The 91st Academy Awards air tonight, and if there’s one thing this crop of nominees doesn’t have over previous telecasts is a clear Favourite. While trying to stay away from controversy, they drop there their host faster than a Black Panther attacking its prey, and wind up with more questions than a Blackkklansman. Trying to Bohemian Rhapsody their way out, they come off like power-hungry Vices, treating their viewers like Roma. At least they didn’t go as far as creating their own Green Book of categories that may or may not be televised. For most viewers, this year’s telecast isn’t about whether A Star Is Born, it’s finding out how insane the telecast will end up.
In other words, with all of the madness that surrounded the Oscar telecast this year, it’s hard to know who will come out as winners, but, as usual, I’m going to give it a shot, along with giving out a few special categories I created myself to highlight those moments in film that otherwise got overlooked.
Best Picture (Nominees – Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice)
Who Will Win: The Favourite
This is probably one of the closest races we’ll see at the Oscars this year, though there are a couple of films that seem to have the edge over the others. Black Panther was chosen to satisfy the masses; Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book and A Star Is Born are there to fill in the gaps; and Vice and Blackkklansman have more to do with their directors than the actual films. Which leaves us with The Favourite and Roma. I believe it’ll come down to the wire, and though many pundits are saying Roma will take the top prize, I’m putting my money behind The Favourite to edge out a victory over the film no one saw.
Who Should Win: A Star Is Born
Wait. Hasn’t that film already won… something? And what about Black Panther. It was in my top ten list? Well, though Panther was entertaining, it didn’t quite have what it takes to be awarded the top honor, not in the way A Star Is Born, which was deftly handled by first-time director Bradley Cooper. Everything from the cinematography to the music and proving Lady Gaga is more than a bag of tricks, Cooper brought new life to a story that’s been told several times and infused it with plenty of heart and emotional gravitas worthy of a new generation.
Best Actor (Nominees – Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Willem Dafoe, Rami Malek, Viggo Mortenson)
Who Will and Should Win: Willem Dafoe
As per usual, there is a crop of terrific actors competing for the top acting prize this year. However, there’s only one in my mind that deserves the honor, and that’s Willem Dafoe. Christian Bale was terrific as Vice President Cheney, but it always felt as if he was more interested in the appearance than in getting to the heart of what actually made this man tick. Bradley Cooper and Viggo Mortenson were really good, but not quite good enough; and Rami Malek embodied Freddie Mercury with heart, but not enough soul. That leaves Dafoe, and though I never saw At Eternity’s Gate, based on his resume, I have no doubt that he painted one glorious performance.
Best Actress (Nominees – Yalitza Aparicio, Glenn Close, Olivia Colman, Lady Gaga, Melissa McCarthy)
Who Will and Should Win: Glenn Close
I only saw two of the films from this crop of nominees, which limits my ability to truly know who’s deserving of the top prize. Of the two I did see, Lady Gaga is good, but not ready to earn this type of praise, and I’m not sure I get Olivia Colman (British humor, you know). I’ve seen Melissa McCarthy in other dramatic fare and thought her quite capable, but not sure how her performance this time around equates; and though it’s great that a young actress jumps into the race with her first performance, Yalitza Aparicio has plenty of time to build on that for the future. So, I’m going to say, much like Dafoe, this year Glenn Close finally gets her due.
Best Supporting Actor (Nominees – Mahershala Ali, Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, Richard E. Grant, Sam Rockwell)
Who Will and Should Win: Mahershala Ali
The field is wide open on this one. Sam Rockwell brought just enough humanization to his performance as former president George H.W. Bush, but he’s nowhere as good as he was in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (for which he won this prize last year). I’ve never been a big fan of Adam Driver, so not sure why he’s here, and Sam Elliott and Richard E. Grant seem like old standby’s. That leaves Mahershala Ali, who brought a tenderness to his role as a musician attempting to find peace within himself as he brought peace to a racist south.
Best Supporting Actress (Nominees – Amy Adams, Marina de Tavira, Regina King, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz)
Who Will Win: Regina King
I think I’ll have to defer to the pundits on this one. I’ve got nothing really bad to say about any of these choices. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone may end up splitting the vote allowing someone else to claim the prize, while Amy Adams again felt more impersonator than true character. I never saw the other two, so Regina King gets the nod.
Who Should Win: Rachel Weisz
Of the performances I did see, Rachel Weisz was the best suited for the role she played. She brought a fiery, yet damaged nuance to her role in The Favourite, and compared to Stone (who went a little too over the top for my linking), Weisz found a way to balance the dark humor with the dramatic prose, lifting the film above the absurd nonsense that littered the film and grounding it enough to sit through.
Best Director (Nominees – Spike Lee, Powet Pawlikowski, Yorgos Lanthimos, Alfonso Cuarón, Adam McKay)
Who Will and Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón
To be honest, I didn’t care for either of the films I saw in this category. Adam McKay injected Vice with way too much of his own personal bias to put any respect into his work, and I couldn’t make heads or tales of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite. Powet Pawlikowski’s film, Cold War, is probably too small to see any traction, and Spike Lee… well… That leaves Alfonso Cuarón to take home the top prize for Roma, a film I’ve heard is beautiful to watch with its majestic cinematography, acting and story. Just watch out for the pace, which, if reports are correct, may just put you to sleep.
