92nd Annual Academy Awards
So I try and screen every nominated film, as I attempt to do every year (this year my only blind spots are “Breakthrough” and “Lion King” – because neither will win and I only have so much space for movies I’m not interested in). And having discussed the awards with several people in and around the voting process, and having scanned many other predictions, I think I’ve got a fairly decent handle on this. That said, there are one or two real dogfights out there this year, thus it stands to reason I may have a couple wrong – I ain’t perfect. So…that disclosure (cop-out) out of the way, here are my predictions (what will win) & my predilections (what I think deserves to win).
Lots of new members in the Academy, a high percentage of which are women or people of color. And the result? Same old same old. Which to me proves that a large part of the responsibility for change lands on the folks who green-light films. Open up your damned purse strings and make as many diverse films as possible! Also, such an early awards date meant less time to check out some of the smaller films that might aid in the goal of a more diverse group of nominees.
In the meantime, you gotta play with what ya got in the prediction game, so…
See my reviews of most of these films, including the shorts and docs, by typing in the title of the film in the search bar.
Best Motion Picture of the Year
When it comes to Best Picture…how does the voting work? Well, last year I reprinted a detailed article in GoldDerby.com , which you can read here, about the process. In short, members rank the nominees in preference from 1-8. Any picture that gets 50% of first-place votes wins. If none hit that threshold (which is likely), then the picture with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated, and it’s all tallied once again, until a film gets 50%, and thus, wins. One would think this task would be pretty straight forward, especially in a year when there seems to be only a couple of films on everyone’s mind as the best of the best.
However, I think to ignore the elephant in the room…or rather, the Rotten Tomato in the room, would be a mistake. The Verge’s Daniel Joyaux wrote a terrific piece on how that critical aggregate site has started to affect the Best Picture race. It outlines how the bellwether for a Best Picture nomination used to be a concurrent screenplay nomination, Now, that trend has been usurped by the aforementioned Tomatoes.
(And for the record, let me reiterate…a 75% rating from Rotten Tomatoes does NOT mean the film deserves a C. It simply signifies that 25% of the critics, many of whom you have NOTHING in common with when it comes to taste, gave it an unfavorable review. So, ignore the rating, go to the site, and see WHICH critics dug it and which did not before you use it as a gauge of where your entertainment dollars should go. Or, y’know, just take my word for it. )
So…going by these voting rules, and how they will be influenced by popular assessment AND diversity, Best Picture is usually much more up in the air than might be imagined. This is never more true than when there are two distinct favorites and one or two pleasant films that pleases all voters, even if they don’t think it’s the best. So…there is usually a group that will fight to the death to see their pic win, so they put the flick in competition to it at the bottom of their ballots. The other side does the same thing. If one side or the other doesn’t have 50%, look out for the film that they all agree should come in second – and poof…a mediocre winner. This is exactly how “Green Book” and “Shape of Water” snuck in. Sort of an “all okay to all people” thing.
This year those two films are “1917” and “Parasite”. While I personally think “1917” will pull it off, if enough people vote as I stated above, then there is definitely room for “Once” or “Jojo” to squeeze in and surprise. But look for “1917” here.
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Will win: “1917”
Should win: “Parasite”
Longshot: “Jojo Rabbit” or “Once Upon A Time…”
Achievement in Directing
This is the most flip-a-coin battle of all the major awards. For months it’s been Bong Joon-Ho’s to lose. But the juggernaut that is “1917” is chugging along with so much horsepower, voters keep changing their minds – as does my prediction. I think 1917 may be too powerful at this point…so I’m going with Sam Mendes. But if I had a vote, the coin would probably have landed on the South Korean side.
Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”
Will win: Sam Mendes
Should win: Bong Joon Ho
Long Shot: Longer than a long shot, but deserving to be mentioned here: Tarantino
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
As with every acting award this season, the favorite in this category is an unbeatable lock. If the wildly deserving Joaquin Phoenix doesn’t win it will be an upset of mammoth proportions (and a crime). If it happens, expect it to be Driver…or maybe even Jonathon Pryce. But it shouldn’t and it more than likely won’t.
