Hobbits, fish, horses, Asians, pirates and civil wars. This year, the Academy threatens to get all political and metaphorical on our asses. The race for Oscar gold is on and, as usual, it pits the big against the small. For the last three years, pundits and members of the press have done all the work for the publicity machine at New Line. Even if the Academy doesn’t think Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the best film of the year, it’s been drilled into everyone’s mind that AMPAS would reward Mr. Jackson and his fantasy extravaganza with the release of the final film. After Anthony Minghella’s DGA snub and Return of the King’s PGA and BFCA wins, this year’s Best Picture race is New Line’s to lose. But it’s anyone’s guess which studio will score an upset. Cultures clash in Warner’s pompous The Last Samurai and DreamWorks’s morose social melodrama House of Sand and Fog but the Academy is more likely to embrace Sofia Coppola’s pastel, disaffected-whites-go-to-Japan anthem Lost in Translation and Jim Sheridan’s more honest and less heavy-handed In America. Miramax will buy a vote for Cold Mountain but will Sony be able to do the same thing in light of their fishy Big Fish box office stunt? Not in a year with two gangbuster sea-faring films (Master and Commander and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), a Clint Eastwood drama with a dozen great performances, and a metaphorical horse film (Seabiscuit) so popular it had audiences hankering for the days before Orange Alert.
PICTURE: The brief screener ban period led many to speculate that Oscar nominations would reveal an almost unmistakable bias toward mainstream studio hits. As if the Academy Awards ever played it any other way. So, screener ban or not, the inclusion of Return of the King was a foregone conclusion as early as 2001. Seabiscuit has played right into the hands of Oscar prognosticators with a fondness for horse-racing metaphors (lush, vomity Kentucky Derby perverts, all of them!), and though every columnist managed to turn a blind eye to the non-stop barrage of trade ads in support of the film, the unabated string of guild nominations has made this year’s epochal “tradition of quality” pander-fest into something of a frontrunner. Y’know, like Funny Cide? Actually, the way things have been going, don’t be surprised if Seabiscuit’s nomination tally rivals or even surpasses Return of the King’s (though everyone’s ready to give it the Best Picture trophy, some of the techies are no doubt weary of awarding the series a second and third time in the same categories). It now seems like forever ago, thanks to a less-than-stellar critics award performance, but initially Mystic River worked the critics into a tizzy not seen since the likes of L.A. Confidential. In a weak year, Oscar is usually willing to listen to the critics, so Mystic River is in. The other two slots are up for grabs, but only four films seem to have a legitimate shot: Cold Mountain, Master and Commander, Lost in Translation and In America. Miramax has put all of its chips on Cold Mountain, and who are we to ignore the hypnotic spell Harvey’s jowls seem to have the Academy under. In America was going like gangbusters a few months ago, but when the screener ban put a damper on Fox Searchlight’s Oscar campaign, the studio’s smart publicity machine kicked things into high gear by offering free screenings and promotional items to potential voters. Though Jim Sheridan’s deeply personal film has scored a number of critics’ mentions for its screenplay, it hasn’t exactly lit up the box office and doesn’t look like it’s going to appeal to the techie branches of the Academy. Master and Commander has the more impressive guild showings, but some say that the film’s actors play second fiddle to the sea-faring spectacle. Also, it might be one epic too much to ask the sizable actors’ wing to sit through. Call us crazy, but even high-profile detractors like John Hurt and William Goldman don’t deter us from suspecting that Lost in Translation will be the compromise. Besides that, grumblings about the film’s damn-near transitory plot and latent racism will give the controversy hounds something to talk about. Sounds like Gangs of New York all over again.
