91st Academy Awards: Predictions and Hopes

Best Picture

Will Win: Roma

Usually, there are several solid precursors that might help predict what will win Best Picture. But this year, there’s been little to no consistency in those precursors. The SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture went to Black Panther. The PGA Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture went to Green Book. The Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture went to Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book for drama and comedy, respectively. There’s less of a clear winner than there has been in recent memory, but I’m throwing my weight behind Roma. Of the eight nominees, Roma is by far the most critically acclaimed, garnering a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 96/100 on Metacritic, and sweeping Best Picture awards at various critics’ circle award shows. It also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, one of the reliable predictors of a Best Picture win, and ties with The Favourite for most overall Oscar nominations. Like Moonlight’s victory a couple of years ago, a Best Picture trophy for Roma would be well-deserved.

Should Win: Roma

Best Picture often goes to films that are deemed “important” in a broader sociocultural context. Often that leads to films that cast a wide net in an attempt to find that widespread appeal. Roma veers in the opposite direction, offering an intensely personal tale laced with universal themes of the importance of family during times of hardship. It is, specifically, a love letter to Alfonso Cuarón’s own childhood nanny Libo, but it’s also about the struggles of every Libo out there, every woman whose strength to go above and beyond their call of duty changes the lives of those around her. No other Best Picture nominee comes close to the sheer power and intimacy of Roma.

Should Have Been Nominated: Cold War

Paweł Pawlikowski is now the second filmmaker since the Best Picture nominee expansion to receive a Best Director nomination but no Best Picture nod (Bennett Miller was the first, with Foxcatcher). Cold War is a powerful work, almost operating as a series of vignettes that gradually reveal the complexity of the relationship of its two protagonists. Like the great Casablanca, Pawlikowski’s film explores the nature of love versus reality, the swelling warmth of romance contrasted against the complexities and obstacles of the eponymous tension between Eastern and Western Blocs. It’s one of the great romance films of our time, and a Best Director nomination does not go far enough in celebrating its excellence.

Best Director

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Cuarónhas already won Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America; in the last twenty years, there were only three instances in which the DGA honoree didn’t go on to win Best Director at the Oscars. At this point, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Cuarón will be taking home his second Best Director award and third overall—the first was for Gravity, for which he also won Best Film Editing.

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Cuarónjuxtaposes his notoriously bold and ambitious visual scope with laser focus storytelling in Roma. It’s a film that exists simultaneously on a micro and macro scale, and Cuarón’s balancing act between these two scales is marvelous. Cuarón has always been one of modern cinema’s most involved auteurs—here he also serves as co-producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, and co-editor—and Roma shows the director exercising masterful control over his product.

Should Have Been Nominated: Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk

If Beale Street Could Talk was severely under-nominated as a whole, but Jenkins’s absence in the Best Director category is perhaps the Academy’s most egregious slight towards it. So much of the film’s humanity comes through Jenkins’s direction. The way he frames close-ups of the characters’ faces, the way his use of light accentuates each actor’s facial movements, it all brings to the surface nuanced emotions that directors more lacking in emotional intelligence might ignore.

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