Preview: 'Roma,' Glenn Close set for big Oscar night

Predicting the winners of the top categories in what has already been a rocky year for the Oscars

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

You've heard plenty about this year's Oscars, most of it not good. 

From the show's attempt to launch a "popular film" category to the flap over the later-reversed decision to hand out four categories during commercial breaks to its lack of a host, it's been an Oscar season full of embarrassments and humiliations.  

So, who's in the mood to open some envelopes?

Politics of the show's programming stumbles aside, there will indeed be some awards handed out on Sunday, and here are some educated predictions for the show's top categories. It's shaping up to be a big night for "Roma," Glenn Close and Mahershala Ali, regardless of how things end up going for the Oscars themselves. 

This image released by Netflix shows Yalitza Aparicio, center, in a scene from the film "Roma," by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron. The film has dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, winning best film, best director and best cinematography. The film is Netflix’s most acclaimed release yet, and it’s widely expected to contend for best picture at the Academy Awards.

And the envelopes, please...

Best Picture


Will win: "Roma." Alfonso Cuarón's black-and-white foreign language art film is set to win the evening's top prize — a triumph for Cuarón and distributor Netflix, but the wrong move at a time when the Oscars' tastes and those of average filmgoers have never been wider apart. 

Should win: "Black Panther." For the good of the show going forward, a win for the $700 million blockbuster would buy it at least a few more years of relevance.  

Overlooked: "Paddington 2." The year's most charming, inventive, imaginative film envisioned a world sweeter and kinder than our own. Perhaps it was too good for this race. 

Best Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale, "Vice"; Bradley Cooper, "A Star is Born"; Willem Dafoe, "At Eternity's Gate"; Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Viggo Mortensen, "Green Book" 

Rami Malek stars as the rock icon Freddie Mercury of the band Queen in “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Will win: Malek. Average movie, but the "Mr. Robot" star's impression of Queen singer Freddie Mercury was spot-on, a path Jamie Foxx rode to Oscar glory in "Ray."  

Should win: Bale. As the former Vice President, Bale transformed himself physically and embodied the black hole soul of Dick Cheney. But Bale has already won an Oscar (for "The Fighter"), and he'll have plenty of chances to win more in the future, so it's not imperative he win here.  

Overlooked: Ethan Hawke, "First Reformed." Justice for Ethan. One of these years, the four-time nominee — two of those are for writing — will climb the mountain to Oscar glory, but his stirring portrayal of a pastor facing a crisis of conscience should have at least brought him to the dance.   

Best Actress

Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio, "Roma"; Glenn Close, "The Wife"; Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"; Lady Gaga, "A Star is Born"; Melissa McCarthy, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Glenn Close in "The Wife."

Will win: Close. She's won just about every predictive award leading up to the Oscars, so if the seven-time nominee doesn't finish Sunday with her first trophy in hand, it would register as the evening's biggest shock. 

Should win: Colman. The English actress played fierce and deeply flawed in the lively period piece, a portrait of royalty for the ages. 

Overlooked: Toni Collette, "Hereditary." It was one of the year's most go-for-broke performances, but perhaps the Satanic subject matter was too much for some Oscar voters to embrace. 

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Mahershala Ali, "Green Book"; Adam Driver, "BlacKkKlansman"; Sam Elliott, "A Star is Born"; Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"; Sam Rockwell, "Vice" 

Will win: Ali. For his role as jazz musician Don Shirley, Ali is set to win this category for the second time in three years.  

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in "Green Book."

Should win: Grant. The British vet is the wily spirit that ignites "Can You Ever," which was unfairly overlooked in the Best Picture field. 

Overlooked: Jesse Plemons, "Game Night." In the quirky comedy, Plemons beams in from another planet altogether, and his weirdo performance helped the film level up.  

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Amy Adams, "Vice"; Marina de Tavira, "Roma"; Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk"; Emma Stone, "The Favourite"; Rachel Weisz, "The Favourite"

Regina King in "If Beale Street Could Talk."

Will win: King. With "The Favourite" gals splitting the vote and six-time nominee Amy Adams' day coming at another time, the path is paved for King's crowning.  

Should win: King. The first-time nominee has a scene near the end of "Beale Street" that sums up the film's raw desperation. 

Overlooked: Awkwafina, "Crazy Rich Asians." In a starmaking performance, Awkwafina was this rom-com's comedic light, but the Academy is famous for overlooking comedic work.  

Best Director

Nominees: Spike Lee, "BlacKkKlansman"; Paweł Pawlikowski, "Cold War"; Yorgos Lanthimos, "The Favourite"; Alfonso Cuarón, "Roma"; Adam McKay, "Vice"

Will win: Cuarón. A win for the "Roma" director would give him his second win in the category, and would give Mexico its fifth Best Director win in six years. 

This image released by Netflix shows Marina de Tavira, center, in a scene from the film "Roma," by filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron.

Should win: Cuarón. "Roma" is undoubtedly a triumph — his triumph — from start to finish. 

Overlooked: Paul Schrader, "First Reformed." Schrader has had an up-and-down directorial career, but "First Reformed" marked a massive comeback for the 72-year-old Grand Rapids native. 

Best Animated Feature

Nominees: "Incredibles 2," "Isle of Dogs," "Mirai," "Ralph Breaks the Internet," "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Will win: "Spider-Verse." One of the best animated films in years, "Spider-Verse" has a forward-thinking visual style that combines elements of street art, comic books and glitchy computer graphics. It's also an excellent "Spider-Man" film that addresses the character's role throughout more than five decades of pop culture. 

Miles Morales (center) and the various other Spider-Men characters in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse."

Should win: "Spider-Verse." A lot has been said about this animated Spidey tale, nearly all of it positive, but the film is still underrated. 

Overlooked: "Smallfoot." Few were paying attention, but this smart tale of Yetis and humans finding common ground took on big picture themes of tolerance and societal mind control. 

Best Documentary

Nominees: "Free Solo," "Hale County This Morning, This Evening," "Minding the Gap," "Of Fathers and Sons," "RBG"

Will win: "RBG." Consider a vote for the doc a vote for Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, the Supreme Court rock star who recently battled her way back from cancer treatment on her lungs. . 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in “RBG.”

Should win: "RBG." This year especially, Ginsburg will be tough to beat. 

Overlooked: "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" The Mister Rogers story was a hit with audiences and respected by critics but missed the Oscar race for reasons that remain unclear. 

MoreDocumentaries finding a wide audience

MoreOscar snubs, from Mister Rogers to Michael B. Jordan


The 91st Academy Awards

8 p.m. Sunday