ACTOR: Since 1995, only Edward Norton, Nigel Hawthorne and Ed Harris have received Academy Award nominations without receiving either SAG or Golden Globe nods. On average, four SAG nominees go on to score Oscar nominations, which means that even though Paddy Considine (In America) isn’t out of the running yet, he’s fighting an uphill battle. But in the interest of getting the locks out of the way, one expects that Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog) and Sean Penn (Mystic River) are feeling pretty secure about their positions (that is, if the latter gives a shit about the Oscar race, and his appearance at a recent award show indicates he might be letting the whiff of frontrunner status lead him by the nose). With countless critics’ awards and citations for his performance in Lost in Translation, Bill Murray should be a sure bet, but he’s been in this position before. Famously unpopular in Hollywood’s backscratching circles, the actor failed to get a nomination in 1998 for his performance in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Still, this is probably the least crowded category of the lot, and Lost in Translation is primed for multiple nods. As for the other two SAG nominees, political correctness is on Peter Dinklage’s side, but even though The Station Agent has more respect than Pirates of the Caribbean, the pirate film has more money and Depp has a Golden Globe to go with his SAG nod. The Last Samurai’s Tom Cruise and Master and Commander’s Russell Crowe (who has yet to get an Oscar nomination without SAG’s permission), were both outperformed by their co-stars, Ken Watanabe and Paul Bettany, respectively. While Paddy Considine’s performance is arguably more actor-friendly and far more central to his film, an Oscar category without a Miramax contender is like a night without stars, so despite the discernible buzz of indifference surrounding Cold Mountain, Jude Law and his trump card are looking mighty pretty.
Will Be Nominated: Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog), Jude Law (Cold Mountain), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), and Sean Penn (Mystic River).
ACTRESS: Something’s Gotta Give for pointing out the obvious (you know: men and women over 50 still like to have sex), and though not everyone warmed up to Nancy Meyers’s mid-life comedy, Diane Keaton got her best reviews since Annie Hall. Critics darling Charlize Theron (Monster) may be the woman to beat in this category, but it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be sweating alongside her and Keaton come Oscar night. No one liked The Missing and no one saw Veronica Guerin, so Cate Blanchett may end up on the sidelines with sister vote-splitters Scarlett Johansson (Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation) and Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent and Pieces of April). Dark horse Samantha Morton is a previous Oscar nominee and though her performance as a grieving mother in In America merits recognition, academy members may not know what category to place her in. The culture war at the heart of House of Sand and Fog will make liberals in the academy feel all fuzzy wuzzy inside, but Jennifer Connelly has received virtually no precursor attention (only a BFCA nomination) and her performance has been overshadowed by both Ben Kingsley and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Uma Thurman kicks ass in Kill Bill: Volume 1 and her high-profile divorce from Ethan Hawke has everyone’s sympathy, but will older academy members be able to stomach Tarantino’s ultra-violent, divisive concoction? Evan Rachel Wood surprised pundits by scoring well-deserved Golden Globe and SAG nominations, and though some think she’s too young and Thirteen too bleak, only once in the last ten years has an actress been nominated for a Golden Globe in the drama category and a SAG award and not been nominated for an Oscar. Of course, that person was Meryl Streep, but the film was the inconsequential The River Wild. The odds are on the young actress’s side, as is Fox Searchlight’s aggressive campaigning and the film’s timely DVD release. Naomi Watts received a much-needed SAG nomination after being snubbed by the Golden Globes. Some voters may find 21 Grams too nihilistic, but others may want to reward her after snubbing her for her work in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Four out of the five female SAG nominees have gone on to score Academy Award nominations since 1995. This year, Patricia Clarkson received a SAG award for The Station Agent but she’ll likely give her spot up to Nicole Kidman. Kidman’s performance in Minghella’s harlequin romance Cold Mountain has received very little love from the film community and her fellow actors, but Miramax will make sure that she makes the final cut. Even if the academy is tired of Miramax’s aggressive campaigning, they’re certainly not tired of Ms. Kidman, who didn’t get a SAG nomination for Moulin Rouge but went on to score an Oscar nod.
