The Oscars 2019 - Skin In The Game

Ever since the preferential ballot was introduced for the Best Picture category in 2009, the top prize at the Oscars has become increasingly hard to predict. Unlike most other ceremonies, such as the BAFTAs, they don’t have a plurality voting system (i.e. where the most votes wins) and it is much more complicated. The odds-on favourite to win at the start of the ceremony last year was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, but it lost to The Shape of Water. In 2017, the heavy odds-on La La Land famously lost to Moonlight. In 2016, odds-on favourite The Revenant was beaten by Spotlight. It is always difficult to predict with much confidence, and so you can easily see why many traders, fans and Oscar prognosticators end up calling it wrong year after year.

In addition to the preferential ballot, valid protests about ‘Oscars so white’ in 2016 have led to an attempt to diversify the Academy to include more voters who are women, people of colour, LGBT and younger people. It is arguably this increasingly more diverse voting body which led to the famous Moonlight win in 2017. But the Academy still has a long way to go in order to become truly representative. For example, it is thought that only 31% of voters are women and only 16% are non-white.  

This has been a true rollercoaster ride of an awards season, with most of the precursors going to different films. There have been huge surprises and upsets at almost every ceremony. These started with Bohemian Rhapsody winning the Golden Globe Best Picture (Drama), and more recently saw the Writers Guild go for Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Adapted) and Eighth Grade (Original). Screen Actors picked the Marvel superhero film Black Panther. The Producers Guild, with its preferential ballot, went for Green Book whereas the Directors Guild predictably chose Alfonso Cuaron and Roma. BAFTA also went for Roma, as did the Critics Choice. It’s far from a slam dunk in terms of precursors, but these are enough to make Roma the odds-on favourite to win Best Picture, which I think is correct.

I was all set to predict Green Book to win a couple of weeks ago. The Favourite was cleaning up at the BAFTAs, winning almost everything it was nominated for. I strongly believed British bias would see it win Best Film, so was ultimately shocked to see the British Academy go for Roma in the end, which is a Spanish language film set in Mexico. This also messed up my trading strategy somewhat, as I had backed The Favourite to win Best Picture at the Oscars in the hope of selling later. When the WGA didn’t go for Green Book, that wasn’t a promising sign for the chances of the 1960s comedy drama.

Traditionally, a film requires nominations for SAG ensemble, PGA, DGA and Oscar nominations for Film Editing, Screenplay and Director in order to be considered a true contender to win Best Picture. Only one film has all of these nominations this year – Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman. The big problem is, it hasn’t really won anything important apart from Adapted Screenplay at the BAFTAs. I therefore don’t think it is going to win, despite being very smart, timely, funny and well-made, with a highly evocative ‘Fuck Trump’ ending. I’m not entirely ruling it out though, as a preferential ballot can throw up surprises. Voters should award Spike Lee et al with the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and BlacKkKlansman is also in with at least some chance of winning Film Editing and/or Original Score. The Best Picture winner is also a screenplay winner more often than not.

I have drawn a big line through Vice, which I think is likely to be eliminated first. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of passion for Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic, despite its nomination strength. It will take home the Oscar for Makeup and Hairstyling and is also a valid favourite to win Film Editing.

A Star Is Born is also almost certainly going to be one of the first films eliminated. It was pretty much odds-on to win Best Picture just a few months ago, but has had a terrible time season-long, with director Bradley Cooper being unfortunately snubbed in that category and the film itself for Film Editing. It is going to win Original Song for ‘Shallow’ but probably nothing else at all.

Next to be eliminated could well be the troubled Bohemian Rhapsody, which saw its director fired after sexual abuse allegations. Despite this, Actor in a Leading Role is a lock for Rami Malek, who has won the Golden Globe (Drama), SAG and BAFTA. The film also has strong claims to win one if not both sound categories, and possibly Film Editing, after taking home some of the technical precursors.

British film The Favourite has a lot of nomination strength and is, err, favoured to win Production Design and potentially Costume Design and/or Original Screenplay. This film seems to be a favourite of LGBT voters in particular, but probably isn’t taking home the top prize if it couldn’t even win the BAFTA. Olivia Colman looks set to lose to Glenn Close for Best Actress with her ‘overdue’ narrative, but Rachel Weisz could be in with a real shot at snatching the Supporting Actress trophy from under Regina King’s nose with post-BAFTA momentum. Emma Stone gives a career-best performance in this film but has never been included in any conversation to win a second Oscar, yet it’s ok for both Alfonso Cuaron and Mahershala Ali to win again so soon? Hmm……..

Black Panther doesn’t seem to have enough support from the Academy, as it’s missing a lot of statistically important recognition in categories including acting, director, editing and screenplay. It did win the SAG ensemble, which sometimes is predictive of Best Picture, but not so much in recent years. This film is culturally significant in the US in terms of representation, especially for liberals and African Americans. But it wasn’t shown a lot of love with BAFTA, which has a decent amount of crossover with Oscar voters. It has a fair chance of winning several of the crafts, however, including Ruth Carter for her colourful and fabulous Costume Design.

