The Hippo


May 30, 2020









One more look at 2018
A good year for film turns into a weird year for Oscar


 This year’s Oscar season has been full of controversies but the Sunday, Feb. 24, ceremony will still celebrate some of my favorite movies of 2018. And the 91st Academy Awards ceremony is still an excuse to catch up on 2018 movies.

By the time you read this, all the Best Picture releases will be available for home viewing except for Vice, which is still in theaters (as are some of the other nominees). Most of the Oscar-nominated shorts are also available for home viewing, as are all of the nominated documentary features, two of the foreign films (Roma and Shoplifters; Cold War is currently screening at Red River Theatres) and three of the animated movies (Ralph Breaks the Internet, Incredibles 2 and Isle of Dogs; Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is still in theaters and will be available at home on Feb. 26). Run down the list of nominees in the 24 categories and you’ll find other movies worth a watch and fairly readily available. 
In keeping with the weirdness of the year, I present my favorites and my wild guesses as to who will win, based not on combing through and other predictions, as I’ve done in years past (though check out that site if you’re looking to win your Oscar pool), but more on a sense of which movies are having a moment based on my regular diet of awards season coverage.
And because, at its best, award season should really be about finding more movies worth watching, I’m also offering suggestions for additional viewing and for other movie awards lists that give different perspectives on the year in movies.
Will Black Panther pull off a Marvel miracle? Will I hit my standard 60-percent prediction accuracy rate? Lacking a host or even a solid idea for how to organize the night, will Oscar ceremony organizers put the statues on folding tables on the stage and tell people to come up and find the one with their name on it? Tune in Sunday, Feb. 24, at 8 p.m. on ABC to find out.
Best picture
The nominees: Black Panther; BlacKkKlansman; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; Green Book; Roma; A Star Is Born; Vice
My favorite: Black Panther. Yes, it’s a superhero movie, but it’s still a solid piece of art, both in terms of the bigger issues it speaks to and as a piece of entertainment
Wild guess: Roma. This feels like this year’s answer to The Shape of Water: arty enough but also popular enough (and it was floating to the top of GoldDerby last time I checked). Because best picture is awarded through preferential voting, being a lot of people’s second favorite is a key to an overall victory, as awards watchers have been saying for the last few years, and I suspect a lot of people might pick Roma as their second favorite. (For the record, my vote would go something like: Black Panther, second to Roma, third to A Star Is Born, fourth to The Favourite, fifth BlacKkKlansman and then who cares.)
Dark horse: Green Book. I thought this movie was pretty cornball and not actually about its two most interesting elements (the Green Book motorist guide and pianist Dr. Don Shirley).
Shoulda been a contender: Tully or Eighth Grade. Both movies feature top-notch performances by their female leads whose characters are trying to figure out their lives. Also, I read the list of nominees several times before I realized that If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t there. Was that a misprint, Academy? 
Additional reading: Good, bad or Bohemian Rhapsody, the Oscar list of notable 2018 movies isn’t the only list of notable 2018 movies. Check out the Film Independent Spirit Awards (, where you will find Eighth Grade and If Beale Street Could Talk as well as First Reformed, Leave No Trace and You Were Never Really Here nominated for Best Feature and Hereditary, Sorry to Bother You, The Tale, We the Animals and Wildlife nominated for Best First Feature, among its 19 awards categories. These awards will be handed out Saturday, Feb. 23, the day before the Oscars. 
Best animated feature film
The nominees: Incredibles 2; Isle of Dogs; Mirai; Ralph Breaks the Internet, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
My favorite/wild guess: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Another great movie featuring Marvel characters, this animated take on the Miles Morales iteration of Spider-Man features an excellent blend of comic book and street art visuals, great music and solid storytelling. 
Dark horse: Incredibles 2. You can’t ever really count out Pixar, even if their offering this year is less than spectacular. Also, full disclosure, I only saw about half of Mirai ( lists the film as having an April 9 DVD release date). 
