Oscars 2018 was possibly the most unpredictable race ever (only in terms of Best Picture). So, it was a little disappointing that it ended with a whimper. ‘The Shape of Water’ was the most conventional and predictable choice that the Academy could have gone with. And in the end, despite all its unpredictability, Oscar 2018 season ended on a predictable note, so much so, that I was able to predict 23 out of 24 winners correctly. Anyway, it is time to move on and look what lies ahead.
Update 5th Sep, 2018: Two major film festivals, Telluride and Venice, just got over. And even though both the festivals were low key compared to past years, there were more than a few movies that emerged to be the top Oscar contenders. While there were familiar titles, that most of the Oscar pundits, expected to do well — like ‘Roma’ and ‘First Man’ — there were also movies like ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me’ and ‘The Favorite’ that emerged as surprise contenders. At this point, you might be wondering what about the films that nobody has seen yet? It is true that we have yet to see some major titles scheduled to release late in the year, but don’t forget that majority of the Best Picture winners of last few years premiered at Telluride. While I am tempted to declare that the race to Best Picture will ultimately be between ‘Roma’ and ‘First Man’, I will hold off that judgement for a few weeks till things settle down.
Update 17th Sep, 2018: The biggest film festival as far as Oscars are concerned, just got over. While the films that were carrying buzz from Telluride and Venice — like Roma, A Star is Born and First Man — continued their good show at TIIF, there were also several new titles that threw their hat in the race. The two that emerged to be the strongest contenders out of TIFF are Green Book and If Beale Street Could Talk. The former won the highly sought after TIFF’s People Choice Awards. Just in case you were wondering what does People Choice Award has to do with Oscars, let me remind you that prior winners include the likes of La La Land and The King’s Speech. So, that puts Green Book squarely into the mix of Best Picture conversation.
Update 6th Dec, 2018: A lot has changed since the last time I made an update to my predictions. The reason I waited for so long to move things is because of two reasons: 1. I wanted to see some of the prospective contenders that had skipped the film festival circuit 2. I also wanted to wait for how major critics group awards and Golden Globes nominations play out.
So, the question remains: what has changed? First, a couple of months back I was almost certain that Roma is the Best Picture frontrunner, but after all that has transpired since then, I am no longer sure of that. Why? Because there are now more than one serious contenders for the top prize. Apart from Roma, there are two films that are steadily climbing the Oscar charts: A Star is Born and Green Book. Then, considering the fact that Oscars are nowadays more about making political statement than rewarding “the best”, I wouldn’t discount Blackkklansman and Black Panther either. Yes, you read that right. Black Panther is now a serious Best Picture contender.
Second, some of the serious contenders are almost out of the race.. or are they. The first one to suffer the brunt happens to be one of my favorite films of the year: First Man. I am surprised by the cold reception the film is receiving. Its poor box-office performance almost sealed its fate. Another film that I had high hopes with, Mary Queen of Scots, also doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The film was received positively by the critics, but it really needed overwhelmingly positive response to catapult it into the Oscars race.
Third: Emergence of a couple of new contenders: Mary Poppins Returns and Vice. Both the films hugely benefitting from strong showing at Golden Globe nominations. More on them below.
Update 6th January, 2019: The race for 2019 Best Picture Oscar race continues getting interesting with every passing day. There is a notion among common movie goers — and even critics themselves — that it is the critics who are the biggest influencers in deciding who gets in and who is left out of the Oscar race. Well, that’s just a myth. Critics shape the Oscar conversation to an extent, but ultimately it is the film industry who decides. And don’t ever count the power of box office. Which means even the common movie goers can have their say in the Oscar race. If you really want to understand how much do critics and audiences matter, you have to look at the cases of two films: ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘First Man’. The former loved by audiences, disliked by critics; the latter was loved by critics, disliked by audiences. Now, see where both films stand in terms of Best Picture race. Bohemian Rhapsody just won Best Film (Drama) at the Golden Globes, whereas ‘First Man’ was not even nominated. It is true that Golden Globes win will only take ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as far as Oscar nomination, but still it matters more than hundreds of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. So, yeah, if you are a ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ fan, this latest update to my Oscar prediction will make you happy.
