• Casey Seline

2020 Oscar Predictions

Later than last year, still early enough to get everything wrong.

 

Last year, this little experiment went fairly well. My October predictions were only 38% correct, but among that 38% were some of the biggest surprises of the season. I nailed the Green Book/Roma face off and Green Book win without having seen either film. I knew Rami Malek would take Best Actor over Christian Bale after splitting the Drama and Comedy/Musical Golden Globes, respectively, and again without having seen either film. In all, I correctly predicted Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Director, Cinematography, Foreign Language Film, Original Song, and Visual Effects.


This year's predictions are a bigger challenge because I've moved to a city where I have less exposure to limited releases. I'm going off of trailers and trade reviews much more than I did last year, making this post more of a game of impressions than ever. In any case, my prediction criteria remain the same:


Put movies through the sieves of current politics and artistic quality, and you’ll end up with a narrow set of contenders. From there, think of how the general voter feels about each film’s themes and the filmmakers. Hollywood wants to be a hero and an educator. Which movie do they think is vital to this moment, and who do they connect with enough to award?


Save for shorts (which I wouldn't even know where to find at this point in the awards season), my predictions for nominations and winners in each category are below. I’m allowing myself some small grace by including alternate selections, which are 2-4 options that I wouldn’t be surprised to see score a nomination, but I don’t think would win. I’m also including some rationale, which will notably get less and less coherent as we get into the more technical categories.


Let me know what you think in the comments!


*indicates movies I have already seen (only denoted in lists, not in commentary)


Best Picture

The Irishman

Parasite

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

Joker*

Bombshell

The Two Popes

Marriage Story

Ford v Ferrari*

Jojo Rabbit*

1917


Alternate selections: A Hidden Life, Waves, The Farewell*, Richard Jewell


Winner: The Two Popes


Commentary: Though most experts are currently predicting The Irishman or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to win, I think (and hope) the Best Picture statue goes to something less loud and flashy this year. After Green Book undeservingly took home top prize last February, the Academy has some making up to do, and I think they know it. I'm holding out hope for The Two Popes, which has a real shot, following the likes of The King's Speech and Spotlight. Reviews promise it's artful and leaves audiences with a soft-spoken message of humane conversations despite differing viewpoints. That gives it a lot of cultural relevance in an ironically non-preachy package.


Marriage Story would be the other soft movie that could win over Tarantino and Scorsese. It's already been compared to Kramer vs. Kramer many times over. It's also one of the only films this season that went to every major film festival, which is always a good indicator of Oscar success. The only reason I have The Two Popes winning over Marriage Story is that its message seems like it's more blatant and universal. I could totally flip flop these two after I actually see them.


Not only do I think the Academy will pick a low-key movie, I also think pitting a Tarantino and a Scorsese movie against each other will divide their blended fanbase, even though their pictures this year are as different as can be. Not to mention, The Irishman is A) a Netflix film and B) three and a half hours long. As good as it may be, those continue to be sticking points for voters.


Still, as we get closer to February, I wouldn't be all that surprised if my final prediction ends up as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a film I did not enjoy. It would win over The Irishman for the reasons I stated above. With preferential voting in place, it will take a lot of voters agreeing with my take on this film to make it less of a threat. In other words, even I'm taking my optimistic prediction here with a grain (read: heap) of salt.


Joker is probably unavoidable in this category, despite the million controversies surrounding it. It won't win, though, and could actually give Bombshell a big boost as its veritable opposite in the lineup. Bombshell has a chance at winning, depending on how they campaign. I don't know enough about Bombshell to say more about it yet, but the trades have given it high praise, so I'm expecting a lot.


Ford v Ferrari is a highly commercial film that I could imagine going the distance to be a surprise winner. The theme of blue collar (Ford) facing up to comparative royalty (Ferrari) carries enough of that classic David versus Goliath can-do attitude to please audiences and voters alike. The question is if it's sophisticated enough to earn Academy support. It certainly has the stars to do so and presumably less controversy than Green Book, which had similar themes. What Ford v Ferrari lacks, however, is a timely progressive message. It has a nice bit on "working by committee hinders success," but in a voting community largely made up of such committee members, will they appreciate the notion?


Jojo Rabbit won the audience award at TIFF this year, which was a major factor in my selection of Green Book last year. As a satire, though, it alienates enough people to count itself out of a win here.


