Oscar Nominees 2020

Well, here we are again. I didn’t try to write up my guesses for the nominees this year, though they’re pretty much aligned with what came in, because they were too early.

This year, even more than last, is going to be one heck of a battle (lack of diversity aside because that’s an entirely different discussion). Not just because of all the great productions and performances, but because this is likely going to be the inflection point for streamers vs. establishment in Hollywood. Either the final votes will snub the streamers and risk becoming irrelevant and pissing off a number of creatives, or they’ll accept the new normal and change the landscape forever. Given that Netflix leads the pack of studios with 24 nominations total, it isn’t out of the question that platform, as a decision maker, may actually have faded since the Roma controversy of last year.

The other two surprises for me were the complete snubbing of The Farewell and Joker garnering the most noms of the season. Farewell not getting a shot at anything is near criminal. It was one of the best films of the past year. But so was Joker, and I honestly thought the Academy voters would eschew it in large part. So, I was wildly wrong on both counts… which just intrigues me more.

So with a few awards already out there, I’m going to risk my early predictions before making a final call the night before the awards early next month. I imagine my insight(?) will shift as more awards are announced and sentiment clarifies over the next few weeks, but it’s never stopped me before…

Actress in a Leading Role

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet)
Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)
Siorse Ronan (Little Women)
Charlize Theron (Bombshell)
Renee Zellwegger (Judy)

This is a great list, and every one of these women deserve recognition. But Zellwegger really stands out in her transformation and subtlety of performance. And, let’s face it, Judy Garland is beloved by the industry, which gives her a leg up.

Actor in a Leading Role

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)

There are a number of great performances here as well, but I think Joaquin Phoenix really out-classed all these other men. His performance is the most complex and, ultimately, the most affecting.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell)
Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
Scarlett Johannson (Jojo Rabbit)
Florence Pugh (Little Women)
Margot Robbie (Bombshell)

This is a really tough field to choose from. Each performance in the list is strong for a different reason. Given Dern’s previous wins for the role, she probably has the edge. Johannson is going to have her votes split and Pugh and Robbie each have great moments, but aren’t quite as impactful as Dern in their roles.

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)

A similarly difficult field to choose from. I think Hanks, as good as he was, is simply going to get overlooked, and the dueling Irishmen will cancel eachother out, allowing Pitt to float to the top. In this field, were I to choose, however, I’d give it to Pesci for his quiet and subtle performance that overshadows the entire movie.

Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

The selection of a winner here will depend heavily on what the voters are looking for in a script. The most creative is, hands-down, Jojo Rabbit. But Joker is an unexpectedly powerful tale of mental illness and a society gone wrong. Irishman is a quiet epic that is really just a small tale of family in the most beautiful of ways. And Little Women and Two Popes took source material and broadened it into a more encompassing philosophy and message.

But since only one can win, I’m thinking Irishman or Joker, with odds on Irishman.

Original Screenplay

Knives Out
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

Man, I just want to scream “stop making me pick!” The only one that doesn’t belong here is Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, which was a lousy script. I’m sorry, I know I’m in the minority, but I hated the script. In any event, it doesn really hold a candle to the rest of these.

Honestly, on merits, I think it’s between Marriage Story and Parasite. And since Marriage Story is unlikely to get more than Best Supporting, I’m thinking it will pick up the statuette here…also because it manages to do the seemingly impossible: making divorce feel positive.

Directing

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

Unsurprisingly, these are all part of the Best Picture pool as well, and with many of the same challenges. For sheer, unexpected craft, my choice would be Joker or Parasite. For audacity of vision and production, 1917. For journeymanship and career best: The Irishman.

But as to who will win? I’m going to go out on a limb and take a lesson from Gravity’s win a few years back and call it for 1917, simply for the incredible delivery of an audacious vision.

Best Picture

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

With the exception of front-runner Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and the snubbing of The Farewell, this is a legit list for the year. Given these selections, I’m hard-pressed to pick just one (and expect that much vote-splitting is going to really randomize the winner).

For now, I expect Once Upon a Time to win. It is such insider-baseball and has a groundswell, where many of the others are more divisive and likely to siphon votes from one another.

If it were solely up to me, I’d probably go with The Irishman. It is such a subtle epic and beautifully crafted all around. But honestly, so was Joker. I just don’t see Joker taking this top prize with this voting block. The real question is whether the Academy can get past Netflix-hate to award this top prize to a streamer?

International Feature

Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Miserables
Pain And Glory
Parasite

Gotta be Parasite, despite all the other excellent entries.

