By Matt Neglia
I know. I know. Is anything truly a lock on Oscar night? Shockers happen all the time. Contenders sweep the entire season, winning every award possible, like Jason Reitman’s “Up In The Air” for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2009, and then out of the blue “Precious” wins on Oscar night. Since these posts are more rooted in stats than gut feeling (though, that sometimes plays a role as well), I think it’s very fair to call certain categories locked and loaded for Oscar night on February 24th. There’s not many but they do exist this year and while we wait for some of the final guilds to chime in for those categories, let’s take a look at these.
Click below to see my in-depth analysis on the categories I deem to be locks for the 91st Academy Awards and be sure to check out my previous article on the acting categories.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
The nominees for Best Original Song this year are…
“The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” – When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings
“Black Panther” – All the Stars
“Mary Poppins Returns” – The Place Where Lost Things Go
“RBG” – I’ll Fight
“A Star Is Born” – Shallow
Must I even bother? The industry has truly turned their back on Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born” in phase two of the Oscar season failing to give it Oscar nominations for Best Director & Best Film Editing plus no guild wins but one area where they have not is Best Original Song. Winner of 2 Grammy Awards, the Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe & BAFTA for Best Music, “Shallow” is quite possibly the single biggest lock of the night and has been since the trailer for “A Star Is Born” dropped months ago featuring the song very prominently. Kendrick Lamar is definitely on a hot streak right now but the narrative to want to reward Lady Gaga here instead of in Best Actress and to make up for her stunning loss a few years ago for “Till it Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground,” is too much for anyone to overcome. While Bradley Cooper may not be receiving the award himself, it will still be a nice representation for a film that deserved better this awards season…..now watch Diane Warren win on her 10th nomination and shock us all.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
The nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling this year are…
It’s such a shame that this is a category that will be aired during the commercial breaks this year at the Oscars (although, there’s still 9 days left for The Academy to possibly change their minds, so who knows?) and that most people have forgotten about it and Live Action Short in favor of Best Cinematography and Editing. All of the categories presented at the Oscars are important, even if here, in particular, the Academy for unknown and truly bizarre reasons refuse to upgrade this category from 3 to 5 nominees.
What makes this category such a lock in my eyes is two reasons.
1. “Vice” is the only Best Picture nominee amongst the group with clear broad support from many branches in the Academy
2. “Vice” is the only nominee to win a major prize ahead of the Oscars with the Critics Choice Award (Makeup & Hair Stylists Guild announces tomorrow but I remain confident “Vice” will win at least one prize there)
I genuinely believe I don’t need any more reasons than the two listed above to think it will be anything other than “Vice.” Christian Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney was truly a sight to behold and if he’s not going to win Best Actor for his performance in Adam McKay’s divisive satire, then rewarding the makeup team in helping Bale to complete his transformation is the next best thing. Had “Black Panther” or BAFTA winner “The Favourite” been nominated here, we would have more to talk about here but alas, 3 nominees instead of 5. How come Academy?
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Now, some may disagree with me on this category but I believe Best Documentary is more locked up than others might suspect based on the limited stats we have heading into this race (we have the documentary branch of the Academy who snubbed precursor favorite “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” to thank for that). The nominees for Best Documentary feature are…
This was all meant to go towards “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Had that film been nominated here, there’s no doubt in my mind it would’ve won the Oscar. We have to remember that voting is open to the entire Academy for the winners and they do not have to prove that they have seen the nominees. Once that film got snubbed, we were pretty much left with either “RBG” and “Free Solo” as the only real plausible winners of this category and with only a few factors left in determining from a stats perspective, which film has more heat heading into the 91st Academy Awards.
“Free Solo” has won only 2 awards this year: the SFCS and a very important win from BAFTA. “RBG” has only one win from the National Board of Review. Both films won prizes at this year’s Critics Choice Awards for Documentary Features with “Free Solo” winning the most awards (3) for Sports Documentary, Innovative Documentary & Best Cinematography while “RBG” won one award for Best Political Documentary. “RBG” has grossed $14 million at the box office while “Free Solo” has grossed $15 million thanks in part to IMAX re-releases which wowed audiences (myself included) and I think that’s the tipping factor here.
