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Predictions are in boldface, followed by those which I personally would nominate in italics. As with previous years' lists, for several categories I have NOT provided my own nominations, since frankly I know jack about costumes, sound and so forth, though more and more I try to pay attention to sound in particular. Films that I have listed as my own personal nominations yet which are not actually eligible in those categories are marked with an asterisk.
 

BEST PICTURE
 
(This year, there will be anywhere from five to ten Best Picture nominees, so I will rank them in order of likeliness -- my guess is that there will be eight.)

1. A Star Is Born 
2. Roma
3. Green Book
4. The Favourite
5. First Man
6. Black Panther
7. Mary Poppins Returns
8. BlacKkKlansman
9. If Beale Street Could Talk
10. Widows

 
1. Roma
2. Burning
3. Shoplifters
4. Isle of Dogs
5. Lean on Pete*
6. Cold War
7. The Favourite
8. First Man
9. Hereditary
10. Girl 

ACTOR

Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
Robert Redford - The Old Man and the Gun


Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Timothee Chalamet - Beautiful Boy
Ben Foster - Leave No Trace
Joaquin Phoenix - You Were Never Really Here
Charlie Plummer - Lean on Pete*

ACTRESS

Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins Returns
Glenn Close - The Wife
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Lady Gaga - A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Emily Blunt - Mary Poppins Returns
Glenn Close - The Wife
Toni Colette - Hereditary
Elsie Fisher - Eighth Grade
Carey Mulligan - Wildlife
SUPPORTING ACTOR

Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Timothee Chalamet - Beautiful Boy
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Mamodou Athie - The Front Runner
Steve Carell - Vice
Josh Hamilton - Eighth Grade
Tim Blake Nelson - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Stanley Tucci - The Children Act

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Amy Adams - Vice
Claire Foy - First Man
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite


Nina Arianda - Stan & Ollie
Zoe Kazan - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Nicole Kidman - Boy Erased
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite

DIRECTING

Damien Chazelle - First Man
Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Barry Jenkins - If Beale Street Could Talk
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite

Ari Aster - Hereditary
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Andrew Haigh - Lean on Pete*
Hirokazu Kore-eda - Shoplifters
Chang-Dong Lee - Burning

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Favourite
First Reformed
Green Book
Sorry to Bother You
Vice


The Favourite
First Reformed
Private Life
Shoplifters
Thoroughbreds

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

BlacKkKlansman
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
First Man
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star Is Born


Burning
First Man
The Front Runner
The Land of Steady Habits
Lean on Pete*

CINEMATOGRAPHY

First Man
Mary Poppins Returns 
Never Look Away
Roma
A Star Is Born


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Burning
Cold War
Never Look Away
Roma

PRODUCTION DESIGN

The Favourite
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Roma


First Man
Isle of Dogs
Mary Poppins Returns
Roma
Suspiria

COSTUME DESIGN

Black Panther
The Favourite
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Queen of Scots
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

FILM EDITING

BlacKkKlansman
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Star Is Born
Vice

Burning
First Man
The Front Runner
Hereditary
Mission: Impossible - Fallout

SOUND EDITING

First Man
Incredibles 2
A Quiet Place
Roma
A Star Is Born

SOUND MIXING

Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma
A Star Is Born

ORIGINAL SONG
 
"Girl in the Movies" - Dumplin'
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns
"Revelation" - Boy Erased
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born
"Trip a Little Light Fantastic" - Mary Poppins Returns


"Can You Imagine That?" - Mary Poppins Returns*
"Changes" - Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle*
"The Place Where Lost Things Go" - Mary Poppins Returns
"Revelation" - Boy Erased
"Shallow" - A Star Is Born

ORIGINAL SCORE

First Man - Justin Hurwitz
If Beale Street Could Talk - Nicholas Britell
Isle of Dogs - Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns - Marc Shaiman
A Quiet Place - Marco Beltrami


The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - Carter Burwell
If Beale Street Could Talk - Nicholas Britell
The Sisters Brothers - Alexandre Desplat
Vice - Nicholas Britell
Wildlife - David Lang


VISUAL EFFECTS

Avengers: Infinity War
First Man
Mary Poppins Returns
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

Ant-Man and the Wasp
First Man
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle*
Ready Player One

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
 
Border
Stan & Ollie
Suspiria


Border
Stan & Ollie
Suspiria

ANIMATED FEATURE

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch
Early Man
Isle of Dogs
Incredibles 2
Ralph Breaks the Internet


Early Man
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

For reasons I won't go into I choose not to make any actual predictions in this category (I never do), but these are the five I would personally nominate (four of which have, nicely enough, been shortlisted and are thus still eligible):

Burning
Cold War
Girl*
Roma
Shoplifters

And, as always, here are my nominations for a category which doesn't actually exist but damn it, it ought to:
  
TITLE DESIGN

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Creed II
Deadpool 2
The Girl in the Spider's Web
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

MY FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2018

Annihilation
Avengers: Infinity War
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Deadpool 2
Game Night
The Green Fog
Isle of Dogs
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Mary Poppins Returns
Mission: Impossible - Fallout
THE WORST MOVIES OF 2018

Blumhouse's Truth or Dare
Fifty Shades Freed
Golden Exits
Hot Summer Nights
Kings
Krystal
Life Itself
Ray Meets Helen
Slender Man
Submergence
MY FAVORITE THINGS FROM THE MOVIES OF 2018

Alexandre Desplat's main title music for Operation Finale -- though there is still fine film music being composed today, this was the rare cue that actually caught me by surprise and in a good way.

