Another year, another chance for the Academy Awards to (attempt) to shine a light on the best in previous film year. As seems to happen literally every year, I have relatively the same general opinions: a lot of the nominees I agree with wholeheartedly, a few I star at in dissapointing disbelief, and a few films/filmmakers inevitably don't make the cut and I join the collective outrage.
But this awards season in particular has been interesting because, for all of the discussions and debates on the merrits of the nominees, it's been a while since I've seen a line-up of films, each with their own distinct and vocal supporters. As such, it makes locking down favorites slightly more difficult and causes me to re-evaluate my own love (or lack off) for some of these projects.
Regardless, this year's Oscar pool still has some dense questions on it. Could Disney/Pixar's dominance in the Best Animated Feature category be broken for the second year in a row? Does having two Best Supporting Actor nominations bode well for 'The Irishman?' Can 'Parasite' win it all over the heavy hitters in '1917' and 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood?'
To answer those questions and more, I've teamed up once again with my fellow Odyssey writers, Samantha Incorvaia and Marcos Noah Guzman, and between the three of us, we hope you'll have a pretty good picture of where this year's Oscars are going. I encourage you to check out their articles regarding the other categories as well.
*Note: Our predictions don't cover the categories for Best Live Action Short and Best Documentary Short. We respect the categories, but sadly, no one on our team had seen enough of the nominees to make predictions that we were confident in.
Best Editing is one of those categories that never seems to have the glitz and glamour of some of its technical contemporaries like Best Cinematography or the sound categories. That likely has to do with the fact that it's arguably one of the trickiest to try and find within the famework of a film, or at least, is the aspect that can feel the most hidden. It's why I think something like '1917' (even with its numerous nominations) deserves consideration for its precise, almost magician-like cuts.
But we also got some pretty great contenders for Best Editing, and the favorite seems to be down to 'Parasite' and 'The Irishman.' While I've made my qualms about 'The Irishman' clear in other places, Thelma Schoonmaker is a darling amongst the Academy, with 7 of her 8 Academy Award nominations having been on Martin Scorcese projects, including her 3 wins. For a movie over three hours, Schoomaker's craft, while I think is misguided under Scorcese's ambition, is still clearly in top form, and I think the Academy will strongly identify with that.
For me, while I'd definitely cheer for Yang Jin-mo's work on 'Parasite,' mirroring director Bong Joon-ho's frantic, symphonic maneauvering of genre, my pick would actually be for 'Ford v. Ferrari.' Yes, it's pretty much solidified within the context of the film's racing sequences, but by god, those sequences are some of the most exciting, well-paced race scenes I've seen in a while, and a lot of that has to do with Andrew Buckland and Michael McCusker's sense of speed and intimacy of the sport.
Should Win: Ford v. Ferrari
Will Win: The Irishman
Best Original Score
Darn it...I'm going to have to vote against 'Star Wars' aren't I? Sadly, while I've consistently (albeit gradually) adored Williams' work on the sequel trilogy, I haven't heard anything to signify him being a favorite at this point. No, that honor goes to Hildur Guonadottir's work on 'Joker,' and frankly was one of the few things I still love from that movie. The mix of atmospheric keys, the subtle bass, and the masterful, dread-inducing cello has really struck a chord with awards season, and I'm right there with them on that.
That being said, I actually think all these scores are fantastic. I've mentioned my love of Randy Newman's vibrant, flute-infused ode to romantic comedy scores before, but then there's also Thomas Newman's folk-inspired gut-punch of a score from '1917.' Finally, there's Alexandre Desplat's work on 'Little Women,' who would personally be my pick in my fictionalized world where I am an Academy member.
Desplat has churned out excellent work before on his numerous collaborations with Wes Anderson and both parts of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.' His work on 'Little Women' strikes all of the right notes (pun intended), with whimsical pianos and excellent string melodies that follow each character to an almost scarily-accurate degree.
Should Win: Little Women
Will Win: Joker
Best Original Song
When this category announced, my full reaction was a resounding "yup. Those are definitely the nominees." Don't get me wrong, these are all pretty darn good songs for their respective projects, but they were also the songs that I kept seeing pop up on every single Best Original Song prediction list I could find. Really? We couldn't get "Glasgow" from 'Wild Rose,' or "Daily Battles" from 'Motherless Brooklyn,' or ANY non-obvious choice from 'Frozen 2?'
