By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 23, 2019 at 6:31 PM

Follow Matt Mueller on Twitter (@aManAboutFilm) on Sunday night starting at 7 p.m. as he live-tweets the Academy Awards and tries to only rant about "Vice" a few dozen times. 

Considering the outrage-ridden road they've taken to Sunday night, the 2019 Oscars are probably yearning for the relative dignity of the "La La Land"/"Moonlight" debacle.

The awards show had a Best Popular Movie Award – then it didn't. It had a host – then it didn't. It only had two Best Original Song performances – then it didn't, booking all five after an outcry. (But now it doesn't again.) It pushed four categories into commercial breaks – then it didn't. Put everything together, and it's been a rollout that only Qwikster could love. (Don't think I've forgotten, Netflix.)

And that's all before we get to the actual nominees, which are always an area of derision – and which are a blah mess in their own right this year, just in more predictable ways. (Fun drinking game while reading this piece: Take a shot anytime I note that a category's nominees are lackluster, mediocre, pedestrian, etc. Hopefully you're able to finish the article before your vision goes!)

No matter you agree or disagree with the nominations, however, somebody's gotta win (well, we'll see; maybe they ended up cutting the actual Oscars from the Oscars) and that means making predictions. So let's make some educated guesses. 

Best Picture

Will win: "Green Book"

Should win: "Roma"

2018 was a great, unique year for movies ... but you would not know that from this batch of uninspired nominees. (Take a drink!) And yet one of the weaker groups of Best Picture picks in recent memory has mediocre-ed its way into becoming one of the most unpredictable, wide open races we've had, with just about every single nominee a potential winner. And also there's "Vice." (That's not just me being petty; voters either love or hate the Dick Cheney biopic, and with Best Picture decided by a preferential ballot, being that divisive is a killer.)

That leaves everyone else – but not all candidates are created equal. "A Star is Born" was the early favorite, but after a winning awards season start with great reviews and an even better box office haul, the Hollywood melodrama hasn't won since. At least it wins the title of Best Picture: Memes Edition. "BlacKkKlansman" had some early juice when the nominations came out, but it came out in the summer, it's probably too spicy for the Academy's old guard and its distributor is owned by Universal, who has a bigger, Driving Miss Daisy-er candidate to put its oomph behind. "The Favourite" is too thorny and bizarre to win – that's why God created screenplay categories! – while "Bohemian Rhapsody" is fun crowd-pleaser but pretty objectively not great filmmaking. Plus, giving your top prize to a movie directed by a credibly accused pedophile and rapist in the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo would be, uh, a look. 

While those all wouldn't be shocks if they had their names called at the end of the night, your best bets come from a fascinating final bunch, representing the past, the present and the future of the film industry.

"Green Book" is the past, a traditional-in-every-sense issue picture that preaches a well-intended and feel-good story despite, you know, reality, plus it speaks to the older Academy crowd – and speaks to them even more despite, and maybe even because of, the backlash. (People don't enjoy feeling like they're being told what they can or can't vote for; remember the mild harrumphing about "12 Years a Slave"?) It's a classic Oscar pick: a movie about race but in an easy way that's meant to comfort not challenge.

Representing the present is "Black Panther," Marvel's massive blockbuster and arguably crowning achievement, blending an authorial voice and vision into the comic book behemoth's carefully constructed machinery, creating a true cultural event in the process. It seems right to give Best Picture to such a singular event that also speaks to the state of the current industry, an exemplar of what today's expanded universe/comic-centric era can do at its best. But while audiences love Marvel, the industry itself is less in love with the monolithic superpower – which itself is owned by a superpower, Disney, that's only about to gain even more sway. Plus, are the Oscars willing to "sully themselves" by giving a comic book movie its biggest prize?

