Part 2 (Updated 2/7/20)
It’s Oscar weekend, everyone.
And unlike a few weeks ago, I’m actually really excited to see what’s going to happen on Sunday night. We have a very well rounded group of nominees in just about every category, with most everyone having a strong case to take home an Academy Award.
Even though the ceremony is happening about three weeks early this year, the road to this point has been long. From the Golden Globes back in January to now, we’ve seen some unexpected twists and turns take place in regards to films nominated for Best Picture and the like. Snubs, surprises, and controversies: there's lots to talk about.
My discussion for each category will explain what I mean.
Here are your nominees and predictions for the 92nd Academy Awards.
You can tell a Best Picture category is full of great nominees because the awards leading up to the Oscars make for a number of twists and turns.
The silencing of Netflix continues this year, as neither The Irishman nor Marriage Story have picked up very much momentum down the stretch, and my personal favorite Netflix film, The Two Popes, wasn’t even nominated. While it’s probably not winning anything substantial this year, Netflix is likely looking forward to next year’s slew of films, as directors like David Fincher are set to debut films on the streaming site next year.
Films like Ford v Ferrari and Jojo Rabbit are back end surprises that add to the conversation, as they were likely the last two entries into the conversation. Both movies are really solid, but excel in very specific areas- Ford v Ferrari thrives on its excellent editing and filmmaking techniques, while Jojo Rabbit features outstanding writing. While they’re great niche films, we can’t expect either of those to compete, either.
Films like Little Women and Joker also were nominated to great fanfare, with the latter scoring a ceremony-high 11 nominations. Now, we’re positive that it’s Joaquin Phoenix’s turn to win an Oscar, and Greta Gerwig’s snub for director means she’s probably the favorite to win Best Director. If there were any kind of major upset, I wouldn’t be surprised for either of these films to be it.
My original pick for this category was Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and I was ready to burn down the Dolby Theater. That mood has since shifted in a more positive direction.
The Oscar conversation has shifted in favor of two films: Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, which is vying to defy the odds and become the first foreign-language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Sam Mendes’ one-shot war epic, 1917, the latest entry to the field. Both films have cleaned up their respective awards ceremonies, with 1917 winning Best Picture at the Golden Globes, and Parasite winning Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Now, with the Academy Awards looming, it’s crunch time. There are strong cases for both to win.
Currently, the edge goes to 1917. It is projected to win both Best Picture and Best Director, and it has the edge over Parasite when it comes to technical awards. But Parasite seems to have a little momentum behind it, as a strong push to honor the South Korean film has yielded dividends, including a huge win at the SAG Awards. And while none of the individual actors are nominated (and they aren’t nominated for 1917 either), it is important for all of them to be honored as a group. Truthfully, I think it could go either way on Sunday.
My heart, head, and gut are in different places this year. I usually have one favorite. But both 1917 and Parasite are my favorites. They were far and away the two best films this year.
And boy, do I really hope Parasite wins.
But this isn’t about me getting what I want. It’s about me just being right.
Lock it in: 1917 wins Best Picture.
Will win: 1917
Should win: Parasite
Could win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Shoulda been here: The Two Popes (Netflix)
This category is where the battle between 1917 and Parasite hits the trenches. Get it? War film? Trenches? Ha. Sam Mendes is the favorite here, as his one-shot war film was executed brilliantly. It is to be determined if Bong Joon-Ho’s dialogue and phenomenal production design can overcome the obstacle of the frontrunner film. Quentin Tarantino is the one with the third best chance to win, but the momentum has shifted so far away from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, that we’re really not paying him much mind. Also, after seeing Little Women, I understand the reasoning to put Greta Gerwig in the fold for Best Director. However, I still think the field is too crowded. I’m not the Academy, but you can make cases for all five of these nominees to be here. As for my prediction, Mendes takes home his second Oscar for directing.
