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Oscars: 91 Years and the Academy Has Finally Changed

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Allowing the dust to settle when it comes to the Oscar nominations announcement that dropped yesterday morning, we’re left now with one of the most wide-open races in recent memory.  The Oscar predictions suffered in the process.

Coming into the official reveal from presenters Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis-Ross, the race seemed sewn up in some spots, and a little wide open in others.  Producers Guild of America awards weighed in with citations for “Green Book” in Best Picture, along with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in documentary and animated respectively. Enter the Academy.

“Green Book” landed five nominations, theoretically right in about the spot many predicted it would but one of those was not for director Peter Farrelly.  He was instead pushed out for two non-DGA nominees, Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite“) and Pawel Pawlowski (“Cold War“).

PGA winners translation into Oscar Best Picture winners is pretty spot on since its birth in 1989.  20 out of the 29 winners have gone on to win the Academy’s coveted top prize.  In the expanded era, where Oscar added anywhere from 5 to 10 Best Picture nominees, the Academy and PGA have matched 7 of 9, missing only “The Big Short” from Adam McKay and “La La Land” from Damien Chazelle.  So the big question is, can “Green Book” still win Best Picture?  Well, as we’ve seen with films that do not receive directing nominations such as “Argo” from Ben Affleck, you can still win it all if they’re behind you.  Farrelly’s film, however, has been put through the wringer this awards season by casual filmgoers and critics.

Despite a healthy 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, the loud detractors are coming from all angles for it.  Co-writer and director Farrelly had a story resurface regarding obscene behavior in the middle of Oscar voting while real-life son of Viggo Mortensen’s character Nick Vallelonga, who also serves as a co-writer, deleted his Twitter account following an uncovering of Anti-Muslim tweets in which he pedals the debunked story by President Donald J. Trump that Muslims were cheering in Jersey City, NJ when the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001.  I should also add as a current Jersey City resident, and someone who was living here during 9/11, for what it’s worth, this story is undoubtedly untrue (but you know that, right?).

These two claims cast a dark shadow on the film and will hope that these claims won’t cost co-star Mahershala Ali his second Academy Award.  The Oscar-winning actor of “Moonlight,” has already won prizes at the Critics Choice and Golden Globe awards.  Mortensen was in the middle of his own controversy early in the season when he used the “N-word” during an awards Q&A.  He since apologized but controversy just can’t seem to shake the Universal Pictures film.

Looking ahead, where “Roma” from Alfonso Cuaron and “The Favourite” from Yorgos Lanthimos lead the nominations with 10 each, it would be too simple to say that one of those is our Best Picture winner.  Breaking it down, and holding to the notion that key precursors matter (SAG Ensemble, PGA, DGA, Globes) and key nominations from the Academy equate to a Best Picture winner (nods for directing, screenplay, and editing), then the only feasible Best Picture winner in the mix is “BlacKkKlansman” from Spike Lee.

That simple?  Of course not.  “BlacKkKlansman” would likely need to snag something big along the way, more particularly SAG Ensemble this weekend at the Screen Actors Guild Awards and/or BAFTA, which is highly unlikely with “The Favourite” and “Roma” favored across the pond.  WGA may be likely to give it some love but the heartbreaking miss for “If Beale Street Could Talk” from Barry Jenkins, could parlay all this into an Adapted Screenplay win for a film that took home the same prize at Critics Choice.

It should also be noted that “BlacKkKlansman” does have one small stain from the USC Scripter group where it was omitted in favor of the Oscar-less “The Death of Stalin.”

What else did we learn from the Oscar nominations?

danai guriraWomen represented 28% of the Academy’s nominations, an all-time high.  While we can surely celebrate that achievement, no women filmmakers emerged in the Best Director category.  This occurs despite someone like Debra Granik scoring a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes this past year for “Leave No Trace,” a talking point that was utterly ignored.  The entire film itself was shut out including its screenplay and its stars Ben Foster and Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie.  In all fairness, it’s becoming challenging for an independent distributor like Bleecker Street to go toe-to-toe with bigger, deeper pocket studios like Netflix and Walt Disney Pictures.

