An old Daily Arts Writer used to call the Academy Awards “our Superbowl” in the sense that this was to be the Sunday night in February where we get wine-drunk and yell at our illegal streams HDMI-ed to the T.V. I’m not perfectly down with this idea: A) because I don’t know if we should be making identity-politic statements that suggest you can only like one and not the other, and B) because I don’t know of anyone who watches movies that would want any ownership over the slate of nominations (and winners!) we got this year. But a football fan could say the same thing about their Superbowl this year, so maybe the analogy holds.
That being said, we went on and made this year’s Oscars as close to the Superbowl as we could. The film beat played a game of “Fantasy Oscars,” the whole setup the brain-child of our great writer Anish. Split into four teams of two, each pair of Daily film Writers drafted a team of four general nominees and one best picture nominee. If the same movie showed up in multiple different categories — an example being Spike Lee’s (“Do the Right Thing”) “BlacKkKlansman,” nominated for adapted screenplay, director, best picture and supporting actor — then each individual nomination was available to be drafted and scored separately. For their final Best Picture pick, the teams were allowed to choose the same nominee and drafted blind to avoid one team’s pick swaying another’s. Teams were told to pick based on what they thought should win, not on their own hopes and dreams.
We randomized the order, then snake-drafted from left to right to left in the order below. Each of our teams wrote little blurbs before and after the ceremony about their confidence/fears going into the night, as well as their reactions to how their teams fared.
— Stephen Satarino, Daily Film Editor
We believed “Roma” was owed many things. Art doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves, though, especially not in ethnocentric contexts, so we thought our safest bet would be “Roma” for Best Foreign Language Film. That was our first draft; our fifth was “Roma” for Best Picture.
The latter was a wish. My Nana sends me a screenshot of Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”) holding an award every time she sees that he’s won something else for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Given the number of these texts I've received, Malek’s Golden Globe win, this Oscar season’s generosity toward popular films, and the way Malek says “darling” with a British accent, he was our man for Best Actor.
Spike Lee has never been recognized as Best Director. We repeat: Spike Lee has never been recognized as Best Director. See our third draft pick.
Fourth, we drafted Regina King (“Watchmen”) for her performance in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The best part of one of movie outings earlier this year was when I first saw the “Beale Street” trailer. The best part of the trailer, aside from its hint at the majestic score, is King’s majestic animation of his majesty James Baldwin’s words. She was the highlight of the film.
— Julianna Morano, Daily Arts Writer
As we approach the end of this awards season, my cynicism about the Oscars has only grown. The Academy has proven, time and time again, that it is the out-of-touch, mercurial trainwreck we believe it to be. To exacerbate what will be the shakiest Oscars telecast of the last few years, the nominees themselves are … less than stellar. For these reasons, picking our draft team was a coldly unemotional process. There was little conflict between my own wishes and my expectations for what films would win in each category: I rarely felt moved enough by even one nominee to hope for its success.
With that dose of pessimism out of the way, I do feel confident about my picks. First, we chose “Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse,” a film that emerged seemingly out of thin air at the end of last year to overtake “Incredibles 2” as the front runner for animated awards.
Next we chose Glenn Close (“Crooked House”), the star of a film I’ll probably never see called “The Wife.” As much as I hate to admit it, she’s confidently diminished Olivia Colman’s (“Them that Follow”) and Lady Gaga’s (“American Horror Story: Hotel”) chances at the Best Actress award. Sorry Ally!
Our third choice is Mahershala Ali (“True Detectuve”) as Best Supporting Actor in the year’s most controversial movie, “Green Book.” As much as Sam Elliot (“The Ranch”) tearing up while backing out of the driveway broke my heart in “A Star is Born,” Ali is a strong favorite due to his typically measured performance and considerable detachment from the criticisms of “Green Book.”
Fourth, we chose “The Favourite” for Best Original Screenplay for little reason other than that it was a category frontrunner according to experts. (It’s also one of the two Best Picture nominees I loved.)
And finally, for our fifth pick, we overlapped with the other teams on the likely Best Picture Winner: Alfonso Cuarón’s (“Gravity”) “Roma.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book” lurk in the background as the dark horses that could shatter this outcome, but I guess we film writers are an optimistic bunch. It’s time to stop predicting and start praying.
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Arts Writer
Assembling our team the week before Oscar Sunday, Team MichalskerHelm felt reasonably confident, but our confidence has waned as the night approaches. Our first three picks are solid, but the odds in the Lead Actor race have begun to favor Rami Malek as he has picked up other industry awards including the BAFTA and SAG equivalents of the Best Actor Oscar. The SAG is especially telling, as it’s usually a reliable indicator for the acting awards.
The Best Picture pick that makes up the fifth round is mostly meaningless as we’ve all picked “Roma,” but the race is a bit more complicated than that. “Green Book” is a strong if controversial contender, and there’s a chance that the acting branch of the Academy votes for “A Star Is Born” en masse to make up for the perceived snub for Bradley Cooper’s (“Avengers: Infinity War”) directing.
