It almost seems like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to pull one over on usâor, at the very least, sneak one past us while weâre not looking. After years of taking heat for the screwy nominations and screwier winners in categories such as this, all sorts of quality controls were initiated for face-saving purposes, from committees whoâd govern over those wishing to vote in these categories to members needing to validate that theyâve seen all the nominees at screenings before casting their ballots. Then, one day after this yearâs Oscar nominations were announced, while the world was still reeling from a litany of jaw-dropping snubs (Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck, Jafar Panahi, etc.), AMPAS president Hawk Koch announces that all Oscar voters will be invited to pick the winners in the documentary feature and live-action and animated short categories after being sent screeners of all the nominated films, and all on the Academyâs dime. Which begs all sorts of questions: Why not the documentary short category as well? Hell, why not every Oscar category? Who gets to explain to Eli Wallach what a screener is? If 5 Broken Cameras lands first in Vanessa Redgraveâs DVD player, will she care to see any other nominated film in this category? If a tree falls…
The Invisible War, Kirby Dickâs documentary about sexual assaults in the U.S. military, certainly doesnât lack for import, yet itâs almost soberingly objective to a faultâso insufficiently incensed that it even caused one of our own to check out while watching it. The finest film in this lot by a country mile, 5 Broken Cameras is an enraged, metaphoric, ballsily crafted document of Israeli aggression toward Palestiniansâand yet, in a bizarre, almost perverse move, some might even say telling, the Israeli government and media over the past month has tried to co-opt the film as their own. If Emad Burnat and Guy Davidiâs film is insufficiently pro-Jewish to score a victory here, so, too, is Dror Morehâs The Gatekeepers, a disquieting overview of the Shin Betâs activities since the Six-Day War featuring a few too many acknowledgements from former operatives of the security agency that Israel has gone too far over the years in its attempts to defend the state. If Bigelowâs snub in the director category even remotely signals that the Academy is suffering from torture fatigue, both documentaries may face an uphill battle.
David Franceâs How to Survive a Plague, one of our top 25 films of last year, is a stirring, poignant, intelligently edited document of AIDS activism in this country. This highly subjective film, which isnât without its lapses in taste, still feels as if itâs been designed largely as a history lesson for those who arenât intimately familiar with the nuances of ACT UPâs heroic struggle to raise AIDS awareness over the years while fighting political inaction in the halls of our American government. Of course, the filmâs power is unmistakable, so powerful in fact that we donât even think voters will care that Franceâs triumph was realized almost entirely inside the editing room, where he distilled over 700 hours of stock footage from the “plague years” down to two. But is it powerful enough to stave off one of the most crowd-pleasing documentaries, Malik Bendjellouâs Searching for Sugar Man, ever nominated in this category?
Confession: Two weeks ago we werenât ready to call this just yet for Bendjellouâs irritatingly money-obsessed documentary about the search for musician Sixto Rodriguez following a long-ago rumored suicide. The film touches on a cornucopia of themes, such as fan worship, and does so in a way that, to quote our own Eric Henderson, “obfuscates so as to build to a heartening finale.” Itâs a popular tactic, sometimes used for less enlivening purposes, that hasnât done docs like Anvil! The Story of Anvil and The Imposter any favors when itâs come to getting the Academyâs attention. Also, it doesnât seem to help that Rodriguez, unlike Philippe Petit or Argo, doesnât exactly want for Hollywood validation. But the film, whose ostensible pleasures I continue to be immune to after two viewings, has been heralded far and wide as an intelligently crafted, audience-involving mystery, and one with an unmistakably happy endingânot to mention an irresistible soundtrack. Our hearts arenât with the film, but given that Searching for Sugar Man has triumphed with awards groups with particularly Oscar-y instincts (namely the National Board of Review and the PGA), to bet against it wouldnât make us very savvy betting men.
Will Win: Searching for Sugar Man
Could Win: How to Survive a Plague
Should Win: 5 Broken Cameras
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Song
Pundits and show producers didnât quite get the pop star-studded best song lineup that they were hoping for this year.
