While several Oscar races feel all wrapped up, it’s never too late for a surprise. Here are seven underdog Oscar nominees to root for this weekend!
With the 91st Academy Awards ceremony only days away, another awards season is about to come to an end. After all the precursors and predictions, this year’s Oscar winners are only days away from being announced.
At this point in the race, it may feel like some winners are all locked up, but nothing is inevitable when it comes to the Oscars; just when you least expect it, the unexpected is bound to happen.
So, whether you’re hoping for some surprise upsets or looking to spice up your Oscar ballot with a risk or two, check out our list of seven underdog Oscar nominees to root for this weekend.
Roma may be the front runner for categories like Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Foreign Language film, but it’s unclear if that same momentum will extend to its lead actress Yalitza Aparicio. That she and her co-star Marina de Tavira were both nominated in acting categories speaks to a clear love of the film throughout the Academy, but this year the momentum in the race for the Best Actress statue fell behind Glenn Close for her role in The Wife.
It’s unclear if any of the other nominees have a shot at beating Glenn for the Oscar; Olivia Colman seems be Close’s biggest competition after winning the BAFTA and Lady Gaga’s performance in A Star Is Born might still score a surprise win, but don’t discount Yalitza as the category’s underdog Oscar nominee! Her subtle and moving performance in Roma gives the film a robust and powerful emotional center that might just carry her to a surprise and historic win.
At this point in the Oscar race, it seems that Rami Malek has his win for Best Actor all but guaranteed. Almost all the major precursors went to Malek, who has reportedly been campaigning hard for his role as Freddy Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a disappointing choice considering the strength of the other performers in the category, but it’s not necessarily surprising. The Academy has a long history of showing a preference toward actors for imitating real people over playing fictional characters. Just last year, Gary Oldman won an Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill.
Nonetheless, it would be a great surprise to see Bradley Cooper win as a real underdog Oscar nominee and snag the Oscar statue out from under Malek for his performance in A Star Is Born. Not only does Cooper’s performance demonstrate far more depth and skill than Malek, but he actually sang and played guitar for his role. This is quite unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, where the actors just…lip sync.
Best Supporting Actor:
Richard E. Grant
Richard E. Grant’s performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? picked up steam late in the awards season thanks to both the actor’s infectious charisma and his impressive skill as a performer. While it seems inevitable that Mahershala Ali will collect his second Supporting Actor win in three years for Green Book (the actor previously won for Moonlight), it would be a welcomed surprised to see Grant come from behind for the win.
Grant epitomizes what makes for the perfect underdog Oscar nominee: a special performance, a unique energy, and a genuine thrill just to be nominated. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that Grant pulls off a win!
Best Supporting Actress:
Take your pick!
The race for Best Supporting Actress is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing play out this Sunday, if only because it appears to be the least tied up. Regina King was the anticipated winner for several months for her performance in If Beale Street Could Talk, but that doesn’t seem to be a guarantee any longer. Between her loss at BAFTA and missing out on a SAG nomination, there might be an upset in this category. Only one other actor ever (Marcia Gay Harden) has won the Oscar without receiving a SAG nomination.
King could still win, of course, but with Marina de Tavira’s surprise nomination for Roma, Rachel Weisz’s BAFTA win, Amy Adam’s sixth Oscar nomination, and Emma Stone’s beloved performance in The Favourite, this race is just too close to call. Take your pick and we’ll all find out soon enough who will take home the gold.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma has been lauded all awards season as a technical masterpiece and that praise has extended to the film’s black and white cinematography. Set in Mexico City in the early 1970s, the black and white aesthetic adds to the movie’s nostalgic vibe, but Roma isn’t the cinematography of the year. You’ll need to look to underdog Oscar nominee Cold War for that.
Cold War received unexpected nominations for Best Director and Best Cinematography along with its nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It’s not every day that one foreign language film gets nominated in these categories, let alone two. If the Academy wants to vote for the best black and white cinematography of the year, they should be casting their ballots for Cold War. While it seems unlikely that Cold War will be able to measure up to the massive Oscar campaign Netflix gave Roma, there’s always a chance for a surprise.
Best Film Editing:
Let’s pretend for a moment that the Academy didn’t allow themselves to be bamboozled into believing Bohemian Rhapsody demonstrates a high achievement in film editing. Not only is the editing in Bohemian Rhapsody not very good, it’s actually quite bad. Unfortunately, the crowd pleasing performance elements in the film did enough to sway people’s opinions into an inevitable win.
However, if you’re looking for a strong underdog Oscar nominee to vote for, BlacKkKlansman is the answer. Editor Barry Alexander Brown, who has collaborated with Spike Lee on several films, including Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn, and Inside Man, is nominated this year for his work on Lee’s newest film. To see Brown take the stage and win for a film with such a distinct editing style and rhythm would be the perfect upset for this category.
Best Original Song:
‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’
I cannot in good conscience tell you to root for any nominee in the Best Original Song category other than Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s “Shallow.” I say that because “Shallow” is a guaranteed win. In fact, it may be the only category that A Star Is Born wins, by the time it’s all said and done. After winning a Grammy, “Shallow” is not the strongest nominee, but it’s really the only nominee most Oscar voters know.
However, if you’re willing to hope for the impossible like me, then root for underdog Oscar nominee “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. This song, which perfectly encapsulates the film’s oddball energy, may not have the same radio playability of “Shallow,” but it represents how the music in a movie is a reflection of that film’s identity. No other original song this year captured that uniqueness as succinctly as “When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings.”