On a regular basis between now and February 24, 2019, when the winners of the Academy Awards are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball to determine the changing fortunes in this year’s Oscars race. In our Oscar Futures column, we’ll let you in on insider gossip, parse brand-new developments, and track industry buzz to figure out who’s up, who’s down, and who’s currently leading the race for a coveted Oscar nomination.
A Star Is Born
Critics went into festival season Star Is Born–curious, and came out rah-rah-ing the remake, to the extent that Variety’s Kristopher Tapley pondered whether Star had a shot at winning Oscar’s “Big Five” (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay), a feat that only three films have ever accomplished. That would obviously be an incredible achievement in every sense of the word, not least because the Academy has generally preferred to spread the wealth around in recent years. There’s still plenty of season left to go, though, and we’ll see if the movie’s momentum holds up when critics get to take another look at it.
Peter Farrelly’s solo debut didn’t have much of an awards profile going into the festivals, but pundits walked out of Green Book’s Toronto premiere hailing it as the next great liberal-humanist drama about interracial friendship, with Deadline’s Pete Hammond calling the film “basically a cross of Driving Miss Daisy, In the Heat of the Night, The Help, The Blind Side, [and] Hidden Figures.” The movie then capped off its surprise run by taking home the People’s Choice Award at Toronto, an honor that bodes well: The last ten English-language films to nab that prize all scored Best Picture nominations, with three of them winning. (Oddly enough, the last movie to take home the audience award at TIFF without earning a Best Picture nod was 2007’s Eastern Promises, which also starred Viggo Mortensen. Farrelly may be hoping he’s not cursed.)
BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, Roma, A Star Is Born, Widows
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Cuarón didn’t manage to take home the Best Director prize at Venice — The Sisters Brothers’ Jacques Audiard did — but I think he’s probably content with Roma winning the festival’s Golden Lion award. Early reviews have praised the director’s intensely personal vision and brilliant technical achievement, and GoldDerby currently has him towering above the field. Netflix covets Oscars, and Cuarón seems likely to get the strongest push from the streamer’s newly hired awards strategist Lisa Taback, who made her name running campaigns for Miramax and the Weinsteins.
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Though the Star Is Born press tour might as well be calling itself “An Auteur Is Born,” consensus seems to be that Cooper’s best chance of picking up an Oscar lies in Best Actor. Still, it’s worth noting that history is on his side in this category: Stars like Robert Redford, Kevin Costner, and Mel Gibson all won for their directorial debuts without taking home an acting trophy.
Damien Chazelle, First Man; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Alfonso Cuarón , Roma; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
That said, A Star Is Born really is an acting showcase for Cooper, who gets (or rather, gives himself) more to play than his predecessors in the role did. Variety’s Hapley effuses that “the lead actor Oscar race might be over and done with,” and even the few critics who weren’t as gaga over his arc, like Vulture’s Emily Yoshida, think his character’s “pill popping and wailing drunkenness … might be the ammunition that’s needed to get this often-nominated leading man his trophy.”
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
After he missed out on a Supporting Actor trophy for The Florida Project, this year brings another opportunity for Willem Dafoe to nab his first Oscar. The 63-year-old actor has scored some of the best reviews of his career for Julian Schnabel’s Vincent Van Gogh biopic, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman calling it “his greatest role since Jesus Christ,” one that “allows him to combine agony and ecstasy, devotion to a higher calling with …well, a messiah complex.” Dafoe won the Best Actor prize at Venice, and he’ll hope to keep momentum going.
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate; Ryan Gosling, First Man; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book; Robert Redford, The Old Man and the Gun
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Gaga’s famous trailer wail was this season’s very first meme, and the moment plays even bigger in the movie itself. Critics at the festivals were happy to proclaim the birth of a new movie star, with our own David Edelstein calling Gaga “fresher and more believably real” than any of the three actresses who preceded her in the role. The singer was treated to a gigantic standing ovation at Venice, and she’s been careful to go meatless on this season’s red carpets, serving up old-school movie-star glam instead.
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
After a string of poorly reviewed comedies, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is earning Melissa McCarthy her first Oscar buzz since Bridesmaids. She plays real-life writer Lee Israel, a biographer who turned to forging letters from the likes of Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward. “Deglamorized and dead serious, the star does get laughs along the way but this is a highly dramatic turn and she nails it in every way possible,” Deadline’s Hammond wrote at Telluride. Oscar loves a star who stretches themselves, and you can expect a season full of “Who knew she had this in her?” raves.
Glenn Close, The Wife; Viola Davis, Widows; Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Saoirse Ronan, Mary, Queen of Scots
Best Supporting Actor
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
As McCarthy’s alcoholic-layabout drinking buddy, Richard E. Grant is just as good in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, with THR’s Stephen Farber calling it “his best role in many years.” It’s a similar part to the actor’s breakout in Withnail & I, with the added decades selling what Deadline’s Hammond calls “a quintessential New York story [of] two lonely people, both who happen to be gay, brought together out of necessity in an unforgiving city.”
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Green Book has a Champagne problem: Its two critically acclaimed actors are both leads, but the realities of Oscar season may demand they run in separate categories to avoid splitting the vote. Universal apparently hasn’t made a decision yet, but for now I’m assuming Mahershala Ali, who has a little less screen time, will end up in Supporting. It’s a slightly more fraught decision than usual, since Green Book is the latest in a long line of films about race written and directed by white guys: As Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson writes, slotting Ali’s “deftly controlled performance” in the lesser category “would have more than a whiff of pointed, telling injustice.”
Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
Best Supporting Actress
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Another performance that could end up in lead, though since Colman is the least famous of The Favourite’s three ladies, I have a feeling she’ll end up in Supporting. (She did win Best Actress at Venice, but the festival doesn’t give out supporting-actor awards.) Colman’s profile has been steadily rising — she’s set to star in the next season of The Crown — and as the daffily irrelevant Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’s offbeat period piece, she gives what THR’s David Rooney calls “a towering performance” that “slowly uncovers the searing pathos beneath the crazy-lady makeup.” And speaking of The Crown …
Claire Foy, First Man
Colman’s predecessor picked up an Emmy last weekend for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth, and though the Television Academy and AMPAS don’t share too many members, as my own predecessor often said, it never hurts to be seen winning something. That Foy’s emotional work in First Man is miles from her inward, controlled performance on The Crown — and both are further worlds away from her turn in the new Lisbeth Salander movie, heavily advertised on the Emmys telecast — should only help voters appreciate her range.
Amy Adams, Vice; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Claire Foy, First Man; Nicole Kidman, Boy Erased; Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk