Oscars 2019: On Camera and Behind the Scenes, This Year Promises to Be Full of Surprises


Be careful what you wish for.

Last year, I complained that the Oscar broadcast was too long. I kvetched that the major categories were too predictable (out of the six top ones, I picked the winners in – all six). I begged them to mix it up.

Well, that was then.

Now, we’re looking forward to a ceremony which has no host. Which keeps proposing (then rejecting) various plans to revamp things. Which first vowed to wrap things up in three hours (something it hasn’t done since the `70s) and now says, well, don’t hold us to that.

So, that’ll show me.

This year’s show, broadcast Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC, also boasts a slate of nominees that, while historically diverse, have few front-runners. In fact, the only prediction I feel comfortable making is that, by the end of this abbreviated show, I’m going to be surprised by something.

Also, that I’ll probably still be complaining. But I’m a critic, and that’s my job.

So OK, on to the annual handicapping which – as usual – I base on my own patent-pending algorithm.

First, I look at previous wins in seven important contests (the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the Directors Guild, and the Producers Guild).

Then, I think about political issues. (Which film seems to be more in, or out of, touch with the times?) I consider personal complications. (Who’s won too recently or never won at all? Who’s part of the popular Hollywood cool-kids club, and who’s an East Coast outsider?)

And then, I go with my gut.

So here’s how the field looks right now…

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, “Vice”; Marina de Tavira, “Roma”; Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Emma Stone, “The Favourite”; Rachel Weisz; “The Favourite.”

Stone was terrific, but won just two years ago, for “La La Land”; the six-time nominated Adams is way overdue for something, but has yet to pick up any awards for this film. De Tavira is an unknown in America, and while Weisz did garner BAFTA honors, she may end up splitting the votes of “Favourite” fans with Stone. No, King is probably the front-runner, a veteran performer who won with NY and LA critics, and at the Globes. Plus, unlike Stone and Weisz, she’s a true supporting actress here, not a lead trying to muscle in to an “easier” category.

Who Will Win: King

Who Should Win: King

Green Book

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”; Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”; Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”; Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; Sam Rockwell, “Vice.”

This category used to serve as a sort of fond lifetime-achievement award for long-time performers, but lately that feeling hasn’t translated into actual wins; this year, it’s probable the nomination itself will have suffice for Elliott and Grant. As for the other nominees, Driver hasn’t picked up much buzz – although there’s probably an Oscar somewhere in his future — and both Rockwell and Ali have won recently before. Still, unless sentiment wins it for the charming Grant, or the well-liked Elliott, it’s likely Ali will repeat.

Who Will Win: Ali

Who Should Win: Ali

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?”

It’s funny how buzz fades; “A Star Is Born” once felt made-for-multiple-Oscars — yet it’s failed to generate any other awards enthusiasm this year. I suspect a Best Song award will be Lady Gaga’s consolation prize, while I guess for Aparicio, Colman and McCarthy, the nominations alone will have to be enough. Gaga’s only chance for an acting win is if not enough voters have seen Close’s fine performance in that under-the-radar film; even if they haven’t, though, the idea of honoring this classy older actress still has huge appeal.

Who Will Win: Close

Who Should Win: Colman

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.”

An odd field, as the year’s most critically acclaimed performance – Ethan Hawke in “First Reformed” – didn’t place at all, while one of its least-seen – Dafoe’s – did. This is a category where personal feelings may play a big role, too; both Bale and Mortensen have annoyed or outraged people at times, either through on-set behavior or controversial interviews. Malek, on the other hand, has earned nothing but respect, not only for his performance, but for soldiering through a very troubled production. And that’s already translated into several previous awards.

Who Will Win: Malek

Who Should Win: Bale

Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”; Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”; Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”; Adam McKay, “Vice”; Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War.”

An historic race in its way, with three international filmmakers up for prizes (two of them for films in a foreign language), and, at long last, a directing award for the iconoclastic Lee – amazingly, his first in more than 40 years of filmmaking. But while McKay’s work is certainly (and sometimes infuriatingly) the flashiest here, Cuarón’s control is masterful. He’s won before, recently, but he’s also done practically nothing but win this year. If he doesn’t take home this prize, it’ll be the upset of the night.

Who Will Win: Cuarón

Who Should Win: Cuarón

A Star is Born

Best Picture

“Black Panther”; “BlacKkKlansman”; “Bohemian Rhapsody”; “The Favourite”; “Green Book”; “Roma”; “A Star Is Born”; “Vice”

The toughest category of all. So far, five of these films have picked up the big prize at other ceremonies, with “Green Book” and “Roma” notching multiple honors. It’s a safe bet it’ll be one or the other that prevails here, but which one? Of all the nominees, “Green Book” has the most uplifting ending – a near-must for Best Picture victors. On the other hand, it’s been criticized for being a little pat and patronizing. “Roma,” meanwhile, has been unanimously praised – but a win for a foreign film in this category would be rare (especially since it’s already nominated in the best-foreign-language category). Will older voters push “Green Book,” with its feel-good liberalism, over the finish line? Or will an increasingly younger, edgier membership ensure the win of “Roma” and its starker, Third-World drama?

What Will Win: “Roma”

What Should Win” Roma.”