Predicting the 91st Annual Academy Awards, Part 2: The Major Categories


Now we've reached the eight major categories (Best Adapted Screenplay through Best Picture), where we'll explore how the big night will likely come to an end. However, as always, there's room for a surprise or two (or possibly several), so let's get right back to it:

Best Adapted Screenplay

Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee, Blackkklansman

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

Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters, A Star is Born

Throughout this entire awards season, there has perhaps been no category that’s been as topsy-turvy as Adapted Screenplay. During the critics’ awards, there seemed to be a somewhat even split between “Blackkklansman” and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” with the latter winning the Critics’ Choice. However, “Blackkklansman” ended up getting snubbed for the USC Scripter Award (generally a great prognosticator for this category), with the award shockingly going to “Leave No Trace,” which is obviously not nominated here. Strangely enough, “Blackkklansman” still ended up winning this category at the BAFTA Awards, making it the #1 prediction to win at the WGA Awards. And yet, the WGA ended up going with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” meaning that all of the major awards ended up going to different screenplays.

So what do we choose in the end? Well, generally it’s very unwise to go against the WGA when all of the major contenders are in play. In this case, all of the top contenders competed against each other, and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” ended up being the big winner, so that would be my best guess as to who will take the Oscar. It’s certainly not set in stone, but in the end, it would seem to be the best bet.

Best Original Screenplay

Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite

Paul Schrader, First Reformed

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

Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Adam McKay, Vice

I think it’s fair to say that Original Screenplay has been almost as bonkers as Adapted Screenplay. “The Favourite” had been the clear favorite throughout the critics’ awards, and yet it was “First Reformed” that ended up taking the Critics’ Choice. However, it was “Green Book” that ended up winning the Golden Globe, which could actually be seen as a negative since the last three winners there failed to win an Oscar. The BAFTA Award went to presumed frontrunner “The Favourite,” but with the film having been deemed “ineligible” due to the WGA’s archaic and embarrassing rules, it wasn’t allowed to compete there, allowing “Eighth Grade” to take the prize.

So what does all of this mean for the Oscar? Well, for starters, “First Reformed” didn’t even receive a WGA nomination despite being eligible, which basically says that the film has no chance to win the Oscar, so it seems safe to eliminate it from the list (couple this with the fact that the category has gone to a Best Picture nominee every single time since Best Picture expanded). “Roma” and “Vice” have scarcely made a peep in this category, while “Eighth Grade” was obviously not nominated here. This leaves us with the long-time frontrunner “The Favourite” and “Green Book.” However, given that “Green Book” was unable to win at BAFTA, and couldn’t even win at the WGA with the absence of “The Favourite,” it would seem that the clear winner here is indeed the BAFTA-winning “The Favourite.”

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Vice

Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Marina de Tavira, Roma

Emma Stone, The Favourite

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Now we come to what is probably the single most hotly-contested category of the night. Throughout the critics’ awards, Regina King completely dominated for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” culminating with her winning both the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Awards. However, a most bizarre thing happened when she was shockingly snubbed for the Screen Actors Guild Award (which went to Emily Blunt for “ A Quiet Place,” a performance not even nominated for the Oscar), which, as we’ve seen over the years, is pretty much the end of the road when it comes to an actor’s Oscar chances. Furthermore, she was snubbed by BAFTA, which only seemed to diminish her chances even more. Even with these surprising snubs, she was still able to nab the Oscar nomination, and is currently being predicted by many people to win. I’m not going to say that it’s impossible, but King would be making history by doing so by being the first actor to win an Oscar despite getting outright snubbed by SAG (i.e. they received screeners and still snubbed her). Given how large the overlap is between AMPAS and SAG, their nominations have always proven to be the best predictors as to who stands a chance of winning, with a great example having happened just three years ago in the Supporting Actor race.

You may recall that Sylvester Stallone was the frontrunner for Supporting Actor for his performance in “Creed” right up through the critics’ awards, culminating in him winning both the Critics’ Choice and the Golden Globe. However, he too was shockingly snubbed for the SAG and BAFTA Awards, with the former going to Idris Elba for “Beasts of No Nation,” which, like Blunt’s performance, was not even nominated for the Oscar. The BAFTA Award would end up going to Mark Rylance for his incredible performance in “Bridge of Spies,” and given that he and Christian Bale (“The Big Short”) were the only two SAG nominees to get Oscar nods, Rylance now appeared to be the favorite. Stallone still ended up getting the Oscar nod, but unsurprisingly Rylance would end up being victorious, while multitudes of people were left shocked that Stallone didn’t win.

