Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Our Academy Award Winner Predictions for the 2018 Films

Comments by Ken Burke

 Two Guys in the Dark proudly announce as of this week we’re over 1 million (1,025,938 to be exact!) unique page views (which took us only 7 years, 2 months while some celebrities or politicians get that many in a day, but we’re still happy).  We’re especially proud of our growing readership from what Google calls the Unknown Region (24,094 last week—see the image at the end of this posting for details [monthly readership’s way up also, from about 4,500 just 3 months ago to almost 56,000]).  Thanks to anyone who’s ever viewed us, even once.  We truly appreciate it!

 Now, here is our 8th annual Oscar-predictions posting (with some repeated intro statements from past postings because certain situations don’t change much from year to year, but at least I’m admitting my self-plagiarization), although I’ll (Ken Burke, the “public face” of Two Guys reviews for the present—or Buzz Lightyear’s “infinity and beyond,” as the case may be with my good friend but so-far-silent-partner, Pat Craig, who's taken the "less is more" concept to the Zen-level of Total Enlightenment) admit some of my “insightful predictions” are just wild speculations based on industry gossip (or even less than that, given I haven’t even seen some of these nominees).  All sorts of people have opinions as to who should win the upcoming Oscars—as opposed to predicting who will win (I do both in the lists below)—so your opinions are just as valid as mine, although if you’re trying to win money in an Oscar pool you might want to consult industry-insider-sources such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and/or Entertainment Weekly (which I’d normally include links to in these opening remarks but they’re not available yet so I’m taking a real chance this year in posting my predictions much earlier than usual because both my wonderful wife, Nina, and I are home with horrible colds so I haven’t seen anything new to review recently [not that there’s much recently-opened I’m all that interested in anyway]*).  However, you might find the Metacritic tally of which films have actually won awards or been nominated to be a more-tangible-indicator but only for the major categories, not the many technical or more-obscure-areas not covered in their survey (further, Metacritic also tracks various critics' opinions with often little overlap on how Oscar voters might choose so tread carefully with the decisions you get from we ”learned” cinema analysts because our tastes land all over the movie map, no matter how it may be gerrymandered).

*I’ll attempt to stand pat on my predictions (although I don’t know where my clandestine “co-author,” Pat Craig, stands on any of my assumptions); yet, I reserve the right to make modifications (I’ll acknowledging any updates—the beauty of Internet vs. print [To cite a favorite Willie Nelson and Wayland Jennings song on this topic, somewhat making up for using no Musical Metaphors in this posting: “He ain’t wrong, he’s just different But his pride won’t let him Do things to make you think he’s right”]) if something significant happens prior to the Oscar broadcast, February 24, 2019.

 With recognition of the above considerations, here are my predictions and preferences in 21 of the 24 competitive categories (I’ve seen none of the Shorts so I won’t make random wild guesses)—with winners and other comments to be added soon after the ceremony.  Color-coding key: red = my prediction, green = my preference of the nominees, red + green = prediction and preference (gold + bold at a later date = WINNER!).  In deference to my waning sanity and a desire to not clutter up this posting more than necessary (What a change!), I’ll skip my usual identification of directors, year of release, and date of a Two Guys review after most of the titles listed below, but you can see our Summary of Reviews to get that info if you like (assuming we’ve posted a review for a specific title after our launch in late 2011)—you’ll find the current nominees in many of the categories below but not so much in Animated, Documentary, and Foreign Language features (with a couple of screenings a week I don’t claim to see everything that’s released, even when available) or any of this year’s Shorts—however, please note you do have to scroll through the various star clusters (each one alphabetized) in the Summary to find what you’re looking for so it does take a little time.  (But the results will certainly be well worth it; where else would you read such brilliance?)

