No matter who wins Best Picture at the 2020 Oscars a number of historical trends will fall by the wayside. The winner may not have won the top guild honor from the PGA or DGA. It may not have an editing nomination. It may not have an acting nomination. It may not even win a Screenplay Oscar. And that’s just a sample of the trends in danger of relevance. So, how do we predict what film will truly win? Is the Academy moving forward or is it the status quo? Is it the “one-shot” spectacle of Sam Mendes’ “1917?“ Is it the critically acclaimed passion for Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite?“ Or could Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” be the universal second choice to surprise the world? We think it’s quite close, but we’re going with “Parasite.”
Sure, “1917” may be the easy pick for some. It won the top PGA and the DGA Awards which has many placing it in the “win” column. The last film to take those honors and lose the Best Picture Oscar was “La La Land.” You have to go back to 2006 and “Brokeback Mountain” for the next. Since that time eight other films have won with the pairing. It’s not infallible, however. There also hasn’t been a BAFTA Best Film winner to take the top prize since “12 Years A Slave” in 2014. That’s five straight years where it didn’t line up. Is that a bad sign for “1917”? Maybe. Moreover, the last time a film won Best Picture without an acting nomination from Oscar’s acting branch but without a SAG nomination of any kind was “Braveheart” in 1996. That was 24 years ago. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Slumdog Millionaire” went without Oscar acting nominations, but they still won Best Picture and the SAG Ensemble honor. “1917” was also released in theaters on Dec. 25. The last film to open past Dec. 3 and take the top prize was “Million Dollar Baby” in 2005. Again, a ton of prediction trends may hold or collapse on Sunday.
Of course, “Parasite” does not have the PGA or DGA win, but it has an editing nomination, something “1917” doesn’t have (although you could easily argue its aesthetically similar to Best Picture winner “Birdman” which also didn’t have that nod). It will likely win Best Original Screenplay and took the SAG Ensemble honor before a monstrous standing ovation. In fact, it earned an earlier standing ovation when the cast came out to just present the film. In an audience full of AMPAS members, mind you. While the picture earned no individual acting nominations, we still think the actors, the largest branch of the Academy, proved they are behind it at the SAG Awards. And speaking to AMPAS members, its been my experience that you’re more likely to find someone who put “Parasite” as no. 1 or no. 2 than someone who put “1917” at no. 2 or no. 3.
Of course, there is an older white male guard that could still push “1917” through. And, frankly, it’s a fantastic film. It would not be a “bad” winner. That being said, it would also not be a historic winner such as “Parasite.” No other International Film (formerly Foreign Language Film) has ever won Best Picture. That’s clearly a major mountain to overcome. But when you speak to members they seem to love “Parasite” just a wee bit more. Maybe there are a few thousand members to tip the scales the other way in Mendes’ favor, but we think the Academy just loves it more. And that’s what usually wins (and why “Jojo Rabbit” still has an outside shot).
And if “1917” triumphs, well, Universal Pictures should hope I pick against them every time they have a shot. I stupidly did last year and “Green Book” took it. Maybe it’s a good luck charm.
And, hey, unlike my peers, I’ll always have Olivia Colman.
My Oscar predictions are as follows. Oh and beware, beware, the Documentary, Costumes and Visual Effects categories.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Antonio Banderas in “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce in “The Two Popes”
Who will win: Joaquin Phoenix
Who should win: Adam Driver
Upset special: Adam Driver, but…
Lowdown: They love Joaquin Phoenix in this role. They have since the movie came out in theaters. Throw in the fact Phoenix hasn’t had one miscue on his awards season winning streak and its pretty much a done deal.
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Tom Hanks in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins in “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino in “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci in “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt in “Once upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Who will win: Brad Pitt
Who should win: Brad Pitt
Upset special: Joe Pesci, but…
Lowdown: Speaking of awards season acceptance speeches, no one has done it better or with more humility than Brad Pitt. Shoot, even his BAFTA letter (read by Margot Robbie) was more entertaining than many of the winners who accepted in person. Moreover, there was love for “Once Upon” it just faded in comparison to other films in the mix. But Pitt is the heart and soul of the flick and he’s going to get rewarded for it.
