Oscar Experts: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ leads the Best Picture race … for now

Six out of the 10 Experts making Oscar predictions at Gold Derby put “BlacKkKlansman” out front to win Best Picture at this early leg of the race. See how they rank their predicted nominees according to likelihood of winning. When all of the Experts’ picks are combined, this is the collective list.

Currently, “BlacKKKlansman” has an impressive lead considering its hefty competition – including major new flicks by Oscar-winning directors Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”) and Damien Chazelle (“First Man”) – but Spike Lee’s new drama about a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s probably benefits from being first out of the gate. It’s now playing in theaters, trumpeted by upbeat film reviews (96 score at Rotten Tomatoes) while most rival ponies are still in the stable.

“Roma” (about the struggles of middle-class Mexican family in the 1970s) and “First Man” (Neil Armstrong’s suspenseful moonshot) will soon be viewed by our Experts and other industry leaders at the Toronto, Telluride and/or Venice film festivals over the next few weeks. Gold Derby executive editor Paul Sheehan and I will see them in Toronto and we’ll publish instant reports on media reactions, of course. Expect our Experts to keep their predictions updated at all times (or else they risk my mighty wrath! Ha!).

“First Man” is ranked in second place by our Experts, two of whom place it first: Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) and Ed Douglas (Weekend Warrior). Joining me backing “BlacKkKlansman” are Adnan Virk (ESPN), Chris Rosen (Radio.com) and Gold Derby’s Susan Wloszczyna, Thelma Adams and Joyce Eng.

Also garnering first-place votes is “The Favourite.” Tariq Khan endorses the 18th-century drama about court rivals for the favor of Britain’s Queen Anne that is still unseen by industry chiefs. Matt Jacobs (HuffPo) backs the newest film (due to debut in Toronto) by Barry Jenkins, who directed recent Best Picture champ “Moonlight.” It’s his adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel about a Harlem woman struggling to prove her fiance innocent of crime.

Jenkins lost the Oscar for Best Director to Damien Chazelle, who claimed it as a consolation prize when “La La Land” lost Best Picture. Now Jenkins could benefit from the feeling that he’s overdue. That sentiment can sometimes drive a Best Picture victory, as Marty Scorsese learned when “The Departed” bagged Best Picture and Director of 2006.

This year the director most widely viewed as ridiculously overdue for academy recognition is Spike Lee. That’s one of the chief reasons Gold Derby’s experts give me why they’re picking him. For now, anyway.

“’BlacKkKlansman’ is a place-holder,” several experts tell me and I confess: that’s true for me, too. It may very well remain our #1 after we soon see many competitors. Or it may not. Keep checking Gold Derby. Our Experts’ predictions are updated in live time.

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