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2008 Grammy Awards: Winner Predictions

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Amy Whinehouse

The Recording Academy no doubt has oodles of tedium in the works for us at this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony. It is, after all, the golden anniversary of the granddaddy of music awards shows. If the show goes on (and as of this post, the WGA has decided not to picket), we can expect even more awkwardly assembled performances and a lot more montages and salutes to the likes of Clive Davis than ever before. (What’s unclear is whether or not Miss Amy Winehouse will be on hand to add an even bigger sense of unpredictability to the proceedings.) Economy has never been the Academy’s friend, but they’ve become increasing stingy when it comes to televised categories and a lack of writers might mean more trophies. Either way, we’ve decided to follow their lead and cherry-pick the categories we predict. Here are the 10 awards we found worth talking about:

RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Irreplaceable,” Beyoncé
“The Pretender,” Foo Fighters
“Umbrella,” Rihanna featuring Jay-Z
“What Goes Around…Comes Around,” Justin Timberlake
“Rehab,” Amy Winehouse(Will Win)

Sal Cinquemani: Is it completely bonkers of me to think the Foo Fighters could benefit from an urban split a la Coldplay or Green Day? And more importantly, is it completely bonkers of me to use the word bonkers?
Eric Henderson: Only bonkers in the sense that Amy Winehouse would ever be considered “urban.”
Jonathan Keefe: Bonkers was far and away the lamest of the Disney Afternoon cartoons, so if for no other reason, I’m inclined to say yes. Possibly the only thing working against the Foo Fighters’ anti-urban angle is that “The Pretender” is neither a multi-format hit on par with “Clocks” or “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” nor obvious Grammy-bait like “Not Ready to Make Nice” or that comatose Ray Charles and Norah Jones duet.
Eric: It’s never wise to bet against the split, but call me optimistic. I’m pretty sure most Grammy voters can even up the score a bit by ditching Beyoncé (for unintentionally referencing her song’s disposable nature in the lyrics) and Justin Timberlake (for tardiness) and concentrating their votes on “Umbrella,” the most of-the-moment choice. That’s not, of course, to say she’s got a shot in hell at winning.
Jonathan: There’s a theory that NARAS hasn’t voted for an urban-leaning single in this category because they often lack live instruments. If there’s any truth to that, the killer live backing by the DAP Kings might give “Rehab” an edge. It’s a tough call, though, because there’s no way of knowing how much Wino’s attempt to out-train-wreck Britney has alienated conservative older voters.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters
These Days, Vince Gill
River: The Joni Letters, Herbie Hancock
Graduation, Kanye West (Will Win)
Back to Black, Amy Winehouse

Sal: Is it completely cynical of me to say that even if Kanye West didn’t have this in the bag already, his mom sealed the deal?
Jonathan: I’d say Bono sealed the deal when he outright told NARAS to vote for Kanye’s next album in his acceptance speech in this category two years ago. Lord knows they’ll do anything Bono tells them to do.
Eric: Vince Gill’s album may just be literally the biggest of the lot (though Kanye’s ego certainly makes his album feel like at least a double LP). Amy Winehouse is the only one with anything resembling hipster credibility in this lineup, but who are we kidding? This is the Grammys. With that in mind, I hope with that little piece of my heart that still beats blood instead of irony that Herbie Hancock is the one who steals this award from Kanye. I can’t think of a lamer or more opportunistic example of Starbucks one-stop-shopping, but Hancock’s musicianship and technical skill are still about the only thing worth celebrating in the context of Grammys, even under middlebrow duress.

SONG OF THE YEAR
“Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood
“Hey There Delilah,” Plain White T’s
“Like a Star,” Corinne Bailey Rae
“Rehab,” Amy Winehouse (Will Win)
“Umbrella,” Rihanna featuring Jay-Z

Jonathan: So I guess this is where I’m supposed to make my annual and ultimately incorrect case that the obligatory poorly-written pop-country nominee will win? But I just don’t see “Before He Cheats” having much of a chance here if it couldn’t land a nomination for Record of the Year, which would’ve made a hell of a lot more sense. “Umbrella” is the closest this line-up comes to a modern standard based on how frequently it’s been covered, but I have a hard time seeing the voters recognizing “ella ella ella eh eh eh” as the stupid-good hook that it is. “Delilah” is just gross, and it seems like the Blue Ribbon Committee are the only people in the world who really like Corinne Bailey Rae. Which leaves “Rehab,” the best-written song in the category, which is also about as far removed from the drippy optimism that typically wins. So, basically, I can think of reasons why each of these songs won’t win and no reasons why one of them has to. “Like a Star,” maybe? In addition to being the most inexplicable nominee, it’s the most conservative choice by far.
Eric: I haven’t gone back to check the stats or anything, but I feel like the one which made the smallest impact on the pop charts is the one that usually wins. That and the notion that Corinne Bailey Rae’s star arguably rose thanks to her previous Grammy nods (hello, perceived relevance!) are working in her favor for sure.
Sal: I guess I’m going to have to completely disagree with you guys here. I just don’t see Corinne Bailey Rae winning this. I don’t even know why she was nominated…again. But maybe that means I’m just out of touch with the out-of-touchers.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Feist
Ledisi
Paramore
Taylor Swift
Amy Winehouse (Will Win)

