BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“All the Stars”, Black Panther
“I’ll Fight”, RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go”, Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow”, A Star Is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings”, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
TYLER: I’ll give it this… “Shallow” is a hell of a song. As contrived and condescending to pop music as this A Star Is Born can be, Mark Ronson and Lady Gaga wrote a banger of a track. That said, this category is unusually strong this year. “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” is classic Welch/Rawlings back porch folk, and “All the Stars” is as charmingly uncontroversial as I believe Kendrick Lamar can possibly make himself. Yet, no doubt, “Shallow” wins.
DAVID: Mhmm. Mhmm. “Shallow.” Moving on.
CHASE: We’re going to look back in 10 years and marvel that A Star is Born‘s only Oscar win was for “Shallow.”
SEAN: “Shallow” wins in a walk. If the Oscars had been held in the fall this would have been one of two awards for Lady Gaga. At least she’ll finally get the award she should have already had for “Til it Happens to You”. That “Writing’s on the Wall” win gets worse and worse ever year.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Mary Poppins Returns
TYLER: Props to Roma for essentially re-creating the neighborhood of 1971 Roma, and for First Man’s dogged commitment to re-creating the cockpits of its various flying movie metaphors. Black Panther and The Favourite once again fall on lines of inventiveness and execution, as Hannah Beachler’s creation of Wakanda had never existed before, and Fiona Crombie’s Court of Queen Anne has never looked as disgustingly real. I’ll give it to The Favourite this time, for its sense of humor.
DAVID: I picked Favourite for Costume knowing I’d go Black Panther here, which is what I’m doing. The former made grand use of the Hatfield House. The latter put a brand-new world on screen. If this is the only thing Panther wins on Sunday, it will be well deserved.
CHASE: This is a Favourite/Black Panther coin flip, but I’ll diversify my picks since I’ve already given Black Panther two wins. The Favourite.
SEAN: Black Panther deserves this for some of the most memorable and imaginative imagery of the year. Those sets were gorgeous.
BEST SOUND EDITING
A Quiet Place
TYLER: I could get kind of upset special-ish, considering that I haven’t really broken from othodoxy on any of these (except Minding The Gap because obviously) and go with A Quiet Place and it’s pretty excellent use of horror trope sound editing to create a disquieting mood in what is otherwise kind of a Signs ripoff. But if I have to give props to this movie for one thing, it is that First Man’s sound edit perfectly places you in the cockpit of Armstrong’s flying deathtraps. It’s heart-racing and brash, showy in a way I wish the rest of the film had been.
DAVID: I think First Man is the safest and worthiest pick here, obviously. The Gemini flight sequence alone is a masterclass.
CHASE: Yowza. What a hard pick. It doesn’t hurt to go with a film that’s representative of the category. It’s like how the fashion designer movie Phantom Thread won for costuming. The entire point of A Quiet Place is the sound, so I’ll pick it here.
SEAN: I’ll forever be disappointed that A Quiet Place only managed one nomination (it was my second favorite film of last year), but at least it was in a category that it excelled in. The sound work was the most impressive out of any film last year as it provided the backbone for the entire premise of the film. If there is any justice it will walk away with this.
BEST SOUND MIXING
A Star Is Born
TYLER: I think mostly because of their concert venue set pieces, this is a competition between A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody (although the Corpus Christ Massacre and beach wave set pieces in Roma shouldn’t be discounted either). As much as I didn’t like the film, I think A Star Is Born accurately portrays the concert atmosphere through sound storytelling, and thus deserves the win.
DAVID: I like Roma as a sneaky pick here for bringing all of Cuaron’s long, wide-angle takes to surround-sound life. But the rule of thumb is to go with the music film for Mixing, and since Star’s campaign has been imploding on itself like a dying — ahem — star, I have to regretfully predict Bohemian Rhapsody’s blend of Freddi Malercury vocal tracks.
