RECORD OF THE YEAR
“We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey
“Feel Good Inc.,” Gorillaz featuring De La Soul
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” Green Day (Will Win)
“Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani
“Gold Digger,” Kanye West
Sal Cinquemani: “We Belong Together” earned its title long before this year’s nominations were even announced. I hesitate to say that it “deserves” to win (it’s in surprisingly worthy company), but unless voters decide to deny Mariah Carey a general field category (and they might), this trophy is Mimi’s to lose…emphasis on the lose. Being the sole rock entry in this category helped Coldplay’s “Clocks” win two years ago but it didn’t do much for Green Day’s “American Idiot” last year. The less politically divisive “Boulevard,” on the other hand, is the kind of sweeping rock ballad the academy likes to get behind. It would be an opportunity to bestow a major award on the band after they went home with only one trophy last winter.
Eric Henderson: The Grammys had a few opportunities to award Green Day last year, but you could hardly blame the voters for jumping into Ray Charles’s time machine in order to avoid actually coping with the outcome of the presidential election. If Kanye “black people” West’s anti-Bush tirade is still ringing in the ears of voters, it’s only because it was the most conspicuous reflection of political discontent in a year when music seemed ready to declare tomorrow another day, a day in which you wish your girlfriend was hot like me. Kanye’s impromptu Howard Beale moment could ironically help give Green Day’s more carefully considered political messages a leg up on the four-way splitting and, more specifically, the still-looming ghost of Charles reincarnated by Jamie Foxx in the single by…Kanye West. Oh, what a twisted web Grammy weaves. Of course, if Mariah wins (like she probably will), it’ll be bubble-headed business as usual.
Jonathan Keefe: If Mariah does take this one, it’ll be because Gorillaz have enough appeal with the “rock” voters to siphon off enough of Green Day’s support, not because NARAS is suddenly feeling recalcitrant for having rewarded Mariah with a scant two trophies over the course of her career and not because they’re at all inclined to assume that the year’s biggest radio hit is also the year’s best single (right, Usher and Beyoncé?). Still, the line-up is just too similar to 2003’s, with four nominees culled from the increasingly blurred line between pop and hip-hop squaring off against one Hot AC ballad, not to think that “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” will prevail.
Ed Gonzalez: Given the conspicuous Bush bashing that goes on at Slant, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the White House is spying on us right now. If NARAS voters feel their own boulevard of dreams is being similarly tapped, I’m sure they’ll want to rally behind Green Day.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Emancipation of Mimi, Mariah Carey
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Paul McCartney
Love. Angel. Music. Baby. , Gwen Stefani
Late Registration, Kanye West (Will Win)
SC: Not only is Mariah’s The Emancipation of Mimi the biggest-selling album in this category, it was the biggest-selling album of 2005, and sales can often equal votes come Grammy night. That said, she’ll have to beat the old-fart factor (Paul McCartney) and Kanye’s critical favor (while I’d love to see voters punish him for his ego, I’m not holding my breath). Perennial favorites U2 haven’t won in this category since The Joshua Tree and if they couldn’t score for the dreadful, middle-of-the-road All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I don’t see them doing it for the marginally better How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
EG: Kanye West…because NARAS doesn’t want to give him, or his savior Jesus, the impression they hate black people.
EH: Kanye’s sophomore album lacked that “dig me!” self-aggrandizement that made The College Dropout the album you hated to love last year. And, “Gold Digger” aside, Late Registration also lacked that LP’s string of smash hits (so far, anyway). But the “hit machine” electorate is split down the middle between Mimi (the year’s biggest hits) and Hollaback (the most enduring). And between McCartney and U2, Grammy’s fogey contingent will still be scratching their asses trying to decide long after the ballots are due. The only question mark on the category is whether West’s acceptance speech will be on CBS’s trigger-happy time delay.
JK: By shooting his mouth off about how he’s the most deserving nominee because he worked harder—since he actually sat in on McCartney’s and Stefani’s recording sessions and all—and by saying that he actively wants to win Album Of The Year, Kanye probably did enough to secure this win, drawing attention to himself while more or less giving NARAS a handjob. Not even his ego can compare to their bloated sense of self-importance: They’ll vote for whoever goes on record to state that he thinks the Grammys really do matter. Well played, Kanye. Well played.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Bless the Broken Road,” Rascal Flatts (Will Win)
“Devils & Dust,” Bruce Springsteen
“Ordinary People,” John Legend
“Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” U2
“We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey
SC: Mariah Carey is second only to Aretha Franklin in total Grammy nominations for female artists, and yet the woman has only won two—and that was 15 years ago. Lambs everywhere can rejoice in the fact that she’s sure to add a few to her tally in ’06…this just won’t be one of them. If senile voters confuse “Bless The Broken Road” with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” then it’s a lock.