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan in “Little Women”
Charlize Theron in “Bombshell”
Renée Zellweger in “Judy”
Who will win: Renee Zellweger
Who should win: Charlize Theron
Upset special: Scarlett Johansson
Lowdown: In theory, you could argue that overall Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson gave more complete performances. What’s kept Renee Zellweger alive is the memory of those wonderful moments when she brings Judy Garland to life on stage. It also didn’t help that Theron was playing a woman most people in the Academy despise.
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Kathy Bates in “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern in “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson in “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh in “Little Women”
Margot Robbie in “Bombshell”
Who will win: Laura Dern
Who should win: Jennifer Lopez, oh, wait…
Upset special: Scarlett Johansson
Lowdown: Can you imagine the Oscars if Jennifer Lopez was in attendance after that halftime show on Sunday? The edge of your seat drama over who would win? Instead, Laura Dern will become the rare member to win, her first, while a member of the organization’s Board of Governors member. There is rarely a lifetime achievement award when it comes to the Academy Awards, but sometimes it helps push a well-received performance over the finish line. That’s a little bit of the case here.
Best animated feature film of the year
“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” Dean DeBlois, Bradford Lewis and Bonnie Arnold
“I Lost My Body” Jérémy Clapin and Marc du Pontavice
“Klaus” Sergio Pablos, Jinko Gotoh and Marisa Román
“Missing Link” Chris Butler, Arianne Sutner and Travis Knight
“Toy Story 4” Josh Cooley, Mark Nielsen and Jonas Rivera
Who will win: “Toy Story 4”
Who should win: “I Lost My Body”
Upset special: “Klaus” or “I Lost My Body”
Lowdown: Nothing would make me happier than for “I Lost My Body” to upset, but despite Annie Awards’ love for that French wonder and the hand-drawn “Klaus,” “Toy Story 4” should still take it. It’s the Pixar title they’ve seen the most and a critically acclaimed heartwarmer as well. If not “Toy Story 4” then maybe Netflix pulls off its biggest and unexpected (at least as of a month or so ago) feat so far with “Klaus” taking the trophy.
Achievement in cinematography
“The Irishman” Rodrigo Prieto
“Joker” Lawrence Sher
“The Lighthouse” Jarin Blaschke
“1917” Roger Deakins
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Robert Richardson
Who will win: Roger Deakins
Who should win: Roger Deakins
Upset special: Cute
Lowdown: Try to convince me anyone else but Roger Deakins is winning this. I got five minutes. Why not.
Achievement in costume design
“The Irishman” Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
“Jojo Rabbit” Mayes C. Rubeo
“Joker” Mark Bridges
“Little Women” Jacqueline Durran
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Arianne Phillips
Who will win: Jacqueline Durran
Who should win: Arianne Phillips
Upset special: Mayes C. Rubeo
Lowdown: Beyond the fact that period costumes dominate this category, it’s hard to see The Academy sending a wonderfully received hit like “Little Women” home empty-handed. It also allows the more than deserving Jacqueline Durran to join the two-time winners club among costume designers. If there’s an upset it’s like coming from Mayes C. Rubeo who is the first female Mexican nominee in this category.
Achievement in directing
“The Irishman” Martin Scorsese
“Joker” Todd Phillips
“1917” Sam Mendes
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite” Bong Joon Ho
Who will win: Sam Mendes
Who should win: Bong Joon Ho
Upset special: Bong Joon Ho
Lowdown: The DGA and BAFTA wins pretty much sealed the deal here for Mendes. “1917” is a direction and cinematography feat. We’re not sure if Mendes deserves it over Bong Joon Ho, but he certainly is worthy of the win in general. If Joon Ho somehow wins that means Best Picture could go in almost any direction.
Best documentary feature
“American Factory” Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and Jeff Reichert
“The Cave” Feras Fayyad, Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjær
“The Edge of Democracy” Petra Costa, Joanna Natasegara, Shane Boris and Tiago Pavan
“For Sama” Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts
“Honeyland” Ljubo Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska and Atanas Georgiev
Who will win: “For Sama”
Who should win: “For Sama”
Upset special: “American Factory” or “The Cave”
Lowdown: Another one of the tougher wins to call this year. The problem with “American Factory” is that while it’s got the Obamas as executive producers, it’s a bit of a bore. “Honeyland” is gorgeous and moving, but probably not emotional enough to warrant a win over the more political contenders. “The Cave” is impressive, but, as you’d expect, a bit claustrophobic. “The Edge of Democracy” is politically scary, but it’s the one title that seems to have slipped under the radar of voters. We’re placing our bets on “For Sama,” which won the BAFTA and is, arguably, the most heartbreaking of all the nominees. In context, however, this is not an easy pick for AMPAS members and it’s likely many of them skipped voting in this category this year. A vastly smaller pool might make the final results closer than the Iowa Caucus, so anything could happen. Maybe a tie or no winner at all! (Wait, too soon?).
