And The Oscar Nominees are...

By Loren King of Newport This Week.

The Academy Award nominations will be announced Jan. 22, making it one of the high holy days for movie zealots and awards season trackers. The only sure thing in a year rich with fresh and diverse films is that there will be egregious snubs and welcome surprises.

Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” now on Netflix, could become the first foreign-language film to win the best picture Oscar. I expect it to lead the best picture nominees, along with “A Star is Born,” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” and Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” which got a big boost with its win at the Golden Globes.

Now that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can nominate as many as 10 films for best picture, additional nominees may include director Barry Jenkins’s critically lauded “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Ryan Coogler’s groundbreaking Black Panther,” Adam McKay’s “Vice” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a weak contender but one with momentum after its surprise Golden Globe win.

Even though 2018 was banner year for women filmmakers, it’s a pretty good bet that not one will be among the five nominees for best director, even though Lynne Ramsay (“You Were Never Really Here”), Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace") and Marielle Heller (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) captured some critics’ year-end awards.

The surprise could be Granik, named best director by the Los Angeles Film Critics’ and who could possibly make the cut. But it’s a crowded field. Lee just got his first nomination from the Directors Guild of America, so this will be the Academy’s chance to recognize him for his robust body of work with a nomination for “BlackKklansman,” his strongest film in years. Cooper and Cuaron are solid bets, with Jenkins, McKay, Coogler and Lanthimos also in the mix. I don’t think Farrelly will get a nomination, even though “Green Book” will be among the best picture nominees.

With her show-stopping Golden Globe win, the Oscar race for best actress is now tilted toward six-time nominee Glenn Close, who should win her first Oscar for her powerful performance in “The Wife.” She faces competition from likely nominees Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) and Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”), with the fifth slot open for a number of worthy candidates. I think the Academy will go with popular Emily Blunt for “Mary Poppins Returns.”

The best actor race is less competitive. Christian Bale should easily earn a nomination for his stunning transformation playing Dick Cheney in “Vice.” Rami Malek as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is the whole show in “Bohemian Rhapsody” and deserves a nod, along with Cooper for “A Star is Born.” Ethan Hawke, who won several critics’ prizes for “First Reformed” and Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”) look to round out the field. John C. Reilly is a dark horse but could sneak in for playing legendary Hollywood comic Oliver Hardy in “Stan and Ollie.”

The supporting categories traditionally hold surprises but seem fairly predictable this year. Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) has won most of the precursor awards and is a shoo-in. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone both will be deservedly nominated, but they share lead roles with Colman in “The Favourite” and are in this category only because of studio awards marketing. The other supporting actress nominees are likely to be perennial nominee Amy Adams (“Vice”) and Claire Foy, who was so good in the otherwise overlooked “First Man.”

Mahershala Ali is also the co-lead with Mortensen in “Green Book,” but he’s relegated to the supporting category, a common studio awards ploy that is unfair to the actors and takes a potential nomination from a truly supporting performance. He’ll be joined by Richard E. Grant as Melissa McCarthy’s buddy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” After that, look for Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”); Timothee Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”) and, just maybe, the always solid and much-beloved Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”). Brian Tyree Henry was memorable in both “Beale Street” and “Widows.” It would be a deserving surprise if he was recognized here.

Of course, all bets are off come Jan. 22. But no matter how wrong my guesses might be, I’ll still be predicting who will take home the Oscars in advance of the Feb. 24 ceremony.