Put On A Happy Face: My 2020 Oscar Predictions.

I couldn’t think of a better time at the beginning of the new decade, to start playing the Oscar predictions game. And why not, after all I love movies just as much as I do music. But before making my predictions, it’s noteworthy (and I’m sure people are sick of hearing it) to point out some of the big film winners in the 2020 Oscar nomination race this year, which is surprisingly led by Todd Phillip’s Joker; which earned a whopping eleven nominations, including the all-important nods for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor categories. Not far behind are Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and Sam Mendes’ 1917 with all ten nominations. Several others (and if my math adds up) picked up six nominations each including Best Picture. They were JoJo Rabbit, Little Women, Marriage Story and Parasite. Of course, lets not forget the ninth and final Best Picture nominee, Ford v Ferrari, which received a respectable total of four nominations.

But before we go on, lets talk about the two glaring omissions from this year’s awards that really bother me. Firstly, I know everyone has had something to say about this… but it’s absolutely criminal that Adam Sandler wasn’t nominated for Uncut Gems. It’s not surprising Sandler felt deep regret for missing out on a nomination. “I was just about to start production on Grown Ups 3″, Sandler said recently, “but I thought you know what, maybe let’s do something different. Fuck me for trying right?” I hear you, Adam! Secondly, what about Greta Gerwig, who received an Oscar nod two years ago for Lady Bird, but this time around she’s apparently good enough, despite her film earning six nominations. There is of course plenty of speculation why she missed out. For one, the Academy bad track record at promoting gender equality across categories is one reason Gerwig missed out, and while we are at it, what is with their woeful racial diversity record again this year? Look no further than Parasite with its entire cast being completely overlooked in the acting categories, despite its good showing in other categories.

Anyway, now that I have your attention, lets get down to the business of predicting this year’s winners with awards night on Sunday (Feb 9) just around the corner. To make it a little easier for you, I have highlighted in blue who I believe deserves to win followed by a short statement why. Please note, I have declined to comment on the Best Documentary, Best Short Documentary, Live Action Short and Best Animated Short categories. I haven’t seen any of the nominees. Be sure to let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s perspective. Enjoy!

Best Picture:

“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Marriage Story”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Little Women”

I’ve repeatedly read that this year’s Oscars in the Best Picture race are wide open. Of course, it all comes down to Academy members and who they will pencil in on their Oscar ballots. But with the way votes are counted on a preferential ballot, it means that the most acclaimed film might not actually win. I saw 1917 a few weeks ago and I don’t believe it deserves to win. It is certainly a mesmerising picture but it’s not the best thing since Saving Private Ryan. Why on earth The Irishman got an Oscars nod is baffling to me. While I adore Scorsese and I love the all-star cast, it is an overly long overrated gangster picture. Will some notable performance, especially Joe Pesci, get it over the line though? Personally, I’d like to see Marriage Story win. Devastatingly beautiful with standout performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a couple struggling with the realisation that their marriage is heading for divorce. I can’t help but think that Marriage Story has a Woody Allen-esque feel to it. Maybe that’s why it works so brilliantly. But for some strange reason, I reckon it might finally be Quentin Tarantino’s year with his Tinseltown homage Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. So let’s lock in Tarantino’s indulgent picture.

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”

I really want Tarantino to win it, but I suspect Mendes will walk away with the award. I think Tarantino may end up with the Best Original Screenplay, however, as a compensatory Oscar. If he does, it will likely come at the expense of Noah Baumbach for his Marriage Story screenplay. Anyway, if Mendes does win, and I suspect he will, it will be because of the challenges of creating a film and choosing to present it as seemingly one long take.

Best Actor:

Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

While I believe Jonathan Pryce’s incredible performance in The Two Popes should have been real talking point over the past month, unfortunately it hasn’t for a very good reason with Joaquin Phoenix stealing the limelight during awards season. Interestingly, the Best Actor race just days out from awards night, has become as the punters say, a two horse race, between Adam Driver and Joaquin Phoenix and justly so. While both actors are well respected in Hollywood, I think Driver still has some maturing to do as a leading man. Yes, he puts in an incredible performance, and while deep down I want Kylo Ren, I mean Driver to win, Phoenix arguably deserves it more for his highly divisive and what might be a career defining role in Joker, which by the way, is an incredible film about mental illness.

