From Richard E Grant to Regina King, here’s who most deserves to triumph
Nominees: Yalitza Aparicio – Roma; Glenn Close – The Wife; Olivia Colman – The Favourite; Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born; Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Not backing Olivia Colman is now practically a treasonable offence, but Glenn Close in The Wife inches into pole position. It’s one of her best performances: subtle, simmering; a study in the sexual politics of prestige that doesn’t offer up everything at once but keeps you guessing. She plays Joan Castleman, the middle-aged wife of a conceited, Bellow-type Nobel prize-winning novelist, who must smilingly stand alongside him while he tells fawning interviewers that his wife never had any literary ambitions of her own.
Nominees: Christian Bale – Vice; Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe – At Eternity’s Gate; Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen – Green Book
I’m voting with my heart rather than my head here, but Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born gives such a huge, chest-busting performance: not chewing the scenery, but soaking it with manly tears and making it more digestible. He builds on the role played in the film’s previous versions by Kris Kristofferson, James Mason and Frederic March: the giant star on the skids who mentors and falls in love with a young singer (Lady Gaga) and has to be content with her rocketing to superstar fame while he slides into failure.
Best supporting actress
Nominees: Amy Adams – Vice; Marina de Tavira – Roma; Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk; Emma Stone – The Favourite; Rachel Weisz – The Favourite
Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk gives a quietly excellent performance in Barry Jenkins’s fine adaptation of the James Baldwin novel. She plays Sharon, the mother of Tish, the pregnant young woman whose fiance is now in prison on a trumped-up charge. It is Sharon who has to take charge and make a dramatic journey to Puerto Rico to track down a witness who could exonerate her future son-in-law. It is a delicately judged and very charismatic performance.
Best supporting actor
Nominees: Mahershala Ali – Green Book; Adam Driver – BlacKkKlansman; Sam Elliott – A Star Is Born; Richard E Grant – Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Sam Rockwell – Vice
For the sheer pleasure he gave me with his performance, it has to be Richard E Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a bizarre true story of delusion and fakery in which he plays the venal Brit boozehound who befriends a failed author (Melissa McCarthy), and joins with her in the life of crime she has chosen for herself: forging literary documents and selling them to collectors for large amounts of money. He is waspish, witty, gloomy, and not so far from the legendary Withnail.
Nominees: Alfonso Cuarón – Roma; Yorgos Lanthimos – The Favourite; Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman; Adam McKay – Vice; Paweł Pawlikowski – Cold War
Paweł Pawlikowski deserves this one: he is a director working at the highest pitch of intelligence and creativity in his Cold War. It is a visually stunning and emotionally absorbing picture about a love story set in late-40s Poland, between a pianist and folk singer whose affair reaches a crisis when they find themselves in Berlin and in a perfect position to defect to the west. Pawlikowski shapes the performances tremendously, and sites the story in an arrestingly imagined context, with thrillingly staged set pieces.
Nominees: BlacKkKlansman; Black Panther; Bohemian Rhapsody; The Favourite; Green Book; Roma; A Star Is Born; Vice
There are some great films on this list, but it has to be Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, his autobiographical movie based on an upbringing in early-70s Mexico City and the woman who looked after him, here wonderfully played by newcomer Yalitza Aparicio. The madeleine-trigger for his memories is the family’s tiled drive being cleaned over the opening credits. Cuarón’s cinematography is staggering: an ecstatic dream of the past. The streetscapes are glorious, and the climactic scenes will have you sobbing.