If you've been paying attention this awards season, you know that the Oscars are shaping up to be one of the biggest question marks in the ceremony's 91-year history. How will the show fare without a host? How will an audience of filmmakers react when several important categories — including cinematography — are relegated to the commercial breaks? After years of sagging ratings, how many viewers will even be watching?
And then, of course, there's the question of who'll win.
Here, too, uncertainty reigns. A few categories, such as supporting actor and actress, seem pretty well sewn up. Others, though, feel maddeningly unpredictable. Could Rami Malek, of the much-derided biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” really win best actor over Bradley Cooper in “A Star Is Born?” If Alfonso Cuarón wins best director, as seems likely, don't statistics show that his “Roma” will also win best picture? Or could the polarizing “Green Book” – which did not earn Peter Farrelly a directing nomination – buck the historical odds and take the top award?
We won't know until Feb. 24, but in the meantime here are my picks in 10 top Oscar categories:
“A Star Is Born”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Roma.” Alfonso Cuarón’s deeply personal film, inspired by his childhood in Mexico City, doesn't seem to have been made, exactly — it seems to just exist. Watching it feels a little like floating through someone else's memories.
WHO WILL WIN “Roma.” Don't be surprised, though, if “Green Book” pulls ahead in this neck-and-neck race.
Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Paweł Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”
WHO SHOULD WIN Cuarón. Nearly every moment and detail in this movie is perfect, yet “Roma” seems to unfold perfectly naturally, an effect few other directors could produce.
WHO WILL WIN Cuarón. By the way, he served as his own cinematographer and will probably win that award, too.
Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
WHO SHOULD WIN McCarthy. As a downtrodden author who turns to fraud to pay her bills, McCarthy is funny, despicable and endearing all at once. It’s the dramatic role we’ve been waiting for her to play.
WHO WILL WIN Close. The wind is at Close’s back for her portrayal of a woman whose writing talent goes unrecognized. First came a Golden Globe, then the Screen Actors Guild award. The Oscar is sure to follow — the first one in Close's illustrious career.
Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity's Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”
WHO SHOULD WIN Cooper. His deep-reaching performance as a country singer on the downswing gave this Hollywood romance its emotional heft.
WHO WILL WIN Malek. A Dumpster’s worth of negative publicity has dropped on this biopic about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, but none of it has touched Malek. He has already won the Globe and the Screen Actors Guild for his gutsy lead performance.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”
WHO SHOULD WIN Grant. Ever since his galvanizing role in 1987’s cult hit “Withnail & I,” the lanky Grant has been waiting for his next great role. He found it in Jack Hock, a seedy bon vivant who helps a struggling author (Melissa McCarthy) commit literary fraud.
WHO WILL WIN Ali. The movie’s ideas of racism and rapprochement have drawn scorn, but Ali earned unanimous praise as Dr. Don Shirley, an erudite musician touring the segregated South.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina De Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”
WHO SHOULD WIN Weisz. As a well-placed adviser in Queen Anne’s court, Weisz cuts a sharp and sinister figure but still earns our sympathy as a woman playing on an unlevel field. By rights, Weisz ought to be competing in the leading category.
WHO WILL WIN King. For her performance as a worried parent in this James Baldwin adaptation, King won supporting actress from the New York Film Critics Circle in November. She's been the Oscar front-runner ever since.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
WHO SHOULD WIN “The Favourite.” Blackhearted, perverse and laugh-out-loud funny, this screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara simply takes the cake. An Oscar would be well-deserved icing.
WHO WILL WIN “The Favourite.”
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
“Minding The Gap”
“Of Fathers And Sons”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Free Solo.” Rock climber Alex Honnold, who uses no equipment, takes us on a vertiginous journey up Yosemite’s El Capitan formation in this documentary, whose life-or-death subtext is almost as dizzying its camerawork.
WHO WILL WIN “RBG.” Though no great shakes cinematically, this tribute to liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have the edge in a highly politicized year.
“All The Stars,” from “Black Panther”
“I'll Fight,” from “RBG”
“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
“Shallow,” from “A Star Is Born”
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings,” from “The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Shallow.” The Cooper-Gaga chemistry is never so strong as when they perform this anthem (a Gaga original) on stage for the first time. If we're being honest, that moment is 90 percent of the reason we loved the film.
WHO WILL WIN “Shallow.”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Isle Of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks The internet”
“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse”
WHO SHOULD WIN “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” It's tempting to call this film a radical departure, but that's an understatement: This is mind-blowingly different, a mix of styles and techniques that has made every animated film since look sadly tame.
WHO WILL WIN “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated Glenn Close won the BAFTA.