Here we go- the big ones. Read on for my picks.
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Adam McKay, Vice
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Alfonso Cuaron has swept the entire season, so he should pretty easily pick up his second directing Oscar in five years. You could make a case for Spike Lee though- his first ever directing nomination in a thirty year career could make people want to vote for him (he’d also be the first black director to win this- that’s something that still hasn’t happened, believe it or not). I do think though that Roma is seen as an undeniable cinematic achievement that must be rewarded, especially for its directing, so this is Cuaron’s. He also won the DGA, which is pretty much always the winner in Best Director.
Winner: Alfonso Cuaron
Alternate: Spike Lee
A Star is Born
Okay, so here we go. Best Picture. Everyone thinks it should be Green Book vs. Roma. The PGA winner (which has matched Oscar the most ever since they started using the same kind of ranked ballot voting system, something that is only done for Best Picture and no other category) versus the DGA and BAFTA winner. It all comes down to two things- the preferential ballot and whether the Academy’s new membership (a third of its members have been added in the last five years and they’re mostly younger, international and much more ethnically diverse, since the Academy was made up of 90% older white men for most of its existence until recently) makes enough of a difference for the result to differ from the PGA winner. I’m honestly not sure. The movie that tends to benefit from the preferential ballot is one that’s not divisive, one that can garner a lot of #2 and #3 votes. Green Book seems to fit that profile- well liked, accessible, middlebrow, unchallenging. That’s obviously how it won the PGA. Roma being black and white, foreign-language (it would make history, since no Foreign Film has ever won Best Picture), and a Netflix movie could mean it’s more divisive- it could get a lot of #1 votes but also rank last on a lot of ballots.
As for a case for any of the other nominees- it’s certainly possible, especially this year. The crazy thing about this year is that every single major guild- the DGA, PGA, SAG, ACE and WGA, went to completely different movies, which is an unprecedented occurrence. DGA= Roma, PGA= Green Book, SAG= Black Panther, ACE= Bohemian Rhapsody, and WGA= Eighth Grade and Can You Ever Forgive Me? And once we’re talking about a new Academy membership that doesn’t match the demos of any of the guilds anymore, we’re really in uncharted territory. Theoretically, anything could happen on this ballot. I can see a case being made for BlacKkKlansman, which has all the requisite stats going into the night, with nods for picture, director, screenplay, acting, and editing. It was nominated for DGA, SAG and BAFTA, so even the Brits like it. It could be a consensus choice, placing high on a lot of ballots, with lots of #2 and #3 votes across the board. But… it hasn’t won a single guild award going into Oscar night.
The other option is Black Panther- that was the SAG winner, so it’s got the actors behind it, and that’s normally huge, especially in split years. The actors branch is the largest branch in the Academy. The only issue there is that it does not come into the night with support in the other most important categories like directing, acting or writing. And it didn’t get a DGA nomination or many nominations at all at BAFTA. As for any other movie, I suppose there could still be a chance that A Star is Born will place high on multiple ballots, but the movie seems to have faded so much over the season, failing to win anything besides some awards for its music. And The Favourite was strong with the British Academy, but was also not nominated at DGA or SAG for ensemble, while Vice feels like an also ran, and Bohemian Rhapsody was lucky to be nominated at all, given the bad reviews and the scandal surrounding its disgraced director Bryan Singer (although passion for that movie is pretty high, I admit). But my instinct is telling me that Roma is going to make history and take the top award.
Alternate: Green Book (I’m actually shaky on this placement, but the PGA winner can never be considered a dark horse)
Dark Horse: Black Panther (It’s still the SAG winner, and the new membership could help it rise on the ballot over even Green Book- we’ll see what happens)