To bring everyone who didn’t read our Oscar nomination prediction article up to speed, we’re disinterested in the concept of treating the Academy Awards as anything other than the spectacle of a glitzy Queen Bee organizing her army of schmoozing publicist Worker Bees to construct a temple dedicated to the glory of her legacy—a frenzy of almost telepathic orchestration. You hardly have to be a rock-throwing punk to know which way the honey will drizzle, and don’t let anyone who labels their vocation with either the words “awards,” “show,” or “expert” tell you otherwise. In the spirit of the occasion, we give you a ceremony of our own: Watch as we unveil one winner prediction every day until the Saturday before Oscar night. So as to avoid any irritation we may have caused last year, the most recent prediction has been dutifully checkmarked—and for those who really, really like us, we’ve splooged on our personal favorite in each category.
PICTURE: If you’ve been following these Oscar blurbs from the beginning, you’ve no doubt come to the realization that we’ve purposefully slipped a jab against Crash into each category, no matter how far we’ve had to bend over backward to do so. If you’ve made it this far without taking notice, then you’re undoubtedly a member of that exact same, incredibly desensitized, woefully oblivious demographic to whom Paul Haggis aimed his bullhorn screed, written and directed like a New Age episode of Jerry Springer. But taking one last potshot against Crash feels so pointless, even with the trade columnists and self-appointed “awards experts” all attempting to spin some semblance of a last-minute surge of Crash support in the (apparently very long-lasting) wake of its win for Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Roger Ebert’s recent huffy defenses for the integrity of Haggis’s vision only confirm that history’s vindicating judgment has been unusually swift this time around—at least in the critical community—and already people are looking back on Crash’s nomination as an outrage for the ages. So why kick the deafened and dumbstruck majority while they’re down? Especially when the objection-squawking slack has been picked up (and then some) by Brokeback Mountain’s fan base, who had already been slapping our wrists over Ed’s mixed review for some months before the Oscar nominations were even announced. Suggestions that Brokeback Mountain was just too socially important for any self-respecting gay man to be allowed any aesthetic reservations grew into shrill hysteria when we used the word “fag” to illustrate the latent prejudices we sensed in Oscar voters. That we actually endorsed Jake Gyllenhaal as our pick of the contenders apparently carried little sway, and our perceived assault on the tender sensibilities of Brokeback Mountain’s fans resulted in harassment on our forum, in our email inboxes, and even at Fashion week where our poor Alexa took a tofu cream pie to the face while attempting to get Nick Verreos’s cell number. (I’m still convinced that this counterstrike was carefully organized over at the Tennessee Williams Discussion Forum for Very, Very Sensitive Homos.) That this race boils down to Brokeback Mountain vs. Crash (in which harmless mediocrity will almost surely defeat pure evil, if only so that the Academy doesn’t have to spend the rest of our natural lives living down accusations of homophobia) testifies to the widespread nature of political navel-gazing. The category’s two arguably superior films Munich (perhaps flawed, but certainly not lacking in ambition) and Good Night, and Good Luck (a solid reiteration of a historical episode the nation is in sad need of relearning) are both sanguine alternatives to the political culture of “Me!” So of course they’ll both go home empty-handed.
Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Should Win: Munich
ACTOR: Another year, another overblown bitchfest over female actors getting a raw deal compared to their male counterparts. Truth be told, we don’t notice a significant drop-off in quality looking at the line-up of Best Actress contenders, and a hypothetical list of close-but-no-cigar contenders left off the final ballot probably includes more women (Joan Allen, Ziyi Zhang, Q’orianka Kilcher) than men (Russell Crowe and Jeff Daniels). But that’s not to say that the complaints are without some validity. Three out of the five Best Actor nominees play the central roles of Best Picture nominees, another (Joaquin Phoenix) spearheaded a film that was probably edged for Munich’s slot by a mere handful of votes. And, let’s be honest, would Terrence Howard’s pimp performance in Hustle & Flow have been given a single glance from the Academy’s Charlton Heston demographic had he not also played one of the two noblest roles in Crash? (That “Santo” Michael Peña wasn’t even mentioned as a viable Supporting Actor contender alongside Howard and Don Cheadle tells us just how much longer we can expect to wait before we get an Oscar “Year of the Hispanic.”) Does one have to be a raging feminist to suggest that Capote and Brokeback Mountain aren’t aesthetically superior to North Country and Transamerica? Or that what distinguishes your glorified Lifetime movie of the week from your serious Oscar contender is whether or not the lead character has exterior genitalia? Perhaps in deference to the newly glorified spirit of Betty Friedan, the Best Actor race is a two-man contest between the category’s sensitive, sweet-natured homosexuals. (Though one could certainly make the case for Strathairn’s crusade against the “fairy”-baiting Senator McCarthy or Howard’s lady-lovin’ pimp.) If Heath Ledger’s lovelorn cowboy frequently inspires romantic types to clutch their fists to their hearts and purr “awww,” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Faberge eggshell queen (and, especially, his “no spit-lube required” relationship with author Jack Dunphy) won’t spook the voting body’s cattle. And, oh look! Coincidentally, the goddamned movie’s named after his character.