Original Song

“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 Uknown” – Frozen 2
“Stand Up” – Harriet

I’ve always found this category somewhat pointless. It is rarely about more than popularity. And while that may be something worth rewarding, many songs are simply in the credits or as incidental music…there isn’t much consistency in how they interact with the film. This year, none of the songs really broke out in any particular way (again, let me express joy at not being subjected to Let it Go v2). Being forced to select, I’m going to go with Harriet, if for no other reasons than the lack of diversity elsewhere and Eviro’s cred.

Original Score

Joker (Hildur Guonadottir)
Little Women (Alexandre Desplat)
Marriage Story (Randy Newman)
1917 (Thomas Newman)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (John Williams)

Going with Joker for this one. My experience was best enhanced by the score for that movie. It wouldn’t surprise me if Star Wars takes it since it set a record 52nd nomination for John Williams. He’s only won 5 of those and only Walt Disney (the man) has ever had more at 59. Though, also props for the dual Newman brothers noms… going to make the next holiday meal entertaining, I’m sure…

Documentary Feature

American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

While Honeyland is a good contender, American Factory with the Obamas behind it may ride a political wave to the front of the race. But I haven’t seen any of these yet to make an educated guess.

Documentary Short Subject

In The Absence
Learning To Skateboard
Life Overtakes Me
St Louis Superman
Walk, Run, Cha-Cha

Still waiting to see these.

Live Action Short Film

Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors’ Window
Saria
A Sister

Still waiting to see these.

Animated Feature Film

How To Train Your Dragon
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

For the sheer hubris of the story, I’d love to see I Lost My Body win, but it’s gonna be Toy Story 4. That series really went out on a high and the craft of it is solid. Missing Link just didn’t really work well for me, as much as I’ve loved the previous Laika offerings, and How To Train Your Dragon was sweet and pretty, but not exactly brilliant. Klaus, well, whatever.

Animated Short Film

Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Cinematography

The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Until recently, I would have selected differently, but 1917 is a Cinematographer’s dream/nightmare, and its successful delivery sets a new bar for movies. All the nominees have things going for them, but none were as challenged.

Film Editing

Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

How 1917 was subbed here, I don’t know. But, given it isn’t in attendance, my best guess is going to be Ford v Ferrari due to the Le Mans scenes.

Production Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Parasite

Such a hodgepodge of eras and approaches makes this a grab-bag. Irishman and 1917 are both perfect incarnations of their eras, making the production design invisible. Sorta true for Once Upon a Time as well, but I just don’t think it has the same creativity. Jojo and Parasite each have a sense of whimsy and reality that mixes in unexpected ways. Because of the latter two’s impact on the story itself, rather than just facilitating the tales, I think it goes to one of them, and if I had to guess (which I do), I’m going with Jojo Rabbit.

Costume Design

The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Almost always this goes to a period piece, despite any of the other relative values of the productions. Since 1917 isn’t in the mix, I’m betting on Little Women.

Visual Effects

Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

This is another tough one. Tougher than usual as several of these films are in it for pushing the envelope in different ways. I’m ignoring Avengers and Star Wars as possibilities as they are big and flashy, but not really new. Lion King found a new way to film that is astounding (however weak the film itself was). Irishman did magic with aging and de-aging. 1917 recreated and presented WWI in a way never achieved before. I think for the invisibleness of it, The Irishman may take this one.

Makeup and Hairstyling

Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

Thinking Bombshell or Judy for this. I’m leaning Bombshell because of the transformations the makeup provided. Zellweger already looked like Judy, but Theron was subtly metamorphosed into her character with invisible prosthetics and makeup.

Sound Mixing

Ad Astra
Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

I think both this and Sound Editing are up for grabs between Ford v Ferrari and 1917. If the latter gets a groundswell, it may well sweep the two.

Sound Editing

Ford V Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I think both this and Sound Mixing are up for grabs between Ford v Ferrari and 1917. If the latter gets a groundswell, it may well sweep the two.

NOMINATIONS BY FILM

Provided just for reference, but certainly interesting to consider when considering who has the attention of the voters.

Joker (Warner Bros.) – 11
The Irishman (Netflix) – 10
1917 (Universal/Amblin Partners) – 10
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 10
Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight) – 6
Little Women (Sony Pictures Releasing) – 6
Marriage Story (Netflix) – 6
Parasite (Neon) – 6
Ford v Ferrari (Disney) – 4
Bombshell (Lionsgate) – 3
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney) – 3
The Two Popes (Netflix) – 3
Harriet (Focus Features) – 2
Honeyland (Neon) 2
Judy (LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions) – 2
Pain and Glory (Sony Pictures Classics) – 2
Toy Story 4 (Disney) – 2

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