BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
TYLER: This category was kind of going to be a letdown until December, huh? Isle of Dogs is undoubtedly gorgeous, but it’s a mess of appropriative cliches and some of Anderson’s worst tendencies as a writer. The Incredibles 2 is one of Pixar’s most winningly sarcastic movies, sometimes (the motel dinner!) feeling like it’s angry at itself for even existing. Wreck-It Ralph 2 fumbles, and Mirai remains the one nominated movie this year I didn’t see. Yet the winner has to be Into The Spider-Verse, which probably lost an outsider’s shot at a Best Picture nomination for being released in December.
DAVID: One thing that has actually gone right this awards season is Spider-Verse‘s late surge, sweeping up an armful of critic’s awards, Annies, the Golden Globe, and now the BAFTA. You’d be a fool to bet against it here, and it should be one of the most purely pleasurable wins of the night. It’s a miraculous movie. I like Isle of Dogs and Incredibles 2 a lot, and both feel second-rate compared to Spider-Verse.
CHASE: There’s nothing for me to add here. Spider-Verse.
SEAN: I still haven’t caught Into the Spider-Verse, but I’ll be glad to see Pixar lose out this year. The Incredibles 2 was one of my most disappointing film going experiences of 2018 outside of that great Jack-Jack versus Raccoon scene.
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
TYLER: Morbid time… I think if Bader Ginsberg had died during her recent hospital stay, tragic and depressing as that would’ve been, RBG would be sailing to this win. As it stands it’s the favorite among a sterling group of nominees and snubs (Shirker and Won’t You Be My Neighbor). Its nomination feels less about the quality of the filmmaking or storytelling (although they are perfectly fine) and more a self-congratulatory nod for recognizing our own unworthiness in the face of the movie’s subject. But if I must I must, so I’ll vote for R… NAH I’M JUST PLAYING MINDING THE GAP FAM LET’S GOOOOO I WANNA SEE BING GET THAT HARDWARE.
DAVID: That’s not fair, I was supposed to go out on that Minding the Gap limb! The last six Doc winners have been either political thrillers or music bios, which would point again to RGB. But some of the tea leaves suggest the vertiginously technical Free Solo is the more cinematic choice, so I’ll pick that just to be different. But man, does Minding the Gap (one of my top 10 of the year) have a real shot?
CHASE: Being horribly afraid of heights, Free Solo wasn’t a very fun experience for me, but its striking photography combined with its character study of the borderline psychotic Alex Honnold will get it the win. That said, the film honestly makes me uncomfortable because I expect (through no fault of the film) for deaths at climbing spots to skyrocket this year as idiots attempt to imitate Honnold. Speaking of whom, set your Google alerts. He is never going to stop doing this type of thing and he will definitely be dead in the next ten years.
SEAN: How in the world did Won’t You Be My Neighbor miss here? Free Solo seems to have the heat to win.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Never Look Away
TYLER: Holy Moses, this category. Cold War, Roma and Shoplifters are three of the best movies of the decade. Burning (unfathomably not nom’d) is as well. Capernaum and Never Look Away are treacly, 90s Oscar movies. Roma obviously has this locked up, but let’s just take a second to bow before Pawel Pawlikoski, Hirokazu Koreeda and Lee Chang-Dong for crafting idiosyncratic, universally heartfelt yet defiantly of-their-country culturally relevant films that can cross borders and affect worldwide. Just an astounding year for foreign film.
DAVID: I haven’t been able to catch up on all of these yet, but it doesn’t matter for prediction purposes. If I have Roma winning Best Picture, Foreign is a fait accompli.
CHASE: I’d love to live in a world where Roma wins Best Picture, but loses foreign film to Cold War. It’s the film equivalent of Arcade Fire winning Album of the Year but losing Best Alternative Album to the Black Keys in 2011. Too bad (good?) then that Academy voters are a little more consistent than that. Roma should be a lock, though I too am hugely lamenting Burning‘s lack of a nomination here, Tyler. The important thing is that this was a really great year for foreign language films and hopefully a rising tide lifts all boats going forward.
SEAN: There’s no way Roma loses this, but if I were rooting for an upset it would be for Shoplifters.
Never Look Away
A Star Is Born
TYLER: There is a world where the magnificent 1.37×1 aspect work by Lucasz Zal (a class could be taught on his use of the bottom third) upsets Cuaron and we get to hear a magnificent acceptance speech from a gifted cinematographer. But I firmly believe this is Cuaron’s category to lose, his double-duty vaulting him over his cohorts. Not undeserved, either, as his panoramic, circling shots have an uncanny ability to center the audience in a specific place as history happens all around.
DAVID: Three foreign films, two of them black and white. The cinematographer’s branch really put their stamp on this year, so of course the Academy had planned to banish this category to a commercial break (before a series of protests caused the latest embarrassing backtrack in a season full of them). But the work of writer/director/cinematographer/editor Alfonso Cuaron in Roma is truly magical in the way we imagine cinema to be, and his gifts for staging and composition are unparalleled.
CHASE: I just want to hear Cuaron joke to his friend and legendary DP Chivo Lubezki that this cinematography thing really isn’t all that hard.