Additional reading: Not every animated movie is for kids, not every kids movie is animated but this is one of the few categories where you can reliably find any movies for families. In that spirit, let me recommend the “Best Movies” lists at Common Sense Media ( if you’re looking for good family movies from last year, by age, about certain subjects or available through specific services. My favorite thing about Common Sense Media is their age recommendations, which get more detailed than just “PG.”
Best documentary feature
The nominees: Free Solo; Hale County This Morning, This Evening; Minding the Gap; Of Fathers and Sons; RBG
My favorite/wild guess: RBG. Actually, I guess this is my favorite? I think I like elements of this documentary — the sweet romance between Ginsburg and her husband, the way the movie lays out the legal status of women in America both before and after she started working on cases about gender equality — more than I like the movie as a whole. 
Dark horse: Free Solo. This movie gets into the details of its subject in a way RBG doesn’t and tells a really engaging story about an athlete and his career of “free solo” climbs (no ropes, no living if you fall probably).
Shoulda been a contender: Both Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and They Shall Not Grow Old feel like surprising omissions. The Fred Rogers biopic is available for home viewing; They Shall Not Grow Old is in area theaters now (and definitely worth a watch). Less urgent but compelling was Three Identical Strangers (available for home viewing). Tea with the Dames (also available for home viewing) was lightweight in tone but featured that movie rarity: older women talking about careers, family, life balance and friendship. 
Additional reading: Won’t You Be My Neighbor? didn’t make it onto the final list of nominees but it was on the Oscar short list, a kind of semi-finalist round that exists in nine of the Oscar categories including documentary, foreign language film and the shorts. Find it at
Best directing
The nominees: Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, Pawel Pawlikowski for Cold War, Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favorite; Alfonso Cuarón for Roma; Adam McKay for Vice.
My favorite/wild guess: Cuarón. I have not yet seen Cold War (which will be available for viewing on Amazon in March) but of the other four Roma is both my favorite movie and the one that I think conveys the story it’s telling the most skillfully. Cuarón won for directing once before for Gravity.
Dark horse: Spike Lee. This probably wouldn’t be the Spike Lee film I’d pick to give his much-deserved best director award to but this is the one he’s nominated for. I feel like if voters take the “Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman” approach to voting, Lee might come out on top.
Shoulda been a contender: Ryan Coogler made a serious, thinking-person’s film about international relations and an awesome Marvel movie about lady bad-asses and both of those movies were called Black Panther. And Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade features age-appropriate child actors giving performances that excruciatingly called to mind the way it felt to be 13. 
Additional reading: The winners of the Director’s Guild of America Awards can be found at but I’d also recommend searching for the nominees for the 71st annual awards, where you’ll find everyone up for the first-time feature film award, including winner Burnham and Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born), Carlos López Estrada (Blindspotting), Matthew Heineman (A Private War) and Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You), according to Wikipedia.  
Best actress
The nominees: Yalitza Aparicio in Roma; Glenn Close in The Wife; Olivia Colman in The Favourite; Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
My favorite: McCarthy. McCarthy is Lee Israel, a writer who turns to forgery and finds she enjoys perpetrating the literary fraud. It’s a strong performance and she presents a person who, while unlikeable, is nevertheless fascinating to watch. Aparicio in Roma would be my runner-up.
Wild guess: Close. Probably not so wild, as Close has won many of the awards this year leading up to the Oscars. And — speaking of the Scent of a Woman school of voting — though she has been nominated before she has never won. 
Dark horse: Colman. Once upon a time in, say, October, I might have said Close was the dark horse and Lady Gaga was the sure thing. Now, I think Colman might represent the nomination to honor The Favourite — a fun movie that belongs to its three lead actresses. 
Shoulda been a contender: Charlize Theron in Tully perfectly captures how it feels to be weeks postpartum and flailing. Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade so gets to the soul-crushing yet hopeful mire of 13. Also points to Julia Roberts for crushing it as a mom desperate to save her son in Ben Is Back, Regina Hall for just getting through the day in Support the Girls, Viola Davis for being awesome in Widows and Natalie Portman for being a different kind of action hero in Annihilation.