Will Win: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Should Win: Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)
ACTRESS: We are not of the opinion that Judi Dench can score a nomination for as little as hailing a taxi cab. If that were true, she would have been nominated this year in the supporting actress category for bitch-slapping Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice. Not that that would have been a bad thing, since we’re of the opinion that Dench’s talent for causing a ruckus is fine when corralled to five-minute intervals and not stretched out across an entire film’s running time, for what is Mrs. Henderson Presents but an insufferably long titty attack? It’s obvious some Academy members like Dench’s ping-ponging shows of cattiness, but the truth of the matter is that Mrs. Henderson Presents hasn’t quite commanded the same attention as Being Julia or displayed the nuance of our own Mr. Henderson’s review of Bambi last year. We’re not even going to insult your intelligence by talking about Knightley’s star-making turn and Saint Charlize Theron’s latest flailing pantomime and instead get straight to business. In this corner we have Reese Witherspoon, America’s go-to movie star for Adult Contemporary comedies, the woman Ryan Phillippe gets to crash into every night, and, as of this week, the highest paid actress in Hollywood history. In that corner we have Felicity Huffman, survivor of the David Mamet School of Dick-Smacking Sadism and star of the biggest (and worst) show on network television. For whatever reason, there seems to be a consensus that Witherspoon is due for an Oscar. For reversing all the voice training she’s done over the years and essaying a pretty little impersonation of June Carter in James Mangold’s glorified TNT movie Walk the Line, Witherspoon has the Golden Globes and SAG on her side…just as Annette Bening did before losing the Oscar to Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry, Unless They’re Girls Pretending to Be Boys. No less of a “stunt” than Witherspoon’s performance, and don’t let haters tell you otherwise, is Huffman’s unpretentious turn as a male-to-female transsexual in Duncan Tucker’s flawed but kindhearted Transamerica. To hear naysayers lambaste Huffman’s performance you’d think her Bree character gets her dick cut off by a pack of angry ’phobes in the film, but it’s precisely because something like this doesn’t happen to her character that we appreciate the film and think Huffman will lose here. Her acceptance speeches may be sweeter and her Dove commercial may be somewhat less off-putting than the amount of money Witherspoon is going to be making for her next movie, but we must remember that a vote for Witherspoon is a way for Hollywood to extol its Midas touch, and golden girls don’t come more golden than this one-time indie darling.
Will Win: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Should Win: Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: We’ll admit that Paul Giamatti’s win for Cinderella Man at the SAG Awards threw us for a loop nearly as big as William “Broheem” Hurt’s nomination for his imitation of Don Corleone as played by, well, Paul Giamatti. But that’s only because we’ve been associating this year’s Supporting Actor category with violations upon the dignity of the human form ever since Crash’s Matt Dillon secured early frontrunner status for massaging his daddy’s urethra while the cancer-ridden old coot weeps silently on the toilet. So, call us macho if you must, but we say getting bear-hugged by Russell Crowe is at least a few steps below having your fingernails pulled out by one of Syriana’s swarthy, double-crossing secret agents on the scale of bodily danger. That’s to say nothing of that trickle of spinal fluid that started leaking from George Clooney’s nose while he was tied to the chair for that very scene—a publicity gold mine, though it couldn’t have happened to a nicer nose. Also coming up short in the contest against terrorist pedicures, for that matter, are the hangovers of low self-esteem from Sideways that are the
real reason for Giamatti’s presence here. Maybe one of Giamatti’s publicists can talk him into getting into some horrible, disfiguring car accident sometime in the next month to up the stakes, but even a scenario like that runs the risk of reminding voters of Paul Haggis’s contention that car accidents are God’s way of baptizing us into the path of racial righteousness. Obviously that would help Dillon (riding the crest of a “career tribute” wave, despite being younger and tauter than both Clooney and Hurt), whose character isn’t really redeemed at the film’s end so much as the cosmic alignment around him has shifted to reveal everyone else to be even worse, especially the black social worker to whom he reads the affirmative-action riot act early on. We are obviously optimistic (given Crash’s six nominations), but we trust that all right-thinking voters would rather have Clooney’s detached fingernails jammed up their own urethra than be subjected to a second screening of Crash. Or, at the very least, that some of the same demographic who gave Halle Berry her “bigger than me” moment might feel a tinge of discomfort about sending Dillon up to the podium unless he plans on outing a certain costar from The Outsiders, a la In & Out. Which brings us to Jake Gyllenhaal. While it’s true that Jack Twist’s body gets pierced by more than just Heath’s lodger, all such invasions (pleasant and otherwise) happen almost completely off screen. Sorry, fag. No Oscar for you.
Will Win: George Clooney (Syriana)
Should Win: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: So Maria Bello goes 0-for-2 in this category after her snubs for The Cooler two years ago and now A History of Violence this year. I guess that the Academy can only stomach women being subjected to unsolicited molestation (even if, in Bello’s case, the slow hands belong to her husband) when their skin color is no lighter than Thandie Newton’s. Which is only one of the reasons why Michelle Williams’s sexually mistreated wifey, who represents Brokeback Mountain’s best shot at an acting award now that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s BAFTA win has increased his lead on Heath Ledger, will probably end up bested by Rachel Weisz’s saint. To cover the first, I reiterate what we already stated in our nomination predictions: she’s “a woman whose righteous indignation, coupled with the indignities thrust upon her person, fans a Hollywood elite’s liberal guilt while simultaneously and safely keeping their compassion at bay.” We could cash it in right there, but why abandon the table when the dealer keeps hitting soft 17s? Weisz has both a Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award to go along with her impending Nobel and UNICEF prizes. Her character’s Demi-in-Vanity Fair picture-perfect pregnancy is the result of passionate heterosexuality, and not merely the unanticipated runoff for a woman who allows her husband to smack her, flip her and stick her up the B-side as her marital duty. And, to put it bluntly, if she were to one afternoon happen upon a love postcard addressed to Ralph Fiennes from her urbane, gay African friend, she probably wouldn’t be the type to bite her lip and continue washing the dishes. Nor, for that matter, would she let Truman Capote and his martini-sucking puss dismiss her book as “nothing special.” Everything’s coming up homo at this year’s Oscars, so you’d be a fool to bet against the woman with balls.