EH: Springsteen and U2—earnest and earnester—could easily cut into Flatts’s tally. Which can only help John Legend, whose tunes have that sort of self-evident “writerliness” that should appeal to R&B-devoted voters who can’t quite feel out a strong melody in Carey’s minimalist song.
EG: It warms my heart that Bruce Springsteen seems to have finally passed his “We Are The World” kidney stone. “Devils & Dust” is the best song here, but its fire-and-brimstone imagery isn’t going to be an easy sell with Rascal Flatts’s more amiable “Driving Miss Daisy Theme” in contention.
JK: Since “schmaltz” routinely trumps “songcraft” in this category, “Bless The Broken Road” will win for being the most obvious wedding song on the list.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Fall Out Boy
John Legend (Will Win)
SC: The last time a solo male won Best New Artist was also the same year Mariah Carey last won a Grammy (1991), which bodes well for John Legend, who is in a three-way tie with none other than Mariah and mentor Kanye West for the artist with the most nominations this year. Sadly, The Killers peaked too late to compete with the likes of Kanye and Gretchen Wilson last year and they’re ineligible this year, and for that Keane and Fall Out Boy can thank them. Don’t count out Sugarland though—this is fast-becoming Grammy’s most surprising category and the Atlanta trio, who’ve got two #2 country hits under their belts, are probably hoping to break their runner-up status with a win on Grammy night.
EH: Shouldn’t Mimi be in this category? Ordinary money is on Legend, but after last year’s win for Maroon 5, rock-oriented guy groups aren’t hopelessly out of contention for the BNA trophy. Fall Out Boy aren’t as ubiquitous as Adam Levine’s back-up models (nor are they as droolworthy), but if enough grizzled, senile execs let their grandnieces and nephews fill out their ballots, it’ll put them into serious contention.
JK: It would be easier to take Sugarland, who have the best balance of commercial and critical stats of the five nominees, as a serious threat here if they’d managed to score any of the nominations they were expected to earn in the Country field. Since they were completely shut out, it’s clear that their support isn’t strong enough to pull an upset in one of the major categories. Fall Out Boy doesn’t have the VH1 heavy rotation that Maroon 5 used to their advantage last year, and if Coldplay didn’t score any nominations in the General Field, there’s no reason to think that the Coldplay-lite of Keane will manage to win. Ciara’s other nominations are all for her collaborations with Missy Elliott, and, of course, there’s the fact that the girl just can’t sing. The category’s history notwithstanding, this one’s Legend’s in a walk.
EG: If Keane kidnaps a little girl in one of their songs and takes her to Port Authority, I want them to win.
BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“It’s Like That,” Mariah Carey
“Since U Been Gone,” Kelly Clarkson
“Good Is Good,” Sheryl Crow
“I Will Not Be Broken,” Bonnie Raitt
“Hollaback Girl,” Gwen Stefani (Will Win)
EH: I seem to remember once upon a time Bonnie Raitt being the go-to girl whenever the pop categories threatened to get too pop. And if “Hollaback Girl” is as much a frontrunner as we all know it is, that could spur whatever reactionary machinery kicked in when Raitt defeated Paula Abdul (“Straight Up”) and, ahem, Mariah Carey (“Emotions”) into action. Kelly Clarkson’s ubiquitous pop-rock bonbon would be the logical compromise, but I wonder whether there aren’t some voters who still feel a little conflicted about throwing trophies toward American Idol winners. Especially considering that the recent Season 5 premiere reacquainted us with the show’s tin-eared initial hook.
SC: I was surprised to see Clarkson missing from some of the bigger categories this year, so maybe there isn’t as much love for her among the academy as I suspected there would be. Still, if this award is indeed given for the best vocal performance then “Since U Been Gone” will be hard to beat. Mariah was nominated for the wrong song and, while Grammy voters love them some Sheryl Crow, the lovely “Good Is Good” might be a little too subtle a performance for even the most discerning academy member. Clarkson’s only competition is “Hollaback”: the academy clearly views Gwen Stefani as more of an “artist” than Clarkson (see Album and Record Of The Year nods) and she’s already won two pop performance awards with No Doubt.
