It is that time of year again. After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we fall right into the politically charged popularity contest that is Oscar Season in Hollywood…and a lot of that feeling permeates the entire world…for those who care. It seems like less and less of the general public even care about the Oscars these days. You can’t really blame them…even though I feel like some of them would probably wish lesser quality films were nominated as opposed to the better fare that actually does slip in…though that isn’t to say I often agree with the Oscars, the voting body that gave us these films as Best Picture winners:
THE ENGLISH PATIENT
A BEAUTIFUL MIND
To name five just in the last 25 years alone.
There are also people out in the world who truly adore those movies…and while I may laugh at that prospect, that opens up a whole other issue: ART. IS. SUBJECTIVE.
Awards may try to honor the best of the best but why should a group of a couple of thousand film professionals with certain special interests have the final say on what is the best?
Despite all of that, I still find myself being intrigued by the award season and watching how various factors can shift buzz in favor of a film or a performance in such a swift manner that you didn’t even realize that now this particular film or performance has the means of going all the way.
As of this writing, it is Wednesday January 8th, we are less than a week away from the announcement of this year’s Oscar Nominations, honoring the “best of the best” in film for 2019.
The following are my predictions for only the major categories: Picture, Directing, Acting, Screenplays. Before I go into Best Picture, just keep in mind that their method of voting in this category is based around a preferential ballot/sliding scale so the amount of films could range from as little as 7 or as much as 10. Most years tend to yield 8-9, so I will list my top 10 selections of what I think could get in.
#1-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
#10-The Two Popes
-I feel like this has been a very open and crazy race so far this year. Back in early December, I would’ve told you that the race was close between THE IRISHMAN, PARASITE, and MARRIAGE STORY but now I feel like MARRIAGE STORY has no shot at winning and that THE IRISHMAN is now more of a dark horse…and of note, both are Netflix films so that could be playing into some of the ill will towards them both being shut out at the Globes (minus the Dern supporting win for STORY). I still think PARASITE could make a comeback…but it still has an uphill battle considering it is a Foreign Language film…and that is an infuriating statistic. After the Globes, 1917 got a much needed boost thanks to its surprise wins for Picture-Drama and Director (PARASITE wasn’t eligible in Picture there but it did lose Director which many expected it to win). Plus, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD won the Comedy Globe (as expected) and managed a semi-surprise win for Tarantino in Screenplay which was another portent that could show tides could turn in its favor. I don’t feel fully confident making an actual prediction in this category until the Producers Guild of Americas announces their winner on the 18th. They’ve actually managed to predict major changes in the season trajectory like awarding eventual winners THE KING’S SPEECH, THE SHAPE OF WATER, and GREEN BOOK over THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THREE BILLBOARDS, and ROMA respectfully. Even then though, this seems like it could be a very close race regardless…which is exciting considering the acting races seem like foregone conclusions at this point. My favorite of these is definitely PARASITE and I do think it has a shot to win, especially if it does end up winning PGA and DGA…but right now, I almost feel like we could see Tarantino have his first Best Picture win which isn’t my ideal scenario but then again, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is better than the five past winners I mentioned earlier so I guess that’s a plus.
#1-Bong Joon-ho, PARASITE
#2-Sam Mendes, 1917
#3-Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
#4-Martin Scorsese, THE IRISHMAN
#5-Greta Gerwig, LITTLE WOMEN
-I will put it this way: My prediction of Gerwig is both a combination of me thinking it is a solid possibility and me also hoping they will acknowledge a female director in this category…but there is a very good chance that won’t happen. Frankly, the top 4 I listed are locked to the point where I would actually be floored if any of them missed out. Todd Phillips for JOKER, Taika Waititi for JOJO RABBIT, Pedro Almodovar for PAIN & GLORY, and Fernando Merielles for THE TWO POPES have a chance to grab the fifth slot…and another female director, Lulu Wang of THE FAREWELL could possibly slip in…especially if her film can slip into Best Picture which is a slight possibility though the signs haven’t been pointing to it. A lot of predictions from prognosticators have been singling out Bong Joon-ho, which I LOVE that idea…but now, it almost seems like Sam Mendes could have traction with his big war epic 1917 and then there is Tarantino who has yet to win a Directing Oscar. I feel like Scorsese needs to win the DGA to stay relevant in the race but the thing about Scorsese (as much as I like him and his film), is that his work doesn’t feel that original or fresh. It just seems like a typical Scorsese movie…and I could say the same for Tarantino as well. Bong Joon-ho may have his staples but I feel like his work on the film just felt so alive and vibrant. Even if PARASITE does unfairly lose Best Picture, I think there is still a good chance it will grab a director win as of this writing.