3/25/2019—I can’t say I was particularly insightful with my predictions this year as I was able to get only 14 of 23 (didn’t attempt Documentary Short Film; hadn’t seen any of them; what predictions I saw were all wrong) for a 61% score while my wife, Nina (who hadn’t seen all of the nominees I had) just guessed in a few cases, got 15 of 24 correct for a 63% result; still, we both beat San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle who got only 7 of 22, 32% (production errors 2 weeks in a row resulted in his choices not being properly printed for 2 of the categories), so we’ve got bragging rights there, although the best result I’m aware of is Kristopher Tapley of Variety who got 18 of 24 (75% result).  With mine, I’m glad to see 3 of my preferences that I didn’t think would win Oscars actually took those prizes but only 10 of my privately-preferred-choices received awards (further, of 8 categories where I had a firm #1 embrace before even calculating my 2018 Top 10 list only 4 of them found Oscar gold, so my usual distance from the Academy remains intact).  In general, I’m OK with the results (see below for the specific winners)—surprised (mostly pleasantly, but Spike Lee and others don’t agree) about Green Book getting Best Picture—but will never be convinced Christian Bale and Glenn Close aren’t truly the most deserving talents respectively for Best Actor and Best Actress (especially given Olivia Coleman—voted the prize for the latter category—wasn’t even on screen for quite as much time as her co-stars in The Favourite, both of whom were nominated for Best Supporting Actress); however, my opinions and 5 bucks might be enough to buy you a decent cup of coffee.  Anyway, scroll down for the winners (and my few last-minute-changes-notes) if you wish.

Best Picture
BlacKkKlansman (review posted on August 16, 2018)

Black Panther (review posted on February 22, 2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody (review posted on November 7 2018)

The Favourite (review posted on December 12, 2018)

Green Book (review posted on November 29, 2018)  WINNER!

Roma (review posted on January 2, 2019)

A Star Is Born (review posted on October 11, 2018)

Vice (review posted on January 10, 2019)

 Well, at least this year my #1 film got nominated for Best Picture (doesn’t always happen; more details on that in my previous posting of Top 10 of 2018), although I highly doubt Vice will take this top award even as I have no hesitation in promoting it for such (admitting it’s coming from a scathing-left-wing-perspective on former VP Dick Cheney [but much of it based on fact, with the fully fantasy aspects easy to identify], so certain MAGA-maniacs might not care for it a bit).  However, I’m used to my choice among the official nominees not always winning in recent years (while my true “best of the year” often isn’t even included in these Oscar finalists)2017 films: The Shape of Water topped Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (even as the un-nominated Loving Vincent had my stronger support); 2016: Moonlight won although Fences was my far-and-away-favorite; 2015: We agreed on Spotlight (#1 for me); 2014: We also agreed on Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (another #1 for me)2013: Wow! Another parallel, for 12 Years a Slave (no hesitations for me)2012: I preferred Amour but the Academy chose Argo (un-nominated The Master was actually my #1); 2011: Agreement on The Artist among the contenders (un-nominated Melancholia was my #1, though).  If I were in charge of the Oscar universe (a scary thought, for everybody in the industry, I admit), I’d have changed this year’s finalist list considerably, removing Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, and Roma, with the first on that short “out” list being the only one I reviewed at the 4-star level for 2018 releases.  In their places, getting up to the 10 maximum now allowed by Academy rules, I’d add Eighth Grade (my #2 for the year), If Beale Street Could Talk (#3), First Reformed (#4), Blindspotting (#7), Sorry to Bother You (#9), and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (#10).  Among the actual nominees, predictions and momentum have shifted in recent months from A Star Is Born to The Favourite to Roma, where the smart money now seems to reside, although with the new weighted voting system for Best Picture (and the ability of all members—no matter their professional expertise—to vote in all categories now that the nominees are decided, you can never be sure who’ll be up at the podium to receive a trophy).  Still, there’s been a lot of enthusiasm for Roma with the possible additional sympathy factor (totally non-cinematic, but such is often the case in these subjective situations) for 1970s working-class-Mexicans in this film resonating with current political warfare over immigration reform and border walls, although eternal Hollywood sympathy for a traditional sentimental blockbuster could bring a surprise win for A Star Is Born.  (Maybe in a parallel universe Vice triumphs—and Trump’s indicted.)


BlacKkKlansman, Spike 

Cold War, Pawel 

The Favourite, Yorgos 

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón  WINNER!