I'm ecstatic to see Parasite when it finally comes to town next week. It's up against the same stigma as Roma last year as a foreign language feature, so it would need a ginormous push to win, but from everything I've seen, it's strong enough to break into multiple categories.


1917 has been kept well under wraps. The trailer is reminiscent of Dunkirk in intensity, and knowing that it's styled to be a "one shot" film means that its technical stature elevates the story to the Best Picture race.


I wouldn't be surprised to see A Hidden Life make the cut, especially with the shining critical reviews. My biggest concern is that it will go the way of At Eternity's Gate last year. They seem similar in tone, judging by the trailer, and At Eternity's Gate never invited the viewer into the story, making it one of the hardest to watch movies I saw in 2018.


I have high expectations for Greta Gerwig's Little Women, but unless she really reinvents the story and setting (a la last year's A Star Is Born), I think the Academy will see it as a well done reboot and cast only some sparse votes its way.


Richard Jewell is a big question mark in my mind. For it to come together so quickly and with so much talent, to me, means it must be one hell of a script. BUT it's about "fake news" unjustly ruining a hero, which is certainly something Academy voters want to talk about in the midst of "cancel culture," but vilifying the press is a similarly sensitive topic. The fact that the film missed all festivals is another big hinderance to it, so either they're counting on the film's surprise entry into this year's race to give it a push in notoriety or it'll be too little too late. Really excited to see how this one pans out.


I loved The Farewell, but I see it going the same way as Eighth Grade, cleaning up indie and critic awards, receiving wide support, but not enough. Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems like all A24 films are held up against Moonlight, and by that standard, The Farewell is quaint. A24 is leaning into The Farewell more than Waves or Uncut Gems, which suggests neither is as strong. While I haven't seen either of the latter movies yet, their trailers look fantastic and the buzz surrounding them is considerable, so I wouldn't be surprised if their position changes when they get to wide release.


This year has a much stronger list of contenders than the last few years; so much so, I considered making an alternate-alternate selections list (which would be Uncut Gems, Little Women, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Just Mercy, and Dark Waters). We still have a ways to go in terms of making female/minority-driven contenders, but at least we're making smarter movies?



Best Director

Bong Joon-ho (Parasite)

Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story)

Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*)

Martin Scorsese (The Irishman)

Fernando Meirelles (The Two Popes)


Alternate selections: Sam Mendes (1917), Greta Gerwig (Little Women), Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit*), Todd Phillips (Joker*)


Winner: Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*)


Commentary: I'm already prepping for another female directors snub. Even if Greta Gerwig breaks in, something tells me that Little Women won't be the movie to get her a win. I'd like to see Fernando Meirelles win here for The Two Popes. From what I've read, his directing here channels Ingmar Bergman. I think it's more likely Scorsese or Tarantino will take it, however, and of those two, Tarantino will get it. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was far from my favorite Tarantino film, but for others it's the new quintessential Tarantino.



Best Actress

Renee Zellweger (Judy*)

Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story)

Cynthia Erivo (Harriet*)

Alfre Woodard (Clemency)

Charlize Theron (Bombshell)


Alternate selections: Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Awkwafina (The Farewell*)


Winner: Renee Zellweger (Judy*)


Commentary: Most experts have Saoirse Ronan and Awkwafina swapped in where I have Cynthia Erivo and Alfre Woodard. I enjoyed Cynthia Erivo's turn as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. I think the film will go overlooked for the most part because it's so straightforward, but it does have a quiet yet firm energy to it, largely in part due to Erivo's performance. I think she'll be rewarded for that. In any case, Renee Zellweger has received many of the best reviews of her career for Judy, which really was something special.



Best Actor

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker*)

Adam Driver (Marriage Story)

Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name*)

Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)

Robert De Niro (The Irishman)


Alternate selections: Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*), Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems), Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)


Winner: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker*)


Commentary: It'll be interesting to see if De Niro or DiCaprio make the nomination - even though I didn't love Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name, I have a gut feeling that he knocks one of those two out. Alternatively, Jonathan Pryce could be the one to go, but I think De Niro and DiCaprio are cast in the same light most of the time, which makes them somewhat more interchangeable (I'm not saying they're an interchangeable casting - it's more of an interchangeable vibe or branded prestige).


Adam Driver is certainly Phoenix's biggest competition, but I think Phoenix has built more momentum since Joker premiered in Venice. It'll be a Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea) situation where everyone is a disappointed but not all that surprised.



Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers*)

Margot Robbit (Bombshell)

Laura Dern (Marriage Story)

Scarlett Johansen (Jojo Rabbit*)

Shuzhen Zhou (The Farewell*)


Alternate selections: Annette Bening (The Report), Da'Vine Joy Randolph (Dolemite Is My Name*), Nicole Kidman (Bombshell), Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey*)


Winner: Laura Dern (Marriage Story)


Commentary: I think this will be a tight race between Jennifer Lopez and Laura Dern. Jennifer Lopez's work in Hustlers was of similar fortitude to Mahershala Ali's in Moonlight, which earned him his first Supporting Actor win. I'm giving Dern the win, for now, because she evidently has an enormously powerful speech in the middle of the film, which seems to be a spotlight that can't be ignored. We'll see.


Normally, I would give Margot Robbie's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood performance an edge over Bombshell because well done portrayals of real people (especially Hollywood icons) is more likely to be rewarded over fictional roles, BUT as good as her Sharon Tate was, the script gave her little to work with. Bombshell is the meatier role.



Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*)

Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes)

Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy)

Al Pacino (The Irishman)

Joe Pesci (The Irishman)


Alternate selections: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy), John Lithgow (Bombshell)


Winner: Joe Pesci (The Irishman)


Commentary: Pesci was coaxed out of retirement for this film, and I imagine voters will eat that up. Otherwise, Brad Pitt (best described as "a character actor in a movie star's body") should win for making something of what could have been an easy-come-easy-go role.



Best Adapted Screenplay

The Irishman

Richard Jewell

Jojo Rabbit*

Little Women

The Two Popes


Alternate selections: Joker*, Hustlers*, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Just Mercy


Winner: The Irishman


Commentary: Like I said above, Richard Jewell must be one hell of a script to wrap production and be rushed into this year's awards season. For now, though, I'll agree with experts and say The Irishman. Screenplay categories are the only place where a 3.5 hour movie can benefit from its obscene girth. They can just fit so much more into a script when it's that long. It certainly doesn't show as much skill as a well written/executed short script, though.



Best Original Screenplay

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

Marriage Story

Parasite

Ford v Ferrari*

Bombshell


Alternate selections: Waves, The Farewell*, 1917, Honey Boy


Winner: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*


Commentary: Ford v Ferrari will be the easiest option to swap out here, but I'm including it in the nominations because, well, all of Green Book's voters are still voters. Tarantino has the best track record when it comes to screenplay Oscars, and this film was beloved enough across the board. I think Bombshell could be a surprise winner for its subject matter, but I can't say for sure until I see it. It could easily be heavy-handed, in which case voters will give it the nomination but not a win.



Best Animated Feature

Toy Story 4*

Frozen II

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Weathering with You

I Lost My Body


Alternate selections: Klaus, Abominable


Winner: Toy Story 4*


Commentary: Animation is such a deeply subjective art, it's the only category that is more about message than art form. I'm not happy Disney/Pixar decided to compromise the perfect ending they had with Toy Story 3. I didn't find this fourth installment all that impressive (the best thing was the addition of Forky, the millennial icon). Without a game changer such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, though, it's the obvious choice.



Best Documentary

One Child Nation

American Factory

Apollo 11

The Biggest Little Farm

The Kingmaker


Alternate selections: Knock Down the House, Maiden, The Cave, Diego Maradona


Winner: One Child Nation


Commentary: Docs have never been my thing, so I'm basing this prediction significantly on snippets of reviews I've seen in passing. One Child Nation received memorable praise, and China is always a hot topic. It fits the mold of a winner for this category.



Best International Feature

Parasite (South Korea)

Pain and Glory (Spain)

Les Miserables (France)

A White, White Day (Iceland)

Invisible Life (Brazil)


Alternates: Instinct (Netherlands), Corpus Christi (Poland), The Traitor (Italy), Tel Aviv on Fire (Luxembourg)


Winner: Parasite (South Korea)


Commentary: Not sure why France picked Les Miserables over Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which has only gained buzz since its warm reception at Cannes. Regardless, this is absolutely Parasite's category to lose. It will follow in Roma's footsteps, scoring nominations in some of the toughest categories.



Best Cinematography

1917

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

The Two Popes

A Hidden Life

The Irishman


Alternate selection: Ad Astra*, The Lighthouse, Joker*


Winner: 1917


Commentary: I wouldn't be surprised if The Lighthouse sneaks in here (Hollywood loves a well done black and white), but I think genre and ambiguous storylines will work against it. Because 1917 is done in the one-shot style I mentioned earlier, it should clean up many of the technical categories.