Pundits and show producers didnât quite get the pop star-studded best song lineup that they were hoping for this year, as Golden Globe nominees Taylor Swift and BeyoncĂ© failed to score nominations, though the formerâs omission sparked heavy sighs of relief among Oscar completists who were dreading to have to watch Cats. Neither did they make room for Oscar-winning actress Mary Steenburgen, whose âGlasgow (No Place Like Home)â in Wild Rose was widely regarded among the yearâs best movie songs. In short, this is a category that feels more characterized by whatâs absent than whatâs present.
Ten previous nominations have so far added up to one conspicuously absent win for the indefatigable Diane Warren, whose nomination for Chrissy Metzs inspirational dirge in the very, very Christian Breakthrough calls to mind the nomination that was removed from competition six years ago, for Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegelâs contribution to the also very Christian Alone Yet Not Alone. Conversely, the Toy Story series has never been absent once from this category, actually earning Randy Newman one of his two wins here for the third installmentâs âWe Belong Together.â Cynthia Erivoâs all but absent chances to win in the best actress category wouldnât be much of a factor here even if the academy felt more overt remorse about #OscarsSoWhite, and so far as power ballads go, we expect the academyâs drama-queen wing to fall into line for Frozen IIâs âLet It Go II.â
However, when Elton John won the Oscar 25 years ago for The Lion Kingâs âCan You Feel the Love Tonight,â his lifelong songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, was absent from his side, as it was Disneyâs top lyricist, Tim Rice, who shared that 1994 award with the pop star. John was canny enough to mention the fact that he and Taupin had never won a competitive award while they accepted the Golden Globe earlier this month for Rocketmanâs peppy closing number â(Iâm Gonna) Love Me Again.â In saying so, he turned the act of voting for the song into endorsing a de facto lifetime achievement award for the team.
Will Win: â(Iâm Gonna) Love Me Again,â Rocketman
Could Win: âInto the Unknown,â Frozen II
Should Win: â(Iâm Gonna) Love Me Again,â Rocketman
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
The Oscars have a long history of awarding war films in this particular sound category.
Weâre sorry. Last week, Eric and I agreed that he could blow my lead here by saying that we were going to bet on Ford v. Ferrari to take both sound awards. Part of our logic was that the sound awards split more times than not, and opting for the same film in both categories would guarantee that weâd at least get one of those categories correct. But seemingly every day of this accelerated awards season hasnât only increasingly solidified 1917âs frontrunner status for best picture, but also pointed to the possibility of it lapping up almost as many Oscars as Slumdog Millionaire, so weâre doing some course correcting.
Last night, the Cinema Audio Society, which has accurately predicted the winner in this category 14 out of 26 times, awarded its prize for achievement in sound mixing to Ford v. Ferrari. And that 1917 wasnât even nominated for that award makes Ford v. Ferrari a relatively safe bet here. (Only one other film, Whiplash, has won the Oscar here after failing to be nominated for sound mixing at the Cinema Audio Society since the guildâs inception in 1994.)
But weâre going to take it as a sign of things to come that Ford v. Ferrari and 1917 split the top sound awards at the recent MPSE Golden Reel Awards, suggesting that the latterâs lack of a CAS nomination may have been a fluke, possibly a result of it entering the awards race so late in the season. Also, the Oscars have a long history of awarding war films in this particular sound category, especially those with more than a realistic chance of snagging the top prize, so weâre giving the edge here to Sam Mendesâs war horse, which will be lapping James Mangoldâs racing drama at the box office in a matter of days.
Will Win: 1917
Could Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Should Win: Ad Astra
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Actor
Luckily for Joaquin Phoenix, heâs not up against anyone playing a real-life individual.
Weâve reached the halfway point of our rolling Oscar prediction coverage, and I think I speak on behalf of Ed and myself when I say weâre already absolutely spent. Yes, we still have some major rounds of mental gymnastics to undergo for best picture, which most people believe can be won by no fewer than three and as many as six films, and a few other races feel ripe for an upset (weâve got all eyes on both screenplay categories). But nowhere does the fatigue of even an accelerated Oscar season feel most evident than it does in the acting categories, which at an increasing rate seem to be nailed down even before the Golden Globe and SAG award winners are announced each year.
