Bill’s Oscar predictions: Could be a big night for ‘Roma,’ but not a lot of clear favorites this year

Predicting Sunday’s Academy Awards is asking for trouble. The surprising absence of some early favorites – think “First Man” composer Justin Hurwitz and Mister Rogers documentary  “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”– changed the power scale in several categories.

Oh, there still is an occasional lock. Lady Gaga will deliver at least one acceptance speech.

The possibility of a near-sweep for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” begs the question: Is academy membership ready to direct more attention, and profits, to streaming movie site Netflix?  That is the only place “Roma” can be seen. The impressive film made only a brief, qualifying appearance in theaters.

Also, will voters allow “Roma” to erase long-guarded borders by winning both Best Foreign Film and Best Picture? It seems likely. Some claim Mexico’s “Roma” is not even the best foreign film. What if it only wins Best Picture?  However unlikely, a split isn’t out of the question.

Academy membership changes annually. Diversity is a common goal as hundreds are invited, a growing percentage also younger or female. That said, last year’s female directors – consider Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here” and Chloe Zhao’s “The Rider” – were ignored.  Diversity evidently only goes so far, as “Crazy Rich Asians” was shut out. I expected a new hashtag.

Several nominations surprised and Best Picture candidates “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “Green Book” apparently directed themselves. Speaking of directors, while Cuaron won the Directors Guild Award, will voters ignore the opportunity to give Spike Lee his first Academy Award?

Winning films and their directors used to be linked on Oscar night – it makes sense – but the winning director split from Best Film in four of the last six years.

This year, foreign films generated two slots in the Best Director category and three slots in Best Cinematography. Oscar has a new look.

Possibly, my predictions will go down in flames this year (think Viking funeral pyre). But in for a penny, in for a pound. Let’s look at all 24 categories.

Best Picture

Winner: “Roma.”
Watch out for: “Green Book.”
My vote: “A Star is Born.”

Within days of its October arrival, the third remake of “A Star is Born” became a prohibitive favorite to win it all. Now it’s a longshot to take home anything more than Best Song. “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book,” each well-acted, are not Oscar quality. Yet each won a Golden Globe and moviegoers love both. Cuaron’s beautiful, black-and-white “Roma” may be too slow, or “arty,” to connect with the masses. “Green Book” might be the easiest nominee to like. It touches on racism and gender prejudice, but still delivers warm fuzzies. If victorious, “Black Panther” would be the first Oscar-winning superhero. And true, Lee becomes confrontational, as only he can, before ending “BlacKkKlansman.”  Why does this remind me of “Driving Miss Daisy” winning when the superior “Do the Right Thing” was not even nominated? Brilliantly acted “The Favourite” may come across as a bit too daring. Missing: “If Beale Street Could Talk?” Meanwhile, my grandson and movie-going partner Gage, aka The Boy, is positive “Black Panther” will take the night’s final award.

Best Director

Winner: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma.”.
Watch out for: Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman.”
My vote: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma.”

Considering eight films nominated, only four of their directors likewise were nominated. The fifth nominee is Pawel Pawlikowski, director of Poland’s “Cold War.” Like Mexico’s “Roma,” the Polish film was shot in black and white. As much as I admire Lee and “BlacKkKlansman,” a win would be symbolic; it is not his best film. I still would not mind if he won, but Cuaron won the Directors’ Guild Award, and that carries weight. Question: How was Bradley Cooper’s guiding force overlooked?

Best Actor

Winner: Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Watch out for: Christian Bale, “Vice.”
My vote: Bradley Cooper, “A Star is Born.” (But Malek gives moving acceptance speeches.) 

Four of the five nominees are cast as real people – odd man out is Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born” – and Oscar voters have shown a long-lasting affection for such biographies. Rami Malek is memorable and no one seems to care that he did not do his own singing as Queen’s Freddie Mercury. The man is on a winning streak that is not likely to end Sunday. Oscar producers quickly hired Queen to perform. Missing: Ethan Hawke for “First Reformed” and Robert Redford for his final screen appearance in “The Old Man and the Gun.”

Best Actress

Winner: Glenn Close, “The Wife.”
Watch out for: Olivia Colman, “The Favourite.”
My vote: Glenn Close, “The Wife.” Tough decision.

Quite a few feel “The Favourite” star Olivia Colman should be in the supporting category, alongside co-stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Then again, her character is the queen, right? Colman’s primary competition is Glenn Close in “The Wife.” Close is a much-loved veteran who never has won despite being nominated for “The World According to Garp,” “The Big Chill,” “The Natural,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Albert Nobbs.” This promises to be a two-person race. Likely barely out of the running: Lady Gaga in “A Star is Born” and Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”  Missing: Toni Colette for “Hereditary,” and “Elsie Fisher” in “Eighth Grade.”

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book.”
Watch out for: Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
My vote: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book.”