Meanwhile, back in present day, the BAFTA Award ended up going to Rachel Weisz for her marvelous turn in “The Favourite,” which would indicate that she is the actual favorite to win the Oscar. Couple this with the fact that the film is obviously incredibly loved by The Academy, topped off with a Best Picture nomination (which “If Beale Street Could Talk” doesn’t have), as well as the strong possibility that, if Best Actress goes the way I believe it will, they will want to honor at least one of the film’s remarkable performances.

This is one instance where it seems like history is all set to repeat itself, but even simpler than that is the fact that the SAG snub stat has yet to be broken, and there doesn’t really seem to be any reason to believe that it will break this year. The Best Cast stat broke just last year for the first time since the first year of the award, but the individual SAG stat has been sturdy for the full 25 years. Of the SAG nominees, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Amy Adams all got Oscar nods, but it was Weisz who won the BAFTA Award. Again, I won’t say it’s impossible for King to have a history-making night, but it’s just not something I would bet on.

Best Supporting Actor

Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Adam Driver, Blackkklansman

Sam Elliott, A Star is Born

Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Sam Rockwell, Vice

When it comes to the acting categories this year, Supporting Actor seems to be the closest thing we have to a lock. Last year, you may recall that all four acting frontrunners (Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney) won all four major award precursors (Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA) before they went on to win the Oscar. This year, Mahershala Ali was the only one to accomplish this feat, putting him front and center to win his second Oscar after having won just two years ago for “Moonlight.” The funny thing is that even this doesn’t feel like a complete lock. Richard E. Grant had been the clear favorite throughout the critics’ awards for his turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and could easily pull an upset here. After all, as mentioned, Ali won just two years ago, so will The Academy want to give him another Oscar so soon? Meanwhile, Grant has never been nominated before, and might not get the chance again. Chances are that this one is indeed going to Ali, but you never know…

Best Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Glenn Close, The Wife

Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Lady Gaga, A Star is Born

Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Here we have another frontrunner that didn’t emerge until the big awards were being handed out. Olivia Colman had been dominating the critics’ awards, and yet it was Glenn Close that won the Critics’ Choice (tied with Lady Gaga), Golden Globe (Drama), and SAG Award (which tends to be the best indicator as to who will win the Oscar). Colman DID win the Golden Globe for Comedy and the BAFTA Award, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she pulled a last-minute upset, but given that Close is on her seventh Oscar nomination and has yet to win, I would think that she wins this rather easily. Though it’s interesting to think what a Colman upset could mean…

Best Actor

Christian Bale, Vice

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate

Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Before we get into who is going to win the category, we need to have a moment of silence for a nominee who is missing from this lineup and should easily be taking this Oscar home. In the single most bizarre occurrence I’ve ever seen in an acting category, Ethan Hawke completely and utterly dominated the critics’ awards for his brilliant performance in “First Reformed,” winning over 30 awards in the process. He received a Critics’ Choice nomination (losing to Christian Bale), but was inexplicably snubbed for the Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and ultimately, the Oscar. This is something I’ve never seen happen before, where you have someone who is so clearly the favorite, and so clearly deserving of AT LEAST the nomination, getting completely ignored for the major awards. It’s shocking, embarrassing, and will be puzzled over by awards experts for decades to come, who will question why it was ever allowed to happen.

Looking at who was ultimately nominated, it first appeared as though Christian Bale was on his way to winning his second Oscar after winning the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe (Comedy). However, Rami Malek won the Golden Globe (Drama), SAG, and BAFTA Awards, making him the clear frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar. With that being said, just like in the other categories, I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a bit of an upset. In this case, Bale could come charging back to win the Oscar anyway. That’s what’s particularly fascinating about the acting categories this year: None of them feel like 100% locks. I can’t help the feeling that we’re going to see at least one upset in these four categories. We do indeed have four seemingly-solid frontrunners, but anything can happen on Oscar night.

Best Director

Spike Lee, Blackkklansman

Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Alfonso Cuaron, Roma

Adam McKay, Vice

Throughout the entirety of awards season, there has never been any doubt as to who the frontrunner has been. Alfonso Cuaron has been winning just about every directing award possible. First, he dominated the critics’ awards (including Critics’ Choice), then he swept all of the major precursors, including the Golden Globe, Directors Guild of America, and BAFTA. There’s little doubt that he will be winning his second Oscar for Best Director on the big night, adding to the two he will have already received by then. And yet, his night is still not likely to be over…

Best Picture

Black Panther

Blackkklansman

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

A Star is Born

Vice

Trying to figure out Best Picture this year has been quite a wild ride. Throughout the critics’ awards, “Roma” was the clear favorite, dominating the category by receiving about 20 wins. When it came to the Producers Guild of America Awards, which had finally gone back to matching Best Picture just last year with “The Shape of Water,” it was rather shocking to see “Roma” lose to “Green Book,” which gave everyone pause as to the former’s Best Picture chances.

