Saturday, February 8, 2020

92nd Academy Awards Predictions

This year's Academy Awards have been the most wide-open race I've seen in a while, at least with regards to Best Picture. I think there have been at least four "locks" to win: first The Irishman, then Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, followed by 1917 and now Parasite. Their rises and falls show how fluid the race has been.

One aspect though that surprises me is The Irishman's tumultuous fall. Going in with 10 nominations, The Irishman has all but collapsed into irrelevance. It hasn't picked up any major awards since flopping at the Golden Globes, and it looks like there is no sign of it coming back to life. All the other Best Picture nominees are all but assured at least one win, and there have been occasions where Best Picture nominees have been frozen out. This, however, is something I did not expect: a massive failure for one of cinema's greatest auteurs.

How to explain The Irishman's astonishing fall? I'm sure my one-sided nemesis Jacob Airey will suggest if not flat-out state it is punishment for Martin Scorsese saying that his beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe is not "real cinema". That's not just a remarkably childish and narcissistic take, though not surprising for someone as childish and narcissistic as Airey, but a thoroughly uniformed one. The Academy members are not "voting against" Scorsese or to punish him for his "blasphemy". They may dislike or not care for The Irishman. They may just favor other films more than The Irishman. However, to think that the Academy, of all organizations, is filled with squeeing fanboys who cried when a talking tree disintegrated is just so moronic.

There is still that pesky question though. How did The Irishman fall so far and so fast? My own theory is that it just didn't catch on with voters in the same way Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or 1917 or Parasite did. For better or worse, this year the voters went for "the new big thing" versus something that will, I think, stand the test of time longer than those films. By no means are any of the most likely contenders bad films (all I think will make my Top Ten List). It's just a matter of poor timing: Marty's meditation on guilt and regret just wasn't as big as the fantasy of thwarting Charles Manson, a "one-shot" take on World War One or an allegory on capitalism.

Apart from Best Picture, pretty much all the major awards are locked in. It would take an Olivia Colman like upset to overtake the four acting categories, and even that win was not as unexpected as many still think. It is theoretically possible that at least one of the acting locks falls, but by now highly unlikely.

I expect there won't be any surprises, but right now there really is no way of saying Film X is the prohibitive front-runner. Until that last envelope is opened, there is simply no way of saying which of the four films with the best chance will emerge triumphant.

With that brief overview, let's move on to my predictions. These are not the ones I want to win, just the ones I think will, with some thoughts on my reasoning. Predicted winners in bold.


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

Despite Airey's assertion that Avengers: Endgame truly is a turning point in cinema history, this is its sole nomination. Curiously, it's the sole nomination for The Lion King, and frankly I'm not convinced that it should be there. Part of me wants The Irishman to win here just to stick it to the fanboys, but so far it seems the ravages of war are going to take it. To be honest, I didn't notice the visual effects in the film, and with that being the case then 1917 does deserve the win.


Ford v Ferrari 
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit

In the past ten years only once has the Best Picture winner not been nominated for Film Editing. This year all five Film Editing nominees are Best Picture nominees. This would seem to doom the chances of both Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917 for Best Picture, especially the latter since the whole point of it was to look as if it were shot in one take. 1917 can take comfort that the only Best Picture winner not nominated in Film Editing was also a one-shot-type film, Birdman. The Irishman's collapse has sadly extended to Thelma Schoonmaker's brilliant work on the film. Currently, the odds look to be that Ford v Ferrari takes it for its Le Mans race. If it's any comfort to The Irishman, it's that the Best Film Editing winner has not gone on to win Best Picture 8 out of 10 times this past decade.


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

This year there is no royalty among the nominees. The Academy has a weakness for royal garb in this category. The Academy also has a hard time with contemporary times costuming, which is why The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and by extension Joker look unlikely. Granted, they are not truly "contemporary", but they are set within people's current lifespans. While Jojo Rabbit is making a last-minute surge here, I think the Civil War threads from Little Women will be the ones rewarded. Despite its six nominations, the most for any Little Women adaptation, I think this may be its only win.


Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

I would have gone with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil due to Angelina Jolie's cheeks alone, but jokes aside there seems to be a real momentum here for Judy's recreation of one of our most talented and mercurial performers. Bombshell seems to be the most likely to challenge it, but I'm thinking the winner may say, "Ju-DY! Ju-DY! Ju-DY!"


The Irishman
The Lighthouse
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

When you think "cinematography", you think "most visually impressive". That would be 1917. Even those who disliked the film, or like me do not think it is "one of/the greatest war film ever made" admire the look of 1917. I won't say it has it in the bag, but I really don't see any of the others mounting a serious challenge.


The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

There's been another last-minute rally for Parasite, mostly due to the contrasts between the homes of the wealthy Parks and the poverty-row Kims. It may end up taking the Oscar, which I think would be a mild surprise, but I think Quentin Tarantino's recreation of 1960's Hollywood will eke out a win.


