Best Picture by Angela Wu
Who Will Win: Green Book
Who Should Win: Black Panther
It’s no secret that the Academy Awards voters are largely, to put it bluntly, old white men. As of 2017, only 39 percent of Academy members were women, just 13 percent were people of color, and only seven out of its 17 branches offered more invitations to women than men to join the Academy. Yet, still reeling from the 2016 #OscarsSoWhite protest and facing backlash from the #MeToo campaign, the Academy, now more than ever, is trying to be cognizant of the political and social dynamics at play behind the scenes. This is why Green Book, a feel-good story that decentralizes the life of an accomplished, gay, black pianist in favor of focusing on a white man’s journey toward not being racist, will win Best Picture.
Green Book is a competently assembled film and, on a technical level, is comparable to Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite and Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. Its “based on a true story” narrative, which happens to revolve around confronting racism during the era of segregation, is what draws Academy voters. Throw in some classical music, a few high-brow actors, a dramatic confrontation in the rain, and an emotional scene about homophobia, and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for 2018 Oscar bait. Green Book is a black story told from a white gaze.
But the film that truly and unapologetically addresses blackness in America is Black Panther. While critics may patronize the film as a silly superhero movie, no film in 2018 has addressed the topic as explicitly and as unambiguously as Black Panther. From its stellar storytelling to its exceptional ensemble cast to its visual design, the film is this year’s strongest embodiment of the issues of race, identity, and citizenship we face today.
The award for Best Picture has become a paradigm for the creative industry. A win for a film like Black Panther would signal a shift in the film industry—a shift where entertaining films can have a moral core and even the most cerebral subjects can draw widespread recognition.
Best Director by Danielle Guida
Who Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón
Who Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón
This year’s Best Director race has a relatively diverse (but all-male) pool of nominees, three of whom are foreign and all with their own varying levels of experience. Yorgos Lanthimos garnered his first directing nod for The Favourite, but the unorthodox period drama is probably too out-there to bring home any awards for the Greek director. Adam McKay is nominated for Vice, a thinly veiled attempt at nothing but an Oscar on McKay’s shelf and a departure from his days of Will Ferrell comedies—some of which say much more about America than Vice thinks it does. BlacKkKlansman is not even close to Spike Lee’s best movie, but the legendary director is long overdue for his first Best Director nomination. Paweł Pawlikowski’s surprise nomination for the Polish drama Cold War reveals the Academy’s willingness to engage with a black-and-white foreign film that is notably reminiscent of another Oscar favorite this year: Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma.
Roma is a deeply personal masterpiece that threads together quiet yet powerful episodes from Cuarón’s childhood. Shot in sumptuous black-and-white by Cuarón himself, Roma speaks subtle volumes about classism in Mexico and family dynamics in broken homes. In a time when superheros and dinosaurs saturate the Hollywood landscape, it takes a true master to remind audiences that human interactions on the smallest scale can be just as engrossing as the grandest of spectacles. As the clear favorite, Cuarón is on track to win his second Best Director Oscar in five years, since he became the first Latin American to win for Gravity in 2014. He would join the ranks of some of the most esteemed living directors with another win for his work in Roma, a film that transcends the drama of everyday life and sets a stunning example of cinema’s potential to convey empathy in a world that greatly needs it.
Best Actress by Luis Borrero
Who Will Win: Glenn Close
Who Should Win: Olivia Colman
The Oscar for Best Actress is Glenn Close’s to lose. An acting legend, with a career spanning four decades and including six previous Oscar nominations (plus various Emmys and Tonys), Close has routinely delivered top-notch work, and her role in The Wife is no different. As housewife Joan Castleman, she starts off quietly, almost as an observer, allowing her deeply expressive blue eyes and facial expressions to do the heavy work, masterfully conveying a mixture of resentment, guilt, pain, and misplaced pride. Joan has lived under the shadow of her dishonest husband for decades, allowing him to take advantage of her talents because once, as an young ingénue, she did not believe in herself. Close’s control and subtlety is mesmerizing—once her character starts to reach her breaking point, she becomes a force of nature. She is that good.
That said, Close faces tough competition given the richly layered performances of her fellow nominees. Lady Gaga is a revelation in a Star is Born, Yalitza Aparicio’s soulful and introspective debut performance in Roma is unforgettable, and Melissa McCarthy is tragicomic dynamite in Can You Ever Forgive Me? However, if there is one actress who could, deservedly, snatch the gold from Close, it is Olivia Colman for her wonderful performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Wretched and outright hilarious in equal measure, Colman provides a textured portrayal of a melancholic and sweet, but rather aloof and at times selfish monarch whose life has been full of misfortune. Her line-reading is exquisite—and in a film filled with memorable characters, hers is certainly the one you will latch onto the most.
