The Oscars have gone through a public-relations nightmare over the last month thanks to all the attempted tweaks to shorten the running time – from not featuring all the best original songs, to limiting the number of awards given out live (both of which were scrapped after public outcry). But if you’re a fan of the Academy Awards, this is the year you’ve been waiting for, as many of the top categories are up for grabs going into Sunday night.
In recent years, many of the top awards – like best picture and the best actor categories – felt decided before the evening even came along. But this year is a little different, since through award season there haven’t been many true frontrunners. Even the movie that was thought to be a lock for best picture in the early days of award season, “A Star Is Born,” is now a long shot in many categories.
So prepare yourself for some much-awaited surprises this Oscar night (airing on ABC on Sunday).
Here’s who we think will win at the Oscars, and also who should win:
Best original score
What will win: “If Beale Street Could Talk”
After being nominated for his score in the Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” Nicholas Britell has been nominated again for Barry Jenkins’ follow-up. Like “Moonlight,” the “If Beale Street Could Talk” score is as powerful as it is moving.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “BlacKkKlansman”
If Britell is to lose, it will hopefully be because the Academy will finally recognise the work of Spike Lee’s longtime composer, Terence Blanchard. Like “If Beale Street Could Talk,” the score is a powerful one, it just will come down to if the majority of voters look at the individual scores (where I believe Britell has the advantage) over body of work (in which Blanchard has it).
Best original song
What will win: “Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”)
There’s really no other song in the category that captures the movie it’s in and fits perfectly with the narrative as this one does. Written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt, it is the rare song for a movie that works even if you’ve never seen it.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”)
Honestly, if “Shallow” doesn’t win it will be a gigantic upset.
What will win: “Vice”
Editor Hank Corwin takes the unique narrative storytelling Adam McKay used in “The Big Short” and pumps it with steroids to tell the life of Dick Cheney in “Vice.” From the shifting timelines, to the scenes explaining complex inside baseball politics, to just the fast-paced cutting to show how Cheney’s mind works, Corwin had a lot to juggle to make it all flow.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “BlacKkKlansman”
Again, another choice for the Academy between the nominated work and a person’s career track record. Barry Alexander Brown is another longtime collaborator of Spike Lee’s. There’s no taking away Brown’s work in “BlacKkKlansman,” but it’s possible this is a category where a nominee’s body of work comes into play.
Best visual effects
What will win: “Avengers: Infinity War”
The visual effects in “Infinity War” really are astounding. The battle in Wakanda, Thanos, people turning to dust. And on top of that is the cinematic quality put into the shots (like Thanos waking up and encountering young Gamora after the snap). It would be a worthy win for Marvel Studios.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Ready Player One”
Yes, we still can’t get over “Aquaman” not being nominated, but pushing that aside let’s not forget the work done in “Ready Player One.” I mean, they have a scene set in “The Shining.” That movie isn’t as good if the visual effects aren’t on point.
What will win: “Free Solo”
Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s moving look at Alex Honnold’s quest to free solo Yosemite’s El Capitan Wall was one of the most thrilling things to watch last year. And not just because of the photography of the climb, but also because of the internal struggle captured of Honnold’s journey to get on the wall.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Free Solo”
In a year when documentaries were very strong (so strong that one of the best, “Won’t You Be My Neighbour?” didn’t even get a nomination), “Free Solo” really does stand out.
What will win: “Roma”
Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful use of black-and-white photography to suck you into the story is a joy to watch regardless if you’ve seen “Roma” on the biggest screen you can find or your phone (but hopefully you at least saw it on a decent flat screen).
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “The Favourite”
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan perfectly captures the always unpredictable world of director Yorgos Lanthimos with blocking shots to give the actors a lot of freedom and the fish eye lens, which adds to the insanity of the story.
Best animated feature
What will win: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
This is another category where if another movie wins it will be a huge disappointment. There really is no other animated movie this year that pushed the medium like this Spider-Man tale. And on top of that, the story is perfectly told.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Honestly, you could make the case that this should have also been nominated in the best picture category.
Best adapted screenplay
What will win: “BlacKkKlansman”
Spike Lee, Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel took Ron Stallworth’s book retelling his infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado and crafted a powerful and funny look at the events. But the script also builds a bridge from what took place to the racial tension going on in today’s America.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “If Beale Street Could Talk”
It would also be great if Academy voters honour Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel. This script, like that of “BlacKkKlansman,” is as much a look at the country today as it is a spotlight on a moment in time.
Best original screenplay
What will win: “The Favourite”
Originally written by Deborah Davis and then reworked by Tony McNamara once Lanthimos came onto the project, what makes “The Favourite” great is how modern the movie feels despite being set in the early 18th century. Davis/McNamara’s work (with a definite assist from Lanthimos) is the foundation of the movie’s greatness.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “First Reformed”
If only because I want to see what Paul Schrader would say up on stage. But seriously, it’s a terrific script.
Best supporting actress
Who will win: Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
King has been touted as the front runner for a lot of award season, and it’s deserved. Her performance is a career highlight.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Honestly, any one of them
Sorry, I know it looks like I’m bailing out here, but hear me out. All these actresses – Amy Adams (“Vice”), Marina de Tavira (“Roma”), Emma Stone (“The Favourite”), and Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”) – give such memorable performances that if any one of them took the prize I wouldn’t be shocked.
Best supporting actor
Who will win: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)
Yes, this is probably not anything new to hear, but Mahershala Ali is an amazing actor. We are currently seeing it every week on HBO’s “True Detective,” but it’s also clear in “Green Book.” His casting is what makes the movie the contender it is.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”)
If Ali doesn’t win, Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) probably has a better chance of taking home the Oscar than Elliott, but I have to give a shoutout to the performance Elliott gives. In a career filled with such great supporting roles, this is definitely up there as one of his best. It would be great to see him get the Oscar.
Who will win: Glenn Close (“The Wife”)
Close has the perfect combo of giving a great performance and being a legend who has never won an Oscar. This should finally be her time to hold up the little gold man.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”)
We should not deny how stellar Gaga is in “A Star Is Born.” For a movie that collapsed in buzz during award season – it now only seems to have best original song locked up – it would be nice to see her get the upset win.
Who will win: Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
Playing Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, Rami Malek gives a powerful performance that is so good it helps you ignore some of the major flaws the movie has. It’s the same formula used for past music biopics (think “Walk the Line,” or “Ray”).
WHO SHOULD WIN: Christian Bale (“Vice”)
But don’t count out Bale as Dick Cheney for the win. These two have been trading award wins throughout the season, so this is anyone’s guess.
Who will win: Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”)
Cuarón’s passion project taken from memories of his youth shows his immense talent behind the camera. The win would solidify him as one of the best auteurs of all time.
WHO SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”)
There are talented directors nominated this year, but this is Cuarón’s year.
What will win: “Green Book”
It really is a movie that is catnip for Academy voters: feel good story, great acting, touches on issues of race but doesn’t go far enough to turn off the predominantly white membership. You probably want another nominee in the category to win, but it’s not going to happen.
WHAT SHOULD WIN: “Roma”
This is where things get interesting. The movie that wins best director almost always wins best picture. But how much does the movie being released by Netflix come into play here? Many Academy voters (Steven Spielberg being the most vocal) believe because most Netflix movies don’t get a traditional theatrical release that they should not qualify for the Oscars. Did Netflix sway enough voters by giving “Roma” a traditional theatrical release? “Roma” certainly is best-picture worthy. Get ready for some real drama going into the final award of the night if Cuarón wins best director.
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