Maybe the Oscar nominations can restore some clarity and civility to a messy and nasty awards season.
But don’t count on it.
This has been a rocky year for most awards contenders, with skeletons unearthed and outrage nurtured and mud flung at a hefty cross-section of the films that could be in the running for the top prizes on Feb. 24. (And at the Oscars would-be host, too.) But now it’s time to narrow the field and identify the front runners and the also-rans.
On Tuesday morning, things will get real in a wild and weird season.
Also Read: The Oscar Race Is Still a Mess After the Globes and Guilds Have Spoken
So far, the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards and the guild nominations haven’t really told us much about what seems to be a wide-open race. Going into Tuesday morning’s Oscar nominations, there’s a lot at stake for “A Star Is Born” and “Roma,” for “Black Panther” and “BlacKkKlansman,” for “Green Book” and “The Favourite” and “Vice” and every other film whose makers are hoping that the 7,902 voting members of the Academy have some good news for them.
By our reckoning, “A Star Is Born” will lead all films with 10 Oscar nominations, followed by “Roma” with nine and “The Favourite,” “Black Panther” and “First Man” with eight. But Academy voters may not agree.
Remember: The Academy uses the preferential (or ranked-choice) voting system to pick Oscar nominations in almost all categories — and under that system in the nomination round of voting, it’s better to be ranked first on a few ballots than second or third on a lot of them. On Tuesday, passion will matter.
Also Read: The Oscars Probably Won’t Have a Host, and Here’s Why They Don’t Need One
Nominations from the Producers Guild, Directors Guild, Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild suggest that “A Star Is Born” and “BlacKkKlansman” are locks and that “Roma,” “Green Book,” “Black Panther” and “Vice” are likely nominees. And while it’s not inconceivable that voters will balk at putting a Marvel movie atop their ballot or that “Vice” doesn’t have enough support, we’ll go with what the guilds tell us.
Beyond those six films, the Actors Branch will almost certainly push “The Favourite” to a nomination. “If Beale Street Could Talk” has gotten a surprising lack of support from the guilds and is now considered a long shot, but it has such passionate fans that we think it’ll sneak in as well.
That makes eight, which feels like the right number of nominees this year. But we’ve underestimated “Bohemian Rhapsody” before, so we’ll slot it in as a potential No. 9. And if the field somehow expands to 10, the below-the-line support for “First Man” just might make a difference. (It’s strange and troubling that Damien Chazelle and Barry Jenkins, who fought it out two years ago at the Oscars with “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” would both be on the bubble with their eminently worthy follow-ups, “First Man” and “Beale Street.”)
Other possibilities include “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “Mary Poppins Returns,” which are well-liked but haven’t shown enough support from the guilds, and “A Quiet Place” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” which have considerable support in other nominations.
Two real wild cards to watch out for: Chloe Zhao’s indie gem “The Rider” and Pawel Pawlikowski’s luminous foreign-language film “Cold War.”
Predicted nominees, in order of likelihood:
“A Star Is Born”
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
If there are 10 nominees: “First Man”
Also Read: Hey, Oscars Voters: Your Third, Fourth and Fifth Choices for Best Picture Probably Won’t Matter
Alfonso Cuarón is a lock for “Roma,” and could become the fifth Mexican-born winner in the last six years. (It’d be his second in that time, along with two for Alejandro G. Inarritu and one for Guillermo del Toro.) And it’s hard to imagine the Directors Branch not giving Spike Lee his first-ever (!) directing nomination.
But then things get tricky with the always-idiosyncratic branch that votes in this category. This is treacherous territory for Bradley Cooper — because the last time an actor went into Oscar nominations having directed the year’s presumed Best Picture front runner, the actor was Ben Affleck, the movie was “Argo” and the stubborn branch didn’t even give him a nomination. Of course, Affleck rode the wave to sympathy to a Best Picture win, so maybe it’ll work out for “A Star Is Born” even if Cooper gets bypassed — although we think he will get a nom despite the potential for a snub.
Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”), Adam McKay (“Vice”), Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”) and Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) are all contenders for the last two spots — but watch out for Pawel Pawlikowski, who could well become only the second director since the 2009 expansion of the Best Picture category to land a directing nomination for a film that isn’t nominated for picture. (“Foxcatcher” director Bennett Miller was the first.) “Leave No Trace” director Debra Granik is also a potential spoiler.
The crucial factor may be the increasingly international makeup of the Academy: Of the 181 directors invited to join the branch in the last three years, fewer than 40 are American-born. That could work to the advantage of Pawlikowski — and maybe Lanthimos, though his film is not as universally embraced outside the acting ranks. We’re guessing that Pawlikowski gets in, and McKay nudges out Lanthimos.
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
In both of the lead acting categories, four of the nominees seem fairly secure and the fifth is a big question mark. Here, the likely nominees are Christian Bale for “Vice,” Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Bradley Cooper for “A Star Is Born” and Viggo Mortensen for “Green Book” (yes, even with the various controversies swirling around that film).
The fifth slot could go to SAG nominee John David Washington for “BlacKkKlansman,” to Ryan Gosling for “First Man,” to Willem Dafoe for “At Eternity’s Gate” or to Ethan Hawke for “First Reformed.” Washington has come on strong recently, and SAG has a pretty good record for predicting Oscar nominations — but the guild has only matched five-for-five in this category seven times in 24 years, and we’re guessing that there’s enough passion for Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” to give critics’ favorite Hawke the last spot.
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
Ethan Hawke, “First Reformed”
Also Read: SAG-AFTRA Says Oscars Use ‘Graceless Pressure’ on Actors to Sign Awards Presenters
Again, we have four candidates who seem like sure things: Glenn Close for “The Wife,” still riding high after her game-changing Golden Globes win; Olivia Colman for “The Favourite,” who also won at the Globes; Lady Gaga for “A Star Is Born,” who tied with Close at the Critics’ Choice Awards; and Melissa McCarthy for her affecting change-of-pace role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Contenders for the last slot include Emily Blunt for “Mary Poppins Returns,” Viola Davis for “Widows,” Nicole Kidman for “Destroyer” and dark horse Joanna Kulig for “Cold War.” Blunt got the SAG nomination — but since no film since “Slumdog Millionaire” has won Best Picture without a single acting nomination, and since “Roma” feels like a real contender to win, we’re going with Yalitza Aparicio, the heart and soul of that film.
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
This feels like a seven-person race for five slots. The contenders: Globes and Critics’ Choice winner Mahershala Ali for “Green Book”, Richard E. Grant for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Sam Elliott for “A Star Is Born,” Timothée Chalamet for “Beautiful Boy,” Adam Driver for “BlacKkKlansman,” Sam Rockwell for “Vice” and Michael B. Jordan for “Black Panther.”
Ali, Grant, Chalamet and Elliott feel fairly secure, and Driver’s chances are buoyed both by his SAG nomination and by the fact that Rockwell is in so few scenes in “Vice.” But he does make a big impact in a little bit of time, so he’s a real threat.
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Timothée Chalamet, “Beautiful Boy”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
The biggest shock of the SAG Award nominations came in this category, where “If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Regina King failed to receive a nomination. Since then, King has won the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards, along with the lion’s share of critics’ prizes, so Oscar voters are unlikely to overlook her the way SAG did.
Her fellow nominees seem fairly secure as well: Amy Adams for “Vice,” Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for “The Favourite” and Claire Foy for “First Man.” If Foy drops out because of a lack of enthusiasm for that film, the last slot could go to Nicole Kidman for “Boy Erased,” Margot Robbie for “Mary Queen of Scots,” Emily Blunt for “A Quiet Place,” Linda Cardellini for “Green Book,” Marina de Tavira for “Roma” or Michelle Yeoh for “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Claire Foy, “First Man”
Also Read: ‘The Favourite,’ ‘Roma’ and ‘A Star Is Born’ Lead BAFTA Nominations
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Writers Guild singled out “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “A Star Is Born” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” in this category, while the Scripter Award, another reliable predictor, dropped “BlacKkKlansman” and “A Star Is Born” and added “The Death of Stalin” (ineligible for the WGA Awards) and “Leave No Trace.”
The Oscar nominations will probably be closer to the guild’s choices than the Scripter’s, although the Writers Branch is one of the more adventurous branches in the Academy, often rewarding the quirkiness of indie scripts like “The Death of Stalin.” “First Man” and “Crazy Rich Asians” have a shot to get in as well, with the former probably standing the best chance of nudging “Black Panther” out of the fifth slot.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“A Star Is Born”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Three WGA picks — “Green Book,” “Roma” and “Vice” — seem destined to repeat with Oscar voters, who will no doubt also nominate the WGA-ineligible “The Favourite” for its acid banter.
Guild nominees “Eighth Grade” and “A Quiet Place” will also remain contenders, along with “Sorry to Bother You” and “Private Life.” But Paul Schrader, who has never even been nominated for an Academy Award even though he wrote “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” is in the mix with “First Reformed,” and I refuse to believe that the Academy won’t take this opportunity to finally nominate the guy.
Also Read: Writers Guild Awards Nominees Include ‘Green Book,’ ‘A Quiet Place,’ ‘BlacKkKlansman’
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
In 2015, the Short Films and Feature Animation branch shockingly left “The Lego Movie” off its list of nominees, reportedly put off by the hyperkinetic style of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Could they do the same this year for the Lord-and-Miller-produced “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which has already won Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards? Don’t count on it: First-round voting is more open now, the Academy is larger and more diverse, and “Spider-Man” has too much momentum.
Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles 2,” the sequel to the 2004 winner from Pixar, is a lock. Voters love stop-motion and should embrace Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs.” And Disney’s “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is from filmmakers won for “Zootopia” two years ago and ought to be back in the race this year.
The fifth spot, though, is a real question mark. Japanese filmmakers have done well in the category and “Mirai” is a possibility to become the 11th animated-feature nominee for the tiny GKids. But “The Grinch” or “Smallfoot” could take that spot for a major studio — or a real wild card like the Brazilian film “Tito and the Birds” or the anarchic French-Japanese coproduction “MFKZ” could do so. In recent years, voters have almost always nominated at least one smaller film, so we’ll go with “Mirai,” the best-known of that crop this year.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
“Isle of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
For the last two years in a row, the Oscar nominations in this category have exactly matched the American Society of Cinematographers nominees — and if that streak holds, that would be good news for “Roma,” “A Star Is Born,” “The Favourite,” “First Man” and “Cold War.”
History, though, suggests that the ASC is likelier to only match four of the five Oscar nominees. If that’s the case, all the contenders except “Roma” are probably vulnerable to a move by “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Black Panther” or even “The Rider.”
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
Also Read: ‘Roma’ and ‘Cold War’ Lead American Society of Cinematographers Nominations
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“The Favourite” might be too twisted and dark for some Academy members, but the costume designers will no doubt love Sandy Powell’s work — and for the second time in four years, they’ll probably throw in a nom for her work on “Mary Poppins Returns,” giving her two of the five slots and upping her total number of nominations to 14.
One more rich period piece, “Mary Queen of Scots,” should also grab a nomination, as should the Marvel-ous work on “Black Panther.” The final spot could get funky (“BlacKkKlansman”) or glammy (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) or rocky (“A Star Is Born”), but 12-time nominee Colleen Atwood might be the strongest contender with the extravagance of “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
“Mary Queen of Scots”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
An unprecedented four of this year’s documentaries are in the Top 30 of all-time nonfiction grosses, and all four are on the short list: “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “Three Identical Strangers” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” But it’d be completely uncharacteristic of the Academy’s Documentary Branch to nominated the year’s four top-grossing docs, particularly when the competition includes the IDA and Cinema Eye winners, “Minding the Gap” and “Hale County This Morning, This Evening.”
“Minding the Gap” will likely get a nomination regardless, but at least one of the box-office hits, probably “Three Identical Strangers,” seems destined to drop out. (An even more shocking possibility: Voters think “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” doesn’t need their help, and it misses out.)
