Oscar Nominations Predictions (Part 1): Will popular films rule the day?

With Oscar voting having wrapped on the 14th of January, it’s time to finalize my Oscar nomination predictions before they are announced next week! This season so far has been nothing short of turbulent and rife with controversy and think pieces. The created and then removed Popular Film category, the subsequent move to be more inclusive of popular films, Roma and the Netflix situation, Green Book and the barrage of accusations volleyed at the team behind it, First Man’s underwhelming run for its unpatriotic storytelling, the unprecedented inclusion of Asian-American voices to the mix… the list goes on. With many precursors having already announced their nominees, and in some cases, their winners, it’s time for me to consolidate my list of predicted nominees before the big day approaches. In this first part, I present my predictions for Best Picture and Best Director.


Best Picture

As you’d learn from most Oscar pundits, the strongest precursors in this category are arguably the PGA, DGA and SAG Ensemble Award. Year on year, the PGA to me has undoubtedly been the most reliable in predicting nominees in this category. The PGA nominees are:

Black Panther

BlackKklansman

Roma

Green Book

The Favourite

Crazy Rich Asians (!!)

Bohemian Rhapsody

A Star is Born

Vice

A Quiet Place

Certainly, the move towards recognizing more popular films is in clear display through their choice of nominees. This move, however, appears to have overcrowded the line-up with said popular films at the expense of more deserving, yet more classic Oscar-type films. Think: First Man, Eighth Grade.

The list does include and cement some films at the top of the pile: A Star is Born, Green Book, Roma and BlackKklansman seem like absolute locks at this point.

I expect films such as A Quiet Place (AQP) and Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) to miss, though both have convincing arguments in their case as they have both left indelible marks in the film industry; CRA is the first Asian-led Hollywood film that crushed at the box office, AQP employed sound (and lack thereof) in a unique way, lending inspiration to the horror genre, no less through its equally unique screenplay.

Yet when matched against other films on the list, one foresees a miss; beyond the top 4, The Favourite and  Black Panther seem to be very safe bets. The Favourite has landed in seemingly every precursor, especially for its actors, for whom it is an excellent showcase. It’s a quirky, saucey period dramedy by a respected director, and talk about it is largely uncontroversial and complimentary. It’s been supported from the start, and I don’t see that support diminishing, making it a pretty surefire Top 5 bet. Black Panther, on the other hand, holds the torch for the movement of the season; the popular film case. Beyond being a wildly popular film, it was also a cultural phenomenon too large to ignore, in the sense that a snub would bring a hellfire upon the institution as aptly reflected in the #OscarsSoWhite movement a few years back. The move to ‘assemble the Avengers’ as this years hosts only bodes well in its favour, reflecting an unprecedented widening of the classically snobbish Oscar gaze to encompass popular action films. Yet the reason I don’t consider it an absolute lock  is 1) it doesn’t appear to be faring well in major categories outside of Best Picture. While I think this is far more a deterrent to winning than to securing a nomination, lackluster support in other major categories could indicate weakness. And of course, 2) it’s a superhero film. One mustn’t forget that just 5 years ago, the Oscars awarded Best Picture to Birdman, a film taking a stand AGAINST superhero films in Hollywood, and if Oscar controversy in recent years show anything, it’s that they are notoriously aloof to change. Sure, in the past two years especially, we’ve seen leaps and bounds in terms of inclusion such as through the addition of new membership, but one still has to ask: is it enough? Will the old guard, still the majority, retain their discrimination of superhero fare enough to snub Black Panther? My answer to that is no, but there’s a chance, especially in light of other ‘popular’ films gaining significant traction in recent days that could split or even supplant ‘popular film representative’ votes from Black Panther, most notably Bohemian Rhapsody.

Bohemian Rhapsody kind of came out of nowhere, becoming the 8th highest grossing film of 2018 which over $770 million in box office receipts. It stunned at the Globes, picking up Best Picture – Drama and Best Actor – Drama, wrecking pundit consensus. While I certainly don’t think it can win – it’s simply too polarizing – it has certainly picked up a lot of steam and could event ease its way into spearheading the popular film vote. However, the Bryan Singer controversy marrs it a little, and as mentioned, it is very polarizing.

That brings the film count to seven, and beyond here, things are exceedingly murkier. Sometimes you just can’t tell which film voters may silently back – and once they hit the magical number of votes – they’re in. Precursors point to Vice (polarizing, not viewed that favourably but has showed up in many places) and If Beale Street Could Talk (snubbed by PGA (!!) but critically acclaimed, featured heavily early on in the season but then kind of tailed off) as being likely contenders to fill up any remaining slots, while several dark horses wait in the wings, revealing themselves every other year or so; Eighth Grade (immense critical acclaim, heat in Screenplay), First Man (tailed off horrendously after unpatriotic controversy, but excellent film with amazing team behind it that you’d think Oscars couldn’t resist honouring) and Mary Poppins Returns (seemingly gained tremendous heat upon release only to fall flat after BAFTA and PGA snubs)

My BP predictions in full:

LOCKS:

1. Roma

2. A Star is Born

3. Green Book

4. BlackKklansman

SAFE BETS:

5. Black Panther

6. Bohemian Rhapsody

7. The Favourite

THE REMAINING SLOT(S):

8. Vice

9. If Beale Street Could Talk

10. Eighth Grade / First Man / Mary Poppins Returns / A Quiet Place
Best Director

Best director often correlates rather well with the DGA, usually only missing by one.

The DGA nominees are:

Alfonse Cuaron, Roma

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

Adam McKay, Vice

Spike Lee, BlackKklansman

Peter Farrelly, Green Book

I think this could well be the final five, seeing how none of them were really surprises. One has to wonder how much the Green Book controversy hurt Peter Farrelly, especially since it happened towards the end of Oscar voting, when more voters may be deciding on their votes. In the wings wait Pawel Powlikovski, Cold War (TWO foreign films in the Best Director line-up?), Paul Schrader, First Reformed (overdue) and Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite.

My BD predictions in full:

ABSOLUTE LOCK:

1. Alfonse Charon, Roma

VERY SAFE BETS:

2. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born

3. Spike Lee, BlackKklansman

PROBABLY THE FINAL TWO:

4. Peter Farrelly, Green Book

5. Adam McKay, Vice

And that concludes Part 1. Check out Part 2, where I predict the Acting categories.

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