Another box office hit, ‘A Star is Born’, had an extremely bad evening at the Globes. It lost three awards it was expected to win: Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Actress — two of them to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. If you are a ‘A Star is Born’ fan, I have a good news and a bad news for you. First the bad news. The film is no longer the frontrunner to win Best Picture. Now, the good news: It’s actually good that it is no longer the frontrunner. Why? Because being a frontrunner in the most critical phase of the race can be severely detrimental to prospects of winning Best Picture. Don’t believe me? Okay. Let me site two recent examples. Boyhood won at the Globes. It lost the Oscar. La La Land and Moonlight both won at the Globes. But La La Land was deemed the frontrunner at this point in the race. It also ended up losing the Oscar for Best Picture. Both La La Land and Boyhood went into the last phase of the race with the burden of huge expectations. And the end result didn’t turn out pleasant for them. So, if you are a ‘A Star is Born’ fan, cheer up. This is not the end of the road. This is just the beginning.
Update 19th January, 2019: So, the dust has finally settled. Things are looking much clearer now. Or are they? After Critics Choice declared its winners, it is becoming more and more evident that ‘Roma’ is our frontrunner. For now, let’s keep the conversation on eventual Best Picture winner aside and let’s just delve into the films that will get nominated on January 22 morning. I am very confident about top eight on the list. For the last two years, we have had nine Best Picture nominees. Will that change this year? Probably. Or may be not. In any case, let’s jump into the list of films which I feel are guaranteed to get nominations. The first four on the list have an outside shot. The final eight are more or less confirmed.
Update 23rd January, 2019: The Oscar nominations have been announced. There were some surprises, but Best Picture line-up was on expected lines — in fact, I predicted all eight of them correctly. Now comes the second of phase of Oscar voting, where all Academy members vote in all categories to pick the winner. In case, you wanted to know how Best Picture winners are selected, head to this article. Considering that ‘Roma’ is so well liked and isn’t carrying any baggage of present or past — like some of the films on the nominee list — it will be very difficult for any other film to win. The way preferential balloting works, the least divisive film has the best shot of winning Best Picture. That’s why ‘Moonlight’ won over ‘La La Land’. That’s also why ‘Spotlight’ won over ‘The Revenant’. If you look at this year’s nominees, it won’t take you long to figure out that ‘Roma’ is the least divisive film of the lot. Some are of the view that since it is a Netflix film, many will not vote for it. But I don’t share that sentiment simply because voters who like ‘Roma’ aren’t going to not vote for it because it is a Netflix film. In any case, in preferential system you don’t vote for a film, but you rank them. Imagine, a voter, who liked Roma, with ballot in his hand thinking “I am going to rank Roma lower because it is a Netflix film”. Does that make any sense? Exactly!
With that said, here’s the list of all the nominees, ranked from the least to most likely to win Best Picture.
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Bill Pullman and Alison Pill
Synopsis: The story of Dick Cheney, the most powerful Vice President in history, and how his policies changed the world as we know it.
Analysis: One look at Bale’s transformation for the role and you won’t be asking this question again. But there’s much more to the film than the master transformer, such as the stellar ensemble and Dick Cheney’s own original intriguing life story. ‘The Big Short’, McKay’s last collaboration with Bale and Carell, was a treasure trove of crisp filmmaking and wry humour. They arguably have repeated the magic again. ‘The Big Short’ fell short (pun intended) of winning Best Picture. I think ‘Vice’ will fall way short. The film is just too divisive to win.
7. Black Panther
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o
Synopsis: T’Challa, heir to the hidden but advanced kingdom of Wakanda, must step forward to lead his people into a new future and must confront a challenger from his country’s past.
