Saturday February 23, 2019


- The Academy finally got it right.  After years of mediocre one-person hosts, they settled on the perfect solution:  no host.  Well, at first they might have gotten it right after naming comedian 
Kevin Hart.  But in this era of PC mania, someone
drudged up Hart's long buried homophobic tweets, and, voila, Hart was unceremoniously ousted.  The result:  the first time in 30 years that no one celebrity will attempt to hold it all together, as a series of folks will now try to keep the usually cumbersome telecast merrily drudging along.  And instead of a host opening the show, Queen will perform with Adam Lambert fronting the band.  It should be interesting to see how it all ultimately unfolds.  My feeling is that it will only make us continue to yearn for the golden years when past superlative hosts such as Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal were mainstays and who consistently brought the necessary levity to the annual Hollywood narcissistic ceremony. 

- Besides the hosting fiasco, this year's Oscars has been fraught with other controversies:.  For example, in order to tighten the proceedings and to keep it under three hours (which hasn't been done since the '70s), the organizers made a boneheaded decision to eliminate four of the 24 categories from the live broadcast:  cinematography, film editing, makeup and hair styling, and live action shorts.  Those were to be announced during commercial breaks.  Academy A-listers promptly put an end to that pronouncement.  Also, another earlier decision to include a new category, Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film prompted critics to proclaim that it, "smacks of desperation", that it represents, "shameless pandering" and that it was "a preemptive move  to avoid controversy".   This idea was eventually scrapped - for now.  Also, it was initially announced that only two nominated songs would be performed live.  The resulting outrage reversed that decision - with The Academy imposing a 90 second limit for each performance.  Add to that the various controversies involving the content of a couple of the Best Picture biopics, as well as the sexual allegations concerning director Bryan Singer (Bohemian Rhapsody).  More on these below.

- Viewership numbers are alarmingly down for the telecast.   Since 1999, audience ratings are down over 50% while last year they were down another 19%.  Expect continued drop in numbers if and when the Hollywood snowflakes continue to alienate half of their audience who only want to be entertained without being bombarded with their political banter and proselytizing.

- Two films lead the Oscar race with 10 nominations each:  the foreign film, Roma and the quirky period costume drama The Favourite.  My prediction is that, although each will garner at least one Oscar, I don't feel that either will dominate.   

- Interesting coincidence:  Lady Ga Ga claims she took her name from the song "Radio Ga Ga" from her favorite band, Queen.  Both she and Bohemian Rhapsody are up for Oscars.  Although her composition "Shallow" is a virtual lock for Best Song, I don't believe she has any chance for Best Actress.  However, Rami Malek has an excellent chance to walk away with the statuette for his spot-on portrayal of Queen front-man Freddie Mercury (see my predictions below).  

- Christian Bale and Amy Adams have appeared together in three films and each has resulted in their nominations.  In addition to ViceThe Fighter (2010) and American Hustle (2013).  He won for The Fighter and has an excellent chance for Vice while Adams is an extreme long shot.

- Mahershala Ali is an odds-on favorite for Green Book.  If he wins he would be the quickest to win the same award twice since Tom Hanks who won for Forrest Gump (1993) and Philadelphia (1994).  Ali won two years ago for Moonlight.

- Will this finally be the year Glenn Close wins?  The actress now has the dubious distinction of most actress nominations without a win.  Seven should be the charm as she is odds-on to win Best Actress.

- Four of the five Best Actor and Supporting Actors play real-life people while both fictional portrayals are from A Star Is Born.

- Netflix is becoming a major player. There was a furor last year when their film Mudbound, which did receive 4 noms, failed to land a Best Picture nomination.  However, Netflix did receive an overall total of 8 (no wins).  However, this year, their Roma is a virtual lock for Best Foreign Language Film and one of the front-runners for Best Picture, as well as a solid chance in other major categories.  

- First-time actor Yalitza Aparicio (Roma) joins three other previously nominated rookie actresses:  Quvenzhane Wallis (Beast of the Southern Wild, 2013), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious, 2009) and Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, 2010).

- Will the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards be a harbinger again this year of the four acting awards?  Last year, all four of the BAFTA acting winners won Oscars.  Interestingly, all four BAFTA winners this year represented lesbian, gay or bisexual characters.  However, that streak will probably be broken if Glenn Close wins for The Wife.

- Black Panther is the first superhero movie to finally break into the Best Picture category after the snub of the great The Dark Knight (2008) prompted The Academy to increase the BP nominations from five to as many as ten.

- Once again, I'll be rooting big-time for perennial Oscar loser composer Diane Warren.  However, her 10th nomination for "I'll Fight" from the documentary RBG is beyond a long shot, as it is a virtual lock that Lady Ga Ga will be mounting The Dolby Theater stage after the envelope is opened.

 - If the excellent Pixar animated film Incredibles 2 wins, it will fulfill a rarity in that animated sequels rarely win.  The last sequel to win was Toy Story 3 in 2010, which was 11 years after Toy Story 2.  The current nominee was made 14 years after the original.

