Oscar trends continue to have shorter and shorter shelf lives as the award season calendar continues to pork up and as brand new guilds and critics’ groups continue to sell their virgin reputations out to further cement Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker’s impression of impenetrability. How else to explain the fact that Best Picture and Best Director have split as often than they’ve matched in the aughts? How else to explain the almost complete demise of period epics and their chokehold on the top award? How else to explain Rex Reed being right that the New York Film Critics Circle awarding United 93 their top prize counts for hi-jack shit when a) no one saw or wanted to see the film, and b) approximately 300 groups in the interim have given public hummers to the likes of Little Miss Sunshine, Little Children, and Little Babel? (On that note, how else to explain the injustice that the younger sister Fanning will have appeared in a Best Picture nominee before poor Dakota?)
We offer our Oscar nod predictions at this late date for two reasons. First, because nearly every last group will have had their say and we got through school by looking over our peer’s shoulders on test day. Second, and more importantly, we’d hate to think that our reiteration of the same old ragged, over-hyped contenders (instead of, you know, Sandra Huller) means we’ve given in to the pressure of Oscar season groupthink. After all, the ballots were due on Jan. 13. The damage—and there will be damage—has already been done.
PICTURE. How fitting is it that Jake Gyllenhaal kicked off his recent gig on SNL by performing Jennifer Hudson’s number from Dreamgirls? Like Brokeback Mountain last year, Bill Condon’s film was initially touted as an Oscar-night self-fulfilling prophecy. But whereas Brokeback was ridin’ high (but not dirty) on the horse right up until the moment Jack Nicholson recoiled at the contents of his envelope, Dreamgirls—with less than rapturous reviews, acceptable but hardly Chicago-level box office numbers, and no critics awards beyond Hudson—has been effectively upstaged far earlier in the game and thus we’re left with Gyllenhaal’s demand of “you’re going to love me” sounding like a requiem for a former contender. The nomination, on the other hand, is all but assured, as the various guilds have all taken their dutiful turns to play a round of Let’s Try and Guess the Best Picture Contenders. Producers Guild: Babel, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen. Directors Guild: Babel, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen. Screen Actor’s Guild ensemble: Babel, Bobby, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine. (Well, apparently they alone couldn’t attempt to make a case for The Queen being anyone but Mirren’s show.) You can see why it’s easy to believe the American Society of Cinematographers were truly enthusiastic about the actual lensing (i.e. what they were rewarding) of Apocalypto, The Black Dahlia, Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, and The Illusionist and not just rewarding, say, Robert Richardson for the umpteenth time. (I mean, granted, direction isn’t just eye-popping action choreography, pretty pictures, important historical themes, and variations on auteur themes. But are we really supposed to believe the directors respect Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s completely facile presentation of a potentially interesting script more than the newest work of Alfonso Cuarón, Sofia Coppola, Clint Eastwood, and Pedro Almodóvar?) The carbon-copy guild slates do make the absence of Dreamgirls from the Writers Guild’s copious 10 nomination slots awfully telling. Nevertheless, Clint’s partisans are going to split, with half rewarding the collaboration with Paul Haggis and the other half choosing correctly. That leaves only United 93 as a potential spoiler, but it’s more likely that this year’s Best Picture slate will be the first possibly ever without a single Best Picture winner by the three major critics’ groups (in addition to the New York-feted United 93, L.A. went for Letters from Iwo Jima and the National Society for Pan’s Labyrinth).
