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On February 18, members of the Writers Guild of America confirmed that the knots we were feeling in our stomach for the last two weeks were very real. Anything can happen at the 91st Academy Awards.

Getting anxious about making Oscar predictions every year is nothing new; in fact, if anything, it’s a nervous high. Yet, despite extensive research (which mostly includes binge-watching 30-odd titles), we predict — with exception to a handful of ‘safe’ bets in the acting and direction categories — every technical category is wide open.

This is not a good year — but not because it is difficult to predict. Rather, it is a year when undeserving candidates have not only found a place in the Oscar line-up, but may end up winning for presumed excellence because, presumably, unwarranted wins serve a greater purpose.

Still, there are ways to predict the Oscar race.

The most obvious one is to rely on Oscar pundits and a handful of websites that correlate award season winning stats. On principal, we stay away from this practice because it banks on who won what, where, and then bases estimations on industry trends and not merit.

This year, in particular, relying on other award ceremony winners is an imprudent call. Be it the Golden Globes, BAFTA or any other Guild — no two award ceremonies agreed on nominees, let alone winners.

For instance, the Globes split its Best Picture wins between Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody (for Drama and Musical/Comedy); BAFTA awarded Roma; Producers Guild chose Green Book and the Screen Actors Guild’s Best Film Cast went to Black Panther.

On another front, the Writers Guild disqualified The Favourite on a technicality, giving awards to Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Eighth Grade; the latter is not even a nominee at the Oscars. The Scripter Awards, which historically clues one in on the Adapted Screenplay winners, gave away its top prize to Leave No Trace, a title that is not on the Adapted Screenplay list at the Oscars.

As always, our preferred way would be to make choices on merit, but — and it’s a huge but — we believe that more than half the ballots filled by the 6,000-plus Oscar voters will split the odds by picking personal favourites, or choosing statement-making films that address hot-button issues.

For the layman, these issues generally talk about racial representation, gender inequality, and — hold on to your horses — granting award season favour to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

As undeserving candidates find a place in the Oscar line-up this year, presumably because unwarranted wins serve a greater purpose, here are who Icon thinks Will Win and who Should Win at the 91st Academy Awards tomorrow

The last aspect gives the Oscar race deeper significance.

With Roma nominated for Director, Picture, Foreign Film, Cinematography and Editing, the Academy has chosen to embrace the internet’s contribution to cinematic excellence.

However, this inclusion only happens because of a smartly played technicality. Roma, the winner of the Golden Lion at the 75th Venice Film Festival, is a Netflix release, and the Academy does not permit films that have been released online … unless, they are released theatrically across America for a limited time.

Naturally, this does not go well with old-school, puritan Oscar voters.

At the Cinema Society Awards, Steven Spielberg took a shot at Netflix, saying that he’s a firm believer that movie theatres need to be around forever. “There’s nothing like going to a big dark theatre with people you’ve never met before and having the experience wash over you. That’s something we all truly believe in,” the director said.

Roma, though, is a powerhouse contender. If awarded on individual merit, it should win most of the categories it is nominated in. Alfonso Cuarón, producer, cinematographer, editor and director (a nominee in all categories), has relatively little competition as a director. But more importantly, let’s not forget the political statement the Academy makes if Cuarón wins director.

With exception to Damien Chazelle’s win at the 89th Academy Awards, of late the Director trophies have been given to filmmakers from across the Mexican border since 2013 (for reference: Cuarón won for Gravity, followed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s back to back wins for Birdman and The Revenant, and then skipping one year, Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water).

As if that weren’t enough, if Roma wins Picture and Foreign Film (and there is a good chance it will), it would stir up the debate of whether a story told through film — and not films exhibited on a certain format for a certain experience — should be awarded for excellence. After all, filmmaking techniques and artists remain the same; only the exhibition format, whether theatrical or your smart phone, is different.

With Roma nominated for Director, Picture, Foreign Film, Cinematography and Editing, the Academy has chosen to embrace the internet’s contribution to cinematic excellence.

If Green Book (a fine uncomplicated film that could double as a Hallmark masterpiece) or Bohemian Rhapsody (which we still think is undeserving of its many nominations) win, it might mean that Academy voters still want to stick to tried old traditions. Even in this case, we would replace Bohemian Rhapsody with Black Panther, for the latter’s appeal and critical acclaim.

Awards, then, aren’t simply given on merit, even if people understood the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. (If you were wondering, Editing is the placement and loudness of the sound; Mixing is the clarity, resonance and transitions of dialogues, music or general ambience).

BlacKkKlansman winning Adapted Screenplay would be a way to make up to Spike Lee for his contributions and snubs (he was given an honorary Oscar recently).

The same logic applies to Glenn Close, who will win Best Actress for her strong performance as the wife of Nobel prize-winning author in The Wife. This is her seventh nomination after all. We would be thunderstruck if her closest competitor, Olivia Colman, nabs the award.

If you ask us, Colman, who played Queen Anne in The Favourite, would be better suited for the Supporting Actress category where she could easily win in place of Regina King. In Colman’s place, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone represent The Favourite in the supporting category, cancelling each other out. King winning the supporting category also closes the gap of gender and race inequality in one sweep. Also, let’s not forget that Weisz already has an Oscar for The Constant Gardener (2006), and Stone recently got hers for La La Land (2017).

Nonetheless, race and gender discrimination will definitely sway votes for Black Panther in Sound, Costume and Production Design. Still, we doubt the wins (if they happen), would be on merit.

But then again, they never are.

So, without further ado, here are who we think Will Win, Should Win (on personal preference) or create Upsets at the 91st Academy Awards tomorrow.

The predictions

PICTURE

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Upset: Green Book or Black Panther (equal chances)

DIRECTOR

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

Should Win: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma

ACTOR

Will Win: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: Christian Bale, Vice

ACTRESS

Will Win: Glenn Close, The Wife

Should Win: Glenn Close, The Wife

Upset: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Should Win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

Upset: Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Should Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Upset: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

SCREENPLAY — ADAPTED

Will Win: BlacKkKlansman

Should Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

Upset: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

SCREENPLAY — ORIGINAL

Will Win: The Favourite

Should Win: Vice

Upset: Green Book

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma

Upset: The Favourite

EDITING

Will Win: Vice

Should Win: Vice

Upset: Bohemian Rhapsody

SOUND EDITING

Will Win: First Man

Should Win: A Quiet Place

Upset: Bohemian Rhapsody

SOUND MIXING

Will Win: Bohemian Rhapsody

Should Win: First Man

Upset: A Star Is Born

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Black Panther

Should Win: Roma

Upset: The Favourite

COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: The Favourite

Should Win: The Favourite

Upset: Black Panther

MAKE-UP AND HAIR STYLING

Will Win: Vice

Should Win: Vice

VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: Avengers: Infinity War

Should Win: First Man

ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win: If Beale Street Could Talk

Should Win: BlacKkKlansman

Upset: Black Panther

ORIGINAL SONG

Will Win: Shallow, A Star Is Born

Should Win: Shallow, A Star Is Born

Upset: All the Stars, Black Panther

ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Should Win: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: Free Solo

Should Win: Free Solo

Upset: RBG

FOREIGN FILM

Will Win: Roma

Should Win: Roma.

Published in Dawn, ICON, February 24th, 2019