Will win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Should win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Could win: Tarantino or Bong Joon-Ho
Shoulda been here: Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Joaquin Phoenix is the favorite to win this category, this much is certain. He’s won just about every award so far this season, and it’s probably he’ll win his first Academy Award for his haunting turn as Arthur Fleck in Joker. Much like Heath Ledger before him, Phoenix’s interpretation of the joker is twisted, but in a much more sad way, as his descent into madness is filtered through the lens of mental illness. Joaquin should have won an Oscar a long time ago, but this potential award for Joker is well earned and well-deserved. His biggest competition is Adam Driver for Marriage Story, but I think Joaquin’s momentum is just too great. Also, Adam Sandler wasn't terrible in Uncut Gems, but he didn't deserve a nomination for playing another version of himself.
Will win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Could win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Unexpected Surprise: Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Saoirse Ronan has her fourth Oscar nomination this year. She is only 25 years old. She is this generation’s Meryl Streep. In what is likely her last role playing a young girl, she turns in an extraordinary turn as Jo March in Little Women. A win for her would be an upset, but not surprising. Her biggest competition is front runner Renee Zellweger, who could be returning to the Oscar podium for the first time since she won an Oscar in 2004 for Cold Mountain. Her performance as Judy Garland is well-heralded, and she, like the other front runners in all the other acting categories, is riding a streak of award show wins. Other strong competitors include Charlize Theron for Bombshell, and Cynthia Erivo for Harriet. God bless Scarlett Johansson, but she’s likely not winning for Marriage Story.
Will win: Renee Zellweger, Judy
Should win: Renee Zellweger, Judy
Could win: Charlize Theron, Bombshell or Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Shoulda been here: Awkwafina, The Farewell
Best Supporting Actor
This category features legends, all of whom have been here before. All of them are Oscar winners (technically Brad Pitt has won for producing- although, we’ll get to that in a moment), and all of them are stunning performers. Al Pacino and especially Joe Pesci have marvelous returns to form in The Irishman. The fact that Martin Scorsese was able to get Pesci out of retirement, and for him to give a performance like he did is nothing short of miraculous. Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers is something we could only dream about until A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood came along. Even Anthony Hopkins brash yet pensive performance as Pope Benedict could be worthy of an Oscar. But Brad Pitt is the story here. Having won every Supporting Actor category he’s faced this season, it is likely he’ll walk away with his first Academy Award for performing- a well-deserved win for an actor with a storied career.
Will win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Should win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Could win: Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Shoulda been here: Song Kang-Ho, Parasite
Best Supporting Actress
Dern has scored wins at the Golden Globe, SAG, and BAFTA Awards to this point. I don’t anticipate this changing at all. She has the strongest case, both with her awards track record and in performance. Her closest competition probably comes in the form of Florence Pugh, whose performance as Amy March combines the heightened 19th century text with the nuances of 21st century society. Keep an eye out for Margot Robbie, if you’re looking for any kind of dark horse, but Laura Dern has this one locked up. Also, fun fact, Scarlett Johansson has two nominations for acting in two different films this year. Go ScarJo!
Will win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Should win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Could win: Florence Pugh, Little Women
Shoulda been here: Lee Jung-Eun, Parasite
Best Original Screenplay
There’s a lot to unpack in the screenplay categories. As far as Original Screenplay is concerned, I have things to say. I love 1917, but it didn’t really have a script. Films like Booksmart and The Farewell definitely deserve to be int its place. The rest of the category is full of exceptional screenwriting. We all know Quentin Tarantino will be featured in the conversation for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- I dare say he’ll be the favorite to win. In his way is both 1917, yes, but more importantly, Parasite. If this film is to score a victory in this category, we may very well see it win Best Picture later in the evening. It’s also nice to see Rian Johnson nominated for Knives Out, as the guy continues to pump out great scripts year in and year out. He turns the whodunit on its head in this brilliant mystery-comedy. One other film I don’t really consider to be a factor is Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story. It’s a good movie, but I just don’t think it’s up to snuff with its competition. Overall, I think Tarantino wins another Screenplay Oscar, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Bong Joon-Ho pulls the upset.
