With the 91st Academy Awards just days away, awards season is coming to an unceremonious end. That is unless the Academy has something up its sleeve after angering viewers at every turn. There will be no host, all categories will be presented during the telecast, and there is no Most Popular category. All of this backlash for a broadcast dedicated to handing gold trophies out to famous people.
Yet, love them or hate them, the Oscars still hold cultural capital in a mainstream sense. If Green Book beats out Roma for Best Picture, it may be a sign of these populist tendencies, that the Academy hopes for broadly appealing films so that the industry it is housed within remains likeable and profitable. For an older Academy voter, Roma spits in the face of what it means to be a film. It has an art house style and resides on Netflix; its theatrical box office will be, if it wins, by far the lowest of any Best Picture winner ever.
This might be a cynical reading of this year’s Best Picture race. But if I feel justified in my cynicism of anything, it is an art form that is also a business. More specifically, it is the elite voting pool of industry professionals within the most business-oriented branch of the film world: Hollywood.
This is all a roundabout way of saying I think Green Book is the favorite to win Best Picture over the current betting odds favorite Roma. There are simply too many variables in the way of Roma. The Foreign Language nomination could split the vote. The Netflix thing will turn off the older members of the Academy (the average age of an Academy member in 2012 was 62. Even if this is likely less than it was before the Academy over-hauled its membership post #OscarsSoWhite, those older members still have their vote).
The other nominees for Best Picture have been all but eliminated following the guild awards. No single film emerged as a front-runner following the SAGs, DGAs, WGAs, and PGAs. No film made a dent enough to contend against Green Book and Roma, either. The only potential outliers are BlackKklansman and Black Panther. But Black Panther‘s SAG ensemble win shouldn’t be enough to push it into the conversation.
BlackKklansman, on the other hand, is a slightly different case. The guild awards are less significant in this case, because there is a significant narrative. The Academy has pressure to award Spike Lee, as the narrative emphasizes how he has been snubbed in the past. All the same, not every Academy voter is going to respond to a narrative. BlackKklansman would need to be enough voters’ second place choice to compete against Roma (which will be many voters’ number one or number two).
The preferential ballot is what is keeping Roma in this race and the others out. In a year without a Roma, BlackKlansman or A Star is Born could rack up enough number two slots to potentially edge out a Green Book. But this year, it is not to be.
The most likely scenario for BlackKklansman is the consolation prize win for Best Adapted Screenplay. That way, the Academy can credit themselves with handing Lee an Oscar, even if that compliment would be back-handed.
Of course, something strange can happen when a Best Picture race narrows into its narrative in the final weeks. All of the conversation becomes focused on two to three films, but prognosticators can never know exactly what is in the minds of Academy voters. The buzz may be around Green Book and Roma, but there are six other films on the table. While something like Vice or Bohemian Rhapsody seem like impossible choices, those middle of the road contenders could be out-performing experts’ expectations.
All the same, I have to fall in the Green Book camp. I cannot for the life of me picture the moment of the film winning—the film Twitter response to it, I can picture far more easily. But I think it has an edge over Roma because of its conventional nature. This may seem counter-intuitive, given that last year’s Best Picture winner was a fantasy romance involving a woman and a fish creature. But even The Shape of Water played to the older Academy’s sensibilities. I don’t think Roma does the same, no matter how much money Netflix burns running their Oscar campaign.
In three days time, I might have to wipe egg off my face. Frankly, I hope I do.
The Post Script
If you have been following my awards season coverage, then you know that the above prediction diverges from the Best Picture prediction I made earlier this year. A lot has changed in the month-or-so since I made those predictions. If you want my most up-to-date predictions, check out my final Oscar ballot here.
What do you think will win Best Picture this Sunday? Let us know in the comments, or vote in the current poll.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)