The same thing happened in 2013 when Ben Affleck (“Justice League”) wasn’t nominated for “Argo,” which would go on to win Best Picture over the favored “Lincoln.” The preferential ballot – when voting for Best Picture, the Academy doesn’t vote for a single film, they rank the nominees which are assigned points accordingly – also means that more broadly appealing films like “Black Panther” have a shot, as well. Still, with Alfonso Cuarón’s masterful work behind the camera a lock for the Best Director trophy, “Roma” remains the favorite – no pun intended.
— Jeremiah VanderHelm, Daily Arts Writer
The documentary feature is undeniably one of the least hyped-up Oscar categories. That said, this year I watched “Free Solo” and, in short, it was awesome. The thrilling experience of watching Alex Honnold scale thousand foot-walls with his fingertips will definitely be enough to get me to tune in to the documentary award for the first time.
What’s an outstanding film without an outstanding score? While masterful in its cinematography alone, “If Beale Street Could Talk” simply would not pack the same punch without the compilation of smooth jazzy notes and warm themes that accompany it. I can’t say I won’t be slightly ticked if composer Nicholas Britell (the same genius behind the “Moonlight” score) doesn’t win.
— Samantha Nelson, Daily Arts Writer
For me, Alfonso Cuarón is the obvious choice for Best Director. No other nominated director synthesizes cinematography, acting, sound and narration as seamlessly as Cuarón does. “Roma”’s semi-autobiographical nature only enhances the emotional value of the film, and in turn Cuarón’s investment in its production. “Roma” is his heart.
No actress this year gave a performance as challenging as Olivia Colman in “The Favourite.” The character of Queen Anne could have easily become a caricature, a mere simplification of life as a monarch. Colman prevents this from happening with her empathetic and humanizing performance, which allows the audience to comprehend the true depths of Queen Anne’s emotional life.
While certain aspects of “Roma,” such as its status as a foreign language film and its association with Netflix, present a challenge to the traditions of the Academy, I believe the overwhelming amount of praise the film has received sets it apart from the other nominees. Giving “Roma” the Oscar would also be a way for the Academy to diversify the award and pave a new way for the future of filmmaking.
— Elise Godfryd, Daily Arts Writer
Some notes on the chart above —
- All four teams got their first pick correct
- Only one team got their fourth pick correct
- Seven of the eight first picks were correct; Only four of the next eight were correct
- All four teams whiffed on their Best Picture selection (See Jeremiah’s scathing notebook, not so much on why “Roma” should have won, but on why “Green Book” definitely should have lost)
- Half our teams scored above 50 percent (all the way to 75 percent if you take out the final, flush Best Picture miss)
- Anish and Ian missed their two general picks on categories contested by another team
- Original Score was the only category with one nominee drafted where the pick didn’t win. That almost wasn’t even the case. “Black Panther”’s score was a hair away from going to Max and Jeremiah; every other one-draft category picked the winner
Oscar Sunday was a whirlwind – no host, lots of sexual tension and some not-so-surprising wins. Though the ceremony opened with the trifecta to end all trifectas (Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Tina Fey), the Oscars eventually returned to its tried and true formula, proving that, for how progressive Hollywood likes to think it is, the system still rewards mediocre films for increasingly unclear reasons.
But it’s all fine if the good movies and people get awarded somewhere, right? Spike Lee’s talents were finally recognized with “BlackKklansman” for Best Adapted Screenplay (we were hoping for Best Director), but this and other wins were tainted when “Green Book” snagged Best Picture. Naively, our team, the whole section really, held out for “Roma” in this category – we put our faith in the Academy, hoping they would overcome their infatuation with “Green Book.” Unsurprisingly, though, they were hooked, and audiences will talk about this moment for years to come.
Overall, our draft team did relatively well: “Roma” won Best Foreign Language Film, Regina King picked up Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor went to Rami Malek for “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was a predictable ceremony that really just left me wishing I could also give Samuel L. Jackson (“Glass”) a koala bear hug.
— Emma Chang, Senior Arts Editor
For our picks, Team MichalskerHelm – composed of the most esteemed gentlemen, Messrs. Michalsky and VanderHelm – went three out of five and was one of the three teams that tied for first. It’s not a great score to stake a win on, but then, it wasn’t a great Oscars. Our reasoning was as follows.
Best Original Song was only ever going to go to “Shallow”; the Academy’s initial decision in February to make it and “All the Stars” the only songs performed live on stage was insulting to everyone who worked on the other songs but not entirely inaccurate.
Likewise, “Roma” was the clear pick for cinematography, as Cuarón’s slow rotation of his camera beautifully communicated the feeling of being an outsider while he wrangled more texture out of black-and-white photography than most cinematographers can with all the colors of the rainbow.
