My Oscars 2020 Picks

It’s Oscars time again and, with the nominations announced last week, it seems to be #Oscarssowhite time again too. This year’s event, the 92nd, will take place on February 9, which is earlier in the year than it has been in the recent past. Two years ago, the Academy Board of Governors voted to move the ceremony up by a few weeks, probably because the other, not quite as prestigious, awards ceremonies had stolen all the Oscars’ thunder. This year, the Oscar Awards are still the final awards ceremony on the calendar, as they should be, but the wait to get there isn’t as long.

Surprising to some (but not to me because it was my favourite film of 2019), the big film this year is JOKER. With 11 nominations, it’s the most nominated film ever for a comic book adaptation. Although the film has taken in more than a billion US dollars at the box office, it has also been very divisive with both critics and audiences. JOKER is a deeply dark film. (I don’t think “darkness” should be a deal breaker when it comes to getting an Oscar.) If only that would have been the Oscars’ only problem though. Once again, the nominations reflect a distinct tilt towards white men. Although we saw some amazing performances this year by some women of colour, of the ten women who received acting nominations, only one wasn’t white. Similarly, we had some fabulous films directed by women this year yet all the nominations in that category went to men. I feel for the people who claim racial and sexual bias but when there are only five slots available for each of these categories, someone has to miss the cut. On a statistical basis, as less than 20% of the qualifying films are made by women, shouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that a female director has a small chance of being nominated? The issue really isn’t that the nominating committee is choosing men over women but that there still aren’t enough opportunities for women to get behind the camera and ultimately join the voting body. I’m hopeful that with the success that these female directors have received, it will spur more women on to becoming filmmakers and encourage more studios to hire women to direct their films. The same can be said for casting women of colour.

And now my predictions…

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:
Kathy Bates for RICHARD JEWELL
Laura Dern for MARRIAGE STORY
Scarlett Johansson for JOJO RABBIT
Florence Pugh for LITTLE WOMEN
Margot Robbie for BOMBSHELL

Movie pundits are also up in arms this year (as they are every year) about who got snubbed and this category is a perfect example of that. I like Kathy Bates as much as the next person but she simply does not belong here. Yes, her performance was good but it wasn’t Oscars good. The same can be said for Margot Robbie. She’ll get her Oscar one day, no question, but it shouldn’t be for this role. And let’s talk about Scarlett Johansson. She’s also an amazing actress but a nomination for this role? Not even close to being deserved. On the other hand, Jennifer Lopez should be here for her performance in HUSTLERS. I’m not saying that she deserved to win but she certainly deserved a nomination more than Bates, Robbie and Johansson did. Me thinks there’s a bit of cultural snobbery going on here as JLo is seen by the Academy as being more of a pop singer than an actress.

So who is my pick? In a perfect world, it would be Florence Pugh, who not only put in a fabulous performance as Amy, she was also amazing in MIDSOMMAR. This has certainly been a good year for her and I look forward to seeing her in more films. But the odds-on favourite, and my choice too, is Laura Dern. I wasn’t gaga over MARRIAGE STORY but I loved her performance here. I would pay money to see her and co-star Ray Liotta go at it as a pair of shark divorce lawyers.

Actor in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:
Tom Hanks for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Anthony Hopkins for THE TWO POPES
Al Pacino for THE IRISHMAN
Joe Pesci for THE IRISHMAN
Brad Pitt for ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

Again, one actor shouldn’t be here and another actor should. I liked THE TWO POPES but Anthony Hopkins was sleepwalking through his performance as Pope Benedict XVI. Robert Pattinson, on the other hand, put in a powerful performance in THE LIGHTHOUSE — a film that the Academy has underrated. In any case, this award is Brad Pitt’s to lose and my vote is with Brad too.

Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees are:
Cynthia Erivo for HARRIET
Scarlett Johansson for MARRIAGE STORY
Saoirse Ronan for LITTLE WOMEN
Charlize Theron for BOMBSHELL
Renée Zellweger for JUDY

Again, the Academy nominating committee missed out on two worthy actresses — Lupita Nyong’o for US and Golden Globe winner Awkwafina for THE FAREWELL — but at least all the nominees in this category deserve to be here. Zellweger is the most likely winner here, and my vote goes to her too, but I won’t be disappointed if either Ronan or Theron pull off an upset.

Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees are:
Antonio Banderas for PAIN AND GLORY
Leonardo DiCaprio for ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
Adam Driver for MARRIAGE STORY
Joaquin Phoenix for JOKER
Jonathan Pryce for THE TWO POPES

Adam Sandler’s fans, and perhaps even Sandler himself, are all hot under the collar over his snub in this category. I’ll admit that Sandler’s performance in UNCUT GEMS made his critics sit up and take notice but I don’t think it was to the level of the five nominees here. Let him show us that his performance wasn’t a fluke and his name will be there next time. Eddie Murphy’s fans, and I’m one of them, were also sad that he wasn’t nominated for his performance in DOLEMITE IS MY NAME. He was wonderful in it and I’m glad he’s back but when only five actors can be nominated, I can’t say that he deserved to be included. I can say, however, that Willem Dafoe’s name should have been there perhaps instead of Adam Driver’s. His performance in THE LIGHTHOUSE was, in my opinion, his best ever.

Given who we’ve got though, the heavy favourite, and my pick too, is Joaquin Phoenix.