Did you love Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush in “Vice?” Me, too. But really, how many minutes was he on screen? Plus, he won last year. Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) impresses and Sam Elliot (“A Star is Born”) earns the sentimental vote. Both are in the shadow of Mahershala Ali for “Green Book.” Ali likely earns his second golden bookend after being honored two years ago for “Moonlight.” Not nominated: Michael B. Jordan in “Black Panther,” and Timothee Chalamet for “Beautiful Boy.”

Best Supporting Actress

Winner: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”
Watch out for: Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite.”
My vote: Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Rachel Weisz gives the best of three strong performances in “The Favourite” and it would be a mistake to ignore her. Amy Adams, nominated for “Vice,” is one of my favorites; she has five previous nominations for “Junebug,” “Doubt,” “The Fighter,” “The Master” and “American Hustle,” and probably received consideration for “Enchantment” and “Arrival.” But I do not see her unseating Regina King, who has won two dozen prior awards for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Biggest upset would be beginner Marina De Tavira in “Roma.” Missing: Emily Blunt” and Millicent Simmonds, both in “A Quiet Place.”

Best Foreign Language Film

Winner: “Roma,” Mexico.
Watch out for: “Cold War,” from Poland.
My vote: I loved “Roma,” but have not seen the other nominees.

Calling this a race at all is questionable. Still, if “Roma,” the heavy favorite from Mexico, loses, hot on its heels is Polish effort “Cold War.” Split votes might open a door for either Germany’s “Never Look Away” or Japan’s “Shoplifters.” Snubbed: South Korean film “Burning,” from director Lee Chang-dong and co-starring Steven Yeun; it won the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

Best Animated Film

Winner: “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse.”
Watch out for: “Incredibles 2.”
My vote: “Isle of Dogs.” 

The clever “Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse” is an easy film to like. I just did walk out loving it … like seemingly everybody else. Popular sequels are “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” I preferred the latter. I was blown away both times I experienced the new stop-motion animation feature from Wes Anderson, “Isle of Dogs.” Casting, music and production design all shine.  The fifth animated nominee is hit Japanese entry “Mirai,” named best independent animated film at the Annie Awards.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: “The Favourite,” by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara.
Watch out for: “Green Book,” by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly.
My vote: “First Reformed,” by Paul Schrader.

The Writers’ Guild honored Bo Burnham’s original screenplay for “Eighth Grade,” which is not nominated. Wow. There are no slackers among the five nominees. While Cuaron is nominated for “Roma,” one is drawn to the imagination and clever dialogue throughout “The Favourite.” Adam McKay will not win for “Vice.” I would have written off “Green Book” and its trio of screenwriters, but so many have taken this film’s story to heart. But I will root for Paul Schrader, 72 and finally nominated for “First Reformed.” The academy pretty much ignored his career, dating back to scripts for “Taxi Driver,” “Blue Collar” and “Raging Bull.” Snubbed: Scripts for “A Quiet Place” and Ari Aster’s “Hereditary.”

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty.
Watch out for: “BlacKkKlansman,” by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee.
My vote: “BlacKkKlansman.”

The Writers’ Guild preferred “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” If voters plan to honor Spike Lee at all Sunday, it will be here, for contributions to the co-written “BlacKkKlansman.” Bradley Cooper and two co-writers met the challenges of updating a well-known story, “A Star is Born.” Barry Jenkins’ delightful “If Beale Street Could Talk” would stand a better chance if he were honored in the picture and director categories. The Coen brothers must settle for a nomination for writing “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”  Overlooked: “Annihilation.”

Best Cinematography

Winner: “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron.
Watch out for: “The Favourite,” Robbie Ryan.
My vote: “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron.

Alfonso Cuaron conceived, wrote and directed Mexican film “Roma” in Spanish and black and white – and oversaw the cinematography. If “Roma” is to enjoy major wins, it may have to start here, because it is not nominated for Best Editing. That said, the American Society of Cinematographers gave its award to the cinematography in Polish film “Cold War.” Also nominated: German film “Never Look Back,” filmed by exceptionally gifted Caleb Deschanel; plus “The Favourite” and “A Star Is Born.”

Best Editing

Winner: “The Favourite,” Yorgo Mavropsaridis.
Watch out for: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” John Ottman.
My vote: “The Favourite,” Yorgo Mavropsaridis.

Nominees are “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Green Book” and “Vice.” Isn’t it strange the academy almost bumped Best Cinematography and Best Editing from the telecast, when these purely cinematic categories often provide early indications of a Best Picture winner? A win for “Bohemian Rhapsody” could foreshadow a later upset. Sadly missing: “A Star is Born,” and “Free Solo.”

Best Music

Winner: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Bucholas Britell.
Watch out for: “Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson.
My vote: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Bucholas Britell.

For decades, I collected instrumental film soundtracks and was delighted if a favorite film or composer was Oscar-nominated. I am delighted that scores for “Black Panther” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” were noticed. While I am not a fan of “First Man,” I assumed Justin Hurwitz’s original score would take home an Oscar. Instead, it is not nominated. Other nominees: “BlacKkKlansman,” “Isle of Dogs” and “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Best Song

Winner: “Shallow” from “A Star is Born;” music and lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyat.
Watch out for: Don’t bother.
My vote: Would not change a thing.