- A disturbing trend had reared its ugly head once again:  Although A Star Is Born received a commendable eight nominations, including Best Picture and three acting noms, Bradley Cooper was conspicuously missing from the Best Director list.  Also, add Peter Farrelly (Green Book) who was also ignored.  (Point of fact:  four of the last six winning directors did not pair with the Best Picture.)  I've always felt this snub was unconscionable as the driving force behind any successful film is the director .  Instead, they were replaced by two foreign directors:  Alfonso Cuarón (Roma) and Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War).  This is the first time two foreign black-and-white foreign films had their directors nominated.  By the way, the last Best Picture winner without a Best Director nom (Ben Affleck) was Argo (2012).  

- Another notable snub is the universally acclaimed and profitable documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor.  Mr. Rogers is rolling around in his grave for this glaring omission.  Another head scratcher for a category that has had its share of them over the years.

-Christian Bale shares the same birthday (but not politics) as Dick Cheney, whom he portrays in Vice.  When accepting his Golden Globe, he thanked Satan for, ". . . giving me the inspiration on how to play this role."

My prediction record last year:  10 out of 13 correct - missing out on  Best Documentary, Best Cinematography (although I was thrilled that the great Roger Deakins FINALLY won) and Best Original Screenplay (although I did pick the winning Jordan Peele for Get Out as an upset possibility).

Now, the envelope, please . . . 


What will win:  Green Book
Upset Possibility:  Roma
Extreme Upset Possibility:  A Star Is Born
What should winGreen Book
Overall, I considered this a mediocre year for films.  In fact, I had a difficult time ranking the nominees below from first to eighth.  Not one would I give a solid four star (out of five) rating.  That being said, Green Book was overall the most satisfying - even though much has been written about the historical inaccuracies and the other scandals that have surfaced.  There has been much press about the likelihood Roma will win.  Cuarón's  black-and-white personal homage to his childhood achieved technical and artistic perfection from the cinematography to the long intricate tracking shots to the incredible acting performances.  However, the Netflix entry, although garnering almost universal critical acclaim, has failed to win appeal in the popular vote.  Although it is a cinch to win the Best Foreign Language Oscar and Cuarón likely for Best Director, I don't feel the Academy will honor it with it's ultimate award.  Although, there has been buzz about the umpteenth remake of the A Star Is Born winning, I think otherwise.  The film will be honored with Best Original Song (a virtual lock) but sequels have had a long uphill battle being named Best Picture.  Fact-checkers have created controversies swirling around two other biopics on the list.  Vice's possible historical inaccuracies have been raised as well as Spike Lee's BlackKlansman.   Finally, much has been made of the sexual misconduct allegations involving Bryan Singer who began directing Bohemian Rhapsody but was later replaced with Eddie The Eagle director Dexter Fletcher.  That, plus the fact that Queen's Freddie Mercury's sexuality was almost totally downplayed in the script might have ultimately doomed the film's chances.  I don't feel the historical costume drama/satire The Favourite, although my second favorite film, will ultimately appeal to the majority of the voters.  And the fact that Black Panther is the first superhero film to be nominated will be enough of an acknowledgment to the Academy members.

FOR THE RECORD:  here are the nine nominated films I rated from best to least: 
(1)   Green Book
(2)   The Favourite
(3)   Vice
(4)   Bohemian Rhapsody
(5)   A Star Is Born
(6)   Black Panther
(7)   Roma
(8)   BlackKlansman  

Who will win:  Alfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Upset possibility:  Yorgos Mavropsaridis (The Favorite)
Who should winAlfonso Cuarón
Despite the fact that watching Roma was akin to watching paint dry, as stated above, the brilliant directorial achievements exhibited by Cuarón will almost certainly result in his winning the Oscar.  Cuarón nearly did it all as he directed, wrote, and filmed the Netflix entry .  Although there is much to be admired in Yorgos' dazzling direction of The Favorite, it doesn't quite match the consummated effort by Alfonso.

Who will win:  Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Upset possibility:  Christian Bale (Vice)
Who should win:  Rami Malek
Not only did Malek totally embody the legendary Queen front man, his personna made you forget that you weren't actually watching the late singer.  That being said, one cannot overlook the impersonation Christian Bale gives to ex-Vice President Dick Cheney.  However, it is Malek who is the sole driving engine and energy that makes Bohemian Rhapsody tick.  Also, eleven of the last sixteen winners in this category were in biopics.

Who will win:  Glenn Close (The Wife)
Upset possibility:  Olivia Coleman (The Favourite)
Who should win:  Glenn Close
Hollywood loves to recognize one of their own who have lost on multiple occasions.  Close fits this bill perfectly.  Not only that, but her standout performance actually warrants the ultimate accolade.  Longtime English actress Olivia Coleman's witty performance as Queen Anne was notable and deserving but it will be surprising if she is, ahem, "victorious".

Who will win:  Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Upset possibility:  Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Who should win:  Mahershala Ali
Even though he won two years ago for Moonlight, this film serves to emphasize the range Ali exhibits in a character that dominates most of Green Book and is so vital to the film.  However, one cannot ignore the fact that beloved long-time Hollywood thespian Sam Elliott could sneak in as a voter favorite in this his first nomination.  