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Buoyed by the Academy’s vague support of outspoken liberals, Alec Baldwin is a near lock in this category for his role as a misogynistic Casino owner in Wayne Krammer’s The Cooler (remember, this is an election year). Benicio del Toro (21 Grams) and the even more outspoken Tim Robbins (Mystic River) are also pretty close to being secure locks (tell that to Dennis Quaid, though). Tom Cruise’s typically egregious tubthumping for the benefit of himself is almost sure to backfire in the Best Actor category, but it is likely to do wonders for his Last Samurai co-star Ken Watanabe’s profile. Consider these four in the thick of it, which makes the scramble for the fifth slot particularly heated. Up until recently, Albert Finney was considered a safe bet, but when a high-profile Oscar campaign fizzles out, it takes everyone down with it (bad news for Djimon Hounsou, too). Peter Saarsgard (who can thank his lucky stars that the Globes nominated him for his Shattered Glass performance) is the overwhelming critics’ favorite in this category, and voters should be familiar with him for providing Boys Don’t Cry with some of its punch, but four high profile candidates in this category come from Best Picture sure-things and are fighting for their respective film’s only acting nomination. Return of the King’s Sean Astin was left in the cold by both the Globes and the SAG, but like Uma Thurman, an extremely vocal minority persists in keeping the faith. Seabiscuit has nominations from both the Globes and the SAG, but unfortunately they were for two different actors. Though SAG nominee Chris Cooper is hot, coming off of his win last year in this category, Globe nominee William H. Macy has gone nearly a decade being considered among the most respected character actors in Hollywood without a trophy to call his own. Upon its theatrical release last summer, Seabiscuit’s main acting hope seemed to be Jeff Bridges (a four-time Oscar nominee), but luck is on Macy’s side. Academy members may want to reward his performance in The Cooler here.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Facts: In 1995 and 1996, only two Golden Globe nominees in this category went on to score Oscar nominations. Every other year, though, it was four, with the exception of one year, went all five nominees carried over to Oscar night. For those without calculators: that’s an average of four. In 1995, 1997 and 2002, only two SAG nominees went on to get Oscar nominations. One year it was three, one year it was all five, and four years it was four. Confused yet? Forget SAG. We’re hedging our bets with the Globes. Because all three have received Golden Globe and SAG nominations, consider Holly Hunter, Renée Zellweger and Maria Bello the surest bets. Lions Gate was one of the first studios to send screeners out once the ban was lifted, and as such one has to wonder if Bello, Cooler co-star Alec Baldwin, Shattered Glass’s Peter Sarsgaard and Girl with a Pearl Earring’s cinematography would have done so well with the critics if it wasn’t for the studio’s lovely DVD box set. Pundits have underestimated Bello, but it would be unwise to ignore an actress who goes through this much abuse in a film many Academy members will find appealing gimmicky (and, yes, we’re predicting a nomination for Wayne Krammer’s screenplay). Marcia Gay Harden won an Oscar for her performance in Pollack a few years back without being nominated for a Golden Globe or SAG award. History might repeat itself again this year if the Mystic River star snags a nomination without any love from the folks at the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actor’s Guild. Not only did she deliver impressionable performances in two other films this year, Casa de los Babys and Mona Lisa Smile, the critics are behind her and some pundits consider her a frontrunner in this category. Three actresses will duke it out for the final spot: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Patricia Clarkson and Scarlett Johansson. Because House of Sand and Fog is likely to appeal to liberals in the Academy, political correctness will work to Aghdashloo’s advantage. Though the actress failed to receive Golden Globe and SAG nominations, some members may have a difficult time separating the woman’s performance with that of Kingsley’s and she looks to benefit if Clarkson and Johansson split their votes. Clarkson enters the Oscar race with one Golden Globe and two SAG nominations. She has the respect and sympathy (she was snubbed last year for Far from Heaven), and though her performance in Pieces of April is much beloved, the same can’t be said about her film. Scarlett Johansson scored two Golden Globe nominations this year and she has the success of Lost in Translation working to her advantage, but not only did she fail to get mentioned by SAG, but some pundits haven’t figured out yet which category the Academy will want to put her in.
DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson and Clint Eastwood have no worries. And for whatever reason, Peter Weir seems to be something of a pet favorite with the Academy’s director’s branch, so he’s probably in as well. Even though Seabiscuit is a nominations powder keg waiting to explode, expect a high-profile snub for the film’s director Gary Ross. Though their reputation for keeping things at least moderately classy is far from airtight (Peter Cattaneo, Roberto Benigni and that virtual fulcrum of middlebrow Ron Howard), and revisionist history has pegged Ross’s only other film Pleasantville as superior to Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, still expect the subgroup responsible for such bright spots as David Lynch and Pedro Almodóvar to block him off their shortlist. Instead, expect that same group to carry Sofia Coppola to a nod, making her the third female director nominee in the Academy’s history. Though if anyone feels the need to congratulate them for it, consider whether 364-3 sounds like parity to you. Anthony Minghella was supposed to be a sure thing for the 50% Miramax The Talented Mr. Ripley, but he got edged out by the 100% Miramax Lasse Hallestrom. No such worries this time around. Despite a snub from the DGA (yet another in Cold Mountain’s wobbly bid for Oscar gold), he can rest assured that the taste-gap between DGA and Oscar’s directors’ branch is about as wide as any in the business.
