Who Will Win Best Picture? Our 2019 Oscars Prediction

Christopher Wallenberg

Nominees: Roma, Green Book, Black Panther, BlackKkKlansman, A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Vice

Since 2010, the final days of the Oscar campaign have usually come down to two-film horse-races for the biggest prize of the night, Best Picture.

In recent years, we've had face-offs like The King’s Speech vs. The Social Network, Birdman vs. Boyhood, Moonlight vs. La La Land, and The Shape of Water vs. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. But this year’s contest has felt much fuzzier. While the top contenders are starting to come into clearer focus, this could be the most suspenseful Best Picture race in years.

Last fall, Bradley Cooper’s remake of the Hollywood classic A Star Is Born, starring he and Lady Gaga, quickly leapt to the front of the Best Picture race after debuting at the Venice and Toronto film festivals to rave reviews. It then became a hit, raking in $420 million at the domestic box office globally. But since then, its campaign has gone splat. The film fell out of favor with underwhelmed Academy voters, who snubbed Bradley Cooper for a Best Director nomination, and it’s hardly won anything in the precursor awards.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, about a black police detective infiltrating the KKK in 1970s Colorado, may feel the most timely and has been gaining buzz recently because of Oscar nominations in the key categories of Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Film Editing.

Ryan Coogler’s superhero blockbuster Black Panther has cultural cache, massive popularity ($1.3 billion in worldwide grosses), and actually grapples with some fairly heady ideas about isolationism, race, and power. It also captured the top prize at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, so there’s definitely a shot for it to pull the upset. But there remains the lingering question about whether a superhero film can bag this prize when this is the first one ever to be nominated for Best Picture.

At this point, the conventional wisdom indicates a Best Picture battle between Green Book and Roma. Green Book, about the relationship between a black classical pianist and composer Don Shirley and his white racist driver/bodyguard Tony Lip, has been beset by one controversy after another since it opened last fall — criticism that the film is yet another movie about an accomplished black person whose story is told through a white lens, allegations from Shirley’s family that the film was “a symphony of lies” and that they weren’t consulted, Viggo Mortensen using the N-word during a post film Q&A, and stories about director Peter Farrelly exposing himself to unsuspecting people (including Cameron Diaz, who starred in his There’s Something About Mary).

Oscars 2019: Where You've Seen the Nominees on TV (PHOTOS)

Oscars 2019: Where You've Seen the Nominees on TV (PHOTOS)

From Lady Gaga to Mahershala Ali and beyond.

So how does this movie still have a chance? It tends to resonate with older members of the Academy, who appreciate its self-congratulatory tale of how far we’ve come as a nation. They also seem to be backing it, as evidenced by the film winning the top prize from the Producers Guild, often a predictor of Best Picture success.

But our thinking is that younger, newer members of an increasingly diverse Academy won’t be voting for Green Book and, thanks to a ranked choice ballot, they’ll lift the transcendent Roma to a Best Picture victory. Inspired by Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón’s own childhood growing up in Mexico City in the 1970s, Roma is a deeply personal passion project — an intimate yet sprawling domestic drama about a family in crisis, with a central character based on the real-life housekeeper and caretaker who helped raise Cuarón and his siblings.

Yet with harrowing scenes of childbirth, social unrest, and a near-drowning that immerse viewers into the action, Roma also matches the breathtaking cinematic power and audacious technical achievements of Cuarón’s trapped-in-space thriller Gravity.

There’s concern about a backlash from some Academy members who see Netflix, which distributed Roma, as a threat to their business model, and the pesky fact that no foreign-language film has ever won Best Picture in the 91-year history of the Oscars. But with numerous critics prizes and a BAFTA award for Best Film in its pocket as well as strong support across the Academy’s various guilds, look for Roma to make history on Oscar night.

Will Win: Roma

The 2019 Academy Awards, Sunday, February 24, 8/7c, ABC