USA TODAY film critic Brian Truitt predicts who will take home an Oscar this year and who really deserves it.
The ongoing tussle between Oscar best-picture contenders in this wild awards season will finally be resolved Sunday night.
Whether it’s Alfonso Cuaron’s acclaimed indie darling “Roma,” the controversial “Green Book” or the musical drama “A Star Is Born,” one movie will rule them all at the 91st Academy Awards. Those films are up for the biggest prize of the evening alongside superhero blockbuster “Black Panther,” 1970s-set undercover-cop thriller “BlacKkKlansman,” costume farce “The Favourite,” political quasi-satire “Vice” and Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Roma” and “Favourite” both have a field-leading 10 nominations, followed by eight for “A Star Is Born” and “Vice” and seven for “Black Panther.”
In the best actress race, Glenn Close (“The Wife”) is a favorite to win the first Oscar in her long career as she competes against Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”), Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”) and Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”). Gaga’s co-star Bradley Cooper is up for best actor in a category that also includes Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”), Christian Bale (“Vice”), Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”) and Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”).
What you need to know: How to watch, who’s hosting, how long it lasts
Predictions: Who will win — and who should
Winners: See what took home awards
Here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of the Oscars ceremony (in EST):
9:59: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper walk up from their front-row seats, position themselves by the piano and sing their original song nominee “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” The twosome ends the tune with their heads side by side, greeted with a standing ovation from the audience.
9:57: “First Man” takes the Oscar for best visual effects, beating out “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”
9:44: Pixar’s “Bao” grabs best animated short. “To all of the nerdy girls who hide behind their sketchbooks, don’t be afraid to tell your stories to the world,” says director Domee Shi. And documentary short goes to “Period. End of Sentence.,” which is about the continuing stigma of menstruation in rural India. “I can’t believe a film about menstruation just won an Oscar!” says joyful director Rayka Zehtabchi.
9:33: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings break out the twang to sing “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings,” the original song nominee from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
9:30: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” snags best animated feature. “When we hear that somebody’s kid is watching the movie and says, ‘That looks like me’ … we feel we already won,” says producer Phil Lord.
9:24: “Green Book” star Mahershala Ali wins best supporting actor for the second time in three years. “Trying to capture Dr. Shirley’s essence pushed me to my ends, which is a reflection of the person he was and the life that he lived,” Ali says, dedicating the award to his grandmother, “who has been in my ear my whole life. … I know I would not be here without her.”
9:19: “Bohemian Rhapsody” gets its third win, for best film editing. “Freddie Mercury brought us all together in a way, just like he did his audience,” says honoree John Ottman.
9:09: Bette Midler is surrounded by flying umbrellas to sing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns.”
9:06: In the most unsurprising turn of the night, “Roma” wins for best foreign-language film. “I grew up watching foreign-language films, learning so much from them. Films like ‘Citizen Kane,’ ‘Jaws,’ ‘Rashomon,’ ‘The Godfather,’ ” says Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron. “The nominees tonight show that we are part of the same ocean.”
8:55: “Bohemian Rhapsody” is officially an Oscar-winning film, taking honors for best sound editing and best sound mixing.
8:47: Jennifer Hudson arrives on stage to perform – nay, belt with gusto – the first original song contender, the Diane Warren-penned “I’ll Fight” from the documentary “RBG.”
8:44: Alfonso Cuaron scores best cinematography for “Roma.” “Thank you very much, Mexico and my family,” he says. (Cuaron’s also up for best original screenplay, director and picture, so he might be back in a bit.)
8:39: “Black Panther” gets its second Oscar, and Hannah Beachler becomes the first African-American woman to win best production design. “I stand here stronger than I was yesterday because of (director) Ryan Coogler,” she says.
8:28: Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry come out to present best costume design, and McCarthy wears a dress peppered with plush rabbits – plus she’s puppeteering one of the stuffed bunnies. And the Oscar goes to … Ruth E. Carter for “Black Panther.” “I got it! This has been a long time coming,” she says, laughing. She previously was nominated for “Malcolm X” and thanks Spike Lee for giving her her start: “I hope this makes you proud.” She dedicates the award to her 97-year-old mother. “Mom, thank you for teaching me about people and their stories. You are the original superhero.”
8:25: “Vice” snags its first award of the evening, for makeup and hairstyling. Christian Bale gives the honorees – who turned him into a spitting image of Dick Cheney – a standing ovation.
8:17: “Free Solo” takes best documentary. “This film is for everyone who believes the impossible,” says director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi.
8:11: The first award of the night – best supporting actress – goes to Regina King for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” “To be standing here, representing one of the greatest artists of our time, (author) James Baldwin, it’s a little surreal,” King says tearfully. “I’m an example of when love is important to someone,” she adds when thanking her mom. “God is good, all the time.”
8:07: Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are out to present but also act a little as a host’s joke-filled monologue. ” ‘Roma’s’ on Netflix? What’s next, my microwave makes a movie?” quips Fey, who also threw in a USA TODAY jab. (Thanks, Tina!)
8:00: No host, no problem. Queen – with Adam Lambert as lead singer – opens the show with a rockin’ version of “We Will Rock You” and then naturally segues into “We Are the Champions.” The crowd’s into it, with many swaying their arms. Jordan Peele bobs his head while Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez sings along. “Welcome to the Oscars!” Lambert screams at the end.
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