Oscars 2019 Predictions: Who Our Critics Think Will Win

Writer, director, and cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón arrives at the Los Angeles Premiere of Roma at American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre on Dec. 10, 2018 in Hollywood. (Amanda Edwards/Getty Images,)

By the FilmWeek critics, with Matt Bynum and Mike Roe

Ready to win your Oscars pool? We're here to help.

The biggest awards in show business are this Sunday. We assembled the FilmWeek critics from AirTalk and asked them for their thoughts on the biggest Academy Awards categories and who will win it all. Here are their selections for who they think will win, who they would like to win, and why.

BEST PICTURE

- Roma (Lemire, Loewenstein, Nicholson, Puig, Rainer, Solomon)

  • Amy Nicholson: Roma is the classiest and safest option of the 8 films nominated. To be honest, this year's Oscars have been such a trainwreck, that I kind of want Bohemian Rhapsody to win, just to seal the deal, and just so we never forget what this year was like.
  • Lael Loewenstein: I hope Roma wins, as it's beautifully acted and filled with especially intimate moments, but the Best Picture award could very possibly go to Green Book, as Roma doesn't play well on a small screen, which is how a lot of people see their movies now — even the Oscar voters. It really needs to be seen, consumed and inhaled on a big beautiful screen to truly take in the black-and-white and the cinematography.
  • Claudia Puig: It's not only my favorite film of the year, it's my favorite film of the decade. It speaks to me on so many levels. I was living in Mexico City in the '70s, and the way Cuarón recreated Mexico City in the '70s with Eugenio Caballero, it just felt so real. Roma was like walking through someone's memory with them. It's poetry, its impeccable in terms of cinematography, sound design, and naturalistic performance, it's got everything going for it.
  • Christy Lemire: Roma is going to win, and that's wonderful, it's Cuarón's masterpiece and it's beautiful — but wouldn't it be cool if Black Panther won? Like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Black Panther really changes the game in terms of the beats that it hits, the performances, and the cast. Everything about it is so different from the behemoth superhero blockbuster. It really is phenomenal.
  • Charles Solomon: I don't necessarily share a lot of my fellow critics' enthusiasm for Roma. I think Roma will win, but if I were in the Academy, I'd start a write-in campaign for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

- Green Book (Major)

  • Wade Major: Green Book is the least hated, which is how the ballot works. It's populist, commercial, sincere, sentimental, traditional, and P.C. It hits all of the checkboxes. The Favourite is my favorite, and I love it, but it's too weird for most people. With all the eccentricities, it's too hard of a swallow with general audiences.

- Black Panther (Cogshell)

  • Tim Cogshell: Black Panther is the best picture, because everybody saw it. Black Panther is a film that I really, truly, deeply love, and would love to see win an Oscar. I think it rises above the trope of simply being a Marvel film, or an action hero film. The film is about something very much bigger than that and much deeper than that: it's about society, it's about black culture in American society, and mostly it has to do with the way black folks think about and deal with each other. The enemy in that movie is not white society, and I love that about Black Panther.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

- Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody (Cogshell, Major, Puig, Rainer)

  • Major: Malek deserves it — he's well-liked and he has made himself immune to the Bryan Singer blowback, so voters feel like they can honor him without honoring Singer.
  • Puig: Rami Malek will win, but hardly deserves it. It's the kind of role that wins Oscars, and he's a good actor all around, but the movie overall was so mediocre.
  • Peter Rainer: Rami Malek will win because he has won most of the Best Actor awards in prior contests, but I thought Willem Dafoe gave an amazing performance [as Van Gogh in At Eternity's Gate] — it's not strictly a naturalistic performance, as the whole movie is kind of expressionistic, and impressionistic; it's a remarkable piece of work, and Dafoe even looks like Van Gogh.