And that leaves the future: Netflix and Alfonso Cuaron's gorgeous, reflective and quietly powerful "Roma." It's a beautifully crafted film, mesmerizing even in its mundanity thanks to the immaculate craft at work. It's the critical favorite, for sure, and Netflix hasn't been shy about pushing it with all of its might – even putting the movie in theaters for prestige points. But "Roma" takes a while to get going – not exactly optimal for Netflix, whose movies and TV shows are in general made to be half-viewed while skimming social media and making memes of the very film you're supposedly watching. The bigger problem: Netflix itself, which would be officially validated and placed at the adults table after scoring the industry's biggest award. And I'm not convinced Hollywood's ready to allow that yet. 

So who the hell is winning this damn thing? The precursors (the guild awards, the BAFTAs and more) are all over the place, complete with the Writers Guild giving their prizes to two non-Best Picture nominees. Thanks for the help! 

In the end, when it comes to the Oscars, it's always best to go with what's safe. "Black Panther" is "beneath" the award for many voters, while "Roma," a slow-moving, black-and-white foreign film with no stars whatsoever, would feel like a bridge too far for the Academy even without adding in the Netflix aspect. So that leaves "Green Book," which has a unified front of older fans while the younger voters have scattered in all sorts of directions with no one champion. (Unlike in 2017, when "Moonlight" gathered all those looking for something other than "La La Land.") Plus they already gave it Best Picture 30 years ago

Best Actor

Will win: Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Should win: Bradley Cooper, "A Star is Born"

There was a time when I thought Malek's performance in "Bohemian Rhapsody" was good. It ended exactly around the time the closing credits began to roll. After digging Malek's imitation during the movie, the credits began complete with real-life footage of Freddie Mercury in action – because as a biopic, it's legally required to show footage of the real person over the end credits. And watching Mercury, I realized Malek was doing an impression of an impression – sure, an enjoyable and energetic one, but not very good or deep either (mostly thanks to the formulaic script). Everyone else must've left earlier than me, however, because Malek's won just about every precursor award since the Golden Globes. Oh well. 

I'd be more upset about his impending Best Actor win if his fellow nominees weren't so dire. (Take another drink!) Christian Bale is likely next in line to win, but he suffers from the same "all dressed up with nothing to do" syndrome as Malek, just in an even worse film. Viggo Mortensen is playing a cartoon character, though props for the innovative pizza-eating strategy, and Bradley Cooper's chances fell off a cliff along with everything having to do with "A Star is Born" not called "Shallow." And can you name the fifth nominee? No, you cannot. 

So Malek wins. The only question is whether or not he'll spend his speech taking Bryan Singer out to the wood chipper.

Best Actress

Will win: Glenn Close, "The Wife"

Should win: Olivia Colman, "The Favourite"

Now THIS is a collection of worthy nominees. It's a shame, however, that it's been taken over by arguably the least of the bunch, as the storyline moved from a battle between Lady Gaga and Olivia Colman to essentially an unofficial lifetime achievement award for six-time nominee Glenn Close. Colman's gained some late steam with some strong campaigning and a BAFTA win – but it seems everyone's arbitrarily deemed this Close's year. Congratulations to her for finally winning – as well as for capturing this year's Honorary "Still Alice" Award for Oscar Most Likely To Make You Say "She Won For THAT?!" Five Years From Now.

Best Supporting Actor

Will win: Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Should win: Richard E. Grant, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

If you want to win your office or family Oscar pool, feel free to ignore my pick and write in Mahershala Ali for "Green Book" instead. He's won just about every precursor award, and even those who hate "Green Book" agree that he comes away the best. 

But indulge me an underdog pick: Richard E. Grant, who is wonderfully witty and melancholic in "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" This isn't just wishful thinking, either, as Ali just triumphed two years ago and Grant's won a lot of fans during his charmingly giddy campaign. (Nobody's had more fun over the last two months – save for maybe people who want to watch the Oscars burn.) Sure, Ali is still going to win, but allow me one category to go a bit crazy.

