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Neal’s Oscar picks

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While I’d quite happily delve into all 24 categories and give you my fresh take, I’m mindful that this piece is designed to be succinct and definitive. So here are my opinions on the so-called ‘Above the line’ categories – a very insulting term for cinematographers and editors everywhere.

Best Adapted Screenplay

A very crowded category to say the least with Barry Jenkins looking to salvage some Academy hardware for the criminally under-lauded If Beale Street Could Talk. Similarly, the Writers Guild winner, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is very much sniffing around for a well-deserved win. But it seems this is the category in which the Academy will look to award the Spike Lee with his first Oscar win in a competitive category – and it would be richly deserved.

Best Original Screenplay

Always a crowded field in which we find Oscar heavy-hitter Roma, albeit I don’t think we’ll see it win here. Lauded writer of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader also finds himself in contention for First Reformed, which picked up a few early awards. But the Academy will look to spread the wealth here. If The Favourite doesn’t take this one home, I’ll feel bitterly cheated on the writers’ behalf.

Best Supporting Actor

This is slowly becoming the biggest lock of the night, as Mahershala Ali hasn’t really missed a single precursor award. Just Richard E Grant stands in his way it appears, but even that would be a long shot. Just a side note… if Sam Elliott takes this home, you’ll hear no arguments from me.

Best Supporting Actress

We now come to the category that is at this moment, on a knife edge. Regina King was for the longest time, destined for Oscar glory. However, only one actress in the last thirty years has won this award without a Screen Actors Guild nomination (Marcia Gay Harden, 2001). That, plus the Bafta snub for King has led my eye to wander around this category. I’m opting for Bafta winner Rachel Weisz, as the wicked Lady Sarah Churchill in, The Favourite. A delicious role, and a winking devil, something the Academy likes to award, just look at Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Charlize Theron and so on.

Best Actor

Rami Malek is rounding the final corner of award season and if he caps it all off with an Oscar statuette, I would not be the least bit surprised. However, will he fall foul of the backlash that surrounds Bohemian Rhapsody, being the dilution of LGBT themes in the film?

This may lead the acting branch to award another transformative performance in the form of Christian Bale in Vice, however, the liberal Academy may not want to award any depiction of Dick Cheney. That is why my personal pick would be the tortured artist Jackson Maine, deftly achieved by Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born. Without a directing nomination, this may be the logical place to honour him, as I made clear in an article for WTF just a few months ago.

Best Actress

This year has seen the award campaigners jump on the narrative of the long-time bridesmaid of the Academy, Glenn Close. Her performance in The Wife is nuanced and certainly impressive, a Still Alice award, this is not. But the Oscars have been known every now and then to go left field. Could Lady Gaga pull this off? Recent form dictates not. Personally, I’d be interested to see if the Academy goes for the Brit, as they have done many times before. The thought of ‘Oscar-winner Olivia Colman’ fills me with incredible excitement.

Best Director

I think this award has been sewed up since December. Everybody, whether they liked or disliked Roma, cites the direction of Alfonso Cuaron as a feat of genius and depth. That being said, if the Academy opts to punish the film with its Netflix affiliation, they may look to award the subtle, but punchy direction of Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War or maybe even quirky auteur Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite.

Best Picture

A crowded field that has had five different front runners at one time or another. A Star is Born, ran out of the gates and has appeared to limp to the finish, without a directing nomination, a win is doubtful. Green Book picked up the Producers Guild Award, which is an excellent yardstick to use when predicting this award as they use the same voting system. Blackkklansman may be able to use some of its goodwill from Cannes and a well-run campaign which has given Spike Lee a career renaissance.

For a moment I thought Black Panther stood a chance and I still do if the Academy wants to make a bold statement. But it’s seems pretty likely that the bold move of the Academy will be to award Best Pictures Oscars to Netflix, a notion felt by many to be ridiculous and farfetched. Roma for the win on Oscars night.

So those are my thoughts for Sunday night and I’ll be following it as always. I can’t wait to be surprised, amazed, excited and ultimately disappointed that the Academy couldn’t tie a host down in time. Although I’ve heard that they have a surprise up their sleeve… being a last-minute hosting turn by the great Whoopi Goldberg.


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