Academy voters nominated songs from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Black Panther,” “Mary Poppins,” “RBG” and “A Star Is Born.”

Best Sound Editing

Winner: “Black Panther.”
Watch out for: “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
My vote: “A Quiet Place.”

Best Sound Mixing

Winner: “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Watch out for: “A Star Is Born.”
My vote: “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Best Costumes

Winner: “Black Panther,” Ruth Carter.
Watch out for: “The Favourite,” Sandy Powell.
My vote: “Black Panther,” Ruth Carter.

If voters concentrate only on period films, as usual, this becomes a battle royal (pardon the pun) between “The Favourite” and “Mary Queen of Scots.” That does not consider the American West of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” However, this year provides an opportunity to explore fashion in the Marvel universe. A shocking omission: “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Winner: “Vice,” Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney.
Watch out for: “Mary Queen of Scots,” Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks.
My vote: “Vice.” (Now watch the trolls win.)

I recall being happy when the Motion Picture Academy added this category, in part because I used to receive the occasional telephone call from a woman whose son worked in the cinematic field of makeup and hair. Tales she shared could be funny or fascinating. The only three films nominated are “Border,” Mary Queen of Scots” and “Vice.” The latter suggests a lot of work in transforming stars into those frequenting the White House. “Border” did not open in Lubbock and apparently deals with at least one, maybe more, pedophile troll. Yes, real trolls. Again missing: “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Best Production Design

Winner: “Roma:” production design, Eugenio Caballero; set decoration, Barbara Enriquez.
Watch out for: “The Favourite”: production design, Fiona Crombie; set decoration, Alice Felton.
My vote: “Black Panther”: production design, Hannah Beachler; set decoration, Jay Hart.

The award includes production design and set direction. It is possible the moon shot in “First Man” will be remembered, but I took little from that film beyond music and visual effects. Missing: “Ready Player One.”

Best Visual Effects

Winner: “Avengers, Infinity War.” Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick.
Watch out for: “First Man.” Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm.
My vote: “Avengers, Infinity War.”

Odds favor “The Avengers,” although some may prefer the Kessel Run in “Solo: A Star Wars Story” or fantasy giving way to reality when “First Man” finally reaches outer space. “Ready Player One” is inconsistent, but man, what they accomplished with virtual reality, the Oasis and a creepy return to Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel. Missing are wild landscapes and animals after crossing the Shimmer in “Annihilation.”

Best Documentary Film

Winner: “Free Solo.”
Watch out for: “RBG.”
My vote: “Free Solo.”

I love documentaries. I watch many on Netflix, but I somehow missed all five Oscar nominees. Which won’t stop me from making predictions. Just keep that in mind. Even so, I wonder why “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Three Identical Strangers” both were snubbed. Peter Jackson’s “They Shall Not Grow Old” is not eligible at this year’s Academy Awards.

Short films

I try to see the nominees in the final three categories of short films, but became tied up with other things this month and missed screenings provided by the Alamo Drafthouse and Cinemark. As a result, I have seen only one of 15 nominees, and that one is Pixar’s animated “Bao.” It comes down to a bit of reading and much more luck. My advice: If your group of Oscar-watching friends has not seen the nominated shorts, you can always use these categories as tie-breakers.

Best Documentary Short Subject

Winner: “End Game.”
Watch out for: “Lifeboat.”

For many years, I predicted any short films dealing with Nazis, such as “A Night at the Garden.” Or possibly one with immigrants, such as “Lifeboat.” My pick has nothing to do with the Avengers, and everything to do with heartbreaking human loss.

Best Animated Short Subject

Winner: “Bao.”
Watch out for: “Weekends.”

“Bao” finds a woman given a second chance at motherhood, thanks to a dumpling. Direction is by Domee Shi, the first woman to direct a Pixar short.

Best Live Action Short Subject

Winner: “Marguerite.”
Watch out for: “Fauve.”

Three nominees deal with children in jeopardy. The others: “Marguerite,” about a woman who bonds with a nurse while using photographs to explore her past, and a look at skinheads called “Skin.”

To sum it up … 

Audience favorites “Green Book” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” could enjoy a big night. My predictions instead spread the wealth.  I must stick to the above predictions while watching Sunday’s Oscars with my family. (Gage insists he will defeat me and take my dollar this year. Maybe so, but he hasn’t yet.)

My Oscar predictions would end with the following distribution of awards:

5 – “Roma.”

2 – “Black Panther.”

2 – “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

2 – “The Favourite.”

2 – “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

1 – “Avengers, Infinity War.”

1 – “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

1 – “Free Solo.”

1 – “Green Book.”

1 – “Spiderman: Into the SpiderVerse.”

1 – “A Star Is Born.”

1 – “Vice.”

1 – “The Wife.”

And one apiece for short films “End Game,” “Bao” and “Marguerite,” with Spike leaving empty-handed. I sure hope that part is incorrect.