EG: I like Gwen Stefani but hate “Hollaback Girl,” and “It’s Like That” only makes me think of Mariah’s dirty panties. American Idol won’t mean a damn since most people see the show as a trip to Crystal Lake, with Simon Cowell as its Jason and Clarkson as the only survivor to have ever gotten out with her dignity (and possibly even her virginity) in tact. (Props to Crow, though, for a memorable, albeit distant, second-place finish.)
JK: What’s tricky about this category is that there’s no way to predict how the voters are going to interpret the word “vocal” in any given year. Technically, it’s only in the category name because what’s nominated has to include vocals on at least 51% of its running time, but there are always people who argue that it should go to the performance with the best vocal technique. Because the best possible way to increase the Grammys’ credibility is by getting bogged down in a semantics debate. That might hurt Stefani here, since “Hollaback Girl” is already a divisive single, and most of its proponents would likely admit that what works about it doesn’t hinge on her vocal performance. So the question is whether or not that will play enough of a role to allow either Clarkson or Crow to win. Crow generally fares better in the Rock field, and her album hasn’t sold particularly well, but she does have the “They’re selling it at Starbucks” appeal that has worked for Norah Jones, Coldplay, and Ray Charles. Clarkson can take consolation in the fact that “Since U Been Gone” seems poised to win Pazz & Jop, since the Grammys do have that air of would-be “legitimacy” that makes it hard to see them going for an American Idol, however deserving she might be. Heart says Clarkson, but brain says that Stefani’s too popular not to win anything, and this one’s her best shot.
BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Sitting, Waiting, Wishing,” Jack Johnson
“Fine Line,” Paul McCartney
“Walk on By,” Seal
“Lonely No More,” Rob Thomas (Will Win)
“From the Bottom of My Heart,” Stevie Wonder
SC: Women ruled 2005 and this largely hitless category proves it. Seal? Come now. I’d put my money on Rob Thomas’s “Lonely No More,” the biggest hit here, or that British guy who used to be in that pop band.
EG: “Lonely No More” reminds me of that hit Enrique Iglesias had where he sings about being in love with Amadou Diallo. I think “Fine Line” will win here. It’s not only the best song in the group but it’s sung by a Beatle.
EH: Stevie Wonder hasn’t been nominated for quite this many Grammys in a single year since Original Musiquarium and his duet with McCartney, “Ebony And Ivory,” effectively wrote the epilogue to his fertile period, for better and worse respectively. But though his six nods represent the strongest showing here, he rolled snake eyes on seven nominations in ’83. If Wonder had been up for his Hurricane Katrina anthem “Shelter In The Rain,” that might’ve put him over the top. Ivory doesn’t really have much of a shot, either, which leaves this category to the one-shot nominees. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack Johnson rides to a victory on the backs of his small but passionate fanbase.
JK: Yeah. Rob Thomas wins for his Maroon 5 impression, barring the slight chance that the voters mistake choosing Jack Johnson for “hip.”
BEST POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
“Don’t Lie,” The Black Eyed Peas
“Mr. Brightside,” The Killers (Will Win)
“More Than Love,” Los Lonely Boys
“This Love [Live],” Maroon 5
“My Doorbell,” The White Stripes
EH: I could almost picture Grammy voters sticking with what they know and giving this to previous winners Los Lonely Boys or last year’s losers Maroon 5, especially considering that their nomination here feels like a re-do for picking the wrong song last year. Speaking of the wrong song, what is up with the Black Eyed Peas’ nod? Say whatever mean, nasty things you will about “My Humps” and “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” (no, please, do), at least they were hits, meaning somebody somewhere actually liked them. Call it wishful thinking, but I could see The Killers emerging victorious from out of this reheated line-up.
JK: That “My Doorbell” was actually placed in the correct category is easily my favorite nomination this year, and it’s not inconceivable that The White Stripes’ proven Grammy clout could give them the win. It’s just more likely that the biggest/only radio hit in the line-up, from a band that even NARAS’s conservative older members can mistake for edgy, will prevail. Though I’d love to see “My Doorbell” pull the upset, “Mr. Brightside” was just too big a multi-format hit not to win.
