This year’s Academy Awards, airing February 24 at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC, have had a bumpy road, with announced (and retracted) category changes and an ultimately fruitless search for a host (the show will go without a host for the first time since 1989). But they remain the most high-profile pop-culture betting opportunity of the year, with competitive odds in many categories.
For the 91st Academy Awards, Las Vegas-based film critic Josh Bell offers his insights into the best bets in the major categories and which films should walk away with the awards—and the cash.
Green Book 6/1
The Favourite 15/2
Black Panther 15/2
A Star Is Born 8/1
Bohemian Rhapsody 19/2
What Will Win: This year has been more volatile than most, with various controversies and debates surrounding a number of nominees, in addition to the ceremony itself. So it’s tougher to pick a clear Best Picture frontrunner, even based on momentum from prior awards. Roma might seem like the clear choice based on its BAFTAs and Critics’ Choice wins, but a movie not in the English language has never won Best Picture before, and veteran Academy members may still be resistant to awarding a Netflix production. Green Book, with its typically Oscar-friendly story about overcoming racial differences, inspired by true events, would probably be the safest bet, although objections from the family of subject Don Shirley and unpleasant news stories about director Peter Farrelly and co-writer Nick Vallelonga have tarnished its chances a bit. Don’t count out old-school Hollywood crowd-pleaser A Star Is Born or offbeat period drama (always a favorite Academy genre) The Favourite, either.
What Should Win: Although its LGBT-focused story, off-kilter style and quirky sense of humor might be a bit too much for Academy members, The Favourite is the best and most creative of this year’s nominees, a brilliantly acted, darkly funny story about the intersection of sexual desire and political power, far more incisive and entertaining than the muddled Vice. It may be easier for voters to recognize the individual achievements than the movie as a whole, but it’s more than worthy of the award.
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody 31/10
Christian Bale, Vice 4/1
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born 4/1
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book 9/2
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity's Gate 9/2
Who Will Win: Although Bohemian Rhapsody has been the subject of controversy thanks mostly to its (fired) original director Bryan Singer, Malek has remained largely above the scandals, and even the movie’s harshest critics often praise his performances as late Queen singer Freddie Mercury. His wins at the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs and the Screen Actors Guild Awards all but guarantee Malek will take this one home.
Who Should Win: This category is almost entirely filled with actors mimicking real-life figures, but the only performer here who plays a fictional character, Cooper as troubled musician Jackson Maine in A Star Is Born, is the one most deserving of the award. Cooper (who also directed and co-wrote the film) crafts a heartbreaking portrait of addiction while also capturing the larger-than-life charisma of a rock star.
Glenn Close, The Wife 31/10
Olivia Colman, The Favourite 4/1
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born 4/1
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma 9/2
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? 9/2
Who Will Win: Although The Wife isn’t nominated for any other Oscars and made very little impression at the box office, Close has dominated the awards race this season, winning at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the Critics’ Choice Awards. After a long and distinguished career and six previous Oscar nominations (making her the actress with the most nominations without winning), Close has finally reached her anointed time, it seems, at least as far as awards voters are concerned.
Who Should Win: Close’s performance in The Wife is impressive, but it’s more a case of “most acting” rather than “best acting.” Although Colman probably should have been nominated in the supporting category for her performance as the needy, unhealthy Queen Anne in The Favourite, her work is by turns hilarious, melancholy, disturbing and alluring, and stands as the best in a strong category.
Best Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book 31/10
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? 39/10
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born 4/1
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman 9/2
Sam Rockwell, Vice 5/1
Who Will Win: Like Bohemian Rhapsody’s Rami Malek, Ali has largely remained above the controversies surrounding Green Book, and his performance as pianist Don Shirley is the movie’s most nuanced, respectable element. After his win for Moonlight in 2017, Ali has taken on increasingly high-profile roles, and this win would cement his position as a top-level actor. Grant, on the other hand, is a longtime character actor rarely nominated for any awards, but his playful performance as drunken schemer Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me? has won over numerous critics’ groups, and he might pull off an unlikely upset here.
Who Should Win: Ali really is the best part of a flawed film, and if Green Book is going to win in any category, this would be the most deserving. Grant, too, would be deserving, as much for his long and varied career as for his entertaining performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Elliott is another longtime character actor who’s overdue for recognition, and while he has minimal screen time in A Star Is Born, his performance is a pivotal part of the movie’s emotional core.
Best Supporting Actress
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk 31/10
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite 4/1
Amy Adams, Vice 4/1
Marina de Tavira, Roma 9/2
Emma Stone, The Favourite 9/2
Who Will Win: King has led the awards charge for Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation If Beale Street Could Talk, and her Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice wins put her in a prime position to win here as well, for her performance as a fierce, protective mother. The Favourite’s Weisz and Stone have both racked up nominations, with Weisz winning at the BAFTAs, but their dueling performances as similar characters in the same film are more likely to cancel each other out when it comes to voting.
Who Should Win: If Weisz and Stone could share the award, though, they would certainly deserve it, even though one or both of them should probably be considered in the leading category. But King is also fantastic, and with Beale Street shut out of so many other categories, this would be a great way to recognize the film’s overall quality as well.
Alfonso Cuaron, Roma 31/10
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman 39/10
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite 9/2
Adam McKay, Vice 9/2
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War 9/2
Who Will Win: Although Roma may have a tough time capturing Best Picture, Cuaron should have no trouble picking up this award himself. He won this year’s Directors Guild of America award, which is a reliable Oscar indicator, and he previously won the Best Director Oscar for 2013’s Gravity. Lee could have an outside chance at an upset, as a way for voters to make up for years of snubs for his most acclaimed films, but after his honorary Oscar in 2015, that might seem less pressing of a concern.
Who Should Win: Roma is a monumental directorial achievement, with Cuaron also serving as the film’s cinematographer and co-editor, and he’s more than deserving of recognition for it. Lee, too, would deserve the win, and while BlacKkKlansman may not be on the same level as his greatest work, it’s still a powerful and very well-directed film. Polish filmmaker Pawlikowski has essentially no chance of winning, but his romantic drama Cold War, another period piece, is as gorgeous as Roma, as stylish as BlacKkKlansman and as emotionally powerful as any movie nominated this year.
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