Will Be Nominated: Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Clint Eastwood (Mystic River), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Anthony Minghella (Cold Mountain), and Peter Weir (Master and Commander).
Oscar 2020: Complete Winners List
Parasite earned four awards, edging out 1917 for best picture.
Across the last month, we contemplated various pendulum swings, drew links between the Oscar voting process and the Iowa caucuses, and generally mulled over the academy’s ongoing existential crisis, only to come the conclusion that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or that’s what we thought prior to the Academy Awards ceremony. In a welcome surprise, Parasite took the top prize, becoming the first international title to do so in the history of the awards show, while Bong Joon-ho became the first director since Roman Polanski to win the directing Oscar after failing to win the DGA prize. (Parasite is also the first Palme d’Or winner since Marty way back in 1955 to claim best picture.)
In the era of the preferential ballot, one stat or another has been thrown out the window each year, but after last night, it feels like every last one was shattered to bits, and that the triumph of Bong film’s could signal a shift in the industry when it comes to not just what sorts of stories can be told. Indeed, Parasite’s victory is redolent of Moonlight’s no less historic one a few years ago, giving us hope that the very definition of an “Oscar movie” has been forever rewritten. Predicting the Oscars has become a little bit harder now.
Here’s the full list of winners.
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite (WINNER)
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker (WINNER)
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes
Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy (WINNER)
Actor in a Supporting Role
Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (WINNER)
Actress in a Supporting Role
Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Laura Dern, Marriage Story (WINNER)
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence Pugh, Little Women
Margot Robbie, Bombshell
The Irishman, Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi (WINNER)
Joker, Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Little Women, Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten
Knives Out, Rian Johnson
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach
1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won (WINNER)
International Feature Film
Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Misérables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea) (WINNER)
American Factory, Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, and Jeff Reichert
The Cave, Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod, and Sigrid Dyekjær
The Edge of Democracy, Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris, and Tiago Pavan
For Sama, Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts
Honeyland, Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska, and Atanas Georgiev
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Dean DeBlois, Bradford Lewis, and Bonnie Arnold
I Lost My Body, Jérémy Clapin and Marc du Pontavice
Klaus, Sergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh, and Marisa Román
Missing Link, Chris Butler, Arianne Sutner, and Travis Knight
Toy Story 4, Josh Cooley, Mark Nielsen, and Jonas Rivera (WINNER)
Ford v Ferrari, Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland (WINNER)
The Irishman, Thelma Schoonmaker
Jojo Rabbit, Tom Eagles
Joker, Jeff Groth
Parasite, Yang Jinmo
The Irishman, Rodrigo Prieto
Joker, Lawrence Sher
The Lighthouse, Jarin Blaschke
1917, Roger Deakins (WINNER)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Robert Richardson
The Irishman, Bob Shaw and Regina Graves
Jojo Rabbit, Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková
1917, Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh (WINNER)
Parasite, Lee Ha-jun and Cho Won-woo
The Irishman, Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
Jojo Rabbit, Mayes C. Rubeo
Joker, Mark Bridges
Little Women, Jacqueline Durran (WINNER)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Arianne Phillip
Avengers: Endgame, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken, and Dan Sudick
The Irishman, Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser, and Stephane Grabli
The Lion King, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones, and Elliot Newman
1917, Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler, and Dominic Tuohy (WINNER)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach, and Dominic Tuohy
Joker, Hildur Guðnadóttir (WINNER)
Little Women, Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story, Randy Newman
1917, Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, John Williams
Ad Astra, Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari, Paul Massey, David Giammarco, and Steven A. Morrow
Joker, Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic, and Tod Maitland
1917, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson (WINNER)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler, and Mark Ulano
Ford v Ferrari, Donald Sylvester (WINNER)
Joker, Alan Robert Murray
1917, Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Wylie Stateman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Matthew Wood and David Acord
Makeup and Hairstyling
Bombshell, Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker (WINNER)
Joker, Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
Judy, Jeremy Woodhead
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White
1917, Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis, and Rebecca Cole
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” Toy Story 4, Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” Rocketman, Elton John and Bernie Taupin
“I’m Standing with You,” Breakthrough, Diane Warren
“Into the Unknown,” Frozen 2, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“Stand Up,” Harriet, Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo
Brotherhood, Meryam Joobeur and Maria Gracia Turgeon
Nefta Footfall Club, Yves Piat and Damien Megherbi
The Neighbor’s Window, Marshall Curry (WINNER)
Saria, Bryan Buckley and Matt Lefebvre
A Sister, Delphine Girard
Documentary Short Subject
In the Absence, Yi Seung-jun and Gary Byung-seok Kam
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva
Life Overtakes Me, John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson
St. Louis Superman, Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
Walk, Run, Chacha, Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt
Daughter, Daria Kashcheeva
Hair Love, Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver (WINNER)
Kitbull, Rosana Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson
Memorable, Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre
Sister, Siqi Song
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Picture
How could the essentially non-political 1917 not arrive as sweet solace in our cultural moment?