EG: “My Doorbell” shames every song in this category, but because talking is the new singing, The Killers will take this one.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
Extraordinary Machine, Fiona Apple
Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson
Wildflower, Sheryl Crow
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Paul McCartney (Will Win)
Love. Angel. Music. Baby. , Gwen Stefani
SC: It’s a two-way race between Paul McCartney and Gwen Stefani in this category. I’d give Paul the edge, though I’d love to see Kelly Clarkson bring this one home due to a split-vote.
EH: Yeah but, unlike with Wonder, McCartney doesn’t usually win many from the continuing torrent of Grammy nominations post-relevance. I see this as being Stefani’s to lose with a few smart and/or anti-industry votes turning Apple into the spoiler.
JK: Apple’s anti-industry saga isn’t going to win her many fans in NARAS: they’re not going to cut their nose off to spite their face, as it were. Clarkson’s sales stats aren’t going to convince them that Breakaway is a great artistic statement. The Grammys seem immune to the criticisms of their own irrelevance, so it’s not like they’re going to second-guess voting for McCartney, but they also don’t have to worry about Stefani, either, since she’s already a repeat winner with No Doubt. Since, with the exception of La Timberlake’s win, this category has skewed more “mature” recently (Steely Dan, Sade, Norah Jones, and Ray Charles are the other four winners since 2000), I’ll give McCartney the edge.
BEST DANCE RECORDING
“Galvanize,” The Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip
“Say Hello,” Deep Dish
“Wonderful Night,” Fatboy Slim & Lateef
“Daft Punk Is Playing at My House,” LCD Soundsystem
“I Believe in You,” Kylie Minogue (Will Win)
“Guilt Is a Useless Emotion,” New Order
SC: LCD Soundsystem might be the critical darling here, but I can see New Order taking this one home just for sheer nostalgia (they’ve never won a Grammy). I’m probably wrong—in fact, I’d put money on that. There’s no denying the retro appeal of “I Believe In You” (co-written by Babydaddy & Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, for added hipster appeal), but Kylie Minogue’s annual presence in this category is curious at best. Credit the wasteland that is American dance music. Or credit the academy’s…good taste?
EH: I’ll credit habit, diva worship, and the fact that most of them never step foot on a dance floor. Which doesn’t explain why they expanded this category to six nominees for…Deep fucking Dish. You’re probably right that New Order is a safe bet, especially since most of the other usual suspects have their shot in the Dance Album category.
JK: Not to put too crass a point on it, especially since I like both her and the single she’s nominated for, but I wouldn’t bet against Minogue simply on the basis of her breast cancer story—Melissa Etheridge’s bald head, after all, was arguably the talking point of last year’s show. I’m also the only would-be hipster who really isn’t impressed at all by “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House,” just to lay out all of my biases.
EG: My body can’t dance to “Daft Punk Is Playing at My House”—thrash, maybe, but certainly not dance—but it’s not like any of these songs “let the dogs out” anyway. I want to say only gay men know Kylie has cancer, but in spite of Billboard keeping regular tabs on the singer’s chemo appointments, my Number One Fag Hag still managed to miss the memo. Still, if Parkinson’s gave Michael J. Fox the edge in the 2000 Emmy race, I suppose cancer can do the same for Kylie here. Not that I’m complaining—next to “Galvanize,” it’s the best song in the bunch.
BEST ELECTRONIC/DANCE ALBUM
Push the Button, The Chemical Brothers
Human After All, Daft Punk
Palookaville, Fatboy Slim
LCD Soundsystem, LCD Soundsystem (Will Win)
SC: The inclusion of the word “dance” in this category is pretty deceptive if you ask me. It’s about as confused as Billboard’s “Top Electronic Albums,” which includes artists like Depeche Mode and Gorillaz alongside D.H.T. and DisneyRemixMania. I know Eric thinks the Chems’s Push The Button is underwhelming but there’s only one bad track on the entire album, and it’s my favorite of the bunch here. As for which one will win, I don’t think anyone in this country could really care less.
EH: If New Order could win in the other category, I suppose that means the even more influential, even more nostalgic Kraftwerk can’t be ignored here, even if the album is just a rote greatest hits/live performance hybrid. The Chems are just as overdue. I relish the thought of Daft Punk winning for their album-length “fuck you” to the moribund dance world. Though, considering my reading of that album is minoritarian (to say the least) and I couldn’t fathom someone applying the same “it’s bad on purpose” theory to Fatboy Slim’s god-awful Palookaville, maybe I should just exercise good karma and give LCD my endorsement.