Best documentary short subject
“In the Absence” Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva
“Life Overtakes Me” John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson
“St. Louis Superman” Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
“Walk Run Cha-Cha” Laura Nix and Colette Sandstedt
Who will win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
Who should win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
Upset special: “St. Louis Superman”
Lowdown: Smriti Mundra and Sami Khan’s short has a shot, but we expect Carol Dysinger and Elena Andreicheva’s BAFTA-winning short to take it.
Achievement in film editing
“Ford v Ferrari” Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
“The Irishman” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Jojo Rabbit” Tom Eagles
“Joker” Jeff Groth
“Parasite” Yang Jinmo
Who will win: Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
Who should win: Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
Upset special: Yang Jinmo, Jeff Groth or Tom Eagles
Lowdown: The only nominee that would be highly unlikely to win here is Thelma Schoonmaker and “The Irishman.” Most members think that Scorsese’s latest is simply too long and that reflects in this category. On the other hand, Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland have the upper hand based on the intricate maze they pulled off with “Ford v Ferrari.” If “Parasite” or “Jojo Rabbit” win this category? Where’ not sure what it will mean exactly, but it will mean something.
Best international feature film of the year
“Corpus Christi” Poland
“Honeyland” North Macedonia
“Les Misérables” France
“Pain and Glory” Spain
“Parasite” South Korea
Who will win: “Parasite”
Who should win: “Parasite”
Upset special: “Pain and Glory,” but…
Lowdown: I mean, lots of members like “Pain and Glory,” but it would be an all-time upset if “Parasite” lost here.
Achievement in makeup and hairstyling
“Bombshell” Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker
“Joker” Nicki Ledermann and Kay Georgiou
“Judy” Jeremy Woodhead
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” Paul Gooch, Arjen Tuiten and David White
“1917” Naomi Donne, Tristan Versluis and Rebecca Cole
Who will win: “Bombshell”
Who should win: “Bombshell”
Upset special: “Joker”
Lowdown: Despite the love for “Joker,” the work Kazu Ciro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker did in transforming, most notably, Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly is still mind-blowing. If “Joker” wins its a sign it could surprise in other categories as well.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Joker” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story” Randy Newman
“1917” Thomas Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” John Williams
Who will win: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Who should win: Thomas Newman
Upset special: Thomas Newman or Alexandre Desplat
Lowdown: Hildur Guðnadóttir may be a rare female nominee in this category, but she also created one of the most memorable movie scores of the year. Now fifteen-time nominee Thomas Newman could sneak by with his first win for “1917,” but it looks like he might just have to hold on for another opportunity down the road.
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from “Toy Story 4” Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman” Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin
“I’m Standing With You” from “Breakthrough” Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“Into The Unknown” from “Frozen II” Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“Stand Up” from “Harriet” Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo
Who will win: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”
Who should win: “Spirit” by Beyonce…oh, wait…
Upset special: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away”
Lowdown: We expect the legendary songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupin to win a rare honor together, but AMPAS does love themselves some Randy Newman. If the “Toy Story 4” songwriter does take it we can’t wait to see what should be a meme-worthy scowl on Elton John’s face.
Achievement in production design
“The Irishman” Production Design: Bob Shaw; Set Decoration: Regina Graves
“Jojo Rabbit” Production Design: Ra Vincent; Set Decoration: Nora Sopková
“1917” Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Production Design: Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh
“Parasite” Production Design: Lee Ha Jun; Set Decoration: Cho Won Woo
Who will win: “1917”
Who should win: “Parasite” or “1917”
Upset special: “Jojo Rabbit”
Lowdown: Both the artistic and technical on “Parasite” and “1917” is remarkable, but it’s difficult to see anyone else but Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales taking it.
Best animated short film
“Dcera (Daughter)” Daria Kashcheeva
“Hair Love” Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver
“Kitbull” Rosana Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson
“Memorable” Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre
“Sister” Siqi Song
Who will win: “Hair Love”
Who should win: “Hair Love”
Upset special: “Kitbull”
Lowdown: There is no argument that in terms of technical and stylistic choices “Bad Hair” may not lead the way but in terms of its narrative and direction its a winner. It’s also a great grassroots story that the Academy loves to reward, especially in a category such as this.