Yes, we still have the image of Glenn Close nodding and grimly grinning while resignedly slumped over in her front-row chair at the Oscar ceremony last year imprinted in our memory bank, but that universe-disrupting exception only proved the rule. And itâs a rule that, incidentally, is only rivaled in rigidity by what Ed mentioned last week when predicting RenĂ©e Zellweger at the beginning of this yearâs marathon: âThereâs nothing more unwavering than Hollywoodâs support for actors playing real-life individuals.â
Luckily for Joaquin Phoenix, whoâs going to win the Oscar, heâs not up against anyone playing a real-life individual. Sure, heâs up against Adam Driver playing a thinly veiled version of director Noah Baumbach in Marriage Story, and Antonio Banderas playing a thinly veiled version of director Pedro AlmodĂłvar in Pain and Glory, and Jonathan Pryce playing a thinly veiled version of the faultless, approachable, non-slappy Pope Francis that director Fernando Meirelles sells to the world in The Two Popes. But none of them are in the same class of mimicry-first winners as Rami Malek, Gary Oldman, and Eddie Redmayne.
Add to that the fact that the historically prickly Phoenix has proven himself capable this Oscar season of not only directing his pugilism at worthy causes (being arrested alongside Jane Fonda protesting climate change enablers, comforting slaughterhouse pigs), but also coming off as a genuinely effusive member of the acting community, as when he spent his speech time at the SAG awards paying tribute to his co-nominees and, then, Heath Ledger. Heâd have the award even if he wasnât playing Jokerâs real-life version of Donald Trump.
Will Win: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Could Win: Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Should Win: Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Documentary Short
Bet against a message of hope and you may find yourself losing an Oscar pool.
Our track record here is spotty, but weâre on a roll, having correctly guessed the winner three years in a row. Just as every film up for the documentary feature prize grapples with the nature of freedom in a world gripped by war, every one nominated for best documentary short concerns the aftermath of trauma. And this categoryâs history tells us that academy members are quite keen on a certain angle on the process of coping with trauma, which is implicit even in the titles of the films that won here but whose chances we underestimated, such as Mighty Times: The Childrenâs March and A Note of Triumph.
There isnât a single dud in this bunch, but a few feel only half-formed. Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khanâs St. Louis Superman, which earned MTV its first Oscar nod, concerns Ferguson activist and battle rapper Bruce Franks Jr. and his efforts to pass a bill recognizing youth violence as a public health crisis after being sworn into the Missouri House of Representatives. A powerful sequence set during a rap battle gives us a complete picture of how the trauma of his younger brotherâs deathâand, simply, living while blackâhas come to shape Franksâs politics, but if the short successfully attests to his accomplishments against all odds, it remains conspicuously tight-lipped about his home life and has a final title credits sequence tell us about his future in government that we wished it had actually processed on screen.
John Haptas and Kristine Samuelsonâs gripping Life Overtakes Me, the only short in this category with Netflixâs muscle behind it, feels as if it could benefit from simply reporting on a relatively unknown matter: the dissociative condition known as resignation syndrome, a response to the trauma of refugee limbo that has been predominantly observed in children from the Balkans now living in Sweden with their families. The filmmakers vigilantly depict the day-to-day routines of parents struggling to feed their comatose children and keep their limbs as lithe as possible. But the short doesnât offer enough context about the struggles that brought these families to Sweden and, like St. Louis Superman, it has one read a little too much between the lines, sometimes literally so, as information relating to the asylum process and evolving opinions about resignation syndrome is largely conveyed via on-screen text.
Yi Seung-jun and Gary Byung-seok Kamâs In the Absence plays out like a ghost story, and itâs much less withholding than both St. Louis Superman and Life Overtakes Me. Concerning the 2014 MV Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea, this hauntingly cool-headed short doesnât lack for astonishing footage of the incident, some of it pulled from the phones of those who were aboard the ship; the shots of the protests that followed the incident, as well as the talking-head interviews from the families of the deceased, are no less harrowing. The filmmakers are ferocious in their condemnation of the various failures of communication that led to the deaths of hundreds aboard the ship, and one deserved target of their contempt is South Koreaâs former president, Park Geun-hye. Still, if we have any reservations about our favorite short in this category, itâs over the way it risks leaving some with the impression that the Sewol disaster was largely responsible for the disgraced politicoâs downfall.