Analysis: Black Panther became the first superhero film to receive Best Picture nomination. After smashing box office records and impressing critics around the globe, it was but obvious that it would get nominated for Best Picture. But its chances of winning is almost nil. There are still many in the Academy who would detest the idea of a superhero film winning Best Picture.
6. A Star is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Stefani Germanotta, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle
Synopsis: A movie star helps a young singer/actress find fame, even as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Analysis: Bradley Cooper’s Best Director miss means that the film chances of winning Best Picture nosedived. Sometimes, being an early favorite can cause more harm than good. And that’s what happened with ‘A Star is Born’. When it didn’t win Golden Globes for Best Drama, that was the first sign that the film is on a shaky ground. Then, it missed the PGA. And then, Cooper was snubbed for Best Director. I am afraid that the film might end the Oscar night with just one award: Best Song. Read Full Review.
5. Bohemian Rhapsody
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee
Synopsis: The story of the legendary rock music band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury, leading up to their famous performance at Live Aid (1985).
Analysis: Golden Globe’s win, stupendous box-office, (mysterious) industry-wide support (it also found a place on the PGA list of nominees for Best Film of 2018) meant that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ defied all the odds to find a spot in Oscar nomination list. The fact that the film has managed to come so far without the support of critics groups or award procrastinators is a case study in itself. Will it win? No. Why? Again, it is too divisive a film, especially considering that film’s director is mired with sexual harassment allegations.
4. Green Book
Director: Peter Farrelly
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali
Synopsis: A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
Analysis: The fact that Green Book beat the likes of A Star is Born and First Man to win the coveted TIFF People Choice Awards tells you a lot about how easy to like it is. Strangely enough, I have realized in last one month that it is a film that is also easy to hate. The film managed to generate so much controversy that I don’t think it has much chance of winning. Without all this controversy, who knows. It might have been able to pull off an upset on Oscar night. Read Full Review.
3. The Favourite
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone
Synopsis: In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail (Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.
Analysis: Who would have thought that Yorgos Lanthimos, who came into limelight with Dogtooth, would go on to direct a historical dramedy? Even more surprising is that The Favourite is being talked about as serious Oscar contender. The film tied with Roma for the most number of nominations. That in itself shows its strength. What also works in its favor is that it is not a divisive film at all and checks all the right boxes that are needed to win Best Picture. Though, what works against the film is that it doesn’t have any political undertones — which most recent Best Picture winners have.
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier
Synopsis: The plot revolves around an African-American cop from Colorado who goes on to infiltrate the local Klu Klux Klan and later become the leader of the local chapter.
Analysis: Spike Lee is known to have explored a wide range of socio-cultural issues in his movies, including racism, urban poverty, media and crime. The man has made some of the most important American films of the past 30 years including ’25th Hour’, ‘Malcolm X, and ‘Do the Right Thing’, and with this one, he looks pretty much in his zone, which is what makes the wait very exciting. Because it is second least divisive film of this list and due to “Spike Lee” factor, I think it has a pretty decent shot at winning Best Picture if something goes wrong with Roma’s Oscar campaign in next one month.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Diego Cortina Autrey
Synopsis: A story that chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s.
Analysis: Beautiful. Moving. Personal. Masterpiece. These are the words that critics are using to describe Alfoso Cuaron’s latest creation. It is understandable that after making a grand film like ‘Gravity’, he went back to make a very personal project. It seems like his decision to pour his heart out is touching a lot of hearts. After a long time, we will have a true deserving Best Picture winner. What hurts its chances a little is the fact it is a Foreign Language film. But then, the Academy also has at least 15-20% members whose first language is not English. So, bet against Roma at your own risk. Read Full Review.
Read More: Oscars 2019 Best Actress Predictions
Read More: Oscars 2019 Best Actor Predictions