favourite
Honorable Mention: Roma
While the film is primarily in Spanish, this is the rare spotlit screenplay that includes an indigenous language spoken on the screen: Mixtec. The writing is hardly where this film shows its chops, but this fact alone bears noting.
“Cold War,” Lukasz Zal
“The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan
“Never Look Away,” Caleb Deschanel
“Roma,” Alfonso Cuarón
“A Star Is Born,” Matthew Libatique
Who will win: Cuarón
While he was helped in the beginning of shooting by the decision-making of Emmanuel Lubezki, Cuarón took the reigns of a long shoot and held the camera himself for just about every frame of his soul-bearing Roma. As an accomplished cinematographer in his own right, and as a director who’s long been lauded for his technically adept style, Cuarón is the most likely to come away with the prize for the crystal-clear camerawork here. Plus, Oscar loves himself a black and white flick.
Who should win: Robbie Ryan
He makes perhaps the best use of the camera lens of any of the contenders this year, though he will probably lose out to Cuarón's kinetic ingenuity. Ryan uses the space of his sets to the best effect, and where Cuarón's long panning shots can feel lazing, Ryan's feel urgent and flashy. His through-shots are masterful, like the one pictured above, and the use of lighting throughout this film is just impeccable.
Honorable Mention: Matthew Libatique
Despite gushing so much about Bradley Cooper’s influence over A Star Is Born, Libatique is hugely responsible for the look and feel of the film. He transitions between handheld steadycam and close-up rigged shots in a way that really sells the relationships on the screen. Just as the acting couldn’t have worked without the chemistry of Cooper and Gaga, this film couldn’t have worked without the eye of Libatique.
“BlacKkKlansman,” Barry Alexander Brown
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman
“Green Book,” Patrick J. Don Vito
“The Favourite,” Yorgos Mavropsaridis
“Vice,” Hank Corwin
Who will win: Hank Corwin - “Vice”
In a film plot that covers five decades and a host of political issues, Corwin’s deft hand in the cutting room is a huge reason why Vice has been so successful. There’s actually talk of Bohemian Rhapsody coming away with a win here, which would be the biggest upset of the night with how bad the editing is in that film.
Who should win: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
This is another area where The Academy can show some love for a film that got ten total nominations but will probably lose out to Roma in higher categories.
“Black Panther,” Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Warhurst
“First Man,” Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
“A Quiet Place,” Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
“Roma,” Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay
Who will win: Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan - “First Man”
While the film contains a fair amount of visual splendor, too, First Man shines brightest in creating a soundscape that grips the audience with the tension of a rocket launch countdown and the quiet, surreal lunar moonscape. This film was shut out of creative awards entirely, so look to see it get its due on the production side, especially for the sound team.
Who should win: Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl - “A Quiet Place”
It may seem counterintuitive that a film with no dialogue deserves a sound award, but this film delivered in a big way by making the sound a prime focus. In a world where the slightest noise can spell doom, we are perhaps listening to the absence of sound more than the sound itself. For a film that made such waves last year and only collected one nomination, A Quiet Place deserves some recognition here.
“A Star Is Born”
What will win: A Star Is Born
Yet another area where Oscar will show love to a film that will largely be overshadowed in the other big categories. A film in which a musical romance is the feature is a deserving enough winner.
What should win: A Star Is Born
“Black Panther,” Hannah Beachler
“First Man,” Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
“The Favourite,” Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton
“Mary Poppins Returns,” John Myhre, Gordon Sim
“Roma,” Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez
Who will win: Hannah Beachler - “Black Panther”
In terms of sheer world-building and colossal production scale, Black Panther stands out as the clear favorite. While it likely won’t walk away with the marquee awards like Best Picture, Black Panther will be rewarded with a deserving production nod.
Who should win: Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas - “First Man”
While First Man suffers from being just another movie about NASA, with more or less the same practical and special effects as other Oscar-winning space dramas of the past, that shouldn’t diminish the feat of creating believable space scenery and set pieces. Since First Man is one of the most production-oriented films of 2018, it deserves the gold here.
“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
Who will win: Terence Blanchard
Blanchard’s score is a folksy mix of blues, jazz and rock that showcases the cultural significance that African American heritage has brought to this country despite, and at times in the face of, the racism this film explores.
In a category that also features the likes of rising star Goransson, and perennial Oscar contenders like Alexandre Desplat and Nicholas Britell (who won in 2017 for the score of Moonlight), this award could feasibly go to any of the nominees. We’re picking Blanchard because he’s been in the game for decades, even doing the score for 1992’s Malcolm X, though this is his first Oscar nomination. The Academy probably recognizes by now that his ticket is up and that this project is as good as any of the other contenders.
Who should win: Ludwig Goransson
A lot of outlets have Goransson taking home the prize in this category, and he would be uniquely deserving because the young Swedish composer fused together an eclectic mix of musical styles from around the African continent to create Black Panther’s noteworthy score. The music is a highlight of the world-building that’s taking place in the movie, and that’s due largely to this man’s efforts.
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Ready Player One”
“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
What will win: Avengers: Infinity War
You simply can’t have Josh Brolin do this many hours of motion capture, resulting in this gripping of a performance, and not recognize how stellar the effects technologies were in this film. You simply can’t.
What should win: Infinity War
Honorable mention: First Man
First Man really makes us feel like we’re in the cockpit with the astronauts who risk their lives in the pursuit of patriotic victory and scientific discovery.
How many of these 2018 films did you see? Do you agree with our selections? Let us know in the comments below and help us out by sharing this article on social media. For more movie reviews and analysis of films and awards, subscribe to Curbside Press here.