Will Win: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Should Win: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
ART DIRECTION: Here’s a category we thought Crash had a shot in—certainly it can’t be easy to create a vision of the world that only exists in the head of one person. The film’s art direction is nothing if not detailed, but because these nuances are largely theoretical (blank cartridges and invisibility cloaks), we imagine the Academy might have confused them for special effects. Speaking of invisibility cloaks (the real fake ones), Harry Potter is emerging as AMPAS’s Susan Lucci, earning his sixth Oscar nomination in the five years he’s been putting out for the public, but we imagine J.K. Rowling will need to write a novel about how Hermione’s ostensibly aborted fetus returns to poison everyone at the Higgedly Piggeldy School of the Arts for Harry to meet Oscar. (Seriously, folks, you can’t make this stuff up—it’s happening on All My Children right now!) Like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Pride & Prejudice enters the race without a precursor shout-out from the Art Directors Guild, and the nine-year history of the organization tells us that no film can win the Academy Award in this category without at least a nomination from this group. Oscar’s own history is equally instructive: In years where a Best Picture nominee doesn’t prevail here, the spoils almost always go to a work of cotton-candied proportions. We’re guessing Good Night, and Good Luck.’s careful but reserved period detail doesn’t stand a chance against the grandiose sights King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha have to offer. We prefer the former, but just how much of the film’s sets were constructed using actual human hands? Assuming digital-wary voters will wonder the same, they’re likely to throw their weight behind Memoirs of a Geisha. Only Rex Reed’s demographic likes the film, but let’s give a bitch credit where credit is due: Rob Marshall can’t get his Asian people straight, but at least his people know the difference between a bonzai tree and a Chinese peony.
Will Win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should Win: King Kong
ANIMATED FEATURE: Every winner in this category since its inauguration has been something of a no-brainer, and with the possible exception of Shrek’s triumph over Monsters, Inc. in 2001, the victor has also been an unequivocal class act. Though the Academy’s preference for Howl’s Moving Castle over box office juggernauts like Madagascar, Chicken Little and Robots may validate the organization’s integrity for some, is it really that much of a surprise in a year where Brokeback Mountain’s only competition in the Best Picture race is a wild and unbelievable fantasy about race relations we thought only Ralph Bakshi’s evil twin was capable of? Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride made a pretty penny, but unless voters feel the need to retroactively reward The Nightmare Before Christmas by throwing their weight behind this gorgeous but uninspired upstairs-downstairs confection, everyone knows this became Steve Box and Nick Park’s prize to lose after a fire last October burned the Aardman Animations building, immediately positioning Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit as the sentimental favorite here.
SHOULD WIN: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit
CINEMATOGRAPHY: We can name at least three dozen films from last year that do more to advance the synergy of cinematographic art and narrative storytelling than Brokeback Mountain, but to hear the fans of the film describe Rodrigo Prieto’s banal color photography, you’d think they had witnessed the second undulation of A River Runs Through It. We’d like to think the discriminating cinematographer’s branch just barely nominated the film, but if the adulation Prieto’s work is lapping up on message boards across the web from Brokeaholics is any indication, expect the Academy’s general voting body to similarly consider Ang Lee’s one or two good angles and framing devices to be Prieto’s handiwork. But dem dar hills are purty! Sure, but one need only look at The New World to behold how a true master of the form works with a director to bring the mystery and vitality of a bygone era to life. Emmanuel Lubezki stands here not only for the gift he gave Terrence Malick but also for people like Agnes Godard (L’Intrus) and Christopher Doyle (2046), whose achievements continue to go ignored by an obviously short-sighted AMPAS. Lubezki could feasibly upset, but we won’t be the only ones to tell you that no film whose only nomination was in this category has won the Oscar since 1949’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. That means the gloomy Batman Begins is out too, leaving Brokeback Mountain to fend off Good Night, and Good Luck. and Memoirs of a Geisha. First-time nominee Robert Elswit’s stunning photography for the former is largely responsible for the George Clooney film’s cancerous sense of unease, but the fact that it was shot in color and processed in black and white may be a detriment for some. We wish Memoirs of a Geisha had never been made (like Crash, a film we thought would score a nomination here given all the colors of the rainbow Paul Haggis pisses on), but we’d be lying if we said Zhang Ziyi’s fierce runway performance didn’t give us pause. This tacky production is tied for the second most nominations (does Rex Reed hold AMPAS stock?), but even we wouldn’t vote for it over Brokeback Mountain, a film Oscar voters can really get behind without losing too much face…or their Kimchi dinners.
Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Should Win: The New World
COSTUME DESIGN: I usually use the Costume Design Oscar as an excuse to freshen up my party guests’ appletinis. But it’s not because of a lack of interest in silver screen duds. Well, alright…it’s a lack of interest in silver screen duds, at least as the costume designers’ branch defines them. When a film’s costumes help serve as graceful shorthand for its characters, it’s a nice fringe benefit—Reese Witherspoon’s saucy-yet-uptight flannel skirts in Election or Gloria Stuart’s cleavage-enhancing nightslip in Titanic both spring to mind. But it seems costume designers are in the habit of praising the work that most strongly resembles their own senior thesis projects for the theater wing’s spring Shakespeare production, costumes that serve the same function on the sewing shop mannequins as they do covering the ample torsos of the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Miriam Margolyes and Joan Plowright. Which you’d think would bode well for the Dench vehicle, but (not unlike my annual family reunion up at the lake) Mrs. Henderson’s feather boas and wide-brim hats are upstaged by the flesh that remains unclothed. This is only the third year in over two decades without a Best Picture nominee in the line-up. (What, you were expecting applause for horrid, ill-fitted denim shirts and invisible bullet-proof cloaks?) The last two times they were left without a Best Pic to choose from, Oscar voters predictably went for period frippery (Topsy Turvy in 2000) and reflective fabrics (The Adventures of Priscilla in 1995). We’d like to think that the quizzical nomination for Johnny Cash’s getup portends an opportunity for voters to embrace minimalism for a change. And the Beauregarde femmes’ matching velour tracksuits had Alexa hoping, momentarily, that Johnny Depp would pull his face back to reveal Missy Elliott underneath in the most elaborate setup for an overcooked Dave Meyers blitzkrieg evah. But anyone who doesn’t think this category belongs to Memoirs of a Geisha’s freshly-pressed kimonos and Pride & Prejudice’s spring line from the House of Di-Bore is hereby cut off from appletinis in my house.
