Oscars Watch: 'Green Book' and 'Widows' Are Ones to Watch This Weekend
By John Boone
Courtesy of Universal Pictures / 20th Century Fox
It's officially Oscar season. Between now and the 91st Academy Awards, on Feb. 24, 2019, ET will keep you updated on which films are most likely to land on Academy voters' ballots, breaking down each movie's Oscar odds and predicting where it will be nominated.
Green Book, in select theaters this week before opening everywhere Nov. 21, is the Oscar frontrunner that seemingly came out of nowhere, debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival and winning the People's Choice Award -- to the surprise of many awards season forecasters. (Heavyweights like A Star Is Born and First Man were also in contention, after all.)
That bodes extremely well for the 1960s-set movie, about a New Yawk bouncer who drives a world class Black pianist through the Jim Crow South. In the past 10 years, all but one People's Choice winners went on to earn a Best Picture nomination. (Among them, Three Billboards, La La Land, Room and 12 Years a Slave.) Green Book likely won't break that streak, a feel-good film that's sure to do well at the box office as the perfect pick for the whole family this Thanksgiving.
Hand-in-hand with love for the film as a whole is praise for the two leads, who deliver two very different performances: Viggo Mortensen, a two-time Academy nominee, goes big as goombah chauffer Tony Lip and, with a slightly larger role, should end up in Best Actor. (Assuming he doesn't, uhh...say the N-word again.) Mahershala Ali, with his more understated, fastidious turn as Don Shirley, will thus end up in Best Supporting Actor, the category he won last year for Moonlight.
Beyond that, things are slightly more tenuous, though a nomination in Best Original Screenplay doesn't seem far off. (The script was penned by director Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie and the real-life Lip's son, Nick Vallelonga.) Whether Farrelly -- yes, the same Peter Farrelly who gave us Dumb and Dumber -- can also score in Best Director seems unlikely, at least as of now.
This is not your average heist film. Though the Academy has warmed up to recognizing genre fare in recent years -- and Widows certainly comes with all the thrilling trappings you'd expect from a film about four women pulling off a robbery to settle their late husbands' debts -- it's got far more on its mind: Widows touches on timely issues including the politics of race, class and police violence, while also being entertaining as hell.
Oh, and it's stacked with Oscar talent: Academy Award Winner Steve McQueen (of the aforementioned 12 Years a Slave) directs, with stars Academy Award Winner Viola Davis, Academy Award Nominee Liam Neeson, Academy Award Winner Robert Duvall, Academy Award Nominee Daniel Kaluuya and Academy Award Nominee Jacki Weaver.
The Best Actress race is already stacked this year, but Davis seems to be a safe bet, imbuing yet another role with strength and vulnerability, alternatingly consoling and sparring with those around her. I am far less certain how the Best Supporting Actress race will shake out, despite Cynthia Erivo, Elizabeth Debicki and Michelle Rodriguez all delivering undeniably strong performances. There does seem like at least one slot is still up for grabs, and I'd love to see Debicki in there. In any other year, any number of the movie's supporting actors -- especially Kaluuya as a slack-eyed, scene-stealing henchman -- could earn a nod, but this year's field seems locked down.
Considering all those worthy performances, McQueen could land in Best Director, although he seems to be just outside the top five. (He was nominated for directing 12 Years, though Alfonso Cuarón ultimately took it.) If he's boxed out, we could still see him and co-writer Gillian Flynn in Best Adapted Screenplay, for their elevated, twisty-turny adaptation of the '80s miniseries. Throw in some technical recognition -- for Best Cinematography, for Best Editing -- and Widows not clinching one of the 10 nominations for Best Picture would be criminal.
Also in Theaters: The Vincent van Gogh art film/biopic, AT ETERNITY'S GATE, opens this week, toting what many forecasters predict is a Best Actor performance from Willem Dafoe (who should have won the Best Supporting Oscar last year, in my humble opinion); Rosamund Pike, previously nominated in 2015 for "Gone Girl," delivers a career-best turn in A PRIVATE WAR, which also features a potential Best Original Song nominee in “Requiem For a Private War” by Annie Lennox. As a matter of update, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY officially rocked the box office, making Rami Malek's longshot Best Actor nomination seem far more likely.