JK: As someone who falls into the “No, it’s just straight-up bad” camp on Human After All, I have to agree that it’s still better than Fatboy Slim’s album. But if Basement Jaxx’s Kish Kash could win last year despite the Grammys’ historically weirdass definitions for dance music, I’ll say that LCD Soundsystem can win this year.
EG: Anyone who thinks the Chems are no longer interested in reinventing their sound is a fool. Their big beats are as muscular, propulsive, and exhilarating as ever—sometimes spiritually and politically so—but I imagine Grammy voters will once again take them for granted. LCD Soundsystem isn’t quite my idea of great dance music, but it’s still hella fine, and in terms of electronic thrills and wispy drones, I concede that it may have Push the Button beat. Pity “Disco Infiltrator,” “On Repeat,” or “Great Release” weren’t nominated for Best Dance Recording.
BEST ROCK SONG
“Best of You,” Foo Fighters
“Beverly Hills,” Weezer
“City of Blinding Lights,” U2
“Devils & Dust,” Bruce Springsteen (Will Win)
“Speed of Sound,” Coldplay
SC: I think the fact that U2 was nominated for a different song for Song Of The Year speaks less to their quality and diversity as songwriters and more to the complete arbitrariness and obligatory nature of the band’s nominations. Do you guys think voters actually listen to the U2 songs they nominate or do they just randomly pick tracks with titles that sound like anthems for Bono’s latest goodwill pilgrimage?
EH: iTunes has to figure into it somehow. Weezer’s massive hit is probably Coldplay’s strongest competition—I mean, for anyone fickle enough to feel guilty about calling Coldplay the new Radiohead back in ’01. That “Beverly Hills” is a fist-pumping rawk anthem and pays lip service to ignoring trendiness (while still being secretly hipster than thou) seals its viability as the anti-Coldplay vote.
JK: The fact that this is Weezer’s first ever Grammy nomination makes my hair hurt; they’ve been a great singles band for over a decade, and “Beverly Hills” would be their worst radio single if not for the other two singles from Make Believe. Springsteen wins this since his is the only song with broad enough support to land the nomination for Song Of The Year in the General Field, thanks to the odd split between the U2 songs. Coldplay’s shut-out for the major awards suggests that their backlash, which is hardly unearned, may actually have figured into the voting, and I think they’ll go home empty-handed.
EG: Like Million Dollar Baby, “Devils & Dust” is told with the spirit of someone who regularly chugs down jiggers of scotch, and yet it isn’t harsh on the ears. Springsteen doesn’t write as well as Leonard Cohen (who does?), but his voice is more agreeable. His song seems like the logical compromise for anyone who might be annoyed by Foo Fighters and Weezer’s perpetual whines and U2 and Coldplay’s persistent ear-nibbling.
BEST ROCK ALBUM
In Your Honor, Foo Fighters
A Bigger Bang, The Rolling Stones
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 (Will Win)
Prairie Wind, Neil Young
SC: Unwritten Grammy rules state that academy members must vote for any album nominated for Album Of The Year regardless of the quality of the competition in its respective genre field. So, sorry, Neil (although for a split second I thought Prairie Wind could be a pleasant upset). And it should be noted that this is the first year Coldplay is nominated in Rock rather than Alternative Music, which means they’re no longer “gay” now that frat boys across the country have adopted them as their new arena rockers of choice. Will that break their winning streak? Hopefully.
EH: Frat boys are such pussies these days.
JK: On Facebook, Dave Matthews Band still has a slight edge over Coldplay as the most popular music act. Of course, The Notebook is also the most popular movie on Facebook, so I’m not going to argue that the frat boys aren’t pussies. But they’re also not voting here, so U2 will win. Young should’ve been nominated for Traditional Folk Album, instead.
EG: I know little about Coldplay other than their ties to Apple, which saddens me that I can’t join in the hipper-than-thou bullying. Oh, wait, I just did! The Grammys don’t like The Rolling Stones very much and Neil Young has never won a Grammy in his entire career (poor guy joined Crosby, Stills and Nash too late to savor the group’s 1969 Best New Artist victory)—besides, who knew they had albums this year? This will be Bono’s consolation for not having won the Nobel Peace Prize.
