Oscars 2020: Who will win and who should win

Wrap yourself in the flag and yell for Saoirse Ronan to bag an award – but she isn’t winning

George MacKay in 1917

George MacKay in 1917

 

Bung the food back in the freezer. Roll up the red carpet. Cancel the staff that can still be cancelled. Given that we know who’s winning, there is really no need to bother with an Oscar ceremony this year. Right?

For the second year running, all the acting favourites are odds-on with the bookies. Go ahead. Wrap yourself in the flag and yell for Saoirse Ronan to convert her fourth nomination into an Oscar. But she isn’t winning. Her turn in Little Women is (rightly or wrongly) viewed as just one component of a dominant ensemble. In contrast, Renée Zellweger gets to masticate every splinter of scenery as the immortal Ms Garland in Judy. A “leading high-street bookmaker” has Zellweger unbackable at 1/18. That same turf accountant - despite normally pulling in “homers” - puts Saoirse as remote as 25/1. Tiocfaidh ár lá. But not when there’s a showy movie about a Hollywood legend in the way (even if nobody much likes it).

You can similarly mark down Joaquin Phoenix (mad in Joker) for best actor, Brad Pitt (smooth in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood) for best supporting actor, and Laura Dern (dynastic in Marriage Story) for best supporting actress. In recent years, thanks to a preferential ballot that works similarly to those being scrutinised across Ireland this weekend, best picture has been trickier to predict. But Sam Mendes’s 1917 looks to be cruising.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins and director Sam Mendes on the set of 1917. Photograph: François Duhamel/Universal Pictures
Cinematographer Roger Deakins and director Sam Mendes on the set of 1917. Photograph: François Duhamel/Universal Pictures

How do we know this? We are not going to pretend that I’m stomping the pavements of West Hollywood in search of Academy voters with inside knowledge. (Though I have spoken to two or three.) It’s simpler than that. Over the last few decades, a series of precursor awards have sprung up to act as opinion polls for the coming election. By far the largest branch in the Academy is the actors. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) thus represents a whack of Oscar voters and, at their awards last month, they put gongs the way of Renée, Joaquin, Laura and Brad. The Golden Globes don’t represent anyone, but the quartet’s victory there further hammered home the inevitability. Last weekend, they all won at the British Academy (Bafta). Mendes’s pseudo one-take war film triumphed with Bafta, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild. So, it does look as if we have a favourite there.

Hold on. There are still reasons for the tolerant movie fan to heed the upcoming awards. For a start, the unusually compacted season - the Oscars are a full three weeks earlier than last year - has disrupted rhythms in ways that question the reliability of traditional predictors. Second, an upset this year could trigger one of the most joyous nights in Oscar history.

Unstoppable rise

The feel-cool story of the season has been the unstoppable rise of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. Not just the first Korean film to get a best picture nomination, it is the first from the peninsula to score a nod in even best international picture (formally best foreign language film). The odds are still against it. It has six nominations. An unprecedented four rivals are in double figures: Joker scored 11; 1917, Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood and The Irishman registered 10. Voters may feel they’ve done their duty by passing Parasite the international prize. If, last year, Roma, directed by Academy favourite Alfonso Cuarón, couldn’t become the first film in a language other than English to win then what chance does a social satire from Korea have?

Andrew Scott and Richard Madden in 1917
Andrew Scott and Richard Madden in 1917

Well, Parasite was the first foreign film to win best ensemble at SAG - something Roma couldn’t manage - and, whereas Cuarón’s flick was more admired than loved, the enthusiasm for Bong’s breakneck farce is unmistakable. We can, at the very least, mark it down as a plausible second favourite. (True awards nerds will want it pointed out that Parasite would also become only the second winner of both best picture and the Cannes Palme d’Or.)

Nobody can say for certain, but Roma may also have suffered from a bias against Netflix productions. This musing points us towards another of the questions still hanging over the 2020 Oscars. How few awards could the streaming service secure? Scoring heavily with The Irishman and Marriage Story, Netflix beat all other studios with 24 nominations. We are predicting just two of those to deliver Oscars: Laura Dern for Marriage Story and, much less certain, American Factory as best feature documentary. To use the language of US sports, Netflix could conceivably go 1 for 24 here. Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, another Netflix release, is competing in some races - notably in editing and directing - but the team cannot rule out skirting The Color Purple’s unenviable record of 11 nominations and no wins. If Netflix does underperform, will the company continue to invest so heavily in theatrical features?

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse

There is not much the Oscar organisers can now do about the near-total whiteness of the acting nominees. That unpleasantness will, at least, provide the presenters with material for self-deprecating humour. For the second year running the show is going with no formal host. Last year, the broadcast reversed a long decline in viewership figures and, tightened up to a relatively tidy three hours, won decent reviews from Oscarologists. It makes sense to stick with a winning formula. All this is good news for Galway’s Eímear Noone. We may not see Saoirse at the winner’s podium, but, shepherding excerpts from the best score nominees, the distinguished composer becomes the first woman ever to conduct at the Oscars. All that and Billie Eilish too.

Who will win and who should win

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

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: Parasite

Mendes’s war flick would become the first film ever to win with neither an editing nor an acting nomination. So, there is some hope for Parasite. But 1917 is on a roll everywhere else.