Vice, Adam McKay

  Conventional cinematic wisdom has long implied that the awards for Best Picture and Best Director would likely be seen as a package, although in reality it hasn’t always happened just as we have the exception to that “rule” in evidence this year with Pawlikowski nominated in his category yet his film’s not vying for Best Picture (the result of this category's finalists coming just from the directors’ guild within the Academy while Best Picture possibilities come from all roughly 8,000 voting members, so the directors were obviously impressed at a level to which the general membership was not [can’t say as I blame them as I gave Cold War only 3½ stars, but do acknowledge it as a strong contender for Best Foreign Language Film and/or Best Cinematography]).  As with Roma for the top prize, Cuarón’s a heavy favorite here (with additional auteur credentials from his personal nominations for Best Cinematography and Best Original Screenplay along with recently winning the directing award as a Golden Globe from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association as well as just scoring it from the Directors Guild of America [DGA], where its membership surely overlaps with the Oscar guild of those same pros), although it’ll be interesting to see how the past informs the present where the Oscar’s concerned this year, given Cuarón’s previous win as Best Director for Gravity (2013)—becoming the first Hispanic as well as the first Mexican to take this distinction (he also shared the award for Best Film Editing that year with Mark Sanger), even though he also represents that occasional break between film and director for “best” accolades as Gravity lost to 12 Years a Slave—which either sets him up as deserving to add to his wins or opens the door for someone else who’s never won—no, not Bradley Cooper (somewhat surprisingly un-nominated for A Star Is Born) but Spike Lee, who’s been making major waves in the industry since She’s Gotta Have It (1986) but just now finally is nominated for Best Director.  Could Hollywood sentiment (despite Spike’s outspoken stance on just about everything) along with career weight come into play here or will his Honorary Oscar from 2016 serve that purpose?  As for me, I still prefer McKay as the mastermind behind Vice but assume Cuarón’s the winner once again.  (I’d shake these nominees up anyway, dumping all but McKay and Lee [my #1, #2], adding, in order of my rankings, Boots Riley [Sorry to Bother You], Barry Jenkins [If Beale Street Could Talk], and my surprise—also not attached to even my Top 10 films—Aneesh Chaganty [Searching]), whose unique presentation about a distraught father trying to locate his missing teenage daughter has everything we see on the movie screen actually appearing on some computer/laptop/tablet/phone screen, a marvelous ambition effectively realized from a directorial standpoint, although not fully for the film as a whole.)

Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale, Vice

Bradley Cooper, A Star 
 Is Born

Willem Dafoe, At 
 Eternity's Gate

Rami Malek, Bohemian
 Rhapsody  WINNER!

Viggo Mortensen, Green 

 Here we encounter the situation of an interesting battle among a respected former winner (Bale, but for Supporting Actor in The Fighter [2010]), 3 guys with several Oscar nominations apiece but no wins (Cooper, Dafoe, Mortensen), and 1 with no previous Oscar noms but wins this year from the Golden Globes (Malek, Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama [Bale won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy] and—surprisingly, at least to me—also for Motion Pictures, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role from the Screen Actors Guild [SAG], with that last one as significant because actors still constitute the largest branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with many overlapping memberships in SAG).  For me, there’s no question—despite the solid work from the other nominees, especially the spectacular on-stage-transformation by Malek into Queen frontman Freddy Mercury—that Bale’s embodiment of the living evil (Now, when did I ever say I was objective where politicians are concerned?) that is Dick Cheney matches the sort of sublime command of the screen that few actors before him could ever hope to accomplish.  (Daniel Day-Lewis is certainly one, as his 3 Best Actor Oscars [the record for this category] attest, although others such as Clark Gable, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro fit this description for me, even those who never won an acting Oscar.)   Malek has Mercury’s stage performance well under control (just compare what you see in Bohemian Rhapsody to any video clips of Queen’s shows), even with just the limited prosthetics of more-aggressive-teeth, but Bale’s Cheney, especially as he ages, balds, grows heavier becomes an essentially-entirely-different-person from the guy we’ve known previously in The Big Short (2015), American Hustle (2013), The Dark Knight (2008), I’m Not There (2007), The Machinist (2004), American Psycho (2000), etc.—talk about deserving another Oscar for a previous body of work—with his amazing, career-defining-performance in Vice.  Malek may surprise me here, but that SAG win might have been with those voters’ knowledge they’d be going for Bale at the Oscars.  We’ll soon see.  As for this category as a whole, 4 of their 5 are also in my top 5 with my only substitution being Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie (another near-reincarnation, even though more attention’s gone so far to John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy) rather than Dafoe, with my admission there were many powerful performances to pick from this year, hard to see any of them not taken for the finals.

Actress in a Leading Role

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Glenn Close, The Wife

Olivia Colman, The 
 Favourite  WINNER!

Lady Gaga, A Star Is 

Melissa McCarthy, Can 
 You Ever Forgive Me?