Best Actress:

Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”

I have to admit I find Renee Zellweger completely irritating. I have never liked her and I don’t rate her as an actress at all. But even I will admit she seems to have resurrected her career with an incredible performance in the film Judy, playing Hollywood legend Judy Garland. That said, I believe the Best Actress award is Renee Zellweger’s to lose. Period! No one will come close to beating her, except maybe Scarlett Johansson for her lead role in Marriage Story.

Best Supporting Actor:

Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”

Again, the same as above, the Best Supporting Actor award is Brad Pitt’s to lose. His role as Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCario) best friend and stuntman, Cliff Booth, is one of Quentin Tarantino’s best creations. Interestingly, one of the aspects that makes Pitt’s role as Booth so interesting, is how Tarantino leaves us to draw our own conclusions, whether Booth is a good guy (and the film’s hero) or bad guy, who seemingly lost his way when the Hollywood system punished him for a crime he may or may not have committed. No spoilers here about what I think about Booth, but maybe we can touch on that some other time. It’s worth mentioning that I believe the dark horse on this list, just might be Joe Pesci, who was interestingly talked out of retirement for his first film role in 9 years to play mafia kingpin Russell Bufalino. All the best Joe, but you might have to strong-arm the Oscar out of Brad’s hands.

Best Supporting Actress:

Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”

Laura Dern has an unmistakable presence in Marriage Story, that it makes her knockout performance really hard to ignore. She might be a little over the top, but I guess isn’t that the point when you hire a divorce lawyer? She will win easily.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“The Two Popes”
“Little Women”

Certainly, in my opinion The Irishman is not Scorsese’s best film. But what do I know, right? Anyway, while I have my reservations about it, I still thought Steven Zaillan did a pretty good job at adapting the 2004 nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt into a screenplay. In truth, it would be nice if Greta Gerwig won as a consolation for being overlooked in the Best Director category. But I still believe it will be Steven Zaillan for The Irishman.

Best Original Screenplay:

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Knives Out”
“Marriage Story”

Tarantino is a genius at writing original screenplays. Already a two-time winner in this category for Pulp Fiction (1995) and Django Unchained (2013), in my opinion he deserves his third Oscar just for his hilarious, mesmerising and totally insane film dialogue, never mind the overall amazing fairy tale of a story he dreamt up for Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.

Best Cinematography:

“1917,” Roger Deakins
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Robert Richardson
“The Irishman,” Rodrigo Prieto
“Joker,” Lawrence Sher
“The Lighthouse,” Jarin Blaschke

There is a wonderful story behind how it took Roger Deakins 14 nominations to finally get his hands on the elusive Oscar when he won for Blade Runner 2049 a few years ago. That year, when he won his first Oscar, I don’t believe there was anyone more deserving. Blade Runner 2049 was indeed breathtaking. I can imagine no stone was left unturned when you consider how stunning it looks. He is equal to the task with his efforts for 1917. As a friend pointed out to me recently, Deakin should win for the apocalyptic nighttime sequence alone. But I suspect if he doesn’t win, I’d like it to be Jarin Blaschke for his haunting lens in creating The Lighthouse.

Best Original Score:

“1917,” Thomas Newman
“Joker,” Hildur Gudnadottir
“Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story,” Randy Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams

This is one of the hardest categories to find a winner.  How musical scores make us feel is very subjective. That said, a lot like the music I listen to, it has to have three things: a freshness about it, a distinguishing quality and it has to move me emotionally. That is why I believe cellist Holder Gudnadottir original score for the Joker deserves to win because for me it has all those elements. Her moody cello score is without a doubt the most important piece of music I associate with the inner turmoil Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) feels as he descends into hell.

Best Original Song:

“I’m Standing With You,” from “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” from “Frozen II”
“Stand Up,” from “Harriet”
“ (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from “Rocketman”
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” from “Toy Story 4”

For Christ sake, just give it to Elton John already!

Best Production Design:

“Jojo Rabbit”
“The Irishman”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood reimagines Los Angeles at the close of the 1960s to a tee. It should win but watch out for The Irishman or 1917 who just might pinch it.

Best International Film:

North Macedonia, “Honeyland”
Spain, “Pain and Glory”
France, “Les Misérables”
South Korea, “Parasite”
Poland, “Corpus Christi”

In a mad dash to watch all the Oscar nominated films (and others relevant to the awards), this is the only category I struggled to see all the contenders. So why I can’t confidently comment about this category in general, I still feel like Parasite will win Best Foreign Film. Obviously, it’s just a gut feeling given the fact that it has cleaned up with wins at the Golden Globes for Best Foreign-Language Film and at the SAG Awards becoming the first foreign-language film to win the night’s marquee award: Best Cast in a film.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling:

“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Need I say more…it’s Bombshell by a mile!