Yesterday was also the first time since the invitation of over 1,500 new Academy members was felt on the nomination front.  The inclusion of films like “Black Panther” from Ryan Coogler in Best Picture minus any other major Oscar attention, or three foreign language films in the cinematography lineup, or two foreign directors included in favor of the standard “American” fodder like “A Star is Born” from Bradley Cooper was striking.

The representation of my Hispanic community was palpable and brought tears to my eyes.  Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira both defied odds and landed in the lead and supporting actress categories for their stunning performances in “Roma.”  Besides the film making history as the first streaming film to be included in the lineup, producer Gabriela Rodriguez is the first Hispanic woman to be nominated as a producer in a Best Picture nominee.  Women have been cited a total of 102 times as producers since Julia Phillips first nomination in 1973 for “The Sting.”  Only two of those have been black women (Oprah Winfrey for “Selma” and Kimberly Steward for “Manchester by the Sea”), and zero have been for a Hispanic woman.  This was long overdue and exciting to see, especially if the film becomes the first foreign Best Picture winner.  The Mexican submission for foreign language film also tied Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” as the most nominated foreign film of all-time.

Spike Lee finally got his Best Director nomination.  “Do the Right Thing,” “Malcolm X,” “25th Hour,” powerhouse achievements that came and went with no citation from the esteemed group of Hollywood professionals.  He is also the sixth black nominee, 28 years following John Singleton’s first for “Boyz n the Hood.”  He’s the first black screenwriter to be nominated a second time, which he shares with fellow nominee Barry Jenkins for his adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel.  Lee was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for “Do the Right Thing,” which also makes him the first black person to be nominated in both writing categories.  And finally, he’s just the second black filmmaker to be nominated for producing, directing, and writing in the same year.  This was achieved just last year by Jordan Peele for “Get Out.”  Peele went on to win Best Original Screenplay.

We’ve spoken much about the goods but there were some glaring omissions and head-scratchers.  At the top was Emily Blunt, who walked into the morning with a double dose of SAG nominations for her work in “Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Quiet Place.”  Following Helen Mirren’s shoes the year she was nominated for “Woman in Gold” and “Trumbo,” Blunt walked out of the day empty-handed.  The talented beauty is still nomination-less despite two great performances this year and a slew of others that preceded such as “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Looper,” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”  There have been only ten actors who have been double nominated at the SAG awards in history, only Blunt and Mirren did not translate into an Academy nomination for either film.

Bohemian Rhapsody” from Bryan Singer came up right in the middle of what it was expected after over-performing during the precursors.  Rami Malek’s Best Actor chances are still on the table but the stellar showing of “Vice” from Adam McKay with eight nominations makes Globe and BFCA winner Christian Bale a hard person to beat.  And then there’s the Bradley Cooper miss in the directing category that has many speaking of “Ben Affleck 2.0” but more so helping him in his acting conquest.

Cooper, who has been nominated a total of four Oscars (one for producing “American Sniper”), is up to a whopping seven total career nominations.  Are they really going to look elsewhere and let him walk out of the Dolby Theatre empty handed?  He came up one nomination short of joining the likes of Orson Welles (“Citizen Kane”) and Warren Beatty x2 (“Reds” and “Heaven Can Wait”) as a person who was nominated for producing, directing, acting, and writing in the same year.

There’s so much more to cover and we will be moving along swiftly over the next few weeks.

SAG Awards are on Sunday.  You can see those predictions on The Circuit Hub.  Long story short, we’re predicting anarchy.  The Directors Guild of America will go next, where right now we’re predicting Cuaron up his Golden Globe and Critics Choice wins, and then the WGA Awards, where it could go to either “Roma” or “Vice” in Original and either “BlacKkKlansman” or “Beale Street” in Adapted.  BAFTA comes after and that looks tailor-made for “The Favourite,” who will get its own separate column as a bonafide spoiler to the Best Picture race.  That film also did EVERYTHING it needed to on nomination morning and looks poised to win Oscars for production, costumes, original screenplay, and maybe an acting award.  Who’s to say that a preferential ballot won’t benefit to uproarious period comedy that has people still buzzing?

