Of the eight films nominated for Best Picture of 2018, four of them stand a legitimate chance of bringing home the big prize: In alphabetical order, they are Spike Lee’s “BlackKklansman,” Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” Alfonso Cuaron’s Spanish-language “Roma,” and Bradley Cooper’s remake of “A Star is Born.”
Oscar for Best Picture
Of these, my own personal favorite is “Roma,” a brilliantly well-crafted look back on the turbulence of the early 1970s in Mexico City specifically, but around the world in general. Against this backdrop of political upheaval and disruption is told a simple and loving story of Cleo, a live-in domestic for a wealthy doctor and his family. Cleo is practically a member of the family, and the kids view her as almost a second mother. But we do see the parents occasionally talk down to her – reminding her and us that she is hired help.
Cleo experiences a personal crisis when she becomes pregnant and fears for her job. The conversations she has with the mother are tender and poignant. Shot in gorgeous black and white with a wide-angle lens, “Roma” is one of those films that is practically perfect. If given the chance to edit it, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Unfortunately, no foreign language film has ever won Best Picture. If that precedence is going to be broken, this would certainly be the year, but my personal feeling is that the prize will go to “Green Book.”
This picture tells the true story of an Italian-American nightclub bouncer from the Bronx who spends two months in 1962 driving a classically-trained pianist through the deep south on a concert tour. Some have described “Green Book” as “Driving Miss Daisy” in reverse, as this time the driver is white and the rider is black. As you might expect, the driver and the pianist each learn a thing or two about the other’s race and background; and they each soften their views on the other’s race. In a year of several great films highlighting the African-American experience, “Green Book” is not the best. But it’s the most entertaining and the most palatable to a wide audience. In short, “Green Book” is a lot of fun.
“BlackKklansman” is more hard-hitting than “Green Book,” but that probably weakens its chances to bring home the big prize. But no Spike Lee film has ever won Best Picture, and the Academy may feel inclined to bestow the award on this veteran director of many great pictures.
There’s also an outside chance “A Star is Born” could pull an upset. No version of this timeless story has ever won Best Picture, and this ranks with Judy Garland’s 1954 version as the best telling of this tale.
Oscar for Best Director
Oddly enough, neither Bradley Cooper (“A Star is Born”) nor Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”) is nominated in the Best Director category. This typically means their films won’t win Best Picture, but I’m still predicting a win for “Green Book.” Farrelly and his brother are noted for gross-out comedies like “There’s Something About Mary” and the “Dumb and Dumber” series. “Green Book” is Farrelly’s first “serious” film, and the baggage of his past work probably eliminated him from this category. Ironically, when “Driving Miss Daisy” (the film to which “Green Book” is most often compared) won Best Picture for 1989, Bruce Beresford wasn’t nominated for Best Director either!
As you might expect, my personal choice would be for Alfonso Cuaron to win for “Roma,” and he just might. I’ll put the odds at 60/40 in favor of Cuaron’s winning this category over Spike Lee.
Oscar for Best Actor
This is probably the easiest call of the year. Viggo Mortensen should win and likely will win for his portrayal of the Italian-American thug hired to drive the black pianist through the Deep South in “Green Book.” Mortensen’s been around a while, but this is his meatiest role yet. His character is unrefined without being outright crude; boorish without being overpowering; and yet a loving family man. Mortensen plays it just right too, keeping his character out of the realm of caricature. The success of the entire film hinges on Mortensen’s performance, and he nails it.
There’s been a lot of talk about Christian Bale’s dead-on portrayal of former Vice-President Dick Cheney in Adam McKay’s “Vice.” And I agree that his performance is great. It’s the best part about a film that unfortunately never takes its subject matter seriously enough to rise above the level of mere satire.
Bradley Cooper could pull an upset for “A Star is Born,” but I give Lady Gaga a stronger chance in the Best Actress category. Willem Dafoe won’t win for playing artist Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate,” a film that bombed at the box office. And while Rami Malek’s interpretation of the late rock star Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” was good, that movie is worse than “Vice.”
Oscar for Best Actress
Here’s the category in which “A Star is Born” stands the best chance of picking up a major award. In her first acting assignment, Lady Gaga is absolutely mesmerizing as the young up-and-coming singer pulled from her work at a gay nightclub to the bigtime world of concert arenas almost overnight. Gaga handles the apprehension of such a quick rise to fame with the appropriate vulnerability Barbra Streisand failed to show in the 1976 version.
