Here is your somewhat-official guide for the 91st annual Academy Awards.
For people like me who watch movies as much as we do, the Oscars Ceremony is like our Superbowl. But since the ratings continue to drop each year, it appears most people just aren’t interested in watching the near four-and-a-half hour special. No one can really predict which movies will be nominated—only that most people won’t have heard of them. Sometimes it encourages me to watch as many of those films as I can, to understand why the Academy believes they’re so deserving. Other times, I wonder if the Academy isn’t just picking films no one has heard of because it makes them look like more informed film critics.
Regardless of how these smaller, indie films get nominated, most people hold little to no interest in them. This in turn means watching the Oscars becomes hoping the one or two films that you have seen will win—though they usually don’t. That’s why I’m here to give some insight on the upcoming show in the hopes that when it airs this Sunday you’re not scratching your head going, “Wait, which movie was that?” Here is your basic breakdown of facts about this year’s Oscars and its nominated stars and films.
There’s still no host in sight. A great host can do a lot for the show, but so far there’s still no word as to who that could be. After Kevin Hart stepped down from the position, there has been a lot of speculation but no confirmation about who could be taking his place. Expect a host-less show this year, but don’t worry—it won’t be the first time this has happened.
It’s gonna be a long show, so pop extra popcorn. The organizers of the Oscars (whoever they may be) proposed to announce four of its awards during commercial time, so as to shorten the show and save time overall. But after a large amount of backlash from directors, cinematographers, actors, etc., it was announced that all twenty-four awards will be shown live. The result is a super long awards show like normal, but c’mon. It’s the Oscars. If you’re familiar with the show at all, you know it’ll have a longer running time than any of its nominated films.
Netflix has a lot to celebrate. In an unusual turn of events, the almighty streaming service managed to get two of its films on the board this year. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs—a Western anthology made up of six short films—has two nominations, while Roma—a Mexican film shot in black and white—is one of the two films holding the most nominations. Though it has some competition, Roma is likely to take home Best Picture. The film is a semi-autobiography about its director, Alfonso Cuarón, and what it was like to grow up in Mexico City in the early 1970s. This combination of the film’s personal history and its moving story will likely earn it several wins during the show.
Foreign films are branching out. Roma isn’t the only foreign film with cause to celebrate. Cold War from Poland and Never Look Away from Germany have both been nominated for their cinematography, along with Roma. All three are nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.
If Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse doesn’t win Best Animated Feature, it’ll be the biggest upset of the show. Year after year, the only animated films that win come from Disney. Sometimes they’re deserving, but sometimes it seems the Academy just votes for the film they’ve heard of the most. This year Spiderverse, a film with a new breathtaking style of animation, could do a lot for both animation and comic book movies if it actually wins.
Comic book movies are stepping up their game. This year Black Panther became the first comic book film to receive a nomination for Best Picture. It has received six nominations total, including Costumes, Production Design, and a few of the more technical categories. Hopefully this will encourage other comic book films to increase the quality of their storytelling in the hopes that there will be more achievements like this in the future.
Diversity is being recognized. Aside from the wide success of Black Panther, this year’s Oscars is a step in the right direction with several of its nominations celebrating Hollywood’s diverse talent and films. Roma is another big win, with both Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira nominated in the Actress categories. Regina King is also nominated for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk, which has three nominations total. King is expected to take home the Best Supporting Actress award. Spike Lee is nominated for Best Director for BlacKkKlansman, a film about the true story of an African-American detective who made it his mission to bring down the Ku Klux Klan. While it would have been nice to see Ryan Coogler nominated for directing Black Panther, at least the amount of diversity recognized at the Oscars seems to be growing.
There are several mainstream films featured this year. The Oscars have proposed a “Popular Films” category for their awards show, where they can throw a bunch of blockbusters in their own group to attract more viewers. This is a bad idea for a number of reasons, but it appears this year they really don’t need it, with several fan favorites getting nominated. Most noticeable are (aforementioned) Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star is Born—all three of which have a Best Picture nomination. Though it’s highly unlikely any of them will win that award, it’s still nice to see them receive so much well-earned recognition. A few other mainstream movies that have received nominations are Avengers: Infinity War for Best Visual Effects; A Quiet Place for Sound Editing; and Mary Poppins Returns for Costumes, Production Design, and Best Original Song.