Speaking of crazy, by the way, congratulations to Sam Rockwell for getting nominated for two whole minutes of a mediocre George W. Bush impression with an awful fake nose. Must've been pretty embarrassing for voters when they actually watched "Vice" and realized they nominated a glorified cameo. I'm certainly embarrassed for them!

Best Supporting Actress

Will win: Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk"

Should win: Regina King, "If Beale Street Could Talk"

Best Supporting Actress might be the most interesting and worthy bunch of nominees of the major categories. That's not to say it's particularly competitive, though. "The Favourite" co-stars Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone will split votes – plus they're both past winners, which kills any enthusiasm to back either of them despite their deliciously barbed performances. Marina de Tavina's nomination for "Roma" is her win, and while Amy Adams is certainly due for a victory – her sixth nod with no trophies to show for it – one would hope it'd be for a better role than Lynne Cheney in a better movie than "Vice."

That leaves Regina King, but this is no win by default. King only has a few scenes in "Beale Street," but they all dig under the skin – especially her final desperate trip to Puerto Rico. Writer-director Barry Jenkins tends to share the love in his scripts, giving multiple characters little screen time but plentiful opportunity to shine in their few minutes – and King crushes hers. Expect King to be knighted Sunday night. (I'm so sorry.)

Best Director

Will win: Alfonso Cuaron, "Roma"

Should win: Alfonso Cuaron, "Roma"

Alfonso Cuaron pulled off such a visual feat that even watching "Roma" on your crappy cracked iPhone screen can't diminish its shine. You will believe multiple scenes dedicated to cleaning dog crap can be beautiful. And if that doesn't merit Best Director, I don't know what does. 

Best Original Screenplay

Will win: "The Favourite"

Should win: "The Favourite"

If you told me the madman behind cold oddities like "Dogtooth," "The Lobster" and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" would not only end up with one of the most Oscar-nominated movies of the year but direct one of the frontrunners for a trophy, I would've said you were more nuts than ... well, "Dogtooth," "The Lobster" and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer."

But here we are! "Vice" is too divisive, "Roma" is seen as more of a directing achievement than a writing one, "Green Book" could've been the leader if co-writer Nick Vallelonga didn't turn out to have a case of the racism and Paul Schrader's had his share of rough quotes as well, so cross "First Reformed" off the list. Which leaves us with a movie proudly featuring racing ducks as the winner. 

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will win: "BlacKkKlansman"

Should win: "If Beale Street Could Talk"

There's a general consensus that, almost 30 years after almost completely ignoring his iconic "Do The Right Thing," Spike Lee's going to win SOMETHING Sunday night for his enraged and entertaining detective tale. After some brief buzz right after the nominations were announced, a Best Picture win feels like a stretch, and Cuaron's directorial work on "Roma" is too gorgeous and vivid to lose. So that leaves screenplay – traditionally where the Oscars give credit to films too bold and interesting to win Best Picture.

Best Animated Film

Will win: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Should win: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

"Into the Spider-Verse" is the clear favorite going into Sunday night, with glowing reviews, an eye-searingly unique animation style and a perfect December release date that built buzz at the right time. Oh, and it was the best movie to come out in 2018. (In a perfect world, it'd be a Best Picture candidate.) But pardon me if I don't have complete trust in a category that's given Disney the win every year since 2012 and failed to nominate "The LEGO Movie." "Spider-Verse" should cruise to a win, but with a monster hit like "Incredibles 2" in play, backed by powerhouses Disney and writer-director Brad Bird, anything is possible.

Best Foreign Film

Will win: "Roma"

Should win: "Shoplifters"

Quick question: How many of these movies are also nominated for Best Picture? Oh, just "Roma"? So yeah, take "Roma."

