Hollywood‘s A-listers will hit the red carpet Sunday for the Oscars – the climax of a long, eventful awards season that could yield some big surprises.
Alfonso Cuaron‘s black-and-white cinematic ode to his childhood, Roma, leads with 10 nominations and is a firm favorite for the coveted best picture Academy Award.
If it does win, it will be the first foreign-language film, and the first from streaming giant Netflix, to earn the honor.
But civil rights dramedy Green Book has overcome controversy to remain on the radar, and could benefit from the Academy’s complex preferential voting system to snatch the top prize.
Hot on their heels are a variety of films, from offbeat royal romp The Favourite (also with 10 nominations), to Spike Lee‘s race drama BlacKkKlansman, to crowd pleasers like superhero flick Black Panther and musical romance A Star Is Born.
Two biopics – Vice about former US vice president Dick Cheney and Bohemian Rhapsody about Freddie Mercury and the band Queen – round out the list of contenders for best picture.
The 7,900-odd voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have bold choices in front of them – traditional art-house Oscar bait, and big, rousing blockbusters.
‘With eight best picture nominees, every film has passionate supporters, but no film has a consensus,’ Tim Gray, awards editor for showbiz trade publication Variety, said.
All will be revealed at the Dolby Theatre, in a ceremony beamed around the world to millions of showbiz fans, with a twist – there will be no host for the first time in three decades.
The Academy opted to take the risk after comedian Kevin Hart withdrew from the gig in the face of a firestorm over past controversial tweets that were slammed as homophobic.
‘They still don’t have an answer to a question that’s been around since the first TV showing in 1953: is this a presentation of every category, or is it entertainment?’ Gray said. ‘They want it to be both.’
The entertainment factor will be high when Queen opens the show with singer Adam Lambert fronting the iconic band.
Will Glenn Close finally win?
For top acting honors, Christian Bale‘s transformation into Cheney for Vice gave him the early lead in the Oscars race, and several statuettes.
But Rami Malek won respect from his peers – and a Golden Globe, Bafta and a Screen Actors Guild award – for his spellbinding turn as late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury.
‘In Christian Bale’s, I see an incredible actorly thing, but with Rami Malek, you see a role that just really connected with audiences,’ said Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge.
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if the newcomer disrupts in this case.’
The best actress race has a clear favorite: Glenn Close, who has swept the prizes for her gripping work in The Wife as a woman on the edge when her author husband wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Lady Gaga wowed fans and critics with her turn in A Star is Born, and Yalitza Aparicio‘s nomination for her first acting role in Roma earned praise. But it looks to be Close’s night.
‘It is not her strongest role, but it is an opportunity for her to really own a small film, to carry it on her shoulders, and to remind the industry that here is one of our real treasures as an actress,’ Debruge said.
Mahershala Ali (Green Book) and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk) are the odds-on favorites in the supporting acting categories.
Better ratings this year?
The Academy – desperate to boost television ratings that have plummeted in recent years – is trying to stick to a three-hour telecast, but it hit a few bumps along the way.
Controversies over its efforts to save time included plans to present a handful of awards during commercial breaks, and to feature only a few of the nominated songs. Both ideas have since been scrapped.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper will sing their power ballad ‘Shallow’ from A Star Is Born. Songstresses Jennifer Hudson, Bette Midler and Gillian Welch will also perform.
But Variety reported that Kendrick Lamar and SZA would not perform ‘All the Stars’ from Black Panther, due to a ‘logistics and timing’ issue.
The 91st Academy Awards begin on Sunday at 5:00 pm, local time in Los Angeles.
Here are the nominees in key categories:
An asterisk (*) denotes the winning predictions from Spain in English!
A Star Is Born
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite
*Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
Adam McKay, Vice
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
* Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
*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
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
Best supporting actress:
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
*Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Best foreign language film:
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Best original screenplay
*The Favourite – Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed – Paul Schrader
Green Book – Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly
Roma – Alfonso Cuaron
Vice – Adam McKay
Best adapted screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Joel and Ethan Coen
*BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott
Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk – Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters
Films with more than five nominations:
Roma – 10
The Favourite – 10
A Star Is Born – 8
Vice – 8
Black Panther – 7
BlacKkKlansman – 6
Green Book – 5
Bohemian Rhapsody – 5