Will Win: Memoirs of a Geisha
Will Win: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
DIRECTOR: In support of our correct prediction for Clint Eastwood to win the directing Oscar last year for Million Dollar Baby, we mentioned that there was only one person in the last two decades to win both the Golden Globe award and the DGA prize and then lose the Oscar. Well, that person is up once again this year, and once again Brokeback Mountain helmer Ang Lee has a Globe and a DGA plaque in tow…not to mention something he didn’t have with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: an almost unanimous slate of critics’ awards from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and almost every other bumfuck flyover burg down the middle. So even though Lee couldn’t win in ’01 against vote-splitting double-dipper Steven Soderbergh, there’s little to suggest that he won’t take the Oscar in a cowboy chassé this time around. The fact that Brokeback Mountain is the only message movie in the category that simultaneously gets wingnut pundits’ mouths all afroth and isn’t completely one-sided about it certainly doesn’t queer the deal. The Oscars have a long and secure history of championing politically progressive and aesthetically retrograde films. So Brokeback Mountain should give them their cakewalk and the chance to eat it out, too. Expect Lee’s speech to be the least controversial public address vaguely associated with homosexuality you’ve ever heard in your life. But for any voters looking to further twist the knife in the limping (but still on the march) Bush administration, Lee’s most significant competitor is undoubtedly George Clooney, who has already proven that he has few scruples about turning his acceptance speeches into jocularly lefty end-zone dances. And, unlike Michael Moore, he doesn’t look like a sloppy belligerent embarrassment in a tux. (Score one for square jaws.) Working against Clooney is his nod over in the Supporting Actor category for Syriana, which to date has grossed twice as much as Good Night, and Good Luck. We begged and pleaded with the directors’ branch to pretend that Paul Haggis’s Crash never happened and underestimated the possibility that Capote’s Bennett Miller’s experiment in complete stylelessness would maintain traction. But, as the snubs for Cronenberg, Allen and Malick attest, not every year is a banner year for auteurism at the Oscars. On that note, Stephen Spielberg’s Munich is the most politically complex film of the lot (or, at least, the most morally relativistic) and a soberly philosophic companion piece to War of the Worlds’ impressionistic take on our fragmented, terrorized epoch, which probably damns him to last place here. Oscars crave triumph. Even if it comes from Brokeback Mountain, where the triumph is to be found in the nodding heads of the audience, secure in their knowledge that an Oscar win for the film must mean we live in more enlightened times…right?
Will Win: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Should Win: Steven Spielberg (Munich)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Twinks or bears? In this especially gay Oscar season, the academy made their preference known when they chose March of the Penguins over Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. We wish we could share your pain, except Herzog made a better documentary last year (The White Diamond) that wasn’t even considered by AMPAS’s documentary cluster. Besides, you’d have to have a heart made of Michael Atkinson to think March of the Penguins doesn’t at least deserve its slot here. Given the moolah the film’s cute little buggers have tucked away under their tailfeathers and the inspiration they’ve bestowed (to atheists and believers in the immaculate conception alike), only divine intervention will quell the Luc Jacquet documentary’s momentum. It’s a worthy enough winner, but our personal favorite is Hubert Sauper’s Darwin’s Nightmare, which doesn’t chart the consequences of Mad Haggis Disease on the Altmanesque brain but the catastrophic effects the Nile perch’s introduction into Lake Victoria had on the ecology and people of Tanzania. Support for a film of such Herculean importance is a vote for human rights, but we imagine the material is entirely too dreary for the category’s Whales of August voting bloc. Besides, any rough traders who do get to vote here will find themselves torn between Sauper’s film and the skid marks of Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro’s popular Murderball. The political subject matters of Street Fight and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room also suggest another possible vote split, leaving March of the Penguins to benefit from the spoils of these two turf wars.
Will Win: March of the Penguins
Should Win: Darwin’s Nightmare
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Eric Simonson’s A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin ends with writer Studs Terkel saying that every kid should know about Norman Corwin, who, according to interviewee Robert Altman, elevated WWII-era radio programming to an art form. Today, a 95-year-old Corwin lectures at USC, where his students stare at him as if they’d rather be at home watching Crash. We wouldn’t blame anyone if they felt the same about the short, which is informative, capably made, and rightfully reveres Corwin’s achievements but lacks emotional resonance. This one is strictly for the Garrison Keillor set. Also out, we think, is The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang-Bang Club, Dan Krauss’s account of the titular photojournalist who killed himself in 1994 shortly after winning the Pulitzer Prize for a famous shot that appeared in The New York Times of an emaciated Sudanese toddler huddled on the ground near a vulture. A mix of talking-head interviews and archival footage from Carter’s days as a member of an Apartheid-era photo club, the documentary is life-affirming but a little stiff and slow to build to the quickly glossed-over eye-opener about the psychological damage photojournalists risk in the process of shooting and bringing to us the horrors of the world. Stacy Sherman and Kimberly Acquaro’s God Sleeps in Rwanda is a more revealing work—an account of what life is like for a group of women living in post-genocide Rwanda. The stories these women tell are horrifying and their lives are scarcely “upbeat” (as EW describes)—tales of how they saw their families murdered and how they themselves were cut up and raped, subsequently left pregnant and/or infected with AIDS. It’s a loose-limbed work, but that’s forgivable given that Rwanda is now, more than ever, a work-in-progress. If there is an upside here, it’s that women in the country now wield unprecedented social and political power: As the film’s narration points out, they now account for 70% of the country’s population. The equally devastating The Mushroom Club is director Steven Okazaki’s elegy to Hiroshima 60 years after the atomic bomb. A 90-year-old woman still finds mementos of the blast all over the city and weeps guiltily as she recalls the victims she could have helped; another woman, whose fingers were fused together by the blast, reveals how she lost her best friend to the contaminated river the people around her thought was safe to wade through and drink from; and a man’s stunning anime provides the film with its chilling centerpiece, which depicts how he survived the blast because he was kneeling down to pick up a rock at the precise moment the bomb hit. These and other devastating stories combine to form an elegiac portrait of a city and country that continues to struggle with the bomb and the fear of forgetting this tragedy once its victims have passed. It’s the category’s most “complete” package in that it possesses the heart of God Sleeps in Rwanda and the visual elegance of A Note of Triumph, but Okazaki has won here before and Academy voters might sway toward the Sherman and Acquaro film if they feel it’s more topical, especially since it arrives so close on the heels of last year’s Hotel Rwanda. It’s so hard to choose between the two, we suggest your best bet is to flip a coin.