Down below, check out the currently predicted winners at the Academy Awards and look for all the commentary as the weeks roll on.  And yes, I know, I’m [almost] predicting six different films to win all the major Oscar categories, but this is a year of firsts now, isn’t it?

OSCAR PREDICTIONS
(1/23/19)

blackkklansmanBEST PICTURE
“BlacKkKlansman”
(Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele, Spike Lee)

Roma Cuaron 2BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”

vice christianbaleBEST ACTOR
Christian Bale, “Vice”

the wife glenncloseBEST ACTRESS
Glenn Close, “The Wife”

mahershalaaliBEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”

regina king bealeBEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

hero the favourite TF 03729 rgbBEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“The Favourite” (Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara)

Blackkklansman 2 e1534441724844BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“BlacKkKlansman” (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott)

spider man spider verse animated film 3BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller)

The Favourite Olivia ColmanBEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
“The Favourite” (Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton)

roma 2BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Roma” (Alfonso Cuaron)

the favourite image credit yorgos lanthimos emma stone copyBEST COSTUME DESIGN
“The Favourite” (Sandy Powell)

Bohemian Rhapsody Live AidBEST FILM EDITING
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (John Ottman)

amyadams viceBEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
“Vice” (Kate Biscoe, Patricia DeHaney, Greg Cannom, Chris Gallaher)

Bohemian RhapsodyBEST SOUND MIXING
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (John Casali, Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin)

firstman astronaunt moonBEST SOUND EDITING
“First Man” (Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan)

avengers infinity war thanosBEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“Avengers: Infinity War” (Dan Deleeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick)

bealestreet coupleBEST ORIGINAL SCORE
“If Beale Street Could Talk” (Nicholas Britell)

A Star Is Born Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper ShallowBEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” (Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt)

Alex Honnold Free SoloBEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“Free Solo” (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, Shannon Dill)

Roma Yalitza 1BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
“Roma” (Mexico)

baoBEST ANIMATED SHORT
“Bao” (Domee Shi, Becky Neiman-Cobb)

endgameBEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
“End Game” (Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Freidman)

mother shortfilmBEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
“Mother” (Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Maria del Puy Alvarado)

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of AwardsCircuit.com. Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times, CNN.com, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.

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Tee

A point in favor of BlacKKKlansman regarding the USC Scripter award; Spike Lee has often been vocal about his preference for NYU over USC as a film school, talking friendly smack on the latter in several interviews. It would make sense for them to leave him out.

King Of Noland

no way Black Panther walks away empty handed, there’s going be riots on the streets if that happens

Asha'man

Just my two cents. I agree, the BP players are definitely Roma v Blackkklansman. A Star is Born is safely out of the race now. Roma takes Original Screenplay, BKKKM takes Adapted. BP could go both ways. Green Book’s win at PGA was a shock, so it might still have a chance (way more than ASiB), so I’ll wait till WGA and SAGs. Ali won like 3 years ago, I doubt he’ll win again but all the signs point towards him so far and he could pull a Christopher Waltz. So I agree. As for Supporting Actress, I think it’s… Read more »

Phill Milner

I’d be highly surprised if BlackKklansman won picture. I currently don’t even think it is in the running. I know I’m a little biased because of my personal feelings about Spike Lee. I’m thinking either Roma or Green Book. We can talk about Farrelly missing all day long, but I always figured he was a long shot anyway. I had to ask myself “Is the academy really going to nominate the guy responsible for Dumb and Dumber? Golden Globes and DGA weren’t too proud, but I figured the academy and the brits would be. I just don’t think BlackKklansman has… Read more »

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