*Actually I take that last one back since this is the only nomination for 'Frozen 2,' we'll talk about that in a minute.
The one I was genuinely happy to see on here was "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away," Randy Newman's song from 'Toy Story 4' with a marching band groove and an insanely chorus I was humming for weeks. I admit that I don't think the song is THAT good, but it's pretty representative of some of 'Toy Story 4's biggest ideas and a great song in it's own right, so I'd be happy to hear it's name called. Then there's "Stand Up" from 'Harriet and 'I'm Standing With You" from 'Breakthrough," neither of which I think have great odds for them, and the latter reminding me that "Breakthrough" was in fact a real movie.
Really, this is a two-way fight between 'Rocketman' and 'Frozen 2,' and I'm honestly having trouble picking a frontrunner. Both are the only Academy Award nominations for their respective films, but the critical favorite seems to be for 'Rocketman,' with Golden Globe, Critics Choice, and Satelite awards amongst it's accolades. Regardless, I also don't see 'Frozen 2' as an underdog in any capacity, and that Disney music influence is not going to go away easily.
Should Win: "Into the Unknown" (Frozen 2)
Will Win: "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" (Rocketman)
Best Animated Short Film
Nominees: 'Dcera (Daughter)', 'Hair Love', 'Kitbull', 'Memorable', 'Sister'
For context, I actually haven't seen 'Dcera (Daughter)' yet, so I can't comment on that, but it doesn't look like that's a key frontrunner in this category from some of the other awards season camps. That said, this is actually going to be pretty straightforward: 'Hair Love' has this in the bag.
The Matthew A. Cherry directed short premiered in front of 'The Angry Birds Movie 2' and was one of the only things I remember from watching that movie. With excellent storybook animation and an engaging, emotional story about a father trying to help his daughter is absolutely excellent. The fact that it seems to be polling high amongst awards pundits makes it one of the few categories I have no problem trying to figure out. I wasn't huge on 'Memorable' and both 'Kitbull' and 'Sister' are pretty good too, but 'Hair Love' deserves all of the praise it has been getting.
Should Win: Hair Love
Will Win: Hair Love
Best Animated Feature Film
Now the Animated Feature category is a different story. I still don't know if 'Frozen 2's snub is made up for the pleasant surprise of 'Klaus' inclusion, but I do know that 'Missing Link' cannot be counted out at this point. Laika has gotten love from the Academy before, but for whatever reason, 'Missing Link seems to be the one that keeps coming up in animation conversations.
Yet again though, we come down to two: 'Toy Story 4' and 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.' Now, if I were a logical human being, 'Toy Story 4' seems like the safest bet. Pixar has always been the go-to for the Academy's animation branch (in my opinion, usually for good reason), and 'Toy Story 4' was the film no one thought would work: a film that seemingly broke the franchise's reputation as a perfect trilogy that actually added a lot of new dilemas and new adventures for our favorite characters.
But sadly, I'm not always logical. 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World' wrapped up Dean DeBlois' mythical trilogy in ways I never thought they would go towards, with stunning animation, a great villain, paid-off stakes, and an ending that feels just as good as 'Toy Story 3.' Make no mistake: I'm betting on 'Toy Story 4' because I want to win my Oscar pool, but I'm betting on Dreamworks to continue 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse's breaking of the Disney curse.
Should Win: 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World'
Will WIn: 'Toy Story 4'
Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Kathy Bates('Richard Jewell'), Laura Dern ('Marriage Story'), Scarlett Johansson ('Jojo Rabbit'), Florence Pugh ('Little Women'), Margot Robbie ('Bombshell')
This is probably the category I'm least qualified to talk about, for the simple reason that I missed out on 'Richard Jewell' and 'Bombshell.' It doesn't seem as though either Robbie or Bates are the front runners at this point, but I still feel a bit empty that I can't be comprehensive about their performances. With that said, I'm left with Dern, Johansson, and Pugh, and that's a terrific pool to choose from.
Despite 'Marriage Story's apparent lack of momentum in some of the larger categories, Laura Dern seems be on the highway to the Oscar, and it's not like she doesn't deserve it. Her portrayal of Nora Fanshaw, the lawyer assigned to Scarlett Johansson's Nicole, has all of the charisma and humanity that the Academy likes to go for in supporting roles (see Supporting Actor later). Speaking of Johansson, 'Jojo Rabbit' rides a lot on her and Roman Griffin Davis' chemistry, and she herself is responsible for some of the film's most heartbreaking and poignent moments.