Annihilation -- for managing to combine Golden Age (1968-1977) style thoughtful science-fiction cinema with a mutant bear that bites someone's face off (at least that's how I remember it).

Cold War -- I wouldn't have guessed director Pawel Pawlikowski and cinematographer Lukasz Zal could make another black-and-white film as visually stunning as Ida, but I was happy to be proven wrong.

The Commuter -- a fun film, hardly a great one, but more importantly, its marketing department attempted to single-handedly bring back the era of the graphic design-oriented movie poster with at least six different retro-looking posters.

The Drago family subplot in the surprisingly good Creed II -- I could have watched a whole film about just them.

Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns -- I know it's a kind of sacrilege, but her performance is enough to say "Julie who?" In fact, the whole movie is pretty praiseworthy. I'm not a huge fan of the 1964 original -- though I love the painterly look of its visual effects -- but the new one is remarkably good, and had me crying from practically the opening credits on.

The eye candy of Aquaman -- I'm not referring to Jason Momoa or Amber Heard, but the wonderfully colorful visuals that director James Wan and his team of designers and visual effects artists fill the screen with for nearly two and a half hours.

The first-act ending of Hereditary -- not exactly a fun sequence, to say the least, but the tragic event and especially the witness's reaction to that event stayed with me in a way that horror movie scenes almost ever do.

The Front Runner -- distressingly underrated, it comes far closer to evoking that All the President's Men feeling than either Spotlight or The Post did. And any film that's got both Alfred Molina and J.K. Simmons can't go far wrong (just think of it as Spider-Man 2.5).

Game Night -- the rare contemporary Hollywood comedy that is actually very funny, helped by a strong cast with particularly delightful contributions from Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons.

Glenn Close in The Wife -- she's unlikely to win for yet another Oscar-worthy performance, but it's great to see her still working at her full abilities 36 years after her memorable debut in Garp.

Halloween -- I can't say I was particularly looking forward to yet another iteration of the four-decades-long Michael Myers saga, even one that jettisoned all those forgettable sequels, but this was one of the surprise pleasures of the fall season.

Irrfan Khan in Puzzle -- always a joy to watch, and it's a just a pity his character didn't survive Jurassic World so he could enliven Fallen Kingdom (a film I already like more than most people do).

Isle of Dogs -- a staggering achievement, both in filmmaking craft and in sheer imaginative storytelling.

J.A. Bayona's direction of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Joaquin Phoenix in Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, The Sisters Brothers and You Were Never Really Here -- because even with all the great actors currently working today, who else can do what he does? (Someday I will get over the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman, but as the saying goes, today is not that day.)

Josh Hamilton, the star of my all-time favorite film, Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming, as the best movie dad since Call Me By Your Name's Michael Stulhbarg, in Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade, a film that manages the miracle of being a "cringe comedy" that's also kind-hearted.

The opening segment of the Coen brothers' The Ballad of Buster Scruggs; one of the funniest things they've ever done.

The Other Side of the Wind -- not one of the great Welles films, but one can only applaud the efforts of those (including Michel Legrand) who labored to make it something like what Welles would have wanted, and the film-within-a-film sequences are an unexpected delight.

Paul Rudd in Ideal Home: he's always good (as in Ant-Man and the Wasp and The Catcher Was a Spy), but he really knocked it out of the park in this charming, barely releaed Andrew Fleming comedy.

Peter Jason -- a consummate character actor who managed to appear in two new movies this year filmed four decades apart -- The Other Side of the Wind and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (he's the politician questioning Jeff Goldblum in the framing scenes).

Robert Redford in The Old Man and the Gun. I was started seeing movies fairly regularly during his '70s heyday, but it's only been in recent years that I've truly appreciated what he brings to the screen as a star (and I'm still sorry more people didn't see him in All Is Lost).

Shirkers -- the best of the (eight) documentaries I saw this year and fittingly enough, given its storyline, the film that was hardest to catch up with. I missed its brief original L.A. engagement, it arrived in San Francisco two days after I left the Bay Area, and I tried and failed to see it on the first day of its return to L.A. because the theater didn't yet have the key to the DCP (basically, the password to the hard drive). This is a film that should be shown in every film school in the world, both as inspiration and as a cautionary tale.

Stanley Tucci in The Children Act and A Private War, as he continues his crusade to make every movie better simply with his presence (though that didn't work with last year's Transformers: The Last Knight, the only movie I can think of that he was actually bad in -- Michael Bay strikes again!).