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”
Will win: Joaquin Phoenix
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix
Not So Long Shot: uhh…no one
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
(second verse same as the first…)
As with every acting award this season, the favorite in this category is an almost unbeatable lock. If the wildly deserving Renee Zellweger doesn’t win it will be an upset of mammoth proportions (and a crime). If it happens, expect it to be Theron. Personally, I think Saoirse Ronan is the actress who gave Ms. Zellweger the biggest run for her money of this group, but word is Charlize Theron is the only one who could possibly challenge. But she shouldn’t and more than likely won’t.
Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Renee Zellweger, “Judy”
Will win: Renee Zellweger
Should win: Renee Zellweger
Long Shot: uhh…no one
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
(third verse same as the first…)
As with every acting award this season, the favorite in this category is an almost unbeatable lock. If the wildly deserving Brad Pitt doesn’t win it will be an upset of mammoth proportions (and a crime). No one is actually even in the discussion to challenge, nor should they be.
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”
Will win: Brad Pitt
Should win: Brad Pitt
Long Shot: uhh…no one
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
(slightly different outlook…)
As with every acting award this season, the favorite in this category is an almost unbeatable lock. If Laura Dern doesn’t win it will be an upset of mammoth proportions. The DIFFERENCE is that I personally don’t think she deserves the honor – in fact, I would place her fifth in this category. I firmly believe that Margot Robbie gave both the best supporting performance of the year, and the strongest performance in her film, in “Bombshell”. Only Florence Pugh’s strong work in “Little Women” and Scarlett Johansson’s terrific balancing act in “JoJo Rabbit” came close. Ms. Bates has two incredible scenes in the deeply flawed “Richard Jewell”, but even that was stronger work, in my eyes, than Ms. Dern’s. And while Ms. Dern’s performance is certainly a crafted and complete one, it’s not of the same power. But the Academy loves to vote for characters they recognize…and, well, a Hollywood divorce lawyer…you see my point…
Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
Will win: Laura Dern
Should win: Margot Robbie
Long Shot: Florence Pugh
Achievement in Costume Design
Three of these films (“Irishman”, “Joker” & “Once…”) rely on clothing that you might find in a thrift store (I don’t say that to minimize the craft involved – just as a means to differentiate). Another clothed a full 75% of its cast in a uniform (“JoJo”). Only “Little Women” has to create an entire world (two if you include the France bits).
”The Irishman,” Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson
“Jojo Rabbit,” Mayes C. Rubeo
“Joker,” Mark Bridges
“Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Arianne Phillips
Will win: “Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran
Should win: “Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran
Long Shot: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Arianne Phillips
Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling
“Bombshell’s” to lose. That is all.
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
Will win: “Bombshell”
Should win: “Bombshell”
Best Animated Feature Film
What a strange and mixed bag of films. There is no denying the quality of, and love for, a film like “Toy Story 4”, which, in my mind, was stronger than “Toy Story 3” and “2”. And “Missing Link” probably offers the most incredible animation of the year. “Klaus” is simply not very good, and, well, I just can’t see giving an Oscar to a Christmas film. “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a lovely little film with AMAZING animation, but not in the same class as the first two in terms of the “feels”. I might have liked to have seen “The Lego Movie: The Second Part” squeeze in over “Klaus” due to nothing more than its comic chops. But, for me, the best animated film of the year (and one of the best films, period) is the French feature, “I Lost My Body”. Available on Netflix, the beautifully written, performed (choose the French language version) and drawn film spoke to me in a way most live-action films have not this year. And it features one of the best scores of this season as well, from Dan Levy. However, it has no shot – mostly because 2D, hand drawn animation has pretty much been overshadowed in this category by 3D, stop-motion or CGI films. So…bet on “infinity and beyond”! It’s a worthy winner, if not my choice.
