2020 Oscar Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

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2020 Oscar Preview: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

It should be harder.

Every year we do these Academy Award predictions, we include some discussion of the snubbed, the under-appreciated, the worthy performances that failed to register on Oscar’s radar. For any merit-recognizing ceremony, there will be misses, granted, but one would hope that as systemic disparities are highlighted and as embarrassing whiffs are made, the process would slowly get better, the blindspots smaller and fewer. Every year, it should be harder to find grievous blunders, to recognize obvious oversights and thinly veiled or outright slights.

Yet here we are. How can anyone who believes in iterative, accretive improvement explain this year’s slate of nominees, or more precisely, explain the complete absence of so many other worthy performances in front of and behind the camera? Is it some Hollywood version of moral licensing for that Moonlight win a few years back? How does Ruth E. Carter get overlooked for her work in My Name Is Dolemite? How does Lupita Nyong’o get overlooked for her “tour de Us” performance(s)? How does Greta Gerwig not get a Best Director nod for the near miracle of adaptation that is Little Women? (If that seems easy, check out the last four or five attempts at Robin Hood.)

Perhaps this year is just one of those final convulsions of defiance before longer-lasting change settles in—the sprinkling of Joker in almost every category certainly seems purposefully antagonistic. Then again, as so many people have so often pointed out, perhaps the consistent exclusion of opportunities for women directors, the failure to include significant works and recognize virtuoso performances from people of color, the fear of subtitles—perhaps that’s all not a bug, but a feature of industry the Academy Awards celebrates. (Ding, ding!)

Still, much like one watches the Super Bowl and hopes those helmets really are getting better, we can watch the Academy Awards and hope next year will be different. Hollywood is all about make-believe, after all.

Find out how to stream the nominees, and if you’re looking for more, check out some of our Oscars-related and -adjacent articles and all the writing done in the past year about Oscar-nominated films:

Florence Pugh’s Year of Performing Perfectly by Andy Crump
I See You Paint Houses: Through the Eyes of The Irishman by Chad Betz
Listen to Alexandre Desplat’s Little Women Score and You Will Know Nothing But Joy by Ellen Johnson
Being Alive in 2019: The Year Sondheim Saturated Pop Culture by Kyle Turner
Robert Eggers Is Ready to Do Worse Than The Lighthouse by Andy Crump
Our Little Corner of the World: A Report from the 2019 True/False Film Fest by Tim Grierson

Original Screenplay



Knives Out , Rian Johnson
Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach 
1917, Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino
Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won

Who Will Win: Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won

Looking forward to the rest of the ceremony, Parasite might not fare as well as anyone hoped, so this could end up the obligatory pick. (Think back to Jordan Peele’s win for Us.) The true contender here is Tarantino, but Parasite’s win over Once Upon a Time in Hollywood at the WGA awards is convincing enough to slide our bets toward Bong and Han. —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: Parasite

Adapted Screenplay



The Irishman , Steven Zaillian
Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi
Joker, Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Little Women, Greta Gerwig 
The Two Popes, Anthony McCarten

Who Will Win:   Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Who Should Win:   Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Snubbed in Translation: The Farewell, Lulu Wang

Writing a good screenplay is hard—to do it successfully in two different languages is worthy of endless praise. But that’s exactly what Lulu Wang did last year to zero acknowledgement from the Academy in The Farewell, a beautiful semi-autobiographical film adapted from her This American Life story about a young woman who travels to her native China to visit her dying grandmother.

It’s not just the technical aspects of translation that makes the screenplay worthy and the snub painful (though the translation process was an arduous one, with many translators including Wang’s own mother involved in getting the ideas from Wang’s head to the page). The Farewell is generous in its emotion, driven by celebrating the relationship between Billi (Awkwafina) and her Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) in small gestures and familiar dialogue, whether on the phone thousands of miles apart or in person sharing a meal together. It intimately showcases familial tensions that appear when people choose different paths in life, and it takes time to process the internal struggle that comes with impending loss. Wang’s precise screenplay is the driving factor behind the film’s success—it’s a shame The Academy didn’t recognize this. —Radhika Menon

Actress in a Supporting Role



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

Who Will Win: Laura Dern

Who Should Win: Florence Pugh

Whether she enjoys any Oscar attention for being the umpteenth actress to play Amy March or not, 2019 has been Pugh’s year, a year of performances each good on their own but stellar when taken together. She’s an up-and-comer no more. As Amy, she stretches out her legs more so than the character does in the pages of Louis May Alcott’s novel: Where she’s typically thought of as a brat, vain and flighty, here she’s just brat-adjacent. Sure, she burns the novel of her sister Jo (Saoirse Ronan) out of spite. Sure, she draws caricatures of her teacher for her classmates to giggle over. But Amy has dreams and aspirations. She wants to travel across Europe, live in Paris, and blossom into the greatest painter the world has ever known. Hard as it may be to know oneself when surrounded by three siblings, Amy has a firm grasp on who she wants to be, and as the movie leads her—and its viewers—toward a full realization of her personhood, it inevitably calls her back home to deal with death in the family. —Andy Crump

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: Little Women, Jacqueline Durran