Now, for those who couldnât read between the lines of this postâs first paragraph: Bet against a message of hope, as we did in the past when we didnât rally behind Music by Prudence and Strangers No More, and you may find yourself losing an Oscar pool. As such, In the Absence faces stiff competition from Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedtâs touching but somewhat featherweight Walk Run Cha-Cha, about a young man and woman who, 40 years after being separated during the Vietnam War, and especially Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreichevaâs Learning to Skate in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl), which, spite of its cloying score, chronicles a resistance in a language that will be impossible for most to resist.
Learning to Skate in a Warzone tells the story of a school in Kabul that teaches young girls to skateboard and, by extension, take on the patriarchy. âI donât want to grow up so I can skate forever,â one girl says at one point. Hopeful words, yes, but we can see their melancholic roots. The filmmakers may not have bombard us with images of violence, but you donât walk away from this short without understanding the risk of simply seeing that girlâs face speaking those words, in a country where so many girls are destined to become prisoners in their own homes, and are more prone than boys to be the victims of terrorism.
Will Win: Learning to Skate in a Warzone (If Youâre a Girl)
Could Win: In the Absence
Should Win: In the Absence
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Live Action Short
It never hurts to let this academy feel as though theyâre just liberal enough.
If last yearâs slate in this category reflected, as Ed pointed out, children in peril as the âfetish du jourâ for the academyâs shorts committee, the trend certainly didnât carry over into this year, with only one nominated film dealing with such subject matter. That said, itâs characteristic of this particular categoryâs history in that itâs among the most galling, sermonizing screeds nominated for any Academy Award this year.
Unlike such previously slated diatribes as That Wasnât Me or One Day, however, Bryan Buckleyâs Saria is explicitly a recreation of a real-life tragedy, a 2017 fire that killed 41 girls in a Guatemalan orphanage, potentially sparked by one of the girls in an act of political protest against their gorgonesque caretakers. That the entire episode touches on just about everything wrong with the world today means it canât be fully counted out. But itâd be a lot easier to get in the filmmakersâ corner if it didnât so strongly feel as though they turned the slow-crawling death toll into a bizarre sort of victory lap in the final credits reel. And Oscar voters havenât been too tacit lately about their aversion of tough messages being shoved down their throats.
Among other nominees with seemingly very little chance at winning, Delphine Girardâs A Sister gave us major dĂ©jĂ vu, and not only from its narrative echoes of recent short Oscar winners The Phone Call and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. A well-made exercise in escalating alarm in miniature, this Belgian thriller centers around an emergency operator (Veerle Baetens) who quickly and professionally ascertains the coded cry for help from a caller (Selma Alaoui) being held hostage in the car of a dangerously irrational man (Guillaume Duhesme). Confidently but abstractly directed, the film joins a very long line of Eurocentric thrillers about domestic violence nominated in this category, including Miracle Fish, Just Before Losing Everything, Everything Will Be Okay, and DeKalb Elementary. And if these sorts of films always seem to get nominated, they also never win.
So what does? At this point, this category has a long-ish history of rewarding candidates that are either the only English-language nominee, the most hipster-friendly ironic in nature, or both (Stutterer and Curfew, to name two examples of having those bases covered). This year that sets up a battle between Yves Piatâs Nefta Football Club and Marshall Curryâs The Neighborâs Window. The former has all the makings of a winner for most of its running time. In it, a pair of brothers (Eltayef Dhaoui and Mohamed Ali Ayari) in Tunisia find a drug muleâan actual mule, that isâwandering around because the pink headphones his handlers (LyĂšs Salem and Hichem Mesbah) placed on him are playing not Adeleâs âSomeone Like You,â which would cue the trained animal to return home, but Cheik Hadel. One of the two boys recognizes the muleâs stash for what it is, but the other one presumes itâs laundry detergent, rubbing enough on his tongue that he really should spend the rest of the short tripping balls. The EC Comics-reminiscent twist ensures that the short is never less than glibly cavalier toward geopolitical readings but also comes off like a damp squib compared to the declarative setup.
