The 2019 Academy Award nominees reflect the industry’s desperate attempt to express support for a diversity of themes and cultures. Will the winners reflect that same diversity? You’ll have to tune in on Sunday to find out, but here are my best guesses:
BEST PICTURE Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s memoir of his Mexican childhood, and a mood piece about stillness and being present in the journey of life. I loved Bohemian Rhapsody, Black Panther was a lot of fun, Green Book was entertaining, and shame on me for missing Vice, Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, and A Star Is Born. The Favourite is the only nominee I question. All three lead actresses were terrific, but I don’t understand why Yorgos Lanthimos has a career.
BEST DIRECTOR Alfonso Cuaron, Roma. With an impressive Hollywood track record (including a Harry Potter movie, and a previous directing Oscar for Gravity), Cuaron’s heartfelt film celebrates everything undervalued in the current political climate: strong women, people of color (from south of the border, yet), and compassion. The other of these five directors also nominated for a foreign-language film is Pawel Pawlikowski, for the brilliant Polish drama Cold War. Lee has a better chance for BlacKkKlansman, his first-ever directing nomination, than Adam McKay for Vice.
BEST ACTRESS Olivia Colman, The Favourite, absolutely fearless as cranky, sad-sack Queen Anne—no matter how awful she looked on screen—had the kind of anti-glam riskiness that wins Oscars. She also created the only character in this mannered, peculiar movie viewers could care about, in all her imperious vulnerability. Melissa McCarthy was incisive, but her character is too unpleasant in Can You Ever Forgive Me. Lady Gaga will score for music, not acting, in A Star Is Born. First-time actress Yalitza Aparicio, in Roma, is an honorable mention. But watch out for Glenn Close in The Wife. After a career full of nominations, she has yet to be the bride. Could be her turn.
BEST ACTOR Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody. Willem Dafoe’s despairing angst as Van Gogh in the misbegotten At Eternity’s Gate can’t compete. Viggo Mortensen could cruise to gold as an affable guy who discovers, then rises above, his own racism in Green Book. Likewise, Christian Bale, since the politics of Vice align with a large percentage of Oscar voters. (Who could resist his Golden Globes speech thanking Satan for inspiring him to play Dick Cheney?) But the strutting exuberance of Malek as Freddie Mercury has won every other prize this season. He’d get my vote.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Maria de Tavira, Roma, for her deft, classy turn as a woman adapting to crisis. Neither Emma Stone nor Rachel Weiss is likely to win over the other for The Favourite, where they were so evenly matched. Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk and Amy Adams in Vice aren’t getting enough buzz.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Mahershala Ali in Green Book. Sam Rockwell (Vice) won in this category last year. Adam Driver’s chances seem iffy in BlacKkKlansman, and the ever-reliable Sam Elliott only has a chance if A Star Is Born sweeps. Richard E. Grant was caustic, slinky fun in Can You Ever Forgive Me? I’d split my vote between Grant and the impressive Ali, who won in this category two years ago for Moonlight.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Alfonso Cuaron, Roma, the director who also acted as his own cinematographer. I love that two of the nominated films are in evocative black and white. The other one, Pawlikowski’s Cold War, shot by Lukasz Zal, gets my vote—dark, intoxicating and complex.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE Going out on a limb here: with Roma poised to take Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography awards, the Academy has no excuse not to bestow gold on the gorgeous Cold War.
MISCELLANY: The Favourite may lead the pack for Production Design, but Black Panther ought to sneak in for Costumes, and Vice should win for Makeup/Hairstyling for transforming Christian Bale into Dick Cheney. Yikes!
The 2019 Academy Awards will be broadcast live, Sunday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. on ABC.