by Chris Corbellini


The Year of the Black Panther

As a first-year member of the Producers Guild of America, I got to vote for best picture already for the PGA’s Awards, and to me it was an easy choice: Green Book.

My fellow PGA members agreed. Green Book won the Daryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Production — giving it some momentum as Hollywood barrels into Oscar night. Will it win? I do think it’ll take home some of the peripheral awards — screenplay and supporting actor among them — but not the biggie, Best Picture. I feel the same way about Roma and to a slightly-lesser extent, A Star is Born.

No, this is Black Panther’s year. If you use a four-star system of grading a movie, it’s a ***¼ movie, with a ***** legacy, and I’ve never used five stars before. For a time, Black Panther was a movement. Generations of people who don’t go to movies went anyway to show their support, and it proved without a doubt that a movie with a largely African-American cast, crafted by an African-American director, can be a financial and cultural hit. You don’t make the cover of Time without having deep cultural relevance, and Black Panther joined Platoon, Star Wars, All the President’s Men, Thelma & Louise, Woody Allen, Humphrey Bogart, Steven Spielberg, and the Hollywood faces of #MeToo to get its close-up.

So there is history to consider here, and I think the Academy voters will look past the so-very-true story of Green Book, and the artistry of Roma, and award Black Panther for being something special within the trapping of the current Hollywood system, where only comic book movies are box office guarantees. (Ed Note: We agree. See January 31 edition of “It’s All Happening”)

Best Picture

Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
A Star Is Born

Who should win: Green Book
Who will win: Black Panther
So, yeah: Children of color can finally say, he looks like me. A superhero looks like me.

Actor in a Leading Role

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: Bradley Cooper
Who will win: Rami Malek
So, yeah: The creatives must have known from the dailies – Malek not only closely resembled Freddie Mercury, he captured a fleeting force of nature, especially during the Live Aid finale. I first noticed the actor during the HBO war series “The Pacific,” and thought big things were ahead for him. Now I wonder what’s next. Still, Cooper found the bruised, battered essence of a famous singer and also had to deal with a million moving parts as the director, including working with a first-time actress in the lead role. By degree of difficulty, Cooper should win this. But not to be.

Actress in a Leading Role
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: Olivia Colman
Who will win: Lady Gaga
So, yeah: There was a lot to like with Gaga … all the scenes with her father, the backstage stuff with Cooper, and the AA rehabilitation clinic. But the final song clinched this for her, and deservedly so. Colman was terrific though as a needy wackadoodle queen, and could pull off an upset here.

Actress in a Supporting Role
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: Regina King
Who will win: Regina King
So, yeah: Emma and Rachel cancel each other out. This one is all Regina. I went to a screening of “If Beale Street Could Talk,” with a Barry Jenkins Q&A afterward, and Jenkins lauded Regina for helping the lead actress, KiKi Layne, who was a newcomer and looked for some guidance wherever she could find it. Jenkins noted there’s a competitive tendency among actors to let such a rookie stumble about while filming, but, like her motherly character, King supported Layne in every scene. And you can tell.

Actor in a Supporting Role
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: Mahershala Ali
Who will win: Mahershala Ali
So, yeah: Ali is reaching Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington territory now, with back-to-back Oscar wins. Ali (as Dr. Don Shirley) had presence from his opening scene, sitting like a king on his throne in an apartment above Carnegie Hall. Only Grant could potentially steal this.

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

Who should win: Alfonso Cuaron
Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron
So, yeah: I have no idea why Cooper didn’t get nominated here. But … Cuaron’s movie is exquisitely crafted, and clearly personal. I think he’s wanted to tell this autobiographical story for some time, and like Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, he was at the peak of his creative powers when he got his chance.

Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, and Spike Lee
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Who should win: A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters
Who will win: Can You Ever Forgive Me? Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
So, yeah: Holofcener has been at this writing thing awhile, and has a gift for dialogue, even by gifted writer standards. Her screenplays feel lived-in, which is incredibly tough to do.

Original Screenplay
The Favourite, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
First Reformed, Paul Schrader
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Who should win: Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
Who will win: Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, and Peter Farrelly
So, yeah: I just loved this line from GB: “The world is full of people who don’t make the first move.” Still, the Favourite could slip away with this one. I f-cking hated the film’s “fade out with rabbits” ending, but The Favourite clearly points out just how cunning women can be, and how power corrupts absolutely.