We now have roughly a decade’s worth of data to postulate how ranked-choice ballots have altered the outcome of the top Oscar prize, and we’ve come to understand what the notion of a “most broadly liked” contender actually entails. And in the wake of wins for The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave, Spotlight, The Shape of Water, and most especially Green Book last year, we’re left with the impression that the biggest change in what defines a best picture is no change whatsoever. In fact, what appears to have happened is that it’s acted as a bulwark, preserving the AMPAS’s “tradition of quality” in the top prize during a decade in which the concept of a run-the-table Oscar juggernaut has shifted from the postcard pictorials of Out of Africa to immersive epics like Gravity and Mad Max: Fury Road, both of which won two to three times as many awards as the films they lost out to for the top prize.
We’re far from the only ones who’ve noticed that—Moonlight eternally excepted—the contours of best picture winners seem to be drifting in the opposite direction of where Academy representatives have indicated they want to go. Wesley Morris recently concluded that, despite his fondness, if not downright love, for the majority of this year’s top contenders, the slate still just doesn’t jibe with a purportedly forward-thinking, brand-spanking-new academy: “Couldn’t these nine movies just be evidence of taste? Good taste? They certainly could. They are. And yet … the assembly of these movies feels like a body’s allergic reaction to its own efforts at rehabilitation.” Melissa Villaseñor’s jovial refrain of “white male rage” two weeks ago knowingly reduced this awards cycle down to absurdly black-or-white terms, but if the YouTube comments on that SNL bit are any indication, raging white males aren’t in the mood to have a sense of humor about themselves, much less welcome serious introspection.
Neither is that demographic alone in its disgruntlement. What was yesteryear’s “brutally honest Oscar voter” has become today’s “blithely, incuriously sexist, racist, and xenophobic Oscar voter.” As the saying goes, this is what democracy looks like, and given sentiments like “I don’t think foreign films should be nominated with the regular films” and “they should have gotten an American actress to play Harriet,” it looks a lot like the second coming of Hollywood’s Golden Age gorgons of gossip, Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons.
It might be a stretch but we can imagine that, to many voters, the presumptive frontrunner, Sam Mendes’s 1917, comes off a lot less like a first-person video game mission and a lot more representative of what it feels like to navigate our landmine-strewn cultural landscape as your average politically neoliberal, artistically reactionary academy member circa 2020. Especially one forced to make snap decisions in the midst of an accelerated Oscar calendar. And even if that is, rhetorically speaking, a bridge too far, there’s no denying the backdrop of representational fatigue and socio-political retreat liberal America is living through.
How could the stiff-lipped, single-minded, technically flawless, quietly heroic, and, most importantly, essentially non-political 1917 not arrive as sweet solace in this moment? It’s the same reason why we suspect, despite ranked-choice ballots pushing Bong Joon-ho’s insanely and broadly liked Parasite in major contention for the prize, it’s actually Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit we most strongly fear pulling off an upset. After all, how many Oscar voters are still more concerned about Nazis than they are global income inequality? Or, if you’d rather, how many of their homes look more like the Parks’ than like the Kims’?
Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Jojo Rabbit
Might Win: Parasite
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Director
Given the academy’s long history and resurgent embrace of technical triumphs, we’re not holding our breath for an upset here.
Last week, when Eric brought to my attention the New York Times article that exposed the myth of Hollywood being in the tank for movies about the industry, I used the piece as a jumping-off point for why Quentin Tarantino was vulnerable in the original screenplay category. At the time, I thought I was stepping on Eric’s toes by referencing his intel, believing him to be charged with giving our readers the lowdown in this category. Turns out he was tasked with whipping up our take on the film editing contest, meaning that I had stepped on my own toes. Which is to say, almost everything I already said about why QT was likely to come up short in original screenplay applies here, and then some.