Ad Astra
Ford v Ferrari
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This really is a fight between the war sounds of 1917 and the racing sounds of Ford v Ferrari. Again, I hate pinning myself down but I think the war will impress voters more than the race. It's a pity that Ad Astra, which I didn't care for, was not nominated for Cinematography.


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

Same as Sound Mixing, though again Ford v Ferrari is the only film I see that could beat it.


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

What a fall Frozen II has had. Frozen had Let It Go, an anthem if ever there was one. Now, who really is singing Into the Unknown? I figure they thought, "Just let Adele Dazeem BELT OUT a song as monstrously loud as possible and we'll have another hit".  However, I think it's a terrible song from a terrible movie and apart from the actual phrase "Into the Unknown", I cannot remember one thing about it.

The race is between two songs: Diane Warren's eleventh nominated song I'm Standing With You and Elton John's sole contribution to his jukebox musical biopic (I'm Gonna) Love Me if he had ever stopped loving himself.

I think Taron Egerton may be bitter about not getting a Best Actor nomination despite campaigning openly for it via a charm offensive that ended up failing. I say this because he isn't performing the song, odd given he performed it in Rocketman's closing credits.

In my view, once the public hears Cynthia Erivo perform Stand Up, they will ask why the bouncy, inconsequential (I'm Gonna) Love Me Again won. I'd love for Stand Up to surprise as I think it's the best of the nominees, and Warren may herself surprise with I'm Standing With You given how often she's lost. It would be a real surprise to see a "Christian" film be an Oscar winner, but right now the temptation to give Sir Elton and Bernie Taupin a joint award seems too much to resist. (I'm Gonna) Love Me Again winning will be one of the few things to cause me to vent some rage.


Little Women
Marriage Story
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I was convinced Little Women was going to take Best Original Score, and I think it's a beautiful score. However, while there was some momentum for 1917 it looks like it has not only shifted on to Joker, but it's gotten stronger. History will be made if Joker wins: it will be the first time a woman has won Best Original Score (or third if you count Rachel Portman and Anne Dudley, who won Best Original Musical or Comedy Score for Emma and The Fully Monty respectively when the category was briefly split between 1996 and 2000). It will also mean that 1917's Thomas Newman will have lost 15 times, beating out Diane Warren's unfortunate track record.


Hair Love

All are well-crafted animated shorts, though the popularity of Memorable escapes me. With that said, I think the emotional and visual appeal of Hair Love will be too strong to deny it the Oscar.


Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors' Window
A Sister

Again, with the possible exception of Saria I think any of these would be worthy choices. Nefta Football Club seems the most likely surprise winner and would be the first Arabic winner in this category. However, The Neighbors' Window has two advantages. One: it is also quite good. Two: it is the only English-language nominee. In the past ten years, an English-language Live-Action Short Film nominee has won 7 out of 10 times.


In the Absence
Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're A Girl)
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

Again, I think all of the nominees are worthy save for St. Louis Superman, which felt incomplete to me. Last year, the optimistic Period. End of Sentence won, and I point out it is "optimistic" because all the other nominees last year were almost unbearably depressing. I think the Academy will go that route again and select an optimistic, joyful nominee. While I loved Walk Run Cha-Cha, the powerful, beautiful and hopeful Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl) will be the winner.


American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama

I think The Cave and For Sama, good as they are, will cancel each other out due to both being about the Syrian Revolution. My mind goes to Honeyland, which is also curiously nominated for International Film. There's no way Honeyland will win in that category, and I don't think it's a way of "rewarding" it by winning somewhere else, but I'm thinking that in a surprisingly strong category Honeyland will win.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM (formerly Best Foreign-Language Film)

Corpus Christi (Poland)
Honeyland (North Macedonia)
Les Miserables (France)
Pain and Glory (Spain)
Parasite (South Korea)

Last year, many predicted (or wished) that the Mexican film Roma would be the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. If it had, it would also be the first film to win both Foreign-Language and Best Picture. That is the trouble with nominating one movie in both categories: inevitably winning Foreign-Language (now International Feature) cuts it from winning Best Picture. Many again hope (and wish) that the South Korean film Parasite break on through and wins both. At least in this category, I think Parasite has it locked up since no other film has really mounted a challenge to it.


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

Again, lo how Frozen II has fallen. Frozen was one of the surest wins when it was nominated. Now, its cash-grab/sequel was, yes, "frozen" out, a surprising rejection. What makes this race surprisingly competitive is that all the indicators have given us a variety of winners. Various organizations that normally signal which way this category goes has selected Missing Link, Klaus and Toy Story 4. I don't see a surprise win for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World or I Lost My Body. I'm not convinced Klaus can gain that much support and I think it's a weak Missing Link. It really is an open race. As much, however, as I may have been underwhelmed by it, I think they're going to go for a safe choice and give Woody's last roundup a fond farewell.