CHASE: When I saw Roma I actually turned around to tell the woman behind me to please be quiet before suddenly realizing that there wasn’t anyone behind, and what I was hearing was incredibly well-done crowd noise from the film. It’s a huge part of what makes the film so immersive.
SEAN: Roma absolutely deserves this prize for its absorbing soundscape, but it’s probably too subtle in a fight between musicals and spectacles. For whatever reason Bohemian Rhapsody has been cleaning up sound awards all season and will likely win here too. If we have to give it to a musical, then A Star is Born is the more deserving winner for its authentic concert atmosphere.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Infinity War
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story
TYLER: On the one hand, First Man achieves some really impressive feats with its presumably much more limited budget than all of the other nominees. I also admire the inclusion of Christopher Robin here, simply for Disney’s fantastic work in translating the well-worn nature of our favorite childhood stuffed animals. But I feel like, context included, Oscar will give this one to Infinity War, simply because to have the event of the year get no awards recognition in a year when The Academy tried to pull a Best Popular Film category through would be kind of weird. So I think it wins.
DAVID: I’m taking Infinity War as well, not least for the truly impressive motion capture creation of Josh Brolin’s Thanos. When in doubt, pick the “mostest” nominee. I also agree that Christopher Robin is an underrated entry, and that First Man is immaculate. That’s what you’re saying, right Tyler?
CHASE: Wouldn’t Ready Player One actually be the “mostest” nominee? Brolin’s Thanos was the CGI character creation of the year, and Infinity War’s disintegrating climax was the most talked about moment. You might wonder why Black Panther isn’t here, and, sure, those war rhinos were awesome, but the film’s big CGI sequence was T’challa and Killmonger punching each other on an underground train track which is definitely the film’s worst moment.
SEAN: Out of the nominees First Man deserves to win, but I’m really wondering why Annihilation and Mission Impossible: Fallout aren’t here? Infinity War’s bombastic spectacle will win.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
One Small Step
TYLER: See what happens when Pixar allows non-white men to direct their art? Possibly the most vital Pixar release since Inside Out. Yet the rest of the nominees are no slouches either. Weekends is actually kind of similar to Bao (story of a Asian family in Seattle dealing with familial distance issues), but achieves a much darker, horror-dream adjacent tone with its brushstroke art style. Late Afternoon is a charming, if overly pat, description of the fall into Alzheimer’s, and One Small Step is a cliche tribute to NASA, I guess? Still, It’s Bao all the way.
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.
TYLER: Very strong social justice year for doc shorts, highlighting UK bigotry, end of life care, the European refugee crisis, American Nazism and the slow creep of women seizing the means to both health and wealth betterment in India. All have a compelling case, with significant knocks. Black Sheep features too much reenactment, End Game feels strangely unaware of financial issues surrounding death care, Lifeboat makes the heroes the European rescuers on the boats, not the refugees, A Night At The Garden is far too short and comes off featherweight as a result, and Period. End of Sentence. is a bit “capitalism can save the world” for my taste. I’ll take Period. End of Sentence hesitantly.
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
TYLER: uh, y’all. These are bad. Pretty much all of them are bad. Skin, a favorite, is unconscionably bad. I will say nothing of these other than I think Fauve should win because it is the most successful and tactful at what it’s doing, and doesn’t trip over itself to feel like dramatic misery porn. But I think Maguerite will win, for it’s Hallmark-y, loving finale.
DAVID: The only short I’ve actually seen is Bao, and pretty much every time I pick a winner for that reason I lose. So I’m actually going to take the lovely-looking Weekends for Animated, and throw Vegas-approved darts at Period. and Maguerite.
CHASE: I covered the shorts at length in my yearly recap of the nominees so check that out for a more in depth look at this group. My picks are Bao, Marguerite, and Period. End of Sentence.
SEAN: I’ve also only seen Bao. One of these years I’ll become an Oscar completist and see all the nominated shorts. Until then I’ll rely on Chase’s yearly reviews. Bao, Marguerite, and Period. End of Sentence it is.
The tally: Chase and Sean win ugly with 16 out of 24 correct.