Sunday 21 July 2019

And the Oscar goes to... our critic predicts the big winners

After the Golden Globes produced some shock results, normal service is expected to resume at the Academy Awards. Paul Whitington isn't ruling out a few upsets though

Bohemian Rhapsody would be a massive shock to take the Best Picture gong
Bohemian Rhapsody would be a massive shock to take the Best Picture gong

A couple of months back, when the annual orgy of movie awards chatter began, A Star Is Born was widely predicted to win all before it. But a single gong at the Golden Globes (for best song, to add insult to injury) suggested Bradley Cooper's musical remake might not have the 'awards momentum' everyone imagined. Instead, films like The Favourite, Green Book and the very ordinary Bohemian Rhapsody were honoured, causing awards watchers like myself to throw our hands in the air and wonder what it all meant.

Fans of A Star Is Born reassured themselves that wrongs will be righted and normal service resumed at the Academy Awards, but earlier in the week, when the Oscar nominations were announced, that's not how it played out. In fairness, A Star Is Born has received eight nominations, but may not convert many of those into Oscars, and Bradley Cooper has been surprisingly omitted from the Best Director category.

Instead, it's The Favourite and Alfonso Cuaron's Roma that lead the way with 10 nominations each. Roma is the dark horse in this Oscar race, a sumptuous Netflix-funded black and white drama set in Mexico City in the early 1970s. Depressingly, Roma was only given a nominal cinema release before Netflix started streaming it, but that was enough to qualify it, and it now stands a real chance of winning Best Picture. Green Book emerged from the field last month as perhaps the film most likely to win that accolade. It really oughtn't, but since when has common sense ever prevailed at the Oscars?

It's been unfavourably (and unfairly) compared to Driving Miss Daisy, but does give us a rather Disney-ified version of the Jim Crow South. It's very loosely based on a true story and stars Viggo Mortensen as an Italian-American nightclub doorman who's hired by an African-American classical pianist to be his driver on a concert tour through the southern states. It's irresistibly charming, both actors excel, and its gentler take on the omnipresent topic of race may lure in the Academy voters.

It will face stiff competition from Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice and, of course, The Favourite. I find it hard to imagine a subversive and raunchy period drama like The Favourite winning Best Picture, but you never know. And if Bohemian Rhapsody wins Best Picture, I give up. Yorgos Lanthimos may have a better chance in the Best Director category for his superb work on The Favourite, whose Irish co-producers Element must be delighted with all those nominations. Yorgos will be up against Cuaron (Roma), Adam McKay (Vice), Spike Lee (for the excellent BlacKkKlansman) and Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War). For me, it should be either Lanthimos or Cuaron.

In the Best Actor category, Rami Malek gets the nod for his energetic embodiment of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, as do Bradley Cooper, Viggo Mortensen and Willem Dafoe (for Julian Schnabel's Van Gogh biopic At Eternity's Gate). But this is Christian Bale's Oscar to lose: he's already won a Golden Globe for his chilling portrayal of Dick Cheney in Vice, and will probably prevail again here.

The Best Actress nominees would all be worthy winners, and when I first saw A Star Is Born, I thought Lady Gaga was a shoo-in. Not now though, and though Melissa McCarthy is a revelation in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, and Yalitza Aparicio excels in Roma, this gong should be between Olivia Colman, in The Favourite, and Glenn Close for Bjorn Runge's wordy drama The Wife. Incredibly, Close has never won an Oscar and that galling fact could get her over the line here.

I think Mahershala Ali and Richard E Grant are the favourites in the Best Supporting Actor category, for Green Book and Can You Ever Forgive Me? respectively. Ali, who won Best Actor in 2016 for Moonlight, ought to win. But Green Book's soft-soaping has attracted some criticism of late, which could play into the hands of veteran character actor Grant.

Amy Adams is superb as Dick Cheney's chillingly ambitious wife in Vice, as is Regina King in the otherwise strangely overlooked If Beale Street Could Talk. But The Favourite has the best odds of winning in the Best Supporting Actress category, with both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone up for their hilarious portrayal of Queen Anne's warring underlings. Weisz maybe?

In the screenplays, Best Adapted should be fought over by Bradley Cooper and co for A Star Is Born, and Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. Best Original Screenplay should go to The Favourite, and might.

My pick for Best Animated Feature is the excellent Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse, though Incredibles 2 and Wes Anderson's Isle Of Dogs may have something to say about that.

And while I would love to see Hirokazu Kore-eda's Shoplifters win the Best Foreign Language Oscar, Roma and Cold War are the more likely contenders.

All will be revealed on February 24 - and remember, only a fool makes Oscar predictions, which means you've just been listening to one.

Irish Independent

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