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Oscars predictions: Times critics pick who will and who should win this year

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Images from the Oscar-nominated films, “Black Panther,” clockwise from top left, “Roma,” “BlacKkKlansman” and “The Favourite.”
(Marvel Studios / Disney; Netflix; David Lee / Focus Features; Yorgos Lanthimos / 20th Century Fox)
Film Critic

After a notably dramatic awards season — full of suspense over what will take the top prize and closely scrutinized changes to the big show itself (several of which have been walked back) — the Oscars are finally upon us.

Voting for the winners kicks off today and the ultimate decisions about who goes home with little gold men are now up to the academy membership. Before voting closes on Feb. 19, and the show itself on Feb. 24, Times critics Kenneth Turan and Justin Chang weigh in below with their predictions of what will win this year. And, because they’ve put in the work of seeing these films all year long, what should win in 10 key categories.

Picture

The nominees: “BlacKkKlansman”; “Black Panther”; “Bohemian Rhapsody”; “The Favourite”; “Green Book”; “Roma”; “A Star Is Born”; “Vice”

Kenny says...

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Will win: “Roma”

Should win: “Black Panther”

Though a victory by “Roma” would mean overcoming both academy distaste for streaming giant Netflix and uncertainty about a foreign-language winner, all signs point to it coming out on top. But I can’t shake the feeling that the extent of its paradigm-shattering successes in any number of areas mean that “Black Panther” is the picture of the year.

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Ramonda (Angela Bassett), left, Okoye (Danai Gurira), Mining Tribe Leader (Connie Chiume), T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) in a scene from the movie "Black Panther."
(Matt Kennedy / Marvel Studios)

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2019 Oscars: See the full list of nominees »

Justin says...

Will win: “Roma”

Should win: “Black Panther”

It’s never easy to predict the outcome when the top three guilds go for three different movies, but all season long the industry has seemed most unflagging in its support for “Roma” — no small accomplishment for a black-and-white, predominantly Spanish-language art film. Certainly it would be a far classier choice than “Green Book,” which won the often highly predictive Producers Guild of America prize. My own vote would go to the phenomenal yet curiously undervalued “Black Panther,” which has struck me as more conceptually imaginative and emotionally affecting with every return visit; it’s the rare superhero epic that really clicks as a movie of ideas.

ROMA
Alfonso Cuarón and Yalitza Aparicio on the set of "Roma."
(Carlos Somonte / Netflix)

Director

The nominees: Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”); Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”); Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”); Adam McKay (“Vice”); Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”)

Kenny says...

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Will win: Alfonso Cuarón

Should win: Spike Lee

The “Roma” helmer is an academy favorite, and his victory at the DGA Awards sealed his triumph here. But what Lee accomplished in blending humor, anger and relevance in “BlacKkKlansman” — not to mention his impressive career — makes him the best choice.

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Director Spike Lee works with actors Topher Grace and Adam Driver on the set of "BlacKkKlansman."
(David Lee / Focus Features)

2019 Oscar roundtables: Watch every single video »

Justin says...

Will win: Alfonso Cuarón

Should win: Yorgos Lanthimos

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Cuarón’s mastery of the medium is so undeniable that I’m almost tempted to look past my mild reservations about “Roma,” which never quite lets you forget just how exquisitely directed it is; the intimacy of the story Cuarón is telling can’t always bear the weight of all those precision-engineered long takes. Lanthimos’ dynamic staging of “The Favourite” may be just as pleased with itself, but in a way that maximizes the script’s corrosive wit and the talents of his three marvelous co-leads.

The Favourite
Olivia Colman in the Yorgos Lanthimos-directed film "The Favourite."
(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Actor

The nominees: Christian Bale (“Vice”); Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”); Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”); Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”); Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”)

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Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in "Bohemian Rhapsody."
(Alex Bailey / Twentieth Century Fox)

Kenny says...

Will win: Rami Malek

Should win: Willem Dafoe

FILM-ETERNITY-REVIEW
Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh in Julian Schnabel's "At Eternity's Gate."
(Lily Gavin / CBS Films)

Only academy shame about voting for a strong performance in a lackluster film (not something you can count on) stands in the way of Malek’s victory. But though he has virtually no chance, Dafoe goes well beyond conventional acting as Vincent Van Gogh, using intuition as well as technique to delve deeply into the artist’s essence.