 I also mostly agree with Oscar's 5 choices for this category (which most of the awarding groups still refer to as “Actress,” although I prefer to follow SAG—when the structure of my sentences doesn’t get too confusing otherwise—who calls this Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, so as not to sound diminutive to the woman by using a term implying female actors are socially/professionally subordinate to their male counterparts, sort of like Eve being pulled out of Adam’s ribcage rather than being created whole as he was; OK, enough progressive-political-propaganda—back to awards discussions), although Gaga and McCarthy come in as #4, #5 for me so ideally I’d replace Aparicio (despite the marvelous command of her role as a talented amateur) and Colman (who at one time seemed to own this race although that may have faded) with my #2, Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade, and #3, Saoirse Ronan in Mary Queen of Scots Overall, I feel Close dominates this category as well as being long-deserving of an Oscar, now with 7 noms either as Leading or Supporting but as yet no wins (although she did take Best Actress awards from both Golden Globes [Motion Picture-Drama] and SAG voters for The Wife), so I have to feel she’s got the full combination of many previous near-misses for an Oscar plus being the choice of the awarding-groups who have solid (if not indisputable) connections to Oscar voters that will propel her to the podium for an Academy statuette this year.  Certainly there’s a lot of sentiment for Lady Gaga, especially as a star from another medium making a breakthrough onto the big screen (just as actors tend to be supportive all the way to “the award goes to”-level when one of their ranks shows talent in another capacity—for example, actors-emerging-as-directors got Oscar gold for Ordinary People [Robert Redford, 1980; debut in this job], Reds [Warren Beatty, 1981; directorial debut was Heaven Can Wait {1978} before doing Reds as #2 of only 6], Argo [Ben Affleck, 2012; 3rd of just 4 total directed, after Gone Baby Gone {2007}, The Town {2010}], yet not even a welcoming nomination was offered to Barbra Streisand [3 chances], who’ll have to settle for her 2 Oscars as Best Actress [Funny Girl, 1968], co-writer of Best Original Song [“Evergreen,” from her version of A Star Is Born {1976}] or Denzel Washington [3 tries, but did win as Best Supporting Actor {Glory, 1989}, Best Actor {Training Day, 2001}]), although that didn’t hold true for Bradley Cooper this year, so it’s not always a guarantee for a (near) rookie—just as the Academy’s often eager to bestow a Best Actress Oscar on an up-and-comer—as with Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook (2012), but I do think it’ll be Close over Gaga this year, although I can’t predict just how “close” the final vote will be.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali, Green 
 Book  WINNER!

Adam Driver, 

Sam Elliott, A Star Is 

Richard E. Grant, Can 
 You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

 For this category I also almost completely agree with the Academy, where I would replace only Sam Elliott (he offers a useful presence in his movie, as he always does, but this feels more like a career-achievement-recognition—his first Oscar nom—toward a long, well-respected screen presence more so than for any particular prominence in his role as compared to fellow nominees), replaced by Lin-Manuel Miranda in Mary Poppins Returns, a dynamic presence in a movie whose actual Oscar nods are best-placed where they’ve landed in the realms of music, costume design, production design (see much farther below).  As for Mahershala Ali (already a Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Moonlight [Rockwell also has a Supporting Actor Oscar, for Three Billboards …]), I just don’t think his competition legitimately tops his performance, deserving as they all are for a nomination (giving Elliott my benefit of the doubt for the moment).  In fact, I strongly question the campaign pushing him for this a supporting role when he has almost as much screen time as Mortensen, certainly as much—if not more—impact on the plot’s proceedings (despite complaints from the actual Don Shirley’s family about how the script depicts their relative), but in a 5-way-race it’s usually the honored kiss of death for 2 actors in the same film to compete against each other, generally splitting the vote so the award goes to someone else (this really doomed The Godfather [1972] for this category pitting James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino against each other, surely paving the way for another Oscar to Cabaret for Joel Grey [not that he wasn’t fabulous as well, but please… better than Pacino?  Don’t ever go against the Family!] giving Bob Fosse’s somber musical 8 Oscars to Francis Ford Coppola’s 3 for his gangster classic).  Ali brings a marvelous combination of earned class, haughty aloofness, outstanding musical talent, and deeply-buried-indignation to this role, a remarkable accomplishment, already earning him the Supporting Actor awards from the Golden Globes and SAG (although Mortensen’s transformation from triumphant King Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings [2001, 2002, 2003] to loudmouth-Bronx-goomba’s very commendable as well but hasn’t connected yet in the high-profile Best Actor races).

Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams, Vice

Marina de Tavira, Roma

Regina King, If Beale 
 Street Could Talk  WINNER!

Emma Stone, The 

Rachel Weisz, The 

 As is the situation with the previous category I’m very comfortable with the Oscar nominees for this one, where I’d trade out only de Tavira for my #5, Claire Foy in First Man.  However, other competitors don’t concern me much anyway because King’s my favorite, a very strong contender here (helped by her win at the Golden Globes—which I keep noting despite it being a critics group [a small one as well] rather than an industry-insiders-organization such as SAG, DGA, or WGA [soon to be identified], simply because unlike most other critics awards its nominees and winners surprisingly seem to play an outsized role in what Oscar voters pay attention to in quickly watching their screeners [DVDs sent directly to them] trying to get some command of all that was released during the year when most of them were too busy with their own work to watch the competition), even though she also faced a surprise from SAG when they chose Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place.  Given Blunt’s not Oscar-nominated  (which casts some doubt on my argument about strong crossover between SAG and Oscar-actor-guild voters), her loss doesn’t necessarily decrease King’s chances for the Academy’s honor, especially with the unlikely situation of de Tavira’s winning, given her essentially-unknown-presence among U.S. viewers (and Oscar voters)—despite a substantial career in Mexico—along with the previously-noted-likely-cross-cancellation for Stone and Weisz (especially with both of them as previous Oscar winners), so that just leaves Adams as a potential threat because, like Spike Lee, she’s been around in a notable manner for quite some time (not as long as him, but still with a respected career), yet, like Glenn Close, without any Oscar wins despite 5 previous nominations.  Whether that will be enough to get her to the stage for an acceptance speech is doubtful (despite her effectively-menacing-presence as Dick Cheney’s Lady Macbeth), given the high quality of King’s performance along with the (assumed in my mind, though I can’t prove it) lingering concern in voters’ minds to spread these wins around as much as they can with a sense of Vice likely winning for Bale not leaving much else to reward If Beale Street … for, especially given the egregious choice of not nominating it for Best Picture, so I'd say King’s got this one all sewn up.

                                                                 Writing—Adapted Screenplay

The Ballad of Buster 
 Scruggs, Joel Coen 
 and Ethan Coen

BlacKkKlansman, Charlie
 Wachtel, David 
 Rabinowitz, Kevin 
 Willmott, and Spike Lee  WINNER!

Can You Ever Forgive 
 Me?, Nicole Holofcener 
 and Jeff Whitty

If Beale Street Could 
 TalkBarry Jenkins

A Star Is Born, Eric Roth,
 Bradley Cooper, and 
 Will Fetters

 If there's any other category where If Beale Street … could, and should in my opinion, take home Oscar gold it would be for adapting James Baldwin’s original prose (even though I’ve read some other critics complaining the original book isn’t nearly as well captured as it might be in this script [are they ever?], but not having read it myself [no surprise] I can’t comment either way); however, this might also be a battleground for voters trying to find a place to give an award to a film that likely won’t find itself winning much anyplace else; A Star Is Born seems a shoo-in for “Shallow” as Best Original Song but the others will likely be (rightfully enough) shut out other places, which, in my opinion, gives Spike Lee a solid chance here (fine with me if it comes to pass; his script was #2 on my list anyway) to finally win a competitive Oscar, which his body of work certainly deserves by now in some manner.  My only divergence from the Academy’s choices here would be to eliminate the Coen brothers (never easy to do, but it’s difficult to see how their several short stories packaged together with only a common historical/geographical setting tie together as one coherent script—especially because only one of those vignettes is truly adapted, from a Jack London short story—while I understand the rest of their prose to be original, just generated over the years possibly for a TV-anthology-mini-series rather than the eventual feature film this cluster became), replacing them with Black Panther, which gets into some reasonably-sophisticated-territory for a comic-book-based-superhero-movie; besides, as a Best Picture nominee you’d think it would also excel in some other areas than just production categories such as sound, music, costume, and design, with script being a reasonable choice for me.  As always for this category, though (as someone who’s taught classes in film adaptations—mostly from novels), I always wonder if even the folks in the Academy’s screenwriters guild pay close attention to how these adapted scripts compare to their original sources (so the award’s for creative transference from one medium to another) or if they’re just impressed with a script happening to come from another source.  (I suspect the latter; that’s usually how I make my choices for this category, but the answer to that question continues to intrigue me.)