- Christian Bale, Vice (Loewenstein, Nicholson)

  • Nicholson: Because Rami as Freddie Mercury just can't, and because the true best actor this year, Ethan Hawke for First Reformed, wasn't nominated. Bale wins. I think this category is a mess to be honest. I'm going to stand up for Bradley Cooper in this. I thought he was really fantastic in A Star is Born and out of this category, I would really like to see him win.
  • Loewenstein: Christian Bale just disappears into Dick Cheney in Vice, and he never gives less than a completely stunning and consuming performance.

- Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born (Lemire)

  • Lemire: I want Bradley Cooper to win this, not just because he's not in the director category, but because it would be a nice acknowledgement of what he's done here. He transforms himself absolutely from the charismatic, gorgeous, charming Bradley Cooper that we so frequently see. There's a lot physically and emotionally that he does here, and he deserves credit for that.

- Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate (Solomon)

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

- Glenn Close, The Wife (Lemire, Loewenstein, Puig, Rainer, Solomon)

  • Loewenstein: After many years of strong work, I think the Academy will give Close the Oscar, even though its not her best work. It's the Scent of a Woman theory — the same reason why Al Pacino won his first Oscar back in 1993.
  • Puig: Glenn Close has been nominated 7 times and has had a 30-plus-year career with no wins. She's kind of the opposite of Meryl Streep in that way. Close was really good in The Wife as an overlooked writer, and I think the Academy will particularly relate to that idea. I think it will go Glenn Close, maybe secondarily Olivia Colman. This is the category I think where everyone is completely worthy, so it will be great to see any of them win. However, I think that Yalitza Aparicio is just amazing. She was a preschool teacher from Oaxaca, and she's not an actress and never trained as an actress. Everything in Roma hinges on her — if she hadn't been as great as she was, the movie would have fallen apart. It's all about her, and she's the one that I felt completely emotionally caught up with and that broke my heart.

- Olivia Colman, The Favourite (Cogshell, Major, Nicholson)

  • Major: It's a coin toss between Olivia Colman and Glenn Close, the deserving newcomer vs. the sentimental favorite. But, The Favourite is the most nominated film, and should nudge Colman over Close. The entire film kind of rests on Colman. She's the one who has to pick the titular favorite, and if you don't sort of buy into all of her eccentricities, and insecurities as Queen Anne, then the movie doesn't work.
  • Nicholson: Yes, it's Glenn Close's year, but the Academy didn't vote for her before for better roles, and Olivia is amazing.
  • Cogshell: Olivia Colman will probably win this award, but I think that Yalitza Aparicio should win. A lot of times when you have a performance from a relatively new actor, who is not a traditional sort of actor, we will simply write that off as some sort of natural skill. That's not fair and that's incorrect. Yalitza is an extraordinary actress, who gives a wonderful performance, that is not showy, but rather understated and quiet. She just had to be there and inhabit that role to make you believe it, and she got me.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

- Mahershala Ali, Green Book (Loewenstein, Nicholson, Rainer, Solomon)

  • Loewenstein: I wasn't a huge Green Book fan, but I do think his performance is the pivotal part of the film, and it's the thing on which everything else hinges in the film. He was better in Moonlight, but he's still excellent in this film.
  • Rainer: He had a very good performance in the most popular audience pleaser.

- Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born (Major, Puig)

  • Puig: There's a sense that Sam Elliott is long overdue for an Oscar. He was in The Hero last year, everyone loved that movie and he wasn't nominated. So many felt like he was overlooked. Plus, everybody kind of wants to hear his gravelly voice during his acceptance speech.
  • Major: I'd like to see him win probably for the same reason as everyone else: you want to hear his voice give an acceptance speech. It's one of the greatest voices in Hollywood History. He's also really really good.

- Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Lemire)

  • Lemire: Richard had a very showy role, but that also allowed him some tenderness and vulnerability.