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Bradley Cooper as Jack in "A Star Is Born."
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Watch the key scenes that helped these stars land Oscar nominations »

Justin says…

Will win: Rami Malek

Should win: Bradley Cooper

I hate to agree with Sean Penn, but Cooper’s turn as a soulful, damaged country crooner in “A Star Is Born” is a personal career best in a relatively weak field of nominees. The academy, alas, seems intent on celebrating a portrait of a real-life artist. But if they must, surely Dafoe’s bristling work as Van Gogh should be wiping the floor with Malek’s false teeth.

***DO NOT USE FOR ENVELOPE KEY SCENES RUNNING 2/12/2019--BRADLEY COOPER, LADY GAGA in “A Star is Bor
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in "A Star is Born."
(Clay Enos / Warner Bros)

Actress

The nominees: Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”); Glenn Close (“The Wife”); Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”); Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”); Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)

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Glenn Close in "The Wife"
(Graeme Hunter / Sony Pictures Classics)

Kenny says...

Will win: Glenn Close

Should win: Lady Gaga

This image released by Warner Bros. shows Bradley Cooper, left, and Lady Gaga in a scene from the la
Lady Gaga, right, with Bradley Cooper in "A Star is Born."
(AP)

A convincing argument could be made that not only will Close win, but, because of the power of her work and the extent of her impressive career, she should win as well. But it’s impossible to imagine the across-the-board success of “A Star Is Born” without Lady Gaga’s passion, vulnerability and, yes, acting chops as well as singing ability, so that’s where my vote goes.

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Olivia Colman in "The Favourite."
(Yorgos Lanthimos / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.)

READ MORE: Academy reveals the Oscar categories that will be omitted from the live telecast »

Justin says…

Will win: Glenn Close

Should win: Olivia Colman

The shot of the year may be that slow-zooming closeup of Colman’s Queen Anne, her face garishly powdered but her eyes shimmering like jewels; it makes inseparable the comedy and the tragedy of this monarch’s anguished life. That said, I certainly won’t begrudge the highly favored Close for winning an award she should have gotten 30 years ago for “Dangerous Liaisons.”

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Mahershala Ali as Donald Shirley in "Green Book," directed by Peter Farrelly.
(Universal Pictures / Participant)

Supporting Actor

The nominees: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”); Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”); Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”); Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”); Sam Rockwell (“Vice”)

Kenny says...

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Should win: Mahershala Ali

There does not seem to be much doubt that the redoubtable Ali will take away his second supporting Oscar in three years (after “Moonlight” in 2017) for a performance that adds his trademark dignity and substance to a film that definitely benefits from it.

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Adam Driver is Flip Zimmerman and John David Washington is Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman."
(David Lee / Focus Features)

READ MORE: What does ‘Black Panther’s’ SAG win mean for Oscars? »

Justin says…

Will win: Mahershala Ali

Should win: Adam Driver

The fact that Ali is being promoted in the supporting actor race gets at precisely why “Green Book” is so noxious: It can’t conceive of Don Shirley without the mediation of a white protagonist’s gaze. The undersung triumph in this category is Driver’s supremely intelligent performance as the Jewish cop at the heart of “BlacKkKlansman’s” undercover operation: Watching him think and act his way out of every tense situation, and come quietly to terms with his own conflicted identity, gives Spike Lee’s angry provocation the hit of concentrated subtlety it needs.

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Regina King as Sharon and Colman Domingo as Joseph in Barry Jenkins' "If Beale Street Could Talk."
(Tatum Mangus / Annapurna Pictures)

Supporting Actress

The nominees: Amy Adams (“Vice”); Marina de Tavira (“Roma”); Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”); Emma Stone (“The Favourite”); Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”)

Kenny says...

Will win: Regina King

Should win: Regina King

Even if (or maybe because) SAG snubbed her, there is considerable academy interest in both King’s performance in particular as well as in “If Beale Street Could Talk” in general and that should do the trick. King calls her film “an honest depiction of the human experience,” and her role in serving that truth makes her a deserved winner.

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Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney in Adam McKay's "Vice."
(Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures)

FULL COVERAGE: Oscar nominations 2019 »

Justin says…

Will win: Regina King

Should win: Regina King

I suspect and hope that King will prevail for her fiercely compassionate work as a loving matriarch in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” but no one should predict this race with any confidence, especially with such strong work by De Tavira, Stone and Weisz (even if the latter two are in the wrong category). The industry’s high regard for the much-nominated Adams may propel her to victory even for one of her lesser performances.

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John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth and Laura Harrier as Patrice in Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman."
(David Lee / Focus Features)

Adapted Screenplay

The nominees: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”; “BlacKkKlansman”; “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; “If Beale Street Could Talk”; “A Star Is Born”

Kenny says...