Indeed, just as math tells us that the academy’s adulation for navel-gazing portraitures of Hollywood has been exaggerated by the media, it also tells us that this award is Sam Mendes’s to lose after the 1917 director won the DGA award, the most accurate of all Oscar precursors, having predicted the winner here 64 times in 71 years. A win for the pin-prick precision of Bong Joon-ho’s direction of Parasite would be a welcome jaw-dropper, as it would throw several stats out the window and, in turn, get us a little more excited about predicting the Oscars next year. But given the academy’s long history and resurgent embrace of technical triumphs—trust us, the math checks out—we’re not holding our breath.
Will Win: Sam Mendes, 1917
Could Win: Bong Joon-ho, Parasite
Should Win: Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Film Editing
The only thing louder than the vroom-vroom of James Mangold’s dad epic is the deafening chorus of “Best. Movie. Ever.”
This past Monday, while the nation waited hour after embarrassing hour for the Iowa caucus results to start rolling in, Film Twitter puzzled over an AMPAS tweet that seemed to leak this year’s Oscar winners—before the voting window had even closed. It didn’t help matters that the slate of “predictions” tweeted by the academy seemed plausible enough to be real, right down to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite for best picture.
As it turned out, the academy’s problems weren’t so unlike the DNC app gumming up the works in, as the New York Post shadily dubbed it, “Duh Moines.” And sure enough, AMPAS fessed up to a quality-control gremlin (sorry, “issue”) that resulted in someone’s personal predictions going out on the main account. As Iowa’s snafu reaffirmed that Occam’s razor isn’t just something you need to keep out of Arthur Fleck’s hands, we’re 100% certain that the intern who posted that ballot on the academy’s account meant to post it on their personal one.
Speaking of Joker, if you would’ve asked us even just a few days ago whether we thought Ford v Ferrari was any more likely than Todd Phillips’s dank meme to take the Oscar in the category that has frequently been characterized as the strongest bellwether for a film’s overall best picture chances, we’d have probably collapsed in a fit of incontrollable giggles. And yet, with a BAFTA film editing win in Ford v Ferrari’s favor, we’re not the only ones wondering if the least-nominated best picture nominee actually has more in its tank than meets the eye.
The only thing louder than the vroom-vroom of James Mangold’s dad epic, however, is the deafening chorus of “Best. Movie. Ever.” being sung on Parasite’s behalf, and indeed, it was selected as the academy’s unofficial, accidental prediction in this category. As Ed noted yesterday, momentum is in its favor like no other film this year. Well, maybe one other, and it was mere providence that the one-shot gestalt kept Sam Mendes’s 1917 off the ballot here, or else one of the tougher calls of the night could’ve been that much tougher.
Will Win: Parasite
Could Win: Ford v Ferrari
Should Win: Parasite
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
One of the realities of the Oscar race is that you never want to peak too early.
So much has happened across the home stretch of this perversely shortened awards season that it’s almost difficult to process it all. Believe it or not, at the start of our rolling Oscar prediction coverage, just after the Golden Globes and a few days before the Producers Guild of America Awards announced its top prize, I was still confident in my belief that we were heading toward another picture/director split, with Jojo Rabbit taking the former and Quentin Tarantino the latter. But flash forward two weeks and we’re now looking at an Oscar ceremony that will be in lockstep with the final wave of guilds and awards groups, leaving frontrunners in various categories up to this point in the dust.
Case in point: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood in original screenplay. Even after a recent New York Times article used old-fashioned math to expose the myth being propagated by awards pundits—even us!—that Hollywood is in love with seeing its image reflected back at itself, we figured that the film, even if it isn’t our stealth best picture frontrunner, and even if it isn’t Tarantino’s swan song, couldn’t lose here. After all, the category is practically synonymous with QT, who only needs one more win to tie Woody Allen for most Oscars here.