Best Film Editing

1917

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

The Irishman

Ford v Ferrari*

Knives Out


Alternate selections: Booksmart*, Jojo Rabbit*, Marriage Story, Waves


Winner: Ford v Ferrari*


Commentary: I'd love some justice for Booksmart here because the editing added so much to the comedy. Seriously, it was perfect. I'm including Knives Out for the same reasons I included Vice last year - the trailer is so invigorating and energetic, it's a sign of a great editor. That said, I think Ford v Ferrari will win because it's much shorter than The Irishman and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it's well-paced, and easy to follow without dumbing everything down.



Best Production Design

Jojo Rabbit*

Little Women

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

The Irishman

Joker*


Alternate selections: Downton Abbey*, The Two Popes, 1917


Winner: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*


Commentary: Joker could win this for its sets that are both familiar and jarring, but I imagine voters will favor Once Upon a Time in Hollywood for its charmingly nostalgic recreations of Hollywood. Is using "charm" to describe something Tarantino an oxymoron?



Best Costume Design

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*

Little Women

Joker*

Rocketman*

Downton Abbey*


Alternate selections: The Irishman, Dolemite is My Name*, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil*


Winner: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*


Commentary: I wouldn't be too shocked if Rocketman or Joker took this trophy home, but I think Once Upon a Time in Hollywood will win because the costumes are peak Hollywood. It's a celebratory recreation of its period that isn't overly hippy-dippy.



Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Judy*

Rocketman*

Joker*


Alternate selection: Downton Abbey*, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*, Bombshell


Winner: Judy*


Commentary: Joker might take this just because makeup plays such an integral part in the story. I hope Judy wins, though, because Renee Zellweger was transformed in a way reminiscent of Christian Bale as Dick Cheney last year, albeit with fewer prosthetics.



Best Visual Effects

Gemini Man

Cats

Avengers: End Game

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Lion King


Alternate selections: Aeronauts, Ad Astra*, The Lighthouse


Winner: The Lion King


Commentary: Following The Jungle Book, The Lion King will take this one. Cats is presumably too kitschy and Gemini Man uses its visual effects well, but touts one face as its centerpiece rather than the entire film.



Best Sound Editing

1917

Ford v Ferrari*

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

The Irishman

Rocketman*


Alternate selections: Ad Astra*, Joker*, Judy*


Winner: 1917


Commentary: Like Birdman before it, 1917 should win here for piecing together sound clips with extremely long shots.



Best Sound Mixing

1917

Ford v Ferrari*

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Rocketman*

Ad Astra*


Alternate selections: The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood*, Joker*


Winner: Ford v Ferrari*


Commentary: Rocketman went a different route than Bohemian Rhapsody, opting to use Taron Egerton's vocals instead of mixing his with Elton John's, and while Egerton was surprisingly great, I don't think Rocketman will follow up Bohemian Rhapsody's deserved win here. I think we'll see the Academy return to awarding the louder films in the sound categories this year with Ford v Ferrari winning here because loud engine noises are a little more out of the norm than space/war noises in this category.



Best Original Score

Harriet*

Joker*

Judy*

Marriage Story

Little Women


Alternate selections: 1917, Waves, Ford v Ferrari*, Motherless Brooklyn*


Winner: Joker*


Commentary: I'm not sure that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's score qualifies with the Academy's new rules regarding original works (essentially, any score using samples of previous works is no longer eligible). This should still be Joker's category to lose considering how influential the score was in the making of the film.



Best Original Song

"Stand Up" (Harriet*)

"Spirit" (The Lion King)

"(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" (Rocketman*)

"Into the Unknown" (Frozen II)

"Beautiful Ghosts" (Cats)


Alternate selections: "Never Too Late" (The Lion King), "The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy" (Toy Story 4*), "Don't Call Me (Angel)" (Charlie's Angels*)


Winner: "Stand Up" (Harriet*)


Commentary: Each film can only submit one original song for consideration. We don't know which songs have been selected yet, so I've included one song from The Lion King in both my nominations and alternates.


With this win, Cynthia Erivo will join the EGOT club! This category will be even more of a star-studded affair than usual. We'll likely see performances from Erivo, Beyoncé, Elton John (/Taron Egerton?), Idina Menzel (Adele Dazem round two), and Taylor Swift.



 

So. Which categories will The Irishman win now that I've completely ignored it? Let me know what your predictions are below!