SEAN: This is probably the easiest category to predict outside of Best Director. Alfonso Cuaron wins in a walk, but this is one of the strongest cinematography lineups in years.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots
TYLER: An unusually showy, yet strong year for this category. Poppins, Scruggs, and Mary, Queen of Scots all are second-grade versions of the two powerhouses here, but in a less strong year I wouldn’t be ashamed to call any of the three a winner. Yet The Favourite is a masterclass in dirtying up the once proudly clean Anglophilic look of British Isle history dramas, and Black Panther is a startling blast of color and inventive costuming to create a culture heretofore never seen, yet indelibly linked to Kingdoms rarely seen in cinema (those of Africa). My heart wants the ingenuity of Black Panther to win, but my head (and the betting markets) say The Favourite. So, The Favourite.
DAVID: As Tyler says, it’s between Black Panther and The Favourite, and everything he notes about the bold creativity of the former is right. I’m going to hedge my bets between this category and Production Design and give Sandy Powell’s 18th-century gowns the edge here, though a Ruth Carter win for Panther would make her the first black woman to ever take it, and after a brilliant career working on many Spike Lee joints, that’s no small thing.
CHASE: How pathetic is it that if Ruth Carter wins here she will become the first black female winner in a non-acting category in something like thirty years. I’m going to lean towards Black Panther just to be different, not only in our pool, but because costume dramas win this award far too often.
SEAN: Black Panther‘s costumes are so strikingly original while also paying homage to several different African cultures. It’s the kind of imagery we don’t see enough of on screen. It will be one of the night’s big moments when Ruth Carter takes to the stage to collect her Oscar on Sunday.
BEST FILM EDITING
TYLER: This is category about honoring the ability to tell a story through cuts. I cannot honestly award BlacKkKlansman for this, given that it’s showiest edit (the finale) is extremely over-exaggerated, and may not have even happened at all. It’s a masterwork of filmmaking, but to present it as true when it is a hand-on-scale version of such robs the edit of its righteous power. I suppose, in place of a technically but not-narratively deserving nominee in Barry Brown, I’ll hand this to Hank Corwin and Vice by default?
DAVID: Is this where I get to mention Tom Cross’s snub for editing First Man? There, I got that out of the way. As an editor myself, this is a pretty dumb group of nominees; I’d vote for The Favourite, which won’t win. Since “Best Editing” usually means “Most Editing,” maybe Vice is the safest choice. Bohemian Rhapsody’s presence has nothing to do with the film’s merits (lol) but John Ottman’s achievement in single-handedly making the film watchable after Bryan Singer left him with a mess. That all said, Barry Alexander Brown’s cross-cutting between the Birth of a Nation screening and Harry Belafonte’s monologue in BlacKkKlansman was masterful. The rest of the film has pacing problems, but that sequence lingers, and that’s all in the editing.
CHASE: I can’t believe I’m going to do this, but I’m going to pick Bohemian Rhapsody here. I just can’t look past it winning the Eddie award a few weeks ago. As David alluded to, the film is a terrible mess, but none of that is John Ottman’s fault. He didn’t shoot the footage, and by all accounts he transformed a giant pile of nothing into one of the top-20 highest-grossing films of the year.
SEAN: BlacKkKlansman deserves this for the sequence David mentioned above, but also for its rousing Kwame Ture speech (those crossfaded close-ups) and for its gut-punching documentary footage finale. It’s aggressive editing style is in tone with Lee’s righteous fury. It’s the most powerful bit of filmmaking I saw all last year.
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
Mary Queen of Scots
TYLER: I would imagine most Oscar voters switched Border off the second they saw a human with a dog penis (yep), but the film’s makeup is startlingly good, even as it’s Grimm’s fairy tale never really solidifies into anything profound. I have no thoughts about either Mary, Queen of Scots or Vice, but I suppose Vice should win simply for getting so close to the pin on so many historical figures. Meh.
DAVID: Like Darkest Hour last year, it’s gonna be the biopic with the bald caps. Congrats on your (only?) win, Vice.
CHASE: I actually think Mary, Queen of Scots should win here, but it’s going to be too easy for Oscar voters to know that Vice is in the Best Picture race and check the box beside its name.
SEAN: Vice is the worst film I saw last year, but I wouldn’t deny it a win here. It’s transformations are exceedingly convincing. Black Panther and Suspiria should have been here. Note to the Academy: There are more than 3 worthy makeup and hairstyling nominees a year.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns
TYLER: Not since “The Bathtub” from Beast of the Southern Wild have I heard a track on a score that has moved me as much as “Eden (Harlem).” Nicholas Britell crafts a score that is as if not more sumptuous and warmly challenging than the movie itself, creating a perfect companion to James Laxton’s saturated cinematography and Kiki Layne and Stephan James’ impossibly inviting visages. It’s a masterpiece of a score. Beale Street for the win.
DAVID: Is this where I get to mention Justin Hurwitz’s EGREGIOUS snub for First Man? No, seriously, how do you listen to this and not just give him the award right now? Did voters have Hurwitz Fatigue? Did everyone assume their colleagues would vote him in? Anyway. I enjoyed the exotic percussion of Panther and Dogs but it looks like it should go to Beale Street, and somewhat ironically give Britell the award Hurwitz’s La La Land (successfully) snagged from Moonlight.
CHASE: Beale Street is unquestionably great, but I see this as another win for Black Panther in a category that won’t make any comic book movie fan particularly happy. Ludwig Goransson’s afro-futurist work is a marvel. (Pun not intended.)
SEAN: Give or take Mary Poppins Returns, this is a pretty great set of nominees. My personal pick would be Beale Street, but Black Panther is going to make a worthy winner (and it’s certainly the best superhero score since The Dark Knight).