Will win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood- Quentin Tarantino
Should win: Parasite- Bong Joon-Ho
Could win: Parasite- Bong Joon-Ho or Marriage Story- Noah Baumbach
Shoulda been here: Booksmart- Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman, or The Farewell- Lulu Wang
Best Adapted Screenplay
Much like its counterpart, the Best Adapted Screenplay category is teeming with masterworks of screenwriting from the past year. Initially, the favorite was Joker, one of (in my opinion) one of the better origin stories of Batman’s nemesis. I imagined that, with all the momentum it had a year ago, it would also pick up a huge victory with an Adapted Screenplay win. All this changed when I saw Little Women. Having never read the book, I learned that the script splices the first and second half of Louisa May Alcott’s famous book, in fact, improving on the narrative structure. If there were any kind of middle finger to the Academy for not nominating her for Best Director, a win for Greta Gerwig in this category would be it. There are some solid nominees is Steven Zaillian’s The Irishman or in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit. In my perfect world, I would love to see The Two Popes win, but I am equally as happy to predict a win for Little Women.
Will win: Little Women- Greta Gerwig
Should win: Little Women- Greta Gerwig
Could win: The Two Popes- Anthony McCarten or The Irishman- Steven Zaillian
Best Animated Feature
Normally, I am pretty okay with the popular Disney/Pixar princess film getting snubbed for an Oscar, as they’re usually nominated every year. But I have to put my foot down for Frozen II. The animation is beautiful. The voice acting is excellent. The songs, while not as catchy, are more mature than those that came before it. And for it not to be nominated, in my opinion, is a stunning loss. So, we have to make do with the five nominated films. There favorite here is, without question, Toy Story 4. Just when you think they had you pegged in Toy Story 3, Pixar did it again with this (hopefully) final tale of Woody and Buzz’s story. In its way are the fourth How to Train Your Dragon film, which ends its franchise on a high note, and French film I Lost My Body, an existential mystery about a severed hand. There’s talk that How to Train Your Dragon could pull out an upset win in order to award the entire franchise for its four beautiful films. If you’re looking for even more of an upset, try Missing Link, the film from Annapurna (who do animation now, apparently), that won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, or try Klaus, Netflix’s beautiful textured 2D Santa-origin story. If you’re not, stick with the favorite. Stay with Toy Story 4. Pixar’s golden child wins its fourth Academy Award for the franchise.
Will win: Toy Story 4
Should win: Toy Story 4
Could win: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World or I Lost My Body
Shoulda been here: Frozen II (Disney)
Best International Feature Film
There’s no race here. I mean, there technically is a race, as both Parasite and Pain and Glory are both up for big prizes further up this list. However, we all know Parasite’s winning this award. If they don’t, I will eat my computer.
Will win: Parasite (South Korea)
Should win: Parasite (South Korea)
Could win: Pain and Glory (Spain)
Best Documentary Feature
I’m going to make an arbitrary guess about the Best Documentary Feature category since I haven’t seen a single one of these. For Sama is the one I keep hearing about, and so I’m going to go with one. I’ve also heard American Factory is pretty good. So, let’s throw that in there too!
Will win: For Sama
Should win: For Sama
Could win: American Factory
Shoulda been here: Apollo 11
Best Animated Short Film
The animated short films this year are all beautiful, both in the style of their collective compositions and in the delicacy with which they treat their subject matters. The films address Alzheimer’s, cancer, animal cruelty, the loss of a loved one, and even China’s one-child policy, and each one has the ability to move you to tears. Sony’s well-heralded Hair Love and Pixar’s Kitbull are America’s sole two entrants; with other nominations coming from the Czech Republic (Dcera) and China (Sister). The film that jumps out at me is Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre’s Mémorable, a short with animation reminiscent of a Van Gogh painting (right down to all the lines and even textures that blur the line between two and three dimensions) about a man’s mind deteriorating due to Alzheimer’s disease. The final frame will awe you- although with a bittersweet aftertaste to keep you thinking about it long after it is over.