Eric: Well, this category should be pretty easy to pick. Never bet against the fledgling female soloist…Oh, shit.
Jonathan: Nightmare scenario, which I don’t think is at all far-fetched: Voters who want to vote for someone legitimately talented (sorry, Paramore!) that they’ve actually heard of (sorry, Ledisi!) but who are put off by Wino’s meltdown defect to Feist, resulting in a split-vote that ends up benefiting those who go for the one act in the group who’s been able to move a shit-ton of shit records. Honestly, it’s not even a matter of comparing relative degrees of badness, like saying that Ashanti has a marginally better voice than Ciara, and I know that she’s a child and all, which makes it mean to say so, but Taylor Swift is just awful.
Sal: God moved to Nashville? That explains a lot. Taylor Swift is like a country version of Avril Lavigne.
Jonathan: She can’t sing, and the fact that she’s a teenager isn’t an excuse for the fact that her songs make Jewel sound like Dolly Parton. My only hope is that she turns out like Felicity—once she cuts her mop of curly hair, her audience of teenage girls will realize they didn’t like her for the reasons they thought they did and move on to something better. So I’m really hoping that Winehouse hasn’t alienated too many people.
Sal: Wino doesn’t seem to have a firm grip on much these days, but it’s pretty safe to say that she snagged this award about a year ago.
Eric: She shagged this award last year too. I think Feist has the iPhone demographic locked up, which means she should probably come in fourth.

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Candyman,” Christina Aguilera
“1234,” Feist
“Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Fergie
“Say It Right,” Nelly Furtado
“Rehab,” Amy Winehouse (Will Win)

Jonathan:: I think this one is Winehouse’s safest bet, and she’d get my vote, though I like both Furtado and Feist’s tracks quite a lot too. And even “Candyman” is relatively subdued by Mama Aguilera’s throat-shredding standards.
Sal: Based solely on the literal interpretation of this category title (which we know is not the way the academy actually votes), I’d give it to Feist. It’s certainly not my favorite song of hers, but she displays a nice range and really effective use of different tones throughout. But obviously Amy’s “no, no, no” is a refusal that will be hard to refuse. Unless, you know, you’re actually Amy Winehouse, and then it’s something like “Um, okay, yeah, I guess.”
Jonathan:: So…same situation as Best New Artist, but with Fergie as the beneficiary this time? It’s possible, but “Big Girls Don’t Cry” isn’t as memorably bad as this:

Sal: All I have to say about that is, thank God for crystal meth.
Eric: Maybe they’ll vote for the one who exerts the most effort to overcome her lack of talent. Of course, by that reasoning, Fergie would also be a frontrunner for best supporting actress in Planet Terror.

BEST DANCE RECORDING
“Do It Again,” The Chemical Brothers
“D.A.N.C.E.,” Justice
“Love Today,” Mika
“Don’t Stop the Music,” Rihanna (Will Win)
“LoveStoned/I Think She Knows,” Justin Timberlake

Sal: This category is filled entirely with squeaky voices and falsetto. I have no idea what that means, but perhaps the most masculine of the bunch will win. So, congratulations…Rihanna?
Eric: I’m glad we’re covering this category instead of dance album, where a bona fide rock album is apparently competing. As someone whose favorite song to neck-snap to last year was by !!!, and as someone who thinks the average Grammy voter is more likely to get their 4/4 on over in the polka categories, I still say this points to a certain lack of vitality in the scene.
Jonathan: I liked Mika a whole lot better when he was stripping off his skin and throwing it at a bunch of rollerskating models. If Basement Jaxx can win a Grammy and LCD Soundsystem can manage a couple of nominations, I think the voters are hip enough to give this to Justice. Who, incidentally, did a great remix of “LoveStoned.”

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
“It’s Not Over,” Daughtry
“Working Class Hero,” Green Day
“If Everyone Cared,” Nickelback
“Instant Karma,” U2 (Will Win)
“Icky Thump,” The White Stripes

Sal: I’d like to think that Green Day and U2 paying homage to John Lennon for Darfur would create a split in favor of the White Stripes, but why do I think Nickelback will benefit most?
Jonathan: Nickelback, though, will lose some votes to Jesusy, Bald Nickelback. So there are two sets of split-votes here—Green Day and U2’s appeals to Baby Boomers and Don Cheadle, and then Nickelback versus Daughtry. Leaving the only sane choice: the White Stripes.
Eric: U2 covers a Beatle and you guys are arguing it’s not an instant winner?
Jonathan: On principle, yes. But…um…I can’t think of a single counter-argument to Eric’s point.