And then—tell us if you’ve heard this one before—Parasite happened. Here’s a category in which Oscar voters aren’t reluctant to award genre fare, or re-imaginations of that fare. That’s Tarantino’s stock in trade…as well as Bong Joon-hoo’s. Parasite’s screenplay, co-written by Bong and Han Jin-won, found favor with the WGA last weekend, and while we weren’t ready to call this race for the film at that time—Tarantino isn’t a WGA member, and as such can’t be nominated for the guild’s awards—we’re doing so in the wake of the South Korean satire winning the BAFTA against Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. That victory proves, among other things, that one of the realities of the Oscar race is that you never want to peak too early.
Will Win: Parasite
Could Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Should Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
Oscar has a long-standing history of using the screenplay awards for token gestures, especially toward writer-directors.
As soon as the Oscar nominations were announced and the headlines were dominated by the academy’s cold shoulder toward female directors, it sure felt like the balance of this race was tipped in Greta Gerwig’s favor. After all, Oscar has a long-standing history of using the screenplay awards for token gestures, especially toward writer-directors; they’re where filmmakers like Spike Lee, Sofia Coppola, Pedro Almodóvar, Jordan Peele, Spike Jonze, and, to date, Quentin Tarantino have won their only Oscars.
Gerwig’s status as the most conspicuous best director castaway in this category might not in itself have been enough to push her through, but virtually all the press on her exceptionally good Little Women has focused specifically on how successfully she remixed the novel vis-a-vis jaunting back and forth between different periods in the chronology. Her framing device allows the novel and its modern fans to have their cake and eat it too, to be told a story overly familiar to them in a way that makes the emotional arcs feel fresh and new, to be enraptured by the period details that have always fascinated them but then also come away from it feeling fully reconciled with Jo’s “marriage” to Professor Bhaer. Within the world of pop filmmaking, if that doesn’t constitute excellence in screenwriting adaption, what indeed does?
Alas, as was confirmed at this weekend’s BAFTA and WGA awards, the token gesture this year looks to be spent not on Gerwig, but the category’s other writer-director who missed out in the latter category. We’re no fans of Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit, and we aren’t alone, as it boasts the lowest score of any best picture nominee this year on Metacritic. Still, we admit that it must touch a nerve somewhere in the average academy voter who not only finds the Holocaust so irresistible a subject that they’re willing to back a film that this year’s crop of “honest Oscar posters” memorably dubbed Lolocaust, but who also, while continuing to feel increasingly persecuted about the online catcalls over their questionable taste, would right about now love to drop kick Film Twitter out a window like Jojo does Waititi’s positively puckish Hitler.
Will Win: Jojo Rabbit
Could Win: Little Women
Should Win: Little Women
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Production Design
Oscar voters are suckers for scale, throwbacks, ostentation, and, above all, a sense of prestige.
Oscar voters are suckers for scale, throwbacks, ostentation, and, above all, a sense of prestige. No film nominated in this category checks off all those boxes, but two come close: The Irishman and Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood. While the former never caught fire the way it needed to in order to vie for even the major prizes, the latter has been cruising toward more than just a win in this category from the second people laid eyes on it out of Cannes last year. Regardless of what you think of Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, it’s difficult to imagine the scope of Quentin Tarantino’s sense of regard for a bygone Hollywood being possible without Barbara Ling’s production design and Nancy Haigh’s set decoration.
Still, this one is going to be a squeaker. First, there’s the matter of 1917’s late-in-the-game surge and whether or not the film can run the table in the technical categories, even in this particular one where war films almost never prevail. And then there’s Parasite. Near the start of our rolling Oscar coverage, I mentioned how almost every day is bringing us some article praising the perfectly lit and designed architectural purgatory that is that film’s main setting. Now there’s a black-and-white version of the film making the rounds that will certainly allow people to think anew on the dimensions of the film’s thematic and aesthetic surfaces. Because winning in most of Oscar’s tech categories isn’t about restraint, but “more is more,” Parasite’s concentrated sense of texture is more likely the spoiler to the vividly haunted past-ness that clings to every surface across Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’s plethora of settings.
Will Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Could Win: Parasite
Should Win: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects
The tea leaves are reading that it will be another win for middlebrow respectability.
Typically, it’s the short film categories that are most likely to trip up Oscar pool participants hoping to run the table, and not just among those who haven’t bothered to watch the nominees. A check on our own record reveals a number of years in which we failed to correctly guess at least one of them. It’s far more rare for the visual effects category to be one of any given year’s toughest calls. A quick glance at recent category history shows that Oscar voters clearly prefer what the industry refers to as “supporting” effects in a respectable movie for adults, like Life of Pi, Inception, and last year’s winner, First Man. Heck, voters are so counterintuitively serious-minded about this category that they eschewed the rollickingly impolite Mad Max: Fury Road—a juggernaut in the technical races back in 2015—instead opting for the not-just-comparatively minimalist Ex Machina.
