2019 was a very solid year for movies, and this awards season has (for the most part) been an improvement and redemption for the absolute dumpster fire that was last year (in any other awards year Rami Malek winning Best Actor for his SNL performance would have been a travesty; last year it was just par for the course). While we can’t ignore total snubs of great films like “Midsommar” and “Dolamite Is My Name” or particulars like Best Costume Design for “Rocketman,” these Oscars will surely reward some pretty deserving folk, a lot of whom will be first-time winners. So here I will break down who will win, who could win and who should win at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Every awards season sees a three-headed monster emerge as the favorites for Best Picture, and this year the award will come down to “1917,” “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” With the Academy’s preferential ballot it is hard to exactly predict what will win here, although at this point in time it looks like “1917” has a decent lead after wins at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and Producers Guild. That being said, word around the industry is there is not a single bad word being spoken about “Parasite,” which won the SAG award for Best Ensemble (essentially that branch’s best picture). “Marriage Story” was 2019’s best movie, but just like its star Adam Driver it is being overlooked because life isn’t fair. Oh well. It truly could go either way, but since “1917” has the added benefit of playing wide in theaters right now, I am tempted to give it the edge.
WILL WIN: 1917
COULD WIN: Parasite
SHOULD WIN: Marriage Story
Early on it seemed like Martin Scorsese was on his way to a second career trophy, but in the last month Sam Mendes has burst onto the scene, winning at the Globes, BAFTAs and DGA. Just as with Best Picture, this looks like it will come down between him and “Parasite’s” Bong Joon-Ho, with “Once Upon a Time’s” Quentin Tarantino possibly playing darkhorse (they’re trying so hard to push the “how has he never won a directing Oscar?!” narrative). Todd Phillips getting in for “Joker” is a joke, but nothing about that film’s success makes sense so why start now… I’m inclined to again lean towards Mendes and “1917,” especially since they could reward Joon-Ho in another category earlier in the night.
WILL WIN: Sam Mendes, “1917”
COULD WIN: Bong Joon-Ho, “Parasite”
SHOULD WIN: Sam Mendes, “1917”
It’s going to be Joaquin Phoenix for “Joker” and I’m happy for him in the sense that he is one of our best actors of this past generation and has been overlooked before. But I just wish it was for a role that was more consistent and nuanced, in a film that wasn’t so high on its own supply. Adam Driver is a tour de force in “Marriage Story” and will one day get a trophy of his own, but as my friend has decreed all season long: “I don’t want Adam Driver to have an Oscar, I want him to have an Oscar for ‘Marriage Story’!”. I’m glad Antonio Banderas is finally an Oscar nominee, though; he is a great man who has given us some great work over the years.
WILL WIN: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
COULD WIN: Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
SHOULD WIN: Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
It’s going to be Renée Zellweger for her work in “Judy,” although of the four acting nominees who have each swept the entire season she feels the most vulnerable, for reasons no one can explain. She shouldn’t, she’s won every award she has been up for and the person who won the Comedy/Musical Best Actress at the Globes, Akwafina, wasn’t nominated here. So it will be Zellweger winning Oscar #2, and you’ll see very few folk complaining. If anyone was to upset her it would be double-nominee Scarlett Johansson, but that would require an organized vote among folk to write her name in here instead of in Best Supporting.
WILL WIN: Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
COULD WIN: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
SHOULD WIN: Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
I’m getting tired of starting my paragraphs like this, but it’s going to be Brad Pitt for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” He has played the “I don’t have an acting Oscar” card all season (he does have one for producing “12 Years a Slave”) and has charmed the pants off every room he’s been in all winter long. Good on him, it’s a solid turn in an overall meh film, although it doesn’t touch Joe Pesci’s chilling yet heart-breaking work in “The Irishman” or Tom Hanks’ sympathetic Mr. Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The other reason Pitt is all but a lock in the people who want to reward “Irishman” will end up splitting votes between Pesci and co-star Al Pacino, furthering Pitt’s divide. This category truly is remarkable though, because aside from Pitt, Hanks, Pacino and Pesci it also includes Anthony Hopkins; you couldn’t ask for a more legendary lineup of actors.
WILL WIN: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
COULD WIN: Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
SHOULD WIN: Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
I’ll keep this one short: it’s going to be Laura Dern bringing home her first Oscar, but if there is going to be an upset (there won’t be) then it’ll be for Dern’s “Marriage Story” co-star Johansson in “Jojo Rabbit.” My vote would be for Dern’s “Little Women” co-star Florence Pugh, who is the definition of a scene-stealer, but she’ll have to wait her turn.
WILL WIN: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
COULD WIN: Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
SHOULD WIN: Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Up until about two weeks ago this looked like it would be Tarantino’s third career Oscar. He just won the Golden Globe, “Hollywood” took home Best Comedy and things were looking good. But then suddenly “Parasite” won at the Writers Guild and the BAFTAs, and now one has to assume is the favorite to win at the Oscars, too. In a just world, “Marriage Story” would be cleaning up with its great blend of family drama and laugh-out-loud moments, but just like with Best Picture and Best Actor, we can’t always get what we want, or expect the Academy to do the right/decent/comprehensible thing. This also gives them a chance to ensure Joon-Ho gets a trophy for his work on “Parasite,” since Best Director is a toss-up and Best Picture is impossible to ensure.
WILL WIN: “Parasite”
COULD WIN: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
SHOULD WIN: “Marriage Story”
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
At the beginning of the season it seemed like if “The Irishman” was going to win nowhere else, it would be here for script. Now it is looking more and more like that film is going to go 0-10 on Sunday, with “Jojo Rabbit” having won at the BAFTAs and WGA. It also looked as if “Little Women” may get some sort of redemption win here for Greta Gerwig, who failed to land a directing nomination, and winning the USC Scripter Award helps keep that hope alive (nine of the last 10 winners of that award have gone on to win the Oscar). “Joker” and “The Two Popes” are two self-congratulatory screenplays, but whatever, I’m past the point of caring about “Joker” stealing nominations from more-deserving films.
WILL WIN: “Jojo Rabbit”
COULD WIN: “Little Women”
SHOULD WIN: “Jojo Rabbit”
So there are my predictions for the “big” awards. Other quick notes and picks: after being shut out for so many years and finally winning his first award for Best Cinematography for “Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins will land his second-straight trophy for his seemingly one-take job on “1917.” “Ford v Ferrari” could win in three of its four categories (Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Film Editing; it won’t even touch Best Picture). Best Production Design is shaping up to be one of the biggest toss-ups of the night, with “1917”, “Hollywood” and “Parasite” all having a fair shot. Best Song is also an interesting one, with Elton John likely taking home his second career win for he and musical partner Bernie Taupin’s new song “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” that was featured in his biopic. However don’t count out “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from “Toy Story 4” or “Stand Up” from “Harriet,” especially if voters know that the latter would complete Cynthia Ervio’s quest for an EGOT. Speaking of “Toy Story 4,” Best Animated Feature could go to it simply out of brand recognition, but don’t count out Globe winner “Missing Link” or BAFTA and Annie winner “Klaus.” And finally, it would be great to see “Avengers: Endgame” become just the second MCU film to win an Oscar (it should have gotten a Best Original Score nomination, too) however much of the Academy still is hesitant to reward comic book films; look for “1917” to take that one home, with “The Irishman” *maybe* pulling an upset because of its de-aging, as creepy as some parts looked.
The 92nd Academy Awards air on ABC on Sunday, February 9 at 8pm EST.