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
Alright, Still…, Lily Allen
Neon Bible, Arcade Fire (Will Win)
Volta, Björk
Wincing the Night Away, The Shins
Icky Thump, The White Stripes

Sal: Aside from the fact that Lily Allen’s Alright, Still… is possibly my least favorite album of last year, its inclusion in this category is dubious at best. Björk is fast becoming less a problem child than a complete disappointment, so my pick is Neon Bible. If they couldn’t beat the White Stripes in this category two years ago, though, can they do it now?
Jonathan: Yeah, as far as category fraud goes, Lily Allen is to the Grammys as Casey Affleck is to Oscars. Except that I can see why people like what Affleck did. The Shins should also have been submitted in the Pop field, but it’s nice to see them earn some two-albums-overdue recognition. Arcade Fire are no longer as off-the-mainstream-radar as they were when Funeral lost in this category to Get Behind Me Satan two years ago, so I think they’re a good bet to take this.
Eric: Thanks, Grammys, for reminding me that Björk never won this award in the 1990s…you know, when she deserved to. Considering the timetable most artists are on when they actually do win this award, I wouldn’t rule her completely out. Then again, this award hasn’t been won by a female (or even a female-fronted group) since Sinead O’Connor won the category’s charter award in 1990—not by Björk, not by Tori Amos, not by PJ Harvey, not by Fiona Apple. Some alternative.

BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
“I Wanna Love You,” Akon featuring Snoop Dogg
“Kiss, Kiss,” Chris Brown & T-Pain
“Let It Go,” Keyshia Cole featuring Missy Elliott & Lil’ Kim
“Umbrella,” Rihanna featuring Jay-Z (Will Win)
“Good Life,” Kanye West featuring T-Pain

Sal: The most obvious pick here ironically has the least collaboration. Rihanna allegedly didn’t even know Jay-Z had tacked on his verse to the beginning of the track as a “gift” until the producers played the final product for her.
Jonathan: All I ask for is a reaction shot from Beyoncé if they present this one to Rihanna and Jay-Z on the telecast.
Eric: Another classic case of the song I like best in multiple categories winning probably its only award of the evening, and doing it in the one category where I actually like other another candidate more. “Umbrella” was one of the only things that kept my ears momentarily away from house and Maurice Ravel in 2007, but I’ll still bump it to “Let It Go” long into 2008.

BEST FEMALE COUNTRY VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Simple Love,” Alison Krauss
“Famous in a Small Town,” Miranda Lambert
“Nothin’ Better To Do,” LeAnn Rimes
“Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood (Will Win)
“Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love,” Trisha Yearwood

Sal: Again, if we’re talking actual Vocal Performance, Alison Krauss’s understated “Simple Love” would be my pick, but LeAnn Rimes obviously tried to swallow the microphone on “Nothin’ Better To Do,” which also happens to be the best produced track here.
Jonathan: I love the idea of you voluntarily listening to five country songs, Sal. But if you were ever going to listen to a set of five, you could do a whole lot worse than this line-up, which is the strongest since at least 1992. Lambert, who should’ve broken into the boys’ club Best Country Album category, is the longest-shot here, but “Gunpowder and Lead,” her fastest-rising single to date, will likely put her in good position to win next year. Yearwood would, hands down, be my pick for giving the best vocal performance of the lot, but the single wasn’t as big a hit as it deserved to be. Still, she really should have won this category for more than just “How Do I Live.” Rimes has come a long way since her version of that same song lost to Yearwood’s, but a win with “Nothin’ Better to Do,” which really is a great single, would be a major upset. That leaves the two frontrunners—Krauss, nominated for yet another reiteration of the kind of lovely, tasteful-to-a-fault performance that she always gives and that NARAS evidently doesn’t mind hearing repeatedly, and Underwood, nominated for the biggest hit of the group. It’s foolhardy to bet against Krauss at the Grammys—I imagine there are going to be quite a few surprised pop fans when she and Robert Plant beat Beyoncé and Shakira for Pop Collaboration—and the bottom eventually has to fall out of Underwood’s lengthy awards-show dominance, but “Before He Cheats” is just too massive not to win.
Sal: I wouldn’t mind seeing Plant and Krauss take Pop Collaboration for “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On).” I caught a glimpse of the video the other night on CMT. And then it was followed by Trace Adkins’s “I Got My Game On” and I decided that my tryst with country music would be shorter-lived than a coed’s bisexual phase.

This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.

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Awards

Oscar 2020: Complete Winners List

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

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Parasite
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.

Picture
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Parasite (WINNER)

Director
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Todd Phillips, Joker
Sam Mendes, 1917
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
Bong Joon-ho, Parasite (WINNER)

Actor
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

Actress
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

Cinematography
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?

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1917
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.

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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.”

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Parasite
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.

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Parasite
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.

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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.

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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.

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1917
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.

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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.

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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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