Will Win: God Sleeps in Rwanda
Should Win: The Mushroom Club
FILM EDITING: Anyone who admires Munich as an adroit thriller no doubt thinks it merits its place here, but what about those who don’t find the political game it plays to be particularly ground-breaking? No doubt the same people who thought Universal’s Oscar ambitions were squeezing Spielberg’s arm and forcing him to rush the film into theaters last December. Still, that it scored a Best Picture nomination must mean it’s not nearly as divisive as some seem to think, right? The film is a boozy contraption that walks a sexy, fine line from beginning to end, threatening to throw up all over itself a good dozen times (at least one of us thinks it actually does during that awfully queer, tribal-infused sequence where Avner fucks the hell out of his wife’s Gaza strip). But even if the Academy likes Spielberg’s mudslide, why would they choose it over the righteous indignation of Fernando Meirelles’s frozen cosmopolitan, The Constant Gardener? There seems to be a consensus for this kind of tripe that moves so swiftly it gives the illusion of urgency. Walk the Line, unlike Ray, doesn’t writhe as intensely, and Cinderella Man, in spite of the Academy’s history of honoring boxing films in this category, is the movie people who like Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby wish they’d never had to see (we think it’s at least 144 minutes too long), and though we think Meirelles’s film could seriously spoil here, this one is Crash’s to lose. Every year, SAG seems to confuse Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture with Most People in a Motion Picture. In a similar vein, it’s easy to imagine a good chunk of the Academy’s voting bloc thinking about the generations-old handknit quilt in their family when they think about the poor schmuck whose busy hands had to weave together the dirty-ass strands of Haggis’s kaleidoscopic ode to bad taste.
Will Win: Crash
Should Win: Munich
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: AMPAS’s tackiness never ceases to amaze. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, The Child, The Wayward Cloud, Sex & Philosophy and Something Like Happiness. Those are just five of the films sacrificed to make room for some of the sorriest foreign-language nominees to ever have their title and country of origin read aloud on Oscar night by some Hollywood It minority. We thought it couldn’t get worse than Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi, which we knew had Paradise Now beat as soon as the film’s titular thug put a kidnapped baby inside a paper bag and slid him under his bed, but then came Joyeux Noël, a preposterously naïve child’s-lit evocation of a real-life Western Front cease fire that had Academy tongues at the press screening we attended clucking for two hours straight—it’s like No Man’s Land as directed by Frank Capra. And words couldn’t even begin to describe the idiocy of the over-directed, over-plotted, over-everything Don’t Tell, a histrionic Italian soap that intercuts the story of a woman’s remembered child abuse with her blind lesbian friend’s seduction of an older woman recently jilted by her husband. The minor Sophie Scholl: The Final Days doesn’t go heavy on the meatball sauce, but it’s sprinkled with lots of swastikas. This is usually a selling point for Oscar voters, except none of the film’s action pans out inside a concentration camp. Given the category’s fondness for all things Jewish, we can’t imagine Paradise Lost—a film that humanizes the Palestinian suicide bomber and whose politics make Munich look like a trip to preschool—reaching voters the way Tsotsi does when he asks a woman at gunpoint to give up her breast milk. ’Tis the season for the Crash moment, and this is the crashiest one of all.
Will Win: Paradise Now
Should Win: Tsotsi
MAKEUP: If ever there was a category where subtlety routinely takes a holiday, it’s the makeup award. (I’m sure you can just imagine our bemusement over the non-presence of the delicate char-work on the face of the slave-smuggling Chinaman who spends nearly all of Crash getting seared by the undercarriage of Ludacris’s stolen SUV, or that fine trail of crack-laced saliva trickling from the mouth of Don Cheadle’s way-gone mom.) To put it in perspective, Cinderella Man’s pungent slabs of raw hamburger on Russell Crowe’s already mealy mug represent the lineup’s only option for those who gravitate toward realism over microwaved latex and yellow contact lenses. You’d think that the Academy would want to send the Star Wars franchise and its cumulative nine Oscar wins (two from no-contest “Special Achievement” awards, though just how “special” is up for grabs) off by rounding the take to a nice, round ten; this is the film’s only shot, given its surprising snub for the films’ stalwart Oscar niche of Visual Effects. But neither The Phantom Menace (which hardly deserved the honor) nor Attack of the Clones (which actually did) were responsible for any of those nine Oscars. Why start redressing now, especially given the fact that none of the previous five Wars were even nominated for their makeup work? Most of Chronicles of Narnia’s creatures look like drier, less pus-encased rejects from the bowels of Tolkien and Jackson’s Middle-earth, and most of the truly memorable imagery (such as Tumnus’s crooked goat gams) is CGI, not makeup. Still, there but for the grace of C.S. Lewis’s Jesus imagery goes Tilda Swinton as the statuesque, icy White Witch. I picture Swinton shrewdly sneaking her makeup artist a few tapes of her work in Derek Jarman films. Let’s hope she (or maybe even Jarman) gets a “special achievement” thank you in the acceptance speech.