Best Cinematography

Will win: "Roma"

Should win: "Roma"

If enough voters scoff at the idea of giving Alfonso Cuaron both director AND cinematographer for the same movie, it's possible its fellow sumptuously shot black-and-white foreign film brethren "Cold War" could steal a win here. The Polish drama certainly has its fans, and in a different, "Roma"-free year, its three nominations would be a noteworthy feat. But as it turns out, it's a "Roma"-ful year; thus its nominations will have to serve as its victories. 

Best Editing

Will win: "Vice"

Should win: "BlacKkKlansman"

Silly voters; the award's called Best Editing, not Most Editing! In a just world, "BlacKkKlansman" would win on the basis of its powerful cross-cutting between a Klan's rowdy "Birth of a Nation" screening and Harry Belafonte's pained retelling of a lynching – but we don't live in a just world, so cobbled together deleted scenes of a Dick Cheney impersonator wins. Maybe we should've left this award off air after all.

Best Production Design

Will win: "The Favourite"

Should win: "Black Panther"

As impressive as "Black Panther" is, with its incredibly detailed Afrofuturism design and thoughtful references to actual African cultures, for many voters, it's just another Marvel movie. Plus, you should never underestimate the Academy's infatuation for flowery period garb and decor. The only thing they love more is backtracking on ill-advised cuts from the awards show. 

Best Costume Design

Will win: "The Favourite"

Should win: "Black Panther"

See above. 

Best Makeup

Will win: "Vice"

Should win: "Border"

Considering the troll makeup in "Border" impressed enough to take this very small, weird and mostly unknown Swedish fantasy drama this far, there's a chance it could surprise. But let's not play with my heart: "Vice" will win another Oscar here. I suppose if it's going to win anywhere, here's probably the most deserved thanks to its admittedly impressive physical transformation – though does Bale deserve the credit or the makeup team? Feels like it should be one or the other. I'll ponder that while I walk into Lake Michigan. 

Best Score

Will win: "If Beale Street Could Talk"

Should win: "If Beale Street Could Talk"

Hope you haven't forgotten our drinking game! Yes, this lineup is pretty underwhelming, with those who missed the cut ("Annihilation," "Mandy," "You Were Never Really Here," "First Man" and, in my craziest fantasies, "Bisbee '17") making a much more impressive nominee slate than those who did.

That doesn't mean there isn't good stuff here, however. "Isle of Dogs" and "Black Panther" both vibrantly compliment their respective cultural explorations; "BlacKkKlansman" reminds you of the power of Terence Blanchard's mournful, jazzy horns; and "Mary Poppins Returns" ... well, I suppose it had music, too. But the obvious winner will hopefully be Nicholas Britell's work for "If Beale Street Could Talk," which gorgeously aches with pain and romance. 

Best Song

Will win: "Shallow" from "A Star is Born"

Should win: "All the Stars" from "Black Panther"

What happened to "A Star is Born"? Three months ago, the musical melodrama was supposed to win all of the Oscars this year AND next year. Now, it's looking like this will be its only award Sunday night. It got great reviews and made gallons of cash – so what the hell?

Being the favorite is always tough sledding in Oscar season, and if you peak too early, voters start finding you the predictable choice – which could definitely be the case for a remake of a beloved Hollywood property with two mega-stars. And even with that stardom, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are both in fresh territory – behind the camera for the former, in front of it for the latter – and the Oscars tend to award your fifth or sixth swing, not your first. Ask Glenn Close. 

They'll at least snag this trophy, the most predictable award of the night. "Shallow" will win and Lady Gaga will sob and act bewildered behind a podium for the 47th time in the past two months. 

Best Sound Mixing

Will win: "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Should win: "Roma"

At the beginning of Oscar season, I predicted "Roma" would suffer from being mostly watched on the small screen. Ten nominations later, safe to say: Swing and a miss, Amateur Nostradamus! Still, if there's one place its home-viewing focus will truly hurt, it's here. In theaters, the audio mix in "Roma" was miraculous, immersing the audience in a world of chirping birds, roving bands and crowd noise that sounded like it was sitting in the auditorium with you. But unfortunately, most people likely saw Cuaron's film on a laptop or living room screen, with that impressive atmosphere lost in the stream.

