Sam Cedar | Contributor
What a beautiful season this is. A season that allows us to reflect on just how fun the opening night of “Black Panther” was, wonder how “Shallow” could still be stuck in our heads three months after seeing “A Star Is Born” or marvel in awe at just how fat Christian Bale got to play Dick Cheney. That’s right, it’s Oscar season. So without further ado, my Oscar predictions go to…
Best Picture: The Favourite
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is known for his eclectic directing style and shock value, previously releasing critically divisive movies like “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” In “The Favourite,” he dials back his bizarre imagination (though not too much) and hands the reins to three incredible actresses: Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weiss. For their performances alone, this movie is deserving of accolades, but its sardonic humor and beautiful production design make the Yorgos-helmed film uncharacteristically entertaining. Though “Roma” could give “The Favourite” a run for its money (the films tied for an academy-leading ten nominations a piece), “The Favourite” more seamlessly blends the Academy’s art house predilection with a mainstream appeal. Not to mention, it’s the first period piece since “Barry Lyndon” that I have actually enjoyed.
Lead Actor: Christian Bale or Rami Malek (Vice/Bohemian Rhapsody)
What’s that? I can’t choose two actors? Well, tough. Christian Bale and Rami Malik each crafted stunningly realistic portrayals of real people, and the Oscars love to award good impersonations. There are things to love about the performances of both, from Bale’s stoic, political hedonism as Dick Cheney to Malek’s near perfect reenactment of Freddie Mercury’s 1985 performance at Live Aid. I’d give the edge to Bale because of his dramatic physical transformation and Adam McKay’s stylistic appeal, but it could go either way. Secretly, I just really want Batman to win another Oscar.
Lead Actress: Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Most consider the “Roma” star to be a serious underdog, predicting the award to be a two-woman race between Glen Close of “The Wife” and Olivia Coleman of “The Favourite.” Though I loved the performance of Coleman in “The Favourite,” I struggle to view her as a lead given the stage that she had to share with Stone and Weiss. With this pick, I am giving the nod to Aparicio’s heart wrenchingly realistic portrayal of Cleo Gutiérrez, an indigenous woman living as a housekeeper for a middle-class, white family in Mexico City. While Close and Coleman gave more dramatic performances, Aparicio crafted her character with a quiet grace, subtly capturing the beauty and tragedy of carving out a livelihood amidst racial and political tension. Ultimately, film is a business of empathy, and Aparicio brought me into her reality better than any other name on this list. Not to mention, she is the first indigenous woman and only the second Mexican woman to be nominated for the award. Oh, and this was her first movie. Wild.
Director: Spike Lee (BlackKklansman)
In a year defined by black excellence in film, from Ryan Coogler’s blockbuster Marvel record-breaker “Black Panther” to Boots Riley’s bizzare directorial debut “Sorry to Bother You” to the overlooked but incredibly crafted “Blindspotting” (led by Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal) to Barry Jenkin’s understated and impressionistic adaption of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Spike Lee’s “BlackKklansman” enjoyed as great a combination of commercial success and critical acclaim as any. Lee has one of the most distinct voices in film, previously crafting the biting sociopolitical commentaries “Do the Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” and it’s about time he adds a Best Director award to his resume. “BlackKklansman” is a witty exploration of institutional racism in America, offering a glimpse at events in the late 70’s and showing a real example of change to a world that desperately needs one.
Cinematography: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Cuaron’s stunning work in “Roma.” Though he had initially pegged longtime collaborator Emanuel Lubezki to shoot the film, Lubezki eventually dropped under Cuaron’s heavy demands. Cuaron opted to shoot this film in a wide format, pairing black and white coloration with a contemporary format to reflect the rigid uniformity of looking into the past. This film is as much a reflection of Cuaron’s past as it is an exploration of the characters’ present, and its cinematography expresses this reality stylistically as well as any film in recent memory. The camera jumps through characters’ lives like a dance, oscillating the pace of the film to match the steadily unfurling reality of a woman and country in turmoil. Not to mention, it looks beautiful.