Should Win: Star Wars: Episode III – Attack of the Clones
SCORE: The music branch must get their restaurant recommendations from Rex Reed. First-time nominees from Spain, Argentina and Italy, and still the category’s most self-consciously exotic composition comes from the man who was just last year nominated for a Harry Potter re-hash. John Williams has been nominated almost every year since the Munich Olympics, and it’s the second time he’s gobbled up two of the category’s five slots this decade. His score for Memoirs of a Geisha won the approval of the Globes’ HFPA for putting—wait, let me check the back of this CD case here—“brush on silk,” and also for distracting Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with opium smoke (also on loan from China) while rolling out a long, velvet table of authentic Japanese instruments to take center stage. Of course, Williams’s Oscar-winning Schindler’s List score was beaten for the Globe by Kitaro’s new age-tinged Heaven & Earth score, so maybe the HFPA, like Reed, just has a history of asking “Pass the soy sauce, this fried rice needs a little kick” before exclaiming “Wasabi, are you nuts?!” Williams’s score for Munich probably sounds a little too reminiscent of JFK and Schindler’s List to cut too strongly into Alberto Iglesias’s espionage voting bloc. Though The Constant Gardener’s textures are the most vibrant in this mostly humdrum line-up, Iglesias’s use of African percussion and flutes as a sampling template for his sinister drum n’ bass cues is, at best, as misguided as Haggis’s feature-length game of dirty dozens. (Aren’t the Nairobi Africans supposed to be the victimized, ennobled life force of the film?) What with all this gauze and turquoise clogging the category, it’s hard not to see Gustavo Santaolalla’s immediately-identifiable Brokeback Mountain score winning, despite having less notes at its disposal than Ennis has words…unless you count that incessant, deafening open-string noise between each acoustic guitar chord. How amusing would that be if the tastes of New York’s most widely read culinary racist were trumped by the lullaby of whiskey?
Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Should Win: The Constant Gardener
SONG: We’re still sort of trying to figure out how Bird York’s “In The Deep” can actually be eligible in this category, given how über-stringent the music branch has been in the past on the notion that music be explicitly written for the film and “In The Deep” appeared on York’s LP Velvet Hour before the film opened. (Preceding the film by either two weeks, according to Amazon, or two years, according to iTunes and AllMusic.) But, then again, we’re still trying to figure out how Crash is eligible for Best Original Screenplay, considering how liberally Paul Haggis steals from Magnolia, Short Cuts, Malibu’s Most Wanted and the collected personal diaries of Mark Fuhrman, John Rocker and Barbara Bush. Haggis’s cast doesn’t sing along during their shared moment of bonfire-lit clarity, but make no mistake: a vote for “In The Deep” is, essentially, a belated vote for Aimee Mann’s (not nominated but superior) “Wise Up.” But paring the nominations for this category down from five slots to three has actually managed to increase the competitiveness, though Dolly Parton’s presence here (representing homo-friendly, Barnes & Noble country in Willie Nelson’s stead) should remind everyone of the fact that she couldn’t even win against Michael Gore back in 1981. As for Hustle & Flow’s nominated song, whose title probably already seals its fate as this category’s bronze medalist, it’s easy to picture any voters who translate their endorsement of Crash into a sense of inflated consciousness putting the complimentary CD single into their car stereos and quickly finding their condescending airs slapped back into last week by lyrics like “It might be new to you, but it’s been like this for years.” Kanye what? Katrina who?
Will Win: Crash
Should Win: Hustle & Flow
ANIMATED SHORT: Shane Acker’s 9 is an eerie little film about garbage-dump creatures with bodies made of zippered potato sacks trying to fend off a sinister, soul-sucking mechanical animal. As EW’s “Oscar oddsmakers” point out, Tim Burton is producing a feature-length version of this short, which won a 2005 student Academy Award for Acker, but this is not the kind of information voters—at least not the ones at the Academy screening we attended—are exactly privy too. If Acker, who did animation on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, wins here, it’s simply on the merit of the CGI short’s mix of suspense and spiritual uplift; it’s the rare CGI contraption with a heart to match its mechanical mind. The same can’t be said for Anthony Lucas’s The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello, a Méliès-style odyssey set in the skies of a retro tomorrowland about an aerial navigator and a mad scientist trying to combat a mysterious plague; the short’s background detail is stunning and the Paul Haggis-like creature that touches everyone inappropriately is absolutely terrifying, but the cut-out characters are as empty as the story is chilly. Sharon Colman’s Badgered, about a cranky badger whose peace and quite is hounded by a pair of loud-mouthed crows and, later, an intrusive missile program, is incredibly funny and nicely drawn (a deft blend of regular paints and watercolors), but history tells us that these Bill Plymton-style shorts rarely make it to the Oscar podium. One Man Band is another inconsequential trifle fresh off the Pixar conveyor belt; EW was impressed (they called it “charming”), but Academy audiences are clearly getting tired of how far removed these artificial and snarky shorts are from the spirit of the Disney sister company’s feature-length treasures. 9’s major competition is The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation by John Canemaker, the chair of New York University’s animation program and Ed’s college advisor! Canemaker is a legend for some, but his work is largely unknown outside animation circles (regular moviegoers might know his work from The World According to Garp). The Moon and the Son, an exciting 28-minute hypothetical conversation between the filmmaker (voiced by John Turturro) and his diseased father (Eli Wallach, sounding strangely like the senile old man from Crank Yankers), is a crude but poetic mixture of prehistoric animation and live-action material. Some may think the short isn’t “animated” enough, but Academy audiences were deeply moved by the director’s work, which begins in a haze of anger and ends in rapturous reconciliation.