Similarly anecdotal, The Neighborâs Window is a schematic empathy fable in Rear Window drag about a ennui-ridden, middle-aged mother (Maria Dizzia) of three captivated by the twentysomething couple (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) living in the building across the way. While the shortâs milieu offers every opportunity to lean right into the brand of snarky irony that this category favorsâthe womanâs voyeurism is kicked off when she and her husband (Greg Keller) spy on the younger couple fucking in full view of the rest of the neighborhoodâthe film remains almost doggedly like a âwe all want what we cannot haveâ teleplay updated for Gen Xers. Still, in that it validates the struggles of the worldâs haves, itâs very much in play.
But weâre tempting fate and picking Meryam Joobeurâs Brotherhood as the spoiler. It centers around a Tunisian patriarch (Mohamed GrayaĂą) whose oldest son (Malek Mechergui) comes back after years spent in Syria, with a new wife (Salha Nasraoui) whose face-hiding niqÄb all but confirms the fatherâs suspicion that the son has been recruited by ISIS. Itâs a minor miracle that the film doesnât come off as one big finger wag, in part because it comes at the whole âworld is going to hell in a handbasketâ angle by highlighting mankindâs universal failure to communicate. Equally miraculous is that its shock finale doesnât resonate as a hectoring âgotcha,â but instead as a proper outgrowth of its reactionary main characterâs failure to live up to his own, presumably, liberal identification. Post-Green Book, it never hurts to let this academy feel as though, unlike Brotherhoodâs doomed father, theyâre just liberal enough.
Will Win: Brotherhood
Could Win: The Neighborâs Window
Should Win: Brotherhood
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Animated Short
Another year, another reminder to take our prediction in this category with a grain of salt.
Another year, another reminder to take our prediction in this category with a grain of salt. Since 2002, when we first started predicting the Oscar winners, weâve guessed correctly in this category only eight times, and five of those were in the aughts, when one or more Disney shorts consistently lost to considerably more outrĂ© productions. It was a long dry spell for the studio between For the Birds taking the prize in 2002 and Paperman doing so in 2012. Disney now perseveres more times than not, which is why weâre given pause by the fact that, even though this is only the third time since 2002 that the studio doesnât have a film in the lineup, two nominees here could be described as âDisney-adjacent.â
One of those, Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliverâs charming and poignant Hair Love, had us busting out the hashtags (#OscarsSoWhite, #EverythingIsSoWhite, #WhiteWhiteWhiteIsTheColorOfOurCarpet), wondering if the guilt that AMPAS has about its diversity problems may be a victory-securing source of momentum. That Issa Rae, who saltily congratulated the men in the best director category when she announced this yearâs Oscar nominees alongside John Cho, provides the voice for this short about a black father who learns to style his daughterâs hair in the absence of the girlâs mother feels as if it can only help.
At the same time, each day since the Oscar nominations were announced last week seems to bring one of those dreaded articles in which some anonymous academy member is asked about their picks ahead of deadline, and Michael Mustoâs recent chat with one such voter has us convinced more than ever that guilt isnât the average academy memberâs chief motivator. Besides, Hair Love faces stiff competition from another Disney-ish, hit-âem-in-the-feels candidate, Kitbull, which concerns the unlikely kinship that forms between a cat and a dog. It certainly tugged at our heartstrings, and in spite of the shortâs bug-eyed cat at times alternately, and distractingly, reminding us of a mouse and an inkblot.
Perhaps inevitably, we found ourselves drawn to the more outrĂ© nominees. Siqi Songâs beautifully textured Sister doesnât lack for memorable images, but my favorite is the one where the brother at the center of the short pulls on his giant baby sisterâs outie-cum-Silly-String-umbilical-cord until the child shrinks down to size. This is an at once idiosyncratic and somber meditation on Chinaâs one-child policy, but it left one of us wondering, in the wake of Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhangâs One Child Nation being snubbed this year by the academy, if it would resonate with enough voters, and two of us certain that a sizeable portion of the academyâs more liberal members would take more than just the âI had fingerprints four weeks after conceptionâ bit as something akin to a big pro-life billboard.