Additional reading: Find Roberts among the nominees for best actress at the AARP Movies for Grown-ups Awards, whose existence I learned about on the podcast This Had Oscar Buzz. Glenn Close won but Judi Dench took the supporting category for a movie I’ve seen very little discussion of: All Is True. See the full list of nominees and winners on The Screen Actors Guild Awards ( highlight outstanding cast performances (Black Panther won in the field that includes A Star Is Born, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy Rich Asians). 
Best actor
The nominees: Christian Bale for Vice; Bradley Cooper for A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate; Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen for Green Book
My favorite: Cooper. (I did not see At Eternity’s Gate, which is available for home viewing.) Of the four performances I saw, Cooper is doing the most subtle work as fading singer Jackson Maine. 
Wild guess: Malek. He seems to be on a tear, awards-wise, and (other than the Queen soundtrack) his performance is the only stand-out element of Bohemian Rhapsody.
Dark horse: Bale. Golden Globe winner for his portrayal of Dick Cheney, Bale’s performance is the most “Oscar, please” performance of the year, with its studious approach to capturing appearance and mannerisms. 
Shoulda been a contender: John David Washington was good in BlacKkKlansman and Stephan James was even better in If Beale Street Could Talk.
Additional reading: The British Academy of Film and Television Arts handed out Bafta Awards ( roughly in line with the Oscars and Golden Globes but has some interesting differences in the nominees, including Timothee Chalamet for Beautiful Boy in Supporting Actor, Steve Coogan in Stan & Ollie for lead actor and a solid line-up in the “EE Rising Star” award (won by Letitia Wright). 
Best supporting actress
The nominees: Amy Adams for Vice; Marina de Tavira for Roma; Regina King for If Beale Street Could Talk; Emma Stone for The Favourite; Rachel Weisz for The Favourite.
My favorite/wild guess: King. She is just so good as the mother to Tish, whose warm glowy love story is cut short. King elevates every scene she is in and shows the depth and layers of her character. 
Dark horse: de Tavira. If somehow King and Weisz were able to split the vote, maybe de Tavira, who was so sharp and hard and yet sympathetic around the edges as a women whose family is falling apart in Roma, might sneak in there. 
Shoulda been a contender: Take a step outside the classic “important film” genre and there was a wealth of good female performances last year: Danai Gurira for Black Panther; Elizabeth Debicki for Widows; Emily Blunt for A Quiet Place; Haley Lu Richardson for Support the Girls; Blake Lively for A Simple Favor and Anne Hathaway (for one) for Ocean’s 8.
Additional reading: Categories for the Critics’ Choice Awards ( include lead acting awards for comedy and drama, ensemble and young actors, and genres such as sci-fi/horror and action get their own categories for film. 
Best supporting actor
The nominees: Mahershala Ali for Green Book; Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliot for A Star Is Born; Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Sam Rockwell for Vice.
My favorite: Grant. I will not be upset when Ali wins but deep in my heart I want it for Grant just a little bit more. As Lee Israel’s literal and figurative partner in crime — and just as flawed as her — Grant’s Jack brought wit and humanity. 
Wild guess: Ali, who was truly the best part of Green Book. 
Dark horse: Elliot. The acting awards ship seems to have sailed for Star but this might be the one place there is still a sliver of a chance if there’s no favorite between Ali and Grant. 
Shoulda been a contender: Michael B. Jordan might not have wound up as the king of Wakanda but he probably won Black Panther. Donald Glover was the only one who seemed to understand Solo. Hugh Grant’s Paddington 2 performance was early in 2018 but still so unglamorously delightful. Lucas Hedges was the most intriguing part of Mid90s.
Additional reading: In addition to an ensemble award — which went to Crazy Rich Asians — the National Board of Review ( hands out a “Breakthrough Performance” award, which this year went to Thomasin McKenzie, who was excellent in Leave No Trace, a movie that really deserved more attention. 
Best cinematography
The nominees: Cold War; The Favourite; Never Look Away; Roma; A Star Is Born.