Knives Out
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

To see just how fluid this season has been, the odds have shifted from Knives Out to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to 1917 and now Parasite. Another category where I simply cannot find a definitive certain winner. I can say that I don't think there was much of a screenplay for 1917 and I don't see any support for Marriage Story. Knives Out has faded on its sole nomination, so it's really a fight between a Hollywood story and a Korean story. Either could win, but it looks like the Academy will find some Seoul.


The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Little Women
The Two Popes

Things have gone wildly awry for some films. The Irishman's momentum has fallen flat and Greta Gerwig looks likely to lose in both Original and Adapted Screenplay in separate years. She was the front-runner for some time, until for reasons I cannot fathom the Hitler camp comedy came roaring to life. I simply do not understand the hold Jojo Rabbit has over Film Twitter as this unimpeachable work of brilliance. However, I have to acknowledge reality and with deepest regret, have to concede it looks like this is where it has the strongest chance to win anywhere.


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

I know many people are upset that Jennifer Lopez was not nominated for Hustlers. Personally, I don't get why so many think J-Lo taking her clothes off is some kind of acting miracle. Wasn't her Super Bowl performance essentially the same as her performance in the film? In the same way, I don't get the passion, the fervor for Laura Dern's performance in Marriage Story. I found it cartoonish bordering on parody, but somehow people have convinced themselves that it is something of majesty. I would have chosen Pugh's turn in Little Women, though to be honest I think the film made it a leading role. Again, however, I have to vow to reality and recognize Dern will win.


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

It is a sad thing that Pacino and Pesci will cancel each other out. Nine times out of ten when two actors from the same film get nominated in the same category they end up losing. It is a sad thing because both Pacino and especially Pesci in my view gave better performances than the ultra-cool Pitt. He, however, has never faltered on his path to the win, and he will win.


Cynthia Erivo: Harriet
Scarlett Johansson: Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan: Little Women
Charlize Theron: Bombshell
Renee Zellweger: Judy

Best Leading Actress is the one place where we have racial/ethnic diversity among the nominees. If not for Cynthia Erivo's performance as Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, we would have heard again about #OscarsSoWhite. I think of all the performances Erivo's was if not the best then close to it. I also note that Saoirse Ronan has been nominated four times and is only twenty-five years old. If that does not speak to the breath of her talent, what does? It's a curious thing that it is Best Actress, not Best Actor, that has a majority of nominations for playing real people: Erivo, Theron as Megyn Kelly and Zellweger as Judy Garland. Normally it is the men who are rewarded for playing real-life figures. In this category, Zellweger has never lost her lead. Not one of the nominees has come close to challenging her, and her win is essentially assured.


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

Normally, an actor in a biopic who has his first nomination after a respected career would be a front-runner, but Jonathan Pryce will have to be satisfied with just the nomination. Banderas (who may or may not qualify as "diversity") is not going to win. As a side note, I know many upset that Taron Egerton was not nominated for Rocketman, but I'll be frank: I don't think his performance was worthy of a nomination. I said flatly that it was too soon to say Egerton had it in the bag and was the inevitable winner, but Film Twitter did not listen. I still think he's bitter about it. He worked the rooms furiously to keep his Oscar hopes alive as he saw himself fading to the triumvirate of DiCaprio, Driver and Phoenix. It did not help.

That triumvirate has the best odds, but DiCaprio already used his "he's overdue" card for The Revenant, which is a shame given Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a better performance. Driver is fantastic in a film I was not crazy about, but again Phoenix's turn as Arthur Fleck is too powerful to ignore.


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

Again, the pendulum has been spinning all around: briefly Scorsese, then Tarantino, then Mendes, and currently Bong. Surprisingly, Philips' nomination is the only one never to take, and moreover one that Film Twitter despises. It really is open for anyone save Phillips and Scorsese, who are pretty much done. I don't think there was any directing in 1917 in terms of acting performances and much more in Parasite, and while I would not be surprised if Bong won I'm thinking Mendes may squeak out a victory.


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

This really is the hardest category to say what will win. Personally, I would love for Ford v Ferrari to win if only to shock us all. I feel terrible for The Irishman because it is a great film that will be ignored. Joker is too divisive to win and I think passionately disliked by a large enough group to keep it from winning. I think the same goes for Jojo RabbitLittle Women and Marriage Story have no chance. As much as Parasite is passionately loved by Film Twitter, the language barrier again crops up. Can the Academy embrace a foreign-language film considering how resistant it has been to adopting it. That really leaves two: the film industry centered Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and the war epic 1917. Somehow, people may talk themselves into thinking 1917 is indeed an epic, something "for the ages". With that, I think the Academy will ultimate pick 1917 for Best Picture of 2019.

Again, I am not betting on most of these vague guesses. We won't find out until tomorrow, where I hope for some surprises.

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