Who will win the Oscars?
Now that the Academy again plans to announce all the categories during the live broadcast on Feb. 24, we can continue speculating on which films and performances will emerge as winners.
As much as I might wish, though, I can’t actually vote for the awards. Only Academy members. But, if I could, here’s how I would vote.
Best Picture: ‘Roma’
Some movies reach beyond imagery to inspire us to take fresh looks at the world we experience and the mirrors we examine. The extraordinary “Roma” introduces us to a family trying to learn what life can mean as they maneuver through the details of day-to-day life. While Alfonso Cuarón is not the first movie maker to draw upon the memories of childhood, “Roma” is so fresh in its approach, so expansive in its visual scope, so authentic in its emotional resonance, that we feel we see it all for the first time. And it deserves to become the first foreign language film to be named Best Picture.
Best Actor: Christian Bale in ‘Vice’
Re-creating any figure of history can be a challenge on screen, especially one as quietly manipulative as Dick Cheney. Bale’s transformation to play the former vice president staggers with its originality and spontaneity as he reveals how this man imagines each scheme. Yes, the makeup helps, but the actor never relies on the prosthetics. The result is a study in becoming a character, a welcome change from the exaggerated approach that favorite Rami Malek follows in Bohemian Rhapsody.
Best Actress: Glenn Close in ‘The Wife’
The lady simply watches. She is so well-practiced in the role she plays — supporting the star performer as he captures the attention — that she comfortably steps onto her tiny stage without needing rehearsal. As a lady who survives in the shadows, Close delivers a master class in the subtleties of nuance and expression. Not since Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons in the 1980s has this actress been so commanding in presence, so touching in expression. And it’s all in her eyes.
Best Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali in ‘Green Book’
At a time when so many in our world focus on what can divide, this loving, funny, at times complex look at an unlikely connection between people reminds us that we only build relationships if we dare to let others into our lives. As a musician who perfects the ability to deny, Ali travels many miles from his Oscar-winning role in “Moonlight” to create a fascinating portrayal of a man at odds with the cocoon he creates for himself. The work is funny, fierce, and totally deserving of the recognition.
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King in ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’
Gentleness can be challenging to capture on screen. The movie camera wants to follow an instinct to discover and preserve movement. The lens loves conflict. It craves action. And gentleness can be still. Internal. Quiet. Delicate qualities that can toss the best intentions of the most commanding actress. But King is up to the challenge. She makes the most of every small moment as she reminds us of the meaningful support a loving mother can bring to her family.
Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, ‘Roma’
Four years after winning this award for Gravity, Cuarón creates an ultimate exploration of memory. He uses long camera moves to reveal layers of routine, resentment and reality that thrive among members of a family with too many purchases to fit into an expansive house, too many unsaid disappointments to pretend life is happy behind closed doors. And he makes us hope this visit will never end.
Best Original Screenplay: The Favourite
Not since All About Eve in 1950 has a film had so much fun playing with the egos, expectations and eccentricities of powerful women determined to grab more power. Much like Eve showed no hesitation dissecting the throne of theatrical royalty, The Favourite tosses the conventions of respect and dignity out the window as it wonders what may have happened behind closed castle doors so many years ago.
Best Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
Based on actual incidents, Spike Lee tells the story of an African-American police officer who poses as a member of the Ku Klux Klan to pull an ultimate con. The absurdity works because Lee convinces us it’s real. He gives us a modern-day horror film, set in the 1970s, that feels as current as the images we see today because people still choose to believe that one race is superior to another.
Best Foreign Language Film: Roma
No film in Academy history has won both Picture and Foreign Language Film Oscars. But Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece could make Oscar history. Since the film is distributed by Netflix, most people may see it on a smaller screen than Cuarón intended. But this movie is magical no matter the size of the screen because Cuarón so makes us care for the people.
Best Animated Feature: Spider Man: Into the Spider Verse
While animated movies risk becoming too familiar – from relying too much on popular formula – this look at social norms, controversial conspiracy and heroic action makes us think as it entertains. By playing with the conventions of super heroes, the film pushes boundaries of content and visuals.
Best Documentary Feature: RBG
In a category filled with thrilling work – and several worthy candidates left without nominations – this moving tribute to the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsberg paints a riveting portrait of an amazing woman, her meaningful contributions, and realities she continues to confront.
Best Cinematography: Roma
Alfonso Cuarón’s exquisite camera examines the hopes and disappointments of fascinating people as well as the intensity of crowds, natural beauty and physical deterioration. Certain moments feel so real it doesn’t seem possible that we’re watching a movie.
Best Costume Design: The Favourite
In a film that dares to play with the conventions of the costume drama, the exaggeration in Sandy Powell’s exquisite designs sets the bar for visual impact. She makes us believe these extraordinary women would dress with as much determination as they manipulate.
Best Film Editing: BlacKkKlansman
Every movie relies on the film editor to establish its pace and rhythm. As if creating a piece of music for BlacKkKlansman, editor Barry Alexander Brown deliberately abbreviates and extends shots and sequences to bring Spike Lee’s vision to life.
Best Original Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
The most effective music in film enhances what we experience without distracting, enhancing the feel while hiding in the layers. This exquisite score by Nicholas Britell reinforces the gentleness of Barry Jenkins’ film while standing on its own as a lovely display of composition.
Best Song: Shallow from A Star is Born
No surprise, the song of the film is the movie song of the year. The lyrics establish the mood of the piece, the heart of the character and the moral of the tale. And its melody is one of those that, once heard, is difficult to forget.
Best Makeup and Hair: Vice
While we might think we have seen everything that prosthetics can accomplish – with little opportunity for surprise – the visual impact of this recreation of Dick Cheney adds to the film without drawing too much attention to the science behind the art.
Best Production Design: The Favourite
It’s no surprise this exaggerated thrill ride should dominate the visual awards. Its depiction of a royal fantasy is so specific in detail yet precise in scope that the design transports us to a new world. Never do we believe we are in a conventional royal setting.
Best Sound Editing: Black Panther
Yes, this marvel of a film is as dazzling to listen to as to watch, with a collection of sounds that continually surprises. The movie becomes a symphony of audio elements that contributes to the sense of adventure it explores and humanity it celebrates.
Best Sound Mixing: First Man
The second sound category honors the creation of non-dialogue and non-music elements to enhance a film’s sound. The Academy should reward the film that uses sound most effectively to tell its story. That should be First Man, with a symphony of sound as rich as its story.
Best Visual Effects: First Man
We become so familiar with what a computer can do on screen that we can too easily forget that it takes creativity to decide where the software should focus. This ambitious recreation of the first moon land astonishes with a seamless use of artificial effects.