#1-Joaquin Phoenix, JOKER
#2-Adam Driver, MARRIAGE STORY
#3-Antonio Banderas, PAIN & GLORY
#4-Taron Egerton, ROCKETMAN
#5-Leonardo DiCaprio, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
-I do firmly believe that Phoenix will win this award even if some people in Hollywood loathe his attitude and how he is willing to call out this whole process for its political/populist shame. Most actors seem to acknowledge his genius and even those who disliked his film still seem to think he was fantastic. Aside from him, I think Driver is the only lock in this category…the other three slots are up for grabs but I do think after his Globe win over DiCaprio and his surprise SAG nom, Egerton will end up slipping in. I do think DiCaprio’s popularity will help him slip in since he is also in a Best Picture frontrunner. As for Banderas, he was snubbed at SAG (though they have a tendency to snub Foreign-Language performances) and he got snubbed at BAFTA (which often has the tendency to be racist)…but I feel he may have enough critical goodwill (though that doesn’t matter as much anymore) not to mention the fact that he has yet to really get this kind of attention for a role could translate into something of a career recognition nomination…even though the performance itself warrants the nom. It is possible we could see these other men slip in: Eddie Murphy for DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, Jonathan Pryce for THE TWO POPES, Adam Sandler in UNCUT GEMS, and Robert DeNiro in THE IRISHMAN…but I feel like it would be mildly surprising to see those names pop up…though Pryce would be the most likely of those four.
#1-Renee Zellweger, JUDY
#2-Scarlett Johannson, MARRIAGE STORY
#3-Charlize Theron, BOMBSHELL
#4-Saoirse Ronan, LITTLE WOMEN
#5-Lupita Nyong’o, US
-Renee Zellweger may have an Oscar already, but she now has a comeback narrative and a performance that has gotten raves even though her film was only received with lukewarm reviews at best. She plays Judy Garland…and as someone who worships the legend of Judy, I wasn’t necessarily blown away by her performance. It was a capable performance…even a good performance…but I just feel like the film material hurts her. She seems poised to sweep the televised precursor awards and her only stiff competition seems to be Johannson, whose best chance at changing the game was winning the Globe, which she lost. Charlize Theron has the whole “SHE TRANSFORMED HERSELF!” angle yet again but the role doesn’t seem to be that great plus there is the added con of voting for someone playing Megyn Kelly…and her film essentially flopped….but I feel like she is in. The sad reality of the rest of the race is that it feels like the last two slots are going to be a bloodbath between Saoirse Ronan and…the women of color. It seems a shame that it feels like it always comes down to POC battling it out for a slot. Cynthia Ervio has a shot but she is battling a lack of passionate widespread support; Lupita Nyong’o does have the critics behind her and a SAG nom but her film being of the horror genre certainly affects her; and then there is Awkwafina, who won the Comedy Globe but has no SAG or BAFTA nominations. One contender who seems to be out and never got much traction for her small film CLEMENCY is Alfre Woodard…yet another POC who is getting the shaft. Right now though, it seems like Zellweger has it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
#1-Brad Pitt, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
#2-Joe Pesci, THE IRISHMAN
#3-Al Pacino, THE IRISHMAN
#4-Tom Hanks, A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
#5-Song Kang-ho, PARASITE
-We have another case of category fraud as Brad Pitt is basically co-lead with DiCaprio…but it’s a charismatic performance and he has yet to win an acting Oscar so it seems like everything is moving in his favor…and it doesn’t hurt that he is in a major frontrunner for Best Picture. I feel like critics were more inclined to like Pesci over Pacino (I preferred the latter), but since both have Oscars and it seems like THE IRISHMAN’s chances have been slipping for the top two prizes, I think these two are going to just have awards via their nominations. Tom Hanks hasn’t been nominated for an Oscar since 2001 for CAST AWAY despite having a couple of instances (especially CAPTAIN PHILLIPS) where he seemed to be on the verge of getting recognized. I think he will finally slip in here playing a beloved icon that only adds to the typical love Hanks himself gets by the public. The last slot is something of a wild card….the safe bet would probably be Anthony Hopkins for THE TWO POPES, but I am following the trend that perhaps someone from PARASITE will slip in an acting race a la the ladies from ROMA last year…and the person with the best chance is Song Kang-ho, who has gotten the most buzz plus major critics awards. However, if he gets snubbed, I almost feel like that will be an additional blow to PARASITE’s chances…unless they manage to pull off PGA and DGA wins.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
#1-Laura Dern, MARRIAGE STORY
#2-Jennifer Lopez, HUSTLERS
#3-Margot Robbie, BOMBSHELL
#4-Scarlett Johannson, JOJO RABBIT
#5-Florence Pugh, LITTLE WOMEN