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Toy Story 4”
Will win: “Toy Story 4”
Should win: “I Lost My Body”
Long Shot: “Klaus”
Best International Film
Just like last year’s inclusion of “Roma” in the Best Picture category, whatever film picks up this award (now called “Best International Film”), could foretell who will (and who definitely won’t), win Best Picture. Should “Parasite” fail to win here, then we know it will win Best Picture. If “Parasite” does pick up this prize, then “1917” is a lock (although there is an extreme outside shot “Parasite” could win both). With me so far?
So, say Parasite doesn’t win here. Well, then this category becomes a four-way battle for the best of the rest. I have no idea why the Macedonian doc, “Honeyland”, was nominated in both categories, especially as the brilliant and moving Hungarian post-Holocaust drama “Those Who Remained”, was short-listed and certainly belongs on this list. To me, outside of “Parasite”, the best international film of the year was the amazing French study of racial boundaries, “Les Miserables” (which has nothing to do with the musical, btw). But neither it, nor the unexpectedly nominated “Corpus Christi” (which is simply fantastic), will beat out the latest from Academy-favorite, Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory”. But look for “Parasite” here, as I believe “1917’s” momentum is simply too much to overcome.
Editors note: in addition to the aforementioned “Those Who Remained”, Senegal’s beautiful “Atlantics” (Netflix), or the difficult, but incredibly well-shot Czech adaptation of the Kosinski novel, “The Painted Bird” were both short-listed and deserving of nominations and your eyeballs. And, even though it wasn’t put forward as the entry from France (due to its choice of “Les Mis”), the gorgeous, “Portrait of a Lady On Fire” could have easily been included here.
“Corpus Christi” (Poland)
“Les Miserables” (France)
“Pain and Glory” (Spain)
“Parasite” (South Korea)
Will win: “Parasite” (unless it wins Best Picture, in which case “Pain and Glory”)
Should win: “Parasite” (unless it wins Best Picture, in which case “Les Miserables”)
Long Shot: “Pain and Glory”
Best Documentary Feature
Not that I know which film it should or could replace, one of the biggest shocks of the season was the lack of a nomination for Todd Douglas Miller’s amalgam of found footage that makes up the astonishing “Apollo 11”. That said, the rest all have much to offer. I believe “For Sama” is by far the strongest and most affecting doc of the year. But as there are TWO nominees that revolve around the experience of living in the heart of the war in Syria (“For Sama” and “The Cave”, which is directed by the Oscar-winning Feras Fayyad), chances are they’ll likely cancel each other out. The Brazilian “Edge of Democracy” is an incredible personal examination of the events leading to the demise of democracy in one’s own country (sound familiar?). And “Honeyland” is one of the strangest, yet most hauntingly comic slice-of-life docs you’re likely to see. All that said, “American Factory” is going to win. It requires the least amount of heavy emotional lifting while still maintaining our interest, it is a very unique and well-told tale (even if its narrative simply falls away at the end), the co-directors are both multiple Oscar nominees, and it’s produced by the Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground. But, yeah, while “For Sama” should obviously win, it still has no shot against the Obamas.
Thanks, Obama! 😉
(Oh…and let’s also take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate that four of the five films nominated in this category were either directed or co-helmed by women!)
“American Factory,” Julia Rieichert, Steven Bognar
“The Cave,” Feras Fayyad
“The Edge of Democracy,” Petra Costa
“For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
“Honeyland,” Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov
Will win: “American Factory”
Should win: “For Sama”
Long Shot: Honeyland
Best Documentary Short Subject
A couple real standouts here, and you never know which way it’s going to go. In fact, I almost always get this category wrong. But if we’ve learned anything from recent winners, it’s that doc shorts that examine the experience of living in the war-ravaged locales of the Middle East (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq) tend to win. This year will be no exception, as “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone” is pretty much a lock. So, maybe, just maybe, for once I’ll get this one right! “Absence” and “Life Overtakes Me” both pack a helluva punch, but they are tremendously depressing. “Walk Run Cha Cha” is a little too cute, if still fascinating. Which only leaves “St. Louis Superman” which is my personal fave. Not gonna win.