Remember this old Sesame Street bit? Eric sure did while watching Daughter, a striking rumination about the emotional distance between a father and daughter. Daria Kashcheevaâs expressionistic use of stop motion is haunting, even if the short, amid so much abstraction, doesnât always evoke believable people. More approachable is Memorable, where the very nature of what can be believed and remembered is the governing principle. All the way until its stunning finale, Bruno Collet and Jean-FranĂ§ois Le Correâs confluence of styles (there are shades here of the âpsychorealismâ that won Chris Landreth an Oscar in 2005 for Ryan) is in profound conversation with the idea of dementia as a destructuring agent. Weâre no strangers to wrongly betting on our favorite short persevering on Oscar night, but Disney consistently loses in years where it has more than one film gunning for this award, so weâre betting that the two Disney-ish shorts will split the vote and pave the way for a Memorable victory.
Will Win: Memorable
Could Win: Hair Love
Should Win: Memorable
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Sound Editing
Itâs not difficult to rationalize picking the same film to win both sound editing and sound mixing.
The movement to merge the two Oscar categories for sound into just one is finally picking up some steam after an academy subcommittee favored consolidation in December, but we regret to inform you that the exceptionally rational decision hasnât yet been ratified, and thus wonât spare us one more year of double-feature kvetching. While the nominating members of the sound branch might know the exact difference between sound mixing and sound editing, and while compulsory Oscar blogging has forced us to know the exact difference as well, numerous academy members clearly donât.
Case in point: Last year they awarded Bohemian Rhapsody its expected award in sound mixing, where musicals always have an advantage, but also an upset win in sound editing. Unless voters metabolized Singerâs violent blitzkrieg of a film and simply misremembered hearing explosions throughout, thatâs not the vote of an informed electorate.
From our perspective as prognosticators, though, itâs not difficult to rationalize picking the same film to win both awards, especially in the absence of a musical. While there have been plenty of years weâve carbon-copied our predicted winner in both categories only to see them split (even three ways, as in 2012, when Les MisĂ©rables took sound mixing, and Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty tied for sound editing), getting one prediction right is better than getting none at all, especially in a year like this where, to judge from both slates, sound equals fury.
One thingâs fairly certain: You can probably go ahead and count out Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The new trilogy failed to add any more Oscar wins to the franchise, and, in fact, a Star Wars film has never won a competitive award for sound editing. Episodes seven and eight lost to, respectively, a chase movie and a war movie, and this yearâs top two contenders here are arguably the exact same pairing. While 1917 is still considered by many to be a frontrunner for best picture, weâre pretty sure the onslaught of vintage motors roaring for the climactic quarter-hour of Ford v. Ferrari will get voters right in the dad spot.
Will Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Could Win: 1917
Should Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Animated Feature
Completist-prone Oscar prognosticators were dealt a merciful hand last week when the Oscar nominations were announced and Frozen II didnât show up in this category. But the winning hand belongs to Toy Story 4, which likely lost the Golden Globe to Missing Link as a result of a vote split between the two Disney properties. Sentiment to reward the American-based production studio Laika is brewing, and the fitfully droll Missing Link will, like Kubo and the Two Strings before it, probably find favor at the BAFTAs, but Laikaâs latest and most expensive production to date dramatically bombed at the box office. And while no one will be weighing between the film and I Lost My Body, a singularly and actively morose and creepy film that wonât appeal to the academy at large, this categoryâs short history tells us that the Mouse House is only vulnerable to the biggest money makers. Also, Forky rules.
Will Win: Toy Story 4
Could Win: Missing Link
Should Win: I Lost My Body
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Pitt winning here will seem like the stars are lining up given what went down when he was first nominated in 1995.
