This year will mark an important year for the Academy Awards. It follows numerous scandals over the past few years, including #OscarssoWhite and ‘envelope gate,’ which have undermined the Academy’s reputation. It is also the first time in 30 years that the ceremony will take place without a host after original choice Kevin Hart became embroiled in controversy surrounding homophobic tweets and stepped aside. Combine this with declining viewer figures, and 2019 could define the future of the Oscars for years to come.
The line up of talent competing for the awards emphasises how important a year this could be. From ground-breaking superhero epics to surreal satires and painstakingly crafted works of cinema art, the variety on display is eye-catching and admirable.
That is, in most respects. There is one glaring exception – the lack of female filmmakers up for the Best Director award. This is in spite of the fact that the past twelve months have seen some incredible films directed by women, from Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? (which is up for three other awards) to Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here to name but a few. This lack of recognition has not gone unnoticed, and the Academy will have to get its act together to avoid disenchanting future generations of viewers.
What is fairly well represented is Black cinema, and within that sits an incredible range of movies. Front runners for the big awards include Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk and Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther. The latter’s remarkable success in February last year has been recognised here, confirming it as a landmark for the superhero genre – it is the first movie of its kind to be nominated for Best Picture.
The Best Actress category features stand-out turns from the likes of Olivia Coleman, Melissa McCarthy and Lady Gaga. Also nominated is Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio for her acclaimed debut performance in Roma. However, the early front runner is Glenn Close, hotly tipped to take her first Oscar for her role in The Wife. Best Supporting Actress is also a fascinating contest, with the likes of Amy Adams, Emma Stone and Regina King competing to take home that award.
Best Actor looks easier to predict. Shoehorned into the running early was Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in the otherwise deeply flawed Bohemian Rhapsody. However, Malek is up against the latest (and reportedly last) of Christian Bale’s unbelievable physical transformations for the accolade. Bale’s performance as Dick Cheney in Vice is staggering, and anyone would be doing well at this point to deny him his first Academy Award. Similarly, momentum is with Mahershala Ali in the Best Supporting Actor category for his performance in Green Book, which could mark Ali’s second Oscar in three years.
While the likes of Vice, Black Panther and Green Book have been extensively praised, it is difficult to see any of them as genuine contenders for Best Picture. The same goes for A Star is Born, its chances taking a hit when Bradley Cooper failed to be nominated for Best Director. BlacKkKlansman is in with a shot, but as it stands the smart money is on either Yorgos Lanthimos’ bizarre period drama The Favourite or Alfonso Cuaron’s beautifully realised Roma taking the top prize, which are joint at the top spot for most nominations. Despite being packed with the usual excitement of uncertainty, 2019 could prove a portentous year in the history of the Oscars; the only performance of importance being judged will be that of the Academy’s.
Image: Disney/ABC Television Group via Flickr.