2018 was a quality year for animated film. A long-awaited Pixar sequel. An intricately-crafted Wes Anderson film. A surprising critical darling in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. A crowd-pleaser in Ralph Breaks the Internet.
It is a strong field, although there is a clear divide between the top tier and the second string candidates.
The ease of predicting the Oscar race for Best Documentary comes down to the category already being narrowed down to a shortlist. The contenders are already limited to 15 films. Of those 15, though, there are clear frontrunners.
The Best Documentary race appears to be one of the most cut and dry of the year, but there are one or two contenders on the outside of the top five that are strong enough to get in.
There were so many well-directed films in 2018. That the Academy only picks five requires the snubbing of plenty of quality films. While the Best Director category logically follows from the Best Picture race, the expansion of Best Picture to a possible 10 films makes it harder to narrow down the Best Director race.
Any director whose film nabs a Best Picture nomination is in the hunt for a Best Director nod. Beyond those nominees, there is not much else in contention. And the Directors Guild Award nominations will clear up any confusion over the frontrunners. Aside from the weird year of 2012, the 2010s DGA and Academy Award nominations were almost the same. Each year, just one slot was different.
The 2019 Oscar race for Best Picture seems surprisingly cut and dry. There are a handful of films that would be baffling to see not make the cut, and there are only a couple of films that have the campaign strength to move into the race.
If the race comes down to a final eight, then the films are already accounted for. The few films that could take up the rear and fill a ninth or tenth slot don’t necessarily have the consensus support needed to raise to the top of voters’ ballots.
All in all, there are only a few potential surprises in this year’s race. Might as well dig into them, anyway, right?