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
Funeral, The Arcade Fire
Plans, Death Cab for Cutie
You Could Have It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand
Get Behind Me Satan, The White Stripes (Will Win)
SC: The absence of Coldplay means it’s an open playing field and critical darlings the Arcade Fire could score.
EH: Yeah, but “critical favorites” as you’re using the term (meaning “vanguard-but-still-underexposed” as opposed to “let’s pretend that Radiohead and Wilco aren’t automatic Pazz & Jop top tenners every year they’re eligible”) don’t usually win this category. In any case, look at this backlog of candidates two years overdue! I’d actually taken it for granted that Coldplay hadn’t been winning this category for the last five years running, and was surprised that The White Stripes have been awarded already. Beck, however, hasn’t won in awhile, and Guero’s Odelay Part Dos sheen might carry him to a win. But if I know Grammy history in this category, I’m betting on the “new but not that new” Franz Ferdinand for the win.
JK: Cross Beck off the list first, since he’s been a Grammy favorite in the past but couldn’t manage to score any of the other nominations with Guero that his previous albums have. If Coldplay has fallen out of favor, Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans, which plays like diminished returns on A Rush of Blood to the Head, won’t win either. The Arcade Fire actually shouldn’t be nominated, since Funeral wasn’t released during the eligibility period, but the fact that the Grammys caught up to Pitchfork in just over a year’s time is astonishing. That Funeral is the best nominee in a strong list (only Plans doesn’t hold its own) doesn’t mean it’ll win, though, since The Arcade Fire is still awfully far off the mainstream radar. Get Behind Me Satan might only be the White Stripes’ third-or-fourth best album, but they’ve won in this category before, so they’re a safer, if slightly less deserving, bet than the second outing for Franz Ferdinand.
BEST R&B SONG
“Cater 2 U,” Destiny’s Child
“Free Yourself,” Fantasia
“Ordinary People,” John Legend
“Unbreakable,” Alicia Keys
“We Belong Together,” Mariah Carey (Will Win)
EH: “Cater 2 U” made me grateful I’m not attracted to women-lampreys. “Ordinary People” made me glad that I’m special. “We Belong Together” made me happy in isolation. “Free Yourself” turned my ears into prisoners. How odd that the sloppy, underthought “Unbreakable” managed to break my long-standing resistance to the no longer humorless Alicia Keys.
EG: Alicia Keys is doing comedy now? Is she as good as Mariah Carey was on Dick Clark’s Strokin’ New Year’s Eve special?
BEST R&B ALBUM
Illumination, Earth, Wind and Fire
Free Yourself, Fantasia
Unplugged, Alicia Keys
Get Lifted, John Legend (Will Win)
A Time 2 Love, Stevie Wonder
EH: The only thing helping Stevie here is the fact that Earth, Wind and Fire’s album is even more dire, and only fleetingly features the band in the first place. (At least Stevie’s album is all him.) Residual love for the flowering, looser Keys aside, ain’t no way John Legend’s self-important album can lose this one.
EG: If you threw cold water on Earth, Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder’s albums, they’d scarcely produce steam. Not that John Legend, Fantasia, or Alicia Keys’s music packs much heat, but they still got sass. Since Legend’s brand seems to be less abrasive than Fantasia’s and only slightly less snootily off-putting than Keys’s, he has the edge here.
SC: Yeah, I’d say Legend’s got this pretty locked up. Although I wouldn’t be totally shocked if NARAS decided to give it to his female counterpart…for a live album no less. Sometimes they just can’t resist.
BEST CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM
The Emancipation of Mimi, Mariah Carey (Will Win)
Destiny Fulfilled, Destiny’s Child
Turning Point, Mario
SC: By this point, it’s safe to say Mimi has been vindicated, err, emancipated. Definitely not emaciated though.
EH: I think that the fact Omarion managed to survive the London bombings and let his fans know he was all right so swiftly is really its own reward. Which means that Mariah’s only competition is the prorating of Destiny Fulfilled in light of the fact that it’s now the group’s swan song.
BEST RAP SONG
“Candy Shop,” 50 Cent featuring Olivia
“Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” Kanye West (Will Win)
“Don’t Phunk With My Heart,” The Black Eyed Peas
“Hate It or Love It,” The Game featuring 50 Cent
“Lose Control,” Missy Elliott featuring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop
SC: Oh, that’s cute. The Black Eyed Peas are still considered rap!