Will win: Mémorable
Should win: Mémorable
Could win: Kitbull
Best Live Action Short Film
From Northern Africa to a Guatemalan orphanage, to the cityscape of New York to a dark Belgian road, this year’s nominees for Live Action short film all deal with one dire situation after another- each one with its own clever twist to provide fresh takes on conventional storytelling. In The Neighbors’ Window, what starts as a humorous tale of two aging parents spying on their sexy (I mean, flexible) neighbors turns into a truly sad story about life and what might have been; Brotherhood’s intense family drama examines ISIS and geopolitics; Saria recounts the tragedy in a Guatemalan orphanage where 41 teenage girls were tragically killed, and A Sister cleverly uses a simple phone call as a cover for something much more dire. As for my selection to win, it is Yves Pia and Damien Megherbi’s NEFTA Football Club. When one discovers a bag of drugs in the desert, the outcomes are usually not good. NEFTA Football Club delightfully turns this potentially bad situation on its head, as a lost donkey with headphones on, Adele, and multiple bags of cocaine in the hands of a 10 year old all combine together to bring us unexpected joy.
Will win: NEFTA Football Club
Should win: NEFTA Football Club
Could win: The Neighbors’ Window or Brotherhood
Best Documentary Short Subject
The Documentary Short Subjects take us around the world, from the tragic to the joyful. From a bizarre juvenile condition that only seems to occur in Sweden, to a skateboarding school set up for girls in Afghanistan, to a battle rapper pushing state legislation in the face of racism, to a couple rekindling their love on the dance floor, to the tragic deaths of more than 300 students as a ferry sinks, these nominees quite literally pack a punch into their sub-forty minute run-times. My top three in this category are St. Louis Superman, In the Absence, and Learning to Skateboard. Personally, I think In the Absence, a film about the sinking of Korean ferry Sewol, is the best of the five nominees, but St. Louis Superman, which revolves around Bruce Franks Jr, a Ferguson advocate and battle rapper who was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, is the more topical story given the political climate. I think the film falls short of the drama and tension it promises us, but I’m not the Academy. This has been a huge year for Korean film, and not just Parasite deserves the credit. However, in an election year, it’s probably an easy choice to select the much more galvanizing St. Louis Superman.
Will win: St. Louis Superman
Should win: In the Absence
Could win: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)
Best Original Score
Scores can make or break movies. As per usual with this category, all five scores brilliant add color and tone to the movies they represent. We’ve also got some veterans, from Randy Newman’s charming, sincere, almost child-like score for Marriage Story, to another John Williams nomination for Star Wars, to Alexandre Desplat’s brilliant work on Little Women, and even Thomas Newman, whose score for 1917 is riveting and provides every little bit of tension with an exclamation points throughout the run of the film. However, it is first-time nominee Hildur Guðnadóttir, who may take home an Oscar for her work on Joker. She is a collaborator of the late, great Johan Johansson, and it shows. The score for Joker is twisted, dark, and full of droning cello. While I personally would prefer the heart-beat of 1917, we can anticipate a win for Joker.
Will win: Joker- Hildur Guðnadóttir
Should win: 1917- Thomas Newman
Could win: Little Women- Alexandre Desplat
Best Original Song
Before I listened to any of these songs, I was sure that Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez could have done better than “Into the Unknown.” The composition is excellent, that much is sure, but some might find the songwriting and lyrics a tad… pedestrian, we’ll say, in comparison to other works like “Let it Go.” But then, I listened to the other nominees, and I have to tell you, that a lot of them sound the same. “Stand Up,” Cynthia Erivo and Joshua Campbell’s rousing anthem from Harriet offers some cool flavor, but it falls into the same kind of uplifting tone that “I’m Standing With You” from Christian drama Breakthrough. I also love Randy Newman, but “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” only fits well with the plot of Toy Story 4, and doesn’t do much otherwise as a song on its own, which I feel a Best Original Song must do. Elton John’s “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from Rocketman features a cameo by star Taron Edgerton, is pretty forgettable. And so, despite it not being as strong as the tune from its predecessor, Frozen will earn another music Oscar to make up for its lack of nomination in Animated Feature.
