2019 Oscars Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

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2019 Oscars Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

By most measures, 2018 was an amazing year at the movies. The Age of the Superhero films may have caused genre-fatigue for some critics (and movie-goers), but it supercharged the box office. (Six of the top 10 films domestically were super-powered—seven if you count the ability of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt to shrug off concussive force and bone-breaking impact.) Meanwhile, there was no shortage of wonderful, thought-provoking films that may not have brought in billions worldwide, but which were noticed and lauded by critics even if the general public missed on them initially. (Many of these were directed, written and otherwise brought to life by women and minorities—the very groups Hollywood has such an established track record of ignoring, appropriating the stories of and otherwise slighting.) Enter the 2019 Academy Awards—or not. Instead of a collection of critical darlings coupled with a few box office faves, we got, well … wow, what a mess. While there are snubs every year, 2019’s edition of Gold Statuette bingo seems particularly determined to generate as many WTFs as possible. Movies, performances, directors—it seems like every marquee category has multiple missing pieces. This year especially, women—and especially women directors—were just outright ignored. (We won’t even go into the fascinating string of bad decisions announced and then reversed.)

Maybe the chaos is a good thing—or at least a sign of a good thing. Maybe there’s a sea change finally taking effect within the voting ranks and the weird whiffs (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?), and occasional pockets of “Old School” determination (Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book) reflect a fissured foundation that will need to resettle before we can trust that a Moonlight may, indeed, beat out a La La Land and quality genre fare like The Shape of Water truly compete, when deserved, with more traditional Oscar bait. (It might be time to try some new bait?)

Or it could just be a strange year. We aren’t here to defend any of this.

Nonetheless, there are Oscar parties to go to and ballots to fill out. For that, we’re here to help. You can check out our handy streaming guide to help you catch up with as many nominees as possible.

Keep an eye on the site on Sunday to follow along with live updates, as well as on our Twitter profile to find out what the film community’s yammering on about.

And if you’re looking for more, check out some of our Oscars-related and -adjacent articles and all the writing done in the past year about Oscar-nominated films:
In Defense of Vice by Matt Brennan
Why Are Indian Films Rarely Recognized at the Oscars? by Radhika Menon
From Beale Street to Wakanda by Kenneth Lowe
Disney’s Year of Re-Imagineering by Kenneth Lowe
In 2018, Kids Got the Superhero Movies They Deserve by Kenneth Lowe
First Man, Last Chance by Dom Sinacola
Let’s Talk about Love: The Films of Yorgos Lanthimos by Kyle Turner
Typed Face: Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Literary Drag by Kyle Turner
Vox Lux Is about Lady Gaga Too by Kyle Turner
The Transcendence of First Reformed by Chad Betz
A Room of One’s Own: Paul Schrader’s Queered Masculinity by Kyle Turner


Original Screenplay

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Nominated:

The Favourite , Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay 

Who Will Win: The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

Who Should Win: First Reformed, Paul Schrader

A Grade A Snubbing: Eighth Grade, Bo Burnham
One of the most thoughtful narrative features of the last year, Eighth Grade really captures the essence of adolescence in the digital age—and that begins with the extraordinary screenplay by Bo Burnham. From the stammering YouTube confessionals by Kayla (played to perfection by Elsie Fisher) to her awkward interactions with her cool classmates (bringing one a certain level of internal nostalgic dread), each scripted moment gives a glimpse of Kayla as a genuine person with dreams and interests and flaws, her interpersonal relationships (most notably, the occasionally tenuous one with her single father played by Josh Hamilton) given as much attention and detail. Burnham truly seems to be able to get inside the mind of a shy and anxious young girl. That he does so with such empathy and compassion, is transportive. —Radhika Menon

Sorry to Snub You: Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley
A nomination for Best Original Screenplay would have been the ideal way to recognize a bright new talent in the form of hip-hop producer/activist Boots Riley, who wrote what might well be 2018’s most subversively funny and outright weird script. The genius of Sorry to Bother You is how its absurdist, fantastical streak heats itself up so slowly that the audience barely notices things beginning to simmer and fray at the edges before its (truly bonkers) third-act reveal. Riley presents us with a world that at first seems so recognizably like our own that the audience is left in an uncanny valley between satire and farce by the film’s end—itself seemingly a metaphor for the way our own society is able to rapidly normalize the objectively disturbing. Certainly, a nomination for Sorry to Bother You would have rewarded one of the year’s most purely ambitious, original and fearless endeavors in film writing. —Jim Vorel