EH: I think they’re confused because Fergie isn’t actually hitting any of the notes.
EG: You’d have to be phunking retarded to give Best Rap Song to The Black Eyed Peas. Missy should win here but I can’t imagine the Grammys passing up the opportunity to award a song that not only makes explicit reference to its own ceremony but acknowledges that Shirley Bassey’s Grammy-less voice is foreva-eva.
BEST RAP ALBUM
The Cookbook, Missy Elliott
The Massacre, 50 Cent
Late Registration, Kanye West (Will Win)
SC: I’ve accepted the fact that Missy Elliott is never going to win an award for best album, in any category. Even when she was nominated for Album Of The Year in 2003, she still lost this award (albeit to another AOTY nominee, OutKast). 50’s The Massacre is the biggest-selling album here, but Kanye is unbeatable. You didn’t need us to tell you that though. He’ll do it himself.
EH: If voters get tired of seeing Kanye’s name by the time they get to this category, I could see Common emerging as a reasonable alternate. Especially because his album is even more Downy soft than Late Registration.
BEST COUNTRY SONG
“Alcohol,” Brad Paisley
“All Jacked Up,” Gretchen Wilson
“Bless the Broken Road,” Rascal Flatts (Will Win)
“I Hope,” Dixie Chicks
“I May Hate Myself in the Morning,” Lee Ann Womack
SC: Rascal Flatts may have excised “God” from the title of their hit “Bless The Broken Road,” but it still garnered enough votes from the heartland to make it a contender for the Song Of The Year, so it’s a safe bet here.
JK: Whatever goodwill the academy picked up by having the good sense to nominate “Alcohol” is squandered by the fact that it’s going to lose, hard, to the free goo of “Bless The Broken Road.” And that it was written by members of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band means that no one’s going to feel even the least bit bad about themselves for voting for it, either, even though its melody is awkward and its lyrics are a diabetic’s nightmare.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Fireflies, Faith Hill
Lonely Runs Both Ways, Alison Krauss and Union Station
Time Well Wasted, Brad Paisley (Will Win)
All Jacked Up, Gretchen Wilson
Jasper County, Trisha Yearwood
JK: The surprise here is that Lee Ann Womack’s critically tongue-bathed There’s More Where That Came From was snubbed. As one of the few people relatively unimpressed by it—all Womack did was dig up one of Tammy Wynette’s old wigs and then re-record her own first album—it’s still hard to feel good about what was nominated in its place. Fireflies is the frontrunner here, but just barely; I’m hardly the only person to call bullshit on it, but it’s the biggest seller in the category by almost 500k units, and the Grammys have been nursing a hard-on for Hill for years. Next in line, obviously, is the other embarrassment to the genre, Wilson’s All Jacked Up, which could win in the entirely likely event that the Grammy voters want to apologize to Wilson for their uncharacteristic use of good taste and discretion last year, when her Here For The Party lost in this category to Loretta Lynn’s Van Lear Rose. What hurts Wilson is that the album hasn’t sold nearly as well as predicted, and it simply hasn’t been reviewed as well as her debut. Krauss has won eleventy billion Grammys and is hard to bet against, and Lonely Runs Both Ways has sold well, even without a “for her” qualifier. But it’s also an uneven album that she and Union Station could’ve recorded in their sleep. The same can be said for Yearwood’s Jasper County, which is just impossible to think of as the album that will finally score her a win in this category. It’s probably just wishful thinking on my part, but I’m going to say that the right album will actually win two years in a row, and that Hill and Wilson will split the votes of the people who simply vote for the biggest “name” on the list regardless of quality, allowing Paisley’s Time Well Wasted to take advantage both of being the only male nominated and having what’s a legitimately great country record.
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis
Steve Lillywhite (Will Win)
SC: I’m never quite sure what criteria academy voters use to decide who should win in this category—Babyface won three years in a row for Christ’s sake. The fact that Pharrell charges $2 million a track doesn’t help the Neptunes here, and though Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis share the most credits of all the producers nominated, it’s been years since I could even identify one of their songs in a lineup. Could edgy voters peripherally award Danger Mouse for last year’s renegade Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up?