Best Costume Design:

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Little Women”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”

This might sound like a weird thing to say but the costume design for Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is just as impressive as anything Little Women has to offer with its lace-up boots and prairie dresses. No, I’m serious. American Costume Designer Arianne Phillips, who collaborated with Tarantino, did an incredible job in convincing audiences that Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) were the coolest dudes that ever lived (at least on onscreen) in late 60s Hollywood. Moreover, how gorgeous is Margot Robbie as the late Sharon Tate? Here’s a fun fact for you…did you know that Margot wore some of items that actually belonged to the real Sharon Tate! The attention to detail and the little visual clues that the costumes and other talismans served in the film, I believe is reason enough for Phillips to take home an Oscar in this category.

Best Film Editing:

“The Irishman”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Jojo Rabbit”

Everyone expects 1917 or Parasite to win, but I’m hoping Ford v Ferrari picks up an award here. It likely hasn’t got a hope in hell of winning anything else, but it certainly cuts and connects the action scenes in the film brilliantly.

Best Sound Mixing:

“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Ad Astra”

1917, the Oscar favourite for sound editing and mixing, is a shoe-in given the history of how well war movies do in this category. Past winners include Hacksaw Ridge, Dunkirk, Platoon and The Hurt Locker. If it wins, it will certainly be in good company.

Best Sound Editing:

“Ford v Ferrari”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Same as above, 1917 will win.

Best Visual Effects:

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

As divisive as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was, the Star Wars IX Visual Effects team did an incredible job from creating worlds to bringing Leia (Carrie Fisher) back. Even that epic ocean battle scene with Rey and Kylo crossing lightsabers on the pier still blows my mind. It’s fair to say Lucasfilm has always pushed the boundaries of special effects, and if it can hold off a late surge from Sam Mendes’ 1917 for its ‘invisible effects’, it will go a long way to help salvage Star Wars bruised reputation at the moment.

Best Animated Feature:

“Missing Link”
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“Toy Story 4”
“I Lost My Body”

Toy Story 4 is a fitting conclusion to what has been a wonderful cinematic journey for not only its beloved characters but also audiences, who first witness the hi-jinx of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the Toy Story gang some twenty five years ago. Seriously, the entire franchise is a rare feat in animation and story telling that appeals to both children and adults alike. To reward Toy Story 4 with an Oscar would further cement its legacy in film history.

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

5 comments on “Put On A Happy Face: My 2020 Oscar Predictions.

  1. Great list! I think your predictions for the acting categories at least are highly probable. I too wish Little Women and especially Greta Gerweig would clean up, they and she deserves to. But the Academy still has many systemic problems.

    • The perpetual scramble to stay relevant has hurt the Academy over recent years. They just can’t seem to get their act together. Watch out for the expected winners speeches to reitergrate what’s wrong with the Academy i.e. lack of gender equality and racial diversity. Moreover, look out for the customary Trump dig and climate change mention.

  2. I’ve really failed this past year, as I’ve seen only a few of the nominated films: Marriage Story, Judy and The Irishman. Loved the first two, but not the third, as I 1) cannot handle gangster-style cruelty and violence, and 2) am tired of gangster films. I found all the characters in The Irishmen to be generally repugnant. I will be very upset if Renee Zellweger does not win Best Actress for her nuanced portrayal of Judy Garland (who was herself one of the greatest actresses and singers of the 20th Century).

  3. Bold pick with Once Upon a Time for Best Picture. Honestly, though, I hope you are right.

    • I’m kind of bummed Tarantino didn’t come away with the top honour but it was always a personal choice rather than listening to what the bookies had to say. I went 13/20 in my first year at playing the Oscars game. (I abstained from predicting the two documentary categories, Live Action Short and Best Animated Short.) I’m glad I didn’t deviate from the script and stuck by the favourites in the acting categories. I’m chuffed that Joaquin Phoenix won. His extraordinary talent as an actor has never ever been in doubt. For over the last 20+ years, he has put together a film resume that other actors would die to have. I’m also pleased Holder Gudnadottir took home an Oscar for Best Original Score. She is a deserving winner. Moreover, Roger Deakins was always going to win Best Cinematography. You were right to tell me a few weeks ago that Deakin would win just for his night-time sequence alone.

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