We didnât predict Anthony Hopkins to get nominated here, thinking that the Golden Globesâs enthusiasm for The Two Popes was a fluke. We were wrong, and he ended up becoming the elder statesman in an acting lineup that contains, on average, by far the oldest nominees. The person we predicted to get in instead, Marriage Storyâs Alan Alda, is a year older than Hopkins, so we certainly werenât betting the farm on any male ingĂ©nues.
On the other hand, it sure feels like spry 56-year-old Brad Pitt, who opened his acceptance speech at last nightâs SAG Awards with a joke about having a Tinder profile, had this award in the bag the moment his Marlboro Man-ish handyman hopped atop his buddyâs roof to fix the antenna in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, whipping off his shirt to reveal a tawny, fully-abbed torso that scarcely seems to have aged in the nearly 30 years since he seduced the country in Thelma & Louise. He, as Leonardo DiCaprioâs co-lead, has a lot more to do throughout than just doff tees, but the âIâm still hereâ virility of that moment embodies the entire filmâs love letter to old-guard masculinity in Tinseltown.
Not that anyoneâs reading too deeply into it, not when thereâs good old-fashioned awards numerology to fall back on. Within minutes of the nominations being announced, Oscar Twitter jumped on the fact that the best supporting actor slate this year is composed of acting winners from 1990 (Joe Pesci), 1991 (Anthony Hopkins), 1992 (Al Pacino), and 1993 and 1994 (Tom Hanks). Fewer pointed out that Pitt was also a nominee in 1995 for 12 Monkeys, losing out to the now-canceled Kevin Spacey. Which makes it seem all the more poetically like the stars are lining up when Pitt wins for a film whose finale proposes a rousing bit of alternate, corrective history in which the âgoodâ guys obliterate the âbadâ ones.
Will Win: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Could Win: Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Should Win: Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Oscar 2020 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature
Every film nominated in this category grapples with the nature of freedom in a world gripped by war and shaped by technology.
Few Oscar categories are bigger snub magnets than this one. And while the failure of Apollo 11 to secure a nomination this year was indeed surprising, it was not as telling as the omission of The Biggest Little Farm, a handsomely, if conspicuously, sculpted âpopâ documentary thatâs very much in the academyâs wheelhouse. It was almost as if the committee responsible for selecting the nominees here was sending a message by embracing, at a time of increased global instability, five documentaries that looked only outward: not at mankindâs possibilities, but at the ways in which weâve become our own worst enemy.
When discussing the potential winner in this category, Eric and I were pulled in two different directions. âDoc will go American Factory and, by extension, the Obamas, right?â Eric asked. âHoneyland notched an Oscar record by being the first documentary to also be nominated for international feature. That has to mean something?â I asked. Which is to say that he and I, no strangers to this Oscar-predicting process, were sacrificing ourselves to rigamarole, forgetting that, at the end of the day, academy members vote with their hearts above all else.
Every film nominated in this category grapples with the nature of freedom in a world gripped by war and shaped by technology. American Factory specifically takes the closing of a Chinese-owned factory in Ohio as a jumping-off point for a study of the wiles of global capitalism, and itâs every bit as smart as you might expect from a film produced by the Obamas. A more sobering reminder of how the global order of the world has been cataclysmically disrupted in the last four years is another Netflix documentary, The Edge of Democracy, about Brazilâs own national(ist) sickness. Itâs a harrowing lament, but it offers the viewer no sense of escape.
Which isnât to say that the The Cave and especially For Sama, both filmed in Syria and in the midst of war there, are escapist. The two most viscerally powerful documentaries in the category confront us with the chaos of imperial domination. Both films center the female experience of war, but For Sama does so more shrewdly, positing itself not just as a chronicle of war, but an act of remembrance. In a film that doesnât lack for gut-wrenching images of the dead, one particularly stands out: of a child, after being pulled from its wounded motherâs womb via C section in the wake of a bombing, being brought back to life. Combined with the scenes depicting the citizens of war-torn Aleppo finding humor in the midst of conflict, the film attests not only to the perseverance of the Syrian people, but to the possibility that the country might still be brought back from the edge of oblivion.
Will Win: For Sama
Could Win: The Cave
Should Win: For Sama