It's been a journey — too long a journey, to be quiet honest — but Hollywood's annual celebration of movies, the Academy Awards, has finally arrived. Sunday marks the end of an arduous and contentious awards season, one that saw the Academy try and fail (repeatedly) to reshape the Oscars broadcast all while movies like Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody spawned a slew of negative headlines for how they portrayed important social issues.
But if the 91st Annual Academy Awards show an institution in the midst of transition, there are some really encouraging signs. Black Panther became the first superhero movie ever nominated for best picture, Spike Lee earned his first-ever best director nomination, and Alfonso Cuarón's Roma made history for Netflix (and tied Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the most nominations ever for a non-English film).
More history could be made if Green Book star Mahershala Ali wins best supporting actor. If it happenes, he will become the fastest black actor to win multiple Oscars and only the second black actor with more than one award, tying Denzel Washington.
So! We're in the home stretch now, and all that remains — besides tuning in to watch the actual ceremony (details on how to watch here) — is the Oscars ballot. Who will win on Sunday night? Here are eight Oscar predictions we'd take to the proverbial bank (or an office Oscars pool) — and one Hail Mary pick we hope comes true.
Rami Malek will win Best Actor
Bohemian Rhapsody star Rami Malek has stormed ahead unscathed with the kind of momentum reserved for Eddie Redmayne or Leonardo DiCaprio. Malek has earned best actor plaudits from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards and the EE British Academy Film Awards (otherwise known as the BAFTAs), making him the clear front-runner to win Best Actor on Sunday night — this despite his film's quality (it's one of the more poorly reviewed Best Picture nominees in recent memory) and the controversy around its director, Bryan Singer, who was fired before production completed and has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple men (allegations Singer denied). Poor Bradley Cooper will have to settle for the Best Actor award in our hearts.
Glenn Close will win Best Actress
Few people seem to have seen The Wife (rent it here), but no matter: Glenn Close will undoubtedly earn her first-ever Academy Award for the film on Sunday night, the culmination of a long and illustrious career. We've seen this kind of lifetime achievement award before, most famously when Al Pacino won his first Oscar for Scent of a Woman, but Close has also acquitted herself well on the awards circuit — including a powerful acceptance speech at the Golden Globes that will have a lot more staying power than The Wife itself.
Mahershala Ali will win Best Supporting Actor
Green Book has become the most contentious movie of awards season but even its detractors have found Mahershala Ali an unstoppable force. Ali has swept every major precursor award this season and will find himself with a second Oscar in three years on Sunday night — putting him in the same company as Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Marlon Brando, Jack Lemmon, Sally Field and many other legendary performers who have two Academy Awards. It's a small consolation prize for having to watch his final episode of True Detective, which airs opposite the Oscars broadcast, via DVR.
Alfonso Cuarón will win Best Director
There's a chance Spike Lee could pull an upset and win his first-ever competitive Oscar (though it's more likely Lee wins that honor in the Best Adapted Screenplay category), but all indications point to Cuarón winning his second Best Director award on Sunday. Cuarón has won previously at the Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Awards, Directors Guild Awards and BAFTAs — and would join a short list of beloved filmmakers who have multiple Best Director wins.
Roma will win Best Foreign Language Film
Speaking of Roma and Cuarón, have there ever been bigger locks than this expected victory? If Roma doesn't win Best Foreign Language Film, it would be the biggest upset in the history of the Oscars in any category.
The Favourite will win Best Original Screenplay
The Favourite tied Roma with 10 nominations, but the only award Yorgos Lanthimos' film is likely to win on Sunday is Best Original Screenplay. But that's good! The film's script is a delightfully caustic collection of put-downs and insults. The only seeming competition between The Favourite and its Oscar here is Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade... and that movie wasn't even nominated (Burnham won at the Writers Guild of America Awards this past weekend).
"Shallow" will win Best Original Song
Awards voters have disrespected A Star Is Born throughout the season, but there's no stopping "Shallow" from going off the deep end on Sunday.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will win Best Animated Feature
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse taught audiences that anyone can wear the mask. But, apologies to the other nominees, only one film can win Best Animated Feature — and it's this one, which has steamrolled through awards season with a force usually reserved for Pixar movies.
Black Panther will win Best Picture
Here's the aforementioned long shot, but hear us out. It has been the first awards season in memory where a different film won at each guild precursor ceremony: Green Book won at the Producers Guild, Roma and Cuarón won at the Directors Guild, Black Panther took Best Ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild, and Bohemian Rhapsody and The Favourite won honors from the American Cinema Editors. That means this is a wide-open race without a true favorite. Now couple that with the knowledge that the Oscars use a preferential ballot to select Best Picture. To explain, as briefly as possible: All members of the academy rank the Best Picture nominees in order of preference; the film with the fewest amount of first place votes is knocked out and those ballots are awarded to the member's runner-up movie. This goes on and on until one movie tops 51 percent of the vote. Which is another way of saying it's often better to be liked by the academy than loved or loathed; polarizing movies fare worse than a consensus choice.
So, how does this equate to a Black Panther win? It's not only the most widely seen movie among the nominees, it's also — at least anecdotally — the most enjoyed. We already know it has the support of actors, having won at the SAG Awards, but everyone seems to love Black Panther, from anonymous voters to Gwyneth Paltrow. Sure, Roma is the likely winner — a respected movie with numerous nominations, including two acting nods, of which Black Panther has none — but there's a real chance the Marvel movie makes history on Sunday night, giving Oscars season a happy ending few likely expect.