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ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE)

BLACK PANTHER - Ludwig Goransson
BLACKKKLANSMAN - Terence Blanchard
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK - Nicholas Britell
ISLE OF DOGS - Alexandre Desplat
MARY POPPINS RETURNS - Marc Shaiman


I don't know if it should be taken as a bad omen for the soundtrack CD business that of the five nominated scores, only two of them have received commercial CD releases. Blanchard and Goransson are first time nominees (since two of the major titles in several categories this year begin with the word "Black", nominees will have to be extra careful not to walk to the stage for the wrong film), second time for Britell, sixth for Shaiman (though his first time not in the Song or Comedy Score category) and tenth for Desplat (and his third for a Wes Anderson movie). Shaiman seems a plausible winner, given the dominance of his music (songs and otherwise) in the film. 

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG)

"ALL THE STARS" - Black Panther - Music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith; Lyric by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith, Solana Rowe
"I'LL FIGHT - RBG - Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
"THE PLACE WHERE LOST THINGS GO" - Mary Poppins Returns - Music by Marc Shaiman; Lyric by Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman
"SHALLOW" - A Star Is Born - Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthhony Rossomando, Anthony Wyatt
"WHEN A COWBOY TRADES HIS SPURS FOR WINGS" - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Music and Lyric by David Rawlings, Gillian Welch


Mostly first-time nominees, but a tenth nomination for Diane Warren, who seems almost certain to lose to "Shallow." Her RBG song is the seventh nominated song from a documentary. I thought it and "All the Stars" were remarkably forgettable, but I guess I'm in the minority. 
 


BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR

BLACK PANTHER - Kevin Feige
BLACKKKLANSMAN - Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Raymond Mansfield, Jordan Peele, Spike Lee
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - Graham King
THE FAVOURITE - Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Yorgos Lanthimos
GREEN BOOK - Jim Burke, Charles B. Wessler, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga
ROMA - Gabriel Rodriguez, Alfonso Cuaron
A STAR IS BORN - Bill Gerber, Bradley Cooper, Lynette Howell Taylor
VICE - Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick


A fairly predictable bunch, though it's nice that this category can encompass both a black-and-white foreign language drama and a Marvel Comics blockbuster. I had hopes that First Man and Mary Poppins Returns would get in, but the former only was noticed in tech categories. I'm not a big fan of Bohemian Rhapsody, but cheesy as it was, I still think it's a better movie than Vice, whose nominations for Picture, Directing and Screenplay baffle me but at the same time don't surprise me. I would love it if Roma won, but Green Book or Star Is Born seem more likely.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

CHRISTIAN BALE - Vice
BRADLEY COOPER - A Star Is Born
WILLEM DAFOE - At Eternity's Gate
RAMI MALEK - Bohemian Rhapsody
VIGGO MORTENSEN - Green Book


Four of these seemed pretty obvious (especially when such likely contenders as Mahershala Ali and Timothee Chalamet were deemed "Supporting") with the open fifth slot going to Willem Dafoe for his impressive work as Vincent Van Gogh in Julian Schnabel's otherwise student-film-ish At Eternity's Gate. Malek and Mortensen seem the likeliest, unless Bradley Cooper gets it as consolation for not getting a Directing nomination.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

YALITZA APARICIO - Roma
GLENN CLOSE - The Wife
OLIVIA COLMAN - The Favourite
LADY GAGA - A Star Is Born
MELISSA McCARTHY - Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Gaga seems pretty certain to win, but Close deserves it.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

MAHERSHALA ALI - Green Book
ADAM DRIVER - BlacKkKlansman
SAM ELLIOTT - A Star Is Born
RICHARD E. GRANT - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
SAM ROCKWELL - Vice


The big shock here is the omission of Timothee Chalamet for Beautiful Boy; shortly after the nominations were announced, I imagined a YouTube video of the audio of the Supporting Actor announcement dubbed over the closeup of Chalamet crying that ends Call Me By Your Name. If Ali hadn't won so recently for Moonlight I would have pegged him as a shoo-in winner, so it could be Sam Elliott.


PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

AMY ADAMS - Vice
MARINA DE TAVIRA - Roma
REGINA KING - If Beale Street Could Talk
EMMA STONE - The Favourite
RACHEL WEISZ - The Favourite 


This is the sixth nomination for Adams (and she really should have been nominated for Arrival as well), so this is probably her year, especially since Stone and Weisz (in questionably "supporting" roles -- Stone is arguably the lead in The Favourite) are past winners.


ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING

BLACKKKLANSMAN - Spike Lee
COLD WAR - Pawel Pawlikowski
THE FAVOURITE - Yorgos Lanthimos
ROMA - Alfonso Cuaron
VICE - Adam McKay


It's unusual that two of the five nominees should be for foreign language films (and Lanthimos is the director of a past Foreign Language nominee, Dogtooth). With Bradley Cooper out of the running in this category, Cuaron seems the most likely winner. It's Lee's first Directing nomination, but since he already has an Honorary Oscar the Academy might feel that he's already had his due.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

THE FAVOURITE - Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
FIRST REFORMED - Paul Schrader
GREEN BOOK - Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
ROMA - Alfonso Cuaron
VICE - Adam McKay


An appealing dark horse inclusion is Paul Schrader's First Reformed. I'm not generally a fan of the writer-director but this was a particularly worthy effort, especially coming after such low points as The Canyons and Dog Eat Dog. What makes this nomination especially notable is that this is the first time the writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull (and many many others) has been nominated -- even his less well known brother, the late Leonard Schrader, was nominated (for adapting Kiss of the Spider Woman). Green Book seems the likely winner here, or else The Favorite (and I sure hope it isn't Vice).


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
BLACKKKLANSMAN - Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Wilmott, Spike Lee
CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? - Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK - Barry Jenkins
A STAR IS BORN - Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters


No clear winner here; BlacKkKlansman's extensive fictionalization of its true story might hurt it, while the literary nature of Can You Ever Forgive Me?'s storyline might help it. Buster Scruggs counts as Adapted because the Tom Waits segment is based on a Jack London story, as acknowledged in the film's credits.


ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY

COLD WAR - Lukasz Zal
THE FAVOURITE - Robby Ryan
NEVER LOOK AWAY - Caleb Deschanel
ROMA - Alfonso Cuaron
A STAR IS BORN - Matthew Libatique


Some notable trivia -- three of the nominees are for foreign language films (all nominated in that category as well), two are in black-and-white, and one is the first time a director-turned-cinematographer has been nominated in this category (it's true -- Peter Hyams has never been nominated). Cuaron could easily be the first filmmaker to win Directing and Cinematography in the same year (or probably ever).


ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION DESIGN

BLACK PANTHER - Hannah Beachler; Jay Hart
THE FAVOURITE - Fiona Crombie; Alice Felton
FIRST MAN - Nathan Crowley; Kathy Lucas
MARY POPPINS RETURNS - John Myhre; Gordon Sim
ROMA - Eugenio Caballero; Barbara Enriquez


The Favourite could win, if only because Academy members often equate mansions, palaces and other large homes with great production design...


ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN

THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS - Mary Zophres
BLACK PANTHER - Ruth Carter
THE FAVOURITE - Sandy Powell
MARY POPPINS RETURNS - Sandy Powell
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS  - Alexandra Byrne


...and royalty in gowns with great costume design, so The Favourite is even more likely in this category (especially since Sandy Powell & Colleen Atwood are sort of the Williams & Goldsmith of contemporary costume design, as far as acclaim and nominate-ability are concerned).


ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING

BLACKKKLANSMAN - Barry Alexander Brown
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - John Ottman
THE FAVOURITE - Yorgos Mavropsiaridis
GREEN BOOK - Patrick J. Don Vito
VICE - Hank Corwin

First-time nominee John Ottman (yes, that John Ottman!) actually has a pretty good chance at a win, which would be especially nice as his usual director, Bryan Singer, may be finding his own career on the wane.


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING

BLACK PANTHER - Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boedekker
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - John Warhurst, Nina Hartstone
FIRST MAN - Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A QUIET PLACE - Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl
ROMA - Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay


This is the only nomination A Quiet Place received and its sound-oriented storyline could get it the award, or it might go to the you-are-there approach of First Man.


ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING

BLACK PANTHER - Steve Boedekker, Brandon Proctor, Peter Devlin
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - Paul Massey, Tim Cavagin, John Casali
FIRST MAN - Jon Taylor, Frank A Montano, Ai-Ling Lee, Mary H. Ellis
ROMA - Skip Lievsay, Craig Nenighan, Jose Antonio Garcia
A STAR IS BORN - Tim Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, Jason Ruder, Steve Morrow


This one often goes to musicals. A Star Is Born is by far the better film, but Bohemian Rhapsody was louder. Black Panther was the biggest hit, First Man had the roar of rockets and the silence of the moon, and Roma had exceptionally good sound work.


ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

BORDER - Goran Lundstrom, Pamela Goldammer
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS - Jenny Shircore, Marc Pilcher, Jessica Brooks
VICE - Greg Cannom, Kate Biscoe, Patricia DeHaney


My biggest disappointment of the all the nominations this year is that Mark Coulier (also shortlisted for Bohemian Rhapsody and Stan & Ollie) was not nominated for his brilliant work on Suspiria (at least he already has two richly deserved Oscars, for The Iron Lady and The Grand Budapest Hotel). The best of these is Border (yet another foreign language film nominated in a non FL-category), but it's the least likely to win, even without the troll-sex scene.


ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR - Dan DeLeeuw, Kelly Port, Russell Earl, Dan Sudick
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN - Christopher Lawrence, Michael Eames, Theo Jones, Chris Corbould
FIRST MAN - Paul Lambert, Ian Hunter, Tristan Myles, J.D. Schwalm
READY PLAYER ONE - Roger Guyett, Grady Cofer, Matthew E. Butler, David Shirk
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY - Rob Bredow, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Dominic Tuohy


Hard to pick, since there's no obvious VFX game-changer in the group (like T2, Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Benjamin Button, Avatar, Life of Pi, or Jungle Book). Avengers is the only true blockbuster smash in the bunch, but it could go to First Man for its deliberately old-fashioned approach (hey, remember miniatures?).


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM OF THE YEAR

INCREDIBLES 2 - Brad Bird, John Walker, Nicole Pardis Grindle
ISLE OF DOGS - Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson
MIRAI - Mamoru Hosada, Yuichiro Saito
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET - Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Clark Spencer
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE - Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller


Incredibles 2 seems pretty surefire, especially since it's the highest grossing animated film (in the U.S.) of all time, but I'd prefer the award went to the truly dazzling Isle of Dogs. Spider-Verse is a welcome inclusion, as is Mirai (one of the three nominated features I haven't seen), especially since last year the category was all-English-language (including those cinematic classics Ferdinand and The Boss Baby).


BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR - Alison Snowden, David Fine
BAO - Domee Shi, Becky Neiman-Cobb
LATE AFTERNOON - Louise Bagnall, Nuria Gonzalez Blanco
ONE SMALL STEP - Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
WEEKENDS - Trevor Jimenez


The only one of these I've seen is Bao, which screened in theaters with Incredibles 2.


BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

DETAINMENT - Vincent Lambe, Darren Mahon
FAUVE - Jeremy Comte, Maria Gracia Turgeon
MARGUERITE - Marianne Farley, Marie-Helene Panisset
MOTHER - Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Maria del Puy Alvardo
SKIN - Guy Nattiv, Jaime Ray Newman


I haven't seen any of these.


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM

BLACK SHEEP - Ed Perkins, Jonathan Chinn
END GAME - Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
LIFEBOAT - Skye Fitzgerald, Bryn Mooser
A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN - Marshall Curry
PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE. - Rayka Zehtabchi, Melissa Benton


Nor any of these.


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

FREE SOLO - Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, Shannon Dill
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING - RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim
MINDING THE GAP - Bing Liu, Diane Quon
OF FATHERS AND SONS - Talai Terki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme, Tobias N. Siebert
RBG - Betsy West, Julie Cohen


I can't think of any other movie year where the terms "documentary feature" and "box-office hit" could be used together so reguarly, thanks to RBG (14 million), Free Solo (13 million) and Three Identical Strangers (12 million). The biggest hit of all of these was the Mr. Rogers bio-doc Won't You Be My Neighbor? (22 million!), so its lack of a nomination is perhaps the biggest surprise of this Oscar year. Thanks to an Academy partnership with some local arthouse theaters (the Laemmle Monica and Playhouse, and the AMC Sunset-5), all fifteen short-listed docs screened publicly in the last few weeks, so I was able to catch up with three I hadn't seen, including Hale County which is a stunning film and deserves the award (though I still need to see Minding the Gap and Of Fathers and Sons).


BEST FOREIGN LANUAGE FILM OF THE YEAR

CAPERNAUM (Lebanon)
COLD WAR (Poland)
NEVER LOOK AWAY (Germany)
ROMA (Mexico)
SHOPLIFTERS (Japan)


I've managed to see 19 of the 87 films submitted for the award this year and all nine of the shortlisted films. Roma is the best of these, Shoplifters and Cold War were also excellent, while Capernaum was the weakest (but still superior to some past nominees in this category like Zus & Zo, Evil and As It Is In Heaven). I'm sorry but not surprised that the excellent, short-listed Burning did not get in. Roma seems a lock for the award, particularly given its prevalence in other categories.

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