Who will win:  Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Extreme Upset possibility:  Rachel Weisz (The Favorite)
Who should win:  Regina King
The first ever Oscar nominee should win as the mother whose daughter tries desperately to have her boyfriend freed from jail for a crime he didn't commit.  Unlike the onscreen screen time afforded Ali in the supporting role, her win will be based solely on one unforgettable and touchingly powerful scene that defines the supporting Oscar. Although Weisz was the supporting standout in The Favorite, her nomination along with co-star Emma Stone could cancel each other out.  However, it is King's acting that is most memorable.

What will winRoma (Mexico)
Upset possibility:  Cold War (Poland)
What should winRoma
Personal favorite:  Shoplifters (Japan)
Almost a slamdunk, Roma should easily win.  As I previously pointed out, I believe the voters will bestow the film with this award over the Best Picture honor.  However, in a battle of the black-and-whites, Cold War is looming as a possible upset.  However, my personal pick would be the Canne Palme d'Or winner, Hirokazu Kore-eda's compelling tale of a family of misfits.

Who will win Spider-man:  Into The Spider-verse
Upset possibility:  Incredibles 2
Who should win:  Spider-man:  Into The Spider-verse
In any other year, the Pixar film would probably win going away.  However,  Spider-man:  Into The Spider-verse is the odds-on favorite.  Great story-telling combined with distinctive animation will propel the almost universally beloved film in receiving an Oscar.  That plus the fact that the Pixar sequel, although excellent, is not nearly as good as the original.

What will winRBG
Upset possibility:  Hale County This Morning, This Evening
What should win:   RBG
The excellent doc on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg will get an extra push from the liberal voting members and while considering her recent health challenges.  The somewhat experimental Hale County This Morning, This Evening has garnered excellent reviews and a ton of awards including a Special Sundance Jury award and Best Documentary Award at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.  However, the film left me ambivalent and bored when I screened it at last year's AFI Documentary Film Festival.    

What will win:  End Game
Upset possibility:  Period. End of Sentence
What should win:   End Game
None of the entries left me so emotionally and mentally drained as did the Netflix entry End Game. Mortality is never an easy subject to tackle; however, filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman do a superb job in deftly handling the difficult subject.  The other Netflix entry Period. End of Sentence, about the effort of overcoming the stigma of menstruation led by a group of women outside of Delhi, India, could upset.

Who will winAlfonso Cuarón (Roma)
Extreme upset possibility:  Lucasz Zal (Cold War)
Who should win: Alfonso Cuarón
Almost a no-brainer as Roma is one of the most beautiful films, black-and-white or color, that I've ever seen on screen.  He would also be the first nominated director to shoot his own film.  If Alfonso loses, it will be the shock of the Oscars.

Who will win:  Charlie Wachtel,  David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott, & Spike Lee (BlackKlansman)
Upset possibility:  Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Who should win:   Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee
Once again, the liberal leaning voters will want to honor Spike Lee's film based on the true events tale of police infiltration into the KKK.  This would be the perfect spot to acknowledge the film.  However, Can You Ever Forgive Me? could upset after winning the Writer's Guild Award.

Who will win:  Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara (The Favourite)
Upset possibility:  Nick Vallelonga, Brian a, Peter Farrelly (Green Book)
Extreme upset possibility:  Paul Schrader (First Reformed)
Who should win:  Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
Probably the toughest category to predict.  A Best Picture nod should be followed with the Best Screenplay.  However, I'm going out on a limb and picking the superlative script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara whose humorous outrageous dialogue drives the craziness in The Favourite.  Not to be overlooked as an extreme long shot is Hollywood's esteemed writer/director Paul Schrader, who just might slip in under the radar.

Who will win:  Hank Corwin (Vice)
Upset possibility:  John Ottman  (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Who should win:  Hank Corwin
One of the many joys of Vice is the stylized spirited energy created by the precise editing technique utilized by Hank Corwin.   No other film on the list matches but I will admit Bohemian Rhapsody came the closest.

Who will win:  "Shallow" Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt (A Star Is Born)
Upset possibility:  None
Who should win:  "Shallow" 
The song that kick-started the romance in A Star Is Born  is sure to win the big O.  When Ga Ga and Cooper recreate the song during Sunday's telecast, those who have not seen the film will understand its musicality and power.

Who will win:  Sandy Powell (The Favourite)
Upset possibility:  Ruth Carter (Black Panther)
Who should win:  Sandy Powell
Almost a tossup.  However, one of the most impressive costume designs was dazzlingly accomplished by Powell bringing the Victorian characters to life.  However, one cannot ignore the inventive costuming done by Ruth Carter.  And the Academy might want to bestow at least one Oscar to the extremely popular superhero movie when all is said and done.

Who will win:  Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney (Vice)
Upset possibility:  (None)
Who should win:  Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney
Another lock.  Anyone who has seen Christian Bale without makeup and then saw Vice will totally understand this pick.  Enough said.


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