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Even though the ceremony is not until Feb. 24, Oscars season arrived months ago. Races for the most prestigious categories have already had plenty of ups and downs, as some expected favorites flopped and other underdogs turned into serious contenders. Here are some details to look out for before the nominations come out on Jan. 22.

Best Picture:

Though any film that played in theaters in 2018 is eligible, the Best Picture race tends to reward films that are released toward the end of the year (some contenders have yet to screen in Salt Lake at all). That will likely change on nomination day, as February’s smash hit “Black Panther” seems poised for a nod. The film was immensely popular, politically relevant and considered to be one of the best superhero movies ever— voters ignore it at their own risk. This year, however, the two most promising contenders are “A Star is Born” and “Roma.” “A Star is Born” is about as close to a universal crowd-pleaser as you can get in 2018— it was a box office hit, earned great reviews and won over everyone from film snobs to long-time Little Monsters. “Roma” might be a tougher sell— it is filmed in black-and-white, spoken entirely in Spanish and was released on Netflix. However, its critical response has been rapturous and director Alfonso Cuaron won an Oscar for Best Director in 2013 with “Gravity.” Below the top two contenders, the race gets a lot messier. There are plenty of plausible candidates but few clear breakout favorites, and some films with high pedigree will inevitably get left out. (Predictions are ranked by likelihood of receiving a nomination).

Predicted Nominees: “A Star is Born,” “Roma,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “The Favourite,” “Green Book,” “Black Panther,” “First Reformed,” “First Man,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me”

Dark Horses: “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Vice,” “Widows,” “Eighth Grade” and “On the Basis of Sex”

Best Director:

This race often corresponds with Best Picture, and once again, “Roma” (Alfonso Cuaron) and “A Star is Born” (Bradley Cooper) have comfortable leads. In a race often criticized for lack of diversity, two directors of color are likely to make the cut: Cuaron and Barry Jenkins, whose “If Beale Street Could Talk” is quickly becoming a top-tier contender. However, unlike last year, it seems unlikely for any female directors to hear their names at the ceremony.

Predicted Nominees: Alfonso Cuaron, Bradley Cooper, Barry Jenkins, Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and Damien Chazelle (“First Man”)

Dark Horses: Spike Lee, (“BlacKkKlansman”) Paul Schrader, (“First Reformed”) Peter Farrelly, (“Green Book”) Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me”) and Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”)

Best Actress:

There is a real embarrassment of riches in Best Actress this year— an encouraging sign, given how rare it is for Hollywood to offer women complex leading roles. Lady Gaga is the tentative frontrunner for her debut in “A Star Is Born.” Her musical moments in the movie are thrilling, and she shocked audiences with her legitimate acting chops. Not far behind are Olivia Colman in the idiosyncratic indie darling, “The Favourite,” and Glenn Close (“The Wife”), who has never won an Oscar in her decades-long career. There will be a fight for the last two spots, and I don’t envy the voters’ choice. Should it be Melissa McCarthy’s unexpected dramatic turn in “Can You Ever Forgive Me”? Can newcomer Yalitza Aparacio get recognition for her first acting role ever in “Roma”? What about the legendary Viola Davis (“Widows”) or Emily Blunt in taking over Julie Andrews’ legacy in “Mary Poppins Returns”? This will remain a nail-biter until the very end.

Predicted Nominees: Lady Gaga, Olivia Colman, Glenn Close, Yalitza Aparacio and Viola Davis

Dark Horses: Melissa McCarthy, Emily Blunt, Saoirse Ronan (“Mary Queen of Scots”), KiKi Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) and Felicity Jones (“On the Basis of Sex”)

Best Actor:

Can Bradley Cooper direct himself to victory? In “A Star Is Born,” his flashy performance screams “Oscar,” from his dramatic addiction arc to his noticeable vocal transformation in the surprisingly good musical numbers. He will face stiff competition from Christian Bale, who is unrecognizable as Dick Cheney in “Vice” and Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book.” The latter film has attracted controversy for its handling of race, but that might not matter if Oscar voters like performance enough. Many prognosticators are predicting a nomination for Rami Malek’s star-making turn as Freddie Mercury, but I am less convinced— competition is stiff, and critics trounced “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Predicted Nominees: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Viggo Mortensen, Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) and Ryan Gosling (“First Man”)

Dark Horses: Rami Malek, Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”), John David Washington (“BlacKkKlansman”) and Robert Redford (“The Old Man and the Gun”)

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@JoshPetersen7

Josh Petersen is the digital managing editor at The Chronicle. Previously, he was the assistant arts editor and a staff writer for the opinion desk. He has won multiple awards for his writing, including the national Mark of Excellence award for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a senior studying English, psychology and political science.

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