Between now and February 24, 2019, when the winners of the Academy Awards are announced, Vulture will consult its crystal ball on a regular basis 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.
The Bush campaign triumphed in 2004 in part by running on wedge issues like gay marriage, and Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic is proving similarly divisive. Supporters like THR’s Todd McCarthy compare it to the work of Terry Southern, Gore Vidal, Jonathan Swift, and Voltaire; detractors like AwardsWatch’s Erik Andersen say McKay’s style features “so much winking the whole movie chugs along with its eyes closed.” Vice is currently sitting at a 64 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, roughly the same as Bohemian Rhapsody. Each of them has scored with a different precursor — Vice topped the Globes noms, while BoRhap earned a surprise Best Cast nomination at SAG — but of the pair, I think the polarizing Vice is more likely to miss out on a Best Picture nomination.
How hard is Disney campaigning Black Panther? This week, they brought out none other than Oprah herself to host a screening where the TV legend emphasized that Panther was “something bigger than a movie.” The film earned a pivotal Best Cast nomination from SAG last week; the rest of the guild nominations, which will be announced in early January, should give us a clear look on whether these star-studded promotional efforts are paying off.
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
As Roma made its Netflix debut, a handful of regional critics associations gave out their awards; Cuarón won Best Director and Best Cinematography at nearly all of them. (Roma also netted Best Picture wins from critics in Seattle, Kansas City, and the Southeast.) Bad news for anyone hoping for a surprise in this category: At this point, it’s more shocking when Cuarón doesn’t win.
Robert Zemeckis, Welcome to Marwen
Zemeckis popped up on a few early season roundups of possible contenders, but scathing reviews for Marwen should put that notion to bed. The film did make the Academy shortlist for Best Visual Effects, which is probably more important to Zemeckis at this stage of his career anyway.
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Alfonso Cuarón, Roma; Barry Jenkins, If Beale Street Could Talk; Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite; Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Christian Bale, Vice
Critics agree that Bale’s transformation into Dick Cheney is remarkable, but as with much about Vice, they’re split over whether there’s anything underneath. “Why do we laud actors for weight gain?” Time’s Stephanie Zacharek asks. “Isn’t a performance more about nailing the essence of a person than their corporeal form?” But Slate’s Dana Stevens praises Bale for nailing the former veep’s “fixed one-side-only smirk … familiar dismissive snarl, the uninflected basso growl,” as well as “the one incontrovertibly positive quality of this often arrogant and oblivious man: He dotes on his wife and daughters.” As Darkest Hour proved last year, voters can overlook a film’s flaws if they’re sufficiently dazzled by the metamorphosis.
Christian Bale, Vice; Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born; Ethan Hawke, First Reformed; Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Emily Blunt has the trio of Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe, and SAG noms, but every year there are one or two actors who miss out with Oscar despite scoring with those precursors. After reviews for Mary Poppins Returns were a little colder than anticipated, some pundits have started to bump Blunt in favor of Aparicio, who has the benefit of being the face of one of the year’s most beloved films. The former preschool teacher’s also got narrative on her side: This week Aparicio landed the cover of Mexican Vogue — she’s the first indigenous woman ever to do so — with the magazine proclaiming “a star is born” in both Spanish and Mixtec.
Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex
Eighty-five-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been tirelessly promoting this film about her early days as a lawyer, and at the film’s New York premiere this weekend, she was joined by none other than Hillary Clinton. (If you think watching a sex scene with your parents is uncomfortable, try doing it sitting ten feet away from Hillary.) In the political world, that’s as much star power as you can hope for, but the reaction from the industry is another story: Despite fine reviews, I’m not seeing much passion for the film, which will make it hard for Jones to mount a late entrance into this race.
Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns; Glenn Close, The Wife; Olivia Colman, The Favourite; Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Just when you thought the controversy around Green Book had died down, it turns out the family of Don Shirley has issues with the film’s depiction of the late pianist, particularly its suggestion that Shirley was estranged from his relatives and had trouble connecting with the black community. And when I say issues, I mean they called it “a symphony of lies.” Shirley’s nephews also revealed that Ali called them to apologize for not reaching out to them during his preparation for the role. (He appears to have taken the script at its word.) Even those who don’t like Green Book have considered Ali’s performance the movie’s lone bright spot; now, even that part has been tarnished.
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Grant and Ali continued to divide Best Supporting Actor honors from this week’s critics group awards, and I think they should be considered co-front-runners at this point. The English actor is an Oscar buff himself, and, as a recent New York Times profile detailed, he’s been a charmingly diligent presence on the campaign circuit all season long. Did you know that, even though he plays an alcoholic, he’s actually allergic to alcohol?
Mahershala Ali, Green Book; Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy; Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Oscar pundits love Amy Adams. They do not love her in Vice. I’ve seen it floated that if Adams wins a career-achievement Oscar for portrayal of Lynne Cheney, it’ll be an injustice on par with Kate Winslet’s win for The Reader. Still, after five nominations without a trophy, I think she’d take it.
Margot Robbie, Mary Queen of Scots
Thanks to her surprise appearance in SAG’s supporting-actress slate, people have started taking the idea of a second straight Oscar nomination for Robbie seriously. With First Man in free fall, Claire Foy is looking vulnerable, and it’s possible that the well-liked Robbie could sneak in over her by using the BAFTAs as a springboard.
Amy Adams, Vice; Claire Foy, First Man; Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk; Emma Stone, The Favourite; Rachel Weisz, The Favourite