I think the first four will be “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “Neighbor” and “Minding the Gap,” but the fifth choice could be the playful “Shirkers,” the arty “Hale County” or one of the foreign entries, “Of Fathers and Sons,” “The Silence of Others” or “The Distant Barking of Dogs.” Those three are all powerful, but the wrenching family story at the heart of “Of Fathers and Sons” might be enough to nudge it in ahead of “Hale County.”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
“Minding the Gap”
“Of Fathers and Sons”
Also Read: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor,’ ‘Free Solo’ Lead Oscar Documentary Shortlist
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
For years, this category was dominated by serious, issue-oriented films that came very close to the 40-minute time limit, many of them made or distributed by HBO. But that hasn’t been the case as much recently, which is good because several of this year’s most notable contenders — “Zion,” “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” “A Night at the Garden” — don’t fit that mold.
“Zion” is an inspirational character study that should be irresistible to voters, “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” a witty memory piece that feels like nothing else on the 10-film short list and “A Night at the Garden” a sobering look at a pre-WWII rally by Nazi sympathizers in New York; its chances could be hurt by the fact that it feels slight at only seven minutes long, but director Marshall Curry is a two-time nominee.
The Netflix film “End Game,” which focuses on a San Francisco hospice center, is more typical Oscar fare, not surprising since it comes from past winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. With voting ending on the day a Los Angeles teacher’s strike began, “’63 Boycott” is the timely tale of a Chicago student strike for civil rights, “Black Sheep” a powerful interview with a black man from Britain reflecting on how as a teenager he befriended racists in an attempt to fit in, “Los Comandos” an interview-driven film about medical workers in violence-wracked El Savador, and “Lifeboat” another strong film about the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. “Women of the Gulag” feels fresh because it tells a story we haven’t heard before about wives and mothers in Stalinist Russia, while “Period. End of Sentence,” whose producers include Oscar strategist Lisa Taback, centers on another underpublicized issue, the stigma and lack of access that girls in developing countries have to sanitary pads.
In a tight and competitive year in the category, almost all of the films have a legitimate chance to land a nomination.
“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”
“Period. End of Sentence”
“Women of the Gulag”
BEST FILM EDITING
This is one of the craft awards that is linked most closely to Best Picture, so “A Star Is Born” and “Roma” are strong contenders here. So are the visceral “First Man” and the freewheeling “Vice.”
Other possibilities include “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Green Book,” “A Quiet Place” and maybe even Paul Greengrass’ sadly overlooked “22 July.” We’ll go with “Black Panther,” since the category usually contains at least one big action movie.
“A Star Is Born”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Academy is making it harder to predict this category. While the final nominations used to be made by 40 hand-picked committee members with a distinctly cinephile bent, voting is now open to anybody in L.A., N.Y., San Francisco and London who can make it to screenings of the nine shortlisted films, and to any international voters who can watch those films on links. The result could both be a more mainstream group of nominees (if lots more voters participate) and one with a more international sensibility (if lots of overseas members take part).
Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” and Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum” are sure nominees regardless of the process. But then what? Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “Never Look Away” wowed the general committee, Gustav Moller’s “The Guilty” is such a novel nail-biter that an English-language remake with Jake Gyllenhaal is already in the works, Colombia’s “Birds of Passage” finds a new way to look at the South American drug trade and Sergey Dvortsevoy’s “Akya” is dark but powerful.
And then there are the two films from the far East, a region long neglected by Oscar voters: Japan’s “Shoplifters,” which won the Palme d’Or in Cannes last year, and South Korea’s “Burning,” which won more critics’ awards than any foreign-language film this side of “Roma.”
The increased number of voters could well hurt films like “The Guilty,” which may not be many voters’ No. 1 choice. The final two spots are probably between “Never Look Away,” “Burning” and “Shoplifters,” and we suspect that international voters will tip the scales in favor of both Asian films.
Also Read: Do the Oscars Have an Asia Problem in the Foreign Language Film Race?
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
If you’ve got an actor in the running for a role in which he or she was transformed into somebody else, you can count on the makeup and hairstyling artists being nominated. In the past that meant “Dallas Buyers Club,” “The Iron Lady,” “La Vie en Rose,” “Frida” and last year’s winner, “Darkest Hour” — and this year it means “Vice,” for Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney. But you shouldn’t overlook “Stan & Ollie” for its transformation of John C. Reilly into Oliver Hardy.