Unfortunately, this year’s slate is almost ominously balanced between highbrow supporting effects, photorealistic animated animals in a kiddie epic, and template-oriented maximalism in support of action franchises. The result is the only slate where a bet on any given nominee would pay out more than double your investment, according to the latest Vegas oddsmakers. Still, the Visual Effects Society just handed the better chunk of their honors to The Lion King. It’s tempting to take stock of that, to consider The Jungle Book’s win three years ago, and to admit that the Disney remake is largely in a lane of its own here, and then take that as our cue to “hakuna matata” our way out of any further deliberation.
And yet, we’re not troubled by the VES awards’ preference for The Irishman over 1917 in their “serious movies” category. For one, the effects industry’s own affinity for character-oriented work is well-documented. Out in the wild, the uncanny valley of Scorsese’s age-reversing trickery has been as widely ridiculed as it has been embraced, especially that moment when Robert De Niro’s hitman roughs someone up in flashback, bearing a waxy youthful face but a very much seventysomething body. Given 1917’s 11th-hour surge, its Gravity-ish use of effects to blur cinematography, editing, and postproduction, and the fact that its grandest fabricated images never get in the way of the story, cue another win for middlebrow respectability.
Will Win: 1917
Could Win: The Lion King
Should Win: 1917
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
One of the great mysteries of this year’s awards season is the ultimate fate of Jojo Rabbit.
One of the great mysteries of this year’s awards season that won’t be answered until the end of next week’s Oscar telecast is whether or not Jojo Rabbit will go home empty-handed. Taika Waititi’s film seemed destined for the top prize as soon as it won last year’s audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and then, well, lots of things happened since then, but nothing quite so damaging to the film’s awards ambitions than 1917, with which it likely shares more of a fan overlap than any other film in the best picture race. We don’t believe that there are enough academy members who cast votes with the intention of “spreading the wealth” to sway races in unexpected directions, but we do believe that Jojo Rabbit remains a major player in any category where it isn’t nominated against 1917.
That’s us saying that a win for Scarlett Johansson in the supporting actress race wouldn’t surprise us. And the only reason that we’re not going to call it for her is because there are other narratives that we believe in when it comes to securing an academy member’s vote, such as a nominee’s devotion to the campaign trail. The stars have lined up perfectly across the last few months for three-time Oscar nominee Laura Dern, a celebrated veteran of the industry who, for us, sealed the deal with her gracious SAG speech, which she prefaced with a touching pit stop at the Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood table in order to give her father, Bruce Dern, a hug. Also, given that Johansson is the likeliest spoiler in the best actress race, for a performance that would be difficult to imagine without her Marriage Story co-star’s collaboration, we’re also of the belief that if enough voters consider a vote for Johansson here an act of redundancy, if not betrayal, Dern’s victory is all but guaranteed.
Will Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Could Win: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Should Win: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
The path of least resistance and most chronological distance almost always wins here.
When we shared Odie Henderson’s un-improvable joke, “Who wins the Costume Design Oscar for Joker? The Goodwill?,” we admit we hadn’t yet bothered to look up the person responsible for its downtrodden anti-chic shabbery. And seeing it was none other than Phantom Thread’s Oscar-winning Mark Bridges chastened us only long enough for us to remember that he was left off the ballot at the BAFTAs in favor of Jany Temime’s work on Judy, which, no matter what you think of the film itself, makes a lot more sense as a nominee in a category that, as Bridges well knows, often defaults to frock fervor. So while we could easily get more bent out of shape that the Costume Designers Guild this week gave its award for excellence in period film costuming to Mayes C. Rubeo for Jojo Rabbit, and while we could also ponder how this year’s slate skews not only surprisingly modern, but also far more male-centric than usual (from Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson’s baggy midcentury suits in The Irishman to Arianne Phillips’s groovy Cali duds in Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), the path of least resistance and most chronological distance almost always wins here. Jacqueline Durran’s win is both deserved and assured.
Will Win: Little Women
Could Win: Jojo Rabbit
Should Win: Little Women
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