This year’s Oscars build up has been less than inspiring. Not only did cinema’s most famous award show have to cut its host, but it then failed to find a new one. Next, the Academy decided that to make the show run more smoothly it would cut several key categories from the broadcast – only to relent on this decision following widespread backlash (including from some of the biggest names in the industry). These silly and needless controversies have effectively dogged the show in the months leading up to it, and have taken away from the usual anticipation and analysis somewhat.
Now, however, it’s finally time to put all this behind us. With the show nearly here, we can live with the fact that there won’t be a host, and we can forget that categories like Best Cinematography almost didn’t make the broadcast. Now, it’s simply time to do what cinephiles always do and speculate as to who the winners in major categories might be.
Actually, if your goal is to look at the likely winners, you’d do well to simply consult podcasts and websites that read off the actual odds, or else go straight to the bookmakers to see them yourself. Casino sites are more accessible than ever, and in addition to offering enormous arrays of games, they often have connected bookmaking platforms loaded with the latest listings for major events. You can bet that this time of year, relevant sites will have numbers posted for the big awards.
In other words, it’s possible to know the favourites and to have a very good guess as to who and what might win the hardware. It’s no fun listing what’s already known, though, so, taking favourites into account, we’re identifying five potential surprises for awards the audience tends to care particularly about.
Best Original Screenplay – Roma
The favourite here is – no pun intended – The Favourite, and scribe/director Yorgos Lanthimos. It’s a wonderful script packed with witty dialogue and smooth yet inventive progression, and it’s perfectly deserving of the honour. This isn’t always the easiest category to predict though, and we see it as a possible consolation for Roma if in fact Roma doesn’t take Best Picture (as it’s expected to). It’s still a little bit hard to believe that the Academy, while trying to regain its audience and make the show as popular as it used to be, would award its top prize to a black-and-white Spanish language film that streamed on Netflix. So basically, this is a look at two possible surprises: a Roma Best Picture loss and an accompanying Best Original Screenplay award for writer/director Alfonso Cuarón.
Best Actress – Lady Gaga
There’s just something almost fishy about A Star Is Born and its fall from grace. Seldom do we see a critical darling and prospective Oscars favourite simply fade from the conversation for no apparent reason, and with no controversy. This is what’s happened in smaller award shows, and as a result everything related to this wonderful remake is down in the odds. This category is supposed to belong to Glenn Close for The Wife, with The Favourite’s Olivia Colman second in most odds. But we’d still consider Lady Gaga to be a dark horse who’s in the hunt, just in case A Star Is Born has a resurgence.
Best Actor – Bradley Cooper
Everything said about Lady Gaga applies to Bradley Cooper as well. He too is behind two more popular favourites, in his case Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Christian Bale (Vice). Those are juggernauts, but it’s conceivable that the Academy will split votes between Malek and Bale and that enough love will be shown to Cooper that he ultimately rises above the competition for an unexpected win.
Best Director – Spike Lee
Best Director is always one of the hardest awards to predict, typically because you don’t know if it will be in lockstep with Best Picture or if it will essentially go to the director whose project was unofficial runner-up in Best Picture. In this case, the dark horse pick would be neither, because Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman isn’t going to be first or second, or likely even third, in Best Picture voting. However, there is a fairly popular sentiment out there that it’s simply time for Lee to get an Oscar, as much for his full body of work as for this film. Alfonso Cuarón is the favourite for Roma, and there’s something to be said for some other nominees as well. But of all the surprise picks in this article, Lee may be the most likely to actually happen.
Best Picture – Black Panther
As mentioned, Best Picture is expected to go to Roma, with Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, and even A Star Is Born also tending to spike in speculation now and then. The film that people have steadily wondered about for months, however, and which seems poised to swoop in if Roma doesn’t win, is Black Panther. It won the SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast (essentially the closest that show has to Best Picture), and as one write-up put it, if any superhero film is going to take home awards, Black Panther is the one. We still wouldn’t call it likely – but it also wouldn’t be shocking.