PART 7: THE RACE FOR BEST PICTURE
This hostless and apparently commercial-hampered and time-constrained 91st Academy Awards arrive on Sunday, February 25th. It’s time to breakdown each category and put some stone cold predictions into digital ink. Throughout the busy awards season, this website’s 2019 Awards Tracker has been my workspace to tally all the early award winners. That prognostication data is cited in these predictions. This column examines the race for Best Picture. As I say every year, stick with me and I will win you your Oscar pool!
THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST MOTION PICTURE
The nominees: Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star is Born, Vice
AWARDS TRACKER DATA: 23- Roma, 9- The Favourite, 6- If Beale Street Could Talk, 6- Green Book, 4- A Star is Born, 2- The Hate U Give, 2- The Rider, 2- Black Panther, and nine other films with one win.
Who was snubbed: I know it’s hard to say anything in an eight-film field is a snub and not sound like the 65th team griping about missing a big tournament. That said, If Beale Street Could Talk is a glaring omission this year. Sure, Barry Jenkins so recently won this top award with Moonlight two years ago, but his James Baldwin adaptation is just as excellent, if not better. Like I’ve been poking with constant reminders and reflections in all of these prediction breakdown posts, the middle tier of independent film (The Rider, First Reformed, Eighth Grade, Blindspotting, The Hate U Give, and more) gets marginalized to the titles with bigger backing once the awards season marketing begins. Annapurna got Vice in over If Beale Street Could Talk. I think it pushed the wrong horse.
Happy to be there- AKA “The First Cut”: The still-relatively-recent annual silliness of having more than five nominees means fat needs to be trimmed. Let the data of win totals be the decider. Anything with less than two Best Picture wins gets the boot. Sorry, BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee is going to lose to Green Book: Driving Miss Daisy 2 thirty years after Do the Right Thing lost to Driving Miss Daisy. Sorry, Bohemian Rhapsody. Your scandals and crappy film show too many flaws. Sorry, Vice. You were cooler when you were called W. and The Big Short.
The true finalists- AKA “The Final Five”: Roma, The Favourite, Green Book, A Star is Born, Black Panther
Who should win: And now we’ve come to the prickliest of questions where awards prognosticators all pitch their reasonings for just about any of these five, let alone eight finalists. I’m a If Beale Street Could Talk guy. I’m a Searching guy. I’m a First Man guy. I don’t think any of these eight films should win. None of them are downright instant classics.
If I’m voting with my heart instead of my head, a win for Black Panther would be the biggest eyebrow-raising game-changer from this field. And it’s not impossible. The film won the top ensemble SAG award from the Screen Actors Guild, the actor’s equivalent of Best Picture. Larger than Get Out (which I backed last year for the same hopeful reasons), Black Panther represents quality, popularity, diversity, and emerging artistry all in one package. A surprise Oscar win would legitimize so many avenues: Ryan Coogler as a real director, the notion that audience hits cannot win Oscars anymore, and how the entire genre of comic book films are now (and have been) bigger than kids stuff.
More importantly, a Black Panther win would quickly erase the back-of-the-mind thoughts of being solely a token nominee to appease diversity and the masses. Don’t just nominate it to prove your progressiveness. Vote for it to win, period. That’s how you break glass ceilings and industry stigmas.
Who will win: The creme of pedigree almost rises to the top. If this was four months ago at the beginning of the season, A Star is Born would be running away and hiding with this award and a Bradley Cooper casino-cleaning sweep. The one thing Green Book has going for it to hang around as an upset special is the vital Producers Guild of America (PGA) win matching the recipients of the Best Picture category, but it has nothing else, only a deteriorating reputation of backlash.
Today, in the final week, Roma and The Favourite are the consensus art house picks with the most nominations and prior wins. They’re the true contenders and it’s time to cash in the “there’s a first time for everything” card. Roma is the juggernaut that keeps wowing industry members and earning respect at every awards show it enters while The Favourite settles for artistic prizes. Roma hasn’t faltered yet and I don’t think it will. Alfonso Cuaron’s film would be the first purely foreign language film in the 91 years of the Academy Awards to win Best Picture. It’s time for new history.
I’m backing the data and the odds. Folks can try to drum up the perceived “Netflix hate,” but why does it keep winning? Folks can complain about subtitles and black-and-white this and that, but why does it keep winning? It wins because it’s too good to deny and draws the right parallels to the politics of the present that are floating in our country. That topicality wins awards, plain and simple, especially in a year up against the likes of its fellow nominees.
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