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A look at who might win at tonight’s Oscars ... and nominee Rami Malek was once in Waterford?

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Roll out the red carpet. Moviedom’s biggest names gather tonight for the Academy Awards ceremony, which airs at 8 p.m. on ABC. Here are the major categories and who I think might walk off with an Oscar statue. 

Best picture: “Black Panther,” “BlacKkKlansman,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Favourite,” “Green Book,” “Roma,” “A Star Is Born,” “Vice”

You know how Academy Award voters warm to smaller, artsier films (see “Shape of Water,” et al)? Considering that, I expect them to go with “Roma,” even though it came from Netflix — and even though I found it beautiful but snoozy, one of the weaker entries in this strong category.

Best director: Alfonso Cuaron, “Roma”; Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”; Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”; Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”; Adam McKay, “Vice”

It’s stunning to me that Spike Lee not only has not won a directing Oscar, but he’s never even been nominated as best director before this. He deserves the statue for “BlacKkKlansman,” which could have gone wrong in so many ways. But Lee, who also co-wrote, balanced the tense drama and absurdist comedy, the past and the present, creating a seamless and deeply affecting whole. I do worry, though, that Cuaron might win instead for “Roma.” 

Best actor: Christian Bale, "Vice"; Bradley Cooper, "A Star Is Born"; Rami Malek, "Bohemian Rhapsody"; Viggo Mortensen, "Green Book"; Willem Dafoe "At Eternity's Gate”

Will the feel-good role prove victorious over the feel-bad role? You betcha. Malek will best Bale here. Bale completely disappeared into the role of Dick Cheney, which is Bale’s preferred way of approaching a character. Malek likewise morphed into Freddie Mercury, but he also lifted an average film into a raging crowd-pleaser. And he did it all while dealing with an (allegedly) difficult director-who-shall-not-be-named (OK, it was Bryan Singer) who ended up being fired during the filming and replaced with Dexter Fletcher. Malek will get the gold tonight. Cue “We Are the Champions.”

(See more about Malek and his time at Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford at the end of this story.)

Best actress: Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”; Glenn Close, “The Wife”; Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”; Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”; Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Who isn’t pulling for Glenn Close? She deserves to finally get her Oscar after seven nominations. Her body of work is impossibly impressive. And let’s face it, she was the reason “The Wife” was worth seeing, creating subtle shifts and enigmatic expressions, and building to a final dramatic revelation.

Best supporting actor: Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”; Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”; Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”; Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”; Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

It’s all Ali, all the time. He has the momentum going into this, having snagged every other award out there, and deservedly so for his finely calibrated and deeply felt turn in “Green Book.” I would, though, argue that Ali is actually a co-lead actor in “Green Book” and so should have been nominated in that category, alongside his co-star Viggo Mortensen. Yeah, I’m a stickler. 

Best supporting actress: Amy Adams, “Vice”; Marina de Tavira, “Roma”; Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Emma Stone, “The Favourite”; Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”

My money is on the ever-talented King (especially since “Beale Street” got overlooked in most other categories), but Adams could be a spoiler. She’s been nominated six times and has never won. 

Original Song: "When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings" from "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," music and lyrics by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch; "All The Stars" from "Black Panther," music by Mark Spears, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and lyrics by Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe; "I'll Fight" from "RBG," music and lyrics by Diane Warren; "The Place Where Lost Things Go" from "Mary Poppins Returns," music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman; "Shallow" from "A Star Is Born," music and lyrics by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt.

I’m off the deeeeep end! Watch as I diiiiive in! I’ll never meet the groooouuund! “Shallow” needs to win this category, period. 

Documentary feature: “Free Solo,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Minding the Gap,” “Of Fathers and Sons,” “RBG”

No nom for “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”? Drats! No “Three Identical Strangers”? Sacrilege! Good year for documentaries, bad year for two of my faves. “Free Solo” is likely to nab the big prize. 

Adapted screenplay: “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen; “BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Spike Lee; “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty; “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins; “A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper and Will Fetters

This is a toss-up. (Well, except for “Scruggs”; sorry, Coens, you don’t stand a chance.) I’m going with “BlacKkKlansman.” 

Original screenplay: “The Favourite,” Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara; “First Reformed,” Paul Schrader; “Green Book,” Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie and Peter Farrelly; “Roma,” Alfonso Cuaron; “Vice,” Adam McKay

I fear “The Favourite” won’t win in the major categories, even though it was one of my favorite (um, favourite?) films of the year. I suspect it’ll rack up a costume-design award, and I think — well, at least I hope — it could walk off with original screenplay.

 

When Rami Malek was at the O'Neill ...

Rami Malek — who will likely become an Oscar winner tonight, thanks to his performance in “Bohemian Rhapsody” — was at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford back in 2002.

He acted in two shows that were part of the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference, "The Bebop Heard in Okinawa" by Mat Smart and "Fascination" by Jim Grimsley.

Not only that, but Malek, then a college student, worked as an administrative intern at the O’Neill that same summer.

Malek’s bio in the playbill included these lines: “Rami Malek is honored to work at the O’Neill for the first time. He currently attends the University of Evansville in Indiana and is excited to be graduating this coming year.”

And he no doubt would have been even more excited had he known an Oscar nomination was in his future.

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