Expect Glenn Close to win Best Actress in a Leading Role. This is one of the closest (get it?) categories of the Oscars this year, but nearly everyone is calling it for Glenn Close’s role in The Wife. Though practically no one has heard of the film, Close delivers a powerful performance as the wife of a manipulative writer who is chosen to receive a Nobel Prize for his work. This is the film’s only nomination, and many are saying it’s Close’s time to win the Oscar. There is the chance for an upset from Olivia Coleman for The Favourite, and I personally wouldn’t mind an upset from Lady Gaga. Both Julie Andrews and Barbara Streisand won Oscars when nominated for their musical film debut performances, and even though it’s unlikely, it would be nice to see that tradition continued with Lady Gaga for A Star is Born. But even if she doesn’t win here, she’s practically guaranteed to take home Best Original Song for the powerful “Shallow.”
The Winner of Best Actor is more unpredictable. Though it seems pretty clear who is getting the gold for Best Actress, with Best Actor it’s not as easy to tell. There could be a surprise win from Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody (which wouldn’t disappoint anyone, that’s for sure), but it’s more likely that Christian Bale will take home his second Oscar for his work in Vice. Bale plays former vice president Dick Cheney, and Hollywood is always quick to award political films as well as actors who transform themselves quite extensively like Bale has for this role. The film has eight nominations total, and this could very well be one of its wins.
The Favourite could be the favorite. Tied with Roma for the most number of nominations, period piece The Favourite could end up with the greatest wins at the end of the night. Its three main characters (played by Alice Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone) are an actress trio to be reckoned with, all three deservedly nominated for their roles. Also nominated is the production design, which is so ornate, it really doesn’t have any competition. While this film effectively portrays the fickle, idiotic, and humorous nature of the English court during the reign of Queen Anne, it spins a love triangle between its main characters that is wildly inaccurate, with even the smallest amount of research able to disprove it. But inaccurate history has never stopped Hollywood before, and The Favourite could actually end up becoming the Academy’s favorite at the Oscars.
Don’t forget Green Book. Before I wrap things up, it’s important to shine a light on the charming Green Book, which some are referring to as a reverse Driving Miss Daisy. And that’s not a bad comparison, as Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture back in 1990. Green Book holds five nominations, one of which is Best Picture, and many are predicting this warm-hearted film will win the most coveted award.
As always, the snubs. This is where it gets more personal, but it wouldn’t be the Oscars if a few films weren’t left out in the cold or only given the slightest nod of recognition. Proving that critical acclaim in the past doesn’t guarantee it for the future, director Damien Chazelle (La La Land and Whiplash) only received four nominations for his new film First Man, all of which are in the more technical categories. Crazy Rich Asians was shut out completely, though it could have added more diversity and recognition from mass moviegoers. Other notable absences include films Eighth Grade, Boy Erased, and the fan-favorite Hereditary, while Won’t You Be My Neighbor was snubbed out of the category for Documentary (Feature). Beautiful Boy also received a surprising zero nominations, even though Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet deserved recognition and could have easily replaced Willem Dafoe for Best Actor in At Eternity’s Gate —which no one had even heard of before the nomination. (No offense, Mr. Dafoe.) It also would have been nice to see more nominations for Mary Queen of Scots and Mary Poppins Returns, especially for Emily Blunt. But we can’t all win, and apparently we can’t all get participation awards either. But I digress.
If you were unsure about whether or not you would actually watch this year’s Oscars, I hope this article helped to add some clarity to several of the nominated films. If you’ve already committed to watching the show, do you think these films are deserving of their nominations? And if you’re someone who still isn’t sold on the Oscars, what would get you to watch it? Even though they don’t nominate many mainstream movies, there is value in the Academy bringing focus to many films that deserve to be seen and applauded by a wider audience, even though they tend to leave out a few other deserving films in the process.
The 91st Academy Awards will air this Sunday, February 24th on ABC at 8 p.m. EST.
Andrew Corder is a department head for the Daily Runner.