Will win: “BlacKkKlansman”

Should win: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

With its six nominations, Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” clearly has the academy’s attention, and the screenplay category is where that support is likely to coalesce. But wouldn’t it be more fitting to give Lee the directing Oscar and have this prize go to Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty for their bravura work in making a singularly unlikable individual both entertaining and worthy of our respect?

This image released by Fox Searchlight Pictures shows Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in a sce
Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in a scene from "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"
(Mary Cybulski / Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Justin says…

Will win: “BlacKkKlansman”

Should win: “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” would be a standout for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant’s wickedly acerbic verbal duets alone, to say nothing of its note-perfect re-creation of a ’90s New York literary enclave. But this is where I imagine the academy will honor Spike Lee (and his three co-writers) for “BlacKkKlansman,” a tonal tightrope walk that juggles fact and farce with more audacity than we often expect from an adaptation.

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Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in "The Favourite."
(Atsushi Nishijima / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.)

Original Screenplay

The nominees: “The Favourite”; “First Reformed”; “Green Book”; “Roma”; “Vice”

Kenny says...

Will win: “The Favourite”

Should win: “Vice”

Like “BlacKkKlansman,” this is an academy favorite (a whopping 10 nominations) that will end up with the writing nod as its sole above-the-line prize. I am more impressed, however, with Adam McKay’s script for “Vice,” which manages to be brainy, audacious, opinionated and fun. A heck of a combination.

This image released by A24 shows Ethan Hawke in a scene from “First Reformed.” Hawke was not nominat
Ethan Hawke in a scene from "First Reformed."
(A24)

Screenwriters in their own words: The stories behind the stories of ‘Black Panther,’ ‘First Reformed’ and more »

Justin says…

Will win: “The Favourite”

Should win: “First Reformed”

This may be the academy’s best chance to show its love for “The Favourite” in one of the top eight categories. I’d be delighted with that outcome, but even more so to see first-time nominee Paul Schrader win for “First Reformed,” an eloquently bruising disquisition on faith, humanity and politics that feels like the movie he’s been working toward his entire career.

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Jorge Antonio Guerrero Martínez as Fermín in "Roma," written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
(Alfonso Cuarón)

Foreign Language

The nominees: “Capernaum”; “Cold War”; “Never Look Away”; “Roma”; “Shoplifters”

Kenny says...

Will win: “Roma”

Should win: “Cold War”

Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexican memory piece looks even more unstoppable here than in best picture, but Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s bravura command of all aspects of the director’s art make him a difficult filmmaker to ignore. If people split their ballots in just the right way, “Cold War” might actually win.

Joanna Kulig in a scene from “Cold War.” Credit: Amazon Studios
Joanna Kulig in a scene from "Cold War."
(Amazon Studios)

Justin says…

Will win: “Roma”

Should win: “Shoplifters”

This one has been “Roma’s” to lose since it won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival last fall. But speaking of festival favorites: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s stealthily heartbreaking “Shoplifters” was the surprise Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, and I wouldn’t be upset to see it steal one more piece of hardware.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears in “RBG” by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, an official selection of the Doc
Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears in "RBG."
(Sundance Institute / CNN Films)

Documentary

The nominees: “Free Solo”; “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”; “Minding the Gap”; “Of Fathers and Sons”; “RBG”

Kenny says...

Will win: “RBG”

Should win: “RBG” / “Free Solo”

These films are the clear favorites in this category and “RBG’s” ability to make you feel good about the state of the American Dream, no easy thing these days, should put it on top. But the very different “Solo” also focuses on an impossible dream, albeit an athletic one, and choosing between them is more than I can do.

READ MORE: ‘Three Identical Strangers,’ ‘RBG’ directors and others look back on documentary’s big year »

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Compiling over 12 years of footage shot in his hometown of Rockford, Ill., in "Minding the Gap" Bing Liu searches for correlations between his skateboarder friends' (Zack Mulligan, left, and Keire Johnson) turbulent upbringings and the complexities of modern-day masculinity.
(Hulu)

Justin says...

Will win: “RBG”

Should win: “Minding the Gap”

I’m as fond of “RBG” and its heroic subject as anyone, but simply as a matter of filmmaking, it’s hard not to prefer the other four: I was held by the visual majesty of “Free Solo,” the hypnotic fragmentation of “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” the dangerous intimacy of “Of Fathers and Sons” and, most of all, the devastatingly personal study of wounded, wounding masculinity in “Minding the Gap.”

justin.chang@latimes.com

kenneth.turan@latimes.com


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