“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”
Will win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone”
Should win: “St. Louis Superman”
Long shot: “Life Overtakes Me”
Best Live-Action Short Film
These are all fine films, which is a plus. That’s not normally the case. Typically the one stands out as fluff or overtly cute, wins. But this year there isn’t one of those…or rather, there is (“Nefta”), but its humor comes from something big, systemic and empathetic. But “Brotherhood” will win. Not my favorite. I felt “Neighbors’ Window” and “A Sister” were equally effective. But that’s nitpicking. “Brotherhood” is a very fine film that probably deserves the honor.
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbors’ Window”
Will win: “Brotherhood”
Should Win: “Brotherhood”, “Neighbor’s Window” or “A Sister”
Long Shot: “The Neighbors’ Window”
Best Animated Short Film
There are three films in this group that are exceptional (“Dcera”, “Kitbull” or “Memorable”). And three whose animation style is unique and extraordinary (“Dcera”, “Memorable” and “Sister”). But only one is cute. The cute one will win. Whatever. It’s fine. (sigh)
Will win: Hair Love
Should Win: Dcera, Kitbull or Memorable
Long Shot: Kitbull
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SCORE)
The outstanding nominees here are Guðnadóttir, Desplat and Thomas Newman. John Williams’ work, while iconic, is based mostly on prior scores. And Randy Newman’s score sets my teeth on edge. It’s just unbearably cute. But Desplat’s music for “Little Women” is, as always, brilliant, both contextually and on its own. Thomas Newman’s score for “1917” seemed off to me when I first watched the film, but it has really grown on me, and there are moments of sheer magic in it. And while it isn’t exactly wildly varied within its compositions, the fastly-becoming-a-genius, Guðnadóttir has written a central theme for the ages in “Joker”. I’d be happy if any of the three won it. But, while I’d hand it to Desplat, Guðnadóttiris is considered the favorite after winning it at every other awards ceremony this season, including the BAFTA this past Sunday. I expect her to walk away with it.
“Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story,” Randy Newman
“1917,” Thomas Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams
Will win: “Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
Should Win: “Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
Long Shot: “1917,” Thomas Newman or “Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original SONG)
It is my long-held and firm belief that this award is utterly irrelevant. It exists only so there can be a semblance of performed entertainment during the show. So…can you imagine how pissed the producers of the telecast were when they heard that Beyonce was NOT nominated? I think it’s a shoo-in for Sirs Elton & Taupin. But I could see Cynthia Erivo grabbing the statue for “Stand Up”. I don’t have any idea what makes a song deserving of the Oscar (I don’t care enough to find out), but they are both good songs and are actually about something. I feel TERRIBLE for parents who kids loved “Frozen 2”. That “Unknown” song has a repeating four-note phrase that kids will be singing for years and is going to hurt parent-child relations for months to come. The song from “Breakthrough” sounds like a song that would accompany an Olympics highlight package. And “Throw Yourself Away” is not even the best song in “Toy Story 4”. That award belongs to Chris Stapleton’s “Ballad of a Lonesome Cowboy”, which would get the Oscar if I had anything to do with it. But of the five, I’d probably give it to Erivo. But the Academy is gonna love Elton again.
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”
Will win: “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
Should Win: “Ballad of a Lonesome Cowboy“, “Toy Story 4” – not nominated
Long Shot: “Stand Up,” “Harriet”
Achievement in Sound Editing (best creation of sound other than music, ie. sound f/x)
I think “1917” certainly is deserving of recognition for almost every behind-the-screen award, and, more specifically, the sheer amount of sound effects to make the film as effective as it is should cement it as the winner here. That said, I think the effects for “Ford v Ferrari” are just as impressive, if not more. But I’ll step out on a pretty strong limb and predict “1917”.
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Star Wars: The Rise of SkyWalker”
Will win: “1917”
Should Win: “Ford v Ferrari”
Not So Long Shot: “Ford v Ferrari”
Achievement in Sound Mixing (best mix of sound, dialogue, music etc.)
See above. Except I feel “1917” does a better job of mixing the entire aural landscape than “Ford” does…but it’d be a really close finish in a one on one.