Adapted Screenplay

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Nominated:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee 
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, by Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters

Who Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
This year feels like it may hold some belated Spike Lee appreciation. Sure, 30 years after Driving Miss Daisy took home Best Picture while Do the Right Thing was not even nominated, Lee’s latest movie is facing another film espousing a chauffeur-based solution to racism. Still, in a year where we hope to god Green Book doesn’t take home the top prize, it seems likely neither will Lee. We suspect voters will lean toward Lee in this category, even as we wish they had chosen that other powerful (and more nuanced) indictment of systemic racism, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk


Actress in a Supporting Role

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Nominated:

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

Who Will Win: Regina King
For all the talk of snubs and misfires, this is one category where the “Will Win” and “Should Win” align nicely under one royal name.

Who Should Win: Regina King


Costume Design

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Nominated:

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Who Will Win: Ruth E. Carter for Black Panther
This is a pretty standout category this year, but even as the Academy balks at giving Black Panther more than a nomination for Best Picture, it will at least provide a “consolation” prize or two in the smaller categories. There’s nothing consolatory about Carter or the skills that will earn her an Oscar—in her nearly three decades, Carter has worked for Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay and more, and her afrofuturist designs for Wakanda were yet another catalyst in the cinematic jet fuel that propelled Black Panther to popular and critical acclaim. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: Ruth E. Carter for Black Panther


Production Design

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Nominated:

Black Panther , Hannah Beachler
First Man, Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre and Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enriquez

Who Will Win: Hannah Beachler for Black Panther
Though it will likely be excluded from a Best Picture win, Black Pantherwill leave its mark on the ceremonies. So should Beachler. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: Hannah Beachler for Black Panther


Makeup and Hairstyling

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Nominated:

Border , Göran Lundström, Pamela Goldammer
Mary Queen of Scots, Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, Jessica Brooks
Vice, Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, Patricia Dehaney

Who Will Win: Vice
In (clap) this (clap) house (clap) we (clap) stan (clap) famous actors who gain a lot of weight to look remotely like war criminals (clap). —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: Mary Queen of Scots


Cinematography

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Nominated:

Cold War , Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Who Will Win: Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Who Should Win: Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
For all of Zal’s hyper-rich black-and-white buffeted by empty space speaking to even richer inner lives, transforming the romanticism of Cold War into something religious, and for all the magnificent musical performances Libatique captures perfectly in sync with Bradley Cooper’s vision for an intimate story about people who are now in a tax bracket that no longer afford intimacy, Roma is a film that without its astounding tableaus and effortless framing would feel like little more than an apologia for inherited wealth. Cuarón’s images transcend the mundane into vessels of symbolism, conjure drama from the ordinary and paint history in broad, deeply felt strokes—like memory, or like a Tati film—suffusing every object with lifetimes of meaning. —Dom Sinacola


Film Editing

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Nominated:

BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin

Who Will Win: Vice
No matter how many new voters the Academy has this year, some Oscars will always be drawn to category nominees that acquaint a voter’s “limited technical understanding” with the most obvious manifestation of the skillset. Does the average voter know what all goes into great film editing? How many small decisions work alongside the big ones to yield the greater narrative experience? Likely not. But can they look at a film like Vice and easily recognize editing going on? Yes, they can. —Michael Burgin

Who Should Win: The Favourite


Sound Editing

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Nominated:

Black Panther , Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
Roma, Sergio Diaz and Skip Lievsay

Who Will Win: First Man
As far as any typical Oscar voter understands the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing—the consensus among most viewers being, “Meh”—First Man lives and dies upon its immersive experience, meant to be seen on as big a screen as possible, its sound felt in the fibers of as prickly a theater chair as one can claim. This, one must assume, is all part of Damien Chazelle’s plan: to match Ryan Gosling’s near-somnambulant performance with an overwhelming sensual spectacle in order to achieve some sort of subcutaneous symmetry. Creating the sounds of space travel, making them both cinematic and realistic—making them feel genuine and genuinely awe-inspiring—is in essence what First Man seeks to do for the whole pioneering endeavor. First Man feels like the kind of film old-school voters will have caught up with late in the game, feeling justified in giving Chazelle so much praise two years ago, but not wanting to completely overlook a film that champions the quiet, unsung hero. It won’t win Best Visual Effects, but it won’t go hungry either. —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: First Man


