Yesterday the nominees for the 91st Academy Awards were announced and, as ever, there is plenty to unpack. Not only does it tell us who the Academy have decided to honour for the last 12 months of cinema, but it also gives us some hints as to who might become winners on 24 February, the night of the event itself.
Roma and The Favourite lead the way with 10 nominations a piece, while Vice and A Star is Born follow with eight each, although Bradley Cooper misses out on a Directing nod for ASIB, in what is comfortably the most notable snub of the year.
So how much can we read into these predictions? Let’s take a look at some of the main categories and see who might take home the little golden statues next month.
The main award of the evening is often the toughest to predict, especially since this year has been distinctly lacking an obvious front runner. That may have changed now, with Roma emerging as a huge contender to be the first foreign language film ever to win Best Picture. Having the (joint) most nominations is always a good sign, and it has already over-performed after Marina de Tavira came out of nowhere to earn a Supporting Actress nod and become perhaps the surprise nomination of the year. It clearly means voters are keen to reward Roma, and its only significant loss is not being nominated for Best Editing.
There is a reason foreign films never win the big award however, and that is because it is easy for voters to give them Best Foreign Film as a kind of alternative ‘Best Film’, freeing up votes for any other movies they would love to reward. So who’s most likely to take advantage of that? Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody have both done very well across awards season, but the former has become quite controversial and the latter just isn’t really good enough.
The Favourite has to be up there with 10 nominations, but it just feels too edgy to pick up votes from the whole Academy. Sure there are those who love it, but it is not everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps A Star is Born is a bit of a sleeping giant here. An early front runner which has under-performed in most categories at most awards ceremonies, it is possible that Bradley Cooper’s directing snub could cause a second wave of support, much like Ben Affleck’s similar actor-who-directs snub in 2012 propelled Argo to a Best Picture victory.
Roma – it’s as open a race as any, but the Academy has picked up a habit of breaking its own records in recent years, and it seems fitting that the next be a foreign language Best Picture.
Alfonso Cuarón has been sweeping awards season when it comes to the director’s race. Along with Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Guillermo Del Toro, Cuarón is responsible for four of the last five Best Director gongs going to Mexican directors and that will most likely become 5/6 with Roma. It is a sublimely directed piece of work and is one of four awards Cuarón is up for on the night – Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography – tying the record for most nominations for a single film.
The only real challenger to Cuarón’s crown is Spike Lee. Criminally, BlacKkKlansman is Lee’s first nomination for directing, and he is adored and respected enough by his peers in the industry. The film is hyper-relevant in Trump’s America and packs a powerful, emotional punch.
Alfonso Cuarón – stick your mortgage on it.
Comfortably the most fascinating race this year, there are three serious contenders for Best Actress: first there is the outsider – Lady Gaga. An outsider not only in terms of her chances of winning, but also as a pop-star entering the acting world. Her performance in A Star is Born has moved many, and in past years she may have been the comfortable favourite, but two big winners stand in her way this time.
Glenn Close is a bona fide Hollywood icon. A bona fide icon who yesterday received her seventh Oscar nomination, none of which have ended in victory (yet). It is a classic Oscar narrative – the overdue legend. The fact her film, The Wife, was not even in the conversation for any other awards says it all, the Academy want to reward her.
Her biggest challenger is Olivia Colman, who is incredible as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Colman is a beloved character in British acting and will almost certainly take home the BAFTA, but Close may stand in the way of her Oscar. The Academy does love rewarding underappreciated character actors though, and Olivia Colman will have charmed many a voter at Oscar luncheons across Hollywood this campaign, so do not count her out by any means.
Glenn Close – the fiercest category by far, any of the five nominees would be worthy, but Close has the reputation, the admiration and that oh-so important overdue factor.
Another three-way acting battle seems to be taking place in the male category. Leading the pack is four-time nominee and one-time winner Christian Bale (Vice). In a transformative role (even by his standards) Bale becomes former Vice President, and arguably the most powerful man on the planet at the time, Dick Cheney. Much like Gary Oldman as Churchill last year, Bale is coated in prosthetics to inhabit a fierce, infamous political figure. One that feels even more prevalent with the current state of US politics.
Challenging him are Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury (Bohemian Rhapsody) and Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born). Both star as singers in music dramas, Cooper has the advantage that he actually sings, but Rami can hardly be criticised for not being able to sing like Mercury, and he lives and breathes Freddie. Both are popular films across the board and neither are particularly controversial, though Malek probably edges it having won more awards elsewhere, along with the fact that voters can choose to reward Cooper with Best Picture or Adapted Screenplay.
Christian Bale – immensely respected and playing a figure who has shaped so much of current US politics, the Academy loves a good transformative performance.
Those are just four of the 24 categories which will be handing out awards next month. Each one provides fascinating narratives and range from nailed on winners (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as Best Animation) to wide open categories (Editing is one of many). To see the full list of nominees visit https://oscar.go.com/nominees