International Feature Film

The nominees are:
CORPUS CHRISTI from Poland
HONEYLAND from North Macedonia
LES MISÉRABLES from France
PAIN AND GLORY from Spain
PARASITE from South Korea

In the category formerly known as Best Foreign Language Film, there is only one choice and that’s PARASITE. What do you mean you haven’t seen it yet? What are you waiting for? It is fabulous and it was my second favourite film of 2019.

Original Score

The nominees are:
Hildur Guðnadóttir for JOKER
Alexandre Desplat for LITTLE WOMEN
Randy Newman for MARRIAGE STORY
Thomas Newman for 1917
John Williams for STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

It’s the battle of the Newman cousins but they’re up against some really stiff competition. Will Academy voters bestow the award on John Williams as a thank you for giving the world 42 years of STAR WARS musical enjoyment or will they give it to the category’s only woman? This is a tough one but I’m going to go for the Icelander.

Original Song

The nominees are:
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from TOY STORY 4 – Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from ROCKETMAN – Music by Elton John; Lyrics by Bernie Taupin
“I’m Standing with You” from BREAKTHROUGH – Music and Lyrics by Diane Warren
“Into the Unknown” from FROZEN II – Music and Lyrics by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“Stand Up” from HARRIET – Music and Lyrics by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo

Here were go again. The BeyHive is buzzing mad that their Queen Bey (Beyoncé) didn’t get nominated for her song, “Spirit” from THE LION KING. Sorry, I just can’t get on board with that one. The song is garbage. Okay, it would have made for good television to have Beyoncé perform it live but that shouldn’t be enough to merit a nomination.

This is also a tough category to choose with five musical heavyweights competing. If Cynthia Erivo wins here, she’ll become the fastest winning EGOTer (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony). For Diane Warren, this is her 11th Oscar nomination but she’s never won one. Could this be her time? The Lopezes took home the Oscar for FROZEN six years ago. Will history repeat itself here? Randy Newman is in the same situation. He won an Oscar for TOY STORY 3 in 2011. And then there’s Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who will no doubt win Tonys galore when ROCKETMAN eventually takes to the stage, and we all know it will. I’m going with the Lopezes but I won’t be disappointed if any of the others should win.

Costume Design
The nominees are:
Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson for THE IRISHMAN
Mayes C. Rubeo for JOJO RABBIT
Mark Bridges for JOKER
Jacqueline Durran for LITTLE WOMEN
Arianne Phillips for ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD

I am upset about this category. Ruth E. Carter’s costume designs for DOLEMITE IS MY NAME are superfly yet the Oscar winner (BLACK PANTHER) was overlooked this year. With her out of the running, I’m ambivalent about this category. If I’m going to pick a winner though, I’ll go with Jacqueline Durran. Her designs for LITTLE WOMEN were both old and contemporary at the same time.

Makeup and Hairstyling

The nominees are:
Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, and Vivian Baker for BOMBSHELL
Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou for JOKER
Jeremy Woodhead for JUDY
Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten, and David White for MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL
Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis, and Rebecca Cole for 1917

I’m hoping this will be a no brainer but I think I’m going to be surprised with who wins this category. My vote is for the BOMBSHELL group. The movie itself was nothing special but the makeup and hairstyling were works of art.

Cinematography

The nominees are:
Rodrigo Prieto for THE IRISHMAN
Lawrence Sher for JOKER
Jarin Blaschke for THE LIGHTHOUSE
Roger Deakins for 1917
Robert Richardson for ONCE UPON A Time… IN HOLLYWOOD

At last, THE LIGHTHOUSE gets some recognition and rightly so, unfortunately, Jarin Blaschke isn’t going to take home a statuette for his fabulous work on the film. This Oscar is going to Roger Deakins. I’m amazed at how so many people still think 1917 was shot in one (or two) takes. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.

Directing

The nominees are:
Martin Scorsese for THE IRISHMAN
Todd Phillips for JOKER
Sam Mendes for 1917
Quentin Tarantino for ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
Bong Joon-ho for PARASITE

With Sam Mendes winning the Golden Globe and 1917 racking up 77 film awards to date with the BAFTAs yet to come, it looks like he’s the man to beat in this category. Yes, “man”, as Issa Rae pointed out when she announced the five nominees last week. Notably missing from the list were Greta Gerwig (LITTLE WOMEN), Lulu Wang (THE FAREWELL), Lorene Scafaria (HUSTLERS) and Marielle Heller (A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD). While there is a strong case for Gerwig’s name to have been there, is she more deserving than these five men? Hard to say.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and vote for Tarantino.

Best Picture

The nominees are:
FORD V FERRARI
THE IRISHMAN
JOJO RABBIT
JOKER
LITTLE WOMEN
MARRIAGE STORY
1917
ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD
PARASITE

Up to ten films can be nominated in this category and this year there are nine. Would it have killed to nominating committee to add one more, perhaps THE LIGHTHOUSE or even UNCUT GEMS? In any case, the year’s best picture rarely wins the Best Picture Oscar award and that’s why I think 1917 is going to take the big prize home. Maybe the Academy will surprise everyone this year and reward PARASITE with two big awards. It would be the time a first foreign language film takes home Oscars for both International Feature Film and Best Picture. Nah, that won’t happen. Well, for what it’s worth, my vote goes to JOKER, though I know it’s a long-shot as comic book films haven’t done that well at the Oscars in the past.

The awards show will broadcast here in HK live on Monday morning, February 10th, starting at 6 am with a repeat telecast at 8 pm that evening. I’m too lazy to wake up that early and it’s nearly impossible not to hear about the winners and losers during the day. So instead I’ll watch the highlights of the show that night.

Enjoy the show and let me know your predictions.

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