Sound Mixing

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Nominated:

Black Panther , Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor, Peter Devlin
Bohemian Rhapsody, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, John Casali
First Man, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee, Mary H. Ellis
Roma, Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan, José Antonio García
A Star Is Born, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, Steve Morrow

Who Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody
The shitty music movie has got to win some sort of award having to do with “sound”—y’know, because: music—so why not this one? Don’t think about it too hard. Let’s move on. —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: First Man


Visual Effects

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Nominated:

Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Who Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Who Should Win: First Man

The Lost Snub of Atlantis: Aquaman
That Aquaman wasn’t even on the shortlist is something James Wan and his team should take very personally. While the sheer labor involved in rendering an undersea world, with which we spend at least two-thirds of a 140-minute eye-eviscerating extravaganza, astounds—as Wan said in an interview with Vulture, describing the work that went into something as mundane as hair, “We’d have to go back to the drawing board and re-render every single strand of hair. We’re talking, like, hours to render one shot that could only maybe be a couple of seconds long.”—the film itself ambitiously takes on, like, five things movies have never really tried before. Look only to Justice League barely one-and-a-half years before to witness how far Wan and his team had gone to make something that both felt, intuitively, believable and, as Wan declares more than once, just plain looked cool. Such a feat required elaborate rigs for actors to navigate in ridiculously obtrusive outfits, scrapping effects halfway through filming to accommodate a completely different look, undoubtedly multiple ulcers and disappointed family members, countless hours (lives) spent in front of computer screens paying attention to details no one would ever see, completely re-thinking the notion of movement in a superhero film, a genre already oversaturated with near-cosmic beings basically just flying everywhere—if the Oscars won’t at the very least acknowledge a successful film that simultaneously moves the industry forward (lucratively) and pleases audiences, populist and critical alike, then what, we ask ourselves every year regardless, what’s the fucking point? —Dom Sinacola

A Snubbed New World: Annihilation
Any good action film takes seriously the consequences of its inertial offerings. Easy enough: Why are these people doing what they’re doing? A bit harder: Where and how does this action sequence fit within the narrative? Impossible: What of a world filled with so much brutality? Annihilation leans into such similar purposing of its extravagance. Through the unnerving splendor of its visual effects it creates a whole ecosystem bent around the psychological arc of its doomed squad of soldiers and scientists, all the while never straying from the visceral spectacle that supports it. Annihilation is a horror film, after all. Equally gorgeous and confounding, as if watching is an act of feeling one’s brain forever catching up, the organisms created by director Alex Garland and his effects supervisor Andrew Whitehurst limn the screen with otherworldly wonder. Whitehurst, who previously won the Oscar for Garland’s Ex Machina, approaches his work on Annihilation as an obviously headier challenge, imagining a world of mutations cast in vibrant shades of the innermost sicknesses of those who enter it. Look only to the bear monster, an amalgamation of beast and those it’s consumed, riddled with suffering and the remnants of violent misunderstandings, a marvelous accomplishment of design and integration that holds the weight of real menace, moving and looking like a nightmare deserving our fear as much as our pity. Or look to the transformation of Tessa Thompson’s character, swallowed up by wildflowers because she has no desire to go any further. Or look to the final confrontation between Lena (Natalie Portman) and her mirror image, as well as the fantastical landscape outside of the lighthouse, trees that are crystals that are trees. Each image Garland and Whitehurst dream up carries the weight of the nightmares of the characters moving through it. Integral to their journeys, the film’s visual effects reflect characters’, and by extension the viewers’, psychologies while compelling them to move forward—or to admit defeat and get lost in the sumptuous illusion of it all. The harmony achieved in Ex Machina, between practical effects and CGI, between the real and the surreal, was only prelude to the indelible phantasmagoria found in Annihilation. —Dom Sinacola


Short Film (Animated)

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Nominated:

Animal Behaviour, by Alison Snowden and David Fine
Bao, by Domee Shi
Late Afternoon, by Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, by Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, by Trevor Jimenez

Who Will Win: Bao

Who Should Win: Bao

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