Best Director
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

This is the most competitive of the tip-top awards. It has often split from best picture in recent years and, like Alfonso Cuarón last year, the “foreign director” could score a consolation prize.

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story
Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in Marriage Story

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

  • Will win: Renée Zellweger
  • Should win: Scarlett Johansson

You can rely on the Academy to go for the most acting rather than the best. But Scarlett deserves it for giving Marriage Story its beating heart.

Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory plays a filmmaker, Salvador Mallo, languishing in semi-retirement after emotional and literal wounds following surgery for fused vertebrae.
Antonio Banderas in Pain and Glory

Best Actor
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: Antonio Banderas

We knew Phoenix would get one eventually. It’s a shame it’s for one of his more unrestrained turns. Antonio is right there, guys!

Flornece Pugh in Little Women
Flornece Pugh in Little Women

Best Supporting Actress
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: Florence Pugh

Daughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, Laura is cashing an IOU for Hollywood royalty. Pugh’s time will come.

A digital de-aging technique has its issues, but the filmmakers just about get away with it
Al Pacino in The Irishman

Best Supporting Actor
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


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  • Will win: Brad Pitt
  • Should win: Al Pacino

Category fraud alert! Pitt is clearly a co-lead in the Tarantino film, but if the studio rates him as supporting the voters will play along. Pacino has a right to feel cheated.

I Lost My Body
I Lost My Body

Best Animated Feature
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

  • Will win: Toy Story 4
  • Should win: I Lost My Body

All conquering Disney may have to settle for just their traditional animation win this year. But there is affection for Netflix’s Klaus and the lovely French romance I Lost My Body.

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
The Two Popes

  • Will win: Little Women
  • Should win: The Irishman

Having missed out on a best director nomination, Greta Gerwig will probably get her Oscar for writing. But Jojo Rabbit won with both the Writers Guild and Bafta. Neck and neck.

Parasite

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

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
  • Should win: Parasite

They love Tarantino and will queue up to give him a third Oscar in that category (rather than the directing statuette he really wants). But Parasite, guys?

Best Cinematography
The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
1917
Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: The Lighthouse

Pseudo single take. Much loved pro. You can carve Roger Deakins’s name on the thing now. Jarin Blaschke, who did such amazing work with vintage equipment on The Lighthouse, will be happy with the nomination.

Best Documentary
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

  • Will win: American Factory
  • Should win: Honeyland

Any one of the five could win. But Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory, concerning a Chinese-owned facility in Ohio, is the first release from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company. Do the math(s).

Best International Feature Film
Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Misérables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

  • Will win: Parasite
  • Should win: Parasite

Unless a meteorite strikes the Dolby Theatre, the Korean film is walking this. It will be the first from that country to triumph here.

Best Editing
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

  • Will win: Parasite
  • Should win: Parasite

Parasite has to win somewhere other than best international picture, doesn’t it? We reckon this is the place, but the much-loved Thelma Schoonmaker lurks for The Irishman.

Best Sound Editing
Ford v Ferrari,
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: 1917

If 1917 does go on any sort of streak then it should mop up these technical categories. Which is fair enough.

Best Sound Mixing
Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
1917
Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: 1917

See above. It’s the sort of film that wins these things when there’s no musical in the (ahem) mix.

Best Production Design
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
1917
Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood
Parasite

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
  • Should win: Parasite

The house in Parasite is (cliché alert) a character in itself, but the voters will love the nostalgic LA chic in the Tarantino movie.

Best Original Score
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
1917
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: Joker

Thomas Newman has been nominated 15 times without winning. He should convert for 1917. Hard on Hildur Guðnadóttir who, with Phoenix, is the standout talent in Joker.

Best 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 Unknown, Frozen II
Stand Up, Harriet

  • Will win: I’m Gonna Love Me Again
  • Should win: Into the Unknown

None of them are much cop, but a win for the Rocketman tune will get Elton onto the stage. There are worse reasons to vote for a nominee.

Best Makeup and Hair
Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
1917

  • Will win: Bombshell
  • Should win: Bombshell

It’s basically the Joker versus Megyn Kelly here. Bombshell probably deserves it for the bravura transformations. But the Joker is the Joker.

Nicole Kidman in Bombshell
Nicole Kidman in Bombshell

Best Costume Design

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

  • Will win: Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood
  • Should win: The Irishman

Hollywood has more flash, but The Irishman does delicious things with its own more period work. Such collars.

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

  • Will win: 1917
  • Should win: The Irishman

Once again, 1917 will probably take it in a technical sweep, but, though many have reservations, the de-aging in The Irishman definitely breaks new ground.

Best Animated Short
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

  • Will win: Hair Love
  • Should win: Hair Love

We’re just going with the one we like most here: the lovely tale of an African-American girl getting her hair right for a special event.

Best Documentary Short
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: In the Absence

Skateboard leans towards the Academy’s taste for war stories (and won at Bafta), but In the Absence, the story of a Korean maritime disaster, is the standout.

Best Live Action Short
Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbours’ Window
Saria
A Sister

  • Will win: Brotherhood
  • Should win: Brotherhood

The study of a Tunisian family in turmoil covers much ground in a short space of time. Also from Tunisia, the funny Nefta Football Club is worth a look.

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