Best Animated Feature (Nominees – Incredibles 2, The Isle of Dogs, Mirai, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)
Who Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
I can understand why Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will win the top prize. It has some terrific animation, a solid script, some great voice work and wears its emotions on its sleeve. It felt extremely original, and didn’t try to cater to anyone’s preconceptions. All-in-all, a very good film.
Who Should Win: Incredibles 2
The main problem I had with Spider-Man was that it didn’t give us enough of the multi-verse, introducing us to a couple of versions of the character that were sorely wasted. Had they spent a little more time developing and integrating them into the plot, I would agree it deserved the top spot. That’s why I think Incredibles 2 should win. Yes, it took the first film’s plot and reversed roles, but it also introduced us to a brand new hero that was magnetic on screen, brought new elements to the film that were fun and exciting, and continued developing the characters into a team of superheroes that are worth watching again and again.
Best Ensemble: Avengers: Infinity War
When Marvel came up with the idea to put together a series of films that would all inter-connect, eventually bringing together heroes from different films to form The Avengers, it may have seemed impossible, to say the least. However, every choice producer Kevin Feige has made has been on point, creating a slew of solo films that feel unique, but developing them in a way that keeps everything grounded in the same universe. Avengers: Infinity War is a testament to that development, as the prospect of bringing together several dozens of superheroes couldn’t have been easy. But directors Anthony and Joe Russo were more than up to the challenge of finding a way to make the film unique while not sidelining any of the big name actors that come along with it. The entire cast was game for whatever was thrown at them and it never felt like any one actor, no matter how important they think they are, was trying to overshadow anyone else. They were a team in the true sense of the word, no matter how many different corners of the universe they ended up.
Best Child Performance: Isabela Moner, Instant Family
Instant Family had some great things going for it, but the actor who held it altogether was most certainly Isabela Moner. She had just enough fire to fight for what she believed in, but carried just as much compassion for those she cared for the most. The battle between giving her siblings a better life and fighting for what she wanted most (which was to reunite with her biological mother) was represented in every nuance of her body language. her words and her performance.
Best Subversion of Expectations: Deadpool 2
Film trailers these days seem to give a little too much away in order to incite you to get away from the small screens and head to the cinema. So it’s ironic that the one film that breaks all of the norms would do so once again with its very own trailer. Though it seemed to be a traditional preview, giving away plot details without giving away too many twists and surprises, the trailer seemed to focus on Deadpool forming a team of superheroes with strange abilities to take down his newest nemesis. But if you were expecting this to be the bulk of the film, you were dead wrong, as Deadpool 2 takes a page from its own playbook to rip your expectations to shreds.
Best Villain Maker: Josh Brolin, Avengers: Inifity War and Deadpool 2
Josh Brolin has been around the film industry all his life, taking what he learned by watching his father and transforming that into characters who are flawed but ultimately good, flawed but ultimately bad, and just downright flawed. So, it was great to see Brolin create not one, but two superhero villains we could love to hate and infuse them with just enough depth beyond your typical mustache-twirling psychopath that we actually care about them as well. With Thanos, he brought compassion to a man who is ready to wipe out half the universe with the snap of his finger, and with Cable, we see a flawed human being; not evil, but desperate to save his daughter. Both characters are inherently the same, as they both simply want to change things for the better, but ultimately do so in the wrong way. But it works because Brolin knows how to add the gray into black and white.
Best Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I know this is an actual category at the Oscars, but I had to give a shout-out to Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which got snubbed by the academy this year. I don’t see a lot of documentaries, but this one sang praise to a man who we all grew up with, showing us a great deal about not only how creative he was, or how strongly he felt about society and how he was going to change the world for the better, but about how he never gave up on himself or the children that he taught to be good, kind, civil people. Free Solo may end up winning the Oscar, but Won’t You Be My Neighbor will win your hearts.
Best Creeper: Jesse Plemons, Game Night
Based on the trailers, I wasn’t sure how well I was going to like Jessie Plemons’s character in Game Night. It felt very much like he would take the charcater too far, causing us to disconnect with the film. However, Plemons does a terrific job of walking that fine line between over-the-top corniness and creepy perfection. He ends up fitting right in with the overall aesthetic of the film, going just far enough to ground the character in reality but creep you out just the same. He was funny, went toe-to-toe with the heavyweights on screen, and stayed just quiet enough to keep from standing out, but standing out in the most brilliant of ways.
Best Religious Feature: I Can Only Imagine
There are a handful of faith-based films that come out every year. Some are a little lax on talent; some can’t find the right story beats; and others are a bit too heavy-handed. Get all three wrong, and you’ve got a disaster on your hands; get all three right, and you have the likes of I Can Only Imagine, the story of how Mercy Me went from complete unknowns to superstardom with their massive hit song of the same name. All of the performances hit just the right note, the pacing and story flow elegantly together, and the message isn’t dropped on you like an anvil. Oh, and it’s got great music, too.
What do you think? Who will win and should win the Oscars this year? Do you have any movies or actors you’d like to give a shout out to for their excellence in 2018? Tell me in the comments below!