By: Joseph Kathmann with a contribution in the animation section from Peter Kosanovich
The potential for two VERY different timelines
Never, in all my years writing this blog and covering film, has there been such a contentious Oscar season.
The Academy has presented one ludicrous idea after another and walked them all back, from Kevin Hart hosting the ceremony, (and subsequent non-apology "apology" over his homophobic remarks on Instagram) to the popular film category idea, to replacing last year's Best Actor / Actress presenters with more "recognizable" stars, to the ceremony itself not showing all 24 awards and acceptance speeches live on air, or all five original songs, in a shameless attempt to whittle down the ceremony's lengthy runtime. All of these shortsighted decisions, all walked back, were made by an Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences that seems to be in a shortsighted flux over a seemingly non-existent problem: the Academy Awards just are not as popular as they once were. Every year's ceremony continues to see a dwindling viewership, largely the result of chord-cutters and young people simply not tuning into the awards. Yet, for some head-scratching reason, rather than embrace the loyal following that continues to follow Awards Season with a religious zeal (hello!) and fully lean into the climatic celebration like the Tony Awards have, the Academy is desperately grasping at straws to maintain the relevance it once had 20+ years ago. Hopefully, they'll take a long, hard look at themselves and realize my demographic is not going to suddenly tune in because Avengers: Infinity War is nominated for a Best Popular Oscar, or because Harrison Ford is presenting the Best Supporting Actress category over Sam freaking Rockwell, and start to appeal directly to us movie nerds. But, what it gave us this circuit was a wild and tumultuous season of stupid ideas, walk backs, and apologies from an Academy that for some foreign reason had no earthly idea that us movie nerds and actual industry players would be upset when you announce Best Cinematography will not air live during the telecast because ABC wants to air some new show after the ceremony. (I don't know if that's still the plan, as it is now increasingly likely we're heading to another 4+ hour show.)
Anywho, ridiculous Academy decisions aside, this year's possible award winners have the potential to be the best set of winners I've ever seen. They also have the potential to be the worst, which means this year's Oscars will be the most emotionally unpredictable ceremony in my memory. And it all comes down to Best Picture. On the one hand, you have Alfonso Cuarón's Roma. My number 1 film of 2018, (spoiler for my upcoming year-in-review post) Roma is the current favorite (according to Vegas) to win Best Picture. The film is a cinematic triumph, and would mark the first foreign film to win Hollywood's most prestigious award. Ever. It would be a moving statement, both culturally and politically, from an Academy which is STILL in the recovering phases of #OscarsSoWhite, (let's not forget when that happened twice) and a sign of the changing demographics within this breadbasket of a nation and of the Academy itself. But, on the other hand, lurking menacingly in the shadows, is Green Book. A film which appeals directly to the old, white men of the Academy, a film which unabashedly draws parallels to Driving Miss Daisy, (which infamously won Best Picture the year Spike Lee's groundbreaking Do the Right Thing was released) and trudges out the same old, tired "white savior solves systemic racism" trope that has been told so many times before in old-school Hollywood. The film's director, Peter Farrelly (fresh off the "triumph" that was Dumb and Dumber To) has unashamedly leaned into these tropes, almost going as far as to slog out the stereotypical "I don't see color" line so many old, white men say when claiming they're not racist. And that doesn't even mention the issues the film has had on the awards trail - from stories of Peter Farrelly thinking its funny to whip his junk out on set in the past, to screenwriter Nick Vallelonga (also main character Tony Lip's son) endorsing Trump's racist, debunked, "Muslims cheering after 9/11" conspiracy theory. Oh, and the Shirley family condemning the film for not consulting with them at all during production. That's kind of important.
But, apart from Best Picture, there are 23 other categories to talk about. So, let's go through each of them, shall we? I've seen nearly everything nominated this year short of the live action / animated shorts, so I will give my pick for each category minus those two. As usual, the "who's the favorite" is the favorite according to Vegas betting odds. Those odds can be found here. Let's do this!
Writing: Original Screenplay
Writing: Adapted Screenplay
Short Film, Live Action
Short Film, Animated
Makeup and Hairstyling
Foreign Language Film
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actor
Alright, folks! Hope this preps you for your Oscar watch parties next Sunday. I'll be back with more year-in-review coverage this week, so stay tuned and thanks for reading!!
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