- Adam Driver, BlacKkKansman (Cogshell)

  • Cogshell: Adam Driver found the exact depth of character for his role in BlacKkKansman — not too much and not too little. His was the performance that I liked the most. It wasn't a showy role, and Driver just got to sit there and be his character. He got to understand where that Jewish-American was coming from in the midst of this big fight between these Klansmen and these black people. That takes nuance, and Driver is very sharp and biting in what he's doing, but he does it without a big voice.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

- Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk (Unanimous)

  • Nicholson: Regina King is the best thing in a movie people want to like more than they do. I'll be so happy when Regina wins, but I do want to say, if it weren't for the fact that Emma Stone will have a career where she becomes like Meryl Streep and gets nominated a bazillion times, it would break my heart a little more that we weren't talking about how Tremendous she was in The Favourite.
  • Lemire: It is more than her time, she is exquisite in If Beale Street Could Talk, and the wig scene alone should win it for her. She is phenomenal throughout the entire film, and she does so much with her eyes and just the subtlest facial expression or glance. She is the soul of a movie that is incredibly soulful.
  • Solomon: I think she's terrific and will win, but I think If Beale Street Could Talk would work better as a play. There's this great exchange between King's character and the other mother, that on stage would just be electrifying.
  • Major: Regina King deserves it, and Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz [in The Favourite] just cancel each other out.
  • Rainer: Regina had the best performance and the meatiest role in If Beale Street Could Talk. She's the strongest performer of the 5 nominees. It's a marvelous performance, and it really holds the film together in many ways. It's absolutely overpowering stuff, and I think it's well deserved.

DIRECTING

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma (Unanimous)

  • Nicholson: Cuarón will win because he won't stop talking about the personal and the technical aspects of his film. There's so much effort that he's talking about here, that it feels like he's a shoe-in to win.
  • Solomon: I think Cuarón and Roma are going to win, but I'm not ecstatic about it. This category, like Best Picture, is where both the directors of Spider-Man and Incredibles 2 belong.
  • Major: Winning Best Director will be a consolation for not winning Best Picture.
  • Rainer: I think Cuarón will win, because if you go by the best moments in the nominated films, Roma stands out. I think Roma is a very good movie, with very moving sequences, but I found too much of the film was shot from medium vantage point — so much so that it took me a while to even figure out what any of the characters looked like. The camera was always moving in that way that tells you that this is art — very slow and deliberate.
  • Lemire: Alfonso Cuarón should win and will win. He directed a devastatingly beautiful film and it was thrilling to see him use all of his technical prowess in service of a story that is so clearly and achingly personal. Cuarón manages to show the details in the simplicity of daily life, and how cumulatively powerful they are, that it really sneaks up on you.
  • Puig: It's such a virtuosic all-around achievement in directing, as well as cinematography and sound. It's technically dazzling, ambitious, epic, socio-political, and it's both sweeping and achingly intimate.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Lemire, Nicholson, Rainer, Solomon)

  • Solomon: For most of the year, everyone assumed the Incredibles 2 was going to win everything, and then Spider-Man came along and it was so fresh, so new, and had so much fun in it that it swept all the critics away. I think it's going in as the favorite, and it deserves to be.
  • Nicholson: I really think that the animation style of Spider-Man is just so fresh, the storytelling is also fresh — and for me, as a person absolutely jaded and sick up to here with superhero movies, to fall in love with a superhero movie, I really think it has the edge.
  • Lemire: Spider-Man is a total game changer, and it is absolutely thrilling. I've seen it twice now with my 9-year-old son, and I don't just love it because I've got a kid, but it does help to have that enthusiasm. It works on every level, for every kind of viewer. It is visually daring, and the energy is infectious.
  • Rainer: It's a marvelous movie, and while its a little overlong, there's just so much going on in it that makes it a real wingding. It's my favorite superhero movie ever, of any genre.

