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2016 Oscar Nomination Predictions

Every year, Oscar bloggers put on a pretty good show in pointing out how, unlike all previous years, this year is truly a wild, unpredictable free-for-all.



Photo: The Weinstein Company

Every year, Oscar bloggers put on a pretty good show in pointing out how, unlike all previous years (which were inevitably forgone conclusions long before the ballots were even tallied), this year is truly a wild, unpredictable free-for-all. Maybe it’s only an affectation that allows them an opportunity to furtively inflate their own sense of accomplishment when they end up nailing at least 85 percent of the eventual nominees. But damned if this isn’t one of those years where you can at least forgive the indulgence.

Every day for the last week has seen some guild slate or another either kill or revive almost every film’s chances at least once, each twist and turn cueing a chorus of “I told you so” from those momentarily proven right. “You see? I told you Carol was too cold and cerebral.” “No way they’re going to be able to restrain themselves from nominating Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it’s slaying box-office records.” “I knew you were all underestimating how much people loved Ex Machina when it was literally the only quality studio film in theaters for a three-month span.”

While it would be an exaggeration to categorize all this sound and fury about something signifying next to nothing “fun,” at the very least the hubbub this Oscar year offers welcome respite from the grinding monotony of the presidential race. Though even there, and most certainly unlike this year’s Best Director prospects, at least the possibility exists that a woman will get a nomination.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Standing at the calm center of the Oscar race storm is Spotlight, which has been the presumed taster’s choice of 2015 since before it even opened, but really cemented its status as the only mortal lock in the category when it started defeating the Film Comment poll-winning Carol among some of the loftiest of critics’ groups. You know we’ve stepped through the looking glass when the group that sidestepped the Boyhood locomotive last year in favor of Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D dog-and-poop show say, with a straight face, that a Tom McCarthy film trumps all this year. Even Spotlight’s precursor performance hasn’t been entirely spotless; some started chewing a fingernail or two when it failed to get nominated for an ACE Eddie Award (unlike Ant-Man), but there’s no one betting against it earning a seat at the Eucharist.

Beyond that, you could at least entertain arguments against nearly every one of the remaining hopefuls. The Big Short was a late-arriver, but its performance in the guild heats has been nothing short of impressive (only cinematographers understandably shrugged their shoulders, as they also did over Spotlight). One of the two most BAFTA-nominated movies, Carol, missed out on the PGA nod, and also the SAG’s speciously “important” best ensemble category. But it’s maintained position as the most viable option for the AMPAS demographic that got The Tree of Life and Amour into the main drag recently.

Unless, of course, that honor goes to Mad Max: Fury Road, a movie absolutely no one knows how seriously to take as a major Oscar contender, but might just earn the highest number of first-place ballot placements. Well, that or Bridge of Spies. Post-War Horse, it’s difficult to determine just where the Academy’s limit for embracing late-Spielberg classicism is, but as Bridge of Spies tied with Carol for the most BAFTA nods, we’re guessing this movie isn’t it.

The sense that there’s anywhere from 15 to 20 movies with legitimate shots at a nomination is making it difficult for some to know whether the sliding scale in this category will tip toward the minimum or the maximum. But until we see evidence to the contrary, and because these changes were implemented by the AMPAS specifically to get more films into best picture and avoid any further embarrassment over their shameful preference for historical dramas over superhero movies, we’re going to keep betting on more, not fewer.

And because the system honors consensus, this year might see a lot more well-received populist entertainments—for sure The Martian, though perhaps not Straight Outta Compton (despite its guild nods from actors, writers, and producers)—and fewer divisively received, slogging wankjobs. (Well, okay, maybe one, given The Revenant’s warm reception at the Golden Globes.)

Will Be Nominated: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Carol, Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Sicario, Spotlight

Closest Runners-Up: Brooklyn, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Straight Outta Compton, Trumbo

Should Be Nominated: Creed, Heart of a Dog, In Jackson Heights, Mad Max: Fury Road, Magic Mike XXL


Todd Haynes

You’d think it would be more insulting that Ridley Scott is a long-standing frontrunner in the category for delivering a sci-fi movie so comparatively light on its feet that people are marveling at how much if doesn’t feel like a Ridley Scott film. Then again, Thomas McCarthy’s certainly going to get nominated for Spotlight, which doesn’t feel like a movie directed by anyone at all (BAFTA certainly felt that way), so maybe the stakes are just lower all around in this race.