The last of this category’s three spots could go to any of the short-listed films, which include “Mary Queen of Scots” (that hair!), “Bohemian Rhapsody” (those teeth!), Suspiria” or “Black Panther” — but voters in this category have also shown a fondness in recent years for foreign-language films, and the Swedish Oscar entry “Border” has audiences’ jaws dropping at the transformation of two normal-looking actors into trolls. Plus, I hear it went over like gangbusters at the Oscar makeup “bakeoff” where the seven semifinalists made their cases.
“Stan & Ollie”
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The likeliest nominees are both Harvard men: Justin Hurwitz, who won the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Awards for “First Man,” and Nicholas Britell, whose music for “If Beale Street Could Talk” is universally regarded as the year’s most beautiful score.
It’d be nice to think that Carter Burwell will be in the mix for “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” which is simultaneously music for six different short films and a score with its own sense of unity. But he’s up against stiff competition, including nine-time nominee and two-time winner Alexandre Desplat for the playful “Isle of Dogs”; Ludwig Goransson for a “Black Panther” score spiced with African rhythms; Marc Shaiman for “Mary Poppins Returns,” which should land him both score and song nominations; longtime Spike Lee composer Terence Blanchard for “BlacKkKlansman”; Marco Beltrani for “A Quiet Place,” in which the hushed soundscape emphasizes every tense note; and Brian Tyler for the combination of melody and exuberance in “Crazy Rich Asians.”
While it’s hard to imagine the Music Branch resisting “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Isle of Dogs,” the branch has made some adventurous choices in recent years, “Phantom Thread” and “Jackie” among them. That could help “A Quiet Place” — or maybe “Black Panther,” although they usually go for big action or sci-fi movies only when they’re “Star Wars” films with John Williams music.
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“Isle of Dogs”
“A Quiet Place”
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Lady Gaga, of course: “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” is the lock to end all locks in this category. Kendrick Lamar, likely: Oscar voters aren’t typically hip-hop aficionados, but “All the Stars” from “Black Panther” is easy to like and too big to ignore. Mary Poppins, probably: Unless the two “Mary Poppins Returns” songs that made the 15-song shortlist split the vote down the middle, it’s likely that the branch will go for the melodic ballad (“The Place Where Lost Things Go”) over the uptempo tune that backs a big dance number (“Trip a Little Light Fantastic”). And Diane Warren, again: The Jennifer Holiday-sung call to arms “I’ll Fight,” from “RBG,” will benefit from widespread affection for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and should give Warren her 10th nomination.
In the fifth spot, Dolly Parton is a real contender for “Girl in the Movies” from “Dumplin,’” and so is the moody and melodic Troye Sivan and Jonsi song “Revelation” from “Boy Erased.” Voters often love songs that are performed live on screen, which could help the very funny dark horse “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” The same voters who gave nominations to Sufjan Stevens’ “Mystery of Love” and J. Ralph and Anohni’s “Manta Ray” could be tempted by Thom Yorke’s “Suspirium” from “Suspiria.” Or — and this is eminently possible as well — “Mary Poppins Returns” could claim two slots, not just one.
All of those things are possible, but who doesn’t love Dolly Parton?
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
“All the Stars” from “Black Panther”
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
“Girl in the Movies” from “Dumplin’”
Also Read: Oscar Contenders for Best Original Song, From Boots Riley to Diane Warren (Exclusive Photos)
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Almost every year, three of the films nominated for costumes are also singled out for production design. This year, that certainly means “The Favourite” and probably means “Black Panther” and “Mary Poppins Returns” as well.
As for films that won’t be in the costume category, look for “Roma” (which created blocks of early-’70s Mexico City) and “First Man” (which designed everything from suburban homes to NASA control rooms to space capsules to the Moon) to come on strong, though it’d hardly be a surprise if “Fantastic Beasts,” “A Star Is Born,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Mary Queen of Scots” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” end up nominated.