My favorite: Never Look Away. I haven’t seen Cold War yet, which, like Never Look Away and Roma, is one of the foreign language film nominees. Never Look Away is not a flawless movie, in my opinion, but it is extremely lovely and uses how it presents a setting as part of its storytelling. It’s as much a movie about artistic choices as it is a story of an artist. 
Wild guess: Roma. Cuarón really does a lovely job with presenting an at times magical-looking view of mid 1970s Mexico — and does so without color. 
Best foreign language film
The nominees: Capernaum; Cold War; Never Look Away; Roma; Shoplifters.
My favorite/wild guess: Roma. Cleo, a domestic worker in an upper-class house in 1970s Mexico City, has a close relationship with the children she cares for and is negotiating a romance with a fellow transplant from the country. As we follow the trajectory of Cleo’s life, we also see, at the edges, the crumbling of the family and how the wife attempts to make sense of her life. It’s a solid movie and worth carving out some Netflix time for.
Dark horse: Cold War. I haven’t seen this Amazon release yet (or Shoplifters) but it seems to have picked up a few of the foreign language film awards not won by Roma.
Best adapted screenplay
The nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; BlacKkKlansman; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; If Beale Street Could Talk; A Star Is Born.
My favorite/wild guess: If Beale Street Could Talk. This is such a bleak, sad, warm, loving movie and its lack of Oscar attention is just strange. I feel like this is a spot where the movie overall can get some attention. 
Dark horse: A Star Is Born. Along the same lines of honoring something that seemed like it was going to make a bigger splash, this might be a spot that sees some A Star Is Born love. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see BlacKkKlansman take this. 
Shoulda been a contender: I feel genre probably got in the way in the case of a few really smartly written films from last year including A Simple Favor, Paddington 2, The Death of Stalin and Annihilation.
Best original screenplay
The nominees: The Favourite; First Reformed; Green Book; Roma; Vice
My favorite/wild guess: The Favourite. This seems like the place to applaud the biting, mean, thoroughly enjoyable comedy that is this 18th-century bit of royal Real Housewives-ness. 
Dark horse: First Reformed. This movie wasn’t my jam but I remember seeing oodles of stories about how much people loved it and it showed up on many a year-end best list.
Shoulda been a contender: The movies that were my jam — Tully, Eighth Grade, Leave No Trace. 
Best film editing
The nominees: BlacKkKlansman; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; Green Book; Vice.
My favorite: BlacKkKlansman. Nobody is going to accuse this movie of being subtle but Lee makes his point about race in America.
Wild guess: Vice. As a commenter on Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast said, maybe voters will vote on “most editing” and Vice, with its very self-conscious cleverness, is a lot of editing. 
Dark horse: Bohemian Rhapsody. I’m thinking specifically of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” creation scenes. 
Best costume design
The nominees: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; Black Panther; The Favourite; Mary Poppins Returns; Mary Queen of Scots.
My favorite: Black Panther. The whole approach to the world of Wakanda is thoughtful and beautiful.
Wild guess: Mary Queen of Scots. According to several media reports, many of the costumes in Mary Queen of Scots (featuring your full Tudor regalia) are primarily made out of denim, which makes me both like that movie more and want some of those denim outfits (Old Navy, H&M  — somebody needs to get on that). 
Dark horse: The Favourite. Those are also some mighty fun royal outfits.
Best makeup and hairstyling
The nominees: Border; Mary Queen of Scots; Vice
My favorite/wild guess: Vice. What is that movie if not a celebration of what makeup and hairstyling can do for a performance?
Dark horse: Border. Though it’s one of the movies I haven’t seen (it will be available for home viewing Feb. 26), one look at the trailer and its central not-quite-human characters suggests it could have the power to win fans. 
Shoulda been a contender: Black Panther, for the same reasons it’s my costume pick. 
Best original score
The nominees: Black Panther; BlacKkKlansman; If Beale Street Could Talk; Isle of Dogs; Mary Poppins Returns
My favorite/wild guess: If Beale Street Could Talk. The score really underlines the beauty and the glowy warmth of this film. 
