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Awards season — that’s a thing — is in full swing. Between now and the 91st Oscars on February 24, the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and dozens of critics’ and industry prizes will be handed out. Plenty of contenders have come, gone, or been snubbed: Bradley Cooper’s old-fashioned musical weepie A Star is Born, Rami Malek’s strong performance as Freddie Mercury in the middling Bohemian Rhapsody and, yes, blockbuster Black Panther.

Feminist period drama Mary Queen of Scots and If Beale Street Could Talk from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins are likely headed for HKIFF in March, and others have sadly left our screens already, but the calendar is jammed with potential winners and bitter losers nonetheless. Here are our picks of those currently playing or tipped to come before the ceremony.


Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing

Provocative director Spike Lee’s best film in years is a pitch-black comedy-drama that’s also among the most relevant and resonant films of the year. Tracking two cops’ — one black, one Jewish — true investigation into a Colorado KKK chapter in the 1970s, BlacKkKlansman is the kind of movie that makes you laugh uncomfortably given the current state of the world, proven by the film’s epilogue; for Lee’s critics it’s nigh impossible to argue he’s being ‘typically hyperbolic’. As the odd couple at the centre of the story, John David Washington (Denzel’s son) and Oscar nominee Adam Driver gracefully put human faces on the never-ending issues of racism, anti-Semitism, police brutality, sexism and identity.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Nominations: Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

The best way to describe Marielle Heller’s biopic about infamous forger Lee Israel is as Cinema of the Misanthropic. In a 180-degree turn from her more recognisable comedy work, Melissa McCarthy plays Israel as a crank of the highest order; a burnt-out writer and alcoholic with no time for other people and a healthy obliviousness of her own crankiness. When Oscar-nominated Richard E Grant shows up as the flamboyant enabler Jack Hock (essentially Withnail from Withnail and I), the two become partners in crime, and turn in two of the most nuanced, complementary performances of 2018: hilarious, infuriating, baffling and tragic.

Cold War

Nominations: Best Director, Best Foreign-Language Film, Best Cinematography

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Iron Curtain-era anti-romance is definitely not for everyone. Cold War chronicles the fractious relationship between Polish lovers and musicians Wiktor and Zula — can’t live with each other, can’t live without each other — unfolding from the years following the Second World War to the late 1960s. Supposedly inspired by Pawlikowski’s parents’ unhappy marriage, the film pivots on the couple’s journey to romantic failure marked by poverty, artistic frustration, defection, alcoholism and state repression among other factors. The result is a shamelessly luminous, sensual and entirely unpredictable story shaded with humanistic nuance. With South Korean entry Burning bizarrely snubbed, Cold War has only Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma to fight for foreign-language glory.

The Favourite

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress x 2, Best Costume Design, Best Cinematography, Best Original Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is an acquired taste. The aggressively stilted and stylised aesthetic of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer can be distancing, but with The Favourite Lanthimos has made the most accessible film of his career — at least by his standards. Set in the court of a neurotic Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), where Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), the power behind the throne, and ambitious social climber Abigail (Emma Stone) duke it out for favourite status, The Favourite is, hands down, the most wicked delight of the year, caustic and timely, bawdy and graceful: a one-of-a-kind artistic entertainment starring not one, but three actress nominees — and another for 12-time nominee Sandy Powell’s (twice this year) luscious costume design.

Green Book

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing

If there’s such as thing as a feel-good racism movie, it could be frontrunner Green Book. Director Peter Farrelly — he of cinematic opuses Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary — Viggo Mortensen and Oscar-winner Mahershala Ali helped the film scoop the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival in September, often a harbinger of Oscar success: past winners include 12 Years a Slave and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Green Book, about a thuggish Italian-American hired to chauffeur an accomplished black musician through the American South in the 60s, is problematic for many reasons (among them the major character arc going to the white guy), but there’s no denying Ali and Mortensen’s compellingly watchable chemistry.


Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay

Director Adam McKay made a splash when he pivoted from silly Will Ferrell comedies like Anchorman to the illuminating and eviscerating housing-related banking meltdown dark comedy The Big Short, and won an Oscar for writing. McKay heads to a similar well for Vice, his less eye-opening but equally cutting ‘biopic’ of former US Vice President Dick Cheney. The film rehashes The Big Short’s best bits — outside commentary, non-linear storytelling, fourth wall breaking — in detailing how Bush-Cheney shaped Washington DC’s current power dynamics, but Christian Bale’s buzzy Golden Globe-winning turn as Cheney is a career-best performance in a filmography filled with them, and he’s complemented by last year’s winner Sam Rockwell as Dubya, and Amy Adams’s Lady Macbeth-ish Lynne Cheney.