“Mary Poppins Returns”
BEST SOUND EDITING
While there’s often a lot of overlap between the two Oscar sound categories, sound editing focuses on the creation of artificial sounds and tends to skew toward the big ‘n’ loud end of the sound spectrum. That should favor films like “First Man,” “Black Panther,” “Ready Player One” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”
But at the same time, sound is so crucial to “A Quiet Place” that it will attract attention from voters as well — and so will the musicals “A Star Is Born” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the intricate sound design of “Roma.”
“A Quiet Place”
“A Star Is Born”
“Ready Player One”
BEST SOUND MIXING
Sound mixing, on the other hand, tends to be the Oscar sound category in which musicals do well. That means “A Star Is Born” should be a lock, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Mary Poppins Returns” could get in as well.
Most years, the two sound categories only differ by one film — but this feels like a year in which “Roma” and “BoRap” should both land in this category, so we’re predicting only a three-for-five match between editing and mixing.
“A Star Is Born”
“A Quiet Place”
Also Read: ‘A Star Is Born’ Continues Guild Awards Sweep With Cinema Audio Society Nomination
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
The Academy’s Visual Effects Branch has already narrowed the field in this category to 10 — and of those 10, “Avengers: Infinity War” received the most nominations from the Visual Effects Society. That should put it in a good position for an Oscar nomination, along with fellow VES nominees “Ready Player One,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Welcome to Marwen” and “Christopher Robin.”
But VES and Oscar nominees seldom match up completely, Oscar voters may well shun the poorly-received “Marwen” or the low-key “Christopher Robin” in favor of “Black Panther” (which surprisingly received no VES nominations at all) and “First Man.”
“Avengers: Infinity War”
“Ready Player One”
“Welcome to Marwen”
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
When there’s a Pixar film on the short list, it almost always gets nominated — and his year’s Pixar short, “Bao,” is certainly affecting enough to make the cut. (It’s also the company’s first short directed by a woman, Domee Shi.) DreamWorks Animation is less of a sure thing, but “Bird Karma” — the more vibrant of the company’s two short-listed films — is likely to be nominated as well.
Oscar winner John Kahrs (“Paperman”) is back with “Age of Sail,” starring Ian McShane as the voice of an aging sailor who rescues a young girl, while Alison Snowden and David Fine, who won for “Bob’s Birthday” back in 1993, are in the race again with “Animal Behavior,” set in a group therapy session for animals. The stop-motion “Lost & Found” is a touching love story between stuffed animals and “One Small Step” a tearjerker about a little girl who wants to become an astronaut.
But voters in the category often prefer longer, more personal stories — and this year, that might mean Louise Bagnall’s lovely, gentle memory piece “Late Afternoon” and Trevor Jimenez’ autobiographical fantasia “Weekends,” based on the time he spent shuffling between his divorced parents.
“Age of Sail”
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Of the 10 films short-listed in this category, most are dark and serious stories. Two of the darkest and grimmest, and maybe two of the most likely to be noticed by voters, are “Fauve,” a French tragedy featuring two memorable child actors, and “Skin,” a horrifying tale set in a raucous and racist family. (Director Guy Nattiv has since made a related feature with the same name, starring Jamie Bell.)
Things also go very wrong in other semifinalists, including “Caroline,” a domestic drama in which a frazzled young mother’s car ride escalates into chaos; “Mother,” a harrowing thriller that mostly takes place in one room and on the phone; and “Wale,” in which a young black man finds himself set up for murder. “Marguerite” and “Icare” (“Icarus”) are less assaultive; the former is a heartbreaking story about an elderly woman remembering a love never consummated, the latter a beautifully shot film about a man on a remote island trying to teach kids to fly.
Two of the films could be considered comedies — “Chuchotage,” a mistaken-identity comedy about translators, and “May Day,” a black comedy about economic hard times that may have the edge because of its social import.
Warning: One of the short-listed films, “Detainment,” will likely cause trouble for the Academy if it’s nominated. The film is a dramatization of police interviews with two 10-year-old boys who abducted, tortured and killed 6-year-old James Bulger in England in 1991; Bulger’s parents have criticized the filmmakers for not asking permission or telling them the film was being made.
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