Foreign Language Film
Capernaum, Lebanon
Cold War, Poland
Never Look Away, Germany
Roma, Mexico
Shoplifters, Japan

Who should win: Roma
Who will win: Roma
So, yeah: It’s not winning Best Picture. Consolation prize.

Animated Feature
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Who should win: Spider-Man
Who will win: Spider-Man
So, yeah: Don’t f-ck this up, Academy. I floated out of the movie theater after having watched it. It was Marvel’s best movie of the year, which should have its own category at this point.

Original Score
Black Panther
If Beale Street Could Talk
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns

Who should win: BlacKkKlansman
Who will win: BlacKkKlansman
So, yeah: I remember the Isle of Dogs score more than anything else here. Still, there is not a single Spike Lee-Terence Blanchard collaboration that I’ve ever disliked (I even went to see Blanchard perform the scores from Lee’s films in Philadelphia once), and I think the musician is due for a statue.

Original Song
“All the Stars,” Black Panther
“I’ll Fight,” RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow,” A Star Is Born
“When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Who should win: Shallow
Who will win: Shallow
So, yeah: This one was the easiest to handicap.

Documentary Short
Black Sheep
End Game
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

Who should win: No idea
Who will win: Period. End of Sentence.
So, yeah: You’d think as a PGA member I would have snuck over to the IFC Center and caught all of these at once, but I couldn’t pull it off this year. This is a dart throw.

Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Who should win: The Favourite
Who will win: Roma
So, yeah: Every shot in “The Favourite” tells its own story – the hallway ones in particular. But I still think Roma takes this. Cinematography is an insider’s award (though clearly movie-goers can tell when the cinematography stands out) and Cuaron drew raves from other directors for his work here. Note that the popularity of this category amongst working Hollywood creatives made the decision to banish this category to a commercial break such a head-scratcher, and it surprised me not at all that the Academy reconsidered.

Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons

Who should win: Free Solo
Who will win: Free Solo
So, yeah: Another easy one.

Production Design
Black Panther
The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns

Who should win: The Favourite
Who will win: The Favourite
So, yeah: Every backdrop is a visual medley. Wow.

Sound Mixing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Star Is Born

Who should win: First Man
Who will win: Bohemian Rhapsody
So, yeah: The mix and edit are the main characters in First Man – from the opening scene when you are dropped into that rickety jet with Neil Armstrong until his muffled voice when his boots finally touch down onto the moon. That won’t be enough against Bohemian Rhapsody or A Star is Born — movies that breathe music. I give BR the edge because of the Live Aid ending, though I think A Star is Born’s mix is superior from credits to credits.

Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots

Who should win: The Favourite
Who will win: Black Panther
So, yeah: I just keep coming back to all the tribes in Black Panther. So much color.

Film Editing
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book

Who should win: BlacKkKlansman
Who will win: Vice
So, yeah: I typically feel very strongly about editing, given my six-plus years toiling away on an Avid, but this year, meh. I picked Vice (I guess) because it was somewhat inventive, particularly when Dick Cheney tricks W into giving away most of his Presidential powers while they ate barbecue. But the best edit of the year by far was at the end of A Star is Born – a single elegant cut from a ballroom where she sings, to their home where he sings on a piano – and yet the film didn’t get a nom here, or in sound editing. At this point I wonder if Academy members, behind the scenes, can’t stand Bradley Cooper.

Sound Editing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place

Who should win: Roma/Black Panther/First Man/A Quiet Place
Who will win: Bohemian Rhapsody
So, yeah: Live Aid, for the win. A Quiet Place being nominated reminded me of the time when an NFL Films producer let a single shot play out for five minutes — Lions QB Matthew Stafford was wired and separated his shoulder, then painfully cracked it back in, then lobbied and returned to play, all in one shot — and my boss at the time suggested they submit that segment for the Sports Emmys for Best Editing.

Makeup and Hairstyling
Mary Queen of Scots

Who should win: Mary Queen of Scots
Who will win: Vice
So, yeah: Nicely done on Christian Bale. The transformation to Dick Cheney was complete.

Visual Effects
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Who should win: Ready Player One
Who will win: First Man
So, anyway, yeah: Ready Player One’s world was based on computer technology, and Spielberg nailed that part of it — with the King Kong escape and Shining dance off really standing out. The movie had verve whenever the kid was in his DeLorean. But the moon landing should be enough to win this.


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