Given the Altman-esque cast of dozens all jockeying for attention in the Best Picture race, Best Director doesn’t feel like it has all that many names on everyone’s lips. One of them, Alejandro González Iñárritu, just took the prize last year and his chest-puffing pomposity has only gotten more pronounced since, but for every person who sees in The Revenant a heroic statement on man’s legacy of inherited violence, there’s another who’d find lukewarm bison liver more palatable than Iñárritu’s warmed-over Terrence Malick-Werner Herzog overtures. That said, if the warm reception he received during last night’s Golden Globes ceremony is any indication, he’s still fooling enough people that a nomination seems inevitable.

The BAFTA nominations confirmed the undeniable groundswell for The Big Short. And though even Thomas McCarthy isn’t intimidated by Adam McKay’s visual sensibilities, McKay’s film delivers its NPR-listener-courting infotainment with the smirk of Nero fiddling away. That leaves George Miller and Todd Haynes dueling for the last spot. Though Miller huffs enough testosterone to dissolve Iñárritu on contact, the likelihood the latter is in play at all suggests voters prefer their toxic masculinity to at least have the courtesy of being insufferably self-important, and not irrepressibly fun. Ergo, we’re betting on there being a lot of disappointed fanboys when the architect behind Imperator Furiosa takes a back seat to Haynes’s Her-Sapphic Park.

Will Be Nominated: Adam McKay, The Big Short; Todd Haynes, Carol; Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant; Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight; Ridley Scott, The Martian

Closest Runners-Up: Ryan Coogler, Creed; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

Should Be Nominated: Laurie Anderson, Heart of a Dog; Hou Hsiao-hsien, The Assassin; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu; Peter Strickland, The Duke of Burgundy


Jennifer Lawrence

Easy, easy, easy, easy, hard. That’s how choosing the five nominees for Best Actress will feel to voters this year. You’ll find few people arguing against nominations for Brie Larson, Cate Blanchett, Saoirse Ronan, and Charlotte Rampling. But then, oy. First and foremost, will the category fraud police prevent Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl) or Rooney Mara (Carol) from slumming in supporting? And, if so, would the reasonably level playing field for the fifth slot here allow one of them an easy nod? If Rampling is in the category, what does that do for or against the chances of Lily Tomlin, Maggie Smith, or Blythe Danner? Are Sarah Silverman and Helen Mirren’s surprise SAG nominations anything other than respectively welcome and less-than-welcome flukes from early on in the precursor season? Will there be enough anti-MRA voters in the actors’ branch to engineer a path for Charlize Theron to slip into the mix? Is Sicario’s late surge in the game real enough to benefit Emily Blunt? Or will the AMPAS look at all their options and simply default to the candidate whose prerelease buzz can outweigh her movie’s subsequent nosedive? Congrats, Jennifer Lawrence, you are the likely beneficiary of voters’ disinterest in overthinking tough decisions.

Will Be Nominated: Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Closest Runners-Up: Emily Blunt, Sicario; Rooney Mara, Carol; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Should Be Nominated: Brie Larson, Room; Julianne Moore, Freeheld; Elisabeth Moss, Queen of Earth; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn


Michael B. Jordan

Speaking of voter disinterest, the only category with what everyone is presuming to already have a winner-elect this year, Best Actor, suffers from an entirely different problem than its distaff cousin. Whereas everyone is expected to have one slot reserved for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Night of the Living Pelt Trader, the other four choices are likely to be filled by a combination of serviceable star performances lifted by the popularity of the films containing them and, like with Jennifer Lawrence, roles that put actors on “the list” when the films were still in preproduction. And though their film’s fortunes have since fallen in best picture, well, why change course here at this late stage of the game?

In the former camp is Matt Damon’s disco-bashing, poop-hoarding cosmonaut Robinson Crusoe in The Martian. Damon’s performance is a solid fit for the movie’s profile, lightly likable without ever really getting ugly for art. And then in the latter category are Michael Fassbender’s Shakespearean spin on Steve Jobs and Eddie Redmayne’s trembling, wilting, blushing transgender pioneer in The Danish Girl. Fassbender has proven among the few actors capable of devouring Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue instead of the other way around. But Redmayne’s disastrously miscalculated feints, nervous tics, and nosebleeds will probably appeal to exactly the same crowd that can’t fathom citing Tangerine’s vibrant Mya Taylor. Pencil all three in.

