Gold Standard: Oscar predictions: Which acting category could see an upset?

Yalitza Aparicio and Jorge Antonio Guerrero in "Roma."

We’re at that point in the awards season where sides have been chosen, lines have been drawn, death knells have been sounded and the academy’s decision to move the Oscars two weeks earlier next year sounds better by the day. Except that means that the 2020 Academy Awards are less than a year away. (Practicing my jazz hands right now in anticipation of celebrating Tom Hooper’s film version of “Cats.”)

But before we bid farewell, we must settle some scores … I mean, races, settle … some … races. Here’s who’s going to win picture, director and the four acting categories.

Best Picture

“Black Panther”



“Bohemian Rhapsody”

“The Favourite”

“Green Book”



“A Star Is Born”


Winner: “Roma”

Alternative: “Green Book”


The film that wins best picture will be making history in some manner. “Roma” would be the first foreign-language film to take the prize. If SAG Awards ensemble winner “Black Panther” prevailed, it’d be the first movie in 86 years to win without earning a nomination for director or screenplay. And if “Green Book” wins, from all appearances, it looks like Spike Lee’s head will explode.

I’ve been calling this for “Roma” since early December, and I see no reason to change the pick now. The mere fact that Alfonso Cuarón’s film earned 10 nominations — twice as many as “Green Book” — points to strong support across the academy’s voting branches, including the actors, who nominated both Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira. That broad approval will probably translate to an abundance of first- and second-place votes for “Roma” — academy members rank the movies on their ballots — which is what it takes to win in the Oscars’ preferential voting system.

“Green Book” will garner a lot of first-place votes too. But I know many academy members who are also ranking it last. It’s a bit divisive, though not as polarizing as some would have you believe. (It won the Producers Guild’s top prize, remember.) But there’s enough dissent to give the edge to “Roma.”

Alfonso Cuarón has won numerous prizes, including the DGA honor, for directing "Roma."


Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”

Adam McKay, “Vice”


Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”

Winner: Cuarón

Possible alternative: Lee

Cuarón’s recent Directors Guild Awards win cemented the likelihood of a second Oscar in five years, following his trophy for 2013’s “Gravity.” I don’t hear anyone complaining.


There has been a serious push for Lee, both as a reward for his excellent work on “BlacKkKlansman” as well as a make-good on being overlooked for all these years. But Lee can still win an Oscar for co-writing “BlacKkKlansman.” And though, for some, that might feel like a secondary prize, it’s still an Oscar and would provide Lee the opportunity to rain hell and possibly deliver one of the all-time great acceptance speeches — provided the numbskulls running this year’s truncated show don’t cut to commercial.

Glenn Close could win her first Oscar for her turn in "The Wife."

Lead actress

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”

Glenn Close, “The Wife”


Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”

Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”

Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Winner: Close


Possible alternative: Colman

Races that look competitive when the calendar turns often have a way of becoming set in stone by the time final balloting begins. Both Close and Colman won Golden Globes for their nominated performances, and Colman gave a funny and heartfelt speech, thanking co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (“my bitches”). Then an hour later, Close won for lead actress drama (Colman had won for comedy) and brought down the house with a glorious speech about gender equity, relating it to her mother, a woman who felt she hadn’t accomplished much with her life.

“Women, we’re nurturers,” Close said, “But we have to find personal fulfillment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that.’ ”

Close won the Oscar with that speech. And, as I’ve written before, she happens to be really good in “The Wife” too.


Rami Malek, Oscar-nominated for playing Queen singer Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Lead Actor

Christian Bale, “Vice”

Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”


Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”

Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”

Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Winner: Malek


Possible alternative: Bale

What has been the worst movie featuring a lead actor Oscar winner in the history of the Academy Awards? Should Malek win, let the debate begin! Scanning the last half-century, you could argue that Al Pacino winning the Oscar for “Scent of a Woman,” a buddy drama that lumbers along for 2½ hours, might be that movie. But I’d counter that watching Pacino chew up the scenery as a bitter, blinded man offers more pleasure than anything I saw in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a bland, superficial biopic that swallowed Malek whole, save for the prosthetic teeth, which were far too big to be digested.

However, I know from readers — and quite a few academy members — that not everyone shares this assessment. I am told that the movie and Malek’s sweaty, energetic turn as Queen singer Freddie Mercury contains a kind of magic that puts you in the center of performative joy. And I understand this. I feel that pleasure every time I watch Queen’s full 1985 Live Aid performance, the most perfect miniature set in the history of rock music. Why watch the karaoke version when you can enjoy the real thing?

Regina King, nominated for her work in "If Beale Street Could Talk."

Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, “Vice”

Marina de Tavira, “Roma”

Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Emma Stone, “The Favourite”


Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

Winner: King

Possible alternative: De Tavira

Supporting actress used to function as the Oscars’ wild-card category, a place where surprises — often strange (Whoopi Goldberg, Marisa Tomei), sometimes absolutely shocking (Juliette Binoche over Lauren Bacall) — would happen regularly. I miss that. The winner of the Screen Actors Guild Award has been the winner of the Oscar for the last nine years, starting with Mo’Nique (“Precious”) and going through Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”) last year.


As SAG Award winner Emily Blunt was not nominated here, that streak will be broken, providing a little suspense for once. King won the Golden Globe for her beautiful turn as the strong, loving mother in “Beale Street,” and she has taken many critics group prizes too. If Lee and his co-writers prevail over Barry Jenkins for adapted screenplay, this could be one place (Nicholas Britell’s score would be another) to reward Jenkins’ powerful film.

Should De Tavira pull off an upset and provide the evening with a true surprise, then you can feel confident that “Roma” will sweep through the ceremony.

Mahershala Ali greets fans at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

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”


Winner: Ali

Alternative: Grant

Ali won at the Globes and the SAG Awards and has vacuumed up countless other prizes during the last two months. Even the “Green Book” haters give him his due for his nuanced, controlled portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in the film. After winning for “Moonlight” two years ago, it appears that a second supporting actor Oscar is one of the night’s biggest locks.

Envelope Live 2018-19 awards season playlist


Twitter: @glennwhipp