Will Win: The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
Should Win: The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation
LIVE ACTION SHORT: Sight unseen, a lot of people seem to be checking off the horrendous Our Time Is Up, the only American entry in the category. The story of a psychiatrist who tells his patients—among them an angry black man who’s afraid of the dark, a closet case, and a man who sleeps with lots of women because of his ostensibly small dick—exactly what’s on his mind after learning he has a life-threatening disease, this short by Rob Pearlstein is shot like a Folgers Crystals commercial and stars plenty of recognizable actors (Kevin Pollak, the insufferable Rick Hoffman, and everyone’s favorite tubby Latino, Lost’s Jorge Garcia), but its storyline is so predictable and risible we think it might have been ghost-written by Paul Haggis. Cashback is England hipster Sean Ellis’s fun look at modern-day alienation through the eyes of a clockwatching young man who works at a supermarket; the short is jokey and irreverent but we have a feeling its very bold displays of female nudity might be too much for some viewers. That leaves the Oscar to go to one of three works dealing with human loss. Ulrich Grote’s cloying Ausreißer (The Runaway) stinks of Oscar gold from the start: A cute little boy appears on a man’s doorstep, insinuating that he’s the older man’s son. Rejected over and over again by his daddy, who does everything wrong short of rubbing feces on the kid’s face, the little bugger disappears and the film spirals inexplicably into Don’t Look Now territory, with the boy’s red-cloaked specter leading the father to a revealing location. Grote is no David Lynch, or Nicolas Roeg for that matter, but while we’re not exactly sure what he means to convey with the story’s abrupt rhetorical shift, you can’t go wrong with a short that manages to hook audiences with a syrupy opener and then bowl them over with the illusion of complexity. The short’s difficult-to-gauge reception was no less perplexing than the response heaped on the very black comedy Six Shooter by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh (The Beauty Queen of Leenane), a fascinating but understandably troubling short about a psychotic young man who mocks the recent deaths of his mother, a man’s wife, and a couple’s newborn child aboard a train to Dublin. Some people responded to the film in the same way we did to Final Destination 3, but unlike James Wong’s callous thriller, McDonagh’s short actively and critically concerns the way people respond to and cope with death. One person’s elation is another’s horror—a discrepancy shared both by the film’s characters and the audience we watched it with. Compared to Our Time Is Up and The Runaway, the Icelandic The Last Farm must have felt like watching Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice. It’s a slow-moving film, but it’s beautifully crafted and builds to a singularly powerful and devastating conclusion (a woman next to me whispered a shocked “Jesus” when she realized what was about to happen) that director Rúnar Rúnarsson earns through his evocative manipulation of landscape (the final tilt the camera makes prior the film’s fade-to-black is truly a revelation). Jón Sigurbjörnsson, as an old man who digs a grave outside his house for his deceased wife, conveys via his devastated face and decrepit, failing body the horror of old age and living the rest of his days without the love of his life. If voters recognize a correlation between the finale of this short and the end of Brokeback Mountain, Rúnarsson could prevail here. Otherwise, it’s probably The Runaway’s to lose.
Will Win: The Runaway
Should Win: The Last Farm
SOUND EDITING: With mise-en-scène taking a back seat at the Oscars to star power and Dolby fireworks, it’s hardly surprising to find that even the sound designers who are trained to know the difference between a sigh and a moan treat their branch’s nominations like great-great-granduncle Bip holding the horn to his ear after an H-bomb report and wheezing, “Did you say something, Ethel?” If it doesn’t smack them upside the head in 5.1, they don’t hear it at all. The noisiest film of the year isn’t in the running here, but you can still organize the nominees according to Crash’s stereophonic racial stereotypes, though not necessarily according to your initial first impressions. Some would no doubt accuse King Kong and its questionable native caricatures of standing in for Haggis’s black characters (who have a civilized conversation about racial profiling before stealing an SUV), but we’d align the film’s cluttered sonic workout with the ranting Iranian store owner—neither shut up. Memoirs of a Geisha is pretty far removed from Crash’s multitasking Asians…err, “entrepreneurs,” but its contrived stoicism certainly matches up with Michael Peña and Jennifer Esposito’s becalmed if peripheral Latinos. War of the Worlds’ Dakota Fanning might represent a strong corollary with Sandra Bullock’s auto-programmed Stepford Caucasian, but those terrifying tripod bullhorns that announce impending massacre sound like Haggis’s script itself. King Kong has this one wrapped up by a tirade, but that apocalyptic foley work in the Spielberg film is the only thing that gave us nearly as many nightmares as the prospect of having to discuss Crash in mixed company again.
Will Win: King Kong
Should Win: War of the Worlds
SOUND MIXING: After an Oscar season filled with more bitching than usual over the complete predictability of nearly every race, it’s almost refreshing to come across a category that could legitimately go a number of directions, given the admittedly limited consideration we expect most Oscar voters will accord the second sound category on their ballots. The award for Sound Mixing could end up making or breaking Oscar pools, so for the love of C.S. Lewis don’t cock this one up! If this category has an insider angle to consider, it’s the spirit of Susan Lucci hanging over Memoirs of a Geisha’s sound re-recording mixer Kevin O’Connell, who has spent the last two decades quietly (or, rather, extraordinarily loudly) racking up nominations for predominately octane-fuelled sonic bluster—Top Gun, Twister, Con Air, The Patriot. (What with his penchant for exclamation points, it’s no surprise to learn that he was reported to have performed uncredited script doctoring on one of Paul Haggis’s nine upcoming projects: a reenactment of the Clarence Thomas hearings with the sitting Justices portrayed by old Cassavetes troupe members possessed by the spirits of slain civil rights crusaders.) He’s been nominated 17 times now, all but two or three nods coming from actioneers. Wouldn’t it be just his luck to finally latch onto an extremely tactile movie that, for a change, people in the Academy actually seem to like, and then lose to the sort of hyperactive dynamite-parfait mixes that have made his Oscar career? Unfortunately for him, we don’t see much leeway for the three adventure candidates to cancel each other out. If Chronicles of Narnia is too milquetoast for its first two-thirds, and the unabated roar of War of the Worlds doesn’t even give you an opportunity to step back and assess the damage, than the dynamic range of King Kong’s three hours is just right. Poised to spoil, Walk the Line may very well sneak through the clutter, coasting on this category’s recent history of favoring music-heavy contenders. As the winner of the Cinema Audio Society’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture, it’s likely the frontrunner here, but don’t be surprised if Geisha pulls a fast one.