Dark horse: Isle of Dogs has a distinctive score.
Additional reading: Because of the Grammys eligibility calendar, the three “Music for Visual Media” categories feature a mix of 2018 and 2017 films (remember the great Lady Bird soundtrack?). Also check out the Best Music Film category for documentaries about a variety of artists; Quincy, about Quincy Jones, was the winner. See 
Best original song
The nominees: “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. 
My favorite/wild guess: “Shallow.” I mean, what else could it be?
Dark horse: “All the Stars.” Black Panther had one of several solid soundtracks from 2018.
Shoulda been a contender: A Star Is Born had a couple of strong songs. I don’t know what the eligibility of “What’s Up Danger” from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is but it is one of several fun songs on that album. 
Best production design
The nominees: Black Panther, The Favourite, First Man, Mary Poppins Returns, Roma. 
My favorite/wild guess: Black Panther. For all that excellent world-building. 
Dark horse: First Man. It did go to the moon, after all. And, for a movie that seemed so promising, this is one of its very few opportunities for Oscar praise. 
Visual effects
The nominees: Avengers: Infinity War, Christopher Robin, First Man, Ready Player One, Solo: A Star Wars Story. 
My favorite/wild guess: Avengers: Infinity War. Mostly because it’s my favorite of the bunch but also because it juggled so many different locales and kinds of supernatural characters and actions without distracting me from the story. 
Dark horse: Christopher Robin. Downcast in tone and in color, this movie nevertheless did a decent job of putting the animated Winnie the Pooh and friends into a live-action world. 
Shoulda been a contender: Speaking of which, Paddington 2. 
Sound editing
The nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, A Quiet Place, Roma
My favorite/wild guess: A Quiet Place. The movie’s approach to sound is so central to what it’s doing with its story it would seem odd not to give it some props. 
Dark horse: First Man. Ultimately this movie is a little too quiet and interior for me but the sound design is really beautiful. 
Sound mixing
The nominees: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, First Man, Roma, A Star Is Born. 
My favorite/wild guess: First Man. See above. 
Dark horse: A Star Is Born, specifically for the way sound is used to put us in Jackson Maine’s head. 
Documentary short subject
The nominees: Black Sheep, End Game, Lifeboat, A Night at the Garden, Period. End of Sentence.
My favorite: Period. End of Sentence. Not that the shorts are usual a laugh riot but this year’s pack was bleak. This one, about a sanitary pad business in India and what it means for the women of the town, was uplifting and full of women I found myself rooting for. 
Wild guess: Lifeboat. This look at crews that rescue migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean in packed, rickety boats is heartbreaking but riveting. 
Dark horse: A Night at the Garden. This archival footage from a rally of American Nazis at Madison Square Garden in 1939 is chilling.
Animated short film
The nominees: Animal Behavior, Bao, Late Afternoon, One Small Step, Weekends. 
My favorite/wild guess: Bao. The requisite Pixar short is the best of the three I saw in this category.  Though One Small Step and Weekends are also strong (and all three are tear-jerkers about parents and children), Bao and its sped-up look at the mother-child relationship is also weird, dark and sweet. 
Dark horse: Weekends. This look at a boy and his separate relationships with his divorced parents really gets to a child’s perspective. 
Live action short film
The nominees: Detainment, Fauve, Marguerite, Mother, Skin.
My favorite/wild guess: Marguerite. I mean, it’s heartbreakingly sad but at least it didn’t feature children in terrible peril as the other four did. I didn’t see Detainment (about the real-life murder of a toddler in the U.K. at the hands of two older children) and I can’t say I tried all that hard to fill that gap knowing the subject matter. Mother does do a good job of, essentially, presenting me with a version of my worst nightmare. I’m guessing many Academy voters are also parents and, thoroughly traumatized, will hang on to the one film that doesn’t give them nightmares. 
Dark horse: Mother. It does serve as an example of how you can accomplish a lot in a film with just good writing and a good performance. This less-than-20-minute movie is as scary as anything 90 minutes of special effects hocus pocus could ever conjure. 


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