Writing—Original Screenplay
The Favourite, Deborah 
 Davis and Tony 

First Reformed, Paul 

Green Book, Nick 
 Vallelonga, Brian Currie, 
 and Peter Farrelly  WINNER!

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Vice, Adam McKay

 The odds-on most likely reason that might cause me to re-think my predicted Oscar winners before the February 24th ceremony will be the Writers Guild of America (WGA) awards, which will be announced just a week earlier, possibly giving me additional clues on how the winds may have blown for Oscar voting in this and the Adapted Screenplay categories (Oscar votes will have been tallied by then, but, again, there’s likely a lot of overlap between WGA and Oscar screenwriters guild membership, with those latter folks probably sharing opinions with other Oscar members as well because, just as with the other meticulously-creative-areas of filmmaking, scriptwriting is a precise, difficult skill hard to appreciate the nuances of unless you count it among your own talents [as some directors and actors—maybe others—do]).  I just refuse to believe there’s not a lot of word-of-mouth-voter-influencing that goes on (along with the impact of advertising in trade media, print and Internet) because even with DVD screeners sent out and special theatrical showings provided, for most of these categories you don’t have to prove you’ve seen anything before voting, so bandwagon effect can not only provide an impact in these major categories I’ve detailed here but can also prove influential in many of the other 16 areas listed below.  I have a feeling this may be the case for Roma, depending on how Oscar voters react to it in the Best Picture and Best Director races, because just as the feeling a Best Picture (usually) is helmed by a Best Director so can the argument go a script is the necessary foundation of any film (giving rise to the academic argument about whether auteurism should be focused on screenwriters or directors, unless it's the same person in both roles).  If that should hold true for Roma winning here, though, I further question the validity of this category's voting concept unless I can be convinced the vast majority of Oscar members speak fluent Spanish (I sure don’t, señor) rather than just going by what the translated subtitles offer (although I admit an aspect of script quality is the entire structure of the narrative, but well-crafted-dialogue must remain as a key element in awarding this honor).  That just leads me right back to Vice, but what makes it so marvelous for me may make it so offensive for others, plus there may be that concern among some voters to prop up The Favourite, First Reformed, or Green Book where they can so this category’s the biggest mystery for me at this point.  I’d have bumped off Roma and The Favourite anyway in favor of Eighth Grade and Blindspotting (WGA agreed on my former, took A Quiet Place instead of my latter; they mostly agreed with the Academy on Adapted Script, except they preferred Black Panther over The Ballad of Buster Scruggs [read my mind, eh?]).

  For most of the rest of the categories below I either have marginal interest in the winners (But all hail to them anyway!) or it’s hard to name a favorite (let alone make a prediction!) when you’ve not seen all of the contenders, so if you find no further green in some areas below (or even red in 1 of them) it’s because I’m not in a position to make an informed or embraced choice.  (I am willing to say I’d assume Roma for Best Cinematography but that might change depending on what the American Society of Cinematographers decides on February 9, 2019, when I might have more reason to predict Cold War, just as I assume Roma will take Best Foreign Language Film along with other top wins, but if the Oscars voters decide to be more diverse then maybe Cold War will win out for that award).*  Specifically, I’ve not seen Capernaum or Never Look Away in Foreign Language Films so I’m out on a bit of a limb there not knowing what they offer, while I’ve seen only RGB in Documentary Features but will chance predicting its win anyway due to what I perceive as a general sense of admiration for its Supreme Court Associate Justice subject (except for the folks at Fox News whose brief report of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death was [fortunately] quite premature).  In the case of Animated Features, I’ve seen only the first 2, but I do have a marginal favorite there while everything I’ve noticed points to the Oscar for Spider-Man … .  Finally, for the Short Films, I've now (2/18/2019) seen 2 categories (predictions below) but simply have nothing to say (for a change; don't count on that happening very often) about the other, Documentary Short Film.  I wouldn’t take any of this to the bank (or get a withdrawal from said bank for an office pool investment), but as best I can I’ll stand by these predictions (definitely standing by the preferences), waiting patiently until toward the end of the month to see what actually happens at the host-less 2019 ceremony.**

*2/14/2019—The ASC award did go to Cold War so I’ll now predict that the Oscars will follow suit.  2/18/2019—WGA results now in also:  Can You Ever Forgive Me? took their Adapted Screenplay award (but I'll stick with my earlier prediction above for the reason previously noted), Eighth Grade got the WGA best Original honors (with no impact on Oscars because of its non-nomination there).

