“This is the 51st Academy Awards,” said that evening’s host, Johnny Carson. “Two hours of sparkling entertainment spread over a four-hour show.” No one has ever described cinema’s biggest night with such dry, succinct brilliance. It seems every minute of glamour or grippingly candid emotion gets matched with another minute of bloated, boring pomp. Still, we watch the Oscars for much the same reason we watch the movies that spawn them: The dull tedium is worth suffering through for the chance to see something goofy, glorious, or just flat-out fascinating.
For a complete list of nominees, click here. Or, if you wanna see my list of 2018’s best movies, get on in here. (**A note: My choices for Best Documentary, Best Foreign Film, and Best Short are still a couple days away.**)
These picks represent who I would choose to take home each Oscar, if I had a magic lamp. And had already wished for unlimited wishes. The Academy Awards will air on February 24th, at 7pm, CST.
Now, let’s roll this beautiful bean footage:
Best Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Malek’s performance provided the nuclear fuel that powered Bohemian Rhapsody beyond the constraints of a traditional biopic. Few actors have bottled the essence of their subject the way Malek captures Freddie Mercury’s aching need to sing to the rafters and simply find somebody to love. The Academy may pull off a stunning upset (as they are sometimes prone to do) and hand the award to Christian Bale for his stunning mimicry of a grousing, crusty Dick Cheney, but I would be shocked to see anyone other than Malek bring this award home.
Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Colman plays Queen Anne as an unhinged dilettante, and her performance is a perfect alchemy of raw, moving, and darkly funny. I would put her onstage come Oscar night, but my gut says Gaga’s grand slam in A Star is Born will win her the award. Glenn Close is a dark horse, as the Academy loves handing out retrospective Oscars. (See also: Martin Scorsese for The Departed.)
Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I’ve been a Richard E. Grant fan ever since he stole a few scenes in Steve Martin’s weird, underrated L.A. Story. He’s a richly-talented actor who’s only needed the role of a lifetime to come along. Grant gets it as Jack Hock, a hard-drinking, cheerfully nihilistic accomplice to Lee Israel’s literary fraud. Hock seems like a meteor with a path both bright and brief, and Grant perfectly conveys his humor and heartbreak. This category seems pretty wide open, so I’m gonna root for a great actor who’s long overdue for some awards love.
Best Supporting Actor: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
This is one where I think my opinion will line up with the Academy voters. Regina King could’ve played this protective mom with one-dimension, but like the movie itself, she brings warmth and grace to a woman who loves and fights unconditionally. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are strong contenders from The Favourite, but King will be hard to beat.
Best Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
This Spidey spins both animated features and comic book movies in a crazy-cool new direction. Built on vibrant, sweeping animation and a story well-told, Spider-Verse finds Miles Morales confronting a host of other-dimensional variations of the iconic webslinger. There are some strong contenders here, but this refreshing take wins out.
Best Cinematography: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Ever since I saw Touch of Evil as a wee lad, I’ve been a sucker for black-and-white cinematography. With that in mind, Roma was like French silk pie for my eyeballs. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say this one of the most striking, stark-looking movies to come along in years. Otherwise, I think The Favourite would stroll off with this one.
Best Adapted Screenplay: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk
Is it weird that a film gets this much acclaim and still feels underrated? Beale was the real deal, and it still got snubbed in the Best Picture field. Much of its success derives from the finesse of Jenkins’ script, which blends the beauty of a good novel with the ground-bound reality these characters must confront every day. This is a strong group of nominees, and Star is Born may sneak in, but this one would get my vote.
Best Original Screenplay: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite
This is another stack of good scripts, and it’s tough to pick one. Paul Schrader may get a legacy boost here for First Reformed, but my affinity is for the raunchy, whip-smart Favourite. The writing here is as delicious as a bone-in ribeye, and it’s no surprise these talented actors chow down.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Like Truffaut before him, Cuarón uses the cinema as a conduit for his own deeply personal storytelling. In Roma, he hides his passion and ambition in plain sight. This is a layered, deceptively complex film, marked by Cuarón’s steady, patient hand at the helm. Roma’s slow, quiet burn alienated some viewers, and it’s a testament to the director’s audacity that the movie has garnered acclaim on his own creative terms.
Best Picture: Gabriela Rodriguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Just when ya think they don’t make ’em like this anymore. Stunningly filmed, meticulously acted, Roma may ultimately stand as Cuarón’s magnum opus. Roma feels like both a modern refinement of La Nouvelle Vague and new movie-making terrain altogether.
2018 was a top-heavy year, and this list of nominees reflects a diverse group in terms of tone and ambition. Bohemian Rhapsody galvanized audiences and made an arena-rock superhero relatable and deeply human at the same time. Green Book was funny and moving without being juvenile or maudlin, and that’s no small feat. Black Panther became a socio-cinematic milestone, and it did a damn fine job depicting a bad-ass comic book character. The Favourite was a favorite of mine because it found a way to be bawdy and ballsy and still tell a compelling story. A Star is Born was a pleasant surprise, it tweaked the source material enough to feel refreshing. People try to diminish Lady Gaga’s performance because…well, I guess just because people are assholes, but her Oscar would be well-deserved. BlacKkKlansman was both boldly funny and alarmingly relevant, and became Spike Lee’s best joint in many years. Vice was a rare movie on this list that missed with me. I found its satire to be as subtle as a rock hammer and Dick Cheney to be a markedly unappealing character, despite Christian Bale’s spot-on performance. Still, it’s the role of art to sometimes tell truth to power, and I respect Adam McKay and company for hunting some big game.
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