Who Should Win: Little Women, Jacqueline Durran

Production Design



The Irishman, Bob Shaw (Production Design ), Regina Graves (Set Decoration)
Jojo Rabbit, Ra Vincent (Production Design), Nora Sopková (Set Decoration)
1917, Dennis Gassner (Production Design), Lee Sandales (Set Decoration)
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Barbara Ling (Production Design), Nancy Haigh (Set Decoration)
Parasite, Lee Ha-jun (Production Design), Cho Won-woo (Set Decoration)

Who Will Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Who Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Though both Parasite and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood are exquisitely defined by place—by the ways in which identities, power and even history itself can be so transformed by the rooms and buildings and public geography we inhabit—the old Hollywood Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh are able to create is undeniably something to behold. Anchoring Tarantino’s rabid knowledge of film obsession to a recognizably booming point in the city’s growth, their production design allows Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to straddle the stuff of fantasy and Hollywood’s bitterer reality, ultimately celebrating just how close moviemaking can get an artist (and audience) to seeing their dreams manifest on screen. The Oscars love that shit; in this case, so do we. —Dom Sinacola

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: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Listen, this film was painful, the script a veritable master class in how not to develop characters and present a story, but the pain of watching it was made all the more unpleasant by the knowledge that in terms of look and design, there was so much being done well. In any other year, we’d be all for a world where the phrase “the Oscar-winning Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” could never be uttered, but this year? Set against such mundane fare as “Fox Blond,” “Downton Abbey retro,” “Mad Men classic,” and “Taxi Driver Grainy,” I don’t mind one of the only great things about Disney’s hack-and-ack of a sequel being recognized. —Michael Burgin




The Lighthouse , Jarin Blaschke
The Irishman, Rodrigo Prieto
Joker, Lawrence Sher
1917, Roger Deakins
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Robert Richardson

Who Will Win: Roger Deakins

Who Should Win: Roger Deakins

Film Editing



The Irishman, Thelma Schoonmaker
Ford v Ferrari, Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland
Jojo Rabbit, Tom Eagles
Joker, Jeff Groth
Parasite, Yang Jin-mo

Who Will Win: The Irishman, Thelma Schoonmaker

Who Should Win: The Irishman, Thelma Schoonmaker

This extrapolation of the “unreliable narrator” device is like a filter over every frame of the I Heard You Paint Houses film that is not Frank (Robert De Niro) in his nursing home, telling his story. The young are never truly young. Subtitles cut in whenever a lively new criminal is introduced, letting us know exactly how ingloriously they died. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing carries us with great precision back and forth through time, as Sheeran’s tangled narration tries to find its footing. There is a moment where Sheeran starts to repeat the best route to Detroit, and suddenly we’re back in the same context that started his reminiscence, back on the road with Frank and Russ (Joe Pesci) and their wives on their way to a wedding that marks the time period for the film’s climax. It is a telling moment: This is not a true crime story. It is not some mafioso epic. It is an existential examination and reckoning. Time and death and Sheeran’s own narcissism and decay close in on the entire film, like a shroud. —Chad Betz

Toward the end of The Irishman, as Frank attempts to console Jo Hoffa (Welker White) over the phone but is unable to say much of anything, the film jump-cuts to the end of the interaction, Frank desperately trying to hang up. It’s barely perceivable, intuitively jarring, Schoonmaker’s presence a strange but deserving touch that tips the moment’s tension beautifully into sadness. If this is how Frank remembers that conversation, he has excised the hardest, most compromising parts, consequence left on the cutting room floor. —Dom Sinacola

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: Ford v Ferrari, Donald Sylvester

Who Should Win: Ford v Ferrari, Donald Sylvester

My step-dad (who lives in Detroit) is obsessed with cars and almost always has nothing to say about any of the movies I see, but he was tracking this movie since its inception, like talking about it when he visited back in August 2018, which between then and now is practically a lifetime in a step-dad’s attention span for stuff like this. It would be an understatement to say that he was excited for Ford v Ferrari—and if there’s one thing I know that would make or break this film for him, it’s the reassurance that all the cars in the movie look and sound like they “should.” Because this movie was made for people like my step-dad, I must conclude that all the cars in this movie really do sound like they should, an impressive feat because anything less would be unacceptable. —Dom Sinacola

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, Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson

Always bet on the war movie. Though, in this case, 1917 may so clearly trounce every other Best Picture nominee that the Sound categories may go to Ford v Ferrari, which is as much a testament to authenticity as it is to the filmmaking. But probably not. Folks just love this 1917movie, don’t they? —Dom Sinacola

Who Should Win: Ad Astra, Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson and Mark Ulano

A film as interior as Ad Astra, in which the rigorously confined worlds within astronaut Roy McBride’s head contrast endlessly with the splayed out solar system through which he traverses, thrives on that dynamic, conveyed almost subconsciously by the film’s magnificent mixing. We’re always pulled closer to our protagonist, his mind filled with sad reminders of lives he could have led with his father but never did, even as he pushes farther and farther from Earth. Plus, as it was otherwise totally ignored by the Academy, Ad Astra deserves something for wrangling all that majesty. —Dom Sinacola

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: Avengers: Endgame, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick

Who Should Win: Avengers: Endgame, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken and Dan Sudick

Regardless of where you stand on the “Is this … cinema?” debate when it comes to the MCU, the sheer range of visual effects on display in this modest little three-hour-long, $400 million movie that starred everybody and made $2.8 billion or so should be the obvious choice for the statuette. Avengers: Endgame involves about every established trick and every developing technology in the book. —Michael Burgin

Short Film (Animated)



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

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