Oscar 2018-19 – predicting the winners

It would seem that this year’s Oscars broadcast is something of a mess. As I write this, the 91st iteration of the show is still without a host, following the decision by original host Kevin Hart to drop out following the revelation that one of his stand-up routines from years ago contained homophobic content that he has since apologized for profusely, and many times over.

The decision by Hart to drop out comes just a few months after the Academy decided, after much outcry, to drop the category “Best Popular Film,” which it had considered adding to account for movies like “Black Panther,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Die Hard,” two films of which received token Oscar nominations for Best Picture and two of which did not. <SPOILER ALERT: “Black Panther,” one of the best superhero movies ever made – alongside 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” of course – will not win Best Picture.>

If the above controversy wasn’t enough, the Academy decided to shorten the show’s running time to under three hours. Best intentions perhaps, but their solutions were poorly thought out: don’t allow the Best Original Song nominees to sing, and pick four categories each year beginning this year to hand out at a separate event. This year’s sacrificial lambs: Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Live Action Short, and Best Makeup & Hair.

Heads rolled. After outcry by actors and filmmakers everywhere, it was “clarified” (read: redacted) by the Academy that those awards will be handed out during commercials but the acceptance speeches presented in full on live TV.

If four paragraphs about pre-show drama seems excessive, it is just that the Academy appears dumbfounded in terms of how to increase ratings. That being said, the most obvious solution – nominating a more diverse slate of movies – has already been achieved. Nominated films “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star is Born” were all enormously popular, with “Panther” being the year’s highest-grossing movie. Foreign films such as “Roma,” road pictures like “Green Book,” and indie movies in the vein of “The Favourite” made the cut as well, so it would seem that, host or no host, three hours or four, there may be something for everyone at this year’s Oscars. Will the ratings reflect accordingly?

Here are my thoughts on the nominees, and my predictions on the winners. Although there is almost always one surprise among the winners, you should know that I correctly predicted all eight of last year’s major category winners. I hope to do so again.

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Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far)

“Avengers: Infinity War” opens soon, and set a box office record a few weeks ago in terms of opening weekend pre-sale tickets…breaking the record set by none other than the previous Marvel film, “Black Panther.” Suffice to say, expectations are high.

If you are a MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) newbie with plans to see “Avengers: Infinity War” at theaters, count on being in over your head. By my count, there have been 18 films preceding this one, their stories ultimately interconnected, their protagonists’ fates intertwined. Even such seeming stand-alones as “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and “Ant-Man” (2015) tie in to the decade-long ramp-up of characters and events that began with 2008’s “Iron Man” and culminates in what looks to be a two-part battle for the fate of the universe.

Some Marvel films and characters – Deadpool, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four spring immediately to mind – exist in their own separate universes. But for the connected MCU mega-verse that is presided over by Nick Fury’s Avengers, audiences have gotten to enjoy an uneven, but mostly fun, cinematic ride. Here are my choices for the Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far):

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