However, when it came to the Oscar nominations, there seemed little doubt that it had remained the favorite, tying at ten nominations with “The Favourite.” But why “Roma” and not one of the other films that received lots of major nominations? Well, it seems easier to take it on a film-by-film basis.

Looking at “The Favourite,” I would love nothing more than to say that it has a great chance of winning Best Picture after receiving every nomination it needs to do so, but the fact of the matter is, it just hasn’t been as popular as it needs to be. It didn’t win the PGA, it didn’t win any SAG Awards (and wasn’t even nominated for Best Cast), and worst of all, it didn’t even get nominated by the DGA, which pretty much spells death for any film’s Best Picture chances (only one film has won Best Picture in the last 50 years without getting a nod there). This is something else I won’t say is impossible, given its great chances of winning Original Screenplay, but alas, it just doesn’t seem likely.

Looking at “Vice,” which also received all of the nominations a film usually needs to win Best Picture, we have a film that just hasn’t been that popular either. It didn’t win a single Best Picture award anywhere throughout the season and has only really been doing somewhat well when it comes to Christian Bale’s excellent performance. It may have been popular enough to nab the nominations, but being popular enough to win the big categories is another matter.

“Blackkklansman” is a fascinating case because there have been many predicting it to win Best Picture throughout, but it’s simply another case of a film not being popular enough. It too failed to win any Best Picture awards, with its biggest success coming in the Adapted Screenplay category. There’s a very slight chance of the film pulling a “Spotlight” if it can manage to stage an upset in Adapted Screenplay, while stealing Best Picture away from the more popular films, but the chances of that are incredibly miniscule at best.

Both “Black Panther” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” can be ruled out for pretty much the same reason: Both films failed to receive nominations for Best Director AND their respective Screenplay categories. Normally just missing ONE of these nominations is a death sentence, but missing both merely means that these are rather empty Best Picture nods and nothing more.

When it comes to “Green Book” and “A Star is Born,” both failed to get nominations for Best Director, which, as mentioned, is quite detrimental to a film’s Best Picture chances (it ultimately brought down “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri” last year). “A Star is Born” really just hasn’t been very popular at all when it comes to the major awards, with its highest point being when Lady Gaga tied for Best Actress with Glenn Close at the Critics’ Choice Awards. Meanwhile, “Green Book” may have won the PGA, but aside from the Best Director snub, you also have to take into account that the film only received five nominations total. In the last 60 years, only two films have won Best Picture with just five nods (“Annie Hall” and “The Departed”) and both of those ended up winning 4/5, including Best Director and their respective Screenplay categories.

And so, we come back to Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” which not only won Best Picture at the Critics’ Choice Awards, but also won Best Film at BAFTA, showing a great amount of love from industry professionals (Unfortunately foreign language films are not allowed to compete for Best Picture at the Golden Globes for some inexplicable reason). On top of that, you also have the fact that the film received two surprise acting nominations, showing tremendous support from the Actors Branch (the largest branch of The Academy). The film’s only strike is the fact that it was shockingly snubbed from the Best Film Editing category, a strike which it can easily overcome (“Birdman” won just four years ago without it). Typically a Best Picture winners needs to have a lock on either Best Director or Screenplay, and while “Roma” has not been very popular in Screenplay (aside from getting all of the nominations), it does certainly have a hard lock on Best Director, giving the film just what it needs to propel it to Best Picture. If this should occur, Alfonso Cuaron will have pulled a Walt Disney by winning four Oscars in one night, and thus capping off an awards season that’s been one of the craziest on record. And that’s not even to mention the incredible history that will be made when the first foreign language film wins the top prize. In the end, it will certainly be a night to remember.

And there you have my predictions for all 24 categories of the Academy Awards. It’s sure to be a wild night, and there will no doubt be at least a surprise or two given the uncertainty hovering around several of the categories. There’s a lot of divisiveness among the experts, but we’ll soon see who’s right when the 91st Annual Academy Awards air on Sunday, February 24th at 8pm.

Do you agree/disagree with these predictions? Who do you think will be winning in each category?

Part 1: The Minor Categories can be found here.

Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.