Like the market, I think it’s most likely to come down to a showdown where Green Book will take on Roma (not that we will ever find out, or see the results). After watching the former for the first time, I emerged from the cinema with the same euphoric feeling I had following my first viewings of Best Picture winners The Artist and The Shape of Water. It definitely has wide appeal and to me really feels like a Best Picture winner, but perhaps one the demographics of the Academy would have voted for fifteen or twenty years ago rather than in 2019. It is highly entertaining, sentimental and has an emotional powerhouse ending that is quite possibly the most effective of all the nominated films. Older voters and white men in particular might well be placing this one at or near the top of their ballots. After winning the PGA, which uses the preferential ballot, it has to be taken seriously as the potential victor. This is despite a Best Director snub for Dumb and Dumber director Peter Farrelly, who was at least nominated for the DGA. Mahershala Ali is the only acting nominee to have swept every single major precursor, so the Supporting Actor Oscar is in the bag.

Roma is totally unique in the race in so many ways. It is a low-key Spanish language film, produced by Netflix, made entirely in black and white. It was written, shot, directed and edited by auteur Alfonso Cuaron and has received rave reviews by critics everywhere. His vision of a family being nurtured by a nanny in 1970s Mexico City is particularly relevant in the era of President Trump’s hateful rhetoric towards Mexicans. Roma arguably has more gravitas than Green Book, and it is easy to see support coming from many branches of the Academy. The Film Editing snub isn’t a huge surprise as it is not a particularly flashy film, with plenty of long shots throughout. A SAG ensemble snub can also be explained by the actors being completely unknown as well as very tough competition to get a nomination there this year. It was rectified by the Academy with somewhat surprising acting nominations for both Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavina. This is evidence of the highly-effective campaign that Netflix has been running. If Roma loses, it will come down to it ultimately being too divisive. It is neither everyone’s cup of tea, nor is it a particularly entertaining film. Some older voters might well be threatened by the relatively new Netflix streaming model. It is a work of art almost all voters will be able to appreciate, though, so its overall artistic merit could be enough to take it over the finish line in an open year. It would be ironic if a niche, foreign language arthouse film wins Best Picture in the same year where the Academy tried and failed to introduce a Popular Film category, and would do nothing to reverse the ceremony’s declining ratings.

On the night, perhaps the most significant award in determining the eventual Best Picture winner could be Original Screenplay. If Roma wins, which isn’t impossible, it’s game over and the in-play market would undoubtedly call it there and then. Though it’s more likely to be between The Favourite, which is the favourite, and Green Book. On my second viewing of Green Book, I was reminded of how consistently funny it is, and the whole audience was laughing throughout. For that reason, it is just about my selection to take this particular prize. If this unlikely road trip bromance is to win Best Picture, then an Original Screenplay win would also probably happen en route. The market would take Green Book very seriously in such a scenario, and Roma would drift.

The in-play market looks set to be more volatile than usual. I have identified paths to Best Picture glory for each of the eight nominees, however likely or unlikely. That is, the minimum number of trophies a film must receive in order to have any shot at winning the entertainment industry’s absolute top prize at the end of the night.

Oh, and if BlacKkKlansman wins, as I started predicting last year, feel free to declare me some kind of genius. Why you actin’ like you ain’t got skin in the game?

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Best Picture paths to victory

BlacKkKlansman – Film Editing + Adapted Screenplay

Black Panther – Production Design + Costume Design + Sound Editing + Sound Mixing

Bohemian Rhapsody – Actor + Film Editing + Sound Editing + Sound Mixing

The Favourite – Film Editing + Original Screenplay + Production Design + Costume Design

Green Book – Supporting Actor + Original Screenplay

Roma – Director + Cinematography + Foreign Language Film

A Star Is Born – Sound Mixing + Adapted Screenplay

Vice – Supporting Actress + Film Editing + Makeup and Hairstyling

 

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES



CHRISTIAN BALE

Vice

BRADLEY COOPER

A Star Is Born

WILLEM DAFOE

At Eternity's Gate

RAMI MALEK

Bohemian Rhapsody

VIGGO MORTENSEN

Green Book

 

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

 

MAHERSHALA ALI

Green Book

ADAM DRIVER

BlacKkKlansman

SAM ELLIOTT

A Star Is Born

RICHARD E. GRANT

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

SAM ROCKWELL

Vice

 

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

NOMINEES

 

YALITZA APARICIO

Roma

GLENN CLOSE

The Wife

OLIVIA COLMAN

The Favourite

LADY GAGA

A Star Is Born

MELISSA MCCARTHY

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

 

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

NOMINEES

 

AMY ADAMS

Vice

MARINA DE TAVIRA

Roma

REGINA KING

If Beale Street Could Talk

EMMA STONE

The Favourite

RACHEL WEISZ

The Favourite

 

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

NOMINEES

 

INCREDIBLES 2

Brad Bird, John Walker and Nicole Paradis Grindle

ISLE OF DOGS

Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson

MIRAI

Mamoru Hosoda and Yuichiro Saito

RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET

Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Clark Spencer

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

 

CINEMATOGRAPHY

NOMINEES

 