Will Win: Walk the Line
Should Win: War of the Worlds
VISUAL EFFECTS: What does it say that Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, the only film to tie King Kong’s four nominations from the Visual Effects Society, couldn’t score a nomination here? Probably that the voters in this category couldn’t care less how good a film’s effects are if the film itself is as insulting to one’s intelligence as the fantastical flurries of lilywhite snow that fall to the ground at the end of Crash. Case in point: War of the Worlds appears here after failing to be recognized by the VES in its most important category, Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects Driven Motion Picture, suggesting the Academy appreciates Spielberg’s elegantly-wasted evocation of an alien apocalypse to any toy that recently whisked across George Lucas’s and J.K. Rowling’s universes. But while such less-is-more f/x work may get a film an Oscar nomination, a quick glimpse at past winners in this category reveals that the spoils almost always go to films that truly put a light to their fireworks factories. King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe went mano-a-mano at the box office several months ago; both did equally well in spite of their mixed notices, meaning the one that prevails here will be the one that does a better job beating its chest. We like The Chronicles of Narnia better than King Kong, but we can’t imagine even C.S. Lewis thinking his Jesus lion holds a candle to Peter Jackson’s overgrown ape, deadly bugs and rampaging dinosaurs. Assuming no one thinks Tilda Swinton is her own special effect, this is Kong’s reward for falling on his big fat ass.
Will Win: King Kong
Should Win: War of the Worlds
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: If the screenplay for A History of Violence had anywhere near as much ambition as David Cronenberg’s reptilian direction, the film might’ve been a serious contender for Best Adapted Screenplay. Now this category’s intrigue rests on an interesting conundrum. Given how everything threatens to go all gay on us at the Kodak Theatre, you have to wonder who voters would rather send to the podium here. Larry McMurtry (with Diana Ossana, who will likely win a trophy for producing Brokeback Mountain) has his signature on the category’s overtly gay screenplay. Then again, he is competing against playwright Tony Kushner, whose Angels in America is arguably the most significant piece of gay literature in recent history and whose script for Munich includes a sex scene that’s a great deal queerer than anything in Brokeback Mountain. While I (and most definitely not my Oscar-predicting tag-teammate Ed) mean that as a compliment, voters and the same outspoken majority who disliked the last 20 minutes of A.I. will surely beg to differ. The comparisons don’t end in the sack: Brokeback Mountain and Munich both share a narrative structure, beginning with a surprisingly satisfying initial transgression followed by an increasingly fragmented progression of frustrated interludes and thwarted catharses. Munich winds up on a veritable orgasm and afterglows in cognitive dissonance. Brokeback Mountain’s coda opts for the much easier-to-swallow taste of bittersweet regret, the political implications no more difficult to parse than a hypothetical Choose Your Own Adventure book written by Paul Haggis. There’s absolutely no doubt that Oscar voters with their sights set on global-scale politics, or anyone with serious reservations over rewarding “I wish I could quit you,” will glom toward The Constant Gardener, a.k.a. The Sub-Saharan Redemption, where Morgan Freeman’s Red might find out that hope indeed can make it across that distant border, so long as there are conscientious Anglo-Saxons willing to lend a helping hand. Of course, if it were up to writers alone, Capote would probably take it in a walk for all it flatters the spirit of the unscrupulous but still gallant journalistic ideal. Lucky for Dan Futterman he has support from the Academy’s actor branch as well, which makes his script the most likely to spoil Brokeback Mountain’s momentum here. But the WGA’s recent award to McMurtry and Ossana suggests that’s a dimming possibility.
Will Win: Brokeback Mountain
Should Win: Munich
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Got Haggis? AMPAS does! Crash’s mantra is laid out in the opening minutes of the film like a thick piece of cheese being hoisted to the heavens—even if there was a golden ticket inside, the film’s fans wouldn’t have to dig too deep in order to find it. I quote: “In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.” Some of the sanest people in the world are confusing Paul Haggis’s art-house Afterschool Special for modern-age poetry, and though we think it’s all pretty ridiculous, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t relate to this one part on some level. We don’t like being touched, but even behind the metal and glass that guards the Slant Magazine office, we sometimes feel like crashing into other publications, just so we can feel something. You may ask, “Why is Crash a shoe-in here?” Because, silly, Entertainment Weekly thinks Matt Dillon’s character “boasts the best character arc of the year.” It’s easy to see how dunderheads who prefer to see events in a film pan out along schematic lines can confuse this sort of epic-scale, Screenplay 101 bullshit for greatness, let alone reality. Everyone has their favorite quotes from the film, and they trade them with fellow Crash-heads like authentic baseball cards. Our favorite? The casually tossed-off retro delight of “There’s a Chinaman under the truck!” Earth to Dave Karger! Let’s say we catch you talking to a friend outside the EW building on Broadway and 53rd Street after a matinee screening of The Color Purple next door. We slap you around a bit before sticking a few fingers up your butthole and running away. A few days later we see you outside Boy’s Room vomiting up a storm, hands-to-the-heavens Indian techno music blasting from the bar, and Amanda Lepore beating the living daylights out of you while trying to take your invisibility cloak. Throw a few “Why God!“s our way and we’ll gladly help a sister out, but that’s not going to stop us from wanting to shoot your ass…with fake bullets. In short: Saving a black person from a car accident will not make a freedom fighter out of a white supremacist. Watch your back around anyone who tells you otherwise, because chances are they employ Chinapeople to dust off their ivory towers.
Will Win: Crash
Should Win: The Squid and the Whale
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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