**For Oscar-trivia-buffs, I encourage your visit to this site for an enormous dose of that sort of info.
Foreign Language Film                              Documentary Feature

Capernaum                                                   Free Solo  WINNER!
Cold War                                                       Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Never Look Away                                          Minding the Gap
Roma  WINNER!                                          Of Fathers and Sons 
Shoplifters                                                    RBG

Animated Feature Film                               Animated Short Film

Incredibles 2                                                 Animal Behaviour
Isle of Dogs                                                   Bao  WINNER!
Mirai                                                              Late Afternoon
Ralph Breaks the Internet                             One Small Step
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse               Weekends

Cinematography                                         Film Editing

Cold War                                                      BlacKkKlansman
The Favourite                                               Bohemian Rhapsody  WINNER!
Never Look Away                                         Green Book
Roma  WINNER!                                         The Favourite
A Star Is Born                                              Vice

Visual Effects                                              Production Design

Avengers: Infinity War                                  Black Panther  WINNER!
Christopher Robin                                       The Favourite
First Man  WINNER!                                    First Man
Ready Player One                                        Mary Poppins Returns
Solo: A Star Wars Story                               Roma

 Here’s some more annual repetition: What do these next 2 categories about sound production even mean as distinct from each other?  I’m sure the experts who nominated them can make the proper differentiation, but for the rest of us (including most of the Oscar voters, I’ll bet), this is really like staring into a dark hole hoping to find some light (or sound, in this situation) to help make better sense of these industry-specific-differences.  However, I’ll make educated (?) guesses as to how these 2 might play out, unless Black Panther takes them both (which wouldn’t surprise me either).

Sound Editing                                             Sound Mixing

Black Panther                                               Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody  WINNER!                  Bohemian Rhapsody  WINNER!
First Man                                                      First Man
A Quiet Place                                               Roma 
Roma                                                           A Star Is Born

Original Score                                            Original Song              

BlacKkKlansman                                          "All The Stars," Black Panther
Black Panther  WINNER!                             "I'll Fight," RBG
If Beale Street Could Talk                            "The Place Where Lost Things Go," Mary Poppins       Isle of Dogs                                                        Returns
Mary Poppins Returns                                 "Shallow," A Star Is Born  WINNER!
                                                                     "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings,"
                                                                            The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Costume Design                                        Makeup and Hair Styling

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs                      Border
Black Panther  WINNER!                             Mary Queen of Scots*
The Favourite                                               Vice  WINNER!
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots                                                   *(although there’s some wild hair here)

Documentary Short Film                           Live Action Short Film

Black Sheep                                                Detainment
End Game                                                   Fauve
Lifeboat                                                       Marguerite
A Night at the Garden                                 Mother 
Period. End of Sentence  WINNER!           Skin  WINNER!

2/20/2019—Now that you have my predictions you might also be interested in these thoughts on the Best Picture from The New York Times and the whole Oscar enchilada from Variety, neither of which offers support for some of my predictions, although the latter agrees with me on 10 of them.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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AND … at least until the Oscars for 2018’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 24, 2019 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2018 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards 
and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the current Golden Globe nominees and winners for films and TV from 2018 along with the Oscar nominees and winners for 2018 films.

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 55,702 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Have to agree with you on Best Actor, Bale did a much better job but the Academy seems to spread the wealth with political correctness seemingly a priority. Given it is a vote of members, one would think the awards are legitimately calculated. I will say Rami Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody made the film interesting but the strength of the film was the original studio produced songs well presented in a modern theater setting. This was especially true for someone like me who never saw them in person, primarily due a lack of interest at the time. Finally, the absence of a powerhouse host such as Billy Crystal or Steve Martin had a negative impact on the show even though the ratings were up from last year. Maybe the academy could go back to their roots and use one of many well respected actors who are often not in attendance these days.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks for the comments, all of which I'm in agreement with (which makes you excessively brilliant, of course). Ken