COLD WAR

Łukasz Żal

THE FAVOURITE

Robbie Ryan

NEVER LOOK AWAY

Caleb Deschanel

ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón

A STAR IS BORN

Matthew Libatique

 

COSTUME DESIGN

NOMINEES

 

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Mary Zophres

BLACK PANTHER

Ruth Carter

THE FAVOURITE

Sandy Powell

MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Sandy Powell

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

Alexandra Byrne

 

DIRECTING

NOMINEES

 

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Spike Lee

COLD WAR

Paweł Pawlikowski

THE FAVOURITE

Yorgos Lanthimos

ROMA

Alfonso Cuarón

VICE

Adam McKay

 

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

NOMINEES

 

FREE SOLO

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill

HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING

RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim

MINDING THE GAP

Bing Liu and Diane Quon

OF FATHERS AND SONS

Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert

RBG

Betsy West and Julie Cohen

 

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

NOMINEES

 

BLACK SHEEP

Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn

END GAME

Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

LIFEBOAT

Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN

Marshall Curry

PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE.

Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton

 

FILM EDITING

NOMINEES

 

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Barry Alexander Brown

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

John Ottman

THE FAVOURITE

Yorgos Mavropsaridis

GREEN BOOK

Patrick J. Don Vito

VICE

Hank Corwin

 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

NOMINEES

 

CAPERNAUM

Lebanon

COLD WAR

Poland

NEVER LOOK AWAY

Germany

ROMA

Mexico

SHOPLIFTERS

Japan

 

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

NOMINEES

 

BORDER

Göran Lundström and Pamela Goldammer

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS

Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher and Jessica Brooks

VICE

Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe and Patricia Dehaney

 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

NOMINEES

 

BLACK PANTHER

Ludwig Goransson

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Terence Blanchard

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Nicholas Britell

ISLE OF DOGS

Alexandre Desplat

MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Marc Shaiman

 

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

NOMINEES

 

ALL THE STARS

from Black Panther; Music by Kendrick Lamar, Mark “Sounwave” Spears and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar, SZA and Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith

I'LL FIGHT

from RBG; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

THE PLACE WHERE LOST THINGS GO

from Mary Poppins Returns; Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman

SHALLOW

from A Star Is Born; Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt

WHEN A COWBOY TRADES HIS SPURS FOR WINGS

from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Music and Lyric by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings

 

BEST PICTURE

NOMINEES

 

BLACK PANTHER

Kevin Feige, Producer

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele and Spike Lee, Producers

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Graham King, Producer

THE FAVOURITE

Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday and Yorgos Lanthimos, Producers

GREEN BOOK

Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga, Producers

ROMA

Gabriela Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón, Producers

A STAR IS BORN

Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper and Lynette Howell Taylor, Producers

VICE

Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick, Producers

 

PRODUCTION DESIGN

NOMINEES

 

BLACK PANTHER

Production Design: Hannah Beachler; Set Decoration: Jay Hart

THE FAVOURITE

Production Design: Fiona Crombie; Set Decoration: Alice Felton

FIRST MAN

Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas

MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Production Design: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim

ROMA

Production Design: Eugenio Caballero; Set Decoration: Bárbara Enríquez

 

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

NOMINEES

 

ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR

Alison Snowden and David Fine

BAO

Domee Shi and Becky Neiman-Cobb

LATE AFTERNOON

Louise Bagnall and Nuria González Blanco

ONE SMALL STEP

Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas

WEEKENDS

Trevor Jimenez

 

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

NOMINEES

 

DETAINMENT

Vincent Lambe and Darren Mahon

FAUVE

Jeremy Comte and Maria Gracia Turgeon

MARGUERITE

Marianne Farley and Marie-Hélène Panisset

MOTHER

Rodrigo Sorogoyen and María del Puy Alvarado

SKIN

Guy Nattiv and Jaime Ray Newman

 

SOUND EDITING

NOMINEES

 

BLACK PANTHER

Benjamin A. Burtt and Steve Boeddeker

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone

FIRST MAN

Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan

A QUIET PLACE

Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl

ROMA

Sergio Díaz and Skip Lievsay

 

SOUND MIXING

NOMINEES

 

BLACK PANTHER

Steve Boeddeker, Brandon Proctor and Peter Devlin

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin and John Casali

FIRST MAN

Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño, Ai-Ling Lee and Mary H. Ellis

ROMA

Skip Lievsay, Craig Henighan and José Antonio García

A STAR IS BORN

Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder and Steve Morrow

 

VISUAL EFFECTS

NOMINEES

 

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl and Dan Sudick

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones and Chris Corbould

FIRST MAN

Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles and J.D. Schwalm

READY PLAYER ONE

Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler and David Shirk

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan and Dominic Tuohy

 

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

 

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS

Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

BLACKKKLANSMAN

Written by Charlie Wachtel & David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee

CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

Written for the screen by Barry Jenkins

A STAR IS BORN

Screenplay by Eric Roth and Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

 

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

NOMINEES

 

THE FAVOURITE

Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara

FIRST REFORMED

Written by Paul Schrader

GREEN BOOK

Written by Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly

ROMA

Written by Alfonso Cuarón

VICE

Written by Adam McKay