ACTOR. Speaking of the short life of trends, if we were to make predictions about this year’s Best Actor line-up off of last year’s precedent, we would cite Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls), Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine), and Leonardo DiCaprio (The Departed) before shamefully admitting that we couldn’t predict the last two nominees, what with the lack of leading male roles in either Babel or The Queen. So much for Best Picture line-ups that whip it out and slap it on the table over in the Best Actor category. This year’s Best Picture candidates belong to the ladies and their ensemble broods, which at the very least opens the Best Actor contest up to a few intriguing contenders. Leonardo DiCaprio, who admittedly has quite a pair, should show up…if only the Globes and Guilds could settle on which performance is more deserving. While Blood Diamond should satisfy the Constant Gardener-cum-Cold Mountain voting bloc who are constantly confusing bad accents with noble intentions, the “third time’s the charm” vibe behind the newest installment in the actor’s work with Martin Scorsese should end up trumping Edward Zwick (and helping Djimon Hounsou—just ask Tom Cruise, who watched Ken Watanabe sail to a Supporting Actor nod). As for the other four slots, there may be a notable paucity of pansies when compared to last year, but look closer and you’ll see a bunch of Best Actress roles here. Will Smith for crying like a little bitch. Ryan Gosling playing a socially-conscious ghetto teacher and surrogate parent figure whose drug habits have reduced him down to the bone. Peter O’Toole riding a stiffly British but limply sexless (barely sex-educational) Miramax charmer like both Gwenyth and Dench. And that Monster Whitaker, portraying the biggest bitch of them all. Is it any wonder the over-the-shoulder thong-wearing, nude-wrestling, Pamela Anderson-chasing walking penis with a nasty anti-Semitic streak might find a little difficulty joining this group of old men (i.e. feminists)?
ACTRESS. Fans of The Queen seem tickled by the fact that Helen Mirren has been made a Dame by the very woman she plays in the film. Probably the same people who appreciate the Stephen Frears film for essentially doing the same grudge work the British tabloids did after the death of Princess Diana, only in a more genteel fashion—opening a window to a world where earth-shattering revelations include: Queen Elizabeth II Walks Dogs, Queen Elizabeth II Drives a Jeep, and Queen Elizabeth II is Cuntier Than Dame Edna. We don’t object to the performance, which we think is pleasantly calibrated, though we are perplexed by how a 61-year-old woman guaranteed herself an Academy Award in a category that typically rewards women who’ve only just had their first menstrual cycle. Speaking of periods, Penélope Cruz’s twisted menstrual joke from Volver is the sweetest thing about the Pedro Almodóvar film, for which the actress looks to earn her first Academy Award nomination now that the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild have given Oscar voters the permission to move forward. Ditto Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada and Judi Dench, who will earn her 82nd nomination in three years for playing a condescending lesbian in the histrionic and laughably retrograde Notes on a Scandal. We can dream that Sandra Huller and Laura Dern have a chance here, but Oscar voters don’t go to the movies, and we know for sure that IFC First Take and David Lynch couldn’t afford to push their prized cows—at least not figuratively in Lynch’s case. Pity, because a little elbow grease might have been enough to knock Kate Winslet out of the competition. But the Academy seems determined to mold the actress into the next Meryl Streep, so there’s probably no way for any other actress—or non-actress like Beyoncé Knowles—to interrupt her flow.
SUPPORTING ACTOR. Unless Oscar voters decide that the SAG was right for calling Leonardo DiCaprio supporting in The Departed, it’s safe to say this year’s line up will be an anomaly in an era of Tim Robbins, Thomas Hayden Church, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Clive Owen. This year’s contenders for Best Supporting Actor are all shockingly supporting. Alan Arkin, Eddie Murphy, and Jack Nicholson each shoplift a few scenes, but don’t make off with the whole store. Brad Pitt is top-billed, but it’s still an ensemble picture. Only Djimon Honsou’s leading performance in Blood Diamond should allow Oscar’s affinity for placing lead performances in the supporting categories to continue.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS. The utter predictability of some of this year’s Oscar races doesn’t make writing this prediction article much fun. Infinitely more entertaining is picking on EW’s Dave Karger, who appears to have finally caught up with Dreamgirls after presumptuously singing its praises months ago. We thought we were hard on Karger before, but we continue to be flabbergasted by his peculiar idea of objective reportage, which includes openly singing the praises of Eddie Murphy (“volcanic”), Stanley Tucci (“empathetic and snippy”), Jennifer Hudson (“divalicious”), Adrianna Barraza (“moving”), Rinko Kikuchi (“devastating”), and Emily Blunt (“subtle”—you’ve got to be fucking kidding me) but diverting whatever criticisms he may have for a film to others for fear of raging against the machine that feeds him promotional goodies. (On Babel: “[The film] seems to have as many detractors as it does ardent supporters, but its fan club may be enough to push it in.”) We won’t be able to sleep tonight not knowing if Karger is part of the Babel support group or not, but we can take some reassurance that his floppy use of the adjective guarantees that Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum are not going anywhere anytime soon. Karger becomes useful to us because his superficial, almost disturbing misreading of certain films and performances (he considers Cate Blanchett’s character from Notes on a Scandal to be “morally challenged,” when, in truth, her only challenge is the guilt forcibly thrust upon her by Judi Dench’s psychotic lesbian) is an excellent barometer for determining the direction most Academy members, the majority of which are also suckers to hype, are turning. Waiting in the wings, looking to join Hudson, Kikuchi, Blanchett, and Barraza in this category, are Catherine O’Hara, Emma Thompson, Shareeka Epps, and Abigail Breslin. It’s inconceivable that Breslin received a SAG nomination over O’Hara, but if Karger’s description of O’Hara’s great performance in For Your Consideration in any indication, some members of the Academy aren’t going to be insulted by the way the film calls out the soul-suck of the Oscar process because they’ll be missing the point of the film altogether. Karger describes O’Hara’s performance as “fun,” ignoring its great tragedy. But he is right to call it “ironic,” except the only potential irony here is that O’Hara is about to share the same exact disappointment of Marilyn Hack when nominations are announced.
Should Be Nominated: Catherine O’Hara (For Your Consideration), Fiona Shaw (The Black Dahlia), Jessica Lange (Don’t Come Knocking), Simone Signoret (Army of Shadows), and Luminița Gheorghiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu)
DIRECTOR. It used to be that we could count on the director’s branch of the Academy to bring coke to the party—at least a wild-child guest from the far-flung reaches of our film culture no one ever saw coming. Now they can’t even be trusted to nominate Woody-fucking-Allen for another one of his career comebacks. After Michel Gondry, David Cronenberg, and Gus Van Sant were passed up in the past few years, we have very little faith that Alfonso Cuarón, Pedro Almodóvar, Guillermo del Toro, or Peter Greengrass’s names will be called this year. Robert Altman died recently, but the success of Crash confirmed that Oscar voters never leave their living rooms for fear that Chinamen will set their cars on fire, meaning we’re not even sure voters got the news of this great director’s death while trying to base their nominations entirely on the information scrawled on the back of the two dozen for-your-consideration screeners they received this Oscar season. Consider Stephen Frears a lock, because in the spirit of Capote and Sideways, his perfectly mediocre The Queen possesses that special gift of offending no one. Strange that Bill Condon, whose Dreamgirls should be offending everyone, isn’t even a lock in spite of his film’s frontrunner status, but after Baz Luhrmann was snubbed by the Academy and Rob Marshall’s Chicago walked off with an Oscar without him, the Academy seems to be of the opinion that musicals direct themselves. Condon’s spot here wasn’t guaranteed as of last week, but now it’s almost assured given the DGA’s support. Two legitimate auteurs, Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, were shoe-ins as of last week, but when the DGA passed over Eastwood in favor of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, Scorsese has now almost been assured a victory on Oscar night. Still, we think Eastwood has the muscle to enter the race based on clout alone, especially since the very well-received Letters from Iwo Jima is still in the process of catching everyone’s attention. Another film trying to play catch-up is Children of Men. Though its Oscar campaign was seriously botched by Universal Pictures, the film is now touching the hearts and minds of critics and audiences alike. Outside of the cinematography category, this may be Children of Men’s best chance at a nomination, but the Academy seems likely turn to another more predictable Mexican filmmaker, Alejandro González-Iñáritu, given that the fake seriousness of Amores Perros 3: World Police has been sautéing on people’s minds since October. Per usual, the Oscars will remind us on nomination morning that studios must put out as early as possible or fail to get invited to the party.
Should Be Nominated: Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (L’Enfant), Carlos Reygadas (Battle in Heaven), David Lynch (Inland Empire), and Jean-Pierre Melville (Army of Shadows)
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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