Only one person stands in Lady Gaga’s way of picking up this award. Her name is Glenn Close – a six-time loser in this category. In “The Wife,” Close plays a woman who served as a ghost writer for her husband, who has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. During their week in Stockholm to accept the prize, her situation continues to eat at her until she finally confronts her well-meaning but markedly less talented husband – brilliantly played by British actor Jonathan Pryce, who, for some reason, was not nominated for Best Actor.
Close does more acting with her eyes and her face than most actors do with entire soliloquys. She’s deserved this award before. She deserves it this year. And this is the year she will finally win.
Yalitza Aparicio was excellent as Cleo in “Roma,” but acting awards are hardly ever given to those in foreign language films. The Academy considers Aparicio “happy to be nominated.” Same with comedic actress Melissa McCarthy who plays noted forger Lee Israel in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” As this is her first “serious” role, the Academy also puts her in that “happy to be nominated” category. And British actress Olivia Colman doesn’t stand a chance in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” which was the year’s most overrated film.
Oscar for Best Supporting Actor
Unfortunately, veteran actor Sam Elliott will win this award for his portrayal of Bradley Cooper’s brother and manager in “A Star is Born.” Don’t get me wrong, I love Sam Elliott. But I don’t believe actors should be awarded for essentially playing themselves. Elliott does nothing in this movie we haven’t seen him do a thousand times before.
My vote would go to British actor Richard E. Grant, who turned in a brilliant performance as Lee Israel’s only friend and confidant in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” He helps her with her forgery scheme while still serving as her conscience. And while the character is gay, Grant plays him flamboyant yet a fully-realized character – not merely a gay stereotype. This is one of the best performances in any film this year.
I also believe Mahershala Ali was very strong as pianist Doc Shirley in “Green Book,” but he just won this award two years ago for Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.” Sam Rockwell just won it last year for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri;” so he won’t win again for “Vice.” Plus, his portrayal of former President George W. Bush is lousy. And Adam Driver was good in “BlackKklansman,” but the real star here is John David Washington, who should have been nominated in the Best Actor category.
Oscar for Best Supporting Actress
Veteran actress Regina King turned in the best performance in Barry Jenkins’ ensemble piece “If Beale Street Could Talk,” based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same name. King’s turn as the mother of a young girl pregnant with her first child while her husband sits in prison for a crime he did not commit is both sweet and powerful. King knows when to flex her acting chops, but more often than not, she serves as a guiding hand as she helps her daughter navigate the difficulties and joys of life. It’s a great performance by a great actress. She deserves to win, and she will.
There is a very outside chance Amy Adams could walk away with this award. Her turn as Lynne Cheney in “Vice” is not particularly great, but by my count, Adams should have about three Oscars on her fireplace mantle by now (for “The Master” and “American Hustle” most definitely, and possibly for “Big Eyes” and even Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals.” Adams always turns in brilliant performances, and I’ve written that she is the greatest actress of my generation. She’ll win an Oscar someday. But I don’t think this will be the year.
Again, the Academy is going to consider Mexican actress Marina de Tavira (who plays the mother in “Roma”) to be “happy to be nominated.” And Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz will cancel each other out in “The Favourite.” Neither was better than the other; and the movie was terrible.
Other than Best Foreign Language Film (a category in which it is a shoo-in to win), Alfonso Cuaron’s big win of the evening will be for his original screenplay for “Roma.” As you might expect, he’s also my pick in this category.
Spike Lee’s big win (unless he also win’s Best Director) will be for his adapted screenplay for “BlackKklansman.”
Other than Sam Elliott, the best chance “A Star is Born” has to pick up a statuette is in the Best Original Song category, where “Shallow” (performed by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper) is a shoo-in. Who knew Bradley Cooper could sing? But then, who knew Lady Gaga could act?
The entire soundtrack to “A Star is Born” might just walk off with the Best Original Score Oscar too, although I personally preferred the Richard Sherman inspired material from “Mary Poppins Returns.” I’ll call this category 50/50 odds.
The most glaring omission from any category is the absence of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” from the Best Documentary category. Why this stellar expose of the late children’s television host and gentle activist Fred Rogers is not nominated is beyond me. I love the Ruth Bader Ginsberg documentary “RBG,” but the Mr. Rogers film is simply superior. In its absence, “RBG” will win.
So there you have it. I’m predicting a big night for “Green Book,” “Roma,” and “A Star is Born.” The one thing I can tell you for certain is that Sam Elliott will win Best Supporting Actor. And I’m 90% certain you can pencil in Glenn Close for Best Actress. I’m fairly confident about Viggo Mortensen for Best Actor.
What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your preferences and predictions. Feel free to respond in the “Contact Us” field, or Facebook me under Andrew Ray.