Bryan Cranston is a legitimate threat for the last spot for yielding to dull biopic shenanigans (though we’re frankly smelling whiffs of Hitchcock), as is Johnny Depp’s latest masquerade ball. But if you ask us it’s down to Steve Carell, who serves as the conscience of The Big Short (crying and dry-heaving at each new fiduciary obscenity) and Michael B. Jordan, who may be the Academy’s only hope to avoid another year of #OscarSoWhite.

Will Be Nominated: Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Michael B. Jordan, Creed; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Closest Runners-Up: Steve Carell, The Big Short; Bryan Cranston, Trumbo; Johnny Depp, Black Mass

Should Be Nominated: Christopher Abbott, James White; Tom Courtenay, 45 Years; Michael B. Jordan, Creed; Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind; Jacob Tremblay, Room


Kristen Stewart

So far as the critics are concerned, there’s only one choice here. And in recent years, when critics have really rallied around a performance that wouldn’t otherwise be considered standard Oscar fare, Oscar has started listening. (Just ask Emmanuelle Riva.) But this time it’s a pretty big ask. Kristen Stewart? The actress who moped her way through the Twilight series? For an Olivier Assayas movie that maybe only critics actually saw? No one’s going to convince us a performance this nuanced isn’t on the bubble, but given last year’s Best Actress-winning Still Alice gave Oscar voters a dry run to consider the idea of Stewart as serious thesp, we think she’s in.

And then, of course, so are the two leading performances being fraudulently demoted to supporting—at the expense of Alicia Vikander’s fascinating albeit far more fanboy-friendly work in Ex Machina. Because Stewart plus Rooney Mara plus Vikander makes for an awfully introspective, internalized slate, we could easily see voters getting thirsty to include Jennifer Jason Leigh’s turn in The Hateful Eight, regardless of their widely-presumed disinterest in the movie as a whole. Most prognosticators favor Kate Winslet’s dazzling display of unpredictable accent changes in Steve Jobs, though it’s beyond us why no one notices how clearly superior Katherine Waterston is in that same film. Instead, we’re playing it risky, ignoring precursors and betting on Joan Allen earning her first nomination since swiping Björk’s back in 2000.

Will Be Nominated: Joan Allen, Room; Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara, Carol; Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Closest Runners-Up: Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Should Be Nominated: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Cynthia Nixon, James White; Jada Pinkett Smith, Magic Mike XXL; Kristen Stewart, Clouds of Sils Maria; Mya Taylor, Tangerine


Mark Ruffalo

Jennifer Jason Leigh can rest easier than the rest of her cast-mates who are bloodily cancelling each other out over here, which especially pains us to say in the cases of Tim Roth and Walton Goggins. But not half as much as it pains us to say there’s virtually no chance for the incredibly endearing Emory Cohen to land a nomination along on-screen wife Saoirse Ronan’s for Brooklyn. It should chide us that Jacob Tremblay’s clearly leading performance in Room is getting the same second-class treatment fellow child actor Hailee Steinfeld’s did, but at least he’ll get invited to the dance (and we’re so looking forward to his eventual pop single). Category fraud works a treat with kids, but probably won’t do anything for Paul Dano’s chances in Love & Mercy.

And though vote-splitting will affect The Hateful Eight cast’s chances, the same probably won’t be said for the cast of Spotlight. Michael Keaton’s Best Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle may have just sealed his fate, allowing the focus to turn to Mark Ruffalo, who gets the only traditionally splanchnic Oscar clip in the whole movie, as Spotlight’s best shot at an acting nod. Michael Shannon in 99 Homes emerged as nearly as big a critics’ choice as Kristen Stewart, but his impending omission feels like the classic Oscar boondoggle that rankles the awards blogosphere. It’s looking like the rest of the category will be filled with vets of three distinct varieties—movie star (Sylvester Stallone), character actor (Mark Rylance), and perpetual Oscar nominee (Christian Bale).