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

- Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Cogshell, Loewenstein, Major, Puig)

  • Cogshell: This is wonderful writing. Nicole [Holofcener] has to write as well as Lee Israel, and Lee Israel could really write.Then she had to write as well as Lee Israel when Lee Israel was pretending to write like Fanny Brice or Cole Porter, which is completely different. Finally she had to write well enough for all the other people in the movie. That's what a writer does — conceives and executes all of the characters in separate and distinct voices — and you can hear it all in this film.
  • Loewenstein: Can You Ever Forgive Me is the most interesting screenplay out of all of the nominees, partly because it's very difficult to make something like writing become dynamic. That's partly up to directing and acting, but also it's a script that makes the writing come alive, and Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty both did a terrific job here.
  • Major: I would have given Nicole Holofcener an Academy Award twice already, but she's never been nominated before, so I'm elated to see her here. However, I think that BlacKkKlansman is close, because it won screenplay at Cannes Film Festival, and Spike Lee is gonna win something this year, and it's not going to be director.

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

- The Favourite (Lemire, Rainer)

  • Lemire: I love The Favourite — it's my favorite movie of the whole year — so I think that it will and should win. It's got this fantastic balance to it of being just deliciously mean and biting, while also kind of delightfully anachronistic. But there's also such complexity and vulnerability to all three of the main characters, and if you watch it more than once, you can see it from each of their perspectives so richly and vividly.
  • Rainer: I think The Favourite will win, but Green Book is my favorite of the nominees. I liked Green Book a lot, and I know it's an easy movie to like — maybe a little too easy — but it is highly entertaining and very well-crafted.

- First Reformed (Nicholson)

  • Nicholson: The best original screenplay of the year, Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You, is not nominated, which breaks my heart. It should be in there. I would even say the second best, Blindspotting, isn't nominated either. Of the nominees, I'm going for First Reformed. I think First Reformed is the movie Paul Schrader has wanted to make his entire life, and it's a movie I'm very happy to recognize him for.

- None of the above (Solomon)

  • Solomon: I'm not ecstatic about any of the nominees, and as someone with two degrees in European history, I worry that people are going to watch The Favourite and think that's what things actually were like in the court of Queen Anne. So I don't have a cat on this sweater.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

- Minding the Gap (Loewenstein, Major)

  • Loewenstein: Even though RBG is the sentimental favorite, Minding the Gap will win. Minding the Gap is my personal favorite film of the year — nominally it's a documentary about skateboarding, but really it's a coming-of-age story about toxic masculinity, the economically depressed Midwest, and coming to terms with your past. It's a beautiful story that deserves critical acclaim.
  • Major: Minding the Gap has gotten a lot of attention, won a lot of awards, and has the momentum to win it all. Talal Derki did something extraordinary with Of Fathers and Sons, by going back into his war-torn home country of Syria and winning the faith of a family to let them shoot their Jihadi philosophy, but I don't think enough people have seen it.

- RBG (Puig)

  • Puig: RBG is going to win because it is the sentimental favorite, although it is not the best of the nominated films. The best of the films is Minding the Gap. The way the director Bing Liu captures the turbulent and dysfunctional families and how they create surrogate families, as well as the skateboarding scenes are just amazing. It's almost meditative.

- Minding the Gap or Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Cogshell)

  • Cogshell: Both Hale County This Morning, This Evening and Minding the Gap are absolutely beautiful films that take a look at positively quotidian sort of moments and imbue them with poetry and beauty, and then wraps all of that in poetry and beauty again.

MORE ABOUT OUR CRITICS

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC, Alt-Film Guide and CineGods.com

Christy Lemire, film critic for KPCC, RogerEbert.com and co-host of the Breakfast All Day podcast

Lael Loewenstein, KPCC film critic

Wade Major, film critic for KPCC and CineGods.com

Amy Nicholson, film critic for KPCC, film writer for The Guardian and host of the podcasts The Canon and Unspooled

Claudia Puig, film critic for KPCC and president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA)

Peter Rainer, film critic for KPCC and the Christian Science Monitor

Charles Solomon, film critic for KPCC, Animation Scoop and Animation Magazine