Will win: “Into the Unknown,” from Frozen II
Should win: “Into the Unknown” from Frozen II
Could win: “Stand Up,” from Harriet
Unexpected snub: “Spirit,” from The Lion King
There is no question that Roger Deakins will be winning this award. 1917 was done in one shot- that is epic enough on its own. What’s even more brilliant are the little Easter eggs Deakins hides in his shots: a dead dog here, the odd skull there, all while encapsulating the growing tension on Blake and Schofield’s mission. It’s really nice to see Jarin Blaschke here for his work on making The Lighthouse look like something out of the 1940s, but I would have preferred a nomination for Ford v Ferrari here as well.
Will win: 1917- Roger Deakins
Should win: 1917- Roger Deakins
Could win: Joker- Lawrence Sher
Shoulda been here: Ford v Ferrari- Phedon Papamichael
Best Production Design
Before I move forward with a prediction, I want to say how genuinely disappointed I am to see Joker actually not nominated here. Designing Gotham to feature a rich, elite world from the 1950s and 60s, and a poor, dingy world out of the late 1970s and early 80s is a genius move, and really tied the movie together. However, its exclusions makes it really easy for Parasite to lock up the award, which I think it will here.
Will win: Parasite
Should win: Parasite
Could win: 1917
Shoulda been here: Joker or Rocketman
Best Costume Design
My initial reaction was to give this award to Jojo Rabbit, but after seeing Little Women, there’s something to be said for Jacqueline Durran’s attention to detail. The one-time winner and seven-time nominee wins again for her brilliant costumes in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation. The only film that comes close could be Joker for re-designing the iconic look for Gotham’s most notorious super villain.
Will win: Little Women
Should win: Little Women
Could win: Joker
Shoulda been here: Rocketman or Dolemite is My Name
Best Hair and Makeup Design
It’s Bombshell’s ability to transform John Lithgow into Roger Ailes against Judy’s ability to transform Renee Zellweger into Judy Garland. I personally wouldn’t have included Maleficent: Mistress of Evil in the mix, but I didn’t see it, so who am I to judge? I think Bombshell picks up its only win in this category.
Will win: Bombshell
Should win: Bombshell
Could win: Judy
Shoulda been here: Rocketman, Jojo Rabbit or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Best Film Editing
You go see Ford v Ferrari for the racing scenes. You stay for the brilliant film editing by Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker. The Best Picture nominee gets its one win of the evening in this category.
Will win: Ford v Ferrari
Should win: Ford v Ferrari
Could win: Parasite or Joker
Best Visual Effects
Best Visual Effects could see any potential nominee claim Oscar gold. For one, there’s Avengers (which I thought would win last year for its animation of Thanos alone), which could win for not only having great effects for three hours, but also for some kind of legacy award for the filmmakers to have established and completed this leg of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This case is the same for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. 1917’s one-shot technique means that any kind of visual effects are all the more impressive. There’s a case to be made for The Lion King, as its predecessor, The Jungle Book (also directed by Jon Favreau), also won this same award. I am currently leaning toward 1917 for its technical filmmaking alone, although we could be swayed toward The Irishman, simply for its brilliant de-aging techniques for Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. I could be wrong, but if the Academy is going to award The Irishman for anything, it’s its visual effects, but I think 1917 is the more impressive piece of filmmaking.
Will win: 1917
Should win: 1917
Could win: The Lion King or The Irishman
Best Sound Editing
Usually, war movies (or, at least, films with lots of moving parts- and guns) have it made when it comes to the Sound Editing and Mixing categories. 1917, along with its brilliant cinematography, also has to ensure that the sounds all fit the one-shot epic in the correct places. If there is one film to look out for, it’s probably Ford v Ferrari. There’s nothing like the hum of a car engine going 200 miles per hour, after all.
Will win: 1917
Should win: 1917
Could win: Ford v Ferrari
Best Sound Mixing
The case is the same for Sound Mixing. While we have science fiction films like Ad Astra and a film that heavily features songs on the radio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 1917 is still the clear favorite in the category.
Will win: 1917
Should win: 1917
Could win: Ford v Ferrari
Who's your pick to win Best Picture? Leave a comment down below.
The 92nd Academy Awards will air Sunday, February 9th, on ABC.