Credit: Getty

    Oscars 2019: nominations and predictions

    21 January 2019

    Winning an Academy Award is no guarantee of cinematic immortality. Recent Best Picture winners such as Crash and A Beautiful Mind, barely watched these days, let alone celebrated, are a reminder that quality is far from the only factor determining which films win what each year. Awards season is a business, with the studios perennially shunting smaller independent films out of contention. But it is also a narrative, enacted in public, and the films chosen by voters tell us plenty about who they are and what they value — as the following summary of this year’s major contenders makes clear.

    Best Picture

    Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz star in The Favourite

    Ordinarily, a film like Roma — a black-and-white subtitled film released by Netflix — would not stand a chance at the Oscars. But when the director is past winner Alfonso Cuarón, and Netflix are reportedly spending over $20 million on their campaign to get their first Best Picture nomination — it’s suddenly one of the front-runners. The size of Netflix’s spend reveals that they are not simply trying to convince voters their film is the best. They are aware that a win for Netflix would be political — it would grant the streaming service loathed by many traditional distributors a cinematic legitimacy that it desperately craves.

    Alternative winners could triumph for similarly political reasons. The female-led The Favourite has been trumpeted as a film for the #MeToo era, while recent wins for Bohemian Rhapsody and Green Book at the Golden Globes were actually seen by some as a backlash against the criticisms (legitimate, in my view) that these films have received from minority groups — a way of rejecting the politicisation of awards season. Whoever wins, you can be sure voters will be aware of the message it sends. Which is why, in the end, Roma may miss out on a much deserved top prize.

    Best Director

    Alfonso Cuaron, Director of Roma (Credit: Getty)

    Unlike the tight Best Picture race, Alfonso Cuarón is the hot favourite to win for his bravura achievement with Roma. A win would be his second in this category in six years, and, more remarkably, the fifth win in six years for a Mexican director (take that, Donald Trump).

    Who won’t be winning this year? A woman. Only five women have ever been nominated in the ninety year history of the prize, with Kathryn Bigelow the sole winner. The issue is systemic to the industry and runs far deeper than the Oscars. This year, among several viable contenders, Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, which boasts a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes, was so good that it moved Jane Campion to advocate publicly for its awards chances. Sadly, it seems unlikely to have any effect as far as the Oscars are concerned.

    Best Actor

    Bradley Cooper is tipped for Best Actor (Credit: Getty)

    While Bradley Cooper remains in contention for a Best Actor trophy, he faces stiff competition from Golden Globe winners Rami Malek, for his pitch-perfect impersonation of Freddie Mercury, and Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney. The popularity of these two performances reminds us that there are two things the Academy loves more than anything — an impersonation of a real-life figure, and a prosthetics-heavy performance.

    If this weren’t the case, we might be talking about the chances of actors like Ethan Hawke, whose restrained performance as a tormented priest in First Reformed should bag a nomination, but doesn’t have the required fireworks for a win. This is before we consider those performances entirely outside the conversation, such as Lakeith Stanfield’s drily exasperated turn in the black comedy Sorry to Bother You. A reminder that often, the acting categories are not rewarding the best acting of the year, but the most.

    Best Actress

    Glenn Close stars in The Wife

    Olivia Colman may well be the name on everybody’s lips after her win at the Golden Globes, but the Best Actress oscars race has long been a battle between Lady Gaga for her revelatory work in A Star is Born and Glenn Close’s precise performance in The Wife. These two reveal another factor that plays a huge role in voters’ minds — the narrative of a win. In Gaga’s case, it would be a real-life Star is Born moment: anointing a new ingenue, as has happened throughout Oscars history, from Julie Andrews to Jennifer Lawrence (the phenomenon is more common among women). Glenn Close is the opposite — when she receives her inevitable seventh Oscar nomination, she will become the most nominated actress ever without a win — a narrative that will make it hard for her peers to resist rewarding her at last.

    For my money, Close fully deserves a win, even if the film that surrounds her performance does not match it for quality. But the need for voters to have a compelling narrative keeps some excellent turns out in the cold — a classic example this year being Nicole Kidman in Destroyer (since she’s already won, and it’s not a great film, there is little appetite to reward the performance).

    Whoever wins, it’s worth bearing in mind the multiple factors at play, many of them far from honourable. Not to mention the fact that a year from now, most people will struggle to remember the winners’ names — that’s if they ever cared in the first place.


    Full list of nominations:


    Best Picture

    • Black Panther
    • BlacKkKlansman
    • Bohemian Rhapsody
    • The Favourite
    • Green Book
    • Roma
    • A Star Is Born
    • Vice


    Actor in a Leading Role

    • Christian Bale, Vice
    • Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
    • Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
    • Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
    • Viggo Mortensen, Green Book


    Actress in a Leading Role

    • Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
    • Glenn Close, The Wife
    • Olivia Colman, The Favourite
    • Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
    • Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

    Actress in a Supporting Role

    • Amy Adams, Vice
    • Marina de Tavira, Roma
    • Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
    • Emma Stone, The Favourite
    • Rachel Weisz, The Favourite


    Actor in a Supporting Role

    • Mahershala Ali, Green Book
    • Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
    • Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
    • Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
    • Sam Rockwell, Vice


    • BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee
    • Cold War, Paweł Pawlikowski
    • The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos
    • Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
    • Vice, Adam McKay

    Adapted Screenplay

    • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
    • BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee
    • Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
    • If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
    • A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters


    Original Screenplay

    • The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
    • First Reformed, Paul Schrader
    • Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
    • Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
    • Vice, Adam McKay


    Foreign Language Film

    • Capernaum, Lebanon
    • Cold War, Poland
    • Never Look Away, Germany
    • Roma, Mexico
    • Shoplifters, Japan
    • Animated Feature
      Incredibles 2
    • Isle of Dogs
    • Mirai
    • Ralph Breaks the Internet
    • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


    Original Score

    • Black Panther
    • BlacKkKlansman
    • If Beale Street Could Talk
    • Isle of Dogs
    • Mary Poppins Returns


    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


    Documentary Short

    • Black Sheep
    • End Game
    • Lifeboat
    • A Night at the Garden
    • Period. End of Sentence.



    • Cold War, Lukasz Zal
    • The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
    • Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
    • Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
    • A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique


    Best Documentary Feature

    • Free Solo
    • Hale County This Morning, This Evening
    • Minding the Gap
    • Of Fathers and Sons
    • RBG


    Production Design

    • Black Panther
    • The Favourite
    • First Man
    • Mary Poppins Returns
    • Roma

    Sound Mixing

    • Black Panther
    • Bohemian Rhapsody
    • First Man
    • Roma
    • A Star Is Born

    Costume Design

    • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
    • Black Panther
    • The Favourite
    • Mary Poppins Returns
    • Mary Queen of Scots

    Film Editing

    • BlacKkKlansman
    • Bohemian Rhapsody
    • The Favourite
    • Green Book
    • Vice

    Sound Editing

    • Black Panther
    • Bohemian Rhapsody
    • First Man
    • A Quiet Place
    • Roma


    Animated Short Film

    • Animal Behavior
    • Bao
    • Late Afternoon
    • One Small Step
    • Weekends

    Live Action Short

    • Detainment
    • Fauve
    • Marguerite
    • Mother
    • Skin


    Makeup and Hair

    • Border
    • Mary Queen of Scots
    • Vice


    Visual Effects

    • Avengers: Infinity War
    • Christopher Robin
    • First Man
    • Ready Player One
    • Solo: A Star Wars Story