Best Actor by Claire Goldberg
Who Will Win: Christian Bale
Who Should Win: Bradley Cooper
The nominees for Best Actor this year fail to impress. Within this disappointing pool, Georgetown grad Bradley Cooper is the most deserving for his role in the stunning and important A Star Is Born. Cooper delivers an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of a man suffering from alcoholism, struggling with the rise and fall of stardom. Awards season, however, is cruel and wants nothing but for its followers to suffer, so the likelihood of Cooper’s success is low. Despite being an initial frontrunner, A Star is Born has failed to snag any major awards this season outside of Best Original Song. Cooper was subsequently snubbed from a Best Director nomination, further lowering his and the film’s chances at a win in the other major Oscar categories.
Rami Malek is a frontrunner in this category—he won the Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA for Best Actor—but his role as Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody was bad acting in a bad movie. Though his complacency and ignorance of his director’s sexual assault allegations have nothing to do with his performance, they further prove he should not be the winner. Then there’s Viggo Mortensen, who played a racist in Green Book, one of the worst Oscar-nominated films to date. His acting in itself was far from worthy of any award. The man most likely to win is Christian Bale for his performance as Dick Cheney in Vice—a performance largely bolstered by the makeup and weight gain he went through to look like Cheney. Just last year, Gary Oldman won this award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill, so awarding Bale this year would prove just how predictable the Academy is when it comes to male performances: White men playing politicians often prevail, no matter how boring their portrayal actually is.
What’s most egregious in all of this, though, is the erasure of two fantastic performances, Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry to Bother You and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk. This is indicative of a larger problem of diversity within the Academy. Only three black men have ever won Best Actor, and only one black woman has ever won Best Actress. So, Cooper deserves the win—but his competition does not represent the true best male performances of the year.
Best Supporting Actress by Dajour Evans
Who Will Win: Regina King
Who Should Win: Regina King
This year’s Best Supporting Actress race is positively stellar. With the surprise nomination of Marina de Tavira for her work in Roma, the Academy has solidified this category as one of the few gems in what is an overall disappointing roundup of Oscar nominations. Despite being such an exciting category, the competition isn’t too stiff. For her work in If Beale Street Could Talk, Regina King has had a fantastic awards season that began notably with her Golden Globe win in early January. With a career-defining speech in which she made a vow that everything she produces will include at least 50 percent women—and a challenge for those in positions of power to do the same—King has made a lasting impression.
The only thing that could stop King is her absence in the Best Supporting Actress categories at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards and the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs). Among the other ladies in this category, Amy Adams has certainly been overdue for the Oscar statuette, with five prior nominations and zero wins. However, Adams’ chances of winning for Vice are slim, given that she did not win at the SAGs or the BAFTAs even without King in the running. If anyone is going to upset and take the gold, it’ll be Rachel Weisz, who took home the BAFTA. In a truly phenomenal performance, Weisz is ravishing in The Favourite.
But at the end of the day, this is King’s award. She has the momentum, she has the drive, and, above all, she deserves to win. Her performance as a mother desperate to care for her daughter, to free her imprisoned son-in-law—the father of her future grandchild—is so subtle, so passionate and so nurturing. She pulls you in, inviting the viewer to feel the pain and hurt that she feels. Regina King has been in the industry for over 30 years, and the widespread recognition she is just now receiving is long overdue. More than perhaps anyone this year, King is fully deserving of the Oscar. It is her moment—finally.
Best Supporting Actor by Katherine Randolph
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali
Who Should Win: Adam Driver
In this year’s lukewarm Best Supporting Actor category, there are a lot of safe choices, but no great ones. Sam Rockwell is up for his entertaining performance as George W. Bush in Vice, and Richard E. Grant got a nod for his work in Can You Ever Forgive Me? The real contenders, however, are Sam Elliott in A Star is Born, Adam Driver in BlacKkKlansman, and Mahershala Ali in Green Book.
While Green Book is a trainwreck of a film, Ali is brilliant as usual. His work as jazz musician Don Shirley exemplifies the kind of slow, intense acting that Ali has perfected over his long career. But Green Book falls so flat as a movie that it frankly doesn’t deserve to walk away with any Oscars this year. Though Elliott is phenomenal in his small role as Bobby Maine, the brother of conflicted rocker Jackson Maine, he ultimately just didn’t have as much juicy material as Driver’s Flip Zimmerman, an undercover cop who helps David Lee Washington’s Ron Stallworth infiltrate the KKK. Driver takes an incredibly complicated supporting role and manages to give the best performance in a film packed full of talent. Though Ali will probably walk away with the statue this year, it belongs to Driver in every right.