-I feel like this race is weak this year…and it is allowing a beloved veteran actress to end up sweeping for a performance that is basically a watered down version of a character she plays on a HBO series. That would be Laura Dern, whose character of Nora, the divorce lawyer in MARRIAGE STORY, feels like a Renata Klein 2.0 but not an updated version. It isn’t that her performance is bad…it is actually quite solid, but there is nothing (in my opinion) that truly warrants an Oscar. I think the fact that it IS Laura Dern is the reason she is getting this attention. If the role were played by essentially anyone else…especially a much lesser known actress, no one would be paying attention. I say this as someone who adores Laura Dern and would love the chance to call her Academy Award winner Laura Dern…and I will admittedly be thrilled to do so when it happens…but for the performance itself, she is not worthy. I don’t think anyone has a good shot at upsetting her at this point. If Johannson manages this additional nom, I could see a certain push to reward her but I highly doubt it…and I could see Robbie being a potential close contender. The thing about Lopez is that she may have the most acclaimed performance out of the contenders in some ways…but the award many people expected her to take was the Globe…and she couldn’t even win that. Dern has this locked…and the only way I could see her as being vulnerable is if she loses SAG. If she were to win SAG and lose BAFTA, I think she’d still win the Oscar. My last slot choice is Pugh, whom I don’t feel confident about. All season, the internet kept touting her and she kept missing awards (Globe and SAG)…but I feel like this is going to be a tossup and since I am predicting LITTLE WOMEN to do a little better at the Oscars, I will throw her in…though it is possible we could see one of the following: Nicole Kidman for BOMBSHEELL, Kathy Bates for RICHARD JEWELL, Zhao Shuzhen for THE FAREWELL, and Annette Bening for THE REPORT….it sort of reminds me of last year when the last slot was so up in the air that we ended up getting a major surprise nomination for ROMA’s Marina de Tavira. My dream scenario is that one of the PARASITE ladies could somehow sneak in here.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
#2-Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
-I feel like the top 3 are locks…and depending on how the tides turn for 1917, it could be strong here too. It is possible that KNIVES OUT could be replaced by BOOKSMART…though I am opting for KNIVES OUT since it has received a little more consistent notice at awards…stranger things have happened, however. Originally, I felt MARRIAGE STORY would take this award…and it would be a worthy selection…and I thought PARASITE had a strong shot since it was also the most original and intriguing screenplay by far. Now, I am not so sure what will happen. The Globes threw a curveball in giving Screenplay (which combines Original and Adapted) to ONCE and while they aren’t always the strongest indicator, they did give it to GREEN BOOK last year which went on to win the Oscar. While Tarantino could be considered overdue for a Directing win, he already has two Screenplay Oscars…but at this point, it seems like he is a frontrunner to win again.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
#5-The Two Popes
-I think this category is interesting in that there seems to be no general consensus. I think THE IRISHMAN is out front due to its somewhat more prominent status of being a frontrunner…or as of this moment, a dark horse. It also has pedigree in that the writer is Steven Zallian, who is already an Oscar winner…but the film is also not exactly one that screams “Wow! What a screenplay!” Due to that, I wouldn’t be surprised if maybe something else gains traction here, especially if LITTLE WOMEN does well with nominations and they want to honor Greta Gerwig with something…especially after she lost both of her nominations for LADYBIRD in 2018. Something crazy could happen here…and I also feel like these 5 films, particularly the top 4, have a strong chance of getting nominated for Best Picture. This is an important stat because it is very rare in recent years for a film to win a Screenplay Oscar if it doesn’t have a Best Picture nomination to go with it. The last time an Adapted Screenplay won without a corresponding Best Picture nomination was GODS & MONSTERS back in 1999…and in the case of Original Screenplay, it is the same deal in that ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND was the last to pull it off in 2004. Last year is actually a good example of this phenomenon because for most of the season, IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK seemed like a strong winning candidate for Adapted and then it ended up getting snubbed for Best Picture…suddenly, the Oscar-less Spike Lee for BLACKKKLANSMEN seemed viable due to its corresponding nomination for Best Picture…and it DID actually win.
-Best Picture, Best Director, and the Screenplay categories are still open races in my eyes as of this moment. The acting races, however, seem pretty much locked. At this point, I feel like anyone else winning but Zellweger, Phoenix, Dern, and Pitt would be a surprise so we will see if the Critics Choice, SAG, and BAFTA throw us any curveballs…though like I said, I think Dern still wins even if she loses BAFTA which I think could possibly happen. I guess we will see what happens with the nominations this coming Tuesday. After we get through the remaining precursor awards, I will post my final predictions for the Oscars within a week or so of that ceremony, which will be February 9th. I may put up a reaction post but that will depend on if something shocking really stands out for me with the nominations.