Tea with the Dames -- not one of the all-time great documentaries, but the chance to spend 84 minutes with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright is pretty much impossible to resist. Maybe in a few years someone will make a follow-up film, treating us to a cocktail party with Pauline Collins, Frances de la Tour, Celia Imrie, Helen Mirren, Miranda Richardson, Diana Rigg, Prunella Scales, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Penelope Wilton. I can hardly wait.

That bittersweet experience when a recently deceased actor pops up unexpectedly in a new movie. Late in Sebastian Silva's fascinating Tyrel, Jason Mitchell hears a saxophone being played in a remote house on a snowy road late at night and the player is none other than House of Cards' Reg E. Cathey, whose recent passing gives his small role an unintentional emotional resonance.

The truly extraordinary makeup artistry of Oscar winner Mark Coulier (The Iron Lady, The Grand Budapest Hotel), transforming Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly (in lovely performances, matched by their screen wives Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson), into Laurel & Hardy for Stan & Ollie, and Tilda Swinton into "Lutz Ebersdorf" as Dr. Josef Klemperer in Suspiria.

Toni Collette in Hereditary, one of the finest performances in horror cinema history. "It's an objective view," as she tells us in one of the film's most jaw-dropping moments.

The two Reginas -- Regina Hall in The Hate U Give and especially Support the Girls, and Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk.

An unusually impressive batch of title sequences this year. Not only the ones I "nominated" (see above), but also many others, particularly Annihilation, Black Panther, The Death of Stalin, Halloween, The House with a Clock in its Walls, Mary Poppins Returns, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, The Outsider, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Tyrel and Vice.

Vice -- I didn't really like the movie itself, and I honestly don't think it was very good, but there were many things to recommend about it: the lead performances (especially Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld), the makeup and hair work (the transformation of LisaGay Hamilton into Condi Rice was truly uncanny), Greig Fraser's cinematography, Nicholas Britell's impressively varied score (I particularly liked the Thomas Newman-esque "power" music), and an inventive end title sequence. I felt Adam McKay's previous film, The Big Short, was overrated, but I could acknowledge that its electic approach was a valid attempt at adapting a seemingly unfilmable book. Here, those storytelling gimmicks were mostly just distracting and annoying, with two notable exceptions -- the faux Shakespeare scene between the Cheneys, and the fake ending in the middle of the film that had me laughing out loud.

And the really oustanding new television series I watched (on Blu-Ray) this year -- specifically Mosaic (written by Ed Solomon, directed by Steven Soderbergh), The Terror (developed by David Kajganich) and Westworld (developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy).

MY TEN FAVORITE SOUNDTRACK RELEASES OF 2018

As always, including CDs I haven't played yet (probably because I was too busy playing Peter Proud and Gwangi over and over again), or possibly don't even own yet but fully expect to buy in the very near future (hello, La-La Land Black Friday!).

AIRPORT '77/THE CONCORDE: AIRPORT '79 (La-La Land)
THE BRIDE WORE BLACK (Quartet)
COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT (La-La Land)
THE COWBOYS: THE DELUXE EDITION (Varese Sarabande CD Club)
HARRY POTTER: THE JOHN WILLIAMS COLLECTION (La-La Land)
LAND OF THE GIANTS (La-La Land)
THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD (Intrada Special Collection)
THRILLER VOL. 2 (Tadlow)
THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (Intrada Special Collection)
THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (Intrada Special Collection)
THE BEST SCORES OF 2018 COMMERCIALLY UNRELEASED ON CD

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP - Christophe Beck
BLACK PANTHER - Ludwig Goransson
THE CATCHER WAS A SPY - Howard Shore
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS - Nathan Barr*
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK - Nicholas Britell
THE LITTLE STRANGER - Stephen Rennicks
LOVE AFTER LOVE - David Shire
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND - Michel Legrand*
VICE - Nicholas Britell
WILDLIFE - David Lang

*It looks like La-La Land may be releasing both of these scores on CD in 2019, which if true is great news.
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Some commentator once said that a movie masterpiece is a film with three great scenes and no bad ones. Well, Roma has at least two great scenes (the birth and the beach rescue) and no bad ones but I still don't like it. It's my beef of the week. This played to me like a self-conscious tribute to Italian neo-realism right down to its incongruous title. Its phoniness is best encapsulated by the "surreal" scene in which some guy in a monster suit wanders through a wild fire and then stops to sing for no good reason. Apart from this ditty, though, there's pretty much no music in the entire film and it shows. The film drags. Sure, this is a slice-of-life film about people in flyover territory (and you can't miss that symbolism) but, let's face it, those same people would rather go to Marooned. Or Gravity. So this is a somber feel-bad film for people who feel guilty about the help. It also has more dog sh*t than any other film in history -- why this conspicuous mess wasn't attended to by the maids makes it both a false note and something of a double-bladed symbol.

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