The 91st Academy Awards

This is my ninth year covering the Academy Awards in an official capacity and, with each growing year, the divide between voters and the public audience gets deeper and wider. What exactly are we voting for? Is it the singular art form that defines cinema or what captured the zeitgeist? People were more invested in Infinity War than Roma. Revenue confirms that and Netflix won’t release any information it doesn’t want to.

Filmmaking is a craft. Shouldn’t there be a point where we culturally recognize those moments where the craft of movie-making ascends into art? Is that what we’re doing now? I’m not so sure.

This won’t get answered here. I’ll be writing about this for the rest of my life if I’m doing it right. If The Academy can’t decide on a “Most Popular” category or if cinematography should get a spotlight, even if for a minute in a three-hour broadcast. What you need is a cliff notes version of all this to look like a genius on Oscar night between categories and bites of hummus. I can’t guarantee the genius part but here is everything you need to know.

Best Picture

Black Panther


Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book


A Star is Born


Projected Winner: Roma at 7:1 odds. It has all the makings of an Oscar winner: Foreign film in black and white made by a previous Best Director. The odd thing is the film’s release on a platform that, realistically, anyone could see it more easily in a theater, here we are with a film that many haven’t seen. What are we rewarding?

It would be cool if… the actual winner was the film that people saw. And maybe more than once? Which would be anything except Roma. Green Book has become a contender after its upset win at the Golden Globes. A Star is Born is the best version in its fourth remake while being the only film to be nominated by all the guilds. Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman were easily the two most talked about films in 2018. There isn’t a “Most Popular” film category, nor should there be. At some point there will be a film that is in the middle of the Venn Diagram between art and commerce.

Best Director

Alfonso Cuaron—Roma

Yorgos Lanthimos—The Favourite

Spike Lee—BlacKkKlansman

Adam McKay—Vice

Pawel Pawlikowski—Cold War

Projected Winner: Deeply autobiographical and achingly gorgeous, Cuaron is already on the short list of this generation’s best directors and this may be his best work yet.

It would be cool if… Spike Lee or McKay pulled the upset. BlacKkKlansman is Lee’s best work in a decade but giving him the award would still be tantamount to a lifetime achievement award. It will always be a tragedy Lee didn’t win for Do the Right Thing. Also, Vice is the best directed film this year. It completely deconstructs the biopic to the point of satire, viciously provocative satire. It’s pointed, incendiary, and the exact film the audience needs right now.

Best Actor

Christian Bale—Vice

Bradley Cooper—A Star is Born

Willem Dafoe—At Eternity’s Gate

Rami Malek—Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen—Green Book

Projected Winner: Malek at ridiculous 16:5 odds. He was the best thing in an astoundingly weak and surprisingly bad Queen biopic. Immediately after receiving the Best Actor at the globes, for some reason it became okay to make Malek the frontrunner. Look deeper. Our love for Freddie Mercury is overshadowing this performance in every way. Let’s start with the fact that all the songs were lip-synched rather than performed. If Mercury, err…Malek, wins here, it’ll be one of those awards we look back years later and kick ourselves for it.

It would be cool if… Bale won this by a landslide. It’s ridiculous how we take his iconic performances for granted. The absolute and utter transformation the actor makes to become Dick Cheney is award-worthy. With Daniel Day-Lewis and Phillip Seymour Hoffman no longer with us, Christian Bale is cinema’s greatest actor. That being said, Cooper also has turned in his own best performance to date. The actor has become such a multi-hyphenate that he has split his own vote between writing, acting, and directing. I wish I had that problem instead of just writing about it.

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio—Roma

Glenn Close—The Wife

Olivia Colman—The Favourite

Lady Gaga—A Star is Born

Melissa McCarthy—Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Projected Winner: Glenn Close. As the young kids would say, “This ain’t it, chief.” A win here is the ultimate pity lifetime achievement award. If the Academy is in the business of doing this (which it is), then let’s hand the award out on the next project. The fact that this is the sole nomination for “The Wife” is a strong indicator of that.

It would be cool if… Gaga won. All day. Her transformation in “A Star is Born” is up there with Bale, given her musical persona. And the girl can act. I want to see McCarthy do more work like Can You Ever Forgive Me? We’ve all suspected she was capable of this and is exponentially better than her pratfalls indicate. Colman is brilliant in The Favourite but her supporting actresses make that performance just as much as she does.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali—Green Book

Adam Driver—BlacKkKlansman

Sam Elliot—A Star is Born

Richard E. Grant—Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell—Vice

Projected Winner: Mahershala Ali has the inside track to capture two Oscars in three years. While the performance is solid, it reeks of stereotype on a par with Driving Miss Daisy. How much of that plays into the voting process is something I’m still not sure about.

It would be cool if… Sam Elliot got his due and got some Oscar gold already. Cooper is a long shot to win Best Actor. It’d be fitting if the actual actor Cooper was inspired by got his moment. This is an instance where I am in favor of an award being an ersatz lifetime achievement award. This is Elliot’s best shot.

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams—as Lynne Cheney in Vice

Marina De Tavira—Roma

Regina King—If Beale Street Could Talk

Emma Stone—The Favourite

Rachel Weisz—The Favourite

Projected Winner: Regina King and rightly so. She was my favorite part in a sorely under-appreciated movie in a category chock full of sorely under-appreciated films

It would be cool if… Amy Adams took gold here. She is a long shot, but her streak of nominations with no wins is bonkers. Stone and Weisz are splitting up their votes, making their win impossible. Votes aside, this (The Favourite) is the true winner here.

Best Original Screenplay

The Favourite—Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

First Reformed—Paul Schrader

Green Book—Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly

Roma—Alfonso Cuaron

Vice—Adam McKay

Projected Winner: The Favourite lives up to its name and it’s not even close. The film is a manic speedball that is equally period piece, ribald comedy, and tense drama. This is a great fit.

It would be cool if… Vice pulled the upset. It’s apparent how I feel about that film.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs—Joel & Ethan Coen

BlacKkKlansman—Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee

Can You Ever Forgive Me?—Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

If Beale Street Could Talk—Barry Jenkins

A Star is Born—Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

Projected Winner: BlacKkKlansman could’ve been a tone-deaf farce in the wrong hands. Instead, it was the most provocative film of the year. It won’t win Best Picture. BlacKkKlansman should win something.

It would be cool if… The Ballad of Buster Scruggs didn’t win. Only three of the six vignettes were adapted from short stories. It’s a wonderful film and a standout in the later-era Coen Brothers canon but it doesn’t belong in this category. This is a nice slot to award a film like If Beale Street Could Talk or Can You Ever Forgive Me? so everyone goes home (relatively) happy.

Best Animated Feature

Incredibles 2—Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole parade Grindle

Isle of Dogs—Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson

Mirai—Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito

Ralph Breaks the Internet—Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse—Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

Projected Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

It would be cool if… Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse won and got the full credit it deserves. We have the usual suspects in this category: Pixar, Disney, Wes Anderson. They’re perfectly cromulent. Spider-Man not only was this year’s best animated feature, it’s a top-five superhero film and has a legit gripe for not being in this year’s Best Picture Category. It’s films like these that remind me to stop looking at odds-on favorites and just enjoy the show.


JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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