Quite honestly though, I'd argue Florence Pugh deserves more consideration than she's getting. If I had to unfairly pick between her and Best Actress nominee as a win for 'Little Women,' I'd go for Ronan, but Pugh has the task of playing Amy March in a more complex way than her multitude of predecessors, and I thought she made an incredibly compelling addition to the March sisters.
Should Win: Florence Pugh ('Little Women')
Will Win: Laura Dern ('Marriage Story')
Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: 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')
This looks like Brad Pitt's race to win. His portrayal of stuntman Cliff Booth in Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' has been scooping up accolades non-stop for the last few months, and really, is that really a surprise? I have my issues with OUATiH, but the chemistry and characterization of Pitt's Cliff Booth and Leonardo DiCaprio's Rick Dalton have never been the issue.
Now a lot of that has to do with Tarantino's screenplay (pay attention to him in Best Original Screenplay), but Pitt himself not only brings loads of charisma to the character, but also gives us an insight into Hollywood professions that often go unsung, with a character who winds up being part-time protagonist as well. I never understood the hype behind Joe Pesci, but I do think Al Pacino's ecstatic portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa deserves some conversation in regards to 'The Irishman,' even if the momentum seems to be leaning more towards Pesci than Pacino.
Yet, if I want to play contrarian (and I do), I would point to Tom Hanks' portrayal of Fred Rogers in 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.' The movie is very much not a Mr. Rogers biopic, but rather an exploration of Rogers' legacy and how ordinary people can learn from it. As such, Hanks' portrayal is the kind, gentle version we expect, but Hanks also has to hold those values on the film on his shoulders, giving the film some of its hidden depth that I just fell in love with.
Should Win: Tom Hanks ('A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood')
Will Win: Brad Pitt ('Once Upon A Time in Hollywood')
Nominees: Ford v. Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Parasite
Alright, we're back to the big category: Best Picture, and what a lineup it is. Some films I love, some films I like, and others I still cannot comprehend the love behind. Right now, the big conversation pieces seem to be around Sam Mendes' '1917' against Bong Joon-ho's 'Parasite,' with 'Once Upon A Time in Hollywood' rearing its neon-tinted head in the background. Because of this momentum, I don't see as much love for 'Ford v. Ferrari,' 'Jojo Rabbit,' or 'Marriage Story' (which, what do you know, are some of my favorite films of the year).
Between the big three front runners, '1917' does seem like the safest bet, but as the agent of chaos that I am, I'd like to offer 'Parasite' as my pick for your Oscar pools. Sure, it seems like it has everything going against it; a Korean subtitled commentary on class division that gone over almost too well with critics and audiences. Just look at last year: 'Green Book' - the "safe prestige period drama" - won over Alfonso Cuaron's opus in 'Roma,' that voting body would never give Best Picture to 'Parasite'...right?
Well, to be honest, other than it's massive mountains of acclaim, those obstacles are still there for it, and will inevitably make a lot of people skeptical that this could happen at all...and that just might wind up being its biggest strength in the Academy. That kind of "blink and you'll miss out" mentality about how superbly crafted and universal this project feels - in addition to its recent SAG Award for Best Ensemble Cast (which is MASSIVELY important in determining Best Picture) - make for a pretty compelling case.
For myself, I'm always going to be team 'Little Women,' and I honestly wouldn't count it out of the race just yet. But when we get to the other big competitors in '1917' and OUATiH, things start to get a bit blurrier. Sam Mendes' Directors Guild of America win seems to be a pretty fair lock for Best Director, but will that translate to a full-on Best Picture win. The same goes with Tarantino, who has always been a screenplay darling, but this is his first Best Picture nomination overall. It all makes for a Best Picture race that feels as close as 'Boyhood' v. 'Birdman' in 2015, it could be that close. This is to say that, while there are certainly front runners, 2020's Best Picture is shaping up to be one of the few things to really keep an eye out for this Oscars.
Should Win: 'Little Women'
Will Win: 'Parasite'
What about you? Who do you think will take home the gold, and who might split the vote for Best Picture?
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