So who wins instead? Mixing generally goes to either a musical or a war movie; we've got none of the latter, which leaves the two cinematic songbirds: "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "A Star is Born." Even though the Queen biopic stirs up divisive opinions, everyone pretty much agrees the final 20 minutes – the band's recreated Live Aid show – steals whatever show there is to take. And you can't have a great concert without a great mix. 

Best Sound Editing

Will win: "First Man"

Should win: "First Man"

If the Academy aims to cut categories again next year, the most agreeable plan (other than slicing off the short films and adding them to a separate celebration) is to create just one overall Best Sound trophy. So, for possibly the final time: Best Sound Mixing honors the best blend of audio – music, dialogue and atmospheric sounds – while Best Sound Editing goes to the best created audio and foley work. As a result, action flicks and sci-fi movies tend to get the nod here thanks to all the speaker-shattering explosions, gunfire and visceral sounds that have to be created from scratch. 

That wound seemingly hand "Black Panther" the win, but I'll give the nod to "First Man," whose unnervingly rattles and rumbles turned the silent vacuum of space and the race to get there into its own kind of intense action movie. You know what, space seems pretty scary. I'm not going to go!

Best Visual Effects

Will win: "First Man"

Should win: "First Man"

Marvel has taken over all of Hollywood ... except when it comes to the visual effects Oscar. Over the past decade, the blockbuster behemoth has wrangled eight nominations but exactly no wins. Perhaps voters find the MCU house style a bit homogenous or uninspired. Or maybe they just like rewarding the best rather than the most – a rarity at the Oscars, I know. No matter which reason it is, it leans toward "First Man" taking the win for its mesmerizing, tactile space drama. Sorry, "Avengers"; you'll just have to comfort yourself in having billions upon billions of dollars. Poor guys.

Best Documentary

Will win: "Free Solo"

Should win: "Free Solo"

Forget a wrench; voters threw the whole toolbox into the Best Documentary category when they shockingly left the presumed winner "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" off the final five. So who takes the trophy now? "RBG" would be a very Oscar pick – a feel-good, feel-political choice that's far less bold than its subject – but my bet goes to the excellent climbing doc "Free Solo," which performed well at the box office, memorably inspires every brand of heeby-jeeby and has rocked a great awards campaign. My gut says "Free Solo" wins – or it would if it wasn't still tied in knots from watching it. 

Best Documentary – Short Subject

Will win: "Period. End of Sentence."

Should win: "Period. End of Sentence."

And we arrive at the crapshoot categories. In a year of exceptionally depressing short film nominees across the board (just wait until we get to the live action shorts) I'll choose the lightest of the crowd here – and one of the two readily available on Netflix. If you're wanting to go in a different direction, however, try "A Night at the Garden," a timely short about a 1939 Nazi rally hosted by Madison Square Garden that comes from an Oscar-friendly director (two-time nominee Marshall Curry) and scored some well-timed attention thanks to Fox News refusing to air its 30-second ad. 

Best Animated Short Film

Will win: "Bao"

Should win: "Bao"

Surprisingly, Pixar shorts don't have the firm stranglehold on this award as you might assume. Still, three out of ten is solid – and as always, it's never a bad idea to go with the nominee that played in front of one of the year's most watched movies. 

Best Live Action Short Film

Will win: "Marguerite"

Should win: "Marguerite"

Feeling happy? A chipper pep in your step? Go see the nominated live action short films – they'll fix that right quick! If you're a fan of kids suffering and probably dying, have I got the collection for you! I'll pick the lone candidate that isn't about slowly killing a kid for dramatic purposes and is just merely about a repressed woman trying to pursue her true romantic desires before she dies. Not exactly light-hearted – but compared to the rest, it's practically "The Great British Bake Off."

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.