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Will win: “1917”
Should Win: “1917”
Long Shot: “Ford v Ferrari”
What at first seemed like a shoo-in for Tarantino has slowly, but steadily, seen “Parasite” leech away at it (see what I did there?). I think by the time the votes are counted, it’ll go to Joon-Ho and Han, if for no other reason than Tarantino’s misguided comments during his globe acceptance speech for this same category. Oh, and “Parasite” won both the BAFTA and the WGA awards. One of the least sure awards of the night, I’ll go with my gut here, and say “Parasite” for the win. But it could EASILY go to Quentin.
“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, Jin Won Han
Will win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han
Should Win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han
Equal Shot: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino
Best Adapted Screenplay
Poor Greta. She deserved a director nomination for “Little Women”. And for at least a month, her script was considered the front-runner for this Oscar category. But along comes a late push by Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” script, winning awards left and right. “Jojo” would also get my vote if I had one. But while I pick “Jojo”, I’ll root like hell for Greta!
“The Irishman,” Steven Zaillian
“Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi
“Joker,” Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
“Little Women,” Greta Gerwig
“The Two Popes,” Anthony McCarten
Will win: “JoJo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi
Should Win: “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi
Long Shot: “The Two Popes,” Anthony McCarten
Achievement in Cinematography
In a category chock full of incredible photography, the look of “1917” is only surpassed by Deakins’ ability to execute it. A no-brainer amongst world-class efforts.
“The Irishman,” Rodrigo Prieto
“Joker,” Lawrence Sher
“The Lighthouse,” Jarin Blaschke
“1917,” Roger Deakins
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Robert Richardson
Will win: “1917,” Roger Deakins
Should Win: “1917,” Roger Deakins
Long Shot: “The Lighthouse,” Jarin Blaschke
Achievement in Film Editing
All year, the front-runner for this prize was “1917’s” Lee Smith. I mean, the guy took 38 distinct segments and made them look and feel like a single shot. And then nominations were announced, and…uh…no Smith. I can only think that he did such a great job, people actually thought it was made in a single shot. Oy vey. So, that leaves “Ford’s” McCusker and Buckland as the sole owners of excruciatingly detailed editing work. In a racing film, it’s the editor that tells the story, because there is no dialogue…only moving vehicles and driver close-ups. Without brilliant editing, there can be no tension. Hand it to them, but keep Lee Smith in your thoughts.
“Ford v Ferrari,” Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland
“The Irishman,” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Jojo Rabbit,” Tom Eagles
“Joker,” Jeff Groth
“Parasite,” Jinmo Yang
Will win: “Ford v Ferrari,” Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland
Should Win: “1917”, Lee Smith (who was somehow not nominated)!
Long Shot: “Parasite,” Jinmo Yang
Achievement in Visual Effects
“Endgame” is the highest-grossing film of all time. That said, if it did not possess some of the greatest visual effects invented, it would be a very hum-drum flick (well, it is kind of a hum-drum flick). “Skywalker” almost matches its effects – but doesn’t. “Lion King” seems like a sin against nature. The same could be said for “The Irishman’s” use of de-aging. And “1917’s” effects seem SO natural, it’s hard to think of them as effects. All that said…it’s a coin flip and, again, I think the night belongs to “1917”. But only by the nose of a CGI’d alien.
“The Lion King”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
Will win: “1917”
Should Win: “Avengers Endgame”
Long Shot: “Star Wars”
Achievement in Production Design
War films tend to win this award. Unless of course, the competition is a brilliantly conceived design that concurrently acts as a love letter to Old Hollywood. It’ll be close. I’d vote for “Once..”, but I’d be fine with “1917”, “Parasite”, or “JoJo” winning. I know…really taking a stand! But I expect “Once…” to win.
“The Irishman,” Bob Shaw and Regina Graves
“Jojo Rabbit,” Ra Vincent and Nora Sopkova
“1917,” Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh
“Parasite,” Lee Ha-Jun and Cho Won Woo, Han Ga Ram, and Cho Hee
Will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh
Should Win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh
Not So Long Shot: “1917,” Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
That’s all. Good luck in your pools and in your hopes! See you at the Oscars!