EH: I’d love if Danger Mouse won and, immediately afterward, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow chose to deliver his annual screed against music piracy. Steve Lillywhite might win, though. Unlike any of his other nominees, he’s got more than one album under his belt this year.
JK: Danger Mouse was a brilliant cartoon. Given the history of this category, that may well be enough to secure the win.
EG: I give this one to Steve Lillywhite, whose nominated work—his latest U2 session and Jason Mraz’s Mr. A-Z—suckered frat boys and sorority girls alike.
BEST REMIXED RECORDING
“Fever (Adam Freeland Remix),” Sarah Vaughan
“Flashdance (Guetta & Garraud Fuck Me I’m Famous Remix),” Deep Dish
“Mr. Brightside (Jacques Lu Cont’s Thin White Duke Mix),” The Killers (Will Win)
“Superfly (Louie Vega EOL Mix),” Curtis Mayfield
“What Is Hip? (T.O.P.R.M.X.), Tower Of Power
SC: Stuart Price (a.k.a. Jacques Lu Cont) is undoubtedly the producer/remixer with the most buzz right now. Madge’s producer du jour won last year for his remix of No Doubt’s “It’s My Life” and it helps that “Mr. Brightside” is the highest profile track here.
EH: If Price wins, it won’t be because the Killers are favorites elsewhere or because he’s got the best 12” cred this year. It’s because the rest of the category is clogged with tracks from those hopelessly middlebrow remix collections, the result of unleashing a cabal of B-list techno producers into the vaults of Verve and Warner Brothers’ back catalog.
EG: “What Is Hip?” can only win here if the Grammy voters in this category are self-conscious enough to want to ironically respond to accusations about their ineptitude. None of these remixes particularly reinvent the wheel, except for—and I hate to say this—the “Fuck Me I’m Famous” remix, which pads “Flashdance” with some ominous textures, if only to give the gay boys at the NYC clubs something to X out to. But that’s too sinister a thought for these voters, who, unlike myself, would rather kiss the lead singer of The Killers than punch him in the neck.
JK: Far as I can tell, the Grammys have never given an award to anything with “fuck” in the title, and if they ever get around to detonating the f-bomb, it’s not going to be with a remix of “Flashdance.”
BEST SHORT FORM MUSIC VIDEO
“Lose Control,” Missy Elliott featuring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop (Missy Elliott & Dave Meyers)
“Feel Good Inc.,” Gorillaz featuring De La Soul (Pete Candeland & Jamie Hewlett) (Will Win)
“Feels Just Like It Should,” Jamiroquai (Joseph Kahn)
“God’s Will,” Martina McBride (Robert Deaton & George Flanigen)
“World on Fire,” Sarah McLachlan (Sophie Muller)
EH: The surprise Record of the Year contenders Gorillaz will get their booby prize here, even if the simultaneously incendiary and cute “Dirty Harry” was their real music video revelation. The trendy glossiness of Dave Meyers and Joseph Kahn representing nothing more interesting than glittery, spinning rims on wheels that are otherwise spinning in place. In fact, the empty vulgarity of both could end up helping venerated (and Grammyless) vet Sophie Muller’s incendiary anti-bling “World on Fire” emerge as an underdog favorite.
SC: Ooooh, you’re right. Grammy can’t resist Sarah McLachlan’s Ovaltine goo. And NARAS needs to stop nominating Martina McBride in this category. Gotta love the placement of that American flag.
JK: Seriously, McBride doesn’t need any more encouragement to pinch off songs and videos like “God’s Will,” which stakes a claim as the worst music video ever made. McLachlan’s video is the pinnacle of subtlety in comparison. And with two “message” videos to cancel each other out, “Feel Good Inc.” will win for its nifty Howl’s Moving Castle design.
EG: I met Martina McBride’s “Ode to a Forrest Gump” on a cold January morning and it smelled like a bag of steaming pooh. “World On Fire” thinks beyond its own Creation—literally so—but it too courts self-righteousness. The video tells us, via on-screen text that moves too quick even for a person with a Mensa-approved IQ to read, how the filmmakers siphoned money out of their production budget in order to heal Third World catastrophes—female circumcision, apparently, not included. Only time will tell us if McLachlan will be sharing a hoagie with Sally Struthers, but history instructs that VMA carryovers typically prevail here. That means “World On Fire” and “Lose Control” will lose, again, to “Feel Good Inc.,” MTV’s choice for Breakthrough Video of 2005.
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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