Spike Lee’s script for “BlacKkKlansman” fits the model for Adapted Screenplay, which usually deal with political stories or ones associated with minority communities – the past six winners are “Call Me by Your Name,” “Moonlight,” “The Big Short,” “The Imitation Game,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Argo.”
Then we picked Christian Bale (“Hostiles”) for “Vice.” In fairness, it’s not as if there’s no precedent for Bale winning. He’s playing a real historical figure, Bale put on a good deal of weight for the role, he gets a lot of really meaty monologues to sink his teeth into – the list goes on. There was no accounting for the Academy’s love of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” though, and with picks dwindling in the fourth round, we made what would be our fatal error.
Team MichalskerHelm would like it noted that we originally chose “Black Panther” for Original Score in the fourth round, but convinced ourselves otherwise because, to quote, “the Academy usually doesn’t necessarily go for quality.” Given what wound up winning Best Picture, we suppose we were halfway correct.
— Jeremiah VanderHelm, Daily Arts Writer
A hostless Oscars. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper all but confirming they are sleeping together while millions of Americans watch live. A Best Picture winner that most of Twitter disagrees with. When my partner in Oscars crime wrote his preview of this year’s show he more or less predicted the overall feeling that many of my friends and family had upon viewing this year’s ceremony. The Academy got some things right, but the “Green Book” wave feels like a relic of a pre #OscarsSoWhite time.
We went two for four on picks this year, not the best but certainly not the worst we could have done. Our picks for Best Animated Feature and for Best Supporting Actor were dead on and although we may have bungled things a bit by betting on Glenn Close, even Olivia Colman didn’t think she had a chance to win.
“Green Book” robbed us of our dignity by taking home Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, which is nothing short of stunning. The amount of vitriol that had been spewed towards this movie seemed to guarantee it wouldn’t be taking home any of the top prizes, but evidently that Academy doesn’t follow Twitter nearly as closely as the writers of this paper do. Have I seen “Green Book?” No, I have not. Do I intend to see it? No, I do not. Is it unfair for me to be angry about a movie written by a racist man that I have not seen winning Best Picture over a group of other movies I also have not seen? Absolutely not.
— Ian Harris, Daily Arts Writer
Who would have thought that a documentary about rock-climbing would have taken home the gold? That’s just the point I guess. “Free Solo” is much more than just a “rock-climbing movie.” It is a down-to-earth film about the seemingly unlimited capacities of the human body and the power of individual drive. Truly though, this film was a masterpiece. Kudos to you, Academy.
I was caught off guard by Black Panther winning Best Original Music Score. The music in “Beale Street” is intertwined with the visuals on another level. More than just a film, it is a symphony on screen and it is a shame that it was not recognized as such. Don’t get me wrong, “Black Panther” is an A+ film in my book, but “Beale Street” was snubbed.
— Samantha Nelson, Daily Arts Writer
While I’m not surprised at all about it, I’m beyond happy that Cuarón received recognition for his direction. It’s the least the Academy could do to make up for their decision to give “Green Book” the Best Picture award. I’m excited to see what this win means for the artistic futures of both Cuarón and Netflix.
Deep down, I’m pretty surprised Colman won the Oscar, even though she was my draft pick. Glenn Close would probably have been the safer pick, considering she’s a seven-time Oscar nominee and this is Colman’s first nomination. While the cynical part of myself speculates that the Academy gave Colman the Oscar to give “The Favourite” some sort of recognition, I like to think they did because Colman simply gave the best performance of all the actresses nominated.
The Academy’s choice of “Green Book” for Best Picture makes it abundantly clear that the Oscars have long stopped being relevant in any way that matters. For “Green Book” to even be nominated, let alone win, shows just how out of touch Academy voters are. To choose “Green Book” over “Roma,” a nearly universally adored masterpiece, is a conscious vote for tradition over progress.
— Elise Godfryd, Daily Arts Writer
You never dream of a three-way tie when setting these things up, but alas, we will have to wait until next year to crown a champion of the Film section. Congrats to all three of the teams who scored three points. Ian and Anish will be both banished to the realm of reviewing terrible Netflix originals like “The Kissing Booth” or something.
I thought the ceremony ran very well without a host, and I hope, for the sake of all of our future Sunday nights, we won’t see a return to the old format any time soon. Other than adapted screenplay and best picture, I was pretty okay with the awards given out. It’s difficult to get excited for 2018’s award season since 2017 was such an unbelievable year (2016 too). Anything receiving the vaunted best picture award in a year like this, while movies like “Lady Bird,” “La La Land,” and “Whiplash” go on best-picture-less, was never going to feel quite right. The best case would be, in a year like 2018, having the option to retroactively use our 2019 best picture award up on something that the Academy whiffed on in years past. In a perfect world, we went back on Sunday night to 1990, to “Do the Right Thing,” to Spike Lee.
Oh well. On to the next year. Here’s hoping for bigger and better things with sounder, less offensive choices at the Dolby Theatre when we visit the Oscars again.
— Stephen Satarino, Daily Film Editor