Will Be Nominated: Christian Bale, The Big Short; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed; Jacob Tremblay, Room

Closest Runners-Up: Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation; Benicio del Toro, Sicario; Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Should Be Nominated: Evan Bird, Maps to the Stars; Emory Cohen, Brooklyn; Walton Goggins, The Hateful Eight; Tom Noonan, Anomalisa; Sylvester Stallone, Creed


The Hateful Eight

Eligibility issues routinely plague the WGA’s status as a legitimate Oscar precursor, ensuring some of the Academy Award frontrunners have to be assessed blindly. Of course, WGA nominees Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, and, arguably, Sicario would’ve been to varying degrees probable here even if they hadn’t been WGA-eligible. Spotlight is going to get nominations in nearly every viable category, Bridge of Spies affords the writers the chance to honor the Coens for a film they didn’t also direct, and Sicario feels nearly as red-hot at the guilds as The Big Short.

And as divisive as his film has proven, Quentin Tarantino’s brand name seems likely to at least earn him a ticket to ride. That narrows the odds for WGA-nominee Straight Outta Compton, which will have to fight off Ex Machina, 99 Homes, and Inside Out. We’re betting voters will take most strongly to Pixar’s cotton candy-delicate version of thorny child psychology.

Will Be Nominated: Bridge of Spies, The Hateful Eight, Inside Out, Sicario, Spotlight

Closest Runners-Up: Ex Machina, 99 Homes, Straight Outta Compton

Should Be Nominated: About Elly, Heart of a Dog, Inside Out, Mistress America, Timbuktu



Our boldest prediction of the year? That the writers’ branch will summon within themselves enough restraint to ignore a hagiographic tribute to an Oscar-winning screenwriter, if only because it bends the life and difficult times of Dalton Trumbo into the most unflattering biopic-friendly format. It’s a big gamble on our part, especially given Trumbo’s shockingly healthy precursor performance up to this point. Fortunately, this is among the most crowded fields of the year, with only Adam McKay and Charles Rudolph’s ambitious, if sporadically condescending, distillation of one of the most complex financial cataclysms of our era sure to be included.

Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Brooklyn is lovely, warm, and humorous. Carol and Room both boast attractive structural architecture—one circular, the other sharply bifurcated—and the former in particular puts glorious things in Cate Blanchett’s mouth. Aaron Sorkin and Charlie Kaufman are big enough screenwriting superstars that anything they do automatically merits the benefit of the doubt, though it’s a lot easier to see Sorkin’s latest three acts in support of American exceptionalism making a bigger impact than Kaufman’s aching wallow in American alienation and paranoia.

And then there are the two last men standing, between which we’re presuming Oscar will favor The Martian’s sardonic quips. Unless, of course, they like their grand gestures to climax with dialogue that would be specious coming from Freddy Krueger’s mouth, much less Tom Hardy’s.

Will Be Nominated: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Steve Jobs

Closest Runners-Up: The Revenant, Room, Trumbo

Should Be Nominated: Anomalisa, Brooklyn, Carol, Chi-raq, 45 Years

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Oscar 2020: Complete Winners List

Parasite earned four awards, edging out 1917 for best picture.



Photo: Neon

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
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite (WINNER)

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

Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman, Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi (WINNER)
Joker, Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Little Women, Greta Gerwig
The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Original Screenplay
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)

Documentary Feature
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

Animated Feature
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)

Film Editing
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

Production Design
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

Costume Design
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

Visual Effects
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

Original Score
Joker, Hildur Guðnadóttir (WINNER)
Little Women, Alexandre Desplat
Marriage Story, Randy Newman
1917, Thomas Newman
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, John Williams

Sound Mixing
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

Sound Editing
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

Original Song
“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

Live-Action Short
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

Animated Short
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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Picture

How could the essentially non-political 1917 not arrive as sweet solace in our cultural moment?



Photo: Universal Pictures

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

Should Win: The Irishman, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, or Parasite

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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.



Sam Mendes
Photo: Universal Pictures

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

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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.”



Photo: Neon

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

One of the realities of the Oscar race is that you never want to peak too early.



Photo: Neon

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay

Oscar has a long-standing history of using the screenplay awards for token gestures, especially toward writer-directors.



Jojo Rabbit

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Production Design

Oscar voters are suckers for scale, throwbacks, ostentation, and, above all, a sense of prestige.



Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

The tea leaves are reading that it will be another win for middlebrow respectability.



Photo: Universal Pictures

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

One of the great mysteries of this year’s awards season is the ultimate fate of Jojo Rabbit.



Laura Dern
Photo: Netflix

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

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Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

The path of least resistance and most chronological distance almost always wins here.



Little Women
Photo: Columbia Pictures

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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