Best live-action short film
“Brotherhood” Meryam Joobeur and Maria Gracia Turgeon
“Nefta Football Club” Yves Piat and Damien Megherbi
“The Neighbors’ Window” Marshall Curry
“Saria” Bryan Buckley and Matt Lefebvre
“A Sister” Delphine Girard
Who will win: “The Neighbor’s Widow”
Who should win: “Brotherhood”
Upset special: “Brotherhood” or “A Sister”
Lowdown: Always a tough call. “A Sister” is very good and could upset, but it’s incredibly similar to “The Guilty” which made the International Shortlist last year. “Brotherhood” is beautifully made and a very compelling story and a political twist. “The Neighbor’s Widow” is the most American of the bunch, which helps, but its also the most overtly emotional and relatable. The montage is a bit much, but it’s got a well-written ending that will play to the Academy.
Achievement in sound editing
“Ford v Ferrari” Donald Sylvester
“Joker” Alan Robert Murray
“1917” Oliver Tarney and Rachael Tate
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Wylie Stateman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” Matthew Wood and David Acord
Who will win: “1917”
Who should win: “Ford v Ferrari”
Upset special: “Ford v Ferrari”
Lowdown: Prestige player almost always wins in the sound categories. It’s a toss between “1917” and “Ford v Ferrari,” but we think the Mendes flick just has too much momentum.
Achievement in sound mixing
“Ad Astra” Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano
“Ford v Ferrari” Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Steven A. Morrow
“Joker” Tom Ozanich, Dean Zupancic and Tod Maitland
“1917” Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler and Mark Ulano
Who will win: “1917”
Who should win: “Ad Astra” or “Ford v Ferrari”
Upset special: “Ford v Ferrari”
Lowdown: See Sound Editing.
Achievement in visual effects
“Avengers: Endgame” Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick
“The Irishman” Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda-Fauser and Stephane Grabli
“The Lion King” Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Elliot Newman
“1917” Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach and Dominic Tuohy
Who will win: “1917”
Who should win: “The Lion King”
Upset special: “The Lion King” or “Avengers: Endgame”
Lowdown: There are four incredibly tough categories this year and this is one of them. In theory, “The Lion King” should win. It has a key VES honor and its the same team who won for “The Jungle Book.” That being said, the fact the team already won for basically the same-ish work gives voters I’ve spoken to pause. Is “1917” VFX heavy enough? Is “Avengers: Endgame” prestige enough? A superhero movie hasn’t won since “Spider-Man 2” took it in 2005. Placing our bets on the Mendes, once again, but anything is possible here.
“The Irishman” Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
“Jojo Rabbit” Screenplay by Taika Waititi
“Joker” Written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver
“Little Women” Written for the screen by Greta Gerwig
“The Two Popes” Written by Anthony McCarten
Who will win: “Jojo Rabbit”
Who should win: Any of them
Upset special: “Little Women”
Lowdown: The SAG and BAFTA wins seem to have wrapped this up for Taika Waititi. The only possible “surprise” is Greta Gerwig and “Little Women” which wouldn’t be that huge a surprise, but it appears the industry loves “Jojo” more, so far. That might just be enough to seal a Taika win.
“Knives Out” Written by Rian Johnson
“Marriage Story” Written by Noah Baumbach
“1917” Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Written by Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite” Screenplay by Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won; Story by Bong Joon Ho
Who will win: “Parasite”
Who should win: “Parasite”
Upset special: “Marriage Story”
Lowdown: Again, SAG and BAFTA have plenty to say here. Noah Baumbach and “Marriage Story” could surprise, but the bigger shock could be “1917.” If that screenplay wins the Best Picture race is absolutely over.
Best motion picture of the year
“Ford v Ferrari” Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and James Mangold, Producers
“The Irishman” Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers
“Jojo Rabbit” Carthew Neal and Taika Waititi, Producers
“Joker” Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers
“Little Women” Amy Pascal, Producer
“Marriage Story” Noah Baumbach and David Heyman, Producers
“1917” Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren and Callum McDougall, Producers
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh and Quentin Tarantino, Producers
“Parasite” Kwak Sin Ae and Bong Joon Ho, Producers
Who will win: “Parasite”
Who should win: Any of them but “Joker”…?
Upset special: “1917”
Lowdown: As discussed above.