While “RBG” certainly has an important subject at its front and center, who has been in the news a lot lately and is a historical figure that the Academy would love to pat themselves on the back for rewarding, the technical wizardry and courage behind the filming of “Free Solo” is pretty undeniable when you watch the movie, knowing that one wrong move of the camera or mistake could’ve resulted in subject Alex Honnold’s death as he scaled the dangerous mountain El Capitan, becoming the first person in human history to do so without the aid of a rope. This wow factor, coupled along with the surprise BAFTA win against heavy British favorites such as “McQueen,” “They Shall Not Grow Old,” “Three Identical Strangers” & “RBG” herself, gives “Free Solo” the edge it needed to pull it ahead in this race and declare itself the frontrunner.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
The nominees for Best Animated Feature Film this year are…
We’ve been skeptical all season. We’ve been burned before with “The Lego Movie” even failing to get a nomination in this category in 2014 after sweeping most of the season for Best Animated Feature. The biggest hurdle facing “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse“ was getting this nomination. Now that it got it, we only have to look at the facts to see that from a stats perspective, it’s got the Best Animated Feature Oscar in the bag. A critical favorite, box office success, unique animation, critical groups sweeper, PGA, Critics Choice, Annie Award, Golden Globe & BAFTA winner. Not even “The Lego Movie” had this much success. In fact, if “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse“ loses here, it would be one of the biggest shocks of the night and the single biggest upset this category has ever seen. Now, there is a chance that the Academy defaults to Disney and selects “Incredibles 2“ or wants to reward Wes Anderson his first Oscar for “Isle Of Dogs.“ But, if either one of those was going to happen, I feel like “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse“ would’ve shown a crack somewhere but it literally has not. In a year where the late great Stan Lee’s creations had their biggest year ever, a win for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse“ is a fitting tribute to the man who taught us that literally, anyone can be a hero.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Make no mistake about it. Regardless of what happens in Best Picture, “Roma” will win Best Foreign Language Film. In a year that blessed us with some truly phenomenal foreign language films, “Roma” has swept this category all season long. Not to take anything away from the other contenders, each of them would be a worthy winner in their own right.
The nominees for Best Foreign Language Film this year are…
The following Foreign Language Films were nominated for both Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture in the same year…
“Life Is Beautiful”
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Each of them won Best Foreign Language Film.
“Roma” is now that new film and it is also the film with the highest amount of nominations on Oscar night tying “The Favourite” with 10. Its biggest competition is ASC winner & European Film winner “Cold War” which is the only other foreign language film to receive major nominations outside of Best Foreign Language film including Best Cinematography & Best Director, two awards it also going up against “Roma” for. While “Cold War” has done well for itself this season, it still stands no chance against a film nominated for both Best Picture & Best Foreign Language Film and has won Critics Choice, Golden Globe & BAFTA prizes for the latter category. I know some people think people might give their vote to “Roma” in Best Picture and vote for something else in Foreign Language Film, like “Cold War,” but I think the opposite is true. “Roma” has this one locked up.
Don’t even get me started on #PresentAll24 and the fact that this award, one of, if not the most important foundation of filmmaking, is being handed out during a commercial break this year. I can’t even begin to express my frustration and horror at such a possibility and what it means for the integrity of the Academy Awards (or whatever is left at this point). But enough about that….let’s talk about the race for Best Cinematography.
I want to give at least some consideration to “Cold War” for a moment here because it did manage to win the ASC Award over “Roma.” However, there are a few quick explanations for this. The American Society of Cinematographers typically differ the most from the eventual Oscar winner, usually electing to go their own way. Since 1986, they have correctly matched up with the Oscar winner 14/32 times (or 43.75% of the time), compared to Critics Choice which has the shortest lifespan but the best matchup with 8/9 years (or 89%) and the BAFTA since moving to before the Oscars in 2001 with 10/17 (58%). Also, the ASC was probably never going to pick a non-guild member, director turned cinematographer, when they could reward one of their own. All of these factors point towards, Alfonso Cuarón becoming the first director to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for his breathtakingly beautiful black and white work on “Roma.”
Let’s be honest with one another here. As much as I would’ve liked to have seen Spike Lee become the first Black Best Director winner of all time (because, who better than Spike to carry that honor, right?), Alfonso Cuarón’s achievement for “Roma” is pretty undeniable, so much so that the Academy is going to give him his second Academy Award for Best Director in 5 years for crafting a totally different kind of masterpiece compared to what he won for the last time (“Gravity”). After winning almost all of the critics’ prizes, the Critics Choice Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and DGA, there is literally no second choice. Regardless of what happens in Best Picture, Alfonso Cuarón, like his buddy Alejandro G. Inarritu, will get his second Oscar for Best Director this decade.
Do you agree with me that these categories are locked up? Are you predicting anything else to win either of these categories? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account. Also, be sure to check out our own predictions for these categories here, my previous post on the acting categories and